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Digital commerce versus e-commerce: What's the difference?

As any retailer will tell you, there’s more to running a successful online business in 2021 than simply selling products online. A decade or so ago, a business might have been able to get by with a basic website and a rudimentary order fulfillment system, but if that’s all a startup has in its arsenal today it’s failed before it’s even begun. Today’s retail landscape is a complex one, with peaks, valleys, twists and turns. Consumers want to be able to engage with businesses across multiple channels at their own convenience, pay in a way that suits them, and enjoy a seamless end-to-end experience from click to courier. Consumers want to engage and to be engaged; they want access to information easily and want to get to know a brand before they part with their hard-earned cash. 

This is bigger than simply “selling online”. The basics of e-commerce simply won’t cut it when it comes to meeting the expectations of the modern-day consumer. Perhaps that’s why so many businesses are now investing heavily in digital commerce. But what exactly is digital commerce and how does it differ from e-commerce? What’s prompted this shift from e-commerce to “d-commerce”, and what does it mean for your business?

What’s the difference between e-commerce and digital commerce?

If we think of e-commerce as a function, digital commerce is more like a culture. E-commerce refers to the functional aspects of selling products online, such as managing supply chains, getting a storefront set up on a website, or processing transactions and collecting payments. But as we’ve already discussed, success in online retail requires much more than simply being able to sell online. That’s why digital commerce has emerged as its own discipline, and the two should not be confused. 

If e-commerce represents the “nuts and bolts” of online selling, digital commerce represents the people, technology and data-driven processes that elevate retail to a whole new level. Digital commerce covers things like content management, data interrogation and analytics, user design and experience, customer engagement and retention, and the ability to quickly adapt and roll out features to each and every customer-facing endpoint with ease. Digital commerce is customer-centric, and is concerned with optimizing the customer experience at every single touchpoint along the buyer’s journey. 

What has driven the shift to digital commerce?

The drive to digital commerce is in no small part due to the increasing prevalence of technology and connectivity in our lives. The average customer in 2021 uses far more touchpoints than those of previous generations, from mobile apps and smart speakers to live chat and two-way messaging - often known as “conversational commerce”. What we’re talking about here isn’t just a shift to online shopping, but the fast evolution of hyper-connected, omnichannel commerce that invites engagement directly from customers and puts them firmly in the driving seat. The Internet of Things (IoT) economy is shaping retail, and digital commerce is all about leveraging this new connected landscape to your company’s advantage. For instance, digital self-service now actually outranks speaking with an agent as customers’ preferred method of engaging with retail businesses, which is why touchpoints like online chat, smart speakers, mobile apps and intuitive websites that give customers everything they need, are so important. 

Digital commerce is customer-centric, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing of value here for retailers. Having a presence across a range of channels and touchpoints makes your brand easier to find, easier to engage with, and removes any potential barriers between your customers’ desire to make a purchase, and their ability to do so. In fact, research has shown businesses that utilize at least three different touchpoints earn a 287% higher purchase rate than those using a traditional single-channel campaign. It’s clear that customers who have unfettered access to your brand across multiple touchpoints - from mobile apps and voice commands, to a website that is optimized for various devices and screens are more likely to do business with your company because they’re able to engage on their terms. In other words, customers that are able to find and interact with your brand conveniently on a medium of their choosing are more likely to spend more, and are far more likely to be retained as repeat customers.

From Monolith to Composable Commerce


The technology behind digital commerce

If e-commerce was a straight line, digital commerce would look more like an intricate web; difficult to navigate without the right tools and processes in place. E-commerce has become so normalized over the years that a range of all-in-one commerce platforms have been created to help businesses start selling their products online quickly and easily. But as we’ve already discussed, in the modern age of customer-centric retail, that barely scratches the surface of what’s actually required to connect with your audience. These old monolithic platforms aren’t suited for fast-paced change, quick deployments and the rolling in or phasing out of new features and services. What if your business wants to quickly add in a new payment method at checkout? Or push catalog changes out to several different device touchpoints? What if you want to automatically collate customer data in your CRM from each and every channel, while adding new channels into the mix to keep up with consumer trends? 

This is where so-called composable technology enters the fray, and it’s the cornerstone of digital commerce as we know it. Composable technology does exactly what you would expect it to; it allows businesses to “compose” the deployment of new features and services more elegantly and with greater nuance than a traditional, monolithic legacy system. Instead of simply accumulating software and “bolting it on” to an already outdated set-up, composable technology leverages headless commerce and microservices to centrally compose and orchestrate end-to-end business processes with distributed, de-centralized tools. 

Emporix has been at the cutting edge of digital commerce for some time, and we now have the perfect solution to help your retail business easily manage its composable commerce experiences across all digital channels. Our Digital Commerce Platform is a modern, enterprise-grade composable solution built for B2B and B2C businesses, offering packaged business capabilities that are consumable through cloud-based APIs. To learn more about Emporix's Digital Commerce Platform, simply get in touch today.

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