Driving E-commerce Recommendations in Real-time – What’s Needed

headshot-Sheryl Kingstone-bw-160x160
Sheryl Kingstone
VP, CX & Commerce and GM, VoCUL, 451 Research
December 18, 2019|4 min read

Significant disruption across industries and the rising influence of the empowered consumer continue to exert pressure on businesses to deliver differentiated and consistent experiences across the entirety of the consumer journey. Simultaneously, business models are shifting, with the increasing prevalence of the subscription economy changing the long-term economics and relationships between brands, retailers and consumers, demanding a new approach to engagement models that emphasize loyalty-building and retention exercises. In effect, this is forcing the evolution of the entire technology stack and organizational culture in order to enable real-time, contextually relevant experiences.

Over the years, improving the customer experience has remained the top driver for digital transformation, making it critical to understand where businesses are making investments in new digital technologies and improved processes to more effectively engage customers, partners or employees across sales, marketing, support and commerce functions. Data remains a core battleground for creating unified customer experiences. Businesses need to not only capture and unify disparate sources of consumer data but effectively contextualize and operationalize information to push critical insights across channels and differing organizational stakeholder groups with a hand in shaping the customer journey.

Businesses need to capture, analyze, understand and act on information

For businesses to effectively compete in this shifting environment, they need to capture, analyze, understand and act on information. They also need to recognize patterns, comprehend ideas, plan, predict, solve problems, identify actions and make decisions on a grand scale. The explosion in connectivity, intelligent devices and the digital interfaces overlaying this information are increasingly making it possible to create personalized experiences, augmented by real-time context and customer preferences. The abundant growth of data, along with demands for rich media content and regulatory compliance, are requiring new approaches to managing customer data and intelligence. Sixty-eight percent of digital leaders are prioritizing the creation of a single view of the customer across disparate data sources, along with investment in newer digital platforms that enhance both customer experience and business agility (see Figure 1 below). It drives the largest wedge between digital leaders and laggards, with a 21-point differential between companies that have formal digital transformation strategies and ones that don’t.


The most meaningful (and ultimately profitable, for those that provide them) experiences will be informed by data-driven context clues, which will only increase in number as the amount of available data – especially unstructured data – proliferates. This will continue to accelerate with the growth of new types of connected devices capturing unprecedented volumes of behavioral data.

The coveted 360-degree view remains largely out of reach

A desire for an omniscient, multi-channel view of consumer behavior and intent is driving investments to deliver the optimal customer experience, but the coveted 360-degree consumer view remains out of reach for many. This will continue to remain a major point of contention as new types of devices and approaches are implemented to capture real-time information and consumer behavioral data, requiring new approaches and strategies from enterprises. While many companies are investing in data lakes to address both operational and behavioral data use cases, the problem is that it lacks a real-time, high velocity capabilities along with advanced data governance capabilities to deal with high volumes of data in milliseconds.

Enterprises need to invest to create immersive experiences

Yet, to remain relevant in the eyes of consumers, enterprises will need to invest in newer digital commerce platforms that can create immersive experiences at every step of the consumer journey. Content and context are also in high demand as businesses zero in on hyper-personalization and storytelling. As businesses seek to create these new, immersive experiences, they will rely heavily on rich media content, prescriptive insight and intelligent automation for personalized, frictionless cross-channel interactions. Those that lag behind the digital transformation curve remain unable to quantify the growing importance of such initiatives over satisfaction, loyalty and revenue, incurring significant opportunity costs through unrecognized and missed revenues.

Experiences, not products, remain the battleground of the future

With the empowered consumer increasingly demanding greater volition over the interactions and relationships they have with enterprises, experiences, not products, remain the battleground of the future. This demands that businesses rethink their engagement model. It is now essential to view each stage and point of interaction along the customer journey as an opportunity to deliver consistent, differentiated experiences to attract, win or retain customers.