While you can get closer to your customers and suppliers through social media and brand marketing, collaborative commerce gives you the tools to make this happen at every stage of the journey.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at what collaborative commerce is, when to use it, and what some of the main advantages of this hybrid model are.
What Is Collaborative Commerce?
Collaborative commerce (also known as c-commerce) is the use of digital technology between internal departments, with business partners, and with customers to make things more efficient and effective. This usually happens through an online trading community — a place where people can barter, trade, or sell goods and services to each other.
Adding technology and digital advancements to existing physical supply chains and processes helps businesses create a new hybrid model — one that brings them closer to their suppliers and customers. It’s a business strategy that makes it easy to collaborate on ideas, execution, distribution, marketing, product development, and more.
The use of smart new technology — including chatbots, automation, artificial intelligence, digital workspaces, forums, and live chat — enables collaborative commerce. It’s this technology that makes it possible to have conversations that lead to growth, change, and improvement.
Some people define c-commerce as conversational commerce instead, with the definition closer to a system that offers customers the convenience and personalization of using chat and voice to find out more about products. That’s something you can offer your website visitors, with the help of ServiceBell. You might also see it referred to as customer commerce.
Different Uses for Collaboration in Ecommerce
Ecommerce isn’t an island — or at least, it shouldn’t be. Collaboration with the people and businesses around you makes you stronger and more able to compete with and stand out from the competition.
If you don’t work with others and make the most of information technology, it’s easy to get stuck in old ways and not realize the opportunities that are right in front of you. Sharing data to allow your marketers, retailers, and suppliers to make more strategic decisions around stock, distribution, pricing, offers, and more is at the heart of collaborative electronic commerce.
Here are some typical uses for collaboration in ecommerce:
- Sales and promotion planning
- Digital marketing planning
- Event and trade show planning
- Product life cycle management
- New product design and improvements
- Knowledge management
- Stock forecasting and replenishment
- Customer service improvements
- Supply chain management and procurement
- Simplified business processes
Each of these areas benefits hugely from the information power that collaborative commerce offers. Planning events or promotions, conducting product research, and forecasting stock are all easier with better access to data, customers, and suppliers.
Advantages of Collaborative Commerce Over Traditional Ecommerce
Collaborative commerce is starting to sound pretty strong compared to traditional ecommerce. With traditional ecommerce, you lack access to a useful network of people, processes, and technology that can help you reach your goals faster.
In the electronics business, agility and data are key factors that help you succeed. You need a commerce strategy that takes this into account and gives you space to embrace collaborative commerce.
Here are some of the main advantages of moving to a collaborative commerce model over a more traditional, segmented approach.
Customers Enjoy a More Interactive Online Shopping Process
With traditional ecommerce, your customer lands on your website, makes the decision to buy something, and completes the transaction. With collaborative commerce, you have the opportunity to create a more immersive, more interactive shopping experience.
Instead of just serving up your product page, you could add elements featuring reviews from other customers or relevant recommendations based on what people with similar preferences have enjoyed. You could also create your own marketplace space where customers can shop second hand for your products — like Asos Marketplace.
If you’re selling high ticket products, some of that one-on-one experience can be lost with online sales. That’s why we’ve created ServiceBell — a service that allows you to have individual video chats or consultations with your customers as they browse your website. They get that luxury, in-store experience bundled with the convenience of ecommerce.
Get a Better Understanding of What Your Customer Needs
Getting customer feedback from buyers can be hard. You can send out requests for them to leave a review or send out a feedback survey, but responses can be low. There’s a better way to understand your customers’ wants and needs though — by using collaborative commerce to make them part of the process.
A great way to use new technology to understand your customers’ needs is to host online focus groups. Invite some of your VIPs or buyers at random to join you for a discussion about what they love about your brand, products, or services.
Another great way to get valuable customer insights is to create a brand-led forum or members-only site. Invite questions from fans, host Q&A sessions, and share “sneak peeks” of what’s in development — where customers can influence what happens next through the use of technology.
Understanding what your customers want helps you deliver greater value. You’re no longer making an educated guess at what product improvements they might want to see — you actually know because you’ve gotten actual feedback through social media, workshops, or focus groups. Greater value means better customer satisfaction, and hopefully a loyal group of customers that wants to stay with you on the journey.
Build a Closer Relationship With Partners and Suppliers
Collaborative commerce isn’t just about understanding your customer better and optimizing their experience — it lets you build stronger partnerships with your suppliers, retailers, and promoters too.
One of the strengths of collaborative commerce is that it makes it easier to share data and insights between your business partners. You can give your partner retailers accurate, real-time data that allows them to respond in the best way. You can talk about what’s selling well, give feedback on a promotional campaign, or suggest improvements based on experience.
Collaborative commerce also makes communication easier — especially if you have a large network of distributors and trading partners. This means you can do collaborative planning at scale without spending hours on the phone or setting up meetings. It’s efficiency enabled by technology.
Three Well-Known Brands Using Collaborative Commerce to Create a Competitive Advantage
It makes sense as a business model theory, but what does collaborative commerce look like in practice? Here’s a look at a handful of major retailers and brands that have added digital collaboration to their commerce solutions.
Amazon is a worldwide retail giant, but they also offer a way for other sellers to get in on the action. Amazon Marketplace provides a space for online sellers to list and sell products to Amazon’s huge audience base in an easy way.
Sellers can join Amazon Marketplace and integrate it into their sales model in whichever way works for them — whether that’s fulfillment by Amazon or through their own channels. They can also leave at any time with no long-term commitment.
There’s a benefit here to both individual sellers and Amazon. The sellers get access to a ready-made audience, already looking to buy. Amazon gets an expanded offering to attract and retain customers through their platform, plus monthly fees or per-sale fees from Marketplace sellers.
Most smartphone users want to upgrade their handset when the new release comes out, and there’s always hype around a new product launch in the tablet, laptop, or desktop space too. Apple knows this, which is why they’ve introduced a trade-in program.
Apple’s trade-in program makes it easy for customers to get exactly what they want — new technology at a discounted price. Users can trade in their iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watches, and other Apple products in exchange for credit towards a new purchase or a store gift card.
While you can trade in your device to any number of third-party providers, going directly through Apple is an attractive prospect. They accept a wider range of products through trade-in, and it’s easier to trust the brand you’ve grown to love.
Not only is this trade-in program a great way for customers to get a deal, it has obvious benefits for Apple too. They can re-sell traded-in products through their Certified Refurbished program, and they’ve made a sale on a freshly-launched product too. If a product can’t be resold or reused, it’s recycled instead — a useful alternative to letting your phone sit in a drawer gathering dust.
Threadless isn’t just an ecommerce store where you can buy clothing, art, and home decor. It’s a business built on collaborative commerce.
The designs you see on Threadless are from a huge range of artists and come from a mix of artist shops and design challenges. With design challenges, people vote on the designs they love the most and those designs get turned into real products. Outside of this, artists can also create their own stores on the platform.
Threadless uses collaborative commerce to create a space for designers to sell their products and engage with customers. This interactivity gives customers a stronger sense of belonging — they can vote for, then buy and wear a design that they saw through from start to finish.
Collaborative Commerce Is the Way Forward
There are clear benefits to adopting a collaborative commerce model. It’s easier to get real, raw customer insights that can help you develop products, optimize your website, and refine your marketing. You can also build stronger, more effective partnerships with suppliers, retailers, and business partners.
If you’re just starting out with collaborative commerce, we’d be happy to help. Our live video chat is easy to embed on your website, giving you a simple way to start interacting with your customers one-on-one to deliver amazing sales and support. Give it a try with a free trial to start engaging with your customers in a fresh way.