Designing distinctive commerce experiences for multi-brand organizations

Note: This article originally appeared on sitecore.com.

Time to read: About 5-7 minutes
Intended for: Commerce leads & managers, IT Directors, CIOs, Marketing directors, business leads
Key takeaway: It is imperative for “house of brands” organizations to align to a strong digital commerce platform that delivers on the core capabilities that span across each of their unique brand sites.

Many of today’s retailers fall into the category of a house of brands. Essentially, they are a collection of multiple brands that need to live and thrive as individual companies with unique offerings, but also operate as part of a portfolio within a larger parent organization. In our current retail market comprised of thin margins, intense competition, and increasing customer expectations, retailers are faced with real challenges. In fact, according to Forrester:

In a competitive retail landscape, companies that can build unique selling propositions with significant differentiation are better positioned to succeed. To ensure success, these firms also need the right tools, technology, support teams, and executive backing.

Forrester, 5 Key Success Factors for Every Digital Business

For retailers that are part of multi-brand organizations, there can be an additional layer of complexity centered around the alignment to corporate standards for technology, process and governance. Ultimately, multi-brand organizations are faced with the challenge of delivering a unique online commerce experience for each of their brands while operating efficiently at the portfolio level.  We’ll share some of the areas where highlighting a brand’s individualism is key versus where re-use can offer efficiency and insights across brands.

What is a distinctive commerce experience?

Online retailers don’t always have the luxury of exclusive or unique product offerings. This results in tough competition for the attention of online consumers. In order to stand out from the pack and create a distinctive commerce experience it starts with differentiation through brand promise.

In a multi-brand organization, each brand needs to be able to express its uniqueness and promise through brand specific visual design, content, imagery and storytelling. Connecting this branded experience tightly to the commerce functionality will not only allow a brand to attract the right consumers, but pull them into the buying journey sooner, personalize more contextually, and create a path for long-term loyalty. In multi-brand organizations with leadership aligned to each individual brand, this flexibility at the brand level is critical, without it, an individual brand can feel trapped under a corporate umbrella.

Example of brands that fall under a “house of brands” but each still have a distinctive experience.

Aligning to a unified marketing technology (martech) stack

Often a multi-brand organization will grow its portfolio of brands through acquisition. This can lead to different platforms for commerce, content management, CRM, PIM etc. Having different platforms for the same functionality across brands can lead to operational challenges including support, delays in updates and features, and overly complex integration. All of these can lead to a negative customer experience.

For an organization that supports many brands, a unified martech stack that allows brands to express their uniqueness while decreasing operational challenges across brands is key to operating at scale.

Key elements to success

So how does one bring unique brand storytelling together with core functionality across brands? There are a couple of key elements to consider when embarking on this challenge.

The user profile – a path to personalization

A key thing to consider is around the setup and design of the user profile. When a customer is shopping online, they will ultimately need to create a user account. In a multi-brand organization, a decision will need to be made around how this account and profile is used across the many brand sites. Multi-brand organizations with similar or complimentary products or services may decide to have a shared profile across unique brand sites while others will create a distinct boundary around profile creation to match user expectations on a per site basis. The flexibility to align to either approach is a core foundation for personalization in a commerce experience. 

A rich component library – flexibility with consistency

While very much a technology consideration, a strong component library or framework is critical to establishing uniqueness at the individual brand level while not overcomplicating a site implementation. Virtually all contemporary commerce sites today have a core set of features including shopping cart, product details, product listing, etc. Leveraging a platform that includes the core components to layout and design the desired commerce experience that reflects the individual brands while still allowing for shared functionality will meet both IT and marketing goals. Essentially, build the components once and deploy to multiple sites.

Driving cross-brand insights through analytics

A key consideration in many multi-brand organizations is the ability to support analytics at a both a site and portfolio level. A customer may visit multiple brand sites within a portfolio as part of their journey and having insight in to this cross-brand path can open up potential personalization opportunities as well as informing product or service development.

Having cake and eating it too

In summary, multi-brand retailers are facing an additional layer of complexity that sits above the core challenges that traditional retailers are facing today. Faced with an overly diverse and often redundant martech stack, it is key for these types of organizations to align to a strong digital commerce platform that delivers on the core capabilities that span across each of the brand sites. Doing so will bring out the best at the portfolio level while allowing each brand to deliver on the unique and distinctive experiences that their customers have come to expect.