• August 28, 2017
  • By Brian Solis, vice president, global innovation, Salesforce

Bold Modern Commerce Experiences Require Extreme Personalization

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Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods sent a stark message to e-commerce and traditional retailers alike. But it’s just one of many significant announcements in recent months. Amazon also announced a new “meal kit” service to take on BlueApron and others. It just released Spark, an Instagram-like experience of products you can buy from the stream. Nike partnered with Amazon for an exclusive e-tail distribution partnership. The company debuted Echo Look, an intelligent hands-free camera and style assistant. Amazon Prime Wardrobe was created to help shoppers bring the dressing room home and order a series of clothing items, paying only for what they keep. The list goes on. In the age of Amazon, companies need to rethink what it means to be innovative and competitive.

The game has changed and it keeps changing. In the next 12 to 18 months, many retail and e-commerce chief marketing officers (CMOs) are going to either lose their jobs or become next-generation CEOs. It’s getting that extreme. The landscape is changing so fast that most traditional companies can’t innovate quickly enough, as they’re often investing in the future based on the rules of a game long passed by.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to win. Change can start in the smallest of places with the smallest of investments. CMOs just need to shift perspectives and mind-sets to see and do things differently to break new ground, cultivate new markets, and win new customers by investing in the new rules of modern commerce.

Here’s the reality: Too many CMO operate from a point of reference that is arguably dated. Their years of experience and successes were forged in an era of commerce that’s been disrupted to the point where their tenure may actually be working against them. The same is true for even the newest of digital and modern commerce brands. Every new model only addresses a snapshot in time, preferences, and behavior. What keeps winning companies ahead is that they, like Amazon, incessantly disrupt themselves to remain relevant with consumers, and it’s this relevance that consumers are drawn to time and time again.


On July 11, Amazon celebrated its third annual Prime Day around the world, demonstrating that one company can disrupt decades of “Black Friday” tradition. As a response, major retailers and e-tailers decided to boast special sales of their own while others vowed to price-match Amazon’s Prime Day deals. While I’m sure these reactionary strategies will help, make no mistake, Prime Day is a cutthroat business strategy designed to target and outsell the competition.

Competing against Amazon solely on price is severely limiting. According to BestBlackFriday.com, Prime Day deals are better than what shoppers might find on Black Friday. The website’s analysis found that in 2016, 77 percent of Prime Day prices were better than comparable deals offered on Black Friday.

You can compete against Amazon by winning your customers attention, heart, and mind. That starts with understanding how they’re different than the customers you once knew.

The reality is that there are always new consumers in town and they’re connected and empowered. Applying new techniques to reach the same old customers isn’t a growth strategy. The future of growth balances meaningful customer engagement to monetize (and cultivate) customer retention and also the pursuit of modern customers who have a differentiated, and evolving, set of needs, expectations, and values.


Everyone agrees that customer experience will help build competitiveness. At the same time, we’ve been talking about personalization for years, yet we still don’t get that personalization is something that consumers don’t just demand—they’re already getting it from some of their favorite apps and start-ups. They’re experiencing what most brands have yet to implement: intelligent, AI-based systems that facilitate extreme personalization (EP). This goes beyond “Dear first name” and traditional loyalty programs. Those that engage customers in the right channel, on the right device, at the right time, and with the right message are ahead of competitors.

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