There’s a word companies use that really narks me – and that’s the word ‘consumer’. It seems to suggest people are homogeneous when buying items, but it also implies a passivity on the shopper’s front.

Which certainly isn’t true. When Covid-19 brought the world to a halt just over two years ago, Commerce took on new relevance in our lives. Whether it was trying different shopping methods, different shops or different brands, our habits changed. And the result was a decline in brand loyalty.

The acceleration of eCommerce during this time, with its ability to create more flexibility, more convenience and more borderless sales than ever before, also opened up a rich new playground where shoppers became not just open to technological innovation – they came to expect it. From social selling to NFTs to digital as part of physical experiences, companies must now learn how to grapple with a host of unfamiliar, interconnected strategies to entice shoppers.

So, how can brands successfully navigate this new world of omnichannel commerce?

PWC argues that it’s about delivering a positive customer experience at every brand touchpoint. And with the Ombudsman Services report estimating that UK businesses lose about £37 billion every year due to bad customer service, I agree with the point.

But I’d simultaneously argue that there’s still something we need to switch up. And that’s the focus on ‘customers’. Like ‘consumer’, there’s still something so transactional about this word for me.

Instead, how about brands focus on creating ‘communities’ – attracting, converting and retaining loyal fans who feel as wooed on the millionth time they click as they did on the first?

That’s of course easier said than done. To drive long-term preference, brands need to do three things consistently:

  1. Communicate their purpose (what they do, why they do it, and why it matters) as well as communicate their business or product performance
  2. Understand their audience(s) – who they are, where they are and what makes them tick
  3. Tell stories that make people think, feel and act.

Commerce is evolving, and with technology opening up new metaverse environments in which we can habit, new opportunities for end-to-end industries will open up that we’ve yet to even think of.

But it’s my view that as the lines between on and offline become increased erased, it is only the brands that put their communities first – delivering seamless integration, personalised experiences and purpose-driven communications – that will win our baskets.