The Case for Positive Commerce

(Image Copyright: Сергей Хакимуллин)


A recent conversation with an industry colleague revealed this paraphrased conversation with a CMO at a recent meeting:

CMO: I have an idea that will change everything.
Colleague: That’s great!
CMO: Let’s take the project you have here and apply Big Data to it.
Colleague: How will that work exactly?
CMO: You’ll figure it out. Big Data. That’s the idea.

The number of digital vendors has more than doubled in the last year alone; feeding on the confusion and challenges businesses are experiencing in digital marketing capabilities. Everyone is looking for the magic formula, the secret sauce, the perfect playbook, the one-stop vendor or the big digital marketing idea.


How do I know this? You don’t acquire over 1000 new start-up vendors into a space that is well defined and clear. If digital commerce was baseball, we would still be grooming the field for the game. We have not even started yet.


In the 1950s we had it easy. Your marketing options were: radio, television, billboards, bus benches, newspaper and direct mail. Businesses could communicate with their customers over the phone, by writing letters, inviting them to events or focus groups.

Today, sit down and try to think of all the ways customers are interacting with businesses and the options available in digital commerce. Inevitably you will miss many of the new vendors. The options are numerous with very few experts that truly understand all the options available. It’s impossible to keep up not only with the options, but the increased pressures as well from executives curious and excited about the next big shiny trend in digital – like Big Data.


Years ago when I was at Thomson Reuters I discovered that conversations about new digital trends were sometimes difficult to have when executives were in awe of the sheer number of channels available to engage the customer. To manage the internal conversation I broke the channels into two areas: Inflow and Outflow communication. By simplifying the classification, executives could more quickly and easily see the effects of the different digital channels and how they fit into the current business structure.

We need to do the same today with digital commerce. It’s confusing. The options are growing and mutating faster than customers and businesses can adopt them. I believe our path forward in digital commerce is not more options, but fewer and better options to manage the enterprise. By fewer, I do not mean large enterprise companies like Adobe, Oracle, HP, etc. I simply mean prioritization of the vendors, strategies and tactics that have the most impact. We need to make it simple again.


The idea of Positive Commerce emerged recently in conversations around the digital retail customer with a client. As we were examining all the possible paths of the customer to a sale, I started to layer in the digital activities that had a positive or a negative impact on the sale. As a result, the idea of focusing on Positive Commerce was born:

Positive Commerce is the net benefit of optimizing and encouraging the digital activities that promote sales while minimizing and managing the digital activities that detract from sales.


For instance, consider the following customer journey:

Customer reads a recent article on a new product by Company X and visits the website for more information. The website does not have any information pertaining to the functions the customer is interested in learning more about so he sends a tweet to the customer service team asking the question. The customer service representative provides a link to the company website that addresses the customer’s question and also provides a link to a 10% off promotion. Ultimately the customer purchases the product but does not use the 10% off promotion. Research indicates the primary decision driver for the purchase was a timely customer service response. The secondary driver was the endorsement of the author of the original article.


If this example happened with 2000 customers exactly the same way, Positive Commerce would indicate a more concerted effort should be made to partner with the author of the article on future product releases, customer service should be encouraged to continue top performance, marketing should cease issuing discount promotions for this product and the web team should examine product positioning and information.

While this example would almost never happen, over time by assembling the digital signals and performance in the commerce ecosystem, Positive Commerce can prioritize the needs of an enterprise organization where the greatest impact to the stream of commerce will occur. It helps explain the massively complex digital ecosystem we encounter today. It allows executives to pull apart their siloes and enterprise functions of customer service, marketing, brand, product development, supply chain, human resources, etc. and assemble the best digital enterprise platform with best of breed technologies.


Through the lens of Positive Commerce, the concepts of digital customer experiences or journeys are enhanced to allow businesses to prioritize needs and understand how the various tactics fit together under a unified strategy. The forest and the trees are important for the digital ecosystem to thrive and Positive Commerce offers a shared mission for all the digital silos and enterprise departments to embrace.


Greg Gerik

Partner, Gerik & Company, LLC


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