Headless Commerce championed by Isobar as the Future of Transactional Brand Experiences.


Isobar has published a white paper explaining how brands can leverage Headless Commerce to create experiences across an entire ecosystem of touchpoints. Using the Headless Commerce approach enables brands to build long-term customer relationships and deliver sustainable business growth.

Authored by the Isobar UK and Global team, the white paper makes the argument that the reconfiguration of legacy systems can support the functional, emotional and tangible needs of a customer experience. It explains how the Headless Commerce approach provides brands with greater control over the UX, giving them a consistent identity across an entire ecosystem of touchpoints, and a foundation to create long-term customer relationships that can deliver sustainable business growth.

Vikalp Tandon, Global Chief Technology Officer, Isobar, said, “One of the biggest challenges in the experience economy for brands is to engage consumers at every touchpoint across an ecosystem. This goes beyond serving the right content at the right time, it originates in the brand’s technology infrastructure that powers their digital presence. The Headless Commerce approach allows brands to deliver a truly customer-centric experience at speed and scale which is key in today’s landscape, and moving forward.”

The white paper covers:

– The context behind the emergence of unified commerce experiences
– The opportunities of the Headless Commerce architecture model
– A Customer Experience Framework
– The limitations of conventional architecture approaches (Monolithic architecture)
– The opportunity for immersive experiences through rich content approaches
– How Headless Commerce provides brands with a centralised view of customer data
– The requirements of a Headless Commerce strategy & what the future holds

The white paper was authored by Mustafa Rashid, Isobar UK Head of Emerging Technologies, and Vikalp Tandon, Isobar Global Chief Technology Officer.

You can download the wallpaper here.

Brand and Commerce: Connected by Digital Transformation


Digital transformation has become a hot topic, with CEOs talking about it every day and allocating significant budget for it in 2018. In the past, most digital transformation initiatives were about high-end and edgy technologies or solutions. However, now Digital Transformation ROI has been validated across many industries, C-Suites are understanding that it is more important to map out the right strategy rather than implementing complex tech solutions.

Let’s take a look from the perspective of branding and marketing. Under the trend of transformation, “Brand” and “Commerce” have gradually merged into one term, “Brand Commerce”, a term to describe the narrowing of the gap between brand inspiration and consumer transaction. The concept of Brand Commerce has become the ‘North Star’ for brand marketers when reviewing and evolving their own work and methodologies.

Take the example of a brand’s entry in to the Chinese market. In today’s climate, the brand will decide on an online and offline channel strategy, and the local brand channel planning teams work together in an agile way for rapid progress. This is the opposite of the linear and separate ways of working in the past.

To be specific, brand positioning in the Chinese market needs to be worked out in response to specific online channel strategies. Online and offline media strategies and campaign planning need to direct data to inform channel planning. When sales begin, media data, sales data and customer membership data needs to be consolidated and analyzed in time for optimizing the next round of brand and commerce strategy. The fast-paced and complicated way of working presents traditional organizations with many challenges.

From my point of view, Brand and Commerce go hand in hand, and have only previously been separated because of traditional ways of working — using digital to reach, communicate and interact with customers in real time.

A great example for this new era is the story of a female entrepreneur, who found out that her company’s reputation was being damaged by other vendors selling fake versions of her products, so she made the decision to invite whoever bought the fake products to store to swap them for genuine products from her company. Not surprisingly, a lot of customers went to the stores. She saved the company’s reputation, won back customers’ hearts and sales grew three times, driven by more store visits.

This story strongly demonstrates the benefit of Brand & Commerce working together. Imagine, if the same situation happened in your company, how long will it take to go through the discussions with the brand team, marketing team, legal team, operation team and channel team?

When developing a digital transformation strategy, is there a way to evaluate how well Brand and Commerce actually work together? This is where the original thinking framework — the Brand Commerce Digital Transformation Matrix — is used as a diagnostics tool for brand and marketing related professionals.

Brand Commerce Digital Transformation Matrix

Studying this framework, there are few brands located in area (1) of the matrix nowadays. Most brands are moving toward mid-high level, in terms of digitalisation of brand building or digitalisation of commerce.

Take T-mall’s one-to-one brand commerce ecosystem and seamless experience as an example for type (5) in the matrix.

In terms of digitalisation of brand building, T-mall has been known for being a personalised one-to-one medium (Thousand Faces to Thousand People) on its marketplace. This year, the service has been upgraded to “Unidesk” service, which seamlessly synchronises all of Alibaba’s platform data, such as Alipay, Ant Finance and Cai Niao Distribution, in order to provide integrated services to customers in different scenarios. However, it still has some challenges and sometimes recommends irrelevant products to consumers, such as serving unrelated product categories to a given consumer, again and again.

When talking about the digitalisation of commerce, besides desktop and mobile channels, T-mall celebrates the concept of “new retailing” ­– such as T-mall automotive mall, shopping mall, self-service unmanned store and mini supermarkets — with the purpose of covering all online and offline touchpoints.

It’s only a matter of time until T-mall excels in omni-channel selling, but personalised interactions need to improve. From my perspective, truly personalised digital interaction is essential in selecting the right scenarios, targeting certain audiences and creating tailor-made interactions. Coca-Cola, for example, created an “invisible” vending machine that only showed itself to couples walking by for Valentine’s Day.

The incredible thing about it is that it could recognise couples, activate vending function and show a huge, romantic ad when necessary, while the whole experience was “invisible” for other passers-by. In addition, the vending machine would ask names of the couples and print them on the bottle, making the drinks unique to each couple.

There are several elements of this case worth considering. The context of Valentine’s Day, that only couples were targeted and the experience of personalising drink bottles. This is a case of a truly personalised customer experience.

So, how can the Brand Commerce Digital Transformation Matrix help find the right path for traditional firms’ digital transformation of brand commerce?

The banking industry is under strict supervision by Chinese financial departments, especially in terms of privacy, and with the increasing complexity of banking services, it is one of the most challenging industries for digital transformation of brand commerce.

As an example, China Merchants Bank made early progress in digitalisation in China. They created a range of differentiated services, such as the visionary VIP systems like Sunflower, to target different segments of customers. The bank also made attempts in marketing automation to support brand experience and reduce costs. Every month when receiving payments, customers would receive an SMS with contact information of tele-marketing representatives, reminding them to grab the opportunity of buying financial products specifically designed for their salaries.

However, the bank has quite a long way to go in enhancing engagement with customers and improving customer experience, so I’d place them in area 4 of the Matrix.

Brand Commerce Digital Transformation Matrix

China Merchants Bank has the natural advantage of accessing data of customers with debit and credit cards, including all aspects of life, such as shopping, traveling, transportation and shopping area, shopping timing, etc. Customers’ records of income and expenditure naturally become shopping logs, reflecting all kinds of motivations and needs for shopping and financial management. Such data can be extremely beneficial for brands. How to dig out customers’ needs of next steps via data analysis is the question that brand builders should consider for digitalisation.

For instance, for customers who have purchased flight tickets for traveling abroad on tourism websites, they will be preparing foreign currency and completing budget plan in addition to itinerary planning. There’s so much more to guide customers besides promotion and discount messages. On the other hand, for a customer who constantly faces credit card overdraft, what they truly need is a well-rounded financial management plan instead of more promotional messages on loans and overdrafts. Different customers have different needs — we need to use technology, data and creativity to deliver on these expectations

Looking at China Merchants Bank from the aspect of digitalisation of business operations, its branches and communication channels cover a large area. By trying the services offered on different channels, services are neither consistent nor continuous.

Try opening a credit card at the bank counter of a branch in China. When you finish filling out the forms, the clerk will send them to the headquarters and someone will get in touch at some point. What if the mail never reaches the headquarters? Who should customers look for then? Or try calling the hotline and consult membership-related questions. Only one type of question can be answered per time the call is forwarded, i.e. representatives in charge of member events can only answer event-related questions, and your call has to be forwarded again if you want to ask about member login. Therefore, the level of digitalisation of business operation is in the middle, too.

Of course, a complete analysis of Brand Commerce needs in-depth research from both inside and outside the brand. The best route for development can also vary for different industries and brands, so there is not a one size fits all model to digital transformation.

So what actions can China Merchants Bank take in order to improve the level of digitalisation of brand commerce?

Suggestion 1:

Utilize the consumer data with more flexibility, look into their needs in-depth and explore more possibilities to interact with them with more personalized experiences.

Types of analysis supported by UnionPay transaction data

Suggestion 2:

Based on a customer’s personal experience, analyze the business service journey, and prioritize key parts in order to renovate brand experience.

Customer Journey Analysis

Article by Cecilia Huang, Senior VP of Brand Commerce Consultancy, Isobar China Group.

Originally published here.

Isobar Launches ‘Augmented Humanity: Isobar Trends Report 2018’

Download the report here.

Isobar predicts that 2018 will be the year of Augmented Humanity, a year where technology enhances and scales our most human attributes. In 2018, technological interfaces will become more natural and instinctive, technology will automate repetitive tasks to free up time for creativity and compassion, and artificial intelligence will meet emotional intelligence.

Isobar’s innovation and strategy experts from around the world have defined five key trends that explore this evolving relationship between humanity and technology and predict a harmonious future. Augmented Humanity explores the ways in which technology enhances and fuels our most human attributes – the ability to recognise and trust each other, to adapt to changing circumstances and the power to deliver true creativity.

Jean Lin, Isobar’s Global CEO, comments, “Artificial intelligence is great, but humans score on emotional intelligence. The power of being human is in empathy. This cannot be automated or outsourced. Augmented Humanity will use technology to scale everything that is best and most powerful about human interaction.”

The report argues that we may one day view the era of anonymous, one size fits all transactions as a temporary blip in our evolution, and that as technology advances it will become more human, not less. It will return us to a time where voice will be the primary way we interact with the world, where we will be recognised and rewarded in stores, and where we will buy more directly from trusted suppliers.

Isobar’s five key trends for 2018 explore this intersection of technology and humanity, magic and the machine, code and conscience:

1. Body Talk explores the body as an interface, as our eyes and ears replace touching and tapping.
2. Powered by People tackles the shift from customers to communities as technology turbocharges the sharing economy.
3. The Economy of Me looks at the power of AI to deliver ever more personalised products, prices and places.
4. The Ethical Algorithm tackles technology as a force for good; in a world of fake news and algorithm bias is there such a thing as moral code?
5. The Makers and the Machines explores the extraordinary union of art and technology to create outputs we could never before imagine.

Within each theme, Isobar unpicks key sub trends and explores how they come to life today, in the future, and what they mean for businesses and brands right now. The report celebrates the importance of emotion at every touchpoint; in this new landscape it will no longer be enough for technologists to ask “how does it work?” – they need to consider human emotion and drivers and ask “how does it feel?”.

Download the report here.

Why Isobar Greece Started Selling Its Own Sunglasses.


Our colleagues from Isobar Greece have decided to jump the fence and see what really happens on the advertisers’ side.

Wanting to have a better understanding (albeit on a smaller scale) of the challenges clients are facing, they have created, produced and marketed a sunglasses brand called We Are Eyes.

In a market challenged by the aftermath of the economical crisis, they decided to dive in a real-life situation so that they can be closer to clients.

This is not about bringing in alternative revenue streams (their goal is to break-even). This is about empathy.

Read the full story originally published on Ad Age.