The Communications Service Provider’s Guide to Digital Commerce

How to dial up your commerce capability in the 5G era


June 2022

5 Minute Read

Lauren Wallace
Editorial Lead, Salesforce
Communications service providers (CSPs) are inherently innovators. With the advent of 5G technology, they are primed to tap new business models that extend the network across industries beyond what was possible before.
And digital commerce is fast becoming a primary driver of growth.
The pandemic was a wake-up call, forcing CSPs to take a hard look at their existing digital commerce capabilities. Sixty-four percent of CSPs invested more in commerce in 2020 than the prior year. Now, 90% of communications leaders are maintaining or growing their investment in digital experiences.
To keep a winner’s pace, CSPs must master the entire digital commerce experience.
This guide will show you how to take digital commerce to the next level in your organisation.

Customer expectations accelerate digital maturity

As brands in every industry make big moves to implement sophisticated digital experiences, consumer expectations have never been higher. The last great experience a customer has with a brand impacts their expectations for all others — including CSPs. That’s why CSPs need to adopt digital commerce capabilities that help drive growth, innovation, revenue, and customer satisfaction.
Here are the top trends accelerating digital commerce maturity.

Hyper personalised experiences

Fifty-two percent of customers expect offers to always be personalised. For CSPs, this may mean offering personalised product recommendations or predictive product sort based on the customer’s browsing history and preferences.

Consistent omni-channel shopping experiences

Today, customers use an average of nine different channels to browse and buy products, and 76% expect consistent interactions across all channels. As the line fades between physical and digital commerce, CSPs have introduced virtual events, virtual shopping appointments, live chat, and video to enhance the overall shopping experience.

Shopping at the edge

More than ever, customers expect to engage with brands outside of their proverbial four walls. CSPs are investing heavily in channels like social media to drive engagement, reaching customers where they spend the most time.

Flexibility and agility

If brands learned anything from the pandemic, it’s to be ready for anything. CSPs must prepare for peak demand with scalable, flexible digital commerce solutions, and evolve merchandising with the right content, products, tone, and experiences.
The new imperative is clear: Meet your customers where they are and deliver great digital commerce experiences, everywhere.

Common barriers to success

CSPs face unique challenges that can stymie even the most well-intentioned teams in their quest to create compelling digital experiences. This includes:

Inherent complexity

CSPs sell a complex mix of services, devices, accessories, connections, and add-ons. While some CSPs try to make these puzzle pieces fit into a templated digital commerce site, the result is often a subpar experience that doesn’t live up to high customer expectations. That’s because these platforms are not optimised for the catalogs, complexities, and interdependencies of the industry.

System fragmentation

Over the last decade, each channel and line of business has created its own tech stack. As a result, CSPs do not have a single view of the customer. But today’s customer journeys are always multichannel, and silos cripple the customer experience. Consider that 54% of customers say it generally feels like sales, service, and marketing don’t share information.

The back-to-front disconnect

Every CSP’s biggest adversary when it comes to creating an exceptional digital commerce experience? The chasm between back-office and front-office systems. This is where a business support system (BSS) layer comes into play. Digital BSS stacks connect the back end and front end. They are containerized, agile, and modular, allowing for continuous innovation.

Steps to digital transformation

Every CSP has suffered the same challenges on their transformation journey, but the businesses that invest in the right capabilities, people, and processes have an opportunity to get in front of their competition. It takes the following steps.

Focus on the customer

Just as the customer experience is at the heart of a good business, it’s also at the heart of a good digital transformation strategy. Focus on the customer first, then the technology.

Prepare for organisational change

The most successful organisations don’t draw a line between business strategy and IT strategy; they recognise them as one. This requires digital-specific leadership that encourages innovation.

Empower business teams

Give teams easy-to-use tools that drive adoption and allow them to focus on more strategic work, rather than manual, time-consuming processes. When you empower your business users, your IT teams can devote more attention to innovation.

Find a trusted implementation partner

Strategic planning and partnerships are critical to success — especially considering the unique challenges CSPs face. Find trusted implementation partners that provide ongoing access to industry expertise and an ecosystem that can help you innovate on top of your core commerce platform.

Take a modular approach

Platforms like Commerce Cloud unite the entire customer journey, from awareness to ongoing support and upgrades. The platform integrates back-end operations support system (OSS) functions with a digital BSS layer to combine CRM and commerce capabilities. This is what enables everything from personalisation to infinite aisle catalogs to persistent carts and cart remarketing.

How Commerce Cloud can help

Commerce Cloud provides CSPs a single source of truth for customers as well as the product and technology catalog. This gives CSPs the ability to create consistent, personalised commerce experiences everywhere — whether on the web, mobile app, kiosk, or social media — and the power to scale up for any spike in demand.

Get out-of-the-box tools

Industry-specific workflows, processes, rules, and standard integrations — such as TM Forum and Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) — make optimising your digital offerings much easier. Out-of-the-box tools for promotions, campaigns, and content management help your marketers and merchandisers engage customers with personalised experiences at scale.

Adopt a single source of truth

From a single digital commerce platform, you can gather insights from every interaction. Application programming interfaces (APIs) connect digital commerce to your other systems, like your customer relationship management (CRM) platform; engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC); cost-price-quote (CPS); contract lifecycle management (CLM); and order management (OM) for a complete view. This allows you to deliver consistent customer experiences, sync data in real time, and engage subscribers seamlessly at every step of their journey.

Scale to meet peak demand

Few retailers see the kind of demand spikes that are normal for CSPs: the launch of a new iPhone, the surge after airing a new Superbowl commercial. CSPs need scalable platforms that can support large spikes in traffic during peak seasons. Commerce Cloud's 99.99% historical uptime and the scalability to support a billion shoppers across the B2C platform offer proven reliability to meet any surge in demand.
Digital Commerce for CSPs combines consumer-grade commerce capabilities with the powerful Enterprise Product Catalog, CPQ, and Order Management capabilities of Communications Cloud.

Take your next steps

The battle for customers in the 5G era is fierce. Incumbent CSPs, big tech players, over-the-top (OTT) services, new disruptors, and innovative startups all want a slice of the pie.
The winners in this competitive market will be the brands that rise to the challenges of digital commerce in a multichannel world. The key is to combine a flexible high-scale commerce experience with a highly specialised back-end pricing and quoting engine to provide world-class experiences for your customers.
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