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Shifting the Perspective – The Side of Commerce That Never Gets Talked About

When we speak about commerce, specifically ecommerce, we typically think about a situation where a customer needs a product. They navigate to Google or their favorite site to find this product, add it to their cart, and checkout. While this is the traditional model for ecommerce, there’s another side of digital commerce that doesn’t get much attention – however, it deserves it.  

This is what I like to call “non-product ecommerce,” which is essentially any situation where a customer is paying for something that isn’t a tangible product that will be delivered to their doorstep. Non-product commerce includes industries such as insurance, travel, lodging, and events. While other sides of digital commerce have received most of the spotlight within the past 20 years as Amazon raced to deliver less than two-day shipping, this side of commerce is important for us to talk about, specifically because there are certain site features and workflows leveraged here that could also be extremely applicable for traditional “pay-for-a-tangible” product experience.  

Let’s discuss some of what makes for a great “non-product” ecommerce experience, and how they could be applied to a tangible product experience.  

Guided Selling Workflow  

  • What is it – A guided selling workflow traditionally askes customers a set of questions. Based upon the response to these questions, a customer is presented with a set of options or services. For example, you can purchase car insurance for your vehicle directly through most major insurance carrier sites by simply answering questions about your vehicle, driving patterns, and more.  
  • Why it’s important – Guided selling workflows are important as they help customers answer the questions that they have in a native, intuitive way. In our example above, I know I need car insurance, but I don’t know the first thing about liability or how to pick various coverages. Guided selling workflows take the guesswork out and give customers good, better, and best selection options.  

Good, Better, Best 

  • What it is – Giving customers clear and concise options for their selection for non-tangible product offerings will help them make decisions and convert. By giving different tiers of coverage options in our insurance example, a customer can easily see coverage options, the price tier for each, and other add-ons. This is also something we see a lot in the travel and lodging space. Do you want to fly first-class or business class? Do you want a regular room or a suite?  
  • Why it’s important – Customers want options, and by creating digital experiences that easily display these options to customers within the channel they are active on – brands will be able to take some of the ‘guesswork’ out of choice, and hopefully avoid the analysis paralysis situation.  


  • What is it – Flexibility is the concept of giving consumers options when purchasing and not just different items they can choose from, but different ways and channels that they can be consumed. For example, a traveler might book their trip on their laptop, but want to edit and make changes through that airline’s app.  
  • Why it’s important – Providing flexibility for consumers allows them enhanced flexibility that will help drive them back to make future purchases. In addition, giving customer’s choice around the products or services that are being sold puts the control in their hand, which we as consumers are used to having with all the options that are thrown our way.  

These three categories are essential to non-tangible products. Additionally, these techniques and approaches should be leveraged for tangible products in situations where it fits the consumer base. What’s most important, as always, is creating experiences and workflows that make sense for what your customers’ expectations are. As Don Draper from Madmen once said, “Keep it simple, but significant.” Find ways to give customers the simple yet significant workflows needed to purchase and you’ll have happy customers and higher revenue. For more information, download our guide, Commerce Experiences and the Rise of Digital-First Insurance, and contact our commerce experts today.  


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Justin Racine

Justin Racine is a Director and Lead Strategist with Perficient, and he works with clients to build and achieve their business goals through commerce-enabled technologies. Justin has over 12 years of experience within the ecommerce space, working with companies such as Cardinal Health, Johnson & Johnson, and Olam International, and has spoken at over 20 global conferences on ecommerce and branding strategy. Additionally, Justin has been published twice for his thought leadership on branding and marketing in the Henry Stewart Journal of Brand Strategy, is a contributing writer for, and a frequent contributor for many leading industry publications.

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