As E-commerce continues its meteoric rise and increasingly looks to become the primary channel of sales, it is imperative that e-commerce businesses defend their market share by keeping track of the latest innovations and opportunities to drive sales.
Innovation is great but there is also a danger with some innovations being little more than digital distractions that lure businesses into wasting time and resources. To help cut through the clutter, we have compiled a list of what we think are the most important areas to keep track of for e-commerce businesses.
Embedded social ecommerce
Instagram have led the way in social commerce with their shoppable posts feature which was launched in 2018. This has now had a huge upgrade with brands now being able to sell directly within the Instagram app (we expect Facebook will follow suit soon).
Bringing commerce into social platforms where people normally go to find content and making almost everything ‘shoppable’ is a trend we think is set for an imminent rollout across the major social media platforms. Being able to sell in places where people expect to be entertained will bring new opportunities, but also its own challenges – the sell must be more entertaining and engaging and compete with everything else vying for the user’s attention.
Making e-commerce more social is likely to make transactions more spontaneous but there is also a danger of fall-out for brands that do not match consumer expectations with rapid fulfilment via streamlined logistics. Social commerce does however have great potential for consumers to advocate the products they love and share news of purchases. We have launched several social-commerce stores and can also help in driving customer advocacy in social.
Given the real-time nature of social media, smart brands will develop agile approaches to developing and rolling out products based on news items in order to ride the traction of current affairs. Brands wanting to do this should have a robust approach in place to respond to cultural events like red carpet appearances, sporting victories etc.
As eCommerce becomes more experientially driven, the boundaries between marketing and sales will continue to blur even further. Augmented reality and live video are already used in marketing, and will start to be used more as an every-day technology to facilitate customer service and allow sales teams to have remote video-calls with prospective customers, at scale. This is a great opportunity to bring products to life. Whether it’s a bicycle, car or a new brand trying to demonstrate its differentiated features, it’s a great way to bring customers closer to the brand. A number of technology providers are already delivering solutions that enable bricks-and-mortar retailers to extend the reach of their shop floor staff to shoppers via video, directly from the shop floor.
The evolution of messaging services
Messaging apps in Asia have been fully e-commerce enabled for some time and their western counterparts are likely to follow suit. Chinese messaging app WeChat has an amalgam of different services from banking right through to shopping. What we see now as ‘messaging’ could eventually become bigger than ‘social’ and is likely to take the form of a ‘personal-private’ hub (as opposed to public-broadcast hub which current social media platforms deliver).
The rise of the subscription economy
Brands selling physical products have a great deal to gain by providing their product as a service. Customer life-time value and retention rates are overwhelmingly higher on subscription based business models which is why Amazon have offered subscriptions on vitamin supplements for some time. Retailers should be thinking about how to translate their products into a service – and how to keep the experience of using it special, with the likes of one-offs, birthday deliveries and layers of personalization in the service offering.
Exclusive (scarce) offers
Nothing creates greater FOMO and demand than exclusive offers. Nightclubs have known this for some time by delaying entry and creating a queue to get into their empty venue. ‘By Invitation’ is a great way for premium brands to bring scarcity back into the digital world. It can make customers feel special and gives them bragging rights of being ‘in the know’ and part of a club. Smart brands are already doing this with customer loyalty programmes that segment a brand’s most loyal customers to offer small batches of limited edition products or services that are personalised and have special features that are less ‘mass market’.
Design from Data
We live in a data driven world and brands can use this data to develop competitive edge in how they design their products or services. Brands should consider the depth and breadth of available data sources (public, private, partner based, marketing and business data) and should use these data sources to inform their design decisions to heighten conversion rates and brand engagement. We have built a number of data driven dashboards that have enabled brands to establish greater clarity over their customer’s needs. Very simply, data offers an opportunity for innovation which can lead to big benefits in both products and services, but is not a replacement for sense-checking and human intervention. Data can also be used to curate what is being sold to different audiences on social platforms.
Targeting Post GDPR
Restrictions placed on the use of customer data and targeted advertising mean that brands need to focus on making their data work harder for them by creating more relevant, personalized experiences and delivering messages with greater context at key moments of the customer journey. Targeted advertising that is based on context is almost inevitably going to become more expensive for brands but this can be counteracted by understanding the intent of a shopper. Constructing customer journeys that are more empathetic to their intent and speaks to the issues, needs and desires of shoppers can however only be done with solid customer insight. We expect there to be a surge in brands leveraging customer insight more effectively in their e-commerce businesses. Get in touch to discuss how our customer insight capability can help.