Top Investments for E-commerce Success

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E-commerce has been around for twenty years. Back then, the industry’s biggest challenges revolved around infrastructure and logistics. Today, the e-commerce industry’s top priorities revolve around product, discovery, digital and the customer experience. Mobile’s growing influence on consumers and brands is pushing companies to communicate and market more effectively across a number of customer touchpoints. Customers’ expectations have changed significantly over the last decade and technologies like big data, social media and mobile transactions are influencing brands’ e-commerce and marketing strategies. Given this, brands are investing in emerging tools and technologies to address evolving consumer behavior and to outpace the competition. The challenge, however, is knowing which tools brands should prioritize now to drive customer engagement for years to come. Yet some brands struggle over which tools to invest in. The Economist Intelligence Unit identified 19 percent of CMOs consider data analytics one of their key priorities of investment over the next twelve months. Another 27 percent are focused on tools and technologies to help manage the customer lifecycle more effectively. With so many options to choose from – personalization, big data, social analytics, mobile, omnichannel – it’s easy to get lost or caught up in the hype of one tool over the other.

Looking ahead to 2016, brands should focus investment on these top critical technologies that will improve customer engagement, communication and bridge the gap between online and mobile.

The big data goldmine

Studies show that nearly 90 percent of professionals view big data as a game changer. That’s because big data’s potential has big benefits for e-commerce businesses. Yet, not all data is created equal. The introduction of mobile and social into consumers’ daily activities contributes to an unprecedented volume of data, classified as unstructured data. Structured data refers to data that has a defined length and format and can be categorized in a pre-defined model. For instance, POS data, browsing history, the number of clicks on a product, or the time spent on a page are all examples of structured data. With this in mind, organizations should aim to capture the most meaningful data points, whether structured or unstructured. Insights gleaned from contextual or behavioral data will prove more useful than trying to understand every piece of data point.

Big data is a helpful tool when brands consider what types of information is the most meaningful to achieve company goals. Companies can use insights from big data to identify new customer segments, new markets or to predict the likelihood of a customer completing a purchase on a particular offer. The predictive component of big data is unique and powerful for today’s e-commerce environments in particular. Brands can examine customers’ purchasing habits online to calculate the likelihood of a future outcome. An analysis can include data such as a consumer’s gender, intent, historical behavior, what channel he or she uses most and even location. With this information, a company can send targeted coupons on surf lessons for someone traveling to Hawaii or offer snowboarding equipment to a customer vacationing in Colorado.

In this case, insights gleaned from big data allow brands to deliver meaningful content, products and offerings to customers who are more likely to engage with the brand because the content ‘speaks’ to them and their needs. Popular shoe retailerSteve Madden is a great example of this. The company uses predictive analytics to connect customers with the fashion and products they love in a way that is personal, unique and targeted to each individual. As shoppers navigate Steve Madden’s interactive, digital ecosystem, they receive personalized content and offers that appeal to their individual tastes.

Fusing mobile and e-commerce together

Mobile commerce, or m-commerce, is one of the top growth areas for brands. Experts estimate that m-commerce will generate over $100 billion by 2017, and every brand wants a slice of the pie. To do this, retailers must invest in mobile but have it complement the online or physical stores. This means delivering the same consistent brand experience, tracking customer data alongside activity on other channels, and making it an easy channel for shoppers to navigate. Given the restrictions within mobile – usability, small screen size – compelling content must be present in a unique and thoughtful way. Consider delivering information through short video clips based on location or around a timely event.

Also, consider the design and feel of the site via mobile. Products must be easy to view and content should be short, easy to ready, personalized and interesting. Content and advertisements must also be strategically placed so it doesn’t appear ‘spammy’ or intrusive. It also helps to understand the customer and how he uses mobile during the shopping journey. One study shows that 50 percent of business professionals use mobile to complete payment transactions. Another ComScore study revealed that 13 percent of Internet users accessing a retail site preferred to use a mobile device to do so. These mobile-only shoppers need a straightforward approach to shopping, browsing, product discovery and checkout. Then there are shoppers that prefer to use mobile devices as research assistants, comparing prices in-store or on the go. Knowing how customers use their mobile devices is a critical component to delivering a high-quality experience, but it’s also important to consider when brands map out their online and mobile strategies. Investments that unify the brand through all these channels will help companies manage the customer lifecycle more effectively.

The retail industry, particularly e-commerce, is at a tipping point. Customer behavior is evolving, expectations are higher and brands must make the right investments now to remain relevant with shoppers. While there are numerous exciting technologies available, from drones to beacons to virtual reality headsets for shoppers, e-commerce brands should focus their investment in the most critical tools over the next twelve months that will reap the most benefit and reward for shoppers and brands. This includes data analytics, personalization and mobile. Together, these investments will ensure brands have a better understanding of their customers, improve communication, increase brand loyalty and improve the overall experience. Additionally, these same tools can help ensure online functions like inventory management, merchandising, pricing and fulfillment are a part of optimizing the customer experience. Adopting these tools now will enable brands to have a holistic view of their customers and create a compelling user experience.

MeyarSheik lowresAbout Meyar Sheik
Meyar Sheik is a seasoned software industry executive with 25 years of experience. Since 2000, Meyar has been a web analytics pioneer working with some of the largest sites on the Internet such as Staples, ESPN, Fox, Sony, Best Buy, Disney, CBS and many other leading brands, in the areas of web analytics, personalization and real-time content optimization. Prior to Certona, Meyar was the CMO and COO of web analytics leader, WebSideStory (now part of Omniture/Adobe).