What a fascinating space to be in right now. We’ve spent years waiting for technology to come and disrupt and, well, it looks like we’re more or less here. Data and devices are now more or less ubiquitous across the globe - technology access has won the day; there are around 5.3 billion adults on the planet over 15 and, according to data from the GSMA, around 5 billion smartphones. This poses a fascinating question for ecommerce businesses; it’s no longer a question of ‘when will online behaviour shift to mobile?’, but a question of ‘what now?’.
"As ecommerce businesses are at the end of the 21st century’s teenage years, we need to shake off data preconceptions and set up to understand and objectively review the data we have on our customers"
There might be a collective shudder upon reading that statistic - more devices and more access has too often led to more metrics, more KPIs, more confusion and more complexity. Counter intuitively however, this proliferation of access, devices and data is forcing focus and a return to core and vital marketing principles: what are consumers doing, how do your current customers and potential customers find you, your products and your brand, what questions are they asking, what are they viewing, how long are they spending doing it?
So rather than the shudder, this should herald a collective sigh of relief across the ecommerce community - market leadership is looking more and more like a return to the back to basics, simplification and humanisation of language that many have yearned for and advocated.
If that sounds too reductive and simple to be true, it probably is. Simple and clear is rarely easy and in the world of constant access and availability consumers exist in the ‘messy middle’ of the conversion funnel - constantly oscillating between action and discovery ready to tap the button to purchase or equally move away to something else vying for their attention in that moment.
So, as an ecommerce community, what to focus on? I’d boil it down to three key principles. Speed, data and discovery.
The first is the importance of speed. Consumer expectations around load time as well as concentration and patience levels dictate that getting to the point and giving people a reason to stick around and listen has never been more important. Utilise the tools available from Google and others to understand how you might improve your page speed and become more usable across devices. This brings me to the second principle of discovery— being there in the moments when your audience is looking for and need you. This means on Search but equally across video, social, blogs, ‘how-to’s’ and comparisons - there are fewer and fewer excuses not to understand and react to what consumers are looking for. This brings us to the final and underpinning principle of the three; data. As ecommerce businesses at the end of the 21st century’s teenage years, we need to shake off data preconceptions and set up to understand and objectively review the data we have on our customers. Your website and Google Trends are a live market research study going on all around you - invest your and your teams’ time in understanding this, listening to the signals you’re getting and then reacting to that across the business. If you can get this right, and it’s a big ‘if’, all else can follow as you can prove the value of the speed improvements you make to your site and find ways to convey the right message in the moments when you need to be discoverable for your customers.
What all of this means is that digital and performance marketing needs to return to marketing principles. By embracing the opportunities data and automation represent you can outsource some of the heavy lifting and instead focus on what the data is telling you and how this can be applied to your business strategy. Use the tools to find the message, convey your USP, and capitalise on these trends. There are ever decreasing excuses for poor online consumer experiences and heightened expectations abound across industries and geographies. Rather than engaging in a pricing race to the bottom we’ve a race to the top unfolding - who can make their online brand experience the most engaging, the most impactful, the most memorable and the most useful to today’s consumer.
So, what now? As we approach the start of H2 2019 I’d advocate a return to core marketing principles, what is it that makes your brand, product, service or industry special? Why should customers want to buy from you? Why did they ever buy from you in the first place? In a clustered and noisy market having focusing on these differentiation factors becomes even more important and if we’ve reached the point where data and automation allows you to do that, then all the better. How can you re-focus your teams on these principles, away from the data heavy lifting and instead find a way to focus on the strategic heavy lifting— that’s where the real value will lie in the coming years and how retailers can catch up with those customers who are streaking ahead to the horizon.