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20th Anniversary of Ecommerce – Understanding Your Customer is Still Top Priority

Last week ecommerce celebrated the 20th birthday milestone of the world’s first secure online sale. The first purchases of “Ten Summoner’s Tales” album by Sting were an unknown beacon, signalling a major shift in the way consumers engage with brands and the way marketers communicate. Twenty years later, it’s not just the way in which consumers purchase that is dramatically different; it’s what they expect from brands in the experience that is even more so.

Switched on and savvy, today’s consumers understand what they want from a brand and this is a major challenge to siloed marketers operating on a channel-by-channel basis. Our recent research results show that 60% of UK consumers shop online every week and that 60% of consumers also prefer personalised communications. With the wide adoption of tablet and smartphone technologies within the last decade, 57% of online shoppers now prefer to make a purchase on their home computer or tablet, and the most popular place to make a purchase (56%) being from bed. More and more, marketers are seeing a tremendous gap in mobile conversion rates as all signs point to mobile being used as a channel for engagement and evaluation leading up to an online or in-store purchase.

Today’s consumer behaviour indicates that, as marketers, we must put an end to the philosophy and strategies that drove record online sales year over year for the last 20. It’s no longer just about an acquisition team that sits separately from the retention team; email marketers, direct marketers, social media marketers all sitting in their pods and not communicating. Consumers are telling brands loud and clear that they want to be approached by brands on their terms. Can you remember the last time you said to yourself, “Hmmm, I think I’ll connect next with this brand on Facebook and then move on to my tablet to do some shopping.”? I didn’t think so. Today’s leaders in marketing to the new customer journey are the ones that understand that they must develop a connected, contiguous customer lifetime experience.

They key to doing so is by providing a personalised experience, but only a small number of brands are truly personalising experiences across all channels. It’s the fastest growing companies who are using the right mix of data to ensure that relevancy is spot on – companies like Alex and Ani, JackThreads, The Economist, Matches Fashion, ACHICA and more. These brands are personalising much more than just email based on name and location; they’re using a combination of explicit behavioural and implicit interest data natively collected from all channels, allowing them to build a true single customer view. They’re then leveraging this data to dynamically personalise email (from subject lines to all content), mobile push notifications, onsite product recommendations and social media advertising and messaging. 

The marketers who drove that first online purchase would never have been able to predict that we’ve come so far, but there’s also still much further to go. It’s clear to see that ecommerce has transformed the way we shop over the decades, and as consumers continues to change and grow it is imperative that brands restructure to rally around the shifts in consumer behaviour.

If you would like to read more about our recent consumer research into buyer online buyer behaviours, you can download our ecommerce preferences report here