An ever more competitive landscape

Elle Williams | October 5th 2018

There are two interesting predictions when looking at the way that ecommerce will evolve in the next two years:

  1. Global ecommerce sales predicted to rise to over $4 trillion by 2020, competition between online retailers has never been more intense – Statista
  1. By 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator – Walker Info

The commonality between the two is that they both indicate a strong necessity to look at how you can set your business apart from the growing competition. This isn’t an easy feat and leads to the practice of focusing on engagement (how can you attract repeat custom and visits and provide a real value proposition) over simple awareness.

The Walker Info statistic is especially interesting. Ever since Amazon hit the mainstream and launched their Prime service in 2005, they have smartly set the precedent for price, product and convenience. Ecommerce business can tap into this using their marketplace, but businesses want to develop their brand, which is where they can show real value and grow their customer lifetime value through experiences. So, it’s no surprise that experience is gradually increasing in priority. In many ways, Amazon may have set the benchmark too high.

As much as that sounds like a negative it’s actually a great opportunity for ecommerce businesses. Yes, there is a strong argument that Amazon offers good experiences too – their delivery is exceptional for example. But it’s still an everything to everyone approach. A huge department store that with a strong focus on convenience. And this highlights the opportunity – Amazon’s potential to strike a strong emotional relationship with the customer is quite limited.

The best place to start is by thoroughly understanding your customer at a more personal, granular level. Who are they? What are their motives? How does the brand satisfy these? Ultimately, without knowing this information about the customer how are we expected to emotionally engage with them? This involves taking a step back.

The expectation of personalisation

The point is that customers portray vastly different habits. Their requirements change not only on personal and psychometric preference but to contextual factors too. It’s well understood now that the term “best practice” can only be a loose guide. One that covers only the base expectations and now de-facto standards – the main logo linking to the root of the website as an example.

To engage at an emotional level a brand needs to resonate with a user immediately. For most this experience starts at a marketing level and segmentation is vital. Paid Social lets you tailor a bespoke audience list accounting for demographics, hobbies and interests. Paid search segments by the search query and presents relevant copy to the search motive. And organic search uses website content to do the same. Returning to the Amazon example this emotive website content isn’t a feature you’ll find anywhere on their site. They are firmly centred around the product and capturing customers late in the buying cycle.

Upon landing on the website personalisation is something that is increasingly becoming more common. And like “best practice” it’s becoming an expectation of customers. Tools like Nosto and Fresh Relevance have extended past product recommendations to allow personalisation of entire pages, building an experience that is completely individual for the customer. It does this by segmentation. Where do behaviours put the customer in the customer lifecycle? Are they about to purchase? Showing traits of a strong advocate? Does a customer show preference to a specific sporting brand, such as the case for golfing products? The answers could be simple. Others could be items that slot into an A/B testing plan.

Enterprise testing platforms such as Monetate are also conceding to the importance of personalisation by introducing individual fit experiences. These loosely resemble conventional tests and aren’t run to reach statistical significance. Instead, they run indefinitely with the machine learning creating a scenario for the customer that would automatically out-perform the control. A harmony of user meets requirements.

In summary

All the above is the notion that an emotional experience is facilitated by departments combining effort and providing a consistent and agile experience that adds genuine value. It’s surprisingly common that departments work in silos, protecting their work. These walls need to be broken down and in doing so will reveal truths about the customer groups, the ways to talk and attract them. A means to connect emotionally and at the right times. And finally to compete in an ever more congested marketing and secure a share of the $4trillion.