5 eCommerce trends we learnt at Online Retailer 2017

At the end of last month, the Yump team packed our bags and headed to Sydney for Australia’s most comprehensive two-day eCommerce conference, Online Retailer. Promising the best selection of international and local speakers, market-driven content and a showcase of top technology-led solutions, 2017 tackled the theme, ‘Where the Future Meets Retail’.  

Embracing Amazogeddon

As one could expect with the upcoming launch of Amazon in Australia, conversations about the beast dominated the conference. Here in Australia, consumers are already giving around $500-700 million to the United States retail giant, begging many to question, is it coming here to blow our minds or our revenue? With the perspective that Amazon’s arrival brings opportunity not threat, we were enlightened by multi-expert panels aiming to empower us with ‘Top Tips to Compete and Embrace the Retail Giant’ and breakout talks including Shopgate’s CEO, Marc Biel, ‘Remaining Competitive in the Age of Amazon’.

With the beast aside or by our side, here are our five tips and takeaway points from the weekend that was.

1. Adopt a mobile-first mentality

‘Across all teams, do you start with the smallest screen first when building concepts and designing initiatives?’
John Riccio, PwC Australia’s national leader for digital services.

Saks Fifth Avenue were founded in New York in the early 1900s. Today, they’re renowned for their superlative selling services and exceptional merchandise offerings both online and offline. When it comes to online, now more than half their (and probably your sites’ too) traffic comes from mobile devices so in her international keynote presentation, Saks’ Kyla Robinson spoke to the ‘Key to Success: Creating a Mobile-First Mentality’.

Mastering this involves collaborating with your analytics team right from the start of conceptualisation. If your users are moving with mobile devices, you have to move with them. If you can design something great on the smallest (read: hardest) screen, you can design something great to be used, accessed and viewed anywhere. So then when you walk into your stakeholder presentation, present the mobile screens as the primary component and work your way up. Then during quality assurance across merchandising, design, marketing, product and engineering, ensure you incorporate mobile devices in testing and reviews.

Average smartphone conversion rates

2. Optimise decisions to increase conversion

‘Conversion optimisation is about optimising decisions for customers’
Greg Storey, Head of Conversion, First NZ.

The paradox of choice: Consumers are not only bombarded with almost-constant content and opportunities for instant gratification, but this excess of choice is leading them to what’s been coined, ‘action paralysis’. While large selections attract more onlookers, smaller selections have proven to generate more sales. This doesn’t mean you have to minimise your offering, but optimise, personalise and target your consumers during the shopping process, so their decision is already made before they even ‘Add to Cart’. Take a leaf out of these Online Retailer presenters’ books:

GetWinesDirect’s browsing imitation
Jordan Muir (Chief Innovation Officer) presented their GetWinesDirect mobile app that emulates the in-store wine experience as users can stroll through shelves of wine bottles, like they would browse in a store.

IndoChino’s personalised showrooms
Drew Green’s (CEO) ‘Pioneering the Clicks-to-Bricks Phenomenon with Curated Retail Experiences’ presentation taught us about IndoChino – what started solely as an online store. When they opened their first physical showrooms in 2016, they grew by 54%. The personalised experience of visiting a showroom meant customers built trust offline to then buy online.

Hunting for George’s immersive storytelling
Jonno Rodd (Marketing Manager) talked about ‘Conversion Rate Optimisation’, showing us their visual storytelling techniques, such as large-scaled, beautifully shot videos of immaculately styled homes. By bringing their products to life, consumers are invited to experience and imagine their new home without having to leave their front door.

Costumer first

3. Bring the customer’s voice into design and development

As we know, listening to your customers and understanding their pain points is key to the reinvention of any process, product or experience (Adobe’s Alex Amado). Therefore, listening to and incorporating their voice at multiple touch points of a project is crucial. To illustrate this, we were presented Saks Avenue Mobile Website’s sprint structure – modelled after Google’s. They interviewed more than 60 customers over six months during the design and development phases.

It looks like this:

Day 1: Map out the information architecture (IA) and user journey with customers’ and stakeholders’ input

Day 2: Sketching done by whole team

Day 3: Review and finalise the design approach

Day 4: Create a prototype that shows the entire user journey

Day 5: Test the prototype with real customers and gather qualitative feedback

4. Look toward trends in China and Japan

‘In the US, we look to China for emerging innovation in retail. China, on the other hand, looks to Japan for the latest technological advancements.’
Robin Li, Vice President, GGV Capital.

During his talk, Robin spoke about innovative in-store experiences, such as BingoBox’s launch in eight major Chinese cities. With a much larger population than the US or Australia, technology in China has to work harder and on a bigger scale.

Bingobox
The BingoBox, an unmanned convenience store. Source.

Completely staff-less and accessible 24/7, BingoBox allows customers to make purchases via mobile, paying through WeChat or Alipay. The shipping container-style stores rely on mobile technology, facial recognition and of course, personal accountability. While staff-less stores are not a new concept – we’ve seen AmazonGo – BingoBox is unique in its use of RFID, adoption of WeChat and the scalability of the business model.

We’re sure this is just the beginning.   

5. Invest in chatbots and AI

memomi - Augumented RealityAnything titled ‘Where The Future Meets Retail’ would not be complete without augmented reality, chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI). At the expo floor’s ‘Future Store’ Exhibit, we played with an augmented reality magic mirror that applied various make up to your reflection at the touch of your hand. Then there was a 3D hologram-prism projector that played aspirational product ads based on the face and detected age of the viewer. Both were fun but felt gimmicky. When it comes to real-world business objectives and sales conversion, there’s a long way to go.

However, Saks Avenue’s take seemed the most promising. Stripping back from fancy 3D renders and immersive experiences, Saks took a practical approach to drive sales – a Facebook Messenger Chat App, powered by AI.

It works by integrating their product pages with Messenger by scanning and detecting keywords. For example, when an existing customer tells a friend about their latest Saks purchase, a browsable list of relevant bags (linking to purchasable product pages) appears – without needing to open another browser.

While it seems sales-heavy, it’s less about promotion and more about convenience and conversations.

The recap

  • If it’s not mobile-first, it’s already last.
  • Optimisation is about empowering customers to make decisions, not just bombarding them with choices.
  • You should let customers shout loud – for you, not at you. Reconsider your sprint process structure to incorporate the customer’s voice in design and development, not just strategy and copywriting.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself, “How is technology being used in China and Japan?”
  • Sometimes less is more but when it work, it’ works. Saks’ simpler AI solution saw the most successful, genuine outcome.