Today we are witnessing an increasing shift across the world where people are transitioning into a digital economy from the internet economy. The digital economy is driven by consumers who are more empowered than ever before thanks to the high penetration of devices and networks amongst themselves. Consumers have access to multiple options and their decisions today are influenced by their networked peers. Enterprises too have a plethora of opportunities to mine into this vast digital economy to learn more about consumer behaviour and target them with better options and improve bottom line profits. It is to be noted that such a large digitally connected ecosystem did not exist 5 years ago when most of business decisions were driven by human thoughts which though intelligent often fail to consider all parameters of market conditions and technology driven business models were in their inception stage. However times have changed and successful business models have emerged after evolving tremendously from their initial days of digital infancy.
Today’s digitally powered businesses rely on insights that are derived by deep rooted analysis of consumer behaviour, brand sentiment propagation and consumer engagement. Organizations that fail to embrace digital will find their progress stalling and in a matter of years, they would face similar situations faced by companies like Kodak when they failed to move with time.
If we have a closer look at how global players are achieving success with Digital Transformation, it is easy to identify the core pillars of their efforts to bring about this transition. They are
- Big Data
- Cloud Computing
- Social Media
- Automation and Artificial Intelligence
Let us have a brief look into each one.
Today mobile devices outnumber computers and have basically transformed the way which brands interact with internet enabled consumers. The race today is to make information available on the internet as mobile friendly as possible so that it becomes easier for consumers to gain access to it anywhere at any time. Even search engines like Google have started to rank pages with mobile friendly content on the higher side because they know the future of internet is going to be driven by mobile and that future has already begun. Everything from online commerce to marketing to workforce management has now become mobile-centric and investments are pouring in fast in this direction.
Ever since the internet and networked information access swept across geographies, the amount of digital data that is created daily has resulted in the rise of Big Data technology. Organizations are facing increasing challenges to identify relevant business information from the hundreds of thousands of data silos generated by their technology infrastructure spread across geographies. With big data technology frameworks, it is possible to break this unstructured information silos into valuable business insights. It requires a good deal of analytics and computations for which reliable technology platforms are readily available today.
Social Media has made the world a smaller place as far as communication is concerned. It is easier for brand sentiments to take a giant leap or fall into a deep gorge depending on their ability to engage fans and consumers on social media. Analysing sentiments requires identifying and responding to both positive and negative comments, pushing out relevant content to constantly engage readers and much more. It also calls for increased security policies because more and more internet enabled services depend on utilizing social media credentials to create and verify user accounts.
Often considered as the fundamental infrastructure of a Digital Economy, cloud computing allows organizations big or small to easily offer digital services without having to worry about computing power or digital asset storage capabilities. It has essentially narrowed the gap between behemoths and newbies when it comes to offering a reliable and glitch free digital service and on a close observation, you can see that nearly all disruptors in the digital world are utilizing cloud computing infrastructure for their IT needs rather than investing in building their own IT infrastructure in-house.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence
Automation coupled with Artificial Intelligence is seen as the future of workforce enablement. It doesn’t mean humans are less important, but technology enabled solutions can assist people to do their jobs faster and better with less scope for erroneous decisions. Workloads can be easily managed and with the evolution of artificial intelligence, it is easier to mimic human reactions for scenarios and thus create 24X7 working environments that are self-sustained.
Digital Transformation is an inevitable part of today’s business world and we wanted to help our customers embrace this huge transformation in the best way possible. We were one of the pioneers in online commerce solutions and our expertise positions us to be the forerunners in enabling digital ecosystems for our clients. MCFADYEN DIGITAL is committed to deliver end-to-end digital transformation services to our clients that will help them transform into leaders of the Digital Economy.
2017 is here and the ecommerce sector is looking towards a bright future this year as well according to predictions. In the US alone total average spend on ecommerce per customer is expected to be $1804 which means that the industry is in for huge strides. The rise of mCommerce as covered in one of our previous blogs is another hot area for innovation and investments as far as ecommerce companies are concerned. But we decided to focus on something that is even more important for ecommerce companies in 2017 – Security Threats.
For long cyber threats have plagued enterprises with digitally enabled platforms and ecommerce is no exception. Newer technology deployments have added more convenience for the end shopper but at the same time opened up new avenues to exploit for security threats. We throw light into 4 areas in ecommerce companies that will witness cyber exploits in full throttle for 2017:
Internet of Things (IoT)
Today a good majority of ecommerce companies utilize IoT enabled frameworks to handle their warehouse management and logistics operations. With superfast connectivity and razor sharp sensors, businesses trust such systems to carry out critical tasks and reduce human intervention. However such automated systems can be vulnerable as sensors are not yet equipped to thwart unidentified intrusions into their control hardware. To bring down costs, organizations often rely on cheaper connectivity options and this increases vulnerability of sensors exponentially.
Deliberate brand devaluation
In the era of digital marketing and social media, brands are finding it hard to appease their social savvy customers. On top of that, cyber fraudsters are now busy tarnishing brand images on social media with fake reviews, sentiments and comments. Brands that do not monitor their social media sentiments are easily prone to such schemes and even competitors hire agencies to bring down reputation of established brands with fake sentiment creation. 2017 will witness more of such attacks that focus on core brand values such as trust and customer relations and ecommerce companies need to be well aware of this threat.
Compliances and Regulatory Pressure
Governments across the globe have been cracking down on internet enabled businesses such as ecommerce and asking them to abide with local compliance rules and regulatory policies with their data assets. In order to achieve this compliance, many a times, organizations are forced to offer transparent data exchanges for authorities to monitor their transactions and these windows can easily be exploited by cyber fraudsters.
Cyber-attacks as a service
The heading might sound funny, but there exists a good number of criminal syndicates who break into technology ecosystems with large daily transactions such as ecommerce if they are paid to do so. Their attack modes range from Denial of Service to hijacking of enterprise networks to stealing customer data to name a few. In 2017 it is forecasted that such syndicated would form new partnerships globally and create even stronger cyber-attack frameworks to target digital transactions on the internet.
2017 will undoubtedly witness greater investments in cyber security by ecommerce companies globally and if you are an ecommerce organization looking to strengthen your security our 4 picks are the right areas for you to start.
2016 was an exciting year of growth for ecommerce just like it has been in the past couple of years. Consumer spends were favourably in line with expectations for much of the year and broke expectations with the onset of the Holiday season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday together accounted for close to $7 billion in sales revenue. Let’s keep the stats aside as you might have already been accustomed to quite a few by now. There is no doubt in the fact that 2017 will witness even bigger sales events and online sales will eat away a good majority of physical store sales all across the globe. On this note, the biggest challenge facing ecommerce companies is to prepare their website for sales in 2017. In terms of traffic management, shopping frequencies, user sessions, etc. 2017 is poised to be of far greater magnitude than 2016.
We have gathered info about some of the best practices you can adopt for your ecommerce website to stay competent in the boom and ensure your consumers are happy every time they visit your online store. Here are our top picks:
Robust technology platform
If your ecommerce site is running on legacy systems, then you need to definitely draw up an action plan to get it replaced with a scalable and robust modern day ecommerce platform. Hiring in an expert ecommerce consulting company to rephrase your entire technology architecture without altering your business models is the best option if you are unable to make the digital transformation in-house. An industry standard ecommerce platform will ensure that all your marketing and business logic would flawlessly be implemented to provide the best shopping experience for your visitors.
In one of our previous blog posts, we had detailed down on essentials of a great ecommerce checkout process. Cart abandonment rate is one parameter that you should focus to decrease and gradually eliminate from your business model. 2016 saw several ecommerce websites report that in cases 90% of their shoppers left their site on the checkout stage simply because it wasn’t optimized to provide them a hassle free purchase. The solution would be to design multiple checkout workflows and conduct A/B Testing and other proven quality analysis to determine the best checkout process for your ecommerce store.
If you think you have enough personalization based on user preferences, we have bad news for you. Consumer choices change in a matter of seconds. The more data an ecommerce system is able to collect and analyse, more is the personalization options they can offer to consumers. This is to be treated as a continuous process that always evolves based on feedbacks. Personalizing consumer interactions with easier navigation, better targeted promotions and smart marketing will greatly influence purchase decisions.
Managing feedback content
Today almost all ecommerce sites offer customers a choice to leave reviews and comments on their purchases. But most of the sites do not attempt to engage customers further after they have submitted their reviews and ratings. With smart marketing tools, your marketers can gain deep insights into how consumers are generating positive or negative sentiments for their purchases and helps them engage in better conversations which ultimately leads to new sales requests.
Delivery is the area where the customer actually comes in contact with his purchase for the first time. As such there is a tremendous opportunity for ecommerce companies to improve brand loyalty at this stage. Making the fastest delivery alone isn’t enough to gain confidence from shoppers but providing a wholesome delivery/pick-up experience is the key to winning hearts. Allowing consumers to select favourable delivery time slots, offering them choices to change delivery addresses after despatch, etc. are just some of the ways you can help consumers feel happy about the overall delivery experience.
So there you have it folks, our top 5 picks in best practices to help your ecommerce site win big in the New Year. Stay tuned to our blogs for more such exciting tips.
2016 witnessed yet another sensational Black Friday and Cyber Monday saga as shoppers splurged record sums of money across retail channels both offline and online. Let’s keep our focus to the eCommerce side where 2016 saw some records being rewritten. Primarily those records were for eCommerce transactions via mobile phones or to be more specific mCommerce. There were reports suggesting that many online stores were ill equipped to handle the huge peak in mobile traffic and consumers were frustrated with low grade mobile sites but when you look at sales percentage, Adobe reports that nearly 36% of all online sales revenue for Black Friday 2016 came through mobile phones.
Though PC’s drove more sales, the traffic volume was higher from mobile screens 55 percent of traffic to retail sites were from mobile screens. Tablet PC’s occupied only a fraction of the mobile traffic and the competition was predominantly between iPhones and Android powered mobile phones. Black Friday 2016 also witnessed for the first time that mobile sales revenue alone surpassed $1 billion on a single day.
For retailers, this is a wake-up call as their reluctance to offer crispier mobile experiences to shoppers will cost them dearly in market share. If you were to ask us for the exact areas to focus on, in order to deliver a seamless cross channel experience for your shoppers, the below would be our picks:
- Responsive websites
- Light weight mobile sites
- Shopping Apps across all popular platforms
- Mobile centric marketing campaigns via emails
As days pass by the shopping season is only going to get hotter and online retailers who haven’t drawn up elaborate plans for mCommerce need to catch up with their app engineers or software vendors to put some great mobile experiences in place.
The E-Commerce industry is going through rapid innovations and retailers now have to face challenges on multiple frontiers. They cannot just sit back on the sales and revenues that have been generated so far. The game has just begun. As Cersei of House Lannister says: “When you play the game of thrones (E-Commerce), you win or die. There is no middle ground.” Some of the key challenges ahead for the e-commerce are:
Understanding the Customer beyond Personalization
In order to cut through the intense competition, building the right customer experience is primary and to do so, you need to understand how your customers interact with your products, services and brands. It is not just about the numbers. By looking at the customer’s buying behaviours, social media engagement and digital footprint we can learn their individual needs and preferences. But personalization is not the all-encompassing cure. Personalization is limited to few elements of an e-commerce site. It is just one of the spokes in the wheel of building the right customer experience. To deliver a shopping experience that is relevant to each individual customer, we need to look at the bigger picture. For instance, your Customer Service, Merchandising and Marketing teams have different approaches to interacting with the customers. Customer experience is about the entire context, every customer touch-point. Data is the key to building great experiences and only by a unified approach to disparate systems such as search, recommendations, merchandising, banners and navigations can we drive a fully optimized customer journey. Also, the customer experience is not just for special occasions like thanksgiving or Diwali. It is for Life.
Increasing relevance of AR, VR and Wearables
The latest technology trends such as wearables, virtual reality and augmented reality are finding use in the e-commerce industry faster than you would imagine. This is truly the era of Virtual, Augmented reality. Sports retailers, for instance, could track user activity on a fit-bit and push relevant recommendations. Lego Digital Box is another interesting case, which can greatly enhance the in-store customer experience. These technologies are increasingly helping the retailers by driving the sales, enhancing the in-store experiences and creating a niche for themselves among the competition. Facebook buying Oculus Rift, Google Ingress and Samsung GearVR are just examples of the fact that the industry is moving towards the technology of the future. Such measures will definitely revitalize the brands and provide competitive edge over the rivals.
Over the last few years, Customer social engagement has drastically changed. From Twitter to Facebook to Instagram, the customer has increasing number of channels to communicate and share their experiences. Social Media has become a valuable resource for information. Each day, millions and millions of users post their opinions and reviews on various channels. Identifying and categorizing these vital data points can help the retailers to understand emotions around their products and brands and provide productive insights that can be invaluable. This is where the gold (read as data) is. It also acts as a useful market research tool. Through customer emotional analytics, retailers can track digital marketing performance and align their personalization campaigns appropriately. By analysing what is being said in the social media, the personalization strategy can be tailored to help customer make that last jump to conversion. This again ties back to understanding the customer and increases the relevance of their shopping context. The challenge is to correctly comprehend all the nuances of human communication through a machine. But increasing levels of accuracy only points to the fact that we are getting close.
Smart Home wars
The idea of a smart home is no longer alien but futuristic, practical and accessible. But the market is still struggling to move from the early-adopter phase to a mass-market phase. Google, with the recent announcement of the launch of Google Home, has made its intentions clear that it would not let Amazon take the lead. The competition is getting hotter. Just like Amazon Echo, which lets the customer place an order through a voice-activated smart home, Google Home is a voice-activated assistant. The conversational voice command paradigm of Google Home is expected to be a sure hit with the tech-savvy audience. Through the prevalence of smart homes, retailers will be encouraged to set up online stores and users can use their smart devices to place orders. This is where the future battles will be fought. Initially the conversions might be little too less, but once the smart home becomes a mass-market, retailers can expect huge traffic from these devices.
These are some of the key challenges we feel will require the attention of online retailers in the coming years.