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2014: year of mobile, personalisation or smart content?

By Retail Technology | Wednesday January 22 2014

Buoyed by bumper festive trade, IT infrastructure hosting expert Mark King responds explains why monitoring consumer trends will boost the e-commerce boom for retailers in 2014

2013 was a great year for e-commerce, with UK consumers confirming their position as the world’s top online shoppers – spending a record £5 billion online during the last 12 months.
Mark King, Europe, Middle East and Africa channel lead for Peer 1 Hosting, observed: “E-commerce is seemingly guaranteed to continue its quest for world domination, with recent High Street Christmas spending figures revealing yet another disappointing performance in comparison to online spending.”
However, he stressed that despite the undeniable popularity of online retail, it is no longer enough to simply run a website in what is becoming an increasingly competitive space where consumer attention is short.
In light of this, King is predicting that 2014 will see retailers using new techniques and processes to create a more immersive online shopping experience similar to that of a High Street store.
Harnessing the power of personalisation
“It is relatively easy for online retailers to implement personalisation during the various stages of online shopping from search to purchase, assisting in creating and strengthening a personal relationship with the customer,” he said.
A key differentiator in a competitive market, personalisation is based on customer behaviour and can come in multiple forms, from remembering purchase or browsing history to offering tailored product recommendations. He added: “Consumers will feel empowered by the choices available to them, valuing the knowledge that they are being viewed as an individual in a multi-billion pound market.
Citing a 2012 Forrester Research study, where 75% of brands plan to differentiate themselves based on customer experiences, King said retailers could only achieve personalisation by the gathering of data. “Using data in this way can inform customer preferences, such as size or gender, creating an experience similar to that of a High Street store,” he explained.
“Many of us are already being offered tailored search results or the chance to start a ‘Wish List’ containing our desired products. And with over 50% of UK shoppers citing personalisation as a key driver to their purchase habits according to IDC, this year will see personalisation becoming a valuable addition to any online retailer’s business growth plans.” 
Making the most of smart content
Content is essential if any online business is to succeed and can ultimately improve search engine optimisation (SEO) and conversion rates. It is also generally agreed that relevant, interesting and innovative content will encourage repeat purchase behaviour, as well as providing a memorable shopping experience that entices new site visitors.
But King added: “As we progress further into the digital age, engaging content in the form of videos, social media, music or games will help customers discover products and engage with the brand throughout the purchase process.
“Adapting content to fit trends, predictions or styles will propel shoppers into a non-intrusive environment where content is targeted and relevant to their search requirements, creating an interactive storefront.”
Mobile experiences that matter
Mobile has created a world that is ‘always on,’ where purchases can be made 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. “The average UK consumer spends roughly 25 minutes a day accessing the internet on their smartphone,” said King.

“Mobile optimisation is also the quickest route to the new generation of consumer, who feel more comfortable with a smartphone than a pen and paper – the 'digital natives'. This generation are often more than willing to interact with a brand and share their experiences with others within an online social environment.”

He also stated how this is now the post-PC era and a successful mobile strategy is one that has vision and growth potential, highlighting: “Shoppers can often have more than 10 simultaneous searches on their smartphone at any one time, making it vital that today’s retailers leverage the capabilities of the desired device, including location services and camera functions.

“All of these suggestions implemented separately are of course not a guaranteed path to success,” King concluded. “But if a well thought out e-commerce strategy is implemented shaped by online consumer trends, 2014 will undoubtedly be a great year for online retailers.”

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