Fellowship’s Client Services Director Matt Johnson and myself were fortunate enough to attend this year’s E-commerce Expo at London’s ExCel Exhibition Centre.
Due to Covid, it’s been three years since the last expo. That may not sound like much but, in tech years, that’s quite a long time. So, what’s changed in the world of E-commerce?
Firstly, there was a lot to take in. Packed into the space were 22 theatres each offering around 10 talks, from industry experts, per day. As well as that, there were over 250 exhibitor stands.
Navigating our way to the various speaker theatres felt a bit like a slightly more civilised version of the Marbella strip with stall holders all trying to tempt us over to their stalls with promises of drinks (mainly coffee to be fair), merch and prize draw entries.
E-Commerce Exhibitor Stands
For the most part the Ecommerce Expo exhibitors could be categorised as follows:
- Payment gateway providers
- Fulfilment services
- Customer intelligence systems / data acquisition
- Support services (packaging, photography, translation etc.)
Surprisingly, there were very few actual E-commerce platform providers at the expo with only Shopify and BigCommerce in attendance.
Adobe Commerce (previously Magento) were represented, albeit through third-parties. This suggests to us that the number of ‘off the shelf’ E-commerce platforms hasn’t really changed a great deal. To corroborate this, we found that a lot of the products and systems on display within the trade stalls were platform agnostic and were generally interfaced with via APIs.
Matt and I had several conversations around ‘refactoring’ an E-commerce store from one platform to another and the sheer magnitude of this task for even a medium-sized E-commerce store. Understandable then that third-party services are, increasingly, geared towards drawing data out of your existing platform as opposed to migrating the data away from it.
On the flip-side, the number of payment gateways and online payment providers has increased massively over the last three years with a bewildering array of these in attendance at the expo.
The payment gateway plays a crucial role for every E-commerce store so choosing the right one is essential.
Chatting with some of these providers, the number one question they’re asked is what are their rates? As E-commerce experts we would suggest that the following considerations are much more important than just a low rate*:
- Compliance with all necessary legislation
- Confidence in the technology and a viable development roadmap
- Timely and competent technical support
- Security, fraud / litigation prevention and dispute resolution
- Testing environment / sandbox accounts
- Rates that scale as your E-commerce revenue grows
- Compatibility with eWallet providers such as ApplePay, AmazonPay and GooglePay
* A low rate will almost certainly mean compromises to some or all of the above. As with all things, you really do get what you pay for!
The 22 theatres were well represented by speakers from leading E-commerce, retail and technology providers and, despite mine and Matt’s cynicism, were decent talks and not just product / service pitches.
Our recurring takeaways from the speaker theatres can be broken down into a few key areas:
- Web marketing and web page performance still don’t see eye to eye!
- The Covid-19 pandemic skewed E-commerce metrics significantly for 2020
- There is merit to personalising and humanising the purchasing experience
- Cumulative E-commerce data shows some interesting stats but few real patterns
- Marketing trends for 2023
Web marketing and web page performance still don’t see eye to eye!
It was interesting to hear, as we moved between talks, that there is still friction between customer insights and website performance.
Essentially, E-commerce conversion rates can be increased with customer insight and personalisation but the trackers necessary to acquire such data cause performance bottlenecks and, as a result, impact the user experience and other CWVs (Core Web Vitals). This is a constant challenge for us at Fellowship and, it would appear, for the industry in general. Our response to:
- How are you using the data that your tracking systems are acquiring?
- Is the collection and use of this data worth more to your E-commerce store / organisation than the impact that it’s having on the rest of your website’s performance?
The inclusion of tracking scripts on your website will reduce your CWV scores and, as a result, the performance of your web pages within the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). If the data that these trackers provide offset this by significantly improving the average spend or conversion rates of your visitors then they’re worth keeping. Otherwise, maybe not. As with all systems – monitor, optimise, maintain.
The Covid-19 pandemic skewed E-commerce metrics significantly for 2020
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the number of people visiting E-commerce websites and making purchases increased significantly at a time when the vast majority of people couldn’t shop in traditional stores. Indeed, cumulative data from the UK Ecommerce Association shows that:
2020 was the most lucrative period of E-commerce trading ever with Black Friday revenue in 2020 up 38% from 2019. The problem with this is that it skews our data massively and gives E-commerce store owners unrealistic expectations of what their store can continue to deliver post-pandemic.
Now that E-commerce levels have returned to a more consistent level the UK Ecommerce Association is actually seeing revenue levels falling, with Black Friday trade expected to be 5% less in 2022 than it was in 2021. Again, not a huge surprise given the economic climate that the UK currently finds itself in.
What the UK Ecommerce Association’s Black Friday data does show, though, is that high impact discounts that are run for a short period of time prove much more effective than protracted campaigns. Essentially, get back to the roots of Black Friday – a single day where big savings are available as opposed to lower discounts that are available for a longer period of time.
The UK Ecommerce Association was definitely one of the standout organisations for us at the expo with the wealth of data that it has available to its members making them a very attractive proposition for serious E-commerce retailers.
There is merit to personalising and humanising the purchasing experience
Despite the abundance of customer intelligence systems and platforms on show at the expo there still seems to be a disconnect between E-commerce operators collecting data and then using it for anything meaningful.
Even without such systems (or any substantive tracking at all) it’s possible to tailor the shopping experience to a certain degree. For example, a simple cookie called ‘previously_visited’ with a value of true or false already gives us a certain degree of insight. Maybe, instead, set the cookie value to the URL or ID of the last page of your site that the user visited so that they can, effectively, pick up where they left off. Significant insight and opportunity to tailor our web pages with just one cookie!
The theme of personalising the shopping experience was also raised by several speakers that Matt and I attended with some useful stats to support their respective cases:
- Mastercard data suggests that a personalised shopping experience, on average, results in an 18% increase in spend.
- Epsilon data suggests that 80% of visitors are more likely to purchase as a result of a personalised shopping experience.
- Accenture data suggests that 79% of visitors are likely to be more loyal to your brand as a result of a personalised shopping experience.
- Marketo data suggests that 96% of visitors arriving at a website for the first time are not ready to buy. Pushing them to ‘Buy now’ or make an enquiry at this point is unlikely to work.
Of particular interest was a talk by Jan Barthalemy at Leadoo, who label themselves as ‘the conversion platform’. Jan’s tips were as follows:
Hyper personalise (humanise) website experience with conversations
Tailor the messaging on our sites depending on where the user came from (channel) and, if possible, their demographic.
Offer multiple engagement opportunities
No matter your product type, there is opportunity to offer greater levels of engagement. From pricing calculators to product guides, configurators and surveys. These interactions will result in increased familiarity with your product and greater receptiveness to purchase.
Stop just making your CTA button bigger!
The first step in CRO shouldn’t just be to increase the size of the CTA but rather take the time to understand who the visitors to your website are and then personalise their user journey accordingly.
Empower your sales team with real time insights
With the data to hand, we can eliminate guess work and work smarter.
Cumulative E-commerce data shows some interesting stats but few real patterns
Here are some insights from the UK Ecommerce Association’s data, aggregated across their 241 members:
- The average E-commerce conversion rate is down from 3.5% in 2021 to 2.8% in 2022.
- Credit / debit card (including eWallets) remains the most popular payment method at 70% with PayPal next at 19% followed by Klarna (and other ‘buy now, pay later’ systems) at 5%.
- eWallet payments accounted for just 5.5% of E-commerce payments in 2021.
- Out of those eWallet providers ApplePay was the most popular (69%), followed by AmazonPay (18%) and finally Google Pay (13%).
- Interestingly, the best configuration (most likely to convert) for your checkout page is to include all billing, shipping and order fields on one page / screen followed by a second page / screen dedicated to providing your payment details.
- ‘Place order’ is the best button label to use on your checkout screen with ‘Pay now’ coming in a close second.
Marketing trends for 2023
A short and sharp talk by Alex Zeevalkink from The Drum started by outlining a key benefit of content marketing – it’s organic, cost effective, and it will, most likely, be live on the internet for much longer than short term, paid, campaigns.
Firstly, what will the focus of content likely be in 2023?
- E-commerce: this space will only continue to grow but businesses need to continue to adapt to trends and buyer behaviour.
- The Metaverse and Gaming: this may not be a space relevant to everyone just yet but with the rise of Web3 & NFTs it’s dubbed the marketplace of the future. Experts predict this industry to be worth £800 billion in 2024 as it continues to grow.
- Data and Privacy: this is The Drum’s most popular topic for readers. We may be continuing to see the death of the third-party cookie but now more than ever, we have the opportunity to produce exciting and engaging content that users choose for themselves.
- The growth of audio: from audio assistants to podcasts, advertising is changing fast and sound is taking on a renewed importance. The Drum recommends, as a content marketer, to consider the use of audio within your marketing strategy.
- B2B Marketing: readers are fed up with product-led content and crave thought leadership. It’s important to consider that the term B2B can be misleading – the audience for your content is still people, not a business.
And what should we always remember when producing content?
- Keep your eye on the ball and consider what’s coming next? Being first, being fast matters.
- Be authentic: Show off your expertise and trustworthiness.
- Be a thought leader, not a follower.
The key take away? Choose the right channels. Be where your audience is and talk their language!
It was great to get back to an ‘in person’ event after two years of virtual events and keynotes.
Conversations were encouraging and felt genuine and empathetic in an industry known for KPIs, conversion rates and big data. Much has changed in the world of E-commerce but much remains the same. The single biggest constant is the customer and it is they that we should keep ‘front and centre’ within our designs, user journeys and content.
If we can meet the customer where they’re at and cater to them as best we can then they will, very likely, repay us with their custom and, if we really did good, their loyalty.