Integrating digital with realspace: Global Ecommerce Summit 2016

Mobile still dominated discussion at the recent Barcelona Global Ecommerce Summit, but there were two other trends that gained traction. The first is the growing importance of B2B commerce and ways that its challenges can be overcome, and the increasing recognition that effective omnichannel is not just about data, or personalisation, but actually being personal. Whether that’s customer knowledge, brand, mission or one2one contact, the conversation appears to be moving further than simply big data.

While ecommerce already accounts for 10 per cent of retail sales, up from 2 per cent at the turn of the century, the business sector has traditionally been a tougher nut to crack. Two of the key themes for consumer retail, logistics and payments, are also going to be central to approaching B2B solutions.

One of the interesting presentations was from Philips about its approach to its lighting business, which it has hived off from the main company. Due to the impact of LEDs, the lighting market is going through a fundamental change and by creating a separately branded business that can speak directly to smaller individual retailers, the brand may be showing the way forward.

Another thing that stood out was that despite the omnipresent talk about omnichannel, there are very few retailers that have managed to achieve this – the right information for the right customer at the right time in the right way. One smaller brand, Predator Nutrition, may be closer to it than many others. Initially a digital brand, it has seen increases in traffic as it opened its physical stores, and is tracking totally different audiences for each however. Online, consumers are looking to buy while in the stores, they’re looking for help and information – a strange inversion of what we traditionally expect online to be used for. We’ll be covering that company in greater detail soon.

There is no question that that omnichannel remains the theme of the moment. Pure-players and digital technology combined with digitally aware consumers are having a dramatic impact on the physical retail market. In the UK we’ve certainly seen that with a spate of recent liquidations.

But its not all one way. Amazon is looking to move into realspace, while pure plays like Warby Parker are moving into the physical store realm to better market their wares, forge closer customer relations, and boost online traffic and sales; while big box retailers embrace the ease of mobile shopping, and merchants aggressively optimise product lines using feedback data.

The digital ecosystem is become less linear at last, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years. Big data matters, but it’s the integration of digital and realspace where the real story is likely to be happening. Data continues to be the means of discovery, but its no longer just the Internet of Things but an understanding of the customer journey and experience in a physical/digital/behavioural/physcological hybrid space.

Wijnand Jongen, managing director of Thuiswinkel.org talked about the future of shopping and the return to  fifties mentality, with customer intimacy and sharing at the top of the agenda. Home deliveries (remember the milkman?) and shop owners really knowing their customers personally was a far cry from the digital data analysis done today.

Unsurprisingly fashion dominated much of the retail discussion, as consumer retail in the sector is exploding and innovation is following suite. Jonathan Chippindale from Holition, He showed a lot of creative augmented reality cases like the Uniqlo Magic Mirror allowing you to wear one item and immediately see it in different colors. Or even the Dress For Our Time: a dress with data visualisation to communicate some of the world’s most complex issues.

The power of the crowd continues to grow in importance in consumer, with David Vulysteke talking about PiggyBee, where you can save shipping costs on international and long distance shipments by asking trusted & verified travelers to bring your package back from their trip.

Minimercials also seem to be on the rise – a content form combining video with shopping. MikMakTV was doing the rounds and shows how this can be made to work if you use clever content to draw in consumers. It’s shoppable ‘minimercials’ are hosted by comedians. It’s a shopping experience where the consumer is entertained with the help of influencers and every item is under $100.

Other issues which were top of mind are cross border ecommerce, managing abandonment, influencer marketing and video and, of course, improving the mobile experience.

Some of the most memorable take-aways were:

  • Please your customers
  • Content is the currency of social apps
  • Think digital, deliver analogue
  • There is no more B2B or B2C. It’s H2H: Human to Human

Over the next few months we’ll be exploring all of these themes and more through tracking the news, exploring the research and creating events to let you talk about the challenges you face, so we look forward to finding out what you think.