Over 1,000 visitors, more than 500 vendors and companies, more than 100 speakers and over 24 hours of networking. Etail East is by far the largest and best-organized conference in the world I’ve had the pleasure of attending.
Etail (acronym for “Electronic Retail”) is an organization conducting annual conferences in several major e-commerce sites around the world, such as London, Dublin, Hong Kong, Munich, Palm Springs and Ottawa. One of them, yet also one of the most important is Etail East Boston, taking place in the middle of August (this year between 15-18.08). The conference is mainly focused on the sector of medium and large enterprises with a strong focus on innovation and freshness. Therefore, it’s an ideal place for those looking for inspiration, new ideas and trends for their businesses. The event is divided into three thematic streams (CRM & email summit, innovator summit and search, display & online media summit), during which presentations and panel discussions take place in parallel. In between sessions, there’s usually time for networking and visiting stands of more than 200 different companies.
Three basic mottos that guided all three streams throughout the conference were: “Get inspired” – let’s be inspired and hungry for technology, “Transforming retail” – let’s change market for better and “Together” – let’s do it together by making contacts and taking part in joint discussions.
Keeping to these principles, instead of giving you a standard review, I would like to share a few most important topics for me that were a thread running through the entire event. Hopefully, they will inspire you to further reflect on these issues. Below I list 10 of my inspirations.
The strength of mobile is growing every, which is confirmed by all the major e-commerce reports.
The slogan “Mobile first” is not really a direction anymore, it’s a standard. Even if customers don’t buy through mobile as often as through desktop yet, they are definitely looking for information there. 10% of people who bought through desktop previously browsed the site on their phone. Approximately 50% of stationary buyers researched their purchase through mobile. Added to this is purchasing via tablet, which also constitutes a significant part of the market. Taking all these factors into account, it’s easy to see that shopping by phone is one thing, but the weight of the RWD/AWD version throughout omnichannel has recently become crucial and critical.
I think we can bravely state that mobile will become much more important than desktop in the next few years.
2. Augmented Reality
AR, or augmented reality, is a system that combines the real world with a computer-generated one. It usually combines a camera image with 3D graphics generated in real-time. Recently, the strength of this phenomenon was shown by the Pokemon app – to the point when the whole world has gone crazy about it.
The AR topic has occurred twice during the conference:
- With the “Super-hero” app from Wallmart, mainly based on retail stores customers looking for specially marked points and finding superheroes they can take a picture with. There are five of them and getting them all unlocks special bonuses.
You can find more about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6PXs70vPf8
- With the „Virtual furnishing” app from Wayfair, with which you can render and fit into your home products from the wayfair.com store on the screen of your smartphone.
After this presentation, my first thought was another idea, namely fashion industry and the possibility to render clothes on you. I think it will take a maximum of one year for the companies like Reserved, Zara or Zalando to implement this type of solution.
3. Beacons 2.0
I had the impression that a year ago, many people in Poland thought that these small transmitters will revolutionize marketing, while slowly nobody is talking about them and few people believe in them. Meanwhile, I can confirm that they are still doing well in the States, and what’s more – they are developing in a very interesting direction. One of the interesting solutions was combining beacons with Chat-pots. This gives customers who encountered a beacon a chance to interact with, e.g. an offline store (e.g. to check the offer).
Another interesting invention from the recent months are video-beacons, providing the possibility of user interaction with an LCD screen when being close to the transmitter. This allows us to present product descriptions or provide the opportunity of buying a product, or even checking its availability.
Interesting video showing the capabilities of video-beacons:
Before I present my thoughts, let me give you 3 facts from e-commerce statistics on logistics:
- 47% of all orders online are those with free delivery (source: Monetate, 2015)
- Buyers spend 30% more on the order when free delivery is included in the price (source: Wharton, 2015)
- The most common reason for abandoning a cart are hidden delivery costs (source: UPS Pulse, 2015)
Undoubtedly, the cost of delivery and its time are the two main factors determining purchase in each branch. Personally, I think that logistics will start to determine the key leaders in e-commerce in the coming years and will begin to create gaps between competitors.
Appropriate pricing and fast delivery require appropriate procedures and automation of all end-to-end processes in a company. These types of strategies have been introduced in large enterprises for years and restructuring them is always a multimillion risky investment.
In the conference, I was most impressed by two things:
– Postmates app (unfortunately working only in the USA), providing rapid deliveries from nearby shops. Fast enough to get a coffee or a t-shirt we the ordered within a 15-30min. It has been achieved mainly due to the integration with Uber. It made me realize that Uber and taxis offer great potential for small and medium-sized enterprises in providing express delivery to their customers.
The second inspiration was a Newstore presentation – they showed some really good ideas on how to build high-quality customer experience in omnichannel.
5. AI in personalization
Personalization and segmentation engines are becoming better every year. We already have the algorithms to verify location, weather, interests, or similar choices. We already have triggers based on various events such as abandoned carts. We have advanced tools for monitoring and reporting the effects of such activities. On the other hand, I still think that the market is small and lacks companies that will fill it with such services, which will motivate competition even more to determine further trends and new tools.
The main goal of personalization is to increase conversion by delivering customers the most appropriate content to convince them to make a purchase. With currently available tools, we have to painstakingly draw our conclusions based on statistics and reports, as well as on intuition. Meanwhile, I think that soon algorithms based on science will do it for us. The conversion is an easily measurable factor, so we can explore the different solutions based on A/B testing and choose the best personalization strategies based on the best results.
6. Search by Image
The principles of this point are best exemplified by Google search engine, which already has such a feature. When you drag any photo, algorithms will select the appropriate phrase we want to search with.
Algorithms do a great job in the case of food, cars and clothes. Text search engines are already insufficient with the amount of data that we are currently flooded by.
It translates into e-commerce in a very simple way. Such kind of search mode should be built into a store. An interesting example of such application appeared at the conference with the following startup.
In short, you select a photo of glasses that you like (e.g. seen online) and the algorithm based on shape, color, brand, or material chooses the most similar models. Finding them using text search engine and filters would be very time consuming and tedious.
7. Recommendations by image
If we already “have” searching by images, reworking the algorithm to a recommendation engine should not be a problem. Thanks to that, suggestions can be even more accurate than those based on attributes.
Two interesting examples of such solutions from the Asian market:
- Zalora: One of the fastest growing retailers operating in 8 markets and valued at a total of $63 billion. The algorithm “You may also like” based mainly on images caused an increase in conversion by 25% in this store.
- Myntra: Main clothing store in India having a total of more than 8 million mobile users. The algorithm combining a search engine based on images with recommendation engine increased the conversion by as much as 10%
Data from Visenza presentation of case studies, a company specializing in this type of service.
Emarsys made a very good presentation entitled “5 marketing prophecies.” I recommend taking a look at it, available here.
One very important phrase from the presentation stuck in my mind: What if emails had the “buy now” button in them?
Email marketing was condemned to be forgotten many years ago. It’s worth noting that many believed that it will be phased out by RSS technology. Meanwhile, it’s doing well and companies that provide sending newsletters service each year report increasing turnover.
After the presentation, I began to wonder when will we experience the second stage? When will we get emails directly integrated with stores, forms and interactions? I think it’s high time, as the tool is now (after social) the most popular form of b2c communication.
Goggle became a pioneer by introducing the “pony express” service, through which you can pay your bills directly from an e-mail. Is this just the beginning of new trends in sending e-mails? I think it is.
We all know Pinterest. It’s a social network for collecting (in an orderly manner) graphics and inspiration. We all know that it’s there, but few people in Poland use it. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the statistics from the US showing its popularity.
176 million registered users (of which 8% are users from Europe), the average number of pins is 158 per month, 2.5 billion views, mobile traffic is around 75%. And the most interesting statistics is…
…the fact that 55% of users use it also for shopping. That leaves two open questions. First, will the phenomenon of this site begin to develop in Poland, since it’s expanding so much outside Europe? I think so, and it will be a pace comparable to Twitter (i.e. no visible boom, but the consistent building of popularity with each year). Secondly, is it really the second (after FB) social tool with the greatest potential for e-commerce? In my opinion, it is. We like wishlists, we enjoy sharing them and we like to create them. Pinterest is giving us that possibility.