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On January 10, the British Retail Consortium released official figures reporting a 19.2% year on year growth in online purchases between December 2012 and 2013.  

Online trading in general represented 18.6% of total non-food sales for the final month of 2013, a substantial increase from 16.5% a year earlier.

During busy shopping periods, British consumers have embraced the opportunity to purchase online, having enjoyed Black Friday sales just as much as their US counterparts and effectively created a buzz around Cyber Monday- where unprecedented consumer and sales figures made it the busiest online shopping day of the season.

Figures from eBay showed that mobile visits increased nearly 116% on Cyber Monday, with mobile orders increasing by almost 98% over the Thanksgiving weekend.

From analysing our own data management platform, we have found that since September 2013, 30% of online traffic now originates from mobiles.

We know from working with a number of high street names that the huge upswing in mobile traffic means that ecommerce teams will have already started gearing up to make the best technological decisions to ensure their sites are cyber-ready for the Q4 shopping rush, easily the busiest and most traffic-heavy time of the year.

What’s going to make the next few months particularly exciting for marketers, from a mobile perspective, is the work that’s being done in the multi-device tracking area.

This so-called 'cookie-less' approach to tracking users does still use cookies to track desktop activity, but logging into an app or mobile website service, like Amazon or Google will mean that users can now more effectively expect a joined-up retail experience from particular brands.

In 2013, John Lewis was hailed as the retail winner of the season with an increase in online sales by 22%, closely followed by Next, House of Fraser, ASOS and Home Retail Group.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks, Tesco, Morrisons and Debenhams were left reeling from poor profits over the Christmas period with some financial analysts guessing that the speedy shift from traditional high-street shopping to online left these retailers in the dust.

In years past, realising the potential of – and investing in – digital marketing has been the preserve of the most forward-thinking, tech-savvy marketers. Nowadays, a multichannel approach that puts digital and mobile commerce at its core clearly needs to be a first step for retail marketers.

A number of factors affected the bumper Christmas period we just had, not least that customers have taken to using mobile devices like it’s going out of fashion, but also the fact that retailers took the time and effort to figure out what would make the whole experience more tailored for users.

The personalised experience invariably involves a sophisticated approach to data management and an agile approach to evaluating which marketing channels are working best for driving ROI.

Another crucial element contributing to the online shopping rush was the even wider availability of convenient ‘click n collect’ services that FMCG, fashion and gadget retailers dedicated time and money into developing in 2013.

Providing different delivery services meant retailers gave their busy millennial customers choice and increased flexibility, without having to stay in one place waiting for deliveries. John Lewis’ click-and-collect orders increased by 62% during December alone.

This week IPA’s Bellwether Report, which takes the temperature of the advertising industry and reports on quarterly marketing budgets, reported that advertisers raised their marketing budgets for a fifth quarter in a row during Q4 2013.

The author of the report indicates that marketing budgets will rise to the greatest extent since 2008, which could spell a year of innovation and technological advancement in 2014, aimed at making the ecommerce space a more relevant and data-led environment.

Jimmy Ross, technical account manager at Sociomantic Labs, said of the trend towards mobile shopping:

Despite the code freeze on a leading retailer’s website, we were still able to implement a CRM-based targeting feature that reached deeper into the client’s first-party data and allowed out optimization team to act upon campaign-level insights in real time.

The integration of CRM data meant we could launch a cross-device targeted mobile campaign, effectively tracking and targeting users when they are logged in and move from browsing on their phone in the morning, to reinforcing decisions on the desktop PC at lunchtime, then going home and making the purchase on a tablet at night.

The multichannel approach, the various ways and speeds of delivery, the personalisation tools and the overhaul of websites and software managed to contribute to extraordinary results for online shopping at the end of 2013 and it can only get better in 2014.

Ecommerce is an area of constant transition and 2014 will see other retailers chase up the winners of the Christmas rush in their online marketing strategies and services.

Due in part to technological advancements and work towards creating solid delivery infrastructures, I predict an explosion in the adoption of online shopping in developing markets.

The Bellwether report puts UK ad spend growth at 5.4% this year – second only to the fast-growing "BRIC" economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

This shift in global markets, combined with increased access to mobiles and tablets, will change the way in which advertisers treat various platforms - desktop, TV, mobile and tablets will all need individual treatment and approaches.

This means the technology to track and attribute value across the customer-click process will become sharper and more precise than before. Where consumers are, advertisers will inevitably follow and this year, they’re getting ready.

Jon Baron

Published 28 January, 2014 by Jon Baron

Jon Baron is Co-Founder and CEO at TagMan and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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