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Happy Record Store Day everybody! It's my second favourite day of the year.
A day where I wake up at 4am to join the masses of other record collectors in the cold dawn with a bacon sandwich and thermos of tea in hand, to queue up for this year's limited batch of releases only available to independent record shops.
Record Store Day is an annual event designed to keep the physical record industry afloat, in particular the smaller labels, bands and independent stores that still hold vinyl close to their hearts.
Of course, this idea of vinyl being a ‘quaint affectation’ is far from the reality. British Phonographic Industry (BPI) revealed earlier in the year that vinyl sales are the highest they’ve been for 15 years. More than 780,000 vinyl albums were sold in 2013, this is a 101% increase on 2012 sales.
Major labels are getting in on the racket too. Titles this year include releases from One Direction and Katy Perry. Now you can be as sniffy as you like about these but I can't say the first singles I bought were any better and if it gets a new generation into record stores than that's all for the greater good as far as I’m concerned.
I like writing about trends in digital marketing and ecommerce and the exciting thing about 2014 is I get the feeling we all have a better idea of where it’s headed.
In 2013, retail sales totalled $15.15tn. $1.2tn dollars (<8%) of this was spent online.
If online retail figures continue to rise (the most ‘virtual’ market is the UK, with 13% of sales online in 2013), it will likely be the product of a new generation of consumers and increasingly sophisticated retailers.
But how sophisticated is ecommerce today? What is achievable and will the holy grail of ‘omnichannel’ commerce ever be realised?
Rather than write pieces about smaller parts of ecommerce, such as order management or personalisation, I thought I’d try to cover all of it in one post.
These trends pick up and expand on some points discussed by Demandware COO Jeff Barnett at Xchange 2014.
Obviously, retailers are in varying stages of maturity, so feel free to let me know if I’ve overdone it some areas and not been aggressive enough in others. And practitioners, let me know what I've missed.
It's clear that brands' current priority is uniting data. Companies are striving for the single customer view, allowing smarter marketing and increasing customer lifetime value or better mapping the customer journey.
Even in the UK, where online shopping is at it highest (compared to offline), the percentage of transactions that happen online is around 13%. That's 87% of purchases happening somewhere in the real world.
That's 87% of customer purchase data that brands and retailers want to capture, if they are to identify and market to all of their customers online (providing they opt in).
And, of course, there are some products bought relatively infrequently online, as a percentage of overall sales. Cosmetics is a good example.
Club Clarins is nothing new, it's nearly two years old. But, the scheme is a simple and effective attempt to incentivise customers to hand over some purchase-history data online, after they've purchased a Clarins product in a department store.
I thought it was worth discussing loyalty schemes in the context of brands' pursuit of the omnichannel grail when selling wholesale and retail.
Online retail is rapidly expanding and is expected to become a $1.5 trillion industry this year.
Cart abandonment is cutting into profits for retailers, as 68% of carts are left behind before the purchase is complete.
While retailers can do little about some of the motives, they can ensure that the abandonment rates are kept to a minimum.
If you don't live in the US and need some background on Pier 1, the company was founded in 1962 and did $1.8bn revenue in 2013.
There are more than 1,000 stores in the US, with the brand importing goods from more than 30 countries.
The company has been on a steep learning curve in its ecommerce business and has come a long way in the last two years. Now in-store and online are increasingly integrated, with Pier 1 committed at all levels of the organisation to providing a consistent customer experience.
I was at Demandware's Xchange 2014 conference, where I listened to Andy Laudato, CIO at Pier 1 imports, as he discussed the company's journey from having to close a poor performing ecommerce website in 2007, to efficiently joining up online and offline business today.
Andy gave some context for the current state of retail and then shared some really interesting stats from Pier 1's work. Take a look.
Nothing frustrates the mobile consumer more than forcing them to view your desktop site on mobile.
Today’s consumers are educated and nimble on mobile and their expectations are significantly heightened when engaging a brand on tablet.
With 43% of tablet users spending more time on tablet than on desktop, companies are increasingly optimizing tablet browsing and shopping to make it easier for consumers who want a seamless experience across all channels.
In the UK, the share of clicks coming through mobile search ads almost doubled in 2013, from 24% in January to 43% in December.
According to the latest research from Marin Software, mobile devices will account for 50% of all paid-search clicks globally by December 2015.
The UK is ahead of the rest of Europe, where mobile and tablets only accounted for 20% of paid search clicks in 2013.
That being said, advertisers in Europe increased their investment in mobile paid search by 109% in 2013, while UK advertisers increased their mobile paid search spend from 22% to 35%.
There’s a stat that every retailer should sit up and take notice of. It’s this: half (49.5%) of total U.S. retail sales today are impacted by the web in some way.
What this means is that although online sales represent roughly 10% of all retail, a large majority of your customers interact with your brand online as part of their unique customer journey.
This raises a particular question about in-store tech. Are we about to see a convergence of point of sale (POS) systems and ecommerce platforms?
That’s essentially the nub of this article. Will retailers start to see no difference between online and off-, in terms of data, logistics, shipping and ultimately customer experience? Do some consumers, or even retailers, already think this way?
I’ve been looking at the results of a survey of 200 retail business and technology executives in the US and Europe, conducted by The University of Arizona in association with the National Retail Federation and Demandware.
To add some perspective, here are some of the findings in the context of five fallacies of bricks and mortar retail. Five arguments for a changing customer who is driving many retailers to consider a single platform.
With cross-border ecommerce booming, it’s not surprising that more businesses are launching international websites. Britain generates the biggest online trade surplus in the world, according to research by OC&C.
The value of exports is $1bn more than imports, putting it ahead of the United States and Germany.
It’s not just major retailers such as ASOS and Marks & Spencer that are contributing to this trend. A survey by Royal Mail found six in 10 small and medium-sized businesses are looking to boost their international sales in 2014.
In this two part series key content, consumer and digital marketing trends between the UK and US online marketers are explored.
Transatlantic differences and approaches to content and consumer culture are explained in this first post.
In part two we take a deep dive into UK and US digital, search and social marketers.
The continued growth of ecommerce is nothing new. But what is new and critical for businesses to understand is the role of the touch-integrated customer experience.
Today, the first device a child interacts with is a touch device, whether a smartphone, tablet, phablet or even wearable technology, and consumers of the future will expect the motion of touch integrated fully into every experience they have.
As a result, the next challenge for businesses will be completely integrating touch into the shopping experience.
I’ve been keeping a close eye on innovation in the ecommerce sector for more than a decade now, and it seems to me that we're living in exciting times. We have hit some kind of purple patch.
Why is this? Well, ecommerce has massively matured. It's big business. Digital teams are smarter, and more agile. Sexy new tech such as HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery allows for sublime user experiences.
As such I wanted to raise a toast to innovation by highlighting a bunch of - hopefully inspiring - examples to you.
But first, a massive caveat: I would severely and mercilessly beat a few of these sites with a big best practice stick. There are product pages with missing information. There are search boxes with tiny fonts. There are usability issues galore.
Secondly, for ecommerce sites, it is all about the data. If you’re not constantly testing, measuring and refining, then you aren’t doing it right. What works for one brand might not work so well for another.
All of that aside, the ecommerce teams that take chances and push the boundaries of are to be applauded. Guidelines are precisely that: guidelines. Rules are there to be broken. And innovation is always to be encouraged, even when it doesn’t work out.
So let's take a look at some ecommerce websites (and one mobile app) that are trying new things, and that are noteworthy for their approach to the user experience. Click on the screenshots to check them out for yourself, and do let me know what you think.