eCommerce Expo London is an exciting event showcasing the best of "the now, the new and the not yet of eCommerce technology". This year the expo was boasting new theatres including the Conversion Optimisation Theatre, Payment & Fulfilment Theatre, Customer Insights Theatre, and The Lab so we decided to travel down and join the eCommerce conversation in London.
The expo was spread across two days featuring over 150 tech and ecommerce related providers, and around 50 talks covering;
- Ecommerce Platforms
- Customer Service
- Logistics & Fulfilment
- Multi-Channel Solutions
- Cross Border
We were there to compare our predictions about the latest technology and trends in eCommerce to what the buzz was in London. And it was clear to see that AI was a hot topic across both days. Here's what we learnt about AI, subscription commerce, Black Friday and Open Business Models.
Day 1 - Wednesday 27th
Day 1 saw the influx of a broad range of exhibitors and visitors from all kinds of technology businesses.
Subscriptions are no longer just for magazines and gyms. Services like Birchbox have been growing in popularity with the subscription commerce sector growing by 3000% between 2013 and 2017. Cheese Posties, a cheese toastie subscription service (Yes really), CEO Dave Rotheroe, ScrawlrBox owner Chris Lambert and Author and Podcast host Chloe Thomas all weighed in on their secrets to success and survival with the new business model.
Social engagement was said to be the best tool for customer acquisition, especially in terms of targeting re-purchasing from customers already using subscription boxes. Women aged 24-44 were the biggest demographic with their niche interests found to be the most popular. This is so, as long as constant feedback is in place to give customers more of what they want and less of what they don't.
The lessons of subscription commerce can widely be applied to general retail. Chris Lambert found that the most important thing to learn is problem-solving when customers need assets and removing any barriers for them to restock.
Chloe Thomas suggested that subscription can be used by anyone to complement their core products, providing products that are regularly used will raise your brand's retention and in turn raise awareness for core products that may not work through subscription. Finally, Dave Rotheroe weighed in with the most important aspect of subscription - remembering to surprise and excite your customers with every purchase.
Tim – “After attending the subscription discussion panel I want to challenge everyone to review how subscription could work for their own business. Not only as a revenue stream but also as a way to complement your core offerings.”
Steve spent the day getting into everything AI.
In 2017 everyone has an opinion on what AI means and where it’s going. At the AI discussion panel, it was clear that the next big break in the software will be reading emotions and human psychology. There have already been leaps in the software learning to understand sarcasm. Arguably, however, the technology doesn’t need to read human emotions as it is widely thought to be better used as a support tool for humans, not a replacement. This may be so, but with predictions for 85% of customer service being run through chatbots by 2020, it’s hard to predict just how far AI will go in replacing humans.
Overall AI could be a great tool. But with all tools, you’ve got to use them safely and effectively. There is a danger of people using AI because it’s ‘trendy’ but for it to be successful it needs to be used to solve an issue. For example, AI could be a great tool for engaging better with customers, but that’s only useful if you need to improve your engagement with customers. You can read more about Steve's thoughts on AI soon. Please subscribe at the bottom of the page or follow us on twitter for updates.
Best moment of the day?
Finding out we can get weekly cheese toasties delivered to our door.
Day 2 - Thursday 28th
Black Friday and Christmas first look
Mobile has disrupted with almost every industry and now it’s coming for Black Friday. More purchases were made on mobiles than tablets or desktops during the shopping season last year. As purchasing habits change mobile has risen in popularity as shoppers shop on the go whilst commuting or at work rather than in their downtime.
Raja Ray, Director of products and solutions at Verifone, recalled that 5 years ago Black Friday was unknown in England. The first few years retailers were battered by unprecedented demand, leading to crashed websites and detrimental logistic failures. Since then businesses have become organised. Initially, Black Friday peaked on the weekend through to Cyber Monday. Last year, and predictably this year, the season is becoming a longer but shallower period in terms of discounts.
Christmas has also seen the same trend with peaks on the 22nd and 23rd of December as shoppers get in their final few purchases. However, Raja and Elliott Clayton, both recognised that to increase the online shopping period around Christmas shoppers need to trust suppliers that deliveries will be made on time.
From a logistics point of view, this creates new issues as merchants have needed to meet sudden demand pools, and so employ large amounts of staff. Employers then are struggling to ensure that the demand continues over the 7 weeks before Christmas to maintain the resources for a large amount of staff.
To standout over Black Friday, it was suggested that businesses no longer need to discount heavily, but instead can use more interactive tactics like Lidls retweet discount strategy, or The Whisky Exchange who dared to actually raise their prices and sold out in hours. Overall the panel was positive towards Black Friday and predicted a longer but shallower season this year, and saw the personalisation of discounts being the next top tactic in 2017.
Adopting an open business model
Eduarda Davidovic taught us how to ‘lead the change’ with an open business model. Brands like Xerox and Kodac survived through times of trouble by diversifying and welcoming change when they could.
Common problems companies face include;
- Companies investing in technology for the sake of investing, without understanding their customers’ needs and how the technology could solve those needs.
- Companies are often not developing their digital skills. 77% of companies think missing digital skills is one of their main hurdles. Yet they don’t talk to employees about current skills, or embrace employing different skills and providing training later.
- Finally, companies often don’t have right culture to achieve the transformation they need.
These hurdles are more often faced by new companies that struggle to embrace risk. 80% of digitally matured companies engaged in risk-taking, agility, and collaboration, whilst only 23% early-stage companies do the same.
Davidovic suggested that adopting an open business model can help overcome these hurdles and accelerate their transformation.
After defining their problem there are 3 methods of open business modeling.
- Partnering. Partner with an external company if you are lacking skills that your ecosystem of partners or other companies already possess.
- Acquiring. Acquiring skills from other companies is preferred when other methods are too slow, or the skills needed are rare.
- Incubating. This involves investing in an agile startup while providing them access to your company's tech and executive support. Examples include Techstarts at Nike, Henri at Nestle, and Connect + develop at P&G.
So how do you actually implement an open business model to aid transformation?
- First, you must define the job to be done. Be aware of the customer's needs and that people don’t buy a product, they buy a solution to a problem.
- Your company must provide a final briefing to the industry. Often our own ideas can become clogged by our own insights. By opening your brief to the industry, you can avoid being bias with your own investments, and instead open your idea so the industry can provide feedback.
- Evaluate idea the idea, but avoid cherry picking the ideas you prefer as objectivity is essential.
- Implement innovation. Build relationships with start-ups. Once the team is set up and the foundations are ready your business should be ready to implement.
Best moment of the day?
Meeting this guy…
The Expo was a great success in culminating all of the latest advances in commerce. We had a great time attending and plan to bring the standards we saw in London to eCommerce Show North 2017 where we’re exhibiting at in two weeks. If you’d like to hear more about the talks we attended, and our plans for Ecom Show North please follow us on twitter or subscribe to our email alerts.