Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Marcus Oughton, Head of Ecommerce, Clarks on the future of ecommerce

In NDA’s sister title Ecommerce Age’s Future of Ecommerce series, heads of ecommerce at agencies and brands are revealing what they believe the future of the ecommerce industry will be. Today, Marcus Oughton, Head of Ecommerce, Clarks UK & EMEA is interviewed.

Covid 19 accelerated many trends, what behaviours do you expect to continue post pandemic?

Consumers’ expectations are changing and increasing even faster than we can imagine. The growth in ecommerce sales, due to the pandemic, is not surprising but what is becoming more prevalent are examples of where online shopping experiences have left consumers unsatisfied.

A recent survey by Content Square has concluded (through its Digital Happiness Pulse) that only 15% of consumers say that ‘shopping online makes them feel happy’, while the majority agree that they have a happier experience in-store.

So, is it a case that online sales have increased through necessity or preference? Arguably an element of both, but retailers and brands shouldn’t be complacent. They should constantly strive to optimise the consumer experience to ensure high satisfaction and, in an ideal scenario, positive repeat purchasing behaviour.

From experience and observation, brands striving to grow ecommerce sales should therefore look to deliver initiatives in line with the following trends: 

1/ Operational Excellence: striving for operational excellence and continuing to ‘stress test’ the ecommerce platform and all component parts, including distribution and customer services is key. Ensure the end-to-end operation and proposition is delivering as promised. Can additional demand be managed in short periods of time avoiding unplanned and ‘inconvenient’ down time or reduced site speeds?

2/ Innovation and Differentiation: support and sponsor an innovative and curious mind-set from teams in support of being able to deliver frequent improvements to the consumer proposition by continuous experimentation – whether it be the addition of new payment solutions and digital wallets (which many retailers are arguably acting as laggards in this space), additional delivery and return options or the introduction of new loyalty programmes. In my view, brands need to constantly find new ways of differentiating and protecting margin in what is becoming a highly competitive space without relying on discounting and promotional activity.

3/ Personalisation and Loyalty: without getting into the debate of whether there is even such a thing as ‘loyalty’ nowadays, brands need to create personalised experiences. Either by way of unique and or differentiated digital experiences – be they web, via apps or through tailored email communications. In additional, repeat purchase propensity also needs to a factor in any ecommerce CRM strategy – do you really understand how frequently consumers return to purchase? Do brands really understand the true lifetime value being generated from their database?

How important is personalisation in ecommerce?

There are significant challenges around the increasing amounts of data being generated by brands and the need to surface it in real time across multiple touchpoints. For me the solution is striving to deliver against three main components: 1). Growth and segmentation – never accept that a database growth should be capped and always understand how to group your data to deliver communication relevancy 2). Content is still ‘King’ – strive to ensure that content is consistent across all channels, ensure it is delivered in a timely and highly engaging way. 3). Delivery – partnering with an effective and adaptive technology partner platform (such as Wunderkind) will ensure that an effective email communications strategy across all of your defined segments including abandoned purchased journeys and lapsed customer segment can be delivered.

Finally, brands should remember that with heighted regulation and awareness of data privacy and a rightly assumed sense of ownership from consumers, they should respect consumer data to a level never seen before. Paying particular attention to driving first party data collection.

How is Direct to Consumer continuing to disrupt the market and marketplaces?

Marketplace channel growth and optimisation should now (if not already) feature high on the agenda of any ecommerce channel lead looking to grow a brand or retailers direct to consumer offering – be it a focus on optimising existing marketplaces to drive more ROI or launching on completely new platforms or countries. With careful planning marketplaces can prove to be a quick and effective route of expanding brand presence into new countries without extensive investment in brand building or awareness marketing investment.

What platform or technology are you most excited about now when it comes to ecommerce?

Top 3…

1/ Wunderkind – simplifying the complex – a one-to-one martech engine that delivers tailored experiences to individuals at scale

2/ Monetate – future proofing your customer experience by constantly testing and learning.

3/ Anzu – sophisticated in game advertising, delivering native, creative, and dynamically updated advertising to video games and esports

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