We’ve come a long way since Sting’s "Ten Summoner’s Tales" was bought online in 1994, and e-commerce is now big business. Most retailers have bettered the online experience they offer to their customers, but it could be said that the matter of data ownership is holding further progress back.
In the early years, a good experience was dictated by interactions that would take place on the brand’s Web site. A brand marketer would have access to their Web site’s first-party data -- primarily from site analytics -- and could deliver targeted messages and offers based on the customer’s past history. As a result, recognising a returning user from a keyword search or banner link, offering new products or services, or suggesting products that could be of interest were the height of expectation from both a brand and consumer perspective.
The evolution of mobile, social and other cross-channel customer interactions has raised the bar above this seemingly attainable standard of brand-consumer interaction in recent years and made Web site-only experiences less relevant. In fact, multichannel and device usage has meant that that a "Web-only" approach results in poor conversion rates and overall dissatisfaction for consumers. Ultimately there are now a raft of other factors that retailers need to focus on when considering the consumer experience than just Web site interactions.
For example, if U.S. mobile shoppers encounter difficulties when using a retailer’s app, over half (51%) will abandon their basket. In addition, 20% of mobile consumers will stop using the app entirely if they have to struggle with it. In the UK, a recent behavioural study of 2000 online shoppers revealed that 38% would abandon a purchase if they have to register for an account, while 32% said that if a Web site was asking for too much personal information that too would see them fail to convert. Other major gripes include the Web site being too slow to load or regularly crashing (43%), realising the Web site was not UK-based (14%) or being required to pay in a different currency (6%).
So, to make e-commerce the best experience for consumers that it can possibly be, retailers need to be employing advanced data management solutions without losing sight of behavioural trends and the potential pitfalls. A balance needs to be struck between using data to provide a more personalised shopping experience, and asking for too much information, which could eventually make the user distrustful of the whole experience. Consumers today expect to be treated as individuals but marketers can’t simply ask for the data, nor can they rely on Web site analytics combined with third-party data alone to deliver that personalised experience for their customers across their omni-channel journey.
Successful marketers are instead focusing on owning first-party data across all of their customer channels including their on-site, off-site, mobile, social, cross-domain and even offline touchpoints. This results in the ability to track the customer journey across all these omni-channel touch-points from the moment they view an off-site ad, all the way until they arrive on the retailer’s Web site and make a purchase. However, marketers that do this must ensure they are in a position to own and activate this data in real-time as opposed to handing it to a third party, which is often the root of consumer suspicion. Ultimately, successful personalisation is defined by the quality and completeness of the data at hand, as well as effectively tying this to attribution in real-time -- but this should not be at the expense of data ownership.
Good marketers have mostly transitioned to delivering excellent e-commerce experiences by leveraging data management platforms to effectively manage their first and third-party data solutions -- but the "champion" marketers know that is not enough. Those are the people that are making the transition from better to best by taking ownership of their data everywhere and feeding it into analytics in order to deliver more relevant and personalised experiences -- and ultimately living up to their customer’s expectations.