Mapping the Future of Retail: Commerce Marketing Experts Weigh In

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Mapping the Future of Retail: Commerce Marketing Experts Weigh In

By Susan Wall - 01/02/2018

Each year, we reach out to marketing experts across the world to get their take on where the e-commerce marketing world is headed. Our newly released report, “2018 Trends: Predictions from Ecommerce Marketing Experts,” summarizes our latest findings.

With Amazon continuing to expand its footprint and the rise of new technologies such as AI and VR, there are several important questions looming over the e-commerce landscape at the end of 2017. While our respondents identified many of the same key trends, their predictions revealed a wide array of opportunities available to marketers in the years to come – and how to start taking advantage of them today.

Smaller Retailers Can Still Compete on Personalization

By now, the lift that email personalization and segmentation can add to a retailer’s online revenue is well known. But according to Greg Zakowicz, senior commerce marketing analyst at Bronto, many marketers – including a number of recognizable brands – still have work to do. Zakowicz reviewed the email programs of five well-known brands to see how effectively they used the information he provided while shopping online. Only two included mobile-friendly messaging, and none included product recommendations based on browse behavior.

This gap offers a way for retailers to compete with the Amazons of the world, especially when it’s part of a broader communications strategy. “I believe email needs to become more conversational and more multichannel,” says Dylan Whitman, founder and CEO of BVAccel. “It shouldn’t be in a silo. It’s going to be more about where customers are in the lifecycle of buying from your product.”

Empower Customer Engagement with UGC

“User-generated content outranks all other forms of marketing, including search engines, when it comes to shopper influence,’’ says John Swords, chief product officer at TurnTo. When your current customers share their stories, it can help convince new buyers to choose your brand, even if you don’t offer the perks of a larger retailer such as Amazon. TurnTo found that 81 percent of consumers are willing to pay more or wait longer to receive products that have UGC associated with them.

New technologies are making it easier for customers to submit UGC. With the rise of interactive email, users can do so from their inbox without ever having to open a web browser. To capitalize on this ease of use, though, Swords says marketers need to maintain authenticity (display relevant information about the reviewer and avoid anonymous reviews) and look for ways to deepen engagement by bringing customers together to answer questions and share experiences.

Look to New Technologies to Scale Marketing Efforts

Personalizing your messaging to meet the individual needs of your entire customer base is a daunting prospect. That’s where emerging technologies such as machine learning can play a big role, says Movable Ink CEO Vivek Sharma. For instance, a machine learning application could automate the email imagery for a resort rental company based on each customer’s individual behavior: a romantic sunset for honeymooners and a paddle-boarding scene for athletic beachgoers.

“There are thousands of such experiences that no marketer can keep up with,” says Sharma. “We think there’s a big opportunity for machines to help generate those completely unique experiences.’’

Peter Sheldon, vice president of strategy at Magento Commerce, also sees value in AI to take the load off merchandisers by handling work during the off hours: “Then, when the merchandiser comes in the morning, they review a dashboard with suggestions for what they can do today – suggested offers, price changes, email campaigns, changes in where the product is placed on the web, areas of demand that can’t be met by the current offerings.”

Keep Your Focus on the Consumer

Increased personalization, the rise of UGC and the adoption of new technologies are all changing the way in which brands and consumers interact, a shift that will become even more apparent in the years to come. Retailers who don’t adopt this new relationship-based mentality could be at a disadvantage when it comes to businesses that are forging long-lasting, authentic connections with their audience.

“The trend for 2018 is how you use technology to connect with your customer and anticipate their needs,” says Saima Alibhai, managing principal consultant, EMEA for Bronto. “It’s not about promoting what you want to promote.” For brands that embrace this brave new world, the future of e-commerce looks bright indeed. 

As Vice President of Marketing for Bronto, Susan Wall is responsible for all marketing strategy and leading all demand generation, branding and positioning initiatives. She brings an extensive background in brand marketing, product marketing, marketing research, media and advertising to her role.