As the entry deadline for the PayPal Etail Awards nears, we ask some past winners and other experts to look at the biggest issues influencing ecommerce this year.
The dominance of mobile. Striving for a single customer view. International expansion. The launch of Vine. Next-day delivery, timed delivery, pick-up in store. The past 12 months have certainly been busy in fashion ecommerce and there are no signs of a slowdown.
As we approach the PayPal Drapers & Retail Week Etail Awards on July 2, the star of 2013 - mobile - will continue to dominate the ecommerce market. “Mobile is our fastest-growing channel and has dramatically changed browsing and shopping behaviours, enabling greater spontaneity and a new way to multi-task,” says Kate Walm-sley, digital director at Topshop, which won Best Use of Innovation in 2013. “Taking a mobile or touchscreen-first approach to designing digital experiences will be key to retaining and winning future customers.”
Oliver Ripley, mobile product manager at etail consultancy eCommera, agrees. “Mobile offers an incredible opportunity for retailers - if eCommera looks at its own clients we find that mobile [tablet/smartphone] now represents around 40% of transactional volume,” he says.
Mobile is a force to be reckoned with for smaller businesses too. Independent maternitywear retailer Seraphine, which won Best Specialist Etailer in 2011, is working on developing its own mobile site. Seraphine founder Cecile Reinaud says: “With the on-the-go world we live in, it makes sense for us as businesses to evolve to keep up with the mobile trend. So many of us now use our smartphones in all aspects of our lives and there have been some fantastic innovations in mobile shopping recently - it’s becoming easier to use and more secure all the time.”
Social media has remained a consistent talking point for retailers, with many still undecided how to maximise the impact of this channel - a channel that consumers are certainly using but which has so far not been proved to drive sales.
Walmsley believes Facebook remains the most dominant social site for retailers. “In terms of reach and referrals, Facebook continues to reign, but for us there isn’t one channel we would define as most important,” she says.
“Each has different strengths and different audiences and different ways to communicate, or tell a story - using them well requires treating each differently and then finding ways to cross-promote.”
While Facebook and Twitter are still seen by most as the social channels to tackle first, Sorcha Harriman-Smith, digital and brand director at kidswear independent Childrensalon in Tunbridge Wells, says Instagram has “quickly grown to be the most engaged and effective channel for us”.
Although innovation remains key to growing a multichannel business, many retailers are also going back to basics to look at their back-end systems, with the aim of trying to integrate channels to form a single customer view. While retailers are making progress with this, few, if any, would say it is something they have achieved fully.
Mark Brant, general manager merchant services at PayPal UK, which is again sponsoring the Etail Awards, says: “Over the past three years of our association with the awards, we’ve witnessed the dynamic growth of online retail and this upward curve shows no sign of slowing down.”
Brant insists that, while technology has a strong influence on how people shop online, it “is a people-powered evolution”.
He says: “Our mutual customers believe in interacting with businesses in a way that is more human and meaningful. Whether that interaction is online, on mobile or face to face, they expect to do so smoothly and as seamlessly as possible.”
Brant believes that being able to connect with people across multiple channels and touchpoints simultaneously and interchangeably is crucial for the success of a retailer online.
He says: “We’re very excited to see what 2014 delivers andwish all this year’s entrants the very best of luck. We look forward to seeing the finalists and announcing the winners at the awards dinner on July 2.”
With so much going on, ecommerce looks set to continue to dominate retailers’ strategies for the next 12 months, as they devise viable strategies to engage customers across a variety of channels, giving them the opportunity to shop and buy at whatever time on whatever device they wish to.
Paypal Drapers and Retail Week Etail awards
- July 2, 2014 Grange St Paul’s Hotel, London EC4V
The etail world is one of constant evolution and market-leading innovation. The PayPal Etail Awards celebrate the individuals and businesses that are leading this dynamic growth and driving the development of new technologies and sector growth.
Enter the awards now
A full list of categories can be found at www.etail-awards.com/home
The entry deadline is March 7