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On the digital horizon

Leading etail industry figures predict how the fast-moving world of ecommerce will change in 2012.

Anjeli Patel, online marketing manager at etailer Missguided.co.uk

Anjeli Patel

Anjeli Patel

“We’ve already seen massive growth in the online retail industry in 2011, with mobile and social media as well as the continued growth of Apple’s iPad. With this in mind, 2012 is set to be an important year for fashion ecommerce as we take advantage of our shopping communities and expand our international strategies to benefit our 24/7 opening hours, while also building strategies to serve those customers who want to shop both by mobile and via their tablet computer and indeed socially.  Businesses should be prepared for more traffic coming through to their sites through mobile devices. For some, 2011 gave us a taster of how this would contribute to overall revenue and in 2012 expect this to climb as mobile commerce explodes.”

Mark Thornton, ecommerce director at retail software provider Maginus

Mark Thornton

Mark Thornton

“Online personal profiles will be the next big thing, enabling retailers to offer a new depth of personal service as part of the online customer experience.Customers will be able to create their own online profile, personalised to them to highlight their individual preferences for brands, colours, size and price range. Each profile will be functional across all selected fashion sites, enabling the various retailers to make specific recommendations unique to that purchaser.”

Stefan Siegel, founder of etailer Not Just A Label

Stefan Siegel

Stefan Siegel

“Online luxury shopping is growing at five times the rate of traditional retail. This offers not only opportunities to the leading luxurybrands but to anyone with a good idea. The web is by nature democratic. Anyone can build an audience and start a dialogue with prospective customers. Brands can reach more people, more powerfully, by creating digital, inspiring content, while popular content is shared by brand ambassadors in the online community and can help minimise marketing spend. The success of an online direct channel proves engaging consumers in a bi-directional and entertaining relationship is the key to opening the door for organic growth.”

Paul Kendrick, marketing director at home shopping retailer N Brown

Paul Kendrick

Paul Kendrick

“Lots of retailers talk about being multichannel, and yes they have more than one channel but they’re not joined up. I see the move towards true multichannel retail being the big drive in 2012. As a home catalogue retailer we’re trialling stores for the Simply Be brand, and that’s about recognising that consumers want to shop via multiple channels. New channels are also developing. Mobile has been the one we’ve all been looking at, but we’re also keeping an eye on TV. There’s talk about Google TV, and in 12 months time that could mean that one click of the remote control can take customers from an advert into a brand’s website.”

Gwynn Milligan, managing director of etailer Cocosa

Gwynn Milligan

Gwynn Milligan

“In the UK, the fashion ecommerce business is becoming increasingly crowded. Consumers demand value in every purchase they make and that doesn’t mean just in price. Increasingly, shoppers are looking for exceptional service, after-sales care, quality products and exclusivity.Media consumption will continue to evolve in 2012 as technology and social media becomes more interweaved into our daily lives. Digital and traditional media is starting to collide with the likes of augmented reality and QR codes. These developments are providing a lot of opportunity for brands to communicate and interact with their customers beyond the traditional shopping experience.”

Rob Feldmann, chief executive of private Sales etailer BrandAlley

Rob Feldmann

Rob Feldmann

“Mobile will be the big battleground for 2012. We’re forecasting 10% of revenue through this channel after launching our mobile-friendlysite this month. More and more people are now shopping and certainly researching purchases on the go on their mobile or at home using tablet devices. Many of our members are now even using mobile devices to shop on their commute to work to take advantage of the discounts. We’re also extremely encouraged by our ‘F-commerce’ testing phase, where we’ve held exclusive preview Sales on our Facebook page before opening it up to our website. This has become so successful it’s now intrinsic to our marketing and buying strategy. This year it should bring 5% of our revenue.”

James Balmain, head of ecommerce at home shopping firm Shop Direct Group

James Balmain

James Balmain

“Social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter, are increasingly important channels for exclusive offers, competitions, applications and account servicing enquires. 2012 is very much the year of social for our brands. The power of social, combined with our celebrity partners at Very, Isme and Littlewoods, proved a potent combination during 2011.

We’re committed to pushing more viral content than ever before across the social web in 2012. Outfit builders, personalised content, product recommendations, catwalk video, editorial-style content and site-wide updates to the user experience will all be key 2012 enhancements across the breadth of our portfolio.”

Kevin Binley, business development manager at retail software provider K3 Retail

Kevin Binley

Kevin Binley

“Mobile commerce has already taken off like a rocket – and will continue to do so. [Technology research firm] Forrester is predicting 50% growth every year for the next three years alone. Retailers will have to ensure their website is geared to handle tablet-style devices and be able to take the increasing demand. The whole web look and feel will be determined by the mobile device and will affect how all web pages work. Social networking might get found out for the hype that it is. Everybody talks about it, but is it really driving volumes of business? Smells a bit like the dot.com bubble to me. All hype and no financial reality. There will be a backlash against Facebook and Twitter. Some of the smaller social networking sites will die and new ideas and formats will come through.”

David Hathiramani, co-founder and director of etailer A Suit That Fits

David Hathiramani

David Hathiramani

“There are still many ecommerce developments that would make the online shopping experience even more convenient. I predictthere’ll be more personalised delivery services and instant delivery options, from logistics firms such as Shutl. This will enable customers to make quick decisions and further bridge the gap between bricks-and-mortar stores and the online offering. This will go hand-in-hand with an increased democratisation of selling; moving on from mass-customisation, customers will be able to co-create and promote products and collections to really help them obtain exactly what they want. There will be an increased focus on online customer service, which will mean distributing social media to the wider team as a communication tool and not just centrally in the marketing or head office team.”

Gracia Amico, head of ecommerce at menswear chain Topman

Graci Amico

Graci Amico

“Ecommerce will continue to grow at a healthy rate. Most big brands will extend their reach into the Far East, and in particular China. China is moving towards becoming the world’s largest internet retailing market and interaction with it in the next few years will change our ecommerce landscape too. Micro-blogging is very powerful in China and this might impact our blogging world. Multichannel will become more embedded and the consumer will expect to shop wherever, whenever. The line between online and offline will continue to blur further and pure etailers will pick up their efforts to gain high street presence in various ways, either by creating temporary pop-ups at peak trading times, virtual stores, pick-up locations or even a [bricks-and-mortar] permanent presence. Understanding the customer better, and precision marketing is becoming more important.”

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