Ecommerce Expo is a must-attend event for retailers and ecommerce solution providers. This year, the event was held in the Olympia London building on September 27th-28th. We enjoyed exhibiting our POS and automation software here, whilst meeting other retail experts and attending informative talks.
From learning about upcoming retail trends, to hearing about the latest ecommerce technology and gaining some inspiration for your own ecommerce store, there’s a lot to be learned from attending this annual event. Including some exclusive interviews we had with various exhibitors, here is some advice and inspiration to take you into the upcoming peak season and beyond into 2018...
Black Friday Retail Predictions
During the two day event, there were several keynote sessions on a variety of topics. One talk that particularly stood out for us was insights and predictions around Black Friday.
Over the years, we’ve seen various changes to the flash buying frenzy that is Black Friday. 2016 was witness to week-long prolonged sales activity for most retailers. Whilst it’s been predicted that this year, we will see larger retailers extending this peak trading event even further with more early season discounts. The aim here is to smooth out peak trading and lessen the reliance on Black Friday.
Even with the heavy influx of sales that Black Friday can bring though, we mustn’t forget other peak trading days. 2016 saw the largest period of consumer shopping activity on December 18th-19th, as consumers become increasingly comfortable with ordering late into the busy holiday season and continue to expect next day delivery.
To discount or not to discount?
The pressing question that comes up during this time of year is whether retailers should get involved with peak sales days like Black Friday. In other words, should they discount or not?
Experts are advising that if you have a different value proposition from your competition, a USP or strong customer engagement and loyalty, then you will be able to maintain your competitive advantage without discounting.
Alongside this, you must also keep an eye on retail data and trends. For example, millennials respond well to personalized offers and like to feel that they are interacting with brands on a 1-1 basis. Whilst there is usually an uplift in their mobile buying behavior early in the morning and late at night.
Thus, those of you who have a unique selling point, high customer loyalty or are on top of key buying trends may not need to discount during this year’s holiday season.
More Retail Advice & Some Design Inspiration
Whilst we were exhibiting at Ecommerce Expo ourselves, we were curious as to how other key influencers and retail experts were doing over on their stands. Here are a few of the standout displays we saw, plus a few interviews we had with fellow exhibitors:
Occupying a large area on the lower floor of the Expo, dotmailer, the UK’s largest email and marketing automation provider saw plenty of footfall throughout the event. Their display combined the following to capture attention: promo videos, multiple screens for interacting with their software and a large tube that you could stand in whilst balls flew all around you. When asked how the event was going, Skip Fidura, their Client Services Director told us: “We’ve been very busy and all the staff have smiles on their faces, so it seems to be going well!”
We also asked Skip to tell us a little more about what dotmailer offers retailers and what he thinks will be a big retail trend next year:
How can dotmailer software help retailers?
“Email marketing automation is key for ecommerce success. It allows ecommerce retailers to have human conversations at scale. What our platform allows them to do is build their email marketing programs using a drag and drop interface that’s very intuitive and very straightforward to use.”
What do you think will be a big retail trend next year?
“This has been a trend for a long time but marketers aren’t paying attention: they need to start having relevant human conversations at scale with their recipients. Statistics show that consumers want to use email to maintain relationships with brands across all age groups (including millennials). Emails are where the consumers want to be. But they want the email to be concise, relevant, know what it’s on about and be action driven to get them to the website or whatever's on offer.”
Occupying space close to the entrance, Nosto were not only in a fortunate position for footfall, but their product is also excellent for retailers and ecommerce professionals. Their software allows users to personalize their marketing efforts across social media, email marketing and ecommerce websites, whilst providing native analytics and data, which is useful to both marketers and retailers. We asked Kevin Paiser, their Head of EMEA Sales for his advice on personalized marketing and upcoming retail trends:
What can retailers do to personalize their marketing efforts?
“Personalization goes on many levels, but in today’s world, what customers really want is a personalized, but really relevant experience for them. You see that today with Facebook, Instagram; everyone’s feed is personal to them. Retailers today can do the same in their online store by looking to personalize the customer’s journey throughout with very relevant information for the customer.”
What do you think will be big news for retailers next year?
“There’s been a lot of talk about chatbots, and automating today’s manual labor and a lot around customer service and delivery. But chatbots are pretty much the future where I can see a lot of retail going and helping customers order things in an automated way.”
Throughout the expo, there were a number of displays offering the chance to try out virtual reality racing games, complete with life-sized car models. UKFast was one of the exhibitors offering this opportunity, which was certainly a hit with most passersby! Given the rise in popularity of AI and machine learning in the retail and ecommerce space, we know that virtual reality is going to continue to be a common sight at future trade shows and retail events.
Only Marketing Jobs
Only Marketing Jobs created a unique little haven up on the top floor of Olympia London. As can be expected from a Marketing specific job board, their display concentrated on the imaginative and creative. Their branding had been themed and styled to reflect that of ‘Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory’, and their stand came complete with free sweets and chocolates for passersby. And what did you get when opening up their chocolate bar wrappers? A silver or golden ticket offering money off their services. Ingenious!
When we know that Zendesk is exhibiting at an event, we are often on the lookout for their eye catching display stands built from bamboo, which really does reflect their branding and image. These display stands have now become their tradition at tradeshows and events.
Whilst we were marvelling at their display, we spoke with James Marlow, an Enterprise Account Manager at Zendesk about customer service and future trends:
What reports can retailers use to help improve customer service and engagement?
“When I talk to customers and a lot of the retailers that I work with, we look at things like Customer CSAT and NPS (Net Promoter Score). But more and more often these days, we’re really looking at what we call ‘Customer Effort’ and how easy it is for your customers to actually engage with you as a brand and get support across the channels that they want.
In Zendesk, we can natively track CSAT and NPS. But ‘Customer Effort’ is a little bit different as it’s a combination of many things like First Response Time and Overall Resolution. But in terms of helping retailers specifically, we look at things like livechat as a really good way to help improve and convert online. It’s also proven to help reduce first time response as well.”
What’s going to be big news for retail and ecommerce next year?
“Well, I’m not sure I can read that as I haven’t got a crystal ball. But a lot of our customers these days are talking about AI and machine learning. That’s something Zendesk is certainly very passionate about.”
What’s your opinion on Chatbots versus Support Agents?
“I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to completely automate it. I think it’s important these days to remember that Customer Service Agents often get “weighed down” with having to answer quite simple requests. If we can use AI and machine learning in a chatbot environment to interact with someone and answer the simple questions, but then have the ability to escalate this to a Customer Service Representative; that’s going to be seamless for the end user. But I don’t think it’s ever going to get rid of those Customer Service Agents as they still need to be there to answer the more complex enquiries.”
Were you at Ecommerce Expo this year? What were your key takeaways and highlights from the event? Feel free to drop us a line in the comments section below…