The growing importance of data has been apparent to the marketing community the world over, and it's abilities to target consumers for clients have also matured drastically. As a result, companies are under increasing pressure to find new wells of data to mine for potential customers.
According to UKFast’s founder and chief executive officer, Lawrence Jones, e-commerce needs to deliver on personalisation with customers. Businesses also need to get on board with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect in next year, as many business owners are not ready. Personal data is held by every business and they need to get savvy with this new legislation.
What has been the biggest change you have seen from the industry in the past couple of years?
It's personalisation, without a doubt. Personalisation is everything now. 80% of customers are more likely to shop with retailers which deliver a personalised experience.
In the B2B sector, in the old days you would target the businesses. Now, you're targeting the consumers within the business. B2B or B2C, we’re all people selling to people. The value now lies in really getting to know the CIO or the directors within a business and finding out what they actually need. There’s no room for ‘one size fits all’ services or products any more.
We’re used to being spoon-fed exactly what we need, when we need it. No one wants to trawl through endless options any more. It’s also worth noting the value in longevity of these relationships. CIOs and directors are often transient between companies so keeping in touch with them can spark relationships within new businesses for years to come.
What have been the challenges that the industry has had to contend with over the past year?
Getting ready for GDPR, which comes into force next year, has been and is still a huge challenge, but it's also an opportunity. There are many business owners who are not prepared for the new regulation and believe it's not relevant to them. The thing is, it's relevant to every single business that holds personal data, which is every business.
The challenge with the introduction of GDPR is that we're all used to a certain style of marketing and all that is about to change. To put it simply, this means that the people who adapt to GDPR (and its British equivalent - the Data Protection Bill) and its rules will have a field day! We're going to see some massive fines for non-compliance – businesses will be made examples of to ensure that others comply with the rules. There will be some brands – big ones – that will be embarrassed.
What are the key trends right now for e-commerce?
The ecommerce industry is driven by trends and ‘the next big thing’, but the real question is how businesses compete in such a saturated market. Whilst bots, delivery methods and voice purchases sit among the leading trends, it is perhaps the less obvious trends that matter. These, the ones that the smart providers are focussing on, are very much security led.
Security should be the top concern for any online business, especially in ecommerce. We’re seeing more and more indiscriminate attacks taking sites offline and stopping them trading. A prime example is The National Lottery, which was very recently targeted by a DDoS attack – an attack which sends huge amounts of fake traffic to a website, overloading and swamping it.
This type of attack has been building momentum for some years and massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are becoming increasingly common, in addition to getting more powerful. Just as common are occurrences of businesses being held to ransom – forced to pay money in exchange for the attacks being halted.
But all is not lost. There are systems that mitigate these attacks. Your hosting provider can install the defence quickly. It’s not just DDoS attacks you need to consider, it’s your whole infrastructure. Ultimately, the damage to fix after any attack is far greater if you don't pre-empt it.
Again, the smart operators are investing their time checking their systems and double checking their work. We’re seeing increased demand for ethical hackers to check code and ensure that it is working as your coders think it is. Coders make mistakes, like all of us, and it's better to have a mistake discovered by a friendly hacker than by a non-friendly one and discovering that all your customers' bank details are being sold on the dark web.
Where do you see the industry/e-commerce going in the next 12 months?
Consumers are increasingly shopping on the go. They’re using a range of devices with multiple connectivity options, but the expectation is the same – fast responses and simple shopping processes. Search engines have indicated that speed has a greater impact on how sites rank than ever before, and mobile is taking up a larger share of search traffic. So, if you've got all your other SEO housekeeping covered, as you would expect all good eCommerce companies to do, the one element making the significant difference is speed. It’s that simple.
The reason search engines are so obsessed with speed themselves is simple - they've seen user engagement increase when things get faster. Users search more and stay on the internet for longer. Search engines significantly reward people who keep their users happy, so businesses have got no excuse for having a slow site.
The big problem with this is that most business owners don't want to spend money! They check their sites and think that it is superfast. In reality, it might be superfast when they load it because it's all cached on their machine. We’ve seen this issue time and again, and we hear agencies we work with experiencing the same issue too. This is where education comes in – it’s essential. Whilst it's fast for the owner loading it from the office, for everyone else that comes to their site for the first time it's dog slow and it's an embarrassment. These businesses are investing huge amounts of money in building a stunning website with all the bells and whistles, and then hosting it on slow infrastructure or shared cloud that's miles away from their hub. What do they expect? Well, don't expect results.
Mobile is really dominating usage statistics, because people are consuming and doing everything they ordinarily did at home, on the move. The really smart marketers are able to track that person across multiple devices, locations and platforms. There is so much data to be gained from every interaction and transaction. It's a gift for any marketer.
UKFast are the headline sponsors for the DADI Awards, which bring together individuals and companies at the forefront of digital, providing a perfect opportunity for those entering to prove how good they are. The ceremony will take palce on Thursday 19 October at the Park Plaza Westminster, London. You can book your table now online.
Sponsors for this year's event are: UKFast, Shazam, Maxpoint, Forrest Brown, Impact Radius, Response Tap, TF, The Drum Network, The Drum RAR and TINT.