Technology Ecommerce The Drum Live

The Drum Live: Ecommerce shouldn't lose its humanity amid AI boom


By Ellen Ormesher | Senior Reporter

September 26, 2023 | 4 min read

At The Drum Live conference in London, we asked top marketers how advancements have accelerated the need for connected, omnichannel retail experiences. As the economy continues to stagnate, how do they convince consumers their brands are worthy of their hard-earned pennies?

Shopping trolley

E-Commerce amid the cost-of-living crisis / Unsplash

Speaking at The Drum Live, Kerttu Inkeroinen, marketing and e-commerce director at non-alcoholic beer brand Lucky Saint, Aoife O'Toole, global head of marketing, display and paid social at Skyscanner and Dom Burch, former senior director marketing and innovation and new revenue at Asda and consultant for Poundland, tell us their top tips.

Straddling in-person and online

Burch reminds us: “When you’ve got an in-store business brands are trying to figure out how to talk to people online.”

For example, he says: “When I was running the retail business as opposed to the retail media business, my job was to make £30m for retail media so that we could afford to have an online grocery business because it didn’t make money in its own right.”

“In all of our stores, they were asking us to stop sending people online, but if they didn’t come online to us they were going to go to Tesco. There’s an inherent tension inside retailers, inside marketing departments to figure out how we manage that from a customer perspective.”

He says we need to be wary of over-relying on digital experiences if the in-person ones don’t work. “Don’t lose your sense of humanity,” he warns.

The role of DTC

After being founded five years ago, Lucky Saint was only two years old at the onset of the pandemic. “We had to pivot to e-commerce quickly, which was never really part of the plan.”

When pubs and bars reopened, it had to return to the question of the role of e-commerce within the business. It researched into where its DTC customers were going. Using its insights hub it was able to speak directly to customers, “it’s difficult to do if you don’t have a designated DTC platform but it can be extremely useful.”


Search engine Skyscanner also had a recovery period following the pandemic due to restrictions on travel. Following the learnings from that period, O’Toole says localization became of particular interest.

“I think it’s an overlooked area for businesses that provides a lot of insights. The question then becomes how we translate it into a campaign. How is it going to work from a digital point of view? And how do you balance dynamic feed-based advertising with something more personalized? We try to balance both to resonate with users.”

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