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eCommerce Intelligence: The Personalisation of Online Retail

April 29, 2015
Lisa Byfield-Green
Written By
Lisa Byfield-Green

Mobile technology is changing the way that we live our lives, communicate, research and shop. But the mobile experience just took one step closer to being even more personal with the launch of Apple watch. Lisa Byfield-Green, Senior Online & Digital Analyst at IGD, discusses how the Apple watch, combined with the launch of Apple Pay, is likely to revolutionise the way we shop online and exert a strong digital influence on purchases in-store.

For most of us, smartphones are always on and in our hands throughout the day. But the mobile experience just took one step closer to being even more personal with the launch of Apple watch – a device we are happy to wear all day, strapped onto our wrists. On the first day of launch, more than one million orders for the device were processed.

So what will happen as mobile devices become even more personal?

The more devices multichannel shoppers have available to them, the more likely they are to make use of them, both to shop online and to influence in-store purchases. According to IGD ShopperVista research, 27% of UK shoppers already use the online channel each month, with 22% of this group now doing so on a smartphone. Retailers with a focused mobile strategy report much higher figures, demonstrating a strong preference for a seamless mobile experience. Last quarter, 48% of Ocado shoppers checked out on a mobile device. US retailer Target claims that 98% of its customers now shop digitally, 70% of them on mobile devices.

It is clear that the appetite to use the technology is there for shoppers. The magic comes when this is combined with intelligent technology that offers real benefits and a seamless experience. This will be seen as retailers begin to integrate loyalty data to personalise content on their online sites, or leverage iBeacons in-store to offer a targeted, interactive experience. An even more powerful strategy can be built when these messages take into account the time of day, location of the shopper, likely shopping mission and information about past purchase behaviour.

Walmart is rolling out GE’s smart LED lighting solution to its stores, with built-in Bluetooth for iBeacon functionality. This could allow access to coupons, promotions, product info and store maps via its mobile app

The personal, logged health information from an Apple watch could perhaps be used to give diet and recipe recommendations for shoppers, for instance, as well as being a handy device to use in-store to research and pay for products.

Social is also becoming more personal

Social media channels are also becoming more personal and increasingly adding technology to allow shoppers to make purchases quickly and easily. Amazon and Target are among retailers that already allow shoppers to buy products directly from Twitter and Instagram respectively. This facility can be powerful when combined with relevant product messages on the site.

Starbucks’ Twitter message targets customers that are already in its cafes, meaning they are loyal, relaxed, receptive and able to act immediately on the information

Facebook is now working with a number of retailers and brands to create targeted, personalised campaigns on the social networking site, using its own data together with loyalty information from retailers or data from external providers. This allows relevant advertising content to be targeted to specific groups of users, including core audience, custom audiences and lookalike audiences. Facebook claims that marketing campaigns using both targeted Facebook messages and email were 22% more likely to end in a customer purchase. The social media site is also working with brands on the re-marketing of ads and videos and we can expect to see further activity in this space as the technology becomes increasingly sophisticated.

Show me that you know me

In future, there is likely to be an increase in focus on personalisation for mobile apps and internet of things (IOT) devices such as Amazon Dash, in order to make them relevant and meaningful to shoppers. At the same time we can expect suppliers to increase the proportion of marketing budget that is spent digitally, particularly close to the point of purchase, where it can have a real impact on shoppers. Mobile and technology such as iBeacons will be a key enabler of this.

Priorities for retailers and suppliers

Personalisation is an important theme running through current trends in mobile and social. Targeting shoppers with relevant information at the right time to influence their purchase decision will be a key skill for success, with data scientists increasingly in demand to make sense of how best to do this.

Meanwhile, mobile needs to be high on the priority list for FMCG retailers and brands, since the majority of sites are trailing customer demand. Smartphones and other new personal devices and IOT developments will increasingly influence shoppers online and in-store, providing a valuable, always-on connection.

It will be important for retailers and manufacturers to move fast to stay ahead, understand the technologies that will have a real impact in this space and differentiate themselves through committed investment.

Want to know more?

Attend IGD’s Online & Digital Summit on 20th-21st October to hear Facebook and others speak about the latest trends.

Lisa will also be speaking alongside Keith Anderson at Profitero’s ‘New eCommerce Strategies for Competing and Winning at the Digital Shelf’ breakfast briefing on 10th June. Learn more and register here.


Lisa leads IGD’s online and digital research, providing insight and analysis of retail trends and new developments within the consumer goods industry. Within her role, Lisa has built valued and strong connections within the industry and meets regularly with eCommerce managers to discuss future thinking and key industry trends.


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