Last week we headed down the coast to LA to hear from top retailers and brands at #LAECOM, hosted by IC Summit. While the panelists were astonishingly diverse, ranging from social media darling Snapchat to insurance providers like Farmers, and e-comm startups peddling everything from athleisure to home goods, some consistent themes emerged.
Image courtesy of IC Summits.
Every panel, regardless of topic, touched on machine learning and artificial intelligence. Interestingly, the consensus was far from positive. While panelists expressed some excitement about the potential for personalization, recommender systems, and sentiment analysis, the resounding sentiment was quite different: suspicion. Tanya Hersh, VP of Marketing at Hollar, expressed her hesitation to put complete faith in the “mysterious algorithms within the black box.” As machine learning is increasingly consumable in the form of SaaS products - including from several exhibitors at the Summit - marketers are increasingly suspicious of the science behind the pretty dashboards and buzzwords du jour.
Image courtesy of technologyreview.com.
Our take: Machine learning has enormous potential to impact everything from demand forecasting to sentiment analysis (see our newest whitepaper for more), but buyers should beware: not every data science product is all it's cracked up to be. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions when investing in this area.
The shift to mobile is no secret - in fact, the dead horse has been beaten at every industry conference in existence over the last several years. So what was there to discuss at the IC Summit? Panelists commented on the fact that in 2017 for the first time, the bulk of their transactions occurred via mobile. While some contended that shoppers will always prefer to make some purchases via desktop, others, like William Bater, Director of E-commerce at Tenzo Tea, shared that 80% of Tenzo’s transactions happen via mobile and expressed a conviction that Gen Z will be increasingly comfortable shopping and transacting via mobile.
Our take: Any way you slice it, a solid mobile strategy has never been more important. If you’re not sure where to begin, a good IT consultancy can help you determine when and how to introduce mobile, or how to optimize your existing strategy.
Voice & Video
Panelists were agreed that voice and video are still underutilized as means of customer acquisition and engagement, but a clear direction or philosophy was missing from the conversation - although Snapchat’s Dani Van de Sande shared some compelling new features from Snapchat’s self-serve advertising platform to utilize organic video as a means of engagement. By and large, the feeling was that while by voice and video are powerful tools, attribution is difficult to track and the potential is largely untapped.
Image courtesy of Snapchat.
Our take: In the ever-important distinction between noise and trends, video and voice technology are here to stay. Look for both of these technologies to become more prevalent, and start having the discussions around attribution tracking and user behavior with your tech teams now.
Speed continues to gain importance as a key factor in driving consumer behavior. Panel moderator Jonathan Bradbury, Director of Global eCommerce from Munchkin, cited research pointing to the fact that 45% of people expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less. 52% claim that quick page speeds are important, and there is a significant drop in conversion caused by delays of even 1 second. Panelists alluded to the 90-second checkout test - any process that’s longer will result in a dropoff in conversions, regardless of the channel. One of the panelists joked that a human’s attention span is now shorter than that of the average goldfish, and when it comes to purchasing behaviors, it’s hard to argue with that assessment.
Image courtesy of PetMD.
Our take: The discussion about speed isn’t new, by any means. While there are numerous speed tests available, it isn’t always easy to identify just how to go about improving your site or app performance. If you need help pinpointing the low-hanging fruit that will take you from slow and unsteady to quick and reliable, this is a good place to begin.
All in All...
The digital revolution is far from over - if anything, it’s accelerating. Ecommerce as a whole can benefit from looking at changes in technology as the new normal, rather than a one-time transformation from brick-and-mortar to digital transaction.
Holly Vander Wall
Holly Vander Wall is the Director of Marketing and Client Services at Avenue Code. She is an eCommerce enthusiast, a marketing guru, and an animal lover.