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Online retailers head back to drawing board

Last month, David Jones announced that it was going to launch a re-vamped e-commerce presence as part of a range of new measures to help the high-end retailer overcome its recent slow-down in performance. Weeks later, fashion giant Topshop Australia announced it too was giving its website a make-over, with the big reveal in April.

E-commerce continues to boom here in Australia. According to the latest online retail index from NAB, year on year growth accelerated from 11.1 per cent in December to 11.7 per cent in January. But while the pie is increasing, the competition is too. With new entries like Amazon and UK department store Debenhams, setting up shop on our sunny shores, retailers big and small have to up their game – and quick – if they want to not only survive, but thrive.

As retail execs head back to the drawing board to conjure up their next e-commerce evolution, here are three things that should be front of mind:

1. Knowledge is power

David Jones recently announced that it believes its revamped e-commerce platform, in conjunction with other marketing activity, will provide a new layer of information about consumers that it couldn’t access in the past. There is no doubt that in this modern retail age, knowledge is power. Those with the most insight on their customers and potential customers, have the power to drive sales.

Retailers are quick to realise that insights on their customers enable them to take personalisation to the next level. By tailoring email campaigns, curating landing pages with products that match customer preferences, and serving up relevant information on products and services – you can give your shoppers an online experience they won’t forget in a hurry. Topshop is already on top of the game, with its new ominchannel experience promising localised editorial-style content available online.

2. Think quick

Diminishing attention spans and busy schedules means that shoppers need to be directed to what they want online and quick. According to a previous study by Nielsen, most website visitors stick around for less than 59 seconds. Thanks to Google, we all recognise the power of intuitive search. Embedding a strong search function within your website should be at the top of any savvy retailers list.

Sophisticated search features such as autocomplete and product images that appear as you type can act as a secret weapon – cutting time down from search to purchase. For example, leading Australian cosmetics retailer Adore Beauty uses e-commerce technology to guide its shoppers to the right products from the moment they type in the search box. As a result, the 10 per cent of shoppers who use site search yield more than 30 per cent of the site’s revenue.

3. Embracing the future now

Mobile and e-commerce technologies have already transformed the retail industry from its store-centric approach to the ability to connect with shoppers anytime, anywhere. As we look ahead to the technologies that will bring the next wave of possibilities for retail, autonomous vehicles and 3D printing are sure to have a huge impact. But the technology to watch now is virtual and augmented reality.

Apple is rumoured to be investing in augmented reality glasses, and Ebay and Myer have already tested the waters here in Australia when it comes to use of virtual and augmented reality to enhance the shopping experience. To ensure ongoing success, retailers everywhere must stay on top of the latest trends and decide what technology works for them.

Dr Shaun Ryan is CIO for SLI Systems.

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