Why the UK is leading the ecommerce boom
E-commerce is expanding throughout Europe, and the UK is leading the trend. In a recent report from the Office of National Statistics, the UK is shown to be the top EU territory for e-commerce, with 79 percent of Brits ordering online in 2014, an increase of 44 percent since 2005. It therefore comes as no surprise that this year’s Black Friday is predicted to be the UK’s first ever £1 billion shopping day.
Although Scandinavian countries are hot on the heels of the UK with 78 percent and 77 percent of shoppers buying online, some European countries are lagging behind. The ONS reported that in the same year, only 10 percent of Romanians and 22 percent of Italians ordered online, so it seems there is scope for the rest of Europe to learn from the UK’s successes.
Why has the UK seen such large e-commerce growth?
The results suggest that UK retailers have tapped into the right technologies to make the online shopping process an easy and comfortable experience for consumers.
Many UK retailers have been smart in investing in optimisation and re-engagement technology and hiring the right people to implement these technologies. In fact, almost a quarter of UK businesses were employing IT specialists in 2013, above the EU average of 20 percent. They have cottoned on to the need to implement online logistics if they want to turn traffic into conversions and generate sales. Checkout abandonment is a disheartening reality for any online retailer, and it would be wrong to expect the majority of traffic to make a purchase. But there are ways of boosting the odds, lowering the cost per sale and raising returns on investment.
One of the major causes of checkout abandonment is a lack of transparency. Additional charges for things like shipping are part of the process for many retailers, but it’s important to be up-front about them and not conceal these charges in the small print right at the end of the journey: the latter will annoy a consumer far more than the former.
Similarly, fear of the unknown is also a conversion killer during checkout. If your customers don’t know how many more hurdles they need to jump over they will be more likely to give up. Having a simple progress bar removes that concern.
Over the past year, many UK retailers have started to offer more generous delivery options, whether heavily discounted, free on particular days, or straight to your door. We’ve recently seen Argos' move to rival Amazon, offering same-day delivery to all UK online shoppers. Such change is proof that the more options you give your customers, the more likely they’ll want to shop with you. Choosing how their purchase is delivered provides consumers with an element of control in the process.
Re-engagement is key
Effective on-site engagement relies on the seamless integration of initial prospecting, onsite conversion tools and follow-up retargeting. Retailers who adopt a multi-channel approach with their website will naturally see a great return on investment. Of these different channels, email re-engagement holds a huge opportunity for online retailers, hence why it is one of the most popular strategies.
For those who are using this strategy, make sure you’re doing it right. Re-engagement emails should not be fired out to all previous engagers using the same blanket email. In order to achieve the best result, companies need to be using the customer data they have at their disposal. Optimised re-engagement emails mean segmented recipient lists, short subject headers and, most importantly, targeted content sent to the right people at the right time. Beware not to bombard your customers with too many emails, as this will often leave a negative brand impression.
So what does 2016 hold for UK e-commerce?
Looking ahead, UK retailers need to tune their strategies to match the growth of mobile commerce (or m-commerce) as more and more people don’t just want to shop from home, they want to do it on the go, using the most accessible device. International research conducted by RetailMeNot found that UK shoppers are set to spend £14.95 billion via mobile devices in 2015, an increase of 77.8 percent on £8.41 billion in 2014, while PC spending will grow by just 2 percent. Other retailers such as John Lewis have announced similar results, with John Lewis’ annual ‘How we Shop, Live and Look’ report announcing that m-commerce revenues rose by 68 percent in the last year.
UK retailers must follow the trends of consumer behaviour and embrace the fact that mobile is fast impacting our shopping habits. Retailers must not only integrate technologies to help optimise the on-site journey, they must optimise and adapt for mobile as well as desktop, as more and more customers will be arriving on their site via their mobile phones.
The author: Tom Weeks is director of retail at e-commerce champion Ve Interactive.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”