Friday, 10th July 2020

Do online sellers need to up their data game?

Voice search, AR, VR, AI, machine learning and cryptocurrency all appear amongst the projected trends for e-commerce in 2019, but realistically how close are online sellers to being able to adopt these advanced technologies? Whilst most businesses admit to being in the pursuit of digital transformation, a recent survey we conducted of 559 global B2B organisations found that many are still focusing on getting the basics right and potentially ignoring opportunities for growth that might be identified through data insights. By Michiel Schipperus, CEO and managing partner at Sana Commerce.

The survey identified an obvious disconnect between the objectives online sellers are hoping to achieve with e-commerce, and the data they’re using (or not using) to achieve them; 42% said they were using data to improve customer service, yet only 24% said they were analysing buying behaviour and two thirds were not using it to improve the online user experience.

Whether you engage with it on a regular basis or not, the data collected by your e-commerce platform is extensive and can offer a powerful insight into webstore performance and customer experience. Data can help you to identify opportunities, measure the impact of new strategies and techniques and capitalise on what’s working well so you can continually enhance your e-commerce offering.

The power of data

Whilst the beauty of e-commerce is in its automation, it does not mean that that once you’ve got your webstore up and running, it should just be left to run. You can tell a lot from the data you collect; the duration of time users spend on each page can give you an indication as to whether your site is easy to navigate or particularly engaging, the search function can tell you specific products visitors are looking for, or an indication that something might be particularly hard to find, whilst the funnel tracking or abandoned shopping baskets can help to determine what’s deterring the customer from completing their purchase. Data, such as a customer’s purchase history, can even help you offer customised product recommendations and increase conversions. This can be enhanced by the integration of the ERP and other key operational systems to allow seamless cross-platform communication, yet online sellers don’t appear to be fast on the uptake.

Embracing e-commerce 3.0

One of the outcomes established from the research was that e-commerce businesses appear to be slow in adopting e-commerce 3.0; the integration of key business operational systems and data insights to enable a more comprehensive and personalised shopping experience. In fact, online sellers still appear to be prioritising basic e-commerce 1.0 and 2.0 functions: 48% identified driving sales as the top priority and 38% said it was to improve the user experience.

When it comes to tackling the competition, many online sellers appear to be driving down the price to attract business rather than enhancing the proposition for the buyer. When we asked which online features organisations were looking to introduce to improve customer experience, simple order and payment functionality and easier navigation topped the list; two basic webstore functions that very much fall into the e-commerce 1.0 category. In contrast, ‘using data insights into buying history and current orders for personalised customer management’ and ‘customisable products’ (features synonymous with e-commerce 3.0) came last on the list. So with online sellers seemingly still focused on getting the e-commerce basics right, surely the adoption of advanced new technology is a too greater leap?

M2M learning

In a bid to advance digital transformation efforts, it appears that many online sellers have already implemented or are considering investing in new technologies to enhance the shopping experience without the requirement for human interaction. 54% of organisations surveyed saw machine to machine (M2M) ordering as a possibility. In fact, 31% of respondents have already implemented fully automated or predictive ordering using the IoT or M2M, and a further 41% intend to. However, as many webstore operators appear to be ignoring e-commerce data to make informed business decisions, how can they be sure that this technology will enhance their business? Without establishing whether there is a particular customer demand or a huge productivity benefit to be realised, these forward-thinking organisations could be blindly implementing these features and wasting crucial investment.

Our research is not to say that businesses should put their digital transformation on hold entirely. There is so much emerging technology that could have a huge impact on business and transform the B2B e-commerce environment as we know it, and it’s encouraging to see so many organisations with ambitious innovation targets.However, M2M and other forms of automation represent a significant investment, so e-commerce businesses need to ensure they’re implemented strategically and being used to their full potential. The data collected by your e-commerce solution is crucial; it can help you establish key trends and benchmark performance. Then after the implementation of your new technology, you’ll be able to measure the impact it’s having on your business. Integrating your key business systems and engaging with data insights is the vital stepping stone to a successful digital transformation.

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