Key take-aways from the recent Online Retailer "Fusion" conference

03 Nov 2020  |  by Ade Ewart

I have to admit that the most exciting thing about the conference was that it is the first conference that I have been able to attend since the Covid-19 lock-down back in March of this year.  The personal thrill of being able to network with complete strangers, and catch-up with old friends and clients was unlike any conference I have attended before and more akin to a family reunion albeit whilst maintaining social distancing and slapping on hand sanitiser at every opportunity.  
All this aside the conference had a great line-up of speakers and panel discussions.  The emphasis, as expected hinged around the impact of Covid on eCommerce and kicked-off with talks about how shopping patterns have changed within an uplift of nearly 90% in non-food retail sales since February 2020.  The general thought was that this would leap upwards again in November with X-mas looming and the impact of the Click Frenzy, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
Aside from Covid, another common discussion point was the shift in consumer behaviour that is being brought about by the increasing purchasing power of GenY and GenZ.  This segment of the consumer universe now represents around 33% of online spend.  Consequently online retailers are adjusting their marketing strategies to meet these consumers' requirements.  Most notably are the tendency to make purchases using a debit rather than a credit card, and the awareness of social issues such as climate change, and social justice epitomised by the Green, BLM and #MeToo movements.   Various speakers discussed how the GenZ and GenY consumer segments, display less brand loyalty and are more likely to move from brands that do not demonstrate appropriate support for the causes that they favour.  Brands are aware of this, and in an effort to attract and retain this growing market segment, they openly demonstrate support for specific social issues and adjust their product offering accordingly.  For example, recycling used garments, demonstrating an awareness of the environmental impact of their products, providing financial sponsorship of relevant causes, or adherence to fair and ethical supply chain standards.    
Best practice for online retailers was another key topic, and related back to many tried and tested techniques that seasoned marketers like myself are experienced with.  Once the jargon is pushed to the side it all comes down to analytics and the application of data driven marketing principles.  Terms that frequently came to the fore were, single customer view, behavioural modelling, and the application of these in conjunction with artificial intelligence and automation to drive appropriate communication to customers.  The ideal scenario was depicted as including real-time applications which when pulled together with the other elements form a 'Unified Commerce' platform.
For those of you who were unfortunately unable to attend Fusion, we do have a great example that emulates these best practice techniques in our Nisbets case study.  The team at Nisbets created a single customer view from a combination of disparate data sources.  This allows them to understand and communicate with their customers more effectively.   The end result is demonstrable ROI, as the resulting campaigns reduced their marketing costs, yet maintained their overall sales revenue.   
All this aside, it was a fantastic conference, which brought a nice balance between the impact of Covid and the eCommerce sector.  It did this without losing focus on what the industry will need to do to continue to succeed under current and future market conditions.  It also did it whilst maintaining social distancing, demonstrating that we could reasonably expect more of these types of events to occur in the not too distant future.

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