James White, UK BDM for Nosto, takes centre stage at the conference.

The fifth annual Magento Live UK event was held in London this week, and I was lucky enough to fly in from Helsinki to attend. As an event, Magento Live is one that is marked on the calendars of the platform’s enthusiasts – giving us the opportunity to expand our network, share insights (and a few laughs), as well as seeing and hearing about new and relevant technologies and businesses. Essentially, these events set the tone for the immediate future of our industry- which is why the discussions that take place there are so important.

But maybe, with such a jam-packed agenda, you didn’t have time to get around to everything (those networking drinks can be mighty distracting after all). Or perhaps you couldn’t make it this year at all. Either way, we’ve got you covered – because I have penned a short recap of what I felt were some of the most interesting topics to come out of this year’s conference…

Me, on the Nosto stand with Nosto drone winner Jamie Huskisson!

 

1. Onsite vs Mobile vs Apps – the battle wages on…

Mobile was again a hot topic at this event, as retailers are increasingly investing in the mobile experience – something that was predicted by Paul Rogers in our blog late last year. And it is not hard to see why – a Forrester Research survey has shown that sales from smartphone devices have grown 53% from Q1 2015 to Q1 2016, and a recent report predicted that mobile devices will be responsible for 20.6% of all ecommerce activity in 2016.

The upturn in mobile sales is not surprising considering the amount of time customers are spending on their mobile phones (up to five hours a day), but it has also been shown that 85% of that time is spent within apps. This is causing the mobile discussion to move away from simply having a mobile responsive store (something that is now more of an imperative than it is an option), to talk of fully transactional mobile apps – something that I heard discussed heavily over both coffee and cocktails at MLUK16.

However, it is not a straight forward solution – while it is true that users are spending a lot of their time within apps, it is on average being divided between only five applications. The leading category of which is social media, rather than ecommerce. This makes the app market hugely competitive and can see the expensive production of in-house apps leaving companies with a low to negative ROI. Indeed, recent research actually shows that while retailers are continuously releasing retail apps for Android and IOS, in its current state the majority of money generated by mobile sales is coming from the mobile web and not through transactional apps.

This could be a trend that is bucked for globally well-known and loved brands, however. A staggering statistic that one audience member offered in the ‘Ecommerce conversations’ discussion was that 50% of all Topshop online sales can be attributed to their mobile app alone.  

The general consensus from the conversations I both overheard and partook in at the event was that it depends on the size and type of the brand. Really, you need to decide whether an app is necessary and, indeed, useful for your company and your customers.

If you do decide to take the plunge then check out this blog from Smart Insights, which tells you the seven things you should concentrate on. 

 

2. Black Friday, closer than you may think…

Yes, our favorite day of the year is soon approaching! And when I write soon, I mean in five months. I’m not going to lie – when I went to this event I didn’t expect to be discussing this particular American import. But the conversations made one thing clear – retailers have already started their holiday planning. Most of which, at this stage, seems to currently revolve around the fixing of friction points from 2015. These include the optimizing of the checkout process, acquiring more traffic via channels such as Google shopping/Facebook ads, and excelling order fulfilment.

Retailers’ enthusiasm for what may appear to be overly enthusiastic preparations are actually understandable – with Black Friday increasing in popularity amongst consumers and the potential revenue that can be generated rising every year. In fact, last year consumers spent 1.1 billion pounds ($1.64 billion) on Black Friday alone – 35.8% more than in 2014.

But this shopping date is relatively new for the UK ecommerce calendar and with unfamiliar ground comes uncertainty, as UK retailers still get to grips with how to best grab their share of the potential revenue. This was reflected in the discussions that I heard at the conference – that seemed more question, than answer lead. Especially when it comes to driving long-term benefits. While earlier years saw merchants offer huge discounts across the board to get as much traffic through the door as possible, there seemed to be the feeling that this approach would be unsustainable in the long-run. In which case a more strategic approach will be called for – for example, using the holiday as an opportunity to get rid of excess stock or even focusing on the capturing of data rather than conversions, in preparation for the Christmas season. If you are finding yourself asking the same questions, get more insight from our blog post from last year (which is very much still relevant), “6 Tips to Turn The Black Friday Boom Into Long-Term Value”. We hope this sets your mind to rest while getting closer to this sales bonanza!

 

3. Personalization, another way…

Ok, so as a personalization software company you are probably expecting personalization to crop on this list. But bare with me, I promise it’s not what you think…

Now we’ve all heard that personalization is a ‘must have’ in 2016. Why? Because customers, more than anyone else, are customer-centric and they they expect retailers to adopt the same approach – turning retail into ‘me’tail. Effective search, smooth navigation, free shipping and easy returns – while all still very much necessary, are no longer considered unique selling points. The key then for a successful customer engagement strategy is to really listen to your customers and use that information to speak to them individually, offering them the items they are most likely to want to purchase.  

But what about taking this one step further – not only offering them the items most relevant to them, but allowing them to create them (told you it wasn’t what you thought). Now, I’m not going to pretend that this was the number one trend of the conference,  but at an event where so much did focus on the traditional, in the digital sense, definition of personalization – particularly onsite personalization, personalized emails and also tailored video- it was interesting to see another category be added to the list. A great example that was present at the event is Oliver Sweeney, who are making a whole business on this premise. They allow customers to personalize the shoes they’re about to purchase. How? By tattooing on an image or text, chosen by the customer!

 


These types of personalized items have traditionally seen a high demand around Christmas and other holidays, when customers are buying gifts, but they seem to be creeping more and more into the all-year-round demand. Nike, particularly can be seen as leading the way with NikeiD– a whole range of customizable sneakers. Our client, Boomerangstore also offer the ability to create bespoke products with the option of designing your own jacket.

Now, maybe this is something fun that your brand could offer, maybe it wouldn’t work for your business at all (personalized boiler parts, anyone?) but this last point is not so much a trend, but an attitude that I feel is encouraged at every one of these events – a willingness to look at things in a different way. While many companies are looking at the hot topic of personalization as a digital one (something that we, of course, encourage), some companies are taking it’s core concept and applying it in other ways- giving an old approach (who remembers the personalized headbands from the 90s?) a new home in the virtual world. Let the innovation continue!

So, there we go – another year, another conference, another discussion as to how we can make our industry better. What were your key take-aways? And, of course, thanks to all the Magento team for such a great event- I look forward to next year!

Nosto is a Magento Gold Technology partner, as well as the winner of Magento’s Shooting Star Technology Partner award – find out more by clicking the button below.