Online channels are constantly changing the face of ecommerce, and the likes of mobile and social media are playing an important role in this. This is supported by a parallel access to data, where industry leaders are constantly looking at ways to put data into action at every point of the shopping journey. These were some of the points that Criteo stresses on. The performance marketing agency also calls for data sharing and collaboration in order to boost the ecommerce sector in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region.
In the recent past, Criteo has been using and sharing real life data to investigate trends, and what’s driving the industry. “The interesting thing is that no matter which country we look at, things that are impacting this industry are very much the same, irrespective of whether it is the US or the UAE or Europe,” commented Dirk Henke, Managing Director, Emerging Markets, Criteo.
Despite the rise in ecommerce, very specifically in the last decade, the total number of people using ecommerce platforms is small with only 9 percent of total retail in US coming from ecommerce, and 3 percent in the Gulf region.
Putting Data To Work
Smartphone proliferation has further fuelled the ecommerce market, and in MENA it is expected to grow to USD 20 billion by 2020. For Criteo’s clients, 80 percent of the total ecommerce purchase this year in the region has been through mobile devices. It was at 50 percent last year.
The hard part for any digital shop is to be visible to the target audience. Even with smartphones and smart devices people spend more time on social media and very less on online shopping. Another challenge is multi screening, where a user logs in from several different devices before making an actual purchase. The flip side to this is that it provides more opportunity to target the same customer.
Mr Henke pointed out that the key point is not about collecting data but activating it. He said, “You have to know how to utilize data to generate value and use it as real information. The difficulty with multi screening and multi devices is matching the data. We should be able to map the same consumer, across the devices, from the first touchpoint to the actual purchase. There are individual data sets that need to be matched for this.”
Criteo is doing this by developing identity graphs, where it uses different data sources to identify the customer. The requirement here is technology that helps connect the dots rather than just access the data itself.
Another important area to watch out for is collaboration and data sharing. Mr Henke believes that data sharing can influence ecommerce significantly. Most commerce players market on the basis of strategies created by their own data sets and systems. “That means they only look at the fraction of the whole available shopping community. Sharing injects unique information into the pool. And there is a lot of interesting cross sharing today. A classic example is between hotels and travel booking sites, where sharing information can help target relevant people or re-engage,” Mr Henke said.
The Social Impact On Ecommerce
As consumers set the trends that the industry innovates for, understanding the role that social media plays in ecommerce has become imperative.
Social media influences ecommerce in many ways. The most important of these may be around the contextual discovery experiences. “Due to social media, product meets customer and not the other way round. Social media platforms such as Facebook command a significant base and track user behavior, which allows them to recommend products even when people are not shopping. The big impact of social media on ecommerce is in the notion of the passive shopping. When a right recommendation is made, a passive shopper converts into an active one,” explained Ivano Ortis, Vice President of IDC.
Mr Ortis is of the opinion that the industry is headed into a new era of ecommerce. “We have been accelerating in the past year in the region and we know that global realities are manifesting here as well,” he said, summarizing, “There is still some uncertainty about how to bring this new future of commerce strategy to life or what are the next steps to enable the strategic goals. Marketers need new skills and technology. They also need to invest in changing the organization, beginning with the process capabilities. How they frame to deliver consistently is the interesting discussion.”