5 things we learned at eCommerce Expo

At eCommerce Expo 2017, the IMRG Digital Customer Theatre hosted a two-day programme of roundtables, keynotes, Q&As, and panel sessions to tackle current challenges in online retail, and to interrogate the latest information on customer behaviour, ecommerce logistics, and regulation.

Here are five things we learned.

GDPR isn’t all that scary

In a panel session hosted by IMRG’s head of insight Andrew McClelland, Andy Kimble of Bond Dickinson said, “GDPR is building on existing principles. There’s a lot of scare-mongering.” He went on to explain that “the regulator has been clear that fines [for contravention of GDPR rules] will be proportionate to the severity, to the organisation and its clients, and the due diligence taken. If you put in place relevant measures, that will go a long way.”

There are still some things to beware of:

  • Since the new rules require explicit rather than implicit consent, or soft opt-ins to marketing communications, a retailer could be tempted to send a mass email seeking consent from the existing database. “The regulator considers that a direct marketing effort in itself.” Tread carefully.
  • Camilla Nightingale, Digital Consultant and director at Holbrook Digital: “The customer has the right to withdraw consent, and that needs to be as easy as giving it.”
  • Andrew Kimble: “The law does not just apply to names and email addresses. An IP address can also constitute personal data.” So items like that are subject to the same rules for storage and protection.

A different way to look at ROI

Cally Russel, CEO of aggregate shopping app Mallzee, explained his approach to ROI in his keynote speech ‘Connecting the dots’.

“My mum looked on Instagram for a sofa, looked at a sofa company’s website, looked at another sofa company’s website, then went to M&S and bought a sofa. M&S would think that sale had nothing to do with mobile.”

Cally explained that “experience equals brand-building, and brand-building equals ROI”. On that basis, value doesn’t only come from direct purchases. When a shopper browses your website but makes a purchase elsewhere, if they had a positive experience browsing with you, then that can translate to value in the longer term.

Winning favour with millennials

Millennials are often spoken about as a baffling phenomenon in need of study, or perhaps an exotic ‘other’ with whom anyone older will struggle to connect or empathise.

Freelance marketing director Jason Wills spoke on winning favour with that generation, who may be hard to impress, but are not all that mysterious.

Being a digitally native generation, deeply associated with social media, millennials are inclined to respond to a story. Most social media sites feature built-in biographical information of users — like Twitter ‘bios’ — and apps like Instagram and Snapchat offer ‘stories’ as content formats. Sharing your brand story, if it’s grounded in authenticity, can resonate well with millennials.

Similarly, heritage strikes a chord. Millennials are more than accustomed to internet research, and they’ll be keen to know the facts about your brand and the essence of the company and its offering.

Provenance is another trust-winner. The audience want to know how your product comes to be, where its roots are, and how it reaches them. Millennials grew up in an age of internet-driven transparency, and may not trust a product whose origins are obscure.

Finally, when it comes to publishing the content about your brand, bear in mind what might be ‘shareable’. Social media is of course built around the sharing of information, so make the most of that by producing content that users will want to pass on and show to their friends and followers.

The commercial drivers for UK online retail

IMRG Strategy and Insight Director Andy Mulcahy discussed some of the external influences on online retail.

He shared a view of one pattern in online retail sales, where two years of falling growth rates are followed by a bounce.


One thing this pattern maps on to is the major release of new devices that extend the context of online shopping. In 2010 came the iPad. By 2013, mobile devices (tablets and smartphones) were accounting for 25% of online sales. In 2016, sales through smartphones accelerated rapidly. New tech with greater capabilities perhaps inspires and facilitates more purchases, as it extends the contexts in which people can browse and shop. Should the pattern continue, and if technology is driving it, that would mean that 2019 would be the year for an ecommerce bump from the release of a new tablet or smartphone. The question is what that device would be.

Then there are some challenges that retail and retailers can face, among which are:

  • Political upheaval can cause currency instability. Sterling seems to take a hit every time the UK government mentions anything about Brexit.
  • The media can attack. There is a great deal of scrutiny on retailers when it comes to tax, working conditions, and pay. If any part of the logistics or supply chain is found to be lacking in these areas, the retailer is guilty by association.
  • Major discounting events are becoming more frequent. Prime Day is getting bigger, events like International Women’s Day have resulted in related offers from some retailers, and there’s always the potential for events like Singles’ Day in China to migrate. The pressure to participate means pressure on margins and logistics.

What customers really want from delivery

IMRG Head of e-Logistics, Andrew Starkey, shared some data form IMRG’s 2017 Home Delivery Review, supported by Blu-Jay, which surveyed online shoppers for their preferences around online delivery.

  • Home remains the preferred delivery location “by a country mile”. 84% of respondents choose home as their first choice.
  • Click and collect is popular more as an economical option than a convenient one.

  • Only 10% would pay £1 extra for click and collect, and 10% would pay up to £2. Two thirds would not consider paying anything extra.
  • A good delivery experience inspires repeat purchases.


For more online retail insights and data, as well as a hearty meal, join us at our upcoming events:


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