5 Things We Learned At IMRG Data Summit 2017

The IMRG Data Summit took place on 21 September 2017 in London.

This was a new format of event for us, where we interrogated our unique datasets to examine and debate the latest trends and developments in ecommerce. Our expert panellists and keynote speakers discussed shopper behaviour and debated how online retailers can improve their performance and offerings.

Here our five things we learned.

The shape of the customer funnel

IMRG Director of Data and Retail, Matthew Walsh, gave our opening keynote, in which he revealed some of the insights from IMRG's newly-launched set of metrics in our Quarterly Benchmark.

Market data indicates that, on average, 53% of retail site visitors look at a product page yet the percentage who go on to add a product to their basket, reach the checkout page and finally pay and complete the order falls away. That means that, on average, from 2.5 million site visits, an online retailer can expect only 77,489 orders.

So what can retailers do to improve their customer funnel and lift that conversion rate?

Following the example of the best-performing retailers for customer funnel, consider:

  • making the 'add to basket' button large, green, clear, and on its own line
  • keeping your checkout process to 3-4 pages, with unfolding data input boxes on a clean, white background
  • placing a floating, itemised basket on to your site, so that your customer can see their items as they scroll

Learning from the worst performing retailers, consider avoiding:

  • a poor mobile experience relative to desktop
  • asking for unnecessary information
  • displaying cramped text or small buttons

A working example of the audience-tailored path to purchase

Patrick Osborne, Head of Strategic Insight at QVC, gave a keynote presentation in which he outlined QVC’s strategies for converting their target demographics.

“I was really pleased to be speaking at the IMRG data summit. A great range of speakers from diverse industries and backgrounds
sparked off lots of interesting ideas and food for thought.”

Patrick Osborne, Head of Customer Insights & Analysis (UK & Europe), QVC

The retailer started with what they know about their own offering, and what they know about their typical customer. QVC is not a demand-led retailer. Shoppers come to the TV shopping channel not knowing what (or that) they want to buy. 76% of demand is driven by what product is on air, and 92% of sales are from repeat and reactivated customers.

Because many of QVC’s typical customers aren’t necessarily accustomed to the intricacies of online ordering, the QVC app offers a simple and intuitive three-tap process to purchase. It’s a matter of selecting the desired product, adding it to the basket and clicking checkout.

The QVC app prominently displays the products that are currently live on air, as well as those that were recently, allowing shoppers to select their item as easily as if they were using the ‘traditional’ phone call.

The aim is to present the customer with their expected method of interaction, and to let the uniqueness of your own offering inform the journey.

Cross-sector lessons

Our ‘Cross-sector learnings’ panel explored the challenges and opportunities of the sectors that IMRG tracks, identifying where different sectors can learn from each other.

  • Sally Hunter, Business Data Analyst at 77 Diamonds, explained that they prefer to sell by educating the customer. Their target market are London-based millennials, many of whom might need guidance, in a sector like diamonds and jewellery, as to what to expect for what price.
  • On that note, Dan Steele, Strategic Account Director at Brightcove mentioned that brands are increasingly becoming content providers. He noted that online marketing in many cases focuses on the promotion of brand essence, or a feeling, over a specific product. That involves creating content to communicate that feeling or essence.
  • On the question of the ROI of social media, the panel were quick to highlight how social’s value isn’t measured in the traditional way. Dan noted that “clicks and shares don’t really translate to the bottom line”. A successful social media campaign won’t necessarily lead to sales that are attributable to the campaign. Robert Janes, Sales Director at Thunderhead, said: “Loyalty is more long term.” When you build a relationship and a loyalty through a medium like social (or through good old-fashioned service), it can take some more time to realise the value of the investment.

Navigating the multi-device journey

In our ‘Shopper Behaviour Across Multiple Devices’ panel session, Tom Salmon, Managing Director at Epiphany, reminded the attendees that the customer journey is not linear. Retailers cannot count on shoppers to stick to a particular device at a particular stage of their path to purchase, nor can they be expected to take a particular route through to the purchase. In Tom’s words, what matters is “Context, context, context.” Presenting a customer with messaging and content that is relevant to their progress is the greatest customer journey aspiration for a retailer.

Jon Buss, Managing director at Yext, discussed the changing landscape of search. He pointed out that 20% of searches are now voice searches, and that comScore predicts that the proportion will be 50% by 2020. Since voice search terms tend to be longer than typed ones, this demands greater levels of data from retailers to offer the necessary relevance.

That’s especially true when Siri or Google offer maps, price info, and star ratings from just a simple voice search, offering local results even without the searcher inputting a ‘near me’ term or similar.

The Bad News Metrics

Our panel discussed the ‘bad news’ metrics — returns, bounce rate, basket and checkout abandonment etc.

IMRG Director of Strategy and Insight, Andy Mulcahy, began with the statistic that basket abandonment has remained, on average, around a stubborn 60% for most of online retail history, and it doesn’t seem to change.

Sumeet Ambre, Global Commerce & Digital Marketing Manager at Tateossian, noted that “the numbers can be quite depressing, especially around November and December”. He recommended decreasing abandonment by:

  • Simplifying online forms
  • Shortening the checkout process
  • Providing a progress indicator for checkout forms
  • Advertising delivery charges up front
  • Earning and displaying a trust badge to assure shoppers of payment security

Miriam Newton, VP Product Marketing at Criteo, mentioned that their recent shopper survey has confirmed that roughly half of shoppers browse multiple online stores when searching for one specific type of product, and use the basket function as a sort of bookmark. In many cases, the abandonment is not so much a symptom of the retailer’s failure, but the shopper’s research habit.

Andy revealed average checkout abandonment averages

  • 40% on smartphones
  • 31% on tablets
  • 29% on desktops

He also noted that the #1 reason that shoppers cited for abandoning the checkout was that they had changed their minds.

Eliot Clayton, Vice President at Conversant Media, warned that to obsess over checkout abandonment is to risk missing an important focus on lifetime customer value. It’s not as important to ensure that one immediate sale as to ensure return visits from the customer.


For another look at IMRG data on abandonment rates and a discussion of how retailers can reduce them, join our forum ‘Reviewing checkout abandonment ahead of peak'.

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