People-Centric Analytics: Why Online Retailers Should Use It

By Criteo

By John Gillan - Managing Director Northern Europe at Criteo

It will come as no surprise to anyone following this blog that UK consumers are big into mobile buying. Our latest Cross-Device Report shows they browse and buy in near equal measure across devices. And smartphones (largely iPhones) now account for about a third of all online retail sales in the UK, which is a stunning 41% increase over last year.

The twist to this story, however, is the increasing amount of data showing how much multi-device behaviour takes place in the course of a single shopping trip. The path to buying a single springtime mac jacket may involve clicking on an ad, browsing options on a retail site, visiting other sites for comparison and finally returning to the original site to cull out rejects and make a purchase.

This complex path to a single transaction increasingly takes place episodically and on multiple devices: 36% of all online UK transactions involved two or more devices in Q4 2016. Without cross-device measurement, retail marketers risk miscalculating key metrics and ROI for one in three transactions.

Essentially, a device-centric approach doesn’t provide the whole picture for the retailer. Nor does it offer the best experience for the shopper, proving that now more than ever, online retailers need to use people-centric analytics to provide a more seamless experience for shoppers.

Think back to London Fashion Week last month. In the U.K., the Fashion & Luxury vertical banks more mobile sales than any other, and during Fashion Week thousands of on-the-go London consumers were out there with mobiles in hand, looking up, blogging about, critiquing, and shopping for the styles and designers showcased. In such an instance, the retailer who lacks cross-device tracking fails to recognise a consumer on mobile, and displays an empty basket right at the moment the consumer is ready to check out.

What does people-centric really mean?

The multi-device path to purchase means it’s not enough to have a presence across devices – a mobile-enabled website and high-functioning app. Marketers must now consider how all these components work together to create a single, seamless experience for the customer who wants to grab any device and pick up a shopping trip right where he or she left off.

This is what creating “people-centric focused” analytics strategy is all about. It means marketers must now go beyond thinking about what’s right for the device (rendering, etc.) and instead focus on what’s right for the shopper (personalisation, relevance, convenience).

This can be daunting from a technology standpoint, but when you align your user experience and your measurement strategy to the way consumers actually buy, you will be more competitive online, optimise more efficiently and spend more effectively.

The people-centric experience

Consumers aren’t asking for the world, – but they do expect an online experience that feels like one world, not many. If they add an item to basket on a desktop, they expect to find it there waiting when they use a tablet or mobile.

And that nuanced and personalised chronology of ad messages, relevant product images, and offers you use to move consumers down the funnel must flow unfettered across devices, which means identifying your consumer at every touchpoint.

If you have been courting Sophie on her PC with personalised ads for example, you don’t want to suddenly treat her like a stranger when she starts browsing on her tablet. You’ll not only disconnect with Sophie, you’ll also create an opportunity for your competition move in with a relevant and personalised offer that takes Sophie in a different direction.

(See this previous post about single customer view for more on the benefits of people-centric analytics.)

Establishing person-centric measurement

There is another aspect to the device- vs. people-centric analytics discussion that retailers must also come to terms with, and that’s measurement. Older measurement models look at activity per device, providing only a partial view of a multi-device journey.

Using conventional device-focused analytics in this era of multi-device shopping journey will lead you to significantly undervalue consumer engagement and miss opportunities to optimise your spend. In other words, you won’t know your most lucrative consumers when you see them and your metrics will be skewed.

In the UK, for example, our research shows that applying cross-device measurement that aligns with a user-centric strategy typically reveals conversion rates that are 1.4x higher than what you would record using a device-centric approach. Without accurately identifying each consumer at every touchpoint (which is the essence of cross-device measurement) you’re going to underrate intent and underinvest in high-potential users.

Cross-device measurement reveals other insights as well. On top of recording more conversions, it also reveals more product views than conventional analytics suggest, shows more items added and more transactions completed. Thus revealing that the consumer journey is much longer than previously thought – 41% longer than what a single-device view would indicate.

This discrepancy in particularly meaningful, because you could be using that extra exposure to keep the consumer engaged with your brand, display enticing product choices and otherwise move the user toward conversion. And again, if you don’t fill the gap, your competitors will.

A positive change in perspective

Shifting toward consumer-centric cross-device identification and measurement is really the only way to see and resolve bottlenecks in your funnel, spend budget optimally, foil competitive poaching, and optimise marketing based on a complete and accurate understanding of each consumer’s value and potential.

Device-by-device marketing, measurement and engagement simply doesn’t match up with the way UK consumers shop and buy. Every retail marketer, in every major geo must start connecting the dots.

A cross-device perspective with people-centric analytics is the only way to deliver a seamlessly personalised, relevant and consistent user experience that will differentiate your brand. And only tracking and measuring the full cross-device journey will give you a clear and accurate view of all your transactions and the value of all your users.

And finally, there’s tomorrow to think about. All the dots you connect among devices and platforms will ultimately let you link to offline behaviour of your consumers. (See point five in this article about online fashion retail.) The anonymous identifiers that allow you to understand users across devices will be the key to merging online and offline data – thereby becoming more and more mainstream.

Data from the new Criteo State of Cross-Device Report H2 2016, read the full report

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