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Round Table Summary – The Future of E-Commerce

This month’s e-commerce themed round table broaches a massive range of topics within the e-commerce umbrella. Our communications director Jonathan Bowers hosted the event as usual and attendees are Nick Rhind, MD of CTI Digital, David Grimes, director at myParcelDelivery, Liam Ahern of I-Com, Rob Walters of thefurnituremarket and UKFast’s very own technical director Neil Lathwood.

Here we take a look at the key points raised throughout the two-hour debate.

The future of e-commerce is a prominent idea running through the debate, with the main focus on mobile and tablet commerce as opposed to the traditional e-commerce routes through a PC or laptop.

 

Walters said: “Mobile and iPad sales are so high at the moment; I think that it is going to be big business. I recently saw an advert where people were holding up an iPad to visualise where a piece of furniture could go. Add this to developments in 3D technology and I think tablet sales could be very significant, especially in the furniture market.”

Rhind continues: “It is the same thing as augmented reality where you are able to visualise items in your home. I think this is where unbranded goods can start to compete, other than on price.

UKFAST e-commerce round table attendee Nick Rhind
Nick Rhind of CTI Digital

“Technology is rapidly advancing to provide a much richer experience because e-retailers cannot compete with bricks and mortar stores on the ‘touch and feel’ factor, augmented reality brings down some of that barrier. You can actually see that item in your room now which is not something you can do in a store, so it is better in this sense.”

How can the High Street stores compete with these advancements in technology when online prices are so low? Our panel suggest that geo-location technology could prove to be the high-street’s last stand against internet retailers.

Rhind explains that bricks and mortar stores need to capitalise on the things that online retailers can’t offer – a face-to-face conversation, accessible bespoke advice – as well as embracing new trends, such as price comparisons through smartphone technologies.

He says: “Shops need to react. If they see someone scanning a product, they need to give them the offer before they leave the store. Add the value there and then.

“Offer to set up the product or service for free or give them three months’ free warranty or something. More often than not, they will be happy to avoid the hassle of going elsewhere online to fill in their details and wait for delivery etc.

“Stores need to be able to spot it and react successfully in a very short space of time.”

Walters highlights the importance of giving consumers the choice to opt into this approach to avoid privacy issues, he said: “If people opt in and turn their Bluetooth on when they walk into Tesco because they might benefit from an offer, that’s fine and that’s where it will work. Otherwise the privacy issues are endless. But that choice is crucial.”

The panel then go on to discuss e-commerce for SMEs. They emphasise the importance of properly analysing web traffic for SMEs, and warn that incomplete analysis can be an expensive mistake.

Ahern says: “There is a lot of data and part of optimising a site is gathering it all and analysing it. We need to know why customers buy a product before we can make decisions on how to improve a website.”

Rhind adds: “Making a change to a website can make or lose millions. Clients have asked us to build their site around one page because they have seen that it gets a lot of views. In fact, it is their worst converting page and they haven’t looked at all of their figures. We need to look at information as a whole to fully understand a site.”

In light of the recent trial of fraudster Iain Wood who stole more than £35,000 from his neighbours after using their social network profiles to gain access to their bank accounts, the panel are drawn to the topic of security at the mention of ‘social commerce’.

Rhind said: “People put in the names of their pets names on these sites but when you think about it, what is the security question for your bank account: what is the name of your pet? We have given all of this information out through Facebook.”

Bowers notes the clear shift in attitude to online security since the ignition of social networks, he says: “We seem to have forgotten that years ago there was a massive thing about the privacy of our data on the internet and we don’t seem to care now because it allows us to have a better online experience.”

“People definitely need to be more cautious about who they allow access to their social network profiles,” explains Neil Lathwood, technical director at UKFast. “Cyber-criminals do not need to hack into your account to see your details if you do not have the correct security settings. Locking down your profile, or only including the most basic of personal details is the only way to protect yourself online.

“We all need to check our security settings and be aware of the potential value of the information that we share.”

The round table panel express concern over our readiness to link our profiles to business pages, allowing them open-access to our data.

Rhind says: “People receive requests from businesses to link to their profile page, for an offer or discount, and they see it as Facebook and something to trust. In fact, a third party has just asked for all of our information and we have said yes. They now know our name, age, where we live, what we like and all of our personal details.

“This not only opens us up to spam and junk-mail, it is handing our information over to people who we do not know – but we trust because it is through Facebook. They could be anyone.”

As usual, video summaries of all of our round table debates are available on UKFast.tv .

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