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Stuart O'Brien

GUEST BLOG: How eCommerce marketers can crack the customer retention code

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By Conor McGrath, Head of UK and Nordic Clients at parcelLab

The changing nature of business means that few statistics stand the test of time. But one particular figure from over a decade ago by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company – originally published in the Harvard Business Review – continues to crop up when talking about the importance of customer retention. It says that increasing customer retention rates by 5% boosts profits by between 25% to 95%.

This statistic continues to feature to this day in various online publications, including both Forbes and Advertising Week – with the latter going as far as to proclaim retention as “the next frontier for today’s CMO”. The NEXT frontier? Doesn’t everyone know already that it’s cheaper to keep a current customer than find a new one?

Despite this piece of common knowledge, many companies still don’t champion retention as a top priority. This is certainly true in online retail, where the sudden growth in e-commerce has caused a rush to acquire customers by making the browsing and buying journey as smooth as possible and through new business strategies. The same effort has not been put into building loyalty in order to retain customers.

In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, keeping hold of customers has never been more important, which is why the profile of retention is currently being raised. Brands and retailers should be looking at creating year-long engagement and personalised, consistent communication with their consumers all year round and instead of constantly chasing new customers, turning the focus to creating loyal customers for life.

Ironically, one of the best ways online retailers can boost customer retention and loyalty is only practised by a minority of companies in the sector. The technique is communicating directly with customers once they have made a purchase during the shipping and returns phase. Most online retailers leave post-purchase communication to their courier company. In fact, only 11 of Britain’s 100 largest online retailers contact their shoppers directly during shipping*. By not doing this they are missing out on a big opportunity to drive immediate repurchase and retain customers.

Encouragingly, according to Dentsu Aegis Network’s CMO Report, 83% of CMOs identify the importance of seamless customer experience and commerce across channels, yet only 60% believe they are developing this capability well. So, what can marketers do to improve on this?

The answer is to invest more in the overall customer experience to retain loyal customers, rather than constantly seeking out new ones. A smooth post-checkout experience is paramount for customer loyalty, retention and repeat purchases. Retailers have a huge opportunity to extend their marketing and customer service strategy into and during the delivery window. Otherwise, the customer experience will continue to be poor and revenue opportunities will be missed. By taking control of the customer journey post-checkout, retailers can improve retention dramatically, reduce customer service enquiries significantly and increase revenue.

Assuming control of the post-purchase communications process means online brands and retailers can be more attentive and pro-active during shipping, keeping their customers better informed and in doing so increasing the number of marketing touchpoints. Each message can also be branded in terms of look and tone, reinforcing brand awareness. Personalised offers can be included in shipping and returns messages, together with suggestions for complementary purchases, turning the post-purchase phase into a marketing channel – and one that achieves 60% to 70% open rates on average.

Closing the post-purchase communications gap in this way not only drives customers back to your website but encourages repeat purchases, proving that it’s an excellent way to retaining customers and boosting sales.

Bain & Company’s retention statistic is the kind of universal business statistic that ages well, as it crosses sectors, industries and trends. Keeping a customer doesn’t only cost less than acquiring one, it also drives revenue by a considerable amount – and that’s why Bain & Company’s retention statistic very much still holds true!

*parcelLab’s UK E-Commerce Shipping Survey 2019

Access to Cash Review warns Chancellor over digital economy

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Campaign group Action to Cash Review has warned incoming Chancellor Rishi Sunak that the abandonment of cash as a means of payment could scupper the economy and leave many sections of society financially isolated.

The move came as the group revealed data that indicates less than 10% of transactions will be made in cash by 2030, with calls for the government to legislate to ensure that people will always have access to paper money, especially outside of the cash ATM system. For example, it’s currently illegal for shops to offer ‘cash back’ if no purchase has been made.

Speaking to BBC News Access to Cash Review’s Natalie Ceeney said: “We must ensure the shift to digital doesn’t leave millions behind or put our economy at risk… The UK is fast becoming a cashless society – without knowing what this really means for consumers or for the UK economy.”

Figures highlighted earlier this month by Which? show the amount paid by consumers to withdraw cash jumped by £29m to £104m last year – as many free machines vanished or were converted to charge fees.

In contrast, this seismic shift in the cashpoint network has saved the banks £120m since January 2018, according to data from Link, which runs the UK’s largest cashpoint network.

More than 8,700 free ATMs have closed since changes to how the Link cashpoint network is funded were pushed through with no regulatory oversight in January 2018, following lobbying by the banks.

Between 2018 and 2019 the percentage of fee-charging machines jumped by 37 per cent (from 11,120 to 15,277) and they now comprise a quarter (25%) of the entire network of 60,291 machines – leaving countless communities having to pay up to £2 just to withdraw their money.

These changes have seen the number of times people have had to pay to withdraw cash increase from 46m in 2018 to 73m in 2019 – a rise of 59 per cent in a single year.

The banks are also saving vast sums through branch closures – with 1,203 having closed since January 2018 alone. These ongoing closures have drastically reduced people’s ability to access free withdrawals across the UK.

The independent Access to Cash Review was established to consider consumer requirements for cash over the next five to fifteen years.

It says its main objective is to ensure that there remains an effective and inclusive cash access service that meets the needs of all consumers, regardless of their personal circumstances, for as long as necessary.

Image by Sebastian Ganso from Pixabay

eCommerce industry 2020 buying trends revealed

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CRM, Customer Retention & Loyalty, Consultancy and Cloud-based systems top the list of solutions the UK’s leading eCommerce professionals are sourcing in 2020.

The findings have been revealed after the last eTailing Summit and are based on delegate requirements at the recent 2020 event.

Delegates registering to attend the event were asked which areas they needed to invest in during 2020 and beyond.

A significant 80% each are looking to invest in CRM, Customer Retention & Loyalty, Consultancy and Cloud-based systems.

Just behind were A/B testing Solutions (40%), AI Analytics (40%) and Chatbots (also 40%).

% of delegates at the eTailing Summit sourcing certain products & solutions (Top 10):

CRM 80
Customer Retention & Loyalty 80
Consultancy 60
eCommerce Cloud Based Solutions 60
A/B Testing Solutions 40
AI Analytics 40
Chatbots 40
Conversion Rate Optimisation 40
Cross Border Payments 40
Interactive Media 40

To find out more about the eTailing Summit, visit

Do you specialise in Mobile Optimisation or Card Payment Solutions? We want to hear from you!

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Each month on eCommerce & Payments Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on different parts of the market – and in March we’ll be focussing on Mobile Optimisation or Card Payment Solutions. It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help eCommerce management buyers find the best products and services available today. So, if you’re a supplier of Mobile Optimisation or Card Payment Solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Craig Ross on 01992 666726 or email Mar – Mobile Optimisation / Card Payment Solutions Apr – Conversion Rate Optimisation / Fraud Management May – A/B Testing Platforms / Mobile Payments Jun – Multi-Channel / mWallets Jul – Affiliate Marketing / Payments Processor Aug – Email Marketing / Payment Service Provider Sep – Google Shopping / Chargeback Systems Oct – Personalisation / Artificial Intelligence Nov – PPC / Account Issuing & Merchant Dec – SEO / Payment Solution Software For more information on any of the above, contact Craig Ross on 01992 666726 or email

Digital Customer Engagement Summit returns this October – registration open!

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Following its successful debut in 2019, registration is now open for this autumn’s Digital Customer Engagement Summit.

Register for your complimentary guest place today.

What can I expect?

Taking place on October 13th at the Hilton London Canary Wharf, the Digital Customer Engagement Summit allows senior customer service professionals to share forward-thinking ideas, meet new partners and discover new ways to underpin their customer engagement strategies.

It’s entirely FREE for you to attend and your complimentary guest pass includes:

• A bespoke itinerary of pre-arranged meetings with product and service providers who match your requirements and upcoming projects
• Access to a series of seminars by industry thought-leaders
• Networking with like-minded peers
• Complimentary lunch and refreshments

How Do I Get Involved?

We have just 60 guest passes available, so register your free place today.

‘Smart window poster’ allows contactless donations on High Street

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A ‘smart window poster’ which allows contactless donations to be made to the homeless has been installed for the first time on a British high street.

The contactless technology is being trialled at Nationwide’s Union Street branch in Bath, Somerset – which could revolutionise charitable donations.

Each tap donates £3 directly to homeless people in the area, with users being able to tap multiple times per visit.

The trial, which raised £400 in the first week, comes as the building society continues to invest millions in branches up and down the country to support communities.

It is hoped the initiative will make it easier for people to donate money, in addition to instilling confidence in those who feel uncomfortable giving cash directly to homeless people.

The ‘Good Start Tap to Donate’ scheme, which is managed by local homeless charity Julian House, was developed with Nationwide Building Society and Bath Business Improvement District.

All money raised will go towards the Julian House Good Start fund, which will help improve and eradicate homelessness in Bath and North East Somerset.

Nationwide branch manager Stephanie Pritchard said: “At a time when many people don’t have spare change or may not wish to hand it directly to someone who is homeless, having a contactless point in the window of the branch has bridged the gap. This novel way of raising money for a fantastic cause is a great example of how technology is playing a role in helping society, one tap at a time.”

As a payment method, contactless usage continues to rapidly rise. During 2018 the number of contactless payments made in the UK increased by 31 per cent, to 7.4 billion payments, according to a UK Finance report.

Other charities and not-for-profit organisations, including The Big Issue, have also recently turned to contactless payments as a way of securing revenue.

Roanne Wootten, operations director for Julian House, said: “Tapping could fund welcome packs, which include toiletries and sanitary products in crisis accommodation, new bedding and essentials when moving into supported housing, a birth certificate, a passport or a driving licence. Fundamentally it is about the person and what they need to help them to come off the streets – it will be different for everyone.”

Top five trends influencing ecommerce fulfilment

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Johannes Panzer, Head of Industry Solutions, Ecommerce, Descartes

As ecommerce evolves, customer expectations to get what they want — when, where, and how they want it — will only continue to intensify and further challenge organisations in 2020 and beyond. The times when search and price were the only criteria for purchasing decisions are gone, and retailers today need airtight ecommerce strategies that promote and sustain domestic and international growth to drive positive results.

Part of the challenge is having effective processes in place to ensure products are seamlessly, quickly and accurately delivered after consumers click to purchase, and the value of order fulfilment optimisation has become one of the most important factors in achieving this.  For those retailers that aren’t leveraging fulfilment as a competitive weapon and enhancing their workflows with automation technologies, the risk of losing out to the competition is a growing reality.

As companies continue to identify fulfilment operations as a differentiator to both the customer experience and the bottom line, here are the top 5 trends that retailers should keep front of mind to remain competitive:

1. The rise of marketplaces: The growth in ecommerce marketplace platforms has given way to new opportunities for both domestic as well as international sales, and more companies are looking to join in — with the overall market predicted to reach $40.1 billion in revenue by 2022. The UK online marketplace alone is forecast to rise by €15.2 billion over the next five years, with Amazon and eBay set to account for over 90 per cent of these transactions. Collaboration between bricks and mortar retail outlets and online players for delivery collections and returns drop-offs directly at stores is the best approach.

2. Data, data, and more data: Ecommerce ecosystems are complex, and with heightened consumer expectations around delivery options and experience, the interchange of data and the required connectivity is increasing exponentially between the different players involved, such as marketplaces, payments, logistics providers, and carriers. This has and will only continue to require more real-time data than ever before, including the analytics that can help companies make meaningful sense of the data and inform decision-making to drive ongoing success

3. The opportunity for new technology like AR in warehouses: This isn’t just relevant for a marketplace front-end with image searches and virtual dressing and fitting rooms. In fact, augmented reality (AR) is growing in the warehouse and helping to support intra-logistics workflows and make work processes more productive and decision-making more intelligent. Examples of this include “cycle counting,” or finding bin-locations to count quicker and identify those that are in use, “put away” that helps determine empty bin-locations faster, and “picking” for visual guidance that reveals opportunities to reduce search times and improve accuracy for picking the right item in the warehouse.

4. Automation and robotics: While some may fear that automation and robotics will replace humans altogether, this is not the case — at least for the near future. Rather, the application of these types of technologies in the supply chain will increasingly help companies enhance synergies and improve productivity. Even at Amazon’s fulfilment centres where robots have been introduced, the technology is meant to assist associates, drive faster shipping times, and maximise available inventory – not completely eliminate the need for human effort. In fact, the company says that fully automated, “lights-out warehouses” are a decade away.

While the upfront cost of some types of these technologies might deter early adoption, the potential cost savings can benefit the bottom line. This can also be treated as an incremental journey, starting with automating single processes like packing machines and conveyor belts, and gradually moving up to more automated picking process with robotics systems.

5. Rising costs: Between increased minimum wages for employees and rising shipping, carrier, property, and marketplace costs, the concern around margins will not disappear. Many will be hard-pressed to find ways to manage these expenses effectively and lower the risk of bleeding money. By focusing on two major fulfilment components — streamlining and improving logistics processes — ecommerce companies will be better positioned to mitigate extra spend. They may also find new opportunities to sell additional value-added services including more shipping options, such as time-specified or next-day delivery windows, additional set up service for bulky products, free shipping if a customer is willing to wait a few days longer, or an additional fee for two-day delivery. This cultivates greater competitive differentiation plus generates greater revenue down the line.

According to eMarketer, global ecommerce sales are projected to reach $6.5 trillion by 2023 and the potential for companies to capitalise on this burgeoning market is high. That said, it’s imperative that companies consider the trends that will continue to influence the industry and the technologies that will help address them. With the right technology and approach, retailers can stay ahead of the competition, win consumer loyalty, and drive ongoing business success in 2020 and in years to come.

Image by Free stock photos from from Pixabay

Millennials move Magway over the £1 million crowdfunding mark

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Magway a British engineering start-up which plans to revolutionise the UK’s freight delivery market with its sustainable network of underground pipes, has exceeded its initial £750,000 crowdfunding target.

Magway has smashed through the £1 million mark and has to date attracted over 1,700 investors willing to back the UK’s first underground ecommerce delivery network.

Almost 45% of Magway’s Crowdcube investors are aged between 18-30-years-old, an indication perhaps of how younger generations of GenZ and millennials have become more environmentally aware and, despite being under greater financial pressure than previous generations, are willing to invest their money into big ideas that involve innovative, ground-breaking clean technologies to safeguard the planet.

Recent research from Kantar supports this trend and reveals that almost 90% of consumers agree that companies need to take more responsibility for the impact they have on the environment, while those most concerned about pollution and the issue of global warming are aged 16-24-years.

Magway will initially provide short delivery routes for airports such as Heathrow and Stansted, helping to alleviate freight traffic. Construction of a wider UK network of pipes, spanning hundreds of kilometres is expected to start in 2023.

Magway’s technology is being marketed at forward-looking online retailers and logistics firms that are planning for a more sustainable, reliable and ultimately affordable means of distribution.

Anna Daroy, Managing Director of Magway, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to our crowdfunding campaign. It shows that people, particularly younger generations, are prepared to back innovative businesses, such as Magway, in their drive to change existing, out-dated modes of transportation, and in doing so, help improve air quality and the wider environment.

“Without a significant step change in managing how billions of parcels and goods reach our doors, delivery traffic will continue to increase along with the levels of toxic air we breathe.

“As the first major economy in the world to legally commit to zero emissions by 2050, the UK Government has taken positive steps towards reducing global warming, but more can be done and ‘business as usual’ won’t cut it. Therefore, we need big ideas, such as Magway, which represents a step-change in the way we currently deliver goods. We believe that built at scale, Magway could help reduce the UK’s C02 emissions by 6 million tonnes per annum. That’s the equivalent to a third of the delivery vehicle emissions in the UK.”

SAVE THE DATE: eTailing Summit Summer 2020

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The next eTailing Summit will be taking place on July 7th at the Hilton London Canary Wharf.

Don’t delay! Register here.

This could be the most productive day you spend out of the office this year. But we are closing the event this week for applications, so act swiftly if you want to join us.

You’ll have the opportunity to:-

• Meet with innovative suppliers for a series of face-to-face, pre-arranged meetings based on your own requirements.
• Network with like-minded peers.
• Attend a series of insightful seminar sessions.
• Enjoy complimentary lunch and refreshments.

Would you like to join us? Register today!

Your complimentary Smarter Payment Summit guest pass is waiting

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There’s a complimentary guest pass reserved for you to attend the Smarter Payments Summit – Can you join 60 of your peers?

8 September – Hilton London Canary Wharf

This unique event is entirely FREE for you to attend – simply reserve your place here for the opportunity to:-

  • Source new innovative and budget-saving suppliers
  • Learn from inspirational seminar sessions hosted by industry thought-leaders
  • Network with like-minded events professionals and corporate bookers who share your challenges
  • Enjoy complimentary lunch and refreshments

RSVP now to avoid disappointment!