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What's Hot in the UK's Online Retail?

During the autumn, there has been (at least) two major e-commerce events in London: first E-Commerce Expo at the end of September and in October Internet Retailing Conference. I think it's now a time to give an update on what is hot topics in the UK's e-commerce space.

During E-Commerce Expo the venue, Olympia, was buzzing with everything related to e-commerce, customer service, and marketing technologies (this expo was three events wrapped together). The e-commerce part included a multitude of vendors with tools for everything from building online stores to email marketing, and agencies doing everything from "ready" online shops to offering SEO and CRO services. On customer service side we had everything from contact centre solutions to tools for analysing customer service agents' efficiency.

The Internet Retailing Conference was fairly smaller and much more focused event. Most of the attention was on three tracks of speakers: engage, grow, and transform. These tracks were full of interesting presentations about subjects like winning omnichannel execution, international e-commerce, and spotting future trends, all of them covered under the umbrella of new horizons. Vendors, even in limited numbers, included a broad range of solutions: from FedEx's deliveries to full e-commerce platforms.

At E-Commerce Expo it was almost instantly clear that one topic would be above others: conversational commerce. Conversational Commerce means "utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots that heretofore have had no real place in the bidirectional, asynchronous messaging context" (according to Chris Messinaa). The topic wasn't covered just by keynote speakers as exhibitors included companies offering tools for conversational commerce, for example, chatbots. After E-Commerce Expo I was ready to declare this as the event when conversational commerce hits the mainstream in the UK.

Conversational Commerce was a less highlighted topic during Internet Retailing Conference. It was a subject that every once and a while popped up while discussing customer experience. For example, during Lego's presentation chatbots were introduced briefly as something Lego would test in the future. Also, Google's keynote included glimpses of their vision for (conversational) commerce as it highlighted the role of one of their recent product releases, a virtual assistant.

Customer experience was in the focus of the Internet Retailing Conference. This topic was discussed from multiple angles. Boots’ Director of Omnichannel & Development, Robin Phillips gave one of the most impressive presentations, in which he explained how Boots' handles over 200 million targeted customer communications each year through digital and print.

After comparing these events to the previous Expo I attended in the UK, I must say that the lay of the land has changed. After April's IRX, I highlighted three hot themes: SEO agencies moving to CRO space, retailers fighting shopping cart abandonment, and customer experience becoming an important focus area. Back then chatbots were only "bubbling under." Now conversational commerce and chatbots have taken centre stage along with customer experience. Much in the similar manner as I reported after attending September's DMEXCO in Germany.

Do you agree with my opinions of what hot in the online retail in the UK?


This blog has been published Dec 17 2016 on LinkedIn Pulse. See the original here.
Ilkka Vertanen

Ilkka Vertanen

Hi! I'm Ilkka Vertanen, sales fanatic & e-commerce enthusiast. I empower sales & customer service teams with chatbots. Earlier, I helped firms to optimise their live chat operations. Happy to help!

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