5 key e-commerce trends explored at OX Fest ’21

parcelLab recently hosted our flagship event, OX Fest ’21. This was not your average virtual event. OX Fest brought together experts from a range of industries to weigh in on the future of e-commerce. With a mix of live and on-demand speakers, round tables and brainstorming sessions, the event had something for everyone. As we reflect on OX Fest ’21, here are 5 key topics we investigated at the event. You can watch these sessions and more from OX Fest. Get access here.

Jump to a topic:
The sustainability movement
Curating loyal communities
New personalization capabilities
Operations Experience Management
Embodying your brand at every opportunity

The sustainability movement

It is clear that more people are more considerate of what they buy than ever before. Product quality and price are no longer the only key buying motivators. People choose products from brands that share their values. With so much choice in the market, people can look for the brand that best suits their preferences, whether it’s regarding packaging, ingredients, materials etc. For example, if a person is very passionate about reducing their plastic consumption, they may not choose a brand that does not provide recyclable packaging.

Sustainability is a huge movement in e-commerce. Brands are rethinking their processes from sourcing and packaging to delivery, in order to embrace sustainability. But with so many brands jumping on the trend, how can e-commerce retailers go beyond ‘ticking boxes’ and make real change in their organisations? How can brands inspire change in their customers who are fatigued by the influx of eco-messaging? At OX Fest, we tackled these important questions. 

Krissie Leyland, Co-founder of Mindful Commerce, joined us for a session called Sustainability Framework. She said:

For me, a sustainable business considers all three things of people planet, and also profit, but always putting people and planet first. So that encompasses social impact, and also your environmental impact. So it’s thinking not just about how my business harms the planet, but also about people. And basically, if you’re being kind to the planet, you’re also being kind to people because the environment will be a better place, and it will be liveable for a longer time. And then it also goes the other way around, so there’s an intersection between the two, and they kind of go hand in hand.

Curating loyal communities   

Whilst the goal of customer loyalty is nothing new, the opportunities for brands to achieve it are evolving. With breakthroughs in technology enabling increased targeting capabilities, brands are able to tailor the content they create for their various personas. This enables brands to bond with their customers in a new way. Brands can enjoy two-way engagement with their customers, with social listening and online community creation. This is just one way that brands can secure the long-term support of their existing customers. At OX Fest, we explored fresh ways to engage customers into loyal customers.

We were joined by Payal Hindocha, E-Director Customer Engagement Solutions GTM at EMARSYS, who said: 

I think loyalty means different things to different businesses, but the end goal of what they’re actually looking to achieve is how do you get more customers to buy more often at higher values and lower costs? But how they actually do this and how they actually achieve it is what the difference is, and how they measure it in their business is different.

So, for many brands now, customer lifetime value is becoming a board level metric, and it’s used as a measure of success at the health of the business, but how they achieve it may be something different depending on what loyalty means for the business. That needs to flexibly bring all that data together from every system, every source via an API first approach, and really being able to use that data to be able to reward and incentivise any engagement anywhere, is really how you actually execute what loyalty means to a business.

New personalization capabilities

The value of delivering a personalized experience is undeniable. It enables brands to win and keep customers. In a crowded market, brands are exploring every possible avenue to stand out. As the capabilities of personalization improve, it will become an expectation of customers. People will become less willing to receive generic communication from brands, for example. In order to embrace this change, brands must first take stock of their customer data. Having a strong digital foundation, with a smooth system for integrating and processing data will enable brands to leverage personalization quicker. For example, brands can deliver every customer a live tracking page showing the progress of their order. The sooner brands can achieve that solid foundation, the sooner they can reap the rewards.

At OX Fest, we were joined by Nate Harvey. He said:

Storytelling is one of the fundamental cores of human communication. So it’s definitely no surprise that all of these companies are really trying to expand their footprint via storytelling and giving a little bit more information about who they are. They’re really just trying to connect with people. And again, a lot of it’s noise, and some companies don’t do it right, but there’s always going to be those outliers that hit it right on the nose.

And again, it goes way back to what is the use of the story? Why is the story being told? How is the story going to enrich somebody’s life? How is it going to make somebody’s day better? What is the use case of this? And then again what are the points of differentiation? How are you telling a story that  from the dawn of time pretty much every story under the sun has been told a million times? What spin are you putting on this at this date and time? How are you being more responsible?

You can watch Nate’s full session, ‘The Power of Entertainment’ on-demand here.

Pushing boundaries of customer experience

Customer experience is always evolving to adapt to the continuous changes in the market. It is hard for brands to keep up, let alone stay ahead of the curve. Recently, for example, we have seen a growth in product acquisition methods. With Buy-Online-Pick-Up-Instore (BOPIS) suddenly surging in popularity,  brands are left wondering what else they can do to meet customer’s preferences?  How can brands utilize trends in customer experience, whilst staying true to their own style? We tackled in this question and the wider topic at length at OX Fest. We realized that the answer lies in knowing your own audience. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, pre-empting the challenges that they may face in buying from you, and proactively making strides to remedy those scenarios before they occur.

Rob Siefker from Zappos hosted an excellent session that explored this topic at OX Fest. He said:

If you’re a retailer, supply chain is probably going to be one of your biggest customer pain points, whether it be just getting the product itself so that you can sell it, getting enough of the product to sell it, and then just delivery times. I mean there’s just constraints in the system to get products to customers quickly. So, I think as we prepare for the holidays, we are really focusing on where do we have the biggest risks in the customer experience, both from a negative customer experience like what could go wrong, but what can also then impact the call centre which would then amplify the customer problems? So how can we get ahead in terms of communication for customers?

Take automating communication, I think it was mentioned in a previous session around like, if a delivery is missed, how do you communicate with the customer and make sure they’re aware of what they need to do?  And so really thinking about those touch points where we’re most likely to drive transactional problems that drive contact volume and other negative experiences that can then put further pressure on the call centre, which also is going to be a limited capacity thing. We don’t have a million people being able to answer the phones. We’ll only be able to be prepared with the hundreds that we bring on extra for the holidays, but I would just focus on the biggest wins and things that you can prevent from going badly that you can control, because it’s going to be challenging during peak season for sure for retailers.

You can watch Rob’s full session on-demand here.

Operations Experience Management

It wouldn’t be an OX Fest event without Operations Experience Management, would it? In case you haven’t seen this term before, it refers to the process of a brand managing the experience they deliver to customers during operational processes. For example, during warehousing, returns, repairs and so on, the customer experience is proactively monitored and managed by the brand, rather than an external carrier. Essentially, Operations Experience Management connects the dots of data to translate operational complexity into customer happiness. In order to do this, though, brands must be able to access and harmonize the data throughout their end-to-end journeys. For those that can achieve this, brands can expect to improve basket size and customer retention. It can also reduce inbound customer inquiries, and help brands differentiate from their competitors.

Katharine Briggs, Head of Marketing Communications at parcelLab, said: 

Operations Experience Management is the combination of operational processes with customer experience further enhanced by personalization. So why is OXM important? With engaging new touch points, brands can deliver more opportunities to make a lasting impact on their customers. Delivering real time value and relevance through a personalized engaging experience will maximize customer loyalty for longer brand engagement and increase revenue. And for the customer, a well-managed operations experience brings an enjoyable informative journey that leaves them wanting to come back to the store time and time again.

You can watch Katharine’s session in full on-demand here.

Embodying your brand at every opportunity

At OX Fest, another topic that kept coming up was branding. Again, this is not a new trend, but brands have been rethinking how they communicate their brand message. Branding once just sat with marketing, but that is no longer true. Brands are now rethinking how they can represent themselves in the best way through every stage of the journey. For example, when a customer receives a package, what can a brand do to make that parcel special? How can they differentiate themselves throughout every stage of the customer journey? What can a brand do to ensure that a customer service representative speaks in the same tone of voice that their marketing team does? The emphasis on brand consistency has become a priority, with brands going above and beyond to ensure that they stand out.

Rob Siefker from Zappos said:

So every person when they go to their job, they understand what it’s really like to speak with our customers, understand their pain points, so that then they can take that into their work and think about it from a customer first perspective, and then they can make improvements and they can always reflect on that.

It also from a cultural perspective, makes sure that we don’t have this big separation between the call centre and service centre, and the rest of the organisation. That’s really important so that we can break down barriers, break down silos, and improve communication across the entire company.

Watch full OX Fest sessions on-demand

These are just some of the core themes our expert speakers and attendees investigated at OX Fest 2021. You can access full session on-demand here. You can hear from specialists at global brands including NASA, Patagonia, Royal Canin, Zappos, Emarsys and more. We’d love to hear any feedback on our sessions. Contact us with any questions or ideas here!
About the Author: Laura
Laura is our Content Manager. She's here to create clear, forward-thinking content that adds value to brands. When she's not working, you can usually find Laura reading books, watching plays or tending to plants.