UK eCommerce sales already amount for 15% of the total market (eMarketer, Sept 2015) and this number is forecast to grow for the rest of the decade.  You might anticipate that this makes digital marketers and eCommerce directors key voices within the retail environment, however this is often not the case.


The digital world continues to be increasingly important, not only because of sales directly attributable to eCommerce, but due to the role it plays in the consumer’s research process for sales that happen both on and offline.

The number of consumers favouring online shopping is growing across all demographics, and 75% of the UK adult population now purchases online (ONS – Internet access – households and individuals, 2015).

Talk of omni-channel is becoming commonplace as consumers interact across multiple touchpoints on and offline, and therefore the creation of a single customer journey is becoming a central marketing strategy.



Driving Change

What’s not clear is who is driving this retail evolution. You might expect digital marketers or heads of eCommerce to be at the heart of it; typically it is the Marketing Director who is setting the agenda and determining the right strategy for the customer.  It’s great news that the marketing department have woken up to the possibilities of digital, but how well are they equipped?

While they can set the overall agenda, often what they don’t understand is the significant traction that has already been made in the digital space, with the move away from a last click wins measurement to an attributed model to understand the full digital customer journey.  There are valuable lessons that can be taken from this approach and applied across the whole customer journey.

I do believe that digital teams have an important role to play in helping businesses understand the full customer journey; however I don’t think their job stops there.  I strongly believe that digital data has a much more important role to play, and can lead much wider business thinking than just understanding the digital part of the journey that the customer touches.

Digital teams should take the lead in providing insights into their businesses; they should be at the table for every major decision.  They have the richest and deepest set of data available at their fingertips, and this information should be utilised to inform decision making across the whole business.

Digital at the table for all decisions

Digital data can be used as a proxy for the business as a whole, and can be used alongside offline insights to inform change, whether that is:

  • an Operations Director looking at where to open a new store, using digital to understand where the demand is
  • a Planner looking to set their promotional calendar, using digital to understand and forecast seasonal demand rather than historical sales
  • a Brand Manager looking into buying TV advertising, using digital to understand the impact of historical campaigns by time of day, ad length or creative message

Retailers’ digital teams have created a dataset so rich that they are still only beginning to understand the power the data holds and what they can do to support offline decision making.

Investment into digital insights should no longer be the responsibility of the digital teams, but should be seen as an investment across the business to provide insights which shape online and offline activity.

This approach will ensure that digital truly becomes an integrated part of the business strategy and begins to help more traditional retailers understand the goldmine of data they are sitting on.

The winners will be those who can harness the data, delivering insights that create business change on an ongoing basis.