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Guest comment: Creating a memorable first impression.

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by Frank Bobo

The internet is now the outlet of choice for time-poor shoppers who want to find products quickly and conveniently. Consumers are increasingly demanding a single, consistent brand experience across all channels – regardless of where they make the actual purchase,

With this in mind, a site’s usability, shopability and perceived local sense of community play huge roles in attracting and retaining the attention of buyers. Retailers that can’t create an instant connection with shoppers will more than likely be left holding the bag as customers and prospects take their business elsewhere.

Online Sales Show Resiliency, Trends Indicate Growth

Online sales are holding steady in spite of a faltering global economy during the last several years.

In the UK, April’s ‘Online Access and Shopping Report’ from the British Population Survey and IMRG indicated healthy growth for e-commerce, with 51% of British adults shopping online during the first quarter of 2010, up from 46% for the same period last year.

Industry analysts are also predicting light at the end of the tunnel. In Western Europe, Forrester expects an 11% growth rate for online retail sales, rising to €114.5bn by 2014. The analyst firm sees increased online tenure, improved access, and greater promotion by retailers driving the number of online shoppers in Europe from 141m in 2009 to 190m by 2014.

Among the three largest European Union markets, online retail is expected to grow by 10% during the next five years in the United Kingdom; 9% in Germany; and 13% in France.

You Only Get One Chance to Make a Good First Impression

Online retailers have only a short window of opportunity to make a direct connection with visitors.

Regardless of where they live, consumers expect to be at the centre of the shopping stage. And they are increasingly demanding more personalisation, tailoring and customisation than ever before. Consumers want the ability to search, get information or shop from home, whether it’s over the Internet or on a mobile device. They want information to be served in a variety of ways—and on their own terms.

Retailers can improve their e-business practices and use their online channel to perform a multitude of tasks, quite simply, by making the first online interaction a meaningful one. As more retailers undertake globalisation, factors that enable online success will become more pronounced, leading companies to deploy the necessary technology, such as IP Intelligence, to facilitate their sales efforts.

Tap Into the New Business Intelligence

IP Intelligence and geolocation technology empower organisations to bring crucial offline decision-making factors to online commerce. By identifying information about online visitors and shoppers, such as where they are located, companies can serve relevant merchandise, content and promotions, in real time.

IP Intelligence is a technology that maps the Internet using non-invasive methods and indexes by Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. IP-based intelligence technology provides real-time information about online users — without invading their privacy. The most accurate IP Intelligence provides coverage for 99.9999 percent of the Internet and collects more than one million points-of-view daily from different online vantage points that allow businesses to improve audience segmentation capabilities and targeting based on parameters such as geographic location (country, region, city and postal code); connection speed; phone code; Internet Service Provider (ISP); domain name; demographics; company name; proxies; language; time zone; and longitude/latitude.

In particular, the ability to use a 'hyperlocal' IP targeting data set, that identifies web users’ geographic location down to the postal code level, is immensely beneficial. Europe, in particular, is quite different because it doesn’t consist of just one clearly defined market. It differs from country to country, with each having several very distinct regional audiences.

IP Intelligence Offers Multiple Solutions for E-Merchants

Whether used as a standalone technology or as part of an enterprise platform, IP Intelligence has uses in multiple e-commerce applications.

Content Localisation

Because e-tailers have an estimated eight seconds to make a good impression, they need the ability to present visitors with customized content on the fly to help simplify and enhance the customer experience. For example, an outdoor outfitter may present promotions on goose-down parkas to those visitors from Norway (in the middle of winter) instead of top-of-the line swimwear to those from Majorca. That same retailer may also automatically show the nearest retail location instead of asking users to “Select a Store.” And, as retailers continue the trend of building social networks within their websites, they will need a mechanism to deliver customised content (i.e. information, products, coupons, promotions, etc.) that resonates within these socialised communities as well as regionally-based buyer groups.

Language

IP Intelligence enables companies to expand e-commerce across cultures and markets by offering a solution that recognises an end user’s location and automatically delivers content that is specific to their location in their preferred language.

By offering web content to end users in their native languages, e-businesses are able to drive the e-commerce process. In fact, research demonstrates that shoppers are three times more likely to buy products from websites in their native languages, while two-thirds of online shoppers will immediately click away from a site in another language.

Taxes and Tariffs

Tariffs and taxes vary from country to country, and the challenge of compliance has been an ongoing problem for the e-commerce industry. For example, the EU VAT rules require non-EU vendors selling electronically supplied goods and services to EU consumers to determine and charge VAT based on a customer’s country of residence. Global vendors can now turn to IP Intelligence technology to automatically pinpoint the geographic location of online customers based on the information provided by their IP-address once they log on to a website.

The benefit is twofold here. Online shoppers are more informed about the impact of tariffs on the final cost of products and services. And, online retailers can be confident that they are complying with regulatory issues.

Currency

Just as important as providing language-specific content, so, too, is the need for any global e-tailer to offer currency-specific pricing to enhance the success of its international sales revenues. The true challenge comes as international online businesses try and quote prices to customers in multiple currencies that remain in a constant state of fluctuation in today’s volatile, global economy.

However, this is no longer an issue. IP Intelligence enables online businesses to automatically sell their products and services in local currencies without risk.

Today’s website is tomorrow’s global salesperson

By automatically incorporating IP Intelligence into an e-commerce platform, retailers can gain an advantage as they begin to build solid, global relationships based on connecting with consumers within the parameters of when, where and how they want to be reached as well as providing relevant, personalised information that resonates with their culture and lifestyle.

The ability to more effectively reach consumers in new and meaningful ways gives global retailers a 'first-touch' advantage and allows them to begin building solid relationships based on delivering relevant content to online users—ultimately turning today’s website into tomorrow’s global salesperson.

Frank Bobo is vice president of Digital Element

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