I was, if I am honest, a little dubious about attending this year’s e-Commerce Live event @UKfast's head office in Hulme. It seems that there are an ever increasing number of these types of events popping up throughout the north west, generally pitched as being about networking and discussing the latest trends, but they're often just about selling the latest 'platform to end all platforms'. I've been to my fair share over the years and was fearing more of the same, however I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised this time around with some very inspiring talks and ideas coming from the half day conference.

The day kicked off with Holly Tucker's story about how she founded and built the multi-million pound online craft & homewares platform notonthehighstreet.com. It was great to hear about her not so perfect beginning from her cold office filled with smoke over a taxi rank with babies in tow, to the current business’s new home near Kew Gardens where they now ‘comfortably service' an ever growing army of partners that sell their handmade and crafted products on the platform. The theme was clear, starting an online business is by no means an easy task but if you build a community around an idea and all touch points are sharing that same community ethos and message, then it has the potential to quickly grow and that army of followers will ultimately become your brand's ambassadors. The success of the business has led to book deals and actually a move back onto the high street with a craft inspired café store, a twist that got everyone’s attention.

The day also featured a talk from Dotmailer with some useful reminders about the power of email. The focus here was on email communication with your customers before, during and after sales. It's important to tailor offers through segmentation and offer personalised content via email to suit the different demographics. This ensures you grab their attention as you're offering them up something they have already shown interest in. During the sales process, if people leave the cart with items in it and don’t checkout, it's best to nudge them with an abandoned cart email and maybe incentivise the sale with a discount. Last but not least, don’t forget about after sales with a follow up email to ask how the product is working out or perhaps asking for feedback which shows a brand that cares about the customer's impression - don’t just take the money and run! There are too many e-commerce retailers not doing these basics and, as such. are missing a trick.

Shopware took to the stage to discuss their platform and what it offers. The theme was really to tailor the experience or personalise based on the type of customer. They advised that you are either a ‘I know what I want’ customer, a ‘I have an idea customer’ or you are a 'I don’t know what I need customer’. If you tailor the journey for these three customer types you increase the conversion rate of sales. Simple. So perhaps more filters for your ‘I know what I want customer’ so he/she gets to that product faster. More product suggestions for ‘I have an idea customer’ and story led/inspirational content that drives the sale for your ‘I don’t know what I need customer’. It’s all about making the experience work for each customer type.

The morning was rounded off with some panel discussions around emerging technologies. Automated marketing and omnichannel experiences - offline & online experiences being one in the same - were some areas of discussion and ones to look out for in the near future. This then lead to a great talk from Jonathon Bowers from UKfast on the psychology of speed. He explained how we are all now expecting speed and convenience online and if we don’t get it our brand experience is soured. Perhaps unsurprisingly, being from UKfast, he advised that hosting is key to this as well as a well-coded site with fast loading pages.

Following this was a creative look at automated marketing from Mercato CEO Sean Brown who delved into how we approach modern marketing and how this is now shifting to automation. The key takeaway was again around advocacy and having brand ambassadors as the ultimate nirvana. The last session focused on security with Paul Mason from Secarma, a UKfast owned company. He proceeded to show the audience that only weeks after the recent British Airways hack, which saw lots of users get their personal banking data stolen, he could still find other potential gaps in their security via JavaScript plugins which could be exploited. It just goes to show even the big guys don’t always get it right.

Despite my initial skepticism, the trip to Hulme was indeed worthwhile and I came away with both inspired and informed with ideas we will be looking into here at bd2 to bring our clients.