What is the biggest challenge for ecommerce retailers heading into Q.4?
To build relationships with their customers based on trust and transparency. We have reached that tipping point where consumers no longer accept their data being used for purposes they aren’t aware of. They are tired of data breaches in all of their online experiences, but especially in their ecommerce relationships. In fact, we published research back in June and we discovered that 95% of people (UK based) felt it was important for their privacy to be protected online. Not just that, almost 83% of them said that they had concerns about their data being tracked, captured and sold on to advertisers.
All this information and more show us that now it’s the time to give privacy back the importance it deserves, and for retailers to regain the trust and loyalty of their customers with technologies based on privacy and openness.
What’s the biggest challenge in your category?
Building trust is a real challenge in both the tech industry and retail sector. The key thing now is to continue to innovate on search technology while maintaining consumer trust. However, we see this as more than a challenge, we actually must embrace the foundational truth: the fact that individuals have the right for their privacy to be respected.
Another thing is being aware that data is not everything, even if we are talking about technology. Tech and digital industries have failed to understand human nature. They work with data, collecting, analysing and making decisions based on it. But they forget that, at the end, they need to deliver online experiences to human beings, with their feelings and particularities. And data does not always work there. The challenge is to put data at the service of the person, not the other way around.
What trends do you see developing in ecommerce over the coming 12 months?
Retailers and brands, in general, will strive to improve the online experiences they give shoppers, but always with a focus on respecting their privacy, giving them the control over their own data that they should never have lost.
Despite the current problems in terms of protection and respect for personal data, I remain hopeful. The mindset change is happening, this is a fact. We see it with big companies like Apple or even Google, that are adapting their privacy policies and technology for the better. But, there is still a lot of work to do. Brands need to demonstrate that they are doing everything in their power to protect consumers' personal information, that they can be trusted. For that, they need to move away from relying on data, towards a more human and less "smart" technology. And to communicate their steps in a transparent and approachable way.
Where does the biggest opportunity lie for your business?
The biggest opportunity for Empathy is that we can continue to evolve as a company and innovate in search technology, while embracing an ethical and logical commitment to privacy. We have created a brand culture that is open, transparent, and approachable, with members who are willing to break the mould. From here, we can create digital products that influence people in a very positive way.
Where have you had the greatest success in the past 12 months?
In the development of a successful non data driven, ethical technology. Empathy launched the new Search and Discovery platform in May and it was a true milestone for the brand, but also for the industry. We are now using privacy-first AI to deliver more ethical customised experiences. Our focus is to avoid invasive, tracking-based personalisation and give consumers the power to decide what data they share, how and when they share it with retailers. At the same time, Empathy platform provides an intuitive and enjoyable user experience from the side of consumers.
From the retailers point of view, and in an industry first, the platform provides privacy-focused insights so they’re able to review and make adjustments depending on customers’ needs and their business requirements. Each retailer can adapt the Search & Discovery experience to their own business thanks to a set of extensible microservices. All these features and possibilities are available for all retailers, who can join brands like Music Magpie, Massimo Dutti or Carrefour.
What technological innovations do you think will most help ecommerce in the coming 12 months?
All the new developments that allow the sector to continue on this path of privacy and humanising technology. Retailers need to be future-proofed against evolving privacy regulations and mentally prepared to tackle a privacy-based perspective. And they need to lose the fear that data alone can deliver positive results for the business. The only way is to provide them with solutions and technologies based on privacy and trust.
Do you think the metaverse will be transformational for commerce and marketing?
There is a long way to go before the metaverse affects e-commerce in a transformational sense. It is no longer a futuristic idea, but this virtual world is still at a very early stage. So it is not yet possible to guarantee how the relationship between it and real commerce will develop. They are saying that metaverse has a lot of potential but has anyone foreseen how all the personal information collected will be handled and managed in a transparent and respectful manner? If this is a tipping point that is already being discussed in normal ecommerce, it should also be a detail to be taken into account before the metaverse revolutionises current systems.
Why are face to face conference events like Ecommerce Expo and Technology for Marketing so valuable?
At Empathy, we are always talking about being more human. We have spent the last two years meeting new people, catching up and sometimes even celebrating major milestones online. But we needed to meet face-to-face again. In person you get a special connection that you can’t online.
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