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The Great Optimisation: the new age of efficiency

It’s often said that we’re living in the age of information.

Zettabytes of data are available to consumers at the swipe of a screen and customers and marketers alike have immediate access to whatever they want to know at speeds inconceivable before now.

But, as Michael Grunwald rightly points out in his Time Magazine article The Second Age Of Reason, ‘information is not knowledge or wisdom’. Just having access to all this data doesn’t necessarily make our collective lives any better. It’s how this information is digested and applied that makes all the difference.

Grunwald calls this era ‘The Great Optimisation’: a time where we can all effectively utilize data to change our lives, for better or for worse.

So what does this ‘optimisation’ mean for brands and their consumers?

How can online retailers take advantage of this overabundance of information to sell better and faster?


Technology changes consumer behaviour

Efficient access to information encourages people and organisations to make different choices. Take transit apps. Google Maps, Moovit, Citymapper – they aren’t just convenient; they can positively influence our behaviour. Gone is the anxiety while you wait for a bus, uncertain if it’ll go where you need it to or whether one’ll show up at all.

But this heightening of efficiency through data analysis isn’t confined to our individual experiences. If retailers can track their website visitors’ behaviour, then they can begin to understand how and when we like to be sold to and which products we like to buy.


Personalised online customer service

Applying behavioural data can allow retailers to develop a highly effective and personalised online customer service.

You can optimise each user’s journey to the checkout by tailoring the shop around their interests, cutting out the generic commercialism which so often makes online shopping annoying and impersonal. Smart online marketing won’t advertise a promotion on a hockey stick to a returning visitor who last bought a football kit. It will instead recommend the new season’s strip for the team they support, a pair of socks or a deal on shin pads.


Streamlined services

In the game of online shopping, the fastest journey to the checkout wins.

That’s why the likes of Amazon One-click and Paypal have paved the way for technologies such as Alibaba’s biometric fingerprint payments and even Synaptics’ eye-tracking.

It’s obvious that online transactions are only going to get faster, easier and more fluid, as the stuff of sci-fi becomes a reality.

Transactions become more efficient as mobile devices increasingly take market share away from the desktop. Right now, mobile has begun to bridge the gap between off and online shopping, further making our lives more efficient.

Amazon Local allows us to make purchases at discount rates before checking out with a simple scan of ourmobile handset, reducing the time and money we waste during those precious lunch breaks.

Zapp, a new 1-click checkout app uses ‘time-limited digital tokens to process payments, bypassing card details entirely.’ Zapp chief executive Peter Keenan says his technology seeks to ‘remove the pain of payment for customers and retailers…helping blur the line between online, mobile and in-store shopping.’

Retailers who involve themselves in this new space can mould their website user’s journeys between visits, creating new opportunities for repeat custom and brand loyalty.


Analytics – how you can take advantage

Simply owning books doesn’t make you learned: you’ve got to read them!

In the same way, gathering data isn’t enough on its own: insights must be drawn from measuring that data, noticing patterns and designing strategies informed by it.

So don’t just track your customers: ask yourself why they made those decisions. Why did they spend so long looking at that one item? Why do so many returning customers leave on that page? Is there a reason why the average order value is so low from people shopping in Birmingham compared to Manchester?

Analysing the data you collect is all about getting to know your customers through their behaviour. Doing this gives you the insights necessary to improve the customer journey, optimising your website for conversion.