Brands need to be fast, smart, secure and sustainable, these goals are not mutually exclusive, and the tools and processes to achieve them are available now. That’s the main take-home message, but not the only one, of the virtual roundtable on Efficient e-commerce: cyber security, web performance and increase of the conversion rate, organized by Netcomm Suisse and Dagorà LifeStyle Innovation Hub on June 3.
The speakers were technology partners Akamai, with Marco Giusti, Sales Manager Italy, and CriticalCase, with Alessandro Zoncu, VP of Sales; and the guest brands Swarowski, with Bożena Nawara-Borek, eCommerce Manager Europe/CEEMEA, and 7 For All Mankind International, with Enrico Fantaguzzi, Senior Manager E-commerce for this leading premium denim brand from Los Angeles, California. Representatives of many leading brands, especially in the fashion sector, were present as attendees and were able to submit questions to the speakers, who were moderated by Swiss-Italian IT journalist Paolo Attivissimo.
Akamai’s Marco Giusti started the roundtable by discussing the need for speed and submitting a fascinating fact: on average, if an e-commerce website does not respond to a customer within 2.7 seconds, that customer is lost. So speed is a key factor in achieving conversion, and Akamai has the intelligent edge platform resources and the customer service to provide that speed. Moreover, Giusti noted that many brands are unaware of the fact that Google penalizes slow sites in its rankings, so speed is not just a bonus feature: it’s crucial in order to achieve high placement in search engine results, which are so often the starting point for customer interaction.
Speed without security would of course be worthless, and that’s where CriticalCase’s Alessandro Zoncu clarified that these two factors are not in competition with each other but are blended together synergistically. By their very nature, multi-cloud architectures such as those offered by Akamai, with which CriticalCase partners in Europe, keep decisions, apps and experiences closer to users while keeping attacks and threats far away. CriticalCase’s expertise in specific verticals such as fashion, automotive and gaming therefore helps to capitalize the investment and maximize the ROI of a customer. Security, moreover, should not be seen as a cost, but as an investment to achieve a competitive advantage.
The guest brand speakers offered insights into their first-hand experience of the challenges of the current unprecedented worldwide situation, which has boosted the demand for fast and secure e-commerce solutions, and offered their view of the near future of e-commerce.
Bożena Nawara-Borek pointed out that today “your website is your brand, your storefront, and often your first contact with customers. Moreover, we know that consumers are nervous about the security risks of the Internet, so from my perspective, web security and web performance is a way to build trust with customers. And trusting and loyal customers are at the heart of everything we do at Swarovski”.
In terms of Swarowski’s approach to security and web performance, however, “lockdown hasn’t changed anything in our internal e-topics - it was a focus for us even before. But I have to admit that, indeed with increased traffic during lockdown and during our pick seasons, like holidays, we are monitoring performance of the website very closely and all security checks are conducted regularly. We have a strong, dedicated team that measuring performance of our website on a daily basis and implementing improvements if needed.”
Enrico Fantaguzzi focused on the trends he is seeing currently and expects to see in the short term. “Omnichannel is still one of the hot topics and should be for everyone.” He added that social media should be explored more for both communication and customer sales, and highlighted the often overlooked role of artificial intelligence, which we use every day without noticing: for example, Google reads e-mails to automatically parse and extract e-commerce information, and automatic translation systems are now almost as good as a professional translator and are often integrated invisibly in the e-commerce experience. Fantaguzzi also pointed to China as a preview of near-future worldwide trends: “China was already at 50% of retail sales made online before the pandemic. During the pandemic this went up to 90%. We need to expect that in Europe also the percentage of retail sales on total retail sales made online will grow. It could grow up to 50%. We need to be prepared for that”.
Bożena Nawara-Borek added her expectations for the evolution of customer experience into what she calls the “phygital store”: “Physical space will remain a crucial pillar for luxury brands to connect with their audience, but the shift is now towards an in-store experience that maximizes personalization and the needs of customers who are converting their online browsing to this offline experience. Physical stores will become more of a space for physical interaction and engagement with the brand rather than just a simple point of sale.” Clearly, being prepared to deal with this surging wave by working with leading technology providers is crucial for any brand.
As the world is struggling to find a new balance in uncertain times, the roundtable moves on inevitably to a sensitive topic: sustainability. The quest for speed seems at first glance to be in contrast with the demand for reduced energy consumption, but Akamai’s Marco Giusti sets the record straight: the company’s 350,000 servers, located all over the world, currently handle about 200 terabits per second (consider that 1Tbps it’s like downloading the entire run of Game of Thrones in HD in one second) yet in terms of energy consumption per byte delivered they use far less power than before. “In the last five years, traffic capacity on the platform grew by over 350% and our consumption, in bytes delivered, is ten times less.” Emissions and renewable sourcing are also being dealt with aggressively. “In 2015 we set a goal to reduce our emissions by 2020 by over 30%, and we did it. Our mission by 2030 is to have 100% renewable source energy.” CriticalCase’s Alessandro Zoncu added that tenders nowadays require sustainability as part of their scoring system. Therefore, there’s a clear incentive to be sustainable in order to be able to compete, and sustainability is achievable without sacrificing speed and security.
Swarowski’s Bożena Nawara-Borek remarked that sustainability is one of the main pillars of the company’s new strategy: “Just a couple of weeks ago our CEO, Robert Buchbauer, announced new sustainability goals for Swarovski. He has reconfirmed our dedication to sustainability with the announcement of six new key commitments”. In addition to championing diversity, equality and inclusivity, providing educational initiatives and ensuring the health and safety of working environments across the world, the company is “committing to significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the entire value chain by 2030, a process which will involve participating in the Science Based Targets initiative”. Product sustainability is being constantly improved through the use of responsibly sourced and recycled raw materials, and Swarowski is committed to “reducing waste throughout our value chain and adopting circular business models,” added Nawara-Borek.
Fantaguzzi noted that “the denim industry and the fashion industry in general has an impact on the environment. Do denim made of cotton consumes a lot of water; we’re replacing cotton with Tencel for about 70-80%.” Since Tencel uses significantly less water, this reduces consumption and therefore the environmental impact. “This is just to give you an example, but the bottom line is that being sustainable is essential to develop the business, because customers are demanding suitable products. And the press expects to know what brands are doing for sustainability.”
Many more topics were explored, especially in the Q&A, ranging from the impact of 5G and virtual or augmented reality in e-commerce to choosing the right way to present products on a website, and the speakers shared more valuable insights, such as the finding that 360° animations aren’t automatically the right way: Nawara-Borek noted that Swarowski prefers instead videos, because they allow to see how the product looks when worn by a model. “Implement what is best,” she recommended. Zoncu noted the importance of being able to conduct flexibly scalable ground testing before going into production. And Akamai’s Marco Giusti had these final remarks: “Digital transformation is an overused word, but it's true. What we've realized in the last year is that either you are in, or you’ll go out. You need to focus on the customer’s needs, no matter what. The customer is the king, and you have to listen to the customer.”
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