New ecommerce battleground is over emotional intelligence

In physical retail stores, the shop assistants worth their weight in gold were the ones who sized you up and tailored their sales pitch. They knew your habits through basic profiling and with a bit of prompting your needs as they observed you browsing. With the coronavirus pandemic this process has shifted online at a speed that’s truly unprecedented.

“Since the lock-down, shopping habits have accelerated into the future. Digital is now king. Even though it’s been forced upon us, the coronavirus has done for ecommerce, what Apple’s iPhone did for mobile phones; it’s been a real paradigm shift. Online shopping is fast becoming the norm for all demographics across all retail verticals,” explains Mark Adams, chief executive at Attraqt, a global technology leader in delivering exceptional shopping experiences.

“Some major brands have seen a 300 per cent growth in web traffic, reallocating resources to manage expanding digital channels. Without a physical presence or availability in-store, there’s intense pressure on brands to create inspirational shopping experiences online.”

The pandemic has also seen marketplaces such as Amazon or Alibaba thrive as they provide convenience, price and speed of delivery to customers. In response, retail brands, rather than compete on these touchpoints and just provide a transactional experience, have had to offer more. For these companies, the opportunity will come from investing in deeper connections with customers, enhancing brand experiences and inspiring product discovery.

Attraqt infographic

“For a long time, delivering a more personalised shopper experience has been the battlefront. But most brands have done this without the context of what the shopper is seeking to achieve at any given moment. They’ve really had a mass customisation approach. More has to be done to engage customers on an emotional level. For that you need to know each shopper’s true intent and know why they are there, and where they are on the buyer journey,” says John Raap, chief strategy officer from AIM-listed Attraqt, which works with some of the biggest names in retail from adidas to ASOS, The Kooples and FNAC Darty.

The issue is that most data for customer journeys is disconnected. It exists in silos. Historical data on its own isn’t enough; consolidating this with real-time data across an organisation, systems and teams is vital. The pandemic and competition from marketplaces is forcing companies to pool data sources, boost collaboration across departments and in the process understand consumer intent at every moment of a customer’s journey.

“With COVID-19, shopping behaviour is unpredictable. Brands need to be agile. This challenge can only be met through an orchestrated approach pulling together consumer psychology, merchandising and machine-learning to understand the customer, their motivations and to predict the best next action at every moment in real time,” says Raap of Attraqt, which works with more than 300 brands globally.

“It’s not just about looking at classical datapoints, such as purchases and clicks, but also data that infers emotional needs like what values are important to customers, what is their emotive state right now and what motivates them? Understanding customer intent is vital as it evolves from moment to moment during shopping journeys. Artificial intelligence can now make sense of the data, with the right cocktail of algorithms to solve each problem.”

Nudge marketing, which has been used in consumer psychology, can also be used on a one-to-one level to enhance the individual shopper experience and prompt the customer to make an informed choice. While human expertise is still needed to help facilitate highly curated shopping experiences.

“Attraqt’s platform allows retailers to evaluate the emotional and logical needs of the shopper and to orchestrate the correct response to individual moments on the customer journey. Developments in neural networks allow us to do this at speed now. Brands can boost customer conversion and improve average order value, while at the same time winning the loyalty of shoppers,” Raap concludes.

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