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Paul Greenberg on e-commerce: Customers want a personalised experience

Anna Spargo-Ryan
Digital Strategist & Award Winning Writer

Anna Spargo-Ryan is a Melbourne digital strategist and award-winning writer.

Anna Spargo-Ryan
Digital Strategist & Award Winning Writer

Anna Spargo-Ryan is a Melbourne digital strategist and award-winning writer.

Highlights
  • Paul Greenberg believes businesses shouldn't forget the basics of retail - a good product, good customer experience, excellent supply chain.
  • The most successful e-commerce businesses have a real understanding of the customer in the most personalised way.
  • One trend seen in retail is that retailers are offering a multi-touch connection with their shoppers.

Paul Greenberg, founder of online retailer network NORA, is something of a pioneer in Australian e-commerce. After 35 years in the wider industry, he says success still comes back to basics.

The quarterly NAB Online Retail Sales Index came out in February, estimating Australians spent $24.2 billion in online retail in the 12 months to December 2017. But as the 2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence report revealed, small businesses aren't necessarily keeping up with this growing market.

Paul Greenberg, founder of online retailer network NORA, speaking at an event. Businesses shouldn't forget the basics of retail - a good product, good customer experience, excellent supply chain.

Smarter: What are the most successful e-commerce businesses doing? 

Paul Greenberg: I call it old wine in a new bottle – the top definer of excellent business still remains the customer connection. What we’re seeing in e-commerce is that it goes beyond the traditional view of customer service, to a real understanding of the customer in the most personalised way. Even larger businesses are developing technology and communication strategies that create a one-to-one connection. Those that are doing it well and doing it right are doing very nicely indeed.

Smarter: How can small businesses create a personalised e-commerce service?

Paul Greenberg: Everyone’s got to start somewhere, but what we’re seeing is the increasing prevalence of technology with variable cost models, that can help businesses get a really good angle on their shoppers. The obvious ones are the free ones, like Google Analytics. Even the larger traditional technology-led companies are recognising that small fish can become big fish in this space, so they’re offering solutions that are success-based. Instead of the big capital cost to develop or buy these platforms, there is now a software-as-a-service model. You pay as you use and convert.

Smarter: What trends are you seeing in e-commerce in Australia?

Paul Greenberg: Increasingly, retail has become convergent. In the old days, we talked about online retail and bricks and mortar retail, but we know those lines are blurring. I think we’re seeing the good retailers offering a multi-touch connection with their shoppers and that’s going down really well.

Then the second is cross-border trade. The world has suddenly become quite borderless.

Augmented reality is getting a lot of very good coverage. There’s no doubt that Artificial Intelligence and machine learning were already well on the way to optimising what can come out of it. Voice recognition is already upon us. We have Amazon trialling sending your orders before you pay because there’s an intuit of understanding of what you need based on your behaviour – they can forecast your requirements.

The vast majority of decisions can be based on machine learning. They’ll know what you want, when you want it, how you want it. It’s quite incredible.

"Retailers talk about jumping for the next shiny thing that's natural, but in truth there's a strong call within the industry that you shouldn't forget the basics of retail."

Smarter: How can a business better understand these needs and act on them?

Paul Greenberg: By having a good understanding of what [customers] need. The old retail model was to try to have a good sense of what they need and put up products we thought they needed, then hold our breaths. Now, there’s a stronger sense of using data, using technology, to get a lot closer to the customer and have a very close understanding of what they need. 

Some would argue that customers don’t like this level of understanding, and that hyper-personalisation can actually get in the way of a bit of mystery. There might still be a conversation to be had; we need certainty and a bit of uncertainty.

Smarter: Are consumers cautious?

Paul Greenberg: I think we’ve got to be a little cautious. Retailers talk about jumping for the next shiny thing. That’s natural. But in truth there’s a strong call within the industry that you shouldn’t forget the basics of retail. Ultimately: a good product, good customer experience, excellent supply chain.


*Originally published on March 29th 2018. Updated August 1st 2018.

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