In the eyes of marketers, ecommerce has been a “hot” online phenomenon for a few years, with many managers treating ecommerce sites as a distinct channel and require a different strategy from brick and mortar stores.
But what is “hot” today changes fast when it comes to technology. Today, brick and mortar retail, a concept once believed to be threatened by online retail, has morphed into “brick and click” as a strategy. This is due to mobile devices, and now, the infusion of Internet of Things tech.
This changed interest may herald another evolution: viewing web analytics as less of a purely “web” solution.
Part of this strategy lies with customer usage of smartphones in store, which has led to new customer experience behaviors such as showrooming. Meanwhile, retailers like Amazon are increasing their scale of product and services, all supporting the long tail theory posited by Chris Anderson back in 2001.
In fact, the tipping point may come from Amazon’s effort. Amazon stands poised to reach far beyond its online roots, more than any retailer in the world.
Much of Amazon’s foray into IoT revolved around strengthening its delivery processes, positioning certain services to have more “physicality” in the consumer home. Amazon Dash, for example, offers replenishment of everyday items such as soap, detergent, coffee, snacks, and cosmetics.
And rumors surround Amazon buying a stake in a European mapping startup called Here, according to Forbes. The mapping service could provide data and logistics for Amazon’s future delivery resources.
When it comes to Amazon, rumors can run rampant. Rumors of a “brick” Amazon -- the idea of opening bookstores -- were discussed earlier this year, an irony given its history. The rumor seemed plausible. Stores would give Amazon another means to sell its devices, complementing its reach for consumer mindshare.
But the real strategic push seems to be with expanding Amazon Web Services (AWS). Last fall, Amazon introduced Kenesis, a platform for incorporating streaming data into services. It also added a business intelligence service called QuickSight. Meanwhile Amazon cut its data storage prices to compete against other enterprise-level data storage services and to draw customers.
All of this is fodder for the thinking marketer to wonder how to select analytics solutions for an IoT future. No longer are website activity the sole proxy of consumer interest and activity. Online search is still a gold standard tactic in a digital marketing strategy.
Since the rise of the search engines -- Google, Bing, and Yahoo -- however, many other ways for consumers to gain online access has cracked open opportunity for large companies to take advantage. One look at Amazon Echo, a speaker device that allows queries to the Amazon Alexa search reference bot, and one can see how that device is a digital starting point to research information, much like Bing and Google search have been gateways for Microsoft and Google, respectively.
Analytics solutions have been shifting their capability to account for more sources. Tag managers and data layers have allowed more sources within analytic solutions. Google, Adobe, and other analytic solution providers have made strides to incorporate streaming data, a hallmark output from beacons and IoT devices.
In fact, Google’s Analytics 360 introduction may also be considered as much a response to Amazon as it is to Adobe Marketing Cloud. Services like Kenesis and QuickSight are meant to draw developers who will use AWS for back-end services. In comparison, the Google Analytics 360 suite includes a number of solutions that also interact with Google-offered cloud solutions, many of which compete with AWS for developer and start-up attention.
Despite Amazon’s history with retail, my suggestion is that competition among analytic solutions will not be an overnight domination. Websites and apps remain a central part of a digital analytic strategy for many businesses. Most importantly, Google and Adobe are more formidable competitors than Borders and Circuit City, two retailers eliminated by Amazon.
Then again, business network CNBC mentioned Amazon's claim in a shareholder report that it is the fastest company to reach $100 billion in revenue.
What I believe this ultimately means is that marketers must cross the digital frontier for building a cohesive customer experience with an open mind on how to deploy analytic solutions. The current IoT era is impacting operations as well as consumer-facing media, to a point that positions ecommerce almost as vulnerable as brick and mortar stores.
I suspect the real play that occurs for marketers will be decisions that blend IoT, web, and real-world footprints. As Amazon seems ready to prove, such decisions will be necessary for a business to be formidable in the years ahead.