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Beware these digital-marketing errors

Lorenzo Vitturi

Retailers must have a “data-driven view” of digital marketing in order to understand how technological advances will affect consumer behaviour, write Prabuddha De, Yu Jeffrey Hu and Mohammad S Rahman for MIT Sloan Management Review.

Consumers are purchasing more from mobile and online channels. So it’s important retailers understand how the technology they use affects consumer behaviour. The key to gaining this understanding is data.

North American academics Prabuddha De, Yu Jeffrey Hu and Mohammad S Rahman studied seven million purchases made by one million unique users of a medium-size women’s clothing retailer over three years, focusing on two months’ worth of data: 183,000 transactions and 52 million lines of server logs tracking consumer web activity.


The authors identified the following five common digital marketing don'ts:

1) Don’t confuse the consumer. When consumers conduct generic searches, do not offer them a large selection of products. Instead, guide them – encourage them to narrow their search results. American clothing retailer J Crew’s 24/7 “Very Personal Stylist” is a good example of guiding consumers’ shopping experience.

2) Don’t ignore lesser-known products. De, Hu and Rahman’s research showed that a recommendation system, such as Amazon’s “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed”, increased sales of both popular and lesser-known products by more than 5.5%. But the effect is more prominent with lesser-known products.

3) Don’t foster unrealistic consumer expectations. Consumers base their expectations of a product on two types of information you offer them: fact-based and impression-based. Purchases based on facts, e.g. a dress is made of 100% cotton, are more likely to result in satisfaction than purchases based on impressions, e.g. a picture of a model wearing the dress.

4) Don’t focus on sales alone. High sales figures are all very well but mean nothing if you don’t take returns into consideration. You should focus on net sales, i.e. sales minus returns. To return to the previous point, impression-based sales result in more returns than fact-based sales.

5) Don’t ignore the future. AI is going to have a significant impact on the future of e-commerce. Utilise the consumer data you have collected to offer AI-driven digital assistants, such as Siri, options that fit the consumers’ needs. If you fail to offer relevant options, Siri, focused on data-driven efficiency, might not consider you in the future.


Analyse all the data you gather via your mobile and online platforms in order to gain a deeper understanding of your customers than your competitors have. This understanding will enable you to offer the service and products they really desire.

Source Article: Avoid These Five Digital Retailing Mistakes
Author(s): Prabuddha De, Yu Jeffrey Hu and Mohammad S Rahman