Competing for ‘eyeballs’ vital in digital commerce

A battle for “eyeballs” will play a central role in sorting the winners and losers in the evolving digital-commerce marketplace, meaning that brands and retailers need to master personalised messaging at scale.

Duncan Painter - the CEO of Ascential, the information company and the owner of WARC - discussed this subject at a recent online conference.

“Eyeballs on the internet is the game that brands are now in,” he said during the World Retail Congress, an event also run by Ascential. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: How to prepare for the next generation of commerce.)

“If you are a retailer who doesn’t understand that your number-one goal is to win customer eyeballs on the internet, and to win [with] mass personalisation … to bring them to your platform, you are not in the business of digital-commerce retail.”

Amazon, an e-commerce retailer with very deep pockets and a ruthless focus on efficiency, is a potent example of what it takes to succeed in this space.

“They spent $8.1 billion last year with Google. They are Google’s biggest global customer,” Painter explained. “That is the scale which you’re trying to compete with.

“And what you’ve got to think about is: What’s your commitment level? And how are you going to carve out a segment of consumers [where] you compete, and you compete with at scale, recognising that broad approach of other players?”

Painter also estimated how much money Amazon, Walmart, Instacart, and Kroger are spending on personalised messaging that seeks to drive US consumers to their respective platforms.

“Today, the major platforms in the United States are spending … over $22 billion of their operating expenses in aggregate,” he said.

But tracking forward four years, he noted, their “dominance of messaging into consumers” could grow even more stark, as expenditure rates are “on a trendline that, by this point, they would be spending circa $60 billion a year generating eyeball traffic to their platforms”.

Painter’s main takeaway from this analysis: “If you are an organisation where your levels of investment are not significant into generating eyeballs to your platform, you are going to get totally dominated by the major brands doing it.

“So, now is the most critical period for retailers to decide: Am I getting into digital commerce? And, if I am, I've got to be a leader in personalisation, and I've got to be investing heavily to win eyeballs.”

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