Real-time retailing means being able to detect, understand, communicate with and serve your customers at every point in the purchase lifecycle.

So how can online retailers react responsively to customer needs when they visit their websites?

Here are my seven top tips for how you can become a real-time retailer today.

1. React to on-site behaviour in real time

Being able to act on the fly is at the heart of real-time retailing. In a physical store this is easy to do as you’re face-to-face with your target audience and can see when they may require some assistance.

Real-time retailing online is all about serving the customer the content they need. 

For example Links of London is currently running an on-site campaign to increase average order value. They are keen to target the ‘big spenders’ so if a user places an item between £100 and £199 in their basket and proceeds to the checkout an upsell message is served to them.

This message is an offer for a free pair of diamond earrings worth £150 if they spend over £200. The real-time response here is choosing between those customers most likely to splash out on a few extra items whilst reserving different offers or promotions for other visitor segments.


2. Stay ahead of the weather 

People are always going to be influenced by the weather so make sure your website takes into account local weather conditions. This will help you to react to consumers’ changing preferences as the physical world changes around them. 

Bravissimo used the service WeatherFit to help increase its pay-per-click revenues across the seasons. By taking into account the weather in the surrounding area of each visitor Bravissimo was able to optimise its adverts and respective landing pages.  

Reacting to the weather takes a bit of work as you’ll need to have both hyperlocal targeting and a weather API plugged into your site but there is clear ROI as Bravissimo saw its swimwear sales increase by 600%!

3. Be hyperlocal 

Tailoring your messaging with reference to a customer’s location can be one of the most effective ways to impress your visitors and serve them useful, relevant content. 

Belstaff is a great example of this, detecting the visitor’s location and serving them a header at the top of the site that directs them to check out their nearest store.

Clicking on this banner brings them to a store page, tailored to the products that are available locally; helping to create a cohesive multichannel experience with the brand. 

4. Guide people towards the highest performing content

Never has the paradox of choice been more in force than on the internet - everything is at your fingertips and sometimes it can be a case of a user having too much choice.

To help people make a decision, guide them towards the content that really drives conversions such as a piece of editorial to help them identify their needs. FAQs, how-tos and videos of your products will all help highlight your key products and increase conversions.  

5. Gather live feedback on site changes

Being able to read feedback in real-time lets you respond to issues as they happen. Ask first time visitors what could be improved to the website? If someone complains about the website being down then fix it there and then.

If you’re not receiving feedback in real-time then you run the risk of losing out on revenue. It’s always about making sure your customer receives a stress-free online shopping experience. 

6. Catch abandonment as it happens

Over 80% of the people who put items in their basket will leave without purchasing. One way to counteract this is to set a personalisation layer so that it fires up when it looks as though someone is about to leave.

This is triggered when the mouse moves above a certain speed and towards their current tab. Understanding why your visitors are leaving will help you determine whether to offer a promotion such as free delivery or a discount for first-time buyers.  

7. Create a sense of urgency

Scarcity makes us eager as we all want what we can’t have. If there is a limited supply then people feel more compelled to go through with the purchase.

Using language such as ‘buy now or miss out’ will help bring your site to life and make it more of a dynamic shopping environment as people will become aware of how other people are shopping at the same time. 

To read our full whitepaper on how you can become a real-time retailer please click here.
Ian McCaig

Published 3 January, 2014 by Ian McCaig

Ian McCaig is Founder at Qubit and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (4)


Nir Ben-dor

you can do all of the above and much more with Barilliance's behavioral targeting. Check it out

(I'm a co-founder)

over 4 years ago

Jay North

Jay North, Spokesperson at My Factoring Network

Impressive! Thank you for sharing your ideas. I'm gonna bookmark your blog for future reference.However,discount for first time buyers may not be helpful according to me.Free delivery works like charm.

over 4 years ago

Mike Austin

Mike Austin, CEO at Triggered Messaging

I'm concerned about detecting likely abandonment by looking for "when the mouse moves above a certain speed and towards their current tab". It sounds to me like it'd give lots of false positives. Do you have stats showing improved conversion by doing that?

We'd recommend the following approach:
1) Capture people's email addresses as early as possible. Our clients have had great results with pop-ups (aka sliders), for example those provided by
2) Detect browse abandonment and email people after 15-30 minutes.
3) Detect cart abandonment and email people after 15-30 minutes.
4) For all the emails, treat people differently depending on their behavior profile, for example:
* first-time visitors
* Repeat visitors who've never purchased
* Existing clients.

More info here:

over 4 years ago

Ian McCaig

Ian McCaig, CMO & Founder at Qubit

Thanks for all the comments.

Jay - i am glad you like the post.

Nir - i completely agree - the space of customer experience management and website optimization is getting very popular and there are a number of vendors that can help ecommerce businesses drive conversions.

Mike - in answer to some of your questions around abandonment with our clients we have found abandonment catching on-site as a very effective way to convert consumers before they leave the website. Often users get distracted or make the decision to buy the items in their basket later but this can mean lost sales. Providing a prompt before they leave can help reduce this. If the user does leave the website then I completely agree that email re-capture can be a great option and we have seen this work well.
On your point around on-page messaging we do see a lot of success with this format but it has to be the right content to the right user segment at the right time in the users purchase journey. For example Farfetch, a leading boutique fashion retailer increased conversion rates by 17.1% with a messaged to confused users prompting them to read their FAQs. You can read the case study here:

over 4 years ago

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