July 28th, 2014 | 4 MIN READ

The 5 Technologies Driving Always-On Experiences

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

In 2016, the CMO is expected to spend more on technology than the CIO, thanks to consumer demand for always-on immersive, personalized experiences and media across a variety of devices.

In Insights 2014: Connecting Technology and Story in an Always-On World SapientNitro cites the Big 5 critical technologies that brands and marketers must need to understand as: mobility, big data and analytics, social media, HTML5/CSS3 and sensors.

At Elastic Path we are excited to announce our newest partner, SapientNitro, who will be leveraging their expertise with the Big 5 critical technologies combined with Elastic Path’s flagship commerce products to bring advanced experience-driven commerce and story-selling solutions to life.


Bigger data pipes mean higher expectations for rich digital experiences, including video, chat and interactive product content, formatted for any device.

In-store mobile technologies like apps, QR codes, AR (augmented reality) and iBeacons support customer service and product discovery in the retail channel, blurring the lines between digital and physical.

Big Data

Big data encompasses volumes of data from multiple sources, such as transaction records, social, business apps, ad networks, sensors, analytics and third parties.

While big data holds the promise of real-time, predictive targeting, much data-driven efforts fall short. Marketers need to better understand the half-life of data, and reduce low relevance, stale data while improving real-time targeting.

For example, Walmart orders its site search results based on products’ search/click popularity and social media “buzz.” This has reduced pages-per-visit, but increased time on site, which strongly correlates with conversion.

Social Media

Walmart monitors social media and feeds this data back into its own search engine, using them as a ranking factor, as mentioned above. Social signals reportedly lift Walmart’s conversion rates by 10-15%.

This is just one way to apply social media to personalization and targeting efforts. We’ve discussed on Get Elastic ways to pull social content into product pages, tap into the social graph and embed transactional capabilities into the social experience.


Opportunity to create immersive and engaging commerce experiences has expanded thanks to modern browsers’ support for HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, even on mobile. This makes it easier to serve interactive, “app like” features across devices and rich video and imagery, without experience killers like plug-in download requests, redirection to mobile-only experiences, etc.

One of my favorite examples of truly experience-driven ecommerce design is Oakley’s Airbrake microsite, which uses parallax scrolling to tour you through the product in a way I like to call “story-selling.”

Most product pages still stick to a general ecommerce-feeling template, where images appear top-left, a product description is provided and customer reviews appear towards the bottom of the page. With the advancements in technology, this approach may be outdated, missing the opportunity to really wow and persuade customers with more engaging, life-like and persuasive presentation of content.


Wearable tech like smart watches, fitness bands and Google Glass are potential touchpoints for ecommerce, whether collecting contextual lifestyle data that can be used to personalize digital and physical shopping experiences, or to support commerce activities within the device experience themselves.

Brands are finding creative ways of using sensors for targeting and merchandising optimization. For example, Tesco’s petrol stations use face-scanning technology to target ads based on age and gender.

Sapient’s report describes how Disney Resorts uses RFID tags in their “MagicBands” bracelets, which serve as tickets and allow photographers to take photos of guests with various characters. Guests can retrieve these photos online or through their mobile phones, and share them directly to social networks.

Why does this matter?

If these forces sound a lot like Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s 5 forces in the Age of Context, you’re right -- (the only difference being ‘location’ in AoC, and ‘HTML5/CSS3’ in Sapient’s research). The influencers agree on these forces’ importance for digital business.

Mobile and social are here to stay. Big data can drive big experiences, but must be understood and employed correctly. Digital users are growing more and more accustomed to rich experiences driven by HTML5 and CSS3 as more brands and retailers embrace them. Sensors have great potential to collect data that can be used to better personalize and optimize experiences across channels.

Marketers looking for a competitive advantage should consider how these 5 forces may factor into marketing plans and technology investments today and for the next 5 years. The days of the single digital channel (desktop website) are over.

Check out the entire 180 page report Insights 2014: Connecting Technology and Story in an Always-On World by Sapient (free download, which explores how consumers, marketers, retailers and brands are using digital technologies across channels and touchpoints for storytelling, smart data and customer experience.

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