For the past few days, I have been soaking up the sun in Barcelona at the Global eCommerce Summit 2014.  In amongst attending some great presentations from the likes of Alibaba GroupTesco,Adolfo Dominguez and Philips, I was also part of the jury to select the Pure Player Award winner for 2014.

A long list of European pure player retailers were put through a rigorous Shop Experience Audit by GfK to identify a short list of five players that six jury members evaluated. The short list of candidates included Net-a-Porter, ASOS, Amazon, Zalando and Yoox.

It's been a tough choice because all candidates are very strong players. But, we the jury persevered and evaluated the candidates based on innovation, customer engagement and consistent multitouchpoint presence.  Here are the winners:

  • Winner Gold: ASOS. Jury Assessment: ASOS goes beyond purely generating sales. They work to be present at their customers’ moment of need at every stage in the customer life-cycle, including engaging customers so they come back again. Their content and communication is consistent, as is their presence across devices. They have strong growth from international sales and a multi country presence. They've also launched innovative features like the 'fashion finder' function and a pilot program for changing rooms at pick up points.
  • Silver: Amazon. Jury Assessment: Amazon always provides great customer experience in terms of choice, reliability and transactions. They are a vast resource for consumers and are constantly innovating across categories, including logistics (3D printers, delivery drones), payments (one click payment and Prime) and digital products (ebooks and music/film streaming). However, they are not focusing on emotional engagement through storytelling and content to generate deeply engaging customer experiences. 
  • Bronze: Net-a-Porter. Net-a-Porter took up an innovating role in linking the content and commerce experience through their magazine like content pages with links to product pages and 'shoppable' video. Design, art and storytelling play a large role in the shopping experience. From an inspirational engagement perspective, Net-a-porter is a front runner, but the actual shopping environment and linkage between the content and commerce could be improved.
  • As for the remaining candidates: Jury Assessment: Zalando were good across the board, but did not stand out in terms of customer centricity or innovation. They could work on broader customer engagement post purchase, across the full customer lifecycle. Yoox also performed well on the Shop Experience Audit, as did all the candidates, and had interesting content and good efforts for customer engagement. However, they were not at the same level as their higher ranking competitors.

A focus on driving customer engagement, a consistent multitouchpoint presence and a willingness to test and learn through new innovative features will be key if pure players are to take advantage of the 12% compound annual growth rate, Forrester forecasts for European online sales through to 2018.