Monday, March 04, 2019

What's Happening in Ecommerce: Three Insights

Dale Traxler
Technology / Strategy

This past January, hundreds of retailers attended IC Summit in Los Angeles, a two-day conference focused on tackling the challenges of today’s ecommerce lifecycle. Through a series of panel discussions, attendees shared ideas, connected with digital solution providers and networked with the industry’s online brand builders.

Speaking on two of the panels were innovators from strategic solution partners Rightpoint and Sid Lee. Dale Traxler, Rightpoint’s Vice President, Commerce, participated in a panel looking at strategy and integration of omnichannel, and how to define the evolution of omni. Vincent Ramsay, Sid Lee’s Senior Creative Director, Digital and Innovation, took the stage for a panel on mobile engagement, addressing how retailers can take advantage of the $2-billion revenues generated by mobile shopping today.

Here they recap the three themes that dominated the conversations and what you can apply as a retailer to elevate your brand in today’s digital economy:

Amazon: Know your ecommerce benchmark

“How the hell do we deal with Amazon?” as Traxler puts it, was the most consistent topic of conversation at the summit. Whether it’s manufacturers or a retailer, people are still struggling with their perception of the ecommerce giant and what they can do to compete.

“Every retailer today has to know how to be independent of Amazon but also to work with them closely,” he says. According to him, an effective strategy starts with strong brand positioning and differentiation. As an example, he points to the tactic of selling highly personalized, configurable products, something Amazon doesn’t currently do.

“Brands need to ask themselves: ‘Other than price, what makes us different? Why would you choose us?’ It’s vital that your brand is different and can deliver a great, consistent customer experience, but isn’t the same as everyone else’s.”

Invest in your brand story

“If you want to unlock big sales and increase traffic to your site, you need to invest in your brand story,” says Ramsay, “because that’s what really moves the needle, not just adjusting tiny details in your funnel.”

For him, one of the most refreshing brand stories from the summit was of Toms Shoes, that, through its “One for One” model, helps a person in need with every product purchased. The company partners with over 100 organizations worldwide to address issues like gun violence, bullying, hunger and safe childbirth.

“We’re at a point where ecommerce needs to brand itself as a different experience,” he says, “to really stand out, brands need to focus on telling their story rather than simply working towards the Amazon benchmark.” In the case of Toms Shoes, he explains, the storytelling that’s built into their DNA is what creates their momentum and success.

“Another brand I’ve been watching closely is Brandless,” Traxler adds, “who has created a brand story about not being a brand. And that is their brand.” The company donates food and gives phones to the homeless, curates high-quality products and sells everything for between three and nine dollars. “They’re growing like wildfire and it’s because of what they do and why they do it.”

Make every click count

The third hot topic and question among vendors was: “Now that we’ve launched our site, how can we make it perform better?” Traxler noticed that through merchandising, advertising or SEM, brands were focused on turning data into dollars and improving the consumer journey in between.

Without investing in optimization, whether it’s brand story, product content, logo placement or even the color of the “buy” button, people will visit your site, but they might not buy anything,” he says, “it’s something brands are aware of and they know they need help.”

“Everything loops back to how these contact points are integrated and how seamless the journey is,” adds Ramsay, “I think full stack is the solution but it’s still unknown.” While big brands like Google and Adobe claim their full stacks allow real time optimization and personalization, Ramsay feels these features have yet to be explored.

The most successful companies leveraging digital channels are small start-ups offering a niche digital product, Traxler says. They can adapt quickly to changing markets and work well with different technology stacks, content and silos of influence. “But as soon as they branch out, they start to run into problems. Either they’re suddenly in a physical store instead of online, or they buy and try to integrate another company. That’s when things get tricky. It’s really fascinating.”

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