eTail East 2015 recap and lessons learned

Conference Recap & Lessons Learned: eTail East 2015 in Boston, MA

As first published in Total Retail on August 14, 2015 at http://www.mytotalretail.com/article/top-e-commerce-trends-etail-east/.

This year’s eTail East event was held in our hometown of Boston MA. Over 1500 top retailers gathered in Beantown to discuss ecommerce trends and share ideas on the future of online retail.

Missed this year’s conference? Read our recap and the lessons we’re taking home after four jam-packed days at eTail East 2015!

Top Retailing Themes at eTail East

We often talk about the idea that “content is king,” an accurate description of the importance that high-quality content now plays in capturing attention in today’s fast-paced world. However, at eTail East we can take a step back and remember that before we focus on content we remind ourselves that it all starts and stops with the consumer: The Consumer is truly King.

That sentiment was clearly reflected in this year’s driving themes and statistics shared at the conference. Here are the most applicable themes that will guide retailers through the challenges they’ll face in 2015, 2016, and beyond:

Growth in Omni-Channel
Retailers need to shift and adjust channel strategies with changes in the market

There’s been a lot of talk in the past about how consumers browse on mobile but buy on desktop. More recently, however, that trend is definitely changing and mobile is now becoming a major source of revenues for retailers.

In fact, James Smith from Criteo showed us that so far in 2015, 41% of final purchases have been made on a smartphone and only 37% on desktop. Will 2016 be the year we break the 50% purchases mark on mobile? Experts say “YES”!

When looking at mobile purchasing trends, it’s also surprising that more mobile purchases were actually made on devices with smaller screens: 46% were made on tablets and 54% on smartphones.

Contrast this data with the following: 87% of consumers say that current mobile purchasing experiences aren’t very good. Yet, 83% of retailers think their mobile web experiences ARE “very good.”

There is clearly a major disconnect. Retailers that can bridge this gap and figure out how to create engaging and easy to shop web experiences will have a competitive advantage — and see significant conversion increases on smartphones.

But let’s not forget: one channel does not fit all and retailers need to maintain an omnichannel approach that engages consumers across multiple devices. Desktop isn’t passé or out of style. Criteo asserted it might be more about the time of day. Desktop sales peak during business hours while smartphones sales peak after 6pm.

 

In my opinion, it’s clear that if the experience is engaging, designed for omni-channel, and easy to shop, then an increase in mobile conversion is inherent and impactful. Tools like Zmags Creator content marketing platform have done just this for clients like New York & Company.

What is Innovation?
Innovation starts with cultures that are not afraid to fail

Annabela Perozek, CMO of ShoeBuy, and Cindy Starr, SVP Marketing at VistaPrint, were in “violent agreement” that the first step to innovation is having an organization that is not afraid of failure.

In an environment where people are encouraged to be bold, employees are willing to try creative, new ideas because they know the organization will support them — even if the new idea doesn’t come to market or make an impact.

Everyone is looking for the disruptive technology or brand experience that will attract new shoppers, keep them on site, and ultimately convert more sales, but innovation comes in many shapes and sizes.

It might be the ‘big idea’ of the year, complete with a lab team under secrecy, or a small incremental change that moves the consumer experience forward. Regardless, leaders that instill a culture of embracing innovation in their companies reap the rewards of invention and modernization that often translate to bottom-line impact.

As we launched our recent Zmags Creator content marketing platform this year we learned the importance of balancing new innovations with day-to-day business and experience improvements. Embracing change can be difficult but it is only through cultivating an inclusive environment that welcomes new ideas, both big and small, where real thought leadership can emerge.

eCommerce Growth
The ultimate desire of all retailers

Perhaps the most pervasive theme at this year’s eTail East conference was the customer journey. Knowledge of your brand, and your competitive brand expectations, must closely align with your consumer experience strategy.

We heard countless case examples that highlighted the clear relationship between more engaged consumers, stand-out shopping experiences, and higher conversion rates. What did all of these experiences have in common? They drove eCommerce growth by delivering:

  • Differentiated, unique, and highly branded experiences which consistently outperformed the competition
  • Personalized customer service elements – for example embedded chat or user-generated reviews – that forged trust and conversions
  • Ease of shopping – They consistently avoided the need to force their visitors to hunt through the grid of products to find featured items

These pointers dovetailed nicely with a lot of discussions about maximizing holiday revenue. The biggest takeaway? This year isn’t over yet. Impactful changes can still be planned and executed for the 2015 holiday season. Tuesday’s workshop, “9 Ecommerce Tips You Can Implement In The Next 6 Months,” showed that there are a lot of quick wins out there that will help retailers increase holiday conversion rates.

A Boutique Conference

eTail East 2015 has been a great learning experience for retailers and technology companies alike. The intimate setting allowed for great conversations and gave us a lot to think about for the remainder of the year. As market conditions change, technologies advance, and consumer behaviors shift at unprecedented speeds forums like eTail East help us keep our finger on the pulse of these changes and prepare for the future of eCommerce and online retailing.

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