IRCE 2017 Was an Education in Our World of Internet Retailing
This year’s IRCE had everything — the big picture overview of where the industry is evolving, specific strategies and tactics for the Q4 selling season, and a wealth of marketing and operational opportunities in an exhibit hall filled with vendors detailing how their products can build your business.
The big picture story from this year’s conference was Amazon.com's continued march toward dominating not only internet retailing, but the entire world of retail. Amazon’s metrics are simply amazing. The Seattle-based retailer has a huge share of online transactions, its growth this year is expected to exceed Wal-Mart’s entire online business revenue, and its Prime membership service now serves a majority of the U.S. population. Amazon has an ever-increasing number of touchpoints to engage consumers, including brick-and-mortar stores. Now Amazon has digital ads for those brands that have the margin to afford them after Amazon takes its sales commissions. Lastly, there was a lot of focus on how other retailers can survive in a world increasingly dominated by Amazon’s drive to lower prices on most every product it touches.
The second narrative from the conference was the marketing imperatives for retailers in 2017. How do marketers make Q4 2017 the best season yet? Denis Coombes from ROI Revolution covered the trends driving Q4, including the following "Cyber Five" (Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday) stats:
- 15 percent growth in online sales from 2015
- Cyber Monday 2016 was the biggest day in the history of U.S. e-commerce
- 20 percent more products were discounted in 2016 than the year prior
- The average discount was 44 percent compared to 36 percent in 2015
- More traffic and more orders were transacted on mobile than on desktop on Thanksgiving Day for the first time ever
- 5 million more people shopped online vs. a decrease of 3 million in-store shoppers over the Cyber Five weekend.
Coombes presentation included common online mistakes to avoid:
- Not enhancing your Google shopping feed. Use proven holiday search queries in feed titles and descriptions. Use merchant promotions to stand out among the competition. Consider promos only for pay per click.
- Not fortifying a search ad strategy. Optimize by device, geography, time of day or day of the week. Push your top keywords harder. Audit your keyword set. Reassess any keywords you may have paused because everything performs better during the holidays.
- Not diversifying to include Amazon advertising. Fifty-five percent of all online product searches start on Amazon.
- Not investing in a mobile-first strategy. The percentage of traffic coming from mobile Google shopping grew nearly 300 percent in 2016. Increasing numbers of people are researching on their phone and buying on their desktop.
- Not leveraging Facebook retargeting. More than 26 percent of all U.S. digital display ad revenue came from Facebook in 2016. The combination of your email list, Facebook pixels and fan-based audiences makes Facebook retargeting a necessary part of your digital ad spend.
The exhibit hall offered a wealth of technology products. It was a great forum for shopping for what retailers want, and what they could afford, especially across the dominant Magento and Shopify platforms.
- TurnTo had state-of-the-art customer ratings and reviews. Its application made posting reviews seamless. Furthermore, it had community Q&A, visual reviews and checkout comments.
- Shopper Approved was an affordable rating and review aggregator.
- Invodo created video content and made the business case for video.
- Analytics Pros showed how to use Google Tag Manager to centralize tags in a single location.
- Criteo continues to be a leader in remarketing and retargeting. Attribution continues to be an issue because Criteo typically uses a 30-day window to claim attribution, while a more conservative methodology such as last click shows very different results. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.
- Addressy has a faster, easier way to enter and verify addresses in Magento. Clean addresses reduce failed deliveries (and the associated penalties from Fed Ex and UPS) and increase conversion rates by eliminating checkout friction. Building trust and speed into the checkout process really upgrades your site in a very tangible way.
- Merkle had some resources that were full of tactics. “The Great Loyalty Reset: A Global Outlook on Retail and CPG Loyalty in 2017,” “Digital Marketing Report,” and “2017 Marketing Imperatives” are all must reads.
Once again, IRCE was an in-depth tour of our internet retailing world. When an industry is evolving at breathtaking speed, it's vital to have a tradeshow that lets one keep up with the pace of change.
Jim Coogan is the founder and president of Catalog Marketing Economics, a consulting firm focused on catalog circulation planning.