When I attend industry conferences, I do quite a lot of cherry-picking. After all, there’s quite a lot of information spread around, but not a lot of it’s relevant to catalogers and multichannel marketers.
So for this week’s edition of The Corner View, I took it upon myself to attend many sessions from the eTail Conference, held Feb. 11-14 in Palm Desert, Calif., and whittle down these experiences into the top 10 ideas, tips, points and company activities I took in during the event.
I only attended sessions with panels that included catalog/multichannel marketers. The most noteworthy subjects they discussed included exploring the commerce opportunities for online social networks, upgrading e-commerce platforms, customer retention and matchback refinements.
Below are the top 10 tips I gleaned from these panels listed by subject matter, with speaker attribution in italics below.
1. Expand E-Mail’s Potential
E-mail marketing is still nowhere near its full potential for catalogers. You can take e-mail and do a lot more recency/frequency/monetary modeling and segmentation, using some traditional direct marketing tactics to drive increased response. Norm Thompson Outfitters has been testing this and believes that e-mail “will be the holy grail to building very loyal customers.” — Shelley Nandkeolyar, CEO, Norm Thompson
2. Handle Orders Consistently
Offer the same customer experience whether you’re handling 1,000 orders per hour on Thanksgiving Day or more than 13,000 orders per hour on Black Friday, as Staples.com did. Staples.com has experienced double-digit growth for its direct/catalog/online unit and increased visitor-to-buyer conversion rates by nearly 60 percent since redesigning its Web site a couple of years ago.
The office-supplies marketer incorporates deep site analytics to know what its customers are doing. The company collects many customer satisfaction surveys, but the timing is key: “Make sure you’re doing them at the right point and through the right medium.” —Kenneth Moore, director of Staples Business Delivery Information Technology, Staples
3. Use Video
Encourage customers to upload video reviews of products using YouTube.com. “It’s moving slowly now for us, but we’re seeing growth and see it as a huge opportunity for users to build hundreds of thousands of ‘commercials’ for [PETCO products].” — John Lazarchic, vice president of e-commerce, PETCO
4. Know When and How to Upgrade Your E-Commerce System and Vendor
When multichannel candle marketer Yankee Candle recently changed its e-commerce solutions system, it went through an extensive evaluation process company wide. Specifically, Yankee Candle went through the following steps in evaluating its choices:
* took stock of its business goals and strategies and the solutions needed to support them;
* built a financial model that was flexible and extendible;
* sought to return control of the business to itself rather than its e-commerce platform;
* found a solution that met the business, technical and customer needs; and
* built a leverageable foundation so it could improve its system in the future rather than constrain its e-commerce capabilities. —Robert Stetzel, vice president, business information services, The Yankee Candle Co.
5. Build Online Communities Based on Customer Desire
If you’re going to build an online community on your site, make sure you have the desire from people who come on the site that they want to sit around and talk to each other. —Finlay Robb, chief marketing officer, LEGO
6. Create a Customer-Focused Shopping Experience
Customers’ attitudes are shaped by cumulative experiences. These are what direct future behavior, loyalty, share of wallet and word-of-mouth. Most of our customers want to shop across various channels. But if they’ve had a bad experience online, it doesn’t only affect how they feel about shopping from a multichannel marketer online — it affects how they feel about that marketer overall. —Craig Stevenson, global multichannel retail solutions leader, IBM
7. Maximize Your Market Spend Across Channels
In determining its potential market spend for the three channels Williams-Sonoma and its other trichannel units, such as Pottery Barn, use, the housewares and home furnishings marketer looks at the following metrics:
* Matchback information to people who received catalogs.
* In 2008, give paid search a portion of marketing expenses, taking into consideration both the revenue and cost sides.
* Learn from on-site searches. “If something shows up as no results, that’s a big red flag for our merchandising team. If a customer is looking for a recipe on the Williams-Sonoma site, we look to have a technique class in our stores.”
* Search engine optimization will drive incremental revenue. Many multichannel marketers have let SEO lapse a bit due to a greater focus on paid search programs. “But we see a potential big boost in 2008. The biggest question for us is that attribution and measure for us so we can answer to our CFO. SEO dollars that are free to us should be leveraged to the max.” — Angela Caltagirone, director of direct marketing services, Williams-Sonoma
8. Relieve Tech Support Reps With Customer-Provided Solutions
Dell has discovered that its customers like to get solutions for their product issues from other customers via Dell’s own customer bulletin boards. They prefer when other customers offer advice to being put on hold by Dell tech support reps and like the idea of getting their issues resolved right away. —Sean McDonald, director, global online, Dell
9. Rethink Your Approach to Matchbacks
If you use matchbacks, revisit them. Most catalogers assume all sales are driven by the print catalog until proven otherwise. Look at each marketing stimulus and attribute it to channels. Use a fairly rigorous process. In Norm Thompson’s case, the cataloger looks at the last marketing tool customers are exposed to and works backward from there. “It’s very involved, and the demonstrations are in the details.” —Nandkeolyar, Norm Thompson
10. Future Selling Opportunity: Mobile Communications
As people gain, participate and consume more information, it’s going to move to mobile communications. It’s already happening in Asia. In the 1980s, teens went to the mall to be social. Now, today’s kids still want that social engagement where they can talk and communicate. “The interesting thing is, you see them doing it in the mall today — except you can see teens text-messaging one another back and forth when they’re standing right next to one another in the mall.” —McDonald, Dell