Top Takeaways From IRCE
Working the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago is always a snapshot into the state of e-commerce. My first priority each year is to walk the show floor to find out what are the obvious “needle movers” that need to be part of everyone’s internet marketing plans. This year’s list of “duh, of course you should be doing that” includes the following:
- Pop-ups to capture e mail addresses.
- Video is an efficient way to raise your organic search rankings.
- Product Listing Ads (PLAs) offer deep pools of profitable ads for most merchants.
- Product reviews are another way to raise your organic search rankings.
- Having a mobile- and tablet-optimized site. The increase in the number of orders being placed on mobile devices is astonishing. Therefore, if your mobile site doesn’t seamlessly enable all steps in the purchase process, from browse through ordering, you’re missing significant sales. Retail sites have to be very easy to navigate on a smartphone. Mobile search algorithms find sites that are smartphone friendly.
- Organic search rankings are sustainable, while pay per click may prove unprofitable as costs increase. Therefore, the majority of marketers are focused on building and maintaining their organic search rankings.
- Digital ads aren’t worth much, however, they should be deployed to your shopping cart and website abandoners because those ads are proving profitable.
- Americans are trained to find the best deal out there. Therefore, coupons are critical. Feeding the coupon sites (e.g., RetailMeNot) provides a layer of sales that is both incremental and rich in ROI.
- Use a third-party provider like Refund Retriever or 71Lbs to go after shipping refunds. It’s free money.
What to Focus On Next?
Everyone is talking about the complexity of multichannel attribution and the need to know what marketing messages are driving sales. Consumers are bombarded with messaging from all channels. Web Decisions has an enterprise tool to update, display and measure in real time the impact of your many marketing messages. Having a dashboard to view what's driving traffic and sales is critical.
Most merchants are still cobbling together their own ways to attribute sales using a combination of Google Analytics, their own business rules and catalog matchbacks. Searching for tools to simplify multichannel attribution will continue to be a major pain point, with vendors searching for products to make the enterprise solutions affordable and actionable for a wider range of internet retailers.
Personalization Takes Center Stage
Personalization was one of the buzzwords at the show. Here are personalization priorities in descending order according to Kathy Kimple at FitForCommerce:
- related items on product pages;
- products shown on cart pages (e.g., "people like me also bought");
- homepage personalization;
- location-specific content;
- loyalty page;
- customer-specified delivery date;
- personalization to size level (e.g., show products in stock in my size); and
- showing “my favorite store location."
Getting personalization done right requires having both the ability to dynamically create personalized content as well as the developers to get the work done. The “Holy Grail” is targeted messaging for very granular pockets of your user base.
I walked the show for several hours with a catalog client that's replatforming, and he touched base with his “middleware” vendors. Each conversation yielded good advice on how he could most effectively complete and leverage his replatforming conversion. My takeaway was not so much the individual recommendations from the “middleware” vendors, but the vendors’ depth of knowledge and ability to help guide a merchant through a conversion. One of the issues for most merchants looking to upgrade their web platform is what to do first. Platforms come with an almost infinite variety of potential bolt-on programs. Sorting out where to focus time and energy is critical, and the “middleware” vendors can clearly be of help.
One vendor’s offering stopped me in my tracks and left me shaking my head at how fast this industry is evolving. TVPage offers brands the ability to download and aggregate videos and create a TV channel in minutes. As merchants build up libraries of video content, this ability to aggregate and arrange videos into a coherent TV channel was a great leap forward in making video libraries manageable and accessible. Here are all your videos arranged so your customers can sort and find what they need. And you the merchant can pull down video content from your manufacturers almost instantly and add those videos to your site. Amazing stuff.
IRCE again proved to be the forum for learning what’s new and hot, the big topics everyone are talking about, and the established “needle movers” that are driving sales and profits across the industry.
Jim Coogan is the founder and president of Catalog Marketing Economics, a consulting firm focused on catalog circulation planning.
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