From the NRF BIG Show: 8 Innovations in E-Commerce, Part 1
How the online shopping experience has changed since the birth of e-commerce was the focus of a lively session at the National Retail Federation's BIG Show in New York City this week.
Kelly Mooney, president and chief experience officer at the digital marketing agency Resource Interactive; Bill Bass, president of Charming Direct; and Bob Myers, CEO of Sheplers, teamed up to discuss eight innovative concepts currently being deployed by retailers to help them increase marketing effectiveness, enhance customer experiences and harness social commerce.
Here are the first four of the eight concepts discussed, along with Bass’ and Myers’ takes on them:
1. User contributed merchandising. Mooney discussed how outdoor goods e-retailer Backcountry.com leverages user-contributed marketing — i.e., gathering comments about its brand and the brands it sells, then using that content as a merchandising tool.
Bass’ take: "I give this concept a thumbs up, and would refer to it as customer-centric merchandising. Customers like hearing from other customers."
Myers’ take: "I also give this a thumbs up. These end-user comments make the site a destination, a place that folks would want to visit regularly. It's also a low-cost way to get great content, and helps improve conversion rates because this kind of content is searchable through SEO."
2. Interactive shopping. Mooney pointed out how apparel and accessories specialty retailer Wet Seal has a real-time, interactive social shopping application on its website that enables visitors to instantly send an invitation to their friends on Facebook, AIM, Bebo and ICQ to shop together on the site. Friends browse together with an unobstructed same view while they scroll, navigate and mark up pages in a synchronized shopping experience. The technology platform is designed to break down one of the biggest barriers for online retailing — the inability for shoppers to quickly and easily get opinions from friends and family on potential purchases.
Bass’ take: "I give this a thumbs down. When I was at Lands' End, we pioneered using live customer help on our site, and hardly anyone used it. If you want the social experience of shopping with your friends, then you go to stores and shop. I don't think this is the way people shop online."
Myers’ take: "I give this a thumbs down as well, but because of the scalability factor. Even if it works, scaling it and figuring out how to use it on different brands and for multiple generations would be difficult."
3. On-site conversations. The panelists then discussed the conversation page on Nordstrom.com, which brings together a series of stories, blog posts, style lookbooks, Twitter feeds and Facebook links.
Bass’ take: "Customers trust other customers. But in order for this to work, you have to keep people on the site interacting."
Myers’ take: "I also give this a thumbs up. This should increase conversions as well as interactions between highly qualified shoppers."
4. E-commerce everywhere. The concept of e-commerce as a transactional experience within brands’ Facebook pages was then bandied about by the panelists. The Home Depot and J.C. Penney's Facebook stores were cited as examples.
Bass’ take: "I give this a thumbs up. This is the next step in content syndication, and allows shoppers to shop for merchandise when they're online."
Myers’ take: "I also give this a thumbs up, but retailers shouldn't put their entire assortment on the [social media] site. I'd put excluive offers up specifically for fans, such as a deal for a great pair of cowboy boots, for example. But I wouldn't spend more than a couple of hours a week on it."
Check back tomorrow for part two of this series, when the final four trends will be revealed and examined.