Fall is in the air, and that can mean only one thing for the e-commerce industry: We all come together for one of the biggest online retailing conferences of the year. Every fall, retailers make the pilgrimage to the Shop.org Digital Summit to learn about the latest digital shopping trends and technologies to improve their e-commerce site traffic, shopper engagement and, ultimately, to make a major impact on their conversion rate and online sales.
At last week’s Digital Summit in Dallas, attendees got the opportunity to meet e-commerce leaders face-to-face and hear directly from top brands like Sephora, Lands’ End, Ulta and many more. The conference kicked off with a laugh thanks to the famed comedian Marc Maron, who was joined on stage by renowned phsicist Michio Kaku. The pair talked about the future of technology and e-commerce, with a significant slant on augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
Kaku's prediction is that the internet contacts will soon overlay content for instant knowledge, resulting in “perfect capitalization” where supply and demand is equal. In other words, “if the shopper wants it, they can get it instantly.” While this sounds perfect for the shopper, it sounds costly and challenging for the retailer. Two more realistic suggestions were to focus on branding, as it will be the only way to cut through the competition, and establish site friendliness and ease of use.
Thanks to “The Jason and Scot Show” we got to learn about lagging mobile conversion rates and Amazon.com domination. Amazon has captured 42 percent of the retail growth in 2015 (nongrocery), and Wal-Mart has nearly 10 percent, leaving only slightly more than 35 percent of the digital retail growth to be spread across all remaining brands. The chart below shows that Amazon's domination over Wal-Mart (and everyone else) should be a wake-up call for all e-tailers to fix mobile conversion friction as soon as possible.
Another interesting stat that emerged from the conference was that while 65 percent of consumers’ time spent on retail sites is on mobile devices, they're converting at just an average of 1.2 percent. The recommendation is that brands must fix this "mobile gap" by applying a few short-term tactics. First, optimize mobile performance. Decreasing page load time impacts consumers ability or desire to continue to shop. Second, limit form fields to enter data and consolidate around a few digital wallet options to ease checkout friction.
One of the highlights of the conference was the well-attended session by Becky Gebhardt, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Lands’ End. Gebhardt examined how establishing brand identity throughout the shopper's journey is critical. Lands’ End, a long-standing pioneering brand with the first 800 number for catalogs and one of the first e-commerce sites, is now focusing on deploying new technologies to attract younger shoppers while working to keep loyal customers engaged and satisfied.
And it’s always great to learn from leading innovative brands like Sephora. Johnna Marcus, Sephora’s senior director of its innovation lab, shared how her company is focused on innovation with a small, highly skilled team, and how that team is bringing innovative thinking throughout the entire organization.
Here are some of the key takeaways from this year's Shop.org Summit:
1. Massive growth: E-commerce is predicted to increase by 59 percent over the next three years. That’s both exciting and terrifying for the digital retail community. If your brand doesn’t grab that growth percentage, will you make it to 2020? Aeropostale and Sports Authority were both IR 500 companies in 2016, yet both went bankrupt and were sold in pieces.
2. Mobile shift: “Mobile first” and “mobile only” are here, with over 50 percent of traffic to retail sites coming from mobile devices. However, conversion rates from mobile aren't growing fast enough. Retailers can’t sit back and wait for mobile performance and ease of checkout to improve. They must make this an active part of their efforts by focusing on the mobile experience, engagement, performance and the overall customer journey.
3. The future is here: AR and VR in the shopping journey have begun, and we'll see this continue to emerge over the next three years to five years. We're excited with the HD and rich imagery, but device technology and network performance must catch up to truly make AR and VR a “reality.”
4. Attention spans are dwindling: The best new device is always on the horizon and the shopping experience is all about more content, more options and more speed. Consumers want instantaneous brand experiences, quick comparison shopping and easy purchase processes so they can get onto the important things — like binge watching "Luke Cage" on Netflix, watching trending videos or hiking a mountain with their family.
5. Brand is always in style: Staying true to your "brand" will never go out of style. It's your best differentiator. To achieve this, you must merge content and commerce. Additionally, e-tailers must continue to roll out new e-commerce technologies to best represent the brand experience without giving up performance since shoppers aren't willing to wait.
Shop.org is known for delivering events that help build a tight knit e-commerce community, and it’s always wonderful to see friends and colleagues, learn about new e-commerce trends and technologies, and let loose at the fun evening events.
Rich Stendardo is the president of Yottaa, a SaaS platform for accelerating e-commerce.