Insights from eTail East: The Top 3 Retail Trends This Summer

Retail professionals from leading brands gathered in Boston last week to discuss the top retail trends and the future of the industry. The 3 major themes that emerged from the panel discussions and  conversations on the tradeshow floor were:

  • The growth of omnichannel shopping journey
  • Personalization through getting to know your customer
  • The importance of mitigating shopping cart abandonment

The Growth of Omnichannel Shopping Journey

Not surprisingly, omnichannel was a major theme with a whole track dedicated to it on the first day of the conference. This buzz word isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The consumer’s shopping journey takes place across multiple devices and each channel must integrate seamlessly.

Panel Overview: Redefining Omnichannel: Blending Digital And In-Store

Panelists:

  • Andrew Chen, VP Product, Design, & UX, Baublebar
  • David Albracht, Director Product Management, The Home Depot
  • Chris Vitale, VP Digital Operations & eCommerce, Pep Boys
  • Daniel Marques, Director Online Marketing, Talbots
  • Matt Feodoroff, VP Strategic Sales, Buyer Cloud, Rubicon Project Chango

This panel discussion centered around what omnichannel means to these brands – having a single view of the user, a single view of inventory and prices, and keeping the store staff updated on plans for mobile.

Andrew Chen (Baublebar) discussed how they connect visits across channels by using their loyalty program – as long as the customer identifies themselves, they can track them throughout their shopping journey. This is a common challenge for brands and Chris from Pep Boys noted that it’s something they’ve been struggling with. He pointed out that it’s hard to get funding for initiatives like this internally because the revenue brought in by the digital store appears lower than it truly is because it doesn’t account for digitally-influenced sales in-store.

This led to a discussion around sales attribution, which all panelists agreed is very important. For some brands, associates avoid sending customers online because it may hurt their sales targets, so to avoid this, Home Depot ensures that the stores get credit no matter where the purchase is made. Pep Boys takes a different approach, attributing digitally-influenced in-store sales to the digital team. The brand doesn’t have a method for keeping track of which sales start online, so their solution is to incentivize their digital team for both online sales and total sales (online and in-store). This approach is a common solution to the challenge retailers face in recognizing the influence digital and mobile has on offline purchases.

Next up in the discussion was failures and successes in omnichannel. David and Daniel agreed that kiosks were a flop. Kiosks are technically difficult to use and they solve the wrong problem – everyone already has a device in their pocket. On the other hand, ship-to-store and pick-up in store has been a huge success. The Home Depot has seen 40% of their online orders select the ship-to-store or pick-up in-store options.

Personalization Through Getting to Know Your Customer

A key part of personalizing the experience for shoppers is gathering information about shopper behaviour – which requires return customers. Personalization and customer retention go hand-in-hand and there were quotes from retail professionals throughout the conference to support this.

My most important job is to make sure customers come back.

Dave Ratner, Owner, Dave’s Soda and Pet City

Previously we were building personas, but now we’re marketing 1-1 and understanding the individual.

Amy Labroo, Senior Director of Emerging Technology, Wyndham Hotel Group

Ashley Stewart focuses on getting to know the customer. James Rhee, Chairman & CEO of Ashley Stewart, shared his story about how the brick-and-mortar retailer went from going bankrupt twice to being one of the country’s fastest growing, most engaged multi-channel brands in less than one year.

He attributes turning the business around to getting to know the brand’s customer:

  • How she talks
  • What makes her happy/sad
  • How she responds in certain situations
  • What she likes to do

Their customers come in 3 – 4 times per week and love the Ashley Stewart brand.

If you don’t love this person we’re taking care of, you can’t work here.

James Rhee, Chairman & CEO of Ashley Stewart

Corey Tisdale, CEO, Shopperschoice.com pointed out that personalization may need to take a different approach depending on the demgraphics of your target customers. Online, instead of saying “recommendations for you,” the brand says “customers also bought” so that the shopper doesn’t feel as though the brand is gathering too much personal information. Since their shoppers are generally from an older generation and more concerned about privacy issues, they have to be careful with the wording of their personalized content.

Mitigating Shopping Cart Abandonment

Mitigating shopping cart abandonment is one of the biggest challenges for retailers, with the average shopping cart abandonment rate in 2015 being 68%.

Follow-up shopping cart abandonment emails are a popular method for addressing this issue – 41% of retailers send cart reminders according to Jim Davidson, Head of Research, Bronto. He believes that even if you don’t have the tools to include what was in the customer’s cart, it’s still worthwhile sending them a follow-up email to remind them about your brand.

He made some recommendations on the content of the email:

  • Careful with the amount of copy and that the message isn’t too intense
  • Have fun with the message wording
  • Put product high in the message
  • Be helpful – add CSR info for questions

If a user leaves their shopping cart, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s without intention to buy, they may just need a little push to pull them back into the shopping journey. While many use emails, there is now a lot of buzz surrounding push notifications – through apps and through websites – and leading retailers are employing this new channel to re-engage shoppers and skip their overflowing inboxes.

Until Next Year!

Omnichannel, personalization and shopping cart abandonment are three prominent trends that have been prevalent throughout the retail industry this year. eTail East was a great opportunity to come together to discuss successes, failures, and best practices around these themes. We wanted to share our learnings and insights from the event in case you weren’t able to attend or listen to every panel discussion – we hope this makes you feel like you were there!

 

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