It was another huge year for the Internet Retailer Conference. Last week, more than 9,500 attendees and almost 600 exhibitors came to Chicago for IRCE 2013. Our top takeways centered around mobile, data and agility.
Mobile: There is no doubt that mobile is the single most influential factor today in retail. Online. In-store. For B2C, B2B and internal uses. Every retailer is investing more in their mobile strategy as they now experience between 15% and 40% of their web traffic from smartphones and tablets. Mobile has become so important that some retailers are insourcing the development of mobile sites and code libraries to assert greater control and consistency. Notably, many retailers are still challenged with slow site speed, lower conversion rates and price and data consistency across this channel. Keynote speaker, Al Gore, noted how smartphones activated in China now surpassed the US and he stressed the significance of mobile, “I've got the best MacPro, but I never use it anymore—like a lot of people, I’m using mobile all the time.”
The Successes (Personalization)
A host of sessions highlighted the value of data-driven applications, specifically around personalization across all consumer touchpoints. In such a fast-paced, crowded market the importance of understanding and reacting to consumer behavior in real-time is becoming a core competitive advantage. Retailers are beginning to successfully use dynamic, adaptive intelligence tools for advertising, customer engagement and predicting product and category performance. Speaker Jose Nino, Director of Customer Acquisition, E-Commerce at Perry Ellis International summed it up best advising listeners to use “bullets before cannonballs” and to test everything before you invest heavily.
The Challenges (Real-Time, Attribution, Lifetime Value)
The largest data challenges continue to relate to understanding omni-channel and the use of big data. Jan Linert, Director of Online Marketing and Web Analytics The Children’s Place discussed his definition of “big data” was more about connecting disparate data sources to extract insights rather than the size of the data. Most companies we spoke with felt like they did not have the technology nor the personnel to monetize their data to create actionable insights quickly. In conjunction with the rise of mobile, speakers reported a lot of pain trying to quantify customer lifetime value and attribute marketing across all channels. Focus seemed to be shifting towards creating in-store strategies to collect personal user information that may be evaluated against similar online behavioral data. However, no one has found a magic bullet to convince more than a small percentage of shoppers to provide their personal email at the point-of-sale. While in-store purchases still account for around 90% of total retail sales, we believe savvy retailers will find ways to incentivize and/or collect more personal offline data to gain a more complete omni-channel picture.
Agility: Many retailers still appear to lack the internal development processes to adapt to the rapid, continuous change in how consumers discover and purchase products. One of the more interesting sessions, led by John Seebeck, Vice President eCommerce at Crate & Barrel, articulated the company’s vision to create best-in-class customer experiences. To accomplish this, Crate and Barrel is implementing long-term operational changes to maximize internal agility, including:
- Acting like a startup with minimum viable product launches that are valuable, usable and feasible vs. “big” achievements;
- Shifting development from a “pool” structure to smaller, empowered teams with multi-discipline, co-leadership across product, UX and IT;
- Implementing intense collaboration with two-week, agile development releases compared to six-week waterfall sprints; and
- Performing weekly (vs. monthly) customer product discovery and research.
Seebeck noted mobile was “mission-critical” and development was moving completely in-house. He also highlighted Crate & Barrel’s appreciation for Google Android, eBay, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Fab, and Gilt for driving innovation around the consumer experience.