It’s no longer a question of whether digital is imperative to retailers — we don’t need to go over once again how retailers like Circuit City and Borders failed because they didn’t embrace digital channels. The real question is which digital tactics are most important to retailers and why.
E-Tail recently conducted a study that asked high-level retail executives what their priorities are in digital. According to the findings, here are retail execs’ top 10 priorities in digital.
1. Cross-Channel Optimization
According to IBM, cross-channel optimization means using the capabilities of one channel to positively change the cost structure of another channel and is an important part of retail success. A good example of successful cross-channel optimization is how many retailers are now using Twitter as a customer service channel and, as a result, are lowering the costs of operating a call center.
2. Data and Business Intelligence
Retailers are putting a lot of emphasis on better understanding their customers through data. Retailers can use data for price optimization, product placement, store operations, supply chain, staffing, marketing and customer service. Last year, Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did. This shows the power of data in retail.
3. Omnichannel Commerce
Omnichannel commerce means blurring the lines between the physical store, online and mobile. Sephora is an example of a retailer that has this all figured out. Sephora uses social media to build trust and relationships with its customers via the Beauty Talk community and its social pages. The beauty products retailer has embraced product reviews both online and on mobile and has even integrated mobile into the in-store experience. The site is totally personalized, recommending products to people based on past purchases. People can even use mobile to checkout in-store.
Personalizing the content on a retail website to better cater to shoppers’ wants and needs has been a goal for retailers since the Internet first emerged. Sears and Kmart saw a 25 percent increase in online sales in one quarter due to their “ShopYourWay” campaign. The retailers targeted Niki Minaj and Adam Levine fans with dedicated Web stores for each artist complete with integrated social media, tailored suggestions and coupons. Additionally, during Hurricane Sandy, the retailers sent personalized offers to people in affected ZIP codes and started monitoring weather patterns to remind customers to buy snow shovels and batteries.
5. User Experience Enhancements
The user experience on a mobile site, within an app or online, must be fast and simple, otherwise people get turned off and go to the competitor. Amazon has mastered user experience online, namely with its one-click purchase functionality. But user experience also means making sure your site loads fast. Additionally, user experience enhancements can also mean trying new things in the physical store to create a better experience for shoppers. For example, Top Shop’s augmented reality dressing rooms.
6. Conversion Optimization
Optimizing your images and product pages and doing A/B testing as well as multivariate testing to check which shopping cart produces more purchase completions are important parts of conversion optimization. The goal is to drive sales online and get more people to sign up for email and other forms of communication. Retailers like Zappos have mastered this. Little things like showing its top selling products on the site, videos of products and great on-site search accuracy set Zappos apart from the competition.
Email gives retailers the opportunity to create connections with potential and existing customers. Some tried and true email tactics included personalizing emails for customers after a purchase has been made, sending a welcome email once someone signs up to receive email communications and also reaching out to consumers who have abandoned their shopping carts. Email is also a great way to drive acquisition in other channels like social media and mobile. While email isn’t the sexiest or newest channel, it provides retailers with a lot of opportunities, which is why retailers are still so enthusiastic about email.
8. Search Marketing
Search is critical to retailers. Every day people search the Web looking for products and services. Retailers are constantly optimizing their search strategies to make sure that they’re turning up in search results, because that could mean improved sales and increased brand awareness. Because the business is becoming more and more data driven, search marketing is changing. Retailers now have to make smarter and faster decisions about their search strategy.
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Looks like it will be another “Year of Mobile”: According to E-Tail, the majority of retail execs believe that mobile will see the most growth in the next year. Mobile devices are becoming shopping companions. People are using their devices to search for retail locations, coupons and deals. They are getting product information via QR codes. They’re making purchases via the mobile Web and apps. That’s why retailers are actively pursuing mobile this next year and beyond to enhance customer engagement and loyalty.
10. Social Media
When respondents to E-Tail’s study were asked how they are using social, generating sales was the least likely reason given. The majority of respondents are aiming for engagement, in hopes that building relationships through daily interactions will eventually lead to sales. But social media marketing is still in its infancy. Retailers are still trying to figure out the best ways to get people to interact with them via social channels.
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