I’ve written before about the many benefits of face-to-face meetings, and after our inaugural SLI Connect event in Seattle earlier this month, I can affirm the immense value of gathering our customers together in one place.
SLI Connect provided a full day of retailer presentations and discussions about best practices for site search, navigation, product recommendations, mobile, merchandising, SEO and more. As retailers shared their current challenges in breakout groups, many were able to help each other identify “quick win” solutions. And as SLI executives shared our tentative product roadmap, we received real-time feedback about which innovations are most important to our customers.
We all enjoyed discussing the shopping experience of the future. Plus, we had fun dining, networking and laughing together at evening events. The relationships we built or enhanced were worth the effort of gathering from various parts of the world. Many SLI customers contacted us afterward to share their enthusiasm, indicating that their time was well spent.
There were many clear takeaways, but a few themes stood out most for me:
We requested that attendees complete a survey, which asked: “Which capabilities are expected to be the biggest drivers of your e-commerce business this holiday season?” Given nine options, retailers identified the top three drivers as SEO, Optimized Site Search and Optimized Mobile Sites. The answers indicate that getting shoppers to arrive on your site is just as important as ensuring they find the products they seek once they’re on the site.
We also surveyed SLI Connect attendees about their business drivers and new initiatives for the 2014 holiday season. When we asked: “Is Omnichannel an important part of your 2014 holiday season strategy?” 85% responded “Yes,” indicating a clear priority for multi-channel retailers to optimize interactions across mobile, social, desktop and/or brick-and-mortar store channels.
I believe e-commerce is just at the cusp of what can happen with personalization, and I am not alone. Others at SLI Connect shared an interest in enabling their customers to find (or be pushed) relevant product information or content at the right time, via the right channel. In a panel discussion, Alicia Fiorletta, a senior editor at Retail TouchPoints, explained: “All retailers just want to get closer to the customer – to get to where the customer is and interact with them in a way that relates to them.”
During her presentation about using SLI to help customers find products amid tens of thousands of SKUs, Lisa Dahlke, web operations manager at Silver Star Brands (a multi-channel retailer that includes Miles Kimball, Walter Drake, Exposures and others) said: “We are trying to understand who our customers are, how we need to treat them differently, and how our smaller brands can most stand out.”
Sam Sarullo of Lakeshore Learning shared: “We’re seeing a high trend in text/SMS messages converting, so we’re changing our strategy to do more text blasts.” His comment underscored how the strategies for reaching and converting shoppers in a relevant way across channels are ever-evolving.
Partners in Innovation
During SLI Connect, SLI CTO Wayne Munro and I offered a sneak peek into SLI’s product roadmap, with an interactive session that gave customers and prospects the opportunity to share their priorities for 2015. In addition to hearing what’s on deck, customers learned more about the products and features already available for accelerating e-commerce.
Following the event, Gavin Trippe of 2 Wheel Parts Supply said, “I attended SLI Connect knowing SLI was going to play a big part of our success in e-commerce, and I was extremely impressed with the event and the SLI team’s knowledge. It was clear that SLI really understands the future of e-commerce. The company continues to improve and invest in the product, offering a huge amount of features.”
He added: “One of the most important things SLI offers is the willingness to develop our integration past the initial installation − it shows they agree that a site will never be finished and will always have room for improvement.”
I appreciate Gavin’s comment, because I take pride in our business model; we provide ongoing innovations and advice that will continually improve our clients’ sites – not as a separate professional services or support fee, but as an included service. And I think it’s this way of doing business that makes it valuable and enjoyable for our customers to spend time with us. They know that we are genuinely listening to and responding to their requests for improvement, rather than pushing sales pitches.
I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with those who attended SLI Connect, and I look forward to hosting the event again in the future.
If you missed the event and would like some tips on improving your holiday results, please enjoy this on-demand version of our latest webinar, the E-Commerce Holiday Playbook.