Dozens of e-commerce companies, thought leaders and SLI partners convened this fall at Carnegie Hall in New York City for our third annual SLI Connect event. During packed presentations and breakout sessions the group tackled many issues and opportunities for online retailers today. Among the over-arching themes were strategies to compete with Amazon, ways to offer a personalized experience, and best practices in quickly connecting buyers with the products they are most likely to buy. Here are some highlights.
Many Ways to Compete with Amazon
E-commerce is growing 12%, offering many opportunities to grow sales. As SLI Systems CMO, I shared ways that online merchants can seize the greatest share of sales, particularly when competing with Amazon, which is “ruthlessly efficient in selling online.” SLI’s goal is to give everyone else the tools that the big players have, so that they can increase traffic, turn shoppers into buyers, and sell more to each buyer. SLI enables a virtuous cycle of predictive product discovery: increased site traffic powers the SLI Buyer Engine to improve user experience; this converts more shoppers into buyers and increases AOVs; then, analysis of user behavior drives new site traffic. It’s the beauty of processing data streams in real time.
eShopportunity Founder Fahim Naim offered methods for retailers to expand sales, using examples from e-commerce trailblazers Jet.com, Boxed.com and Enjoy.com. Offer membership and subscription options to drive engagement, use sample boxes for trials and awareness, and add marketplaces to expand the share of wallet. He also explained key trends to watch, such as:
Jeff Fox with SLI partner Feefo shared how customer reviews and ratings provide invaluable business insights for teams, service and products functions across industries. He net out best practices in capturing the customer experience to drive sales, including engaging genuine customers, evaluating feedback and responding, expanding content reach, driving traffic to the website, sharing reviews across social platforms and generating Gold stars to increase Google QS. In fact, Google rewards you for having an improved quality score by lowering your Adword spend – and in some instances, good ratings can cover your ad spend.
From Site to Paid, #SearchIsSexy
SLI Chief Innovation Officer Shaun Ryan recapped the evolution of e-commerce and site search, beginning in 2001, covering the rise of user-generated content, social media – from Myspace to Pinterest, e-mail marketing, SEO and paid Search/Google Shopping, mobile, personalization, video, and marketplaces. He explained that the future of site search is about perfecting cross-channel selling, buying for profiles (implicitly OR explicitly letting users specify who they are buying for), and for non-Amazon merchants, exploring the (controversial) opportunity to collectively use preferences to offer a better experience for the shopper.
Panel session moderator Melissa Campanelli, with Total Retail publishing, who earlier spoke on the state of retail amidst digital disrupters (notably the presidential election) (watch video here), asked the panel whether search has lost its edge, like email, the group agreed that search remains important given the strong value/intent to buy when someone uses a site search box. One panelist explained “Amazon is great if you know what you want but it sucks if you just want to browse. Think about how can people browse and find things easily. Not many sites do this well.” Another panelist added, “Search is sexy” – and a new hash tag was born: #searchissexy.
Greg Bauman of e-commerce paid search management firm ROI Revolution shared Google Shopping strategies, including tracking keywords, spending where the cost for CVR is less (such as with umbrellas in AZ vs. OR), and not using up your daily budget before peak hours. It’s important to leverage the data Google gives you when defining your strategy. Optimize your titles with the most impactful keywords at the front of a description (using brand or manufacturer; not company) and descriptions using the fewest number of keywords that will increase views. And, use Custom Labels to make use of best sellers or clearance based on seasonality, price, profitability, and stock location.
Make it Easy and Personalized
SLI customer Everlast teamed with SLI partner Bronto to share a results-packed case study about their use of Bronto’s software for email management. The duo provided a detailed playbook with strategies for list growth and customer segmentation, as well as how lifecycle messaging drives revenue. By executing on a series of well-timed – yet unpredictable – personalized email messages, Everlast has seen 13% list growth in less than one year.
On the future of e-commerce, panelist Marc Lippmann, Managing partner with Debra Lippmann cosmetics, stressed the value of providing shoppable content. That is, enabling shoppers to buy an item, in the moment, while they are looking at commerce content and video. Delivering frictionless mobile checkout is also critical for future success. Marc explained that Apple Pay is revolutionizing mobile commerce, with users calling the feature “delightful!”
To learn more about e-commerce personalization, read how SLI Enhanced Search Personalization™ instantly and dynamically personalizes the shopping experience for both first-time visitors and loyal customers in real time.