Takeaways From The 2013 Shop.org Annual Summit

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.56.18 PMLast week, a few thousand retailers and technology providers descended upon Chicago for the 2013 Shop.org Annual Summit. The conference afforded us all the opportunity to talk shop and network with peers for a few days, as well as listen to movers and shakers in the industry share best practices, trends, and predictions for the future.

Social Media is a Channel

Rewind to two years ago at the Shop.org Annual Summit – the zeitgeist (spirit of the time) of that conference was social commerce – everyone was talking about it, and everyone wanted to understand how to better harness social media to drive purchase intent and incremental sales. Presentations from industry leaders at Ticketmaster and eBags demonstrated unprecedented use cases for integrating social media into the shopping experience, and validated that a tangible return on investment from social commerce was indeed possible.

OmniChannel, The New Buzzword

By 2013, we’ve collectively recognized that social media is just another channel for connecting with consumers, and the buzzword du jour for this year’s show was omnichannel. Specifically, how retailers can identify shoppers across devices and channels, and better target their messaging, offers and experiences across these channels.

This is a big challenge facing eCommerce brands. Many of the retailers I spoke with struggle with checkout conversion on mobile devices. Google’s own industry research shows that 28% of shopping carts on the desktop web are completed through to purchase. By contrast, only 3% of shopping carts on mobile devices are completed. This should come as no surprise. Registration and checkout frustrations are magnified on the small screen of mobile devices, and retailers need to find ways to close this gap, whether through gating form fields on mobile, adapting responsive design principles, or, if I may offer a short plug for Janrain, offering social login and mobile optimized registration to accelerate the checkout process.

One popular apparel retailer I met with wants to better identify shoppers on mobile devices. Traditional tracking and targeting methods using browser cookies simply don’t work when shoppers move from their desktop to their mobile device, let alone when they change browsers within the same device or laptop. Short of nascent cross-device user tracking technologies, the most reliable way to identify shoppers across devices is to encourage them to register. This apparel retailer wanted to implement ways to make it easy for shoppers to register on its mobile website and within its mobile app, and offer incentives for shoppers to do so, whether through ratings & reviews, wish lists, newsletters, special offers, or access to gated content and sneak peeks for new products as part of the fall fashion line.

Multi-Touch Attribution Holds Greater Significance

Attribution was another recurring theme at this year’s conference. With the emergence of newer channels to reach consumers, such as social media, retargeting and mobile, many retailers still struggle to directly attribute conversions and incremental revenue to the right campaigns. But nailing attribution could not be any more critical. With margins tight and marketing budgets tightening, digital marketers need to understand which campaigns and channels are driving results, so they can successfully replicate what works.

View-through conversion tracking, particularly within retargeting campaigns, is a popular approach because it allows for multi-touch attribution. This model especially holds true for luxury brands with a longer, more considered sales cycle in which multiple communication touch points may be needed to induce purchase intent and action.

What stuck with me the most is the extent to which retail innovation has been fueled by consumer behavior. From social media to mobile device adoption, consumers are driving the marketing and merchandising strategy for retailers. This is a good thing – it shows that retailers are listening and are adaptive to trends in consumer behavior. That responsiveness will serve all of us (retailers and consumers) well as we collectively look toward the future.