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10 Ways Retailers Can Embrace Digital & Social, Takeaways From eTail 2011

By Katie Keenan | Posted on March 02, 2011

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etail west 2011

Several of us on the Janrain team escaped the winter rains of Portland to spend a few days in the sunny CA desert last week discussing online commerce with a great group of retailers and vendors at eTail West. The two-day agenda was tightly packed and featured case studies and panel discussions by retailers embracing the digital frontier.

Here are a few things that I learned from the conference that would be of interest to any retailer who is dipping their toes into the digital and social pool:

  1. The Need for a Seamless Online Experience
    Regardless of the channel, customers expect a seamless, positive experience. Some retailers, such as Brookstone, are reorganizing internally to appoint single heads of a department to make this possible.
  2. Social is More than Customer Service
    Social is clearly a natural channel and marketing vehicle for retailers, but many are still sorting out exactly how to leverage it most effectively or beyond the of obvious customer service touchpoint.
  3. ‘Likes’ vs. Loyalty
    A Facebook ‘Like’ while intriguing, is hard to assign a value to, and the real business proposition is how to keep true brand loyalists engaged versus just having a large number of ‘likes’. One panelist made the interesting comment that while the ‘Buy’ button signals the end of a transaction, the ‘Like’ button signals the beginning of a relationship and transaction.
  4. Mobile and Tablets are the Next Big Thing
    Marketlive quoted the stat that mobile promos drive 2 to 3 times the volume of traffic as a web promo. Both mobile and tablets facilitate the merging of online and offline. iPads in stores to create an ‘endless aisle’ – presenting what you can’t afford to merchandise.
  5. Gaming Transitions Into the Digital World
    Gamestop President Tony Bartel gave a fantastic presentation that covered not only the evolution of the gaming market, but Gamestop’s challenge to navigate the rapids of the digital transition.
  6. Introducing the Exploratory Experience of Shopping Online
    Tracy Benson, Senior Director on the Best Buy Marketing team urged retailers to reframe their thinking about shopping online to see it from the consumer’s perspective. Equating it with entering a large bazaar, recognize that consumers have an exploratory mindset and don’t disrupt them. Consumers want to play, socialize, explore, participate and shop. Best Buy’s 3 main initiatives this year are to (1) bring the social web together with the Best Buy web, (2) use technology for customer service, and (3) develop mobile as a true channel.
  7. Leverage Your Customers to Create User-Generated Content
    Wet Seal was one of the more intriguing presentations. This is a company that is clearly on the bleeding edge of leveraging social, community and user generated content. One of the retailer’s clever programs is a Fashion Community called iRunwaythat gives their fans and consumers the ability to create and share outfits online based on Wet Seal apparel. Amazingly over 1 million outfits have been created and 85% of Wet Seal styles have an outfit. Alyssa Montes, Direct Marketing Analyst shared the many ways Wet Seal repurposes this user generated content:
    • As cross-sells on email promotions that have generated 15 million detailed outfit views and 20% of the ecommerce revenue.
    • Pilot program in place with in-store kiosks enables a consumer to scan a bar code on a product and see what outfits have been created.
    • Next up is an iPhone app that will let a consumer take a picture of the barcode to see outfits with that item.
  8. Add Digital into Your Customer Lifecycle
    Benefit Cosmetics has mapped how digital fits into the customer lifecycle and sees digital as helping their customers get the most out of what they bought. Valerie Hoecke, the company’s VP of Digital Experience and Commerce, also shared the insight that the human mind is hard wired to recognize a face – those profile pics on the social networks grab our attention for a reason.
  9. Merging Offline & Online Activities
    Peter Tahmin, VP of explained how they have merged online and offline by prompting consumers to upload their pictures to Facebook after printing from an in-store kiosk.
  10. Take Advantage of Your “Word-of-Mouth Engine”
    Cam Balzer, VP of Marketing at encouraged everyone to find the word of mouth engine in their business and then make the most of it.

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About the author

Katie Keenan

Katie Keenan

Interactive Marketing Manager

A true geek at heart, Katie works behind the scenes on Janrain's website and social media strategy as the interactive marketing manager. Katie has more than 10 years of experience building websites and managing online communities in media, retail, technology, law and the nonprofit sector. Her passion: to get rid of the clutter and help to improve efficiencies across the web to spark online engagement.

View all posts by Katie Keenan