As we partner with furniture retailers to help them succeed online, staying abreast of the most recent happenings and forecasted trends in retail and ecommerce is important to us at Blueport. I had the pleasure of attending eTail East in Boston last month, which features some of the top thinkers in retail and technology. Here are three big picture trends I observed throughout my time there.
1) Curated Merchandising To Enable Personalized Shopping Experiences
Merchandising—especially as a way to personalize shopping experiences—was a big topic of conversation at eTail. Leaders from top retailers and solution providers gave valuable input on approaching merchandising through digital channels.
To differentiate themselves in the apparel space, social marketplaces like Poshmark are focused on serving up super personalized curated collections to visitors. Much of this personalization hinges on data collection which can be done in a non-obtrusive way to the customer (for example, asking a first-time site visitor a few short, simple questions to help better understand their needs and what they might be looking for). As the visitor interacts with the site, machine-learning and AI tools continue to gather and analyze their behavior to make smart inferences that aid in further personalizing the rest of their experience.
According to Manish Chandra, Poshmark’s Founder and CEO, AI can be a great strategy to help companies scale and service more people, allowing the company to personally style hundreds of visitors simultaneously.
Other speakers made some interesting points to debunk the need for one-to-one personalization. Unbxd, an ecommerce product discovery platform, advocated that one-to-one personalization will address about 25% of your shoppers, who are the critical repeat customers you want to retain. But the rest of site traffic, according to its Co-Founder and CEO Pavon Sondur, can be addressed through more general segmentation informed by dominating trends. The centerpiece for this strategy is data—using it to thread together analysis and identifying these larger trends.
2) Utilizing Your Website To Assist Offline Experiences
These days, there are many different shapes and forms your company can take to deliver exceptional experiences to shoppers. It’s more than just being good at selling in a brick-and-mortar setting— equally important (if not more) is understanding your customer, building a relationship with them, and meeting them at various touchpoints. What does it take to win all these channels?
Ryan Scott, the Vice President of Digital Operations and Innovation at Keurig, is using Keurig’s website as a way to inspire and be relevant to customers who are in physical stores, which is where the majority of Keurig’s k-cup transactions happen. Therefore, a lot of its site is focused on content marketing with recipes, education about Keurig products and even simulations of real life experiences. These are pieces of content that can even be shared across channels. Scott encouraged companies to take their web content and reformat it for store experience and sale associate tools for continuity in the consumer’s experience.
Building experiences that integrate multi-channels is at the heart of the Blueport Platform. Furniture retailers can utilize our Store-Sync technology as one way to better integrate the store to web and web to store experience for their customers.
3) Centralization And Activation Of Customer Journey Data
We often work with traditional brick-and-mortar retailers on an omnichannel strategy —the idea that interaction with your brand should be designed as one holistic retail experience, offering consistency across all channels. In short: synchrony is bliss.
Theoretically, it doesn’t matter which channel your shoppers take to gain a better understanding of your products—all paths taken should lead back towards unified messaging, promotions, and product catalog. This notion was reinforced multiple times throughout the conference’s speaker series and panels, particularly towards the ownership of the data and analytics behind your customers’ entire journey.
Nick Fairbairn, the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Le Tote, encouraged retailers to use data as the means to becoming enlightened omnichannel sellers. Beyond harvesting troves of customer data to sell more, retailers can form smarter retail intuition by leveraging analytics tools to understand the marketplace and better anticipate and innovate for unmet needs.
Something to watch for is how brands will utilize emerging technologies to aggregate data, automate basic insights, and use the findings to drive more custom-tailored shopping experiences, no matter where they are in their shopping journey. There’s a golden opportunity to implement tools of this breed to get ahead of competitors.
As we are working on omnichannel-focused features that can enable best-in-class furniture shopping experiences, it was great to see a lot of similar ideas expressed at eTail East. Get in touch with us today to see what we are excited about next.