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Recap of IRCE 2011: The Top Five Take-Aways
By Lauren Smith
6/21/2011 9:04:00 AM

With over 500 exhibitors and 7,500 attendees, the Internet Retailer Conference 2011 in San Diego, California brought together the best ideas, technologies, and thought leaders for a week of learning. We’re finally recovering from the whirlwind week and the ShopVisible team reflects on the top five take-aways learned at IRCE 2011:

(1) Ecommerce? It’s all just commerce.
Christopher Payne, Vice President and Head of eBay North America, delivered a riveting keynote on the future of commerce. One of his most salient points was that retailers should no longer consider online retailing as “ecommerce,” but just “commerce.” With the introduction of mobile devices including smartphones and tablets, there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. Consumers demand access to products wherever they are, blurring the lines between traditional brick & mortar commerce and ecommerce.

(2) Think mobile’s just a trend? Think again.
Several topics were abuzz at IRCE, but none more than mobile. Mobile is the “must do” on all retailers’ minds. Jeff McKenna, Senior Consultant at Chadwick Martin Bailey, presented several findings from his firm’s latest mobile study:

- 45% of survey respondents own some sort of mobile device defined as a tablet or smartphone. Of those that have them, 41% have shopped via a smartphone and 65% have shopped via a tablet.

- Purchase categories are tied to age. Older audiences tend to purchase travel and reservations. Younger audiences tend to purchase apparel and electronics.

- iPhone owners are twice as likely as Blackberry owners to use their phone for shopping. Two indicators: shopping tends to be easier on the iPhone with its large screen, the Blackberry is mainly used for business purposes while the iPhone is used for both business and personal.

(3) Considering Groupon? The positives, the obstacles, and things to consider.
Rarely do you hear a retailer’s side of the story when it comes to group buying sites like Groupon, Living Social and Facebook Deals. Bob McKeon, CEO of PictureItOnCanvas.com recently ran several nationwide deals on Groupon for his ecommerce site.

What were the pros and cons? Zero cost up front to the retailer. McKeon said that Groupon runs the deal and generally takes half of the profit. Because of this, you must be willing and able to sell your product at a 75% discount. While this might be viewed as a negative to some, the traffic to your site generally doubles or triples. An obstacle for many retailers might be the inability to handle this rapid growth. PictureItOnCanvas.com saw orders increase from 100-150 a month to approximately 250 a day. Obviously, this created needs for extra staff, extra production facilities, and more space to accommodate the growing business.
The most surprising statistic from the presentation? An average of 20% of buyers never redeem their Groupon.

(4) Merchandising: It’s an Art Form.
If we learned anything about merchandising, it is that it’s a little bit of science, but a lot of art. A great merchandiser can change the user experience for the better, increase conversions, and drive sales. We listened to Kevin Churchill, Director of Ecommerce at Patagonia, discuss his findings from years of merchandising fueled by analytics.

Adding reviews resulted in a 300% increase in conversions, but more importantly, Patagonia uses the reviews as market research. They analyze the reviews weekly and see what customers ask to be changed on their favorite products, problems they have with items, or colors they just can’t find. Doing so allows Patagonia to consistently deliver to the customer what they’re searching for and keeps them from visiting an alternative website.

It really is all in the presentation. Patagonia regularly experiments and tests different ways of presenting merchandise.  In one test they compared the most effective way to present a best-selling men’s shirt. One version displayed the shirt on a model with small swatches of other available colors. The second showed the shirts, in every available color, laid out. Which presentation increased sales? Surprisingly (to both the audience and Kevin), the second display increased sales of that shirt 9%. The lesson? Test different ideas, track the conversions, and give your users the experience that they prefer.

(5) Customers are Fickle...How to Keep Up
Al Falack, Director of CookieKids.com knows how hard it can be to keep up with the online consumer. Cookie’s Kids unsuccessfully expanded from their brick & mortar store to online in 1997. After one failed attempt, they relaunched several years later and have been able to keep the customer coming back to their site despite the countless competitor sites. Falack shared several of their secrets:

“The customer should immediately see the value of shopping with you when landing on the first page of your site.”
It’s imperative that your front page is illustrative, easy to navigate, offers search options and highlights the best products you offer. One suggestion Falack offered is to include the logos of brands you sell on your homepage. When customers see familiar brands, they often stick around, even if it’s their first visit to your site.

“Don’t underestimate the value of a flash sale hosted on your own site.”
Consumers love a good bargain. You don’t need to be on an exclusive shopping network to induce a frenzy over a great deal. Send your customers an email detailing a flash sale to bring them back to your site. Once on site, not only do customers tend to purchase the special deal, but they add other products to their cart (especially if you offer a free shipping minimum).

“Update your content regularly, even product descriptions shouldn’t remain stagnant.”
Cookie’s Kids regularly changes their product descriptions. Not only does this help with SEO because it provides fresh content for search engines to crawl, but it keeps the site interesting for users.

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