From Shelves to Screens16 Sep, 2010 By: Jackie Jones Response
Retailers are taking a page out of DR's book to find success in the online and mobile space.
From Shelves to Screens
No two retailers may ever be exactly the same, but there is one space an increasing amount are zeroing in on: the digital sector, where many marketers are learning that successful E-commerce is not just about efficient transactions, but also entertainment and social community for consumers.
E-commerce continues to steadily gain significance in the world of retail: U.S. retail E-commerce sales for first-quarter 2010 were $38.7 billion, according to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce — a 14.3-percent increase from the same period in 2009 and 1.5-percent increase from the fourth quarter of the prior year. E-commerce sales in the first quarter of this year accounted for
4 percent of total sales, as well.
“The digital channel itself is growing rapidly and the opportunities within it are growing rapidly, as well,” says Larry Joseloff, vice president of content at Shop.org, the digital division of the National Retail Federation. “Retailers are trying to get their arms around all of them; they’re thirsty for knowledge and information right now.”
Looking at the Bigger Picture
Shop.org — an association with more than 600 members — focuses on digital and cross-channel commerce and actively engages with its community, most notably its digital retailers, according to Joseloff.
There are two ways to look at the growth of E-commerce, he notes. The first is the increasing number of electronic sales traditionally made through a retailer’s main Web site; the second requires a bit more exploration and attention from merchants, he says.
“Retailers have to look at how the digital channels are increasingly affecting all types of sales — how customers now can and will do research online before walking into a physical store and how they will look at other consumer reviews online,” Joseloff says.
As online technologies advance, enabling more consumers to shop via a click of the mouse rather than a stroll down store aisles, direct response marketing becomes especially important.
“I think it’s very important for retailers to understand how engagement works, specifically with their brand,” he says. “If there are retailers out there whose feet aren’t already wet in this space, they need to get them wet. It’s going to be increasingly important, especially with handheld devices in the future.”
E-retailers need to learn how to make the most of emerging mobile technologies, including pure mobile commerce and geolocation opportunities, which could help merchants target consumers in a more timely, specific manner, Joseloff says.
“Mobile has the potential to be the device that breaks down the barriers for all our channels. You can be in the store itself with your iPhone or smartphone and look at comparison shopping online right there,” says Joseloff, who adds that retailers should learn from past marketing mistakes made in social networking.
“For about three years in social media, you had people who were just blinded by the power of this new tool. You had VPs running around saying, ‘We have to get on Facebook,’ and they didn’t stop to ask why or what they hoped to accomplish with it,” he says. “That could be a potential challenge with mobile. Retailers and marketers need to take the time to really think about what their role is in mobile, not just believing they have to get on there by any means necessary because that’s what others are doing.”
Joseloff stresses balance for retailers in cross-channel engagement, advising them to continue to optimize traditional digital channels while pursuing newer avenues like mobile and social media.
“You can have an incredible social media campaign, but if your shopping cart function on your site is hard to get through, that’s a major barrier,” he says. “Retailers have to embrace new opportunities — which are happening all the time — while optimizing the channels that are already in place.”