Key Takeaways from Shop.org Summit 2014

Reminder to self: Bring an umbrella to all tradeshows and conferences in the future. On the first day of the Shop.org Summit, just like the show in Chicago in June, Mother Nature delivered a steady downpour just as the show let out for the day (rain in Seattle…who knew?). Fortunately, the weather for the rest of the week was perfect. There was tons of great information shared at the show helping retailers identify initiatives that can improve the customer experience while increasing overall sales. The only question is, with all those great solutions out there, how do you prioritize what is most important and what will be the best investment for your company?

I’ve been going to these shows for a number of years, and I’m always impressed at the vast range of choices out there for online retailers to improve both their sales and the user experience through new technologies, platforms, and services. Walk the floor for an hour and you will hear about a dozen different solutions for increasing traffic, a handful of new ways to increase conversion, and numerous innovative strategies for better engagement with your customers that can boost order size and repeat visits. Problem solved for 2015: “I’ll take one of each, please”. Unfortunately, as we all know, it’s not that easy. Implementing multiple solutions in a short time frame could stress your organization to the brink and could even negatively impact your site due to improper implementation and integration with other systems. So how should a company prioritize their initiatives to optimize the investment and the expected impact to the business?

I recently read a great discussion on an online forum about the Apple iPhone 6 that reminded me of this exact dilemma. One forum poster asked if the new iPhone was the most technologically advanced phone ever. Spoiler alert: No. A commenter went on to explain that Apple isn’t trying to create the most technologically advanced products; instead, they are trying to lead their market with features and functionality that will provide the most utility to their customers at the right price (for Apple and the customer). To do this well, Apple has become very good at “saying NO”, as in “No, we aren’t going to add this feature even though there is a high level of demand for it.” The poster called it a discipline of sacrifice and argued that it was one of the fundamental aspects that makes Apple successful. Another poster added that Apple’s success is due to their systems working together. Before the iPod and iTunes, there were options for downloading music (even free!) and playing it on different devices but, due to integration challenges between some of the software and hardware, it didn’t always work well (in related news, I have a gently used Rio MP3 player if anyone is looking…). Apple changed all that by creating a device and establishing a standard of functionality that made finding, downloading, and playing your favorite music so easy that anyone could do it. Billions of downloads and hundreds of millions of devices sold are solid endorsements for the user experience.

Realistically, an online retailer will only be able to execute 2-3 key initiatives each year. The best way to ensure that you’re placing the right bets and taking the right risks is to understand which new features and functionality will help YOUR customers the most – don’t assume that they simply want the latest “shiny, new toy”. Then, you must also identify the solutions that will integrate with your existing technology ecosystem the best so that everything works. FitForCommerce can help you with all of these aspects by creating a prioritized list of improvements and identifying the right partners to help grow your business in 2015.