Key Learnings and Takeaways from IRCE 2014

The 10th year of the IRCE show did not disappoint as it drew nearly 10,000 attendees to Chicago and I’m pretty sure about half of you were in the cab line with me on Tuesday afternoon waiting out the rain. In addition to getting educated on Uber surge pricing during heavy demand (and downpours), there were many key learnings and takeaways from the show that are worth sharing.

First, some interesting data points:

  • Total online sales continue to grow faster than traditional retail channels. In 2013, online sales were over $250 Billion representing an increase of 17% year-over-year.
  • Online sales as a share of total sales are now over 7% in the United States, an all-time high, and continue to grow at an increasing rate while many of the biggest retail chains are seeing flat or declining sales in their brick & mortar stores.
  • Retailers are building fewer and smaller stores. Compared to 2009, Wal-Mart opened 12 fewer stores in 2013 and those stores are 27% smaller than stores opened only 4 years earlier. Target only opened 15 new stores (versus 52 in 2009) and the newest stores are 20% smaller.
  • Almost half of all US households own a tablet device and they are increasingly using them to browse shopping sites, read reviews, watch video content, visit social networks, and purchase products.

So what does this all mean for you as a retailer, manufacturer, or consumer brand? 2014 is the Year of the Consumer.

The old adage that “the customer is always right” needs to now include “and they are everywhere”. Consumers are engaging with retailers, brands, and manufacturers across multiple platforms, sometimes simultaneously, as they use their mobile device to read reviews on a product they are looking at in a brick & mortar store or they use their tablet to find the best price on a product they just saw advertised on television. Consumers now expect a consistent experience across ALL touch points and are quick to share their disappointment if one (or more) of the channels doesn’t meet their expectations, such as a mobile site that isn’t optimized for their device or when they experience disconnected customer service after purchasing a product online and want to return or exchange it in a store.

It is more important than ever for retailers, manufacturers and brands to think of their organization through the eyes of the consumer. Consumers increasingly expect sellers to know them, regardless of where they shop, and those companies that provide the most consistent experience are rewarded with increased shopper loyalty and strong word-of-mouth marketing to friends, colleagues and social networks.

One way to tackle this is to start with an assessment of your organization’s key components and integrations (see Figure 1 below). Do your systems work together from a customer perspective?

Figure 1.Key Integrations Some key questions to meet these increasing customer expectations:

  • If a customer is looking at a product on your site, can your phone customer service team process the order?
  • Is your online marketing team aligned with your brand and product marketing teams?
  • Can you show customers real-time inventory online and at your stores?
  • Does your CRM capture all customer interactions across all channels?

While the process of addressing all of these (and more) can feel overwhelming, they don’t have to all be done at once. It is critical to make sure you are balancing the resources required (both financial and human) in each of these areas with the impact it will have to your business and the customer experience.

FitForCommerce can help you through this process with technology assessment and selection, strategy and organizational planning, P&L and budget management or any other ecommerce services you may need.

3 HOT TIPS:

Consumers are researching and buying across multiple channels. Your product content needs to be consistent, relevant, and timely.

Consumers now expect a seamless experience across all channels. Make sure your organization and your systems are set up to address the expectations of today’s consumer.

Don’t try to change everything at once. Make smart investments that balance your resources with the expected impact to your business and customer experience.