Why the Omnichannel Shopping Approach Will Prevail: Insights from Shoptalk 2017

jeff-sheldon-3232 (2)Jeff Bezos famously said, “the customer is always right.” Today’s customers are more connected, agile and willing to try a new site or way of shopping if it means they can get a better deal or experience.

At Shoptalk 2017 traditional retailers and e-commerce giants showed how they are adapting to appeal to today’s and tomorrow’s consumers.

Here are three trends that were on the top of the agenda at Shoptalk:

Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Stepping Up Their Game

Although physical stores are struggling, consumers still want the benefits that come with shopping in-person. Retailers have gotten the message: customers demand innovation and the “same old” won’t work. Kohl’s is trying smaller store formats instead of closing stores that are not performing well. For the time-crunched customer, Target is redesigning 600 suburban stores to include multiple entrances, self-checkout lanes, online order counters and groceries at the front for quick trips. Walmart is launching Store No. 8, a Silicon Valley tech incubator focused on retail innovations in robotics, augmented reality, machine learning and AI.

Shop with Your Voice Or Your Favorite Social Platform

After a trial with 20 brands, Instagram is opening its shopping feature to all fashion, apparel, jewelry and skincare brands using commerce platforms Shopify and BigCommerce. With more than 600 million active users and 5 million business profiles, Instagram could overtake Pinterest to become the leader in driving e-commerce on social platforms.

For those who still want to shop locally, no worries! Google Home’s new assistant feature can determine in-store availability of products with details like sizes and prices, as well as provide store hours and travel directions.

Even e-Commerce Has to Change

Although Amazon was the leading e-commerce retailer in 2016 with more than $79 million in U.S. sales, there is still room for improvement.

 The everything store is testing a brand registry to assure vendors that intellectual property will be protected and counterfeit goods will be prevented. Any brand can register its logo and other intellectual property with Amazon starting next month. With this brand registry, both customers and the company will be able to flag counterfeit items.

To compete with Amazon Prime and its one-day shipping, eBay’s new summer program will guarantee delivery on more than 20 million items in three days or less. If a package is late, buyers can either receive credit, a refund on shipping or return the item at no cost. eBay already has a counterfeit refund program in place. As long as the knockoff item is disposed of, the company will refund both the shipping and the item’s price.

Overall, Shoptalk gave us great insight into the future of shopping for online, in-store, in-app and everywhere else.

Look Alive People, Look Alive

On the show floor of Internet Retailer Conference 2016

It’s that time of year again when all the brightest minds in e-commerce and retail come together for the annual Internet Retailer Conference in Chicago. We’ve seen the show grow tremendously over the years and, as expected, this year was even bigger and better than the last.

We spent a day walking the show floor of the exhibitor hall to get a pulse on the latest trends in e-commerce and the activity happening behind the scenes. In the process, we noticed a few trends that we thought would be helpful to share for exhibitors on trade show dos and don’ts. Here are a few takeaways that topped our list of observations:

Do:

  • Spend money on booth design and décor: You are spending significant resources, including money, talent and time, to exhibit at a conference so make sure to milk it for all it’s worth. At IRCE, there were dozens of booths with lackluster signage, minimal staff and dreary backdrops and color schemes. It’s surprising considering that something as simple as using bright colors can catch one’s attention and compel a stop by, not just a walk by. Be serious about exhibiting. If you are investing tens of thousands of dollars going to a tradeshow, have an inventive and effective booth so the right people can find you.
  • Free food and drinks will never be passé: Who can say no to free food and drinks, especially after being on your feet for hours on end? One company this year offered Bloody Mary’s and they were the hit of the show. In fact, we found ourselves on a goose chase in search of the satiating cocktail. It might be the oldest trick in the book but this type of incentive is always sure to lure prospects to your booth. Another company, Meridian, offered truffles in a mock Tiffany’s blue box as a thank you for stopping by.

Truffles in a mock Tiffany’s blue box

  • Invest in trade show messaging and training: As communication professionals, we were surprised at how many sales people could not simply articulate what their company did or how it’s unique from competitors. Remember, that if you use industry jargon, your prospects may be quick to look for an emergency exit. Prospects want to know in a simple way how they can benefit from your product or service. Make sure you make the most of your tradeshow experience and go the extra mile to properly train your spokespeople so they can seal the deal.

Don’t:

  • No Catnaps Allowed: We get it. Tradeshows are exhausting, but boy did we pass a lot of tired looking folks. Just like having a beautiful booth attracts prospects, so does a big smile on your sales reps’ faces. You might not get concerned when you don’t see a prospect that’s a high- value target, but you never know when someone is scouting your company from afar.
  • Don’t push marketing flyers: Marketing flyers are out, or they should be.  Several times, sales reps referred us to their brochures when we asked a question they couldn’t answer. But prospects are there to learn face-to-face what makes your company stand out. If they wanted to look at your marketing sell sheet, they could do so just as easily from the comfort of their office. Ditch the marketing flyers and sell sheets altogether—focus on making a personal connection.
  • If your messaging doesn’t stand out, you need something more. While on the hunt for stand out companies, we started to notice that everyone’s messaging was one and the same. Do something more to stand out from the pack whether it be a unique booth display or a marketing gimmick. Selfies or Magicians anyone?

What other trade show do’s and don’ts come to mind from your experiences? Share your story!

Nikki Plati and Carolyn Adams pose for photobooth pictures

Nikki Plati and Carolyn Adams pose at the Pitney Bowes photobooth

Special thanks to Carolyn Adams for contributing to this piece

Survey from Internet Retailer 2015 – The Buzz on eCommerce

We are already six months into 2015 and before you know it the holiday shopping season will be upon us. What is the status of the eCommerce industry half way into the year? Highwire scoped out Internet Retailer 2015, the leading e-retail industry conference held each year in Chicago, and took the pulse of the market to find out what leading brands have seen so far and what we can expect. Taking a quick poll of conference exhibitors, here is what we found out:

Holiday Shopping Optimism Prevails

There was a hopeful feeling in the air among exhibitors. In fact, nearly everyone we surveyed— 98 percent—expect eCommerce sales to improve during the upcoming shopping season compared to last year. While it may be no surprise that sales are expected to spike due to the rise of eCommerce adoption, there are a few unexpected things to watch for. For example, brands need performance with purpose and doing well by doing good might be more beneficial to your brand than you might think.

Thirst for Mobile Accelerates

Last year, analysts predicted that 2015 would be the year that most online retailers would offer customers a mobile eCommerce site. Our quick poll underscored this as a strategic priority. More than half of the companies we polled ranked mobile optimized sites, apps and content as their top investment priority this year. In light of the pick up in mobile shopping, the mobile payments market is also heating up and promising better support for retailers who want to accept credit cards through mobile apps. The jury is still out on how soon Apple Pay, Android Pay and a flurry of competitors (Samsung Pay, Square, Stripe) will become household names.

Drones Don’t Cut it: The Cool Kids have Digital Wallets

It’s hard to compete with the visual appeal of drones and the sci-fi thrill of imagining your next purchase being delivered to your doorstep by a flying robot. However, when it comes to actual long-term impact to eCommerce, industry insiders are placing their bets elsewhere. Specifically, Internet Retailer exhibitors were hot on digital wallets (61 percent), augmented reality (31 percent) and beacons (28 percent). While we will probably continue to see drones stealing headlines, savvy companies are putting slightly less eye-catching technologies to use.

No. 1 Way to Woo Customers – Give Back, Be NICE.

It’s official, a great product and excellent service are table stakes in eCommerce. Inspiring consumers to fall in love with a brand requires something more meaningful in 2015. When asked, “What makes you love an eCommerce brand today?” The highest rated quality was “doing well by doing good.” Although great and dependable customer service is still very important—22 percent ranked it as the second most important feature—taking care of employees and giving back to the community wins the most points with customers today.

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