4 Hot Topics From eTail

Here are four hot topics in cross-channel retailing that are being discussed at eTail 2011 in Palm Desert, Calif. this week:

Here are four hot topics in cross-channel retailing that are being discussed at eTail 2011 in Palm Desert, Calif. this week:

1. Customer acquisition is back in vogue. OK, customer acquisition is nothing new for retailers. But after a few sluggish quarters, retailers are back to spending money on ways to find more customers. Both traditional and innovative acquisition trends were discussed in the following session: Developing a Long-Term Sustainable Mix of Acquisition and Retention Channels.

Traditional channels work best for Musicnotes.com, according to Bill Aicher, the e-tailer’s web director, as well as a panelist at the session. Paid and natural search, affiliate channels, and word-of mouth are the acquisition marketing techniques his company relies on. Testing is important too. “We test a lot of programs, and if we can get a 2 percent or higher response rate, we consider it successful and put more money into it,” Aicher said.

Search engine optimization is a leading acquisition tool for Motorcycle Superstore, said Erick Barney, vice president of marketing for the online retailer and another speaker at the session. “While search has been around for such a long time, I still think of it as a channel that’s progressing,” he said. “There’s so much more we as an industry need to learn about it.”

An innovative customer acquisition technique was raised by panelist Sara Ezrin, senior director of strategic services at Experian CheetahMail. It focuses on the growing use of iPads in retail stores. “Salespeople in retail establishments are using iPads more and more in-store to collect email addresses and other contact information from customers,” she said.

2. Social commerce getting mixed reviews. The concept of social commerce — i.e., using social networks in the context of e-commerce — has also been a hot topic at the show. Some e-tailers were on the hunt for Facebook developers who could help them create Facebook stores. Payvment, a Facebook shopping platform, seemed to have a crowd at its booth consistently. In general, however, retailers are approaching this concept cautiously.

Consider Tony Bartel, president of video game retailer GameStop, who spoke at a session titled Navigating the Retail Rapids. Bartel said that while GameStop does have a Facebook store, most of the company’s e-commerce transactions take place on Gamestop.com. “We have a lot of interaction with our 1.8 million Facebook followers,” he said, “but we’ve found that when they want to buy something they go to our website.”

Bartel wasn’t quite sure why that’s the case. “Maybe it’s because there are only a few items for sale in our Facebook store, and we don’t have all the bells and whistles there,” he said. “But we’ve been testing the concept for two months now, and will continue to do so.”

3. Retargeting marketing programs are picking up speed. Retargeting, a marketing technique that enables retailers to reach consumers who have visited their sites by serving ads to them post-visit on other content sites across the web, was a heavily discussed subject at the show. Most retailers here believe the tactic is effective because enabling consumers to receive multiple marketing messages from them means their brand can be top of mind.

4. E-commerce media is on the rise.
E-commerce media, a form of online media that allows retailers to target shoppers with product-specifc ads on their sites, was another popular theme. HookLogic, a company that creates product and media placements on e-commerce sites, announced that Shoebuy.com will be using its services to offer premium brand and product placements from its partners within its online store.

DiJiPOP, a company that offers “digital shelf space solutions,” announced that Wal-Mart Canada has selected it to power the digital shelf space monetization efforts of its Walmart.ca online property. The solution will allow Wal-Mart Canada to offer premium placement to its vendor partners, creating a new high-margin revenue stream. Just as a vendor pays a retailer for prime shelf space in-store to stimulate sales, the acquisition of optimal digital shelf space achieves the same goal.

Getting the Most Out of “Back-to-School” Marketing

As summer hits its peak, shoppers have begun to think about heading back to school and retailers are attempting to redefine the back-to-school season.

As summer hits its peak, shoppers have begun to think about heading back to school and retailers are attempting to redefine the back-to-school season. For example, Staples recently declared that the “official” back-to-school season starts on July 14. However, this time of year is less about defining specific dates and more about redefining ways to reach the right audience at the right connection points.

Earlier this month, Google reported that “back-to-school” queries increased 15 percent compared to the same period in 2008, and that searches on back-to-school shopping usually uptick in June with search activity lasting through late September. The expanse of the back-to-school shopping season can be attributed in part to the 49 percent of back-to-school shoppers planning to spread out their purchases in order to distribute the cost over a longer period of time, according to a survey by PriceGrabber.com.

So, how should marketers redefine their back-to-school efforts to capitalize on this time of year? To capture peoples’ interests during the active summer season, marketers must incorporate multichannel efforts to facilitate on- and offline engagement. Search continues to be a proven marketing channel, while implementing social and mobile marketing efforts has shown extensive promise, particularly for back-to-school retailers offering special deals and promotions.

In “S-Net (The Impact of Social Media),” a recent report from ROI Research, sponsored by Performics (my firm), when asked which types of content they’d be interested in receiving from companies on social networks, 49 percent of respondents said they look for printable coupons on Facebook while 50 percent of those on Twitter seek notification of sales or special deals. With these findings in mind, marketers should consider using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to promote special offers on back-to-school items to drive people to their stores.

Mobile marketing is another effective channel for back-to-school offers. It provides a more direct way to ensure purchase consideration through the use of text alerts or mobile coupons, in addition to complementary efforts in search and social marketing.

Performics helps clients prepare their back-to-school multichannel marketing efforts on a variety of levels. We recently teamed with one leading technology company to roll out its back-to-school marketing in early June, and turned to some innovative tactics to capture audiences. For the first time, we implemented vanity display URLs and Google sitelinks in search campaigns to draw shoppers to its back-to-school offerings. Our team also built a list of seasonal keywords around coupons, deals and discounts, supplemented by heavy social marketing campaigns promoting back-to-school products.

Another client, a popular apparel retailer, launched its back-to-school promotions in early July in anticipation of sales peaking at the end of this month. The retailer’s promotion offers the chance to receive a free smartphone when you purchase online or try on featured clothes in-store. Advertising online through Facebook campaigns and paid search during back-to-school season, the retailer is coordinating on- and offline efforts by also offering free shipping and 30 percent off back-to-school items.

Overall, marketers that successfully integrate multichannel efforts stand the best chance of getting the most bang for their back-to-school buck. Marketers should look to engage with back-to-school shoppers throughout the season, not just at the end of August, and through various touchpoints. Most importantly, manage expectations accordingly and measure marketing efforts often to reap the most reward.

Determining how shoppers respond to back-to-school campaigns and following trends throughout the season can also help brands set successful strategies for the upcoming winter holiday season.

Special thanks to contributing authors Andrea Vannucci and Maren Wesley.

Good News: Online Sales Expected to Rise This Holiday Season

If you’re like me, you noticed that on Nov. 1, right after the bags of Halloween candy were pulled off the supermarket and drugstore shelves, the holiday items began to appear.

Folks, the holiday shopping — and selling — season has begun.

This year, there’s actually some good news leading into the holiday season. For starters, on Nov. 5, major retailers announced their best sales in months.

If you’re like me, you noticed that on Nov. 1, right after the bags of Halloween candy were pulled off the supermarket and drugstore shelves, the holiday items began to appear.

Folks, the holiday shopping — and selling — season has begun.

This year, there’s actually some good news leading into the holiday season. For starters, on Nov. 5, major retailers announced their best sales in months.

What’s more, U.S. online sales are expected to rise 8 percent this holiday season, according to a recent report from Forrester Research. Online retail sales in November and December are expected to reach $44.7 billion this year, up from $41.4 billion a year ago, according to the report, providing a bright spot to a retail industry that could still see total sales for the season fall.

So, how are online retailers planning to increase sales this year? Through social media and free shipping promotions, at least according to the results of Shop.org’s eHoliday study, conducted by BIGresearch.

Since many shoppers today use Facebook and Twitter regularly — and because these tools are more cost effective than traditional advertising — 47.1 percent of online retailers surveyed for the study are increasing their use of social media this holiday season.

More than half of the online retailer respondents have updated their Facebook pages (60.3 percent) and Twitter pages (58.7 percent) this year, while two-thirds (65.6 percent) have added or enhanced blogs and RSS feeds. 



As for the multitude of free shipping offers expected during this holiday season, 79.4 percent of those retailers surveyed said they will offer free shipping with conditions at some point during the holiday season. More than half (57.4 percent) also plan to offer free shipping without conditions. More than one-third (35.7 percent) said their budgets for free shipping are higher than last year, and nearly as many (30 percent) said free shipping offers will start earlier than a year ago.

Many online retailers have also revamped their websites this holiday season to make it easier for people to shop. Many, for example, have added or revamped their sites’ shopping carts (45.2 percent), search capabilities (44.3 percent), suggested items (42.9 percent), customer ratings and reviews (40.6 percent), and featured sale pages (37.1 percent), according to the study.

So, are you ramping up your use of social media or free shipping promotions this year? Doing anything else you’d like to tell us about? Leave a comment here.

Search Marketing Reaches for New Heights

It’s no secret the economy is forcing online retailers to change the tactics they use to acquire and retain customers. But this doesn’t mean they’re cutting back across the board. While they’re cutting spend in some areas, they’re spending more in other areas that bring positive ROI.

It’s no secret the economy is forcing online retailers to change the tactics they use to acquire and retain customers. But this doesn’t mean they’re cutting back across the board. While they’re cutting spend in some areas, they’re spending more in other areas that bring positive ROI.

This may be why more than 80 percent of the 24 percent of retailers, who indicated in a recent Forrester Research survey conducted for Shop.org that they’ll spend more than originally planned this year, said they planned to increase their search spend.

The results of the survey of 117 online retailers were compiled in Shop.org’s study, The State of Retailing Online 2009.

The study reminded me of a case study I heard about recently involving Cabela’s, the direct marketer and specialty retailer of outdoor sporting goods. The company used a paid search campaign designed to push traffic into retail stores during a Memorial Day sales event last year.

Cabela’s maintains a strong online and catalog presence in addition to a growing number of retail stores across the U.S. “To increase traffic at these brick-and-mortar locations,” says Derek Fortna, Internet marketing manager at Cabela’s, “we decided to promote our offline stores online.”

For the campaign, Cabela’s partner, Performics, built paid search campaigns for each store, focusing on keywords for Cabela’s brand, the Memorial Day event and the combination of both, such as “Cabela’s Holiday Event.”

Geotargeted strategies were used. The company developed ad copy offering in-store coupons. These appeared on search pages of people who were in a 200-mile radius during the holiday event, and could only be redeemed at those locations. Landing pages were also developed to guide consumers through the coupon retrieval process.

The results? Ten percent of all consumers who clicked on the ad retrieved coupons, and 40 percent of the coupons were redeemed at retail locations.

This is one of the best success stories I’ve heard involving geotargeting, retailing and online search, and certainly one worth going to school on.