Something has shifted in online retail marketing since I last attended an industry event earlier this year. Perhaps it's the impending, all-important holiday shopping season, but at the Shop.org Annual Summit last week in Las Vegas, the attitude toward multifaceted online marketing was far more optimistic than it had been in January.
Retailers seemed much keener to embrace more marketing tactics than just PPC (define), like online advertising and social media marketing, particularly with respect to leveraging product reviews. Check out Buy.com's Garage Sale Facebook application, which allows users to sell merchandise directly from their profile pages. Solution providers have also stepped up their game, providing new tool sets that allow retailers to more easily pinpoint and acquire new customers.
Five e-Commerce Truths
On day two of the conference, Forrester senior analyst Sucharita Mulpuru delivered a terrific reality check about e-commerce's future. Unlike some of her peers who think e-commerce has already peaked since hitting the $220 billion mark in 2006, Mulpuru estimates that e-commerce could reach $350 billion by at least 2011. She sees this growth coming, however, not from the implementation of "whiz-bang technologies" but from online retailers doing a better job of mastering the basics and making the online shopping experience as easy as the offline one.
Mulpuru listed her "five truths about e-commerce":
Interestingly, the day before Mulpuru's talk, I spoke to a top electronics retailer whose philosophy seems to reinforce Mulpuru's last point. He saw online's role as strictly another "marketing tool to drive in-store sales."
Mulpuru saw solutions like nailing the basics of product detail pages, using recommendation engines, and implementing RSS and readily available feedback links as retention tools to improve online sales. She says Internet pure-plays generally do everything better because they're thinking ahead instead of trying to play "match the competition."
New Ad Solutions
I was heartened to see new advertising solutions showcased at the event. For instance, many companies have jumped on the behavioral targeting bandwagon. Online retailers can now turn to aCerno, which targets ads by the user's past e-commerce shopping behavior. iPost, an e-mail service provider, has launched Autotarget, which uses historical e-mail behavior to define customer personas and target future messages accordingly.
Sellpoint, a company that has created a syndication network of retailing sites, can deliver rich, informative product-specific content sold by minutes of viewing time. MyCoupons has relaunched with a cost-per-redemption model ($3.00 per) and a comparison shopping engine based on coupon offers, accepting free data feeds from merchants for inclusion.
Speaking of shopping engines, data feed management company Mercent has negotiated to be a single point of buy for over 40 shopping engines, which can help an agency buy immensely.
Mobile commerce attracted much interest but is still considered experimental. Still, let's be grateful for the broadening open-mindedness of online retailers. It'll make our job as strategists far more exciting.
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A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."
March 19, 2014