What we saw and learned at eTail East 2017

August 17, 2017 | By

First of all, congratulations to the whole team that pulled off an amazing 2017 eTail East conference this week in Boston. It was smoothly run with a terrific program that featured a really impressive diversity of speakers, both in terms of the companies they represent and the individuals themselves. It was a packed, informative couple of days and while the thoughts are still fresh in my mind, here are a few notable takeaways for me.

Some challenges remain unconquered. According to the most recent forecast for US online retail by Forrester, more than $1.5 trillion of total US retail sales are web-impacted, while total online sales represent about 10% of all sales in the US. This dynamic was apparent throughout eTail as retailers who have a brick & mortar presence continue to grapple with the best way to respond to a path-to-purchase that is both digital and physical. Revlon’s Swan Sit said she doesn’t care where Revlon shoppers buy, but rather that she’s “focused on helping the customer shop where she’s most comfortable.”

Moving the needle comes from a variety of initiatives. There were honestly too many examples to cover them all, but here were a few I thought were especially compelling:

  1. Using digital to reduce obstacles for customers: Keurig’s work on understanding three different buyer personas and how to elevate the right products and information to people based on the data they have is really a top-notch example of smart use of customer data.
  2. Collaboration as innovation: Visa and Honda’s joint work on in-vehicle payments was fascinating, while Dell worked with Staples “to help understand the sentiment around their brand and filter out the noise in the market.” These are companies recognizing that working together with a focus on the customer can generate big wins.
  3. The role of design in omni-channel experiences: The Walgreens session had as many laughs as it did nuggets of wisdom, but my favorite of the latter was how quickly the team realized that success in digital was as much dependent on the follow through in the physical stores as the experience online. Customers view all these touchpoints as one Walgreens brand, and so keeping digital and brick & mortar separate was impossible.

Customer data is still woefully underutilized. Mukund Ramachandran, the moderator of the panel I sat on with Keurig’s Ryan Scott and Leesa’s Mitch Murphy, turned to the audience of several hundred folks at one point and asked how many felt that they had mastered their data and created a single customer view. Not a single hand went up (except Ryan’s, so applause for his work!) and even when Mukund followed up with a question about having the right person or team in place to lead this kind of initiative, only about 12 hands raised. In other words, these marketers know there’s still a big opportunity for their companies to capitalize on when it comes to data.

For those attendees we got to meet, thanks for your interest and conversation. We’re looking forward to continuing the retail dialogue long past the conclusion of this year’s conference.

BlueConic customer, Peter Kalanda from Chilewich, stopped by our office and had this to say “Great conference – more personal than others – which allowed for better interaction and learning. Also, loved the robot!”

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