I had a great time at this year’s eTail West conference. I attended a lot of the sessions and I wanted to share my notes with those of you who were not able to attend.

I am warning you in advance that this blog post is WAY longer than I originally intended for it to be. I took over 15 pages of notes and I tried to summarize the main points for each the presentations I witnessed.

Since the blog post is so long feel free to “jump around” by clicking on any of the sections below which will take you to that portion of the post:

· Day 1 Notes

· Day 2 Notes

· eTail Twitter Stats

· My Suggestions for Next Year

*I have hyperlinked the names of each speaker with their LinkedIn profiles so you need to be logged in to your LinkedIn account to view the profiles.


 

 

Day 1 Notes

Paul Elliott, Partner Acquisition Marketing, Rosetta

· A hot buzzword in 2010 is HyperLocal which refers to consumer engagement becoming increasingly local.

· Multichannel measurement and optimization is the only real way for retailers to effectively manage their marketing mix.

· Your vendors need to collaborate to fully understand their impact on your other channels.

Bill Bass, President, Charming Shoppes

· Banner Retargeting initially looked very profitable by producing a solid 6 to 1 return on investment.

However, when Charming Shoppes ran a test with a control group, 5 of out every 6 customers that were being attributed to retargeting revenue would have come back anyways. so the “real” return from retargeting was not profitable.

· Free shipping is a P&L killer.

· Focus on your customer’s buying experience over other “cooler” initiatives like social media.

· Spend no more than 5% of your time on social media.

· Improving on site search should always be a priority.

· Basement Beer Brainstorming: Bill described the Charming Shoppes ritual of getting together twice a year in a basement to brainstorm on ideas that could help to improve their business.

– He said the beer is usually flowing and they typically come up with between 50-70 ideas in each brainstorming session.

– They narrow it down to the 6 best ideas and begin implementing those 6 ideas the following year. (I’m totally stealing this idea for CPC Strategy)

*The crowd had lots of questions and Bill’s candidness was very well received by the eTail West audience.

 

Larry Freed, President, Forsee Results

· Larry shared the results of a customer satisfaction survey of the IR top 40 retailers:

– 6.8% increase in online shopper satisfaction from 2008 – 2009

– All 40 retailers saw an increase in customer satisfaction in 2009 (first time ever in the history of the study)

– Amazon and Netflix were the top 2 retailers in customer satisfaction for the 4th straight year

· You can follow Larry on Twitter @larryfreed

 

Examining Opportunities in the current retail marketplace CEO panel:

Scott Savitz, CEO, Shoebuy

· ShoeBuy is very risk averse and stick with their core formula for success through good times and bad.

· Scott’s family members thought he was out of his mind when he started Shoebuy and even today, a lot of his family still doesn’t understand why someone would buy shoes online.

· Instead of worrying about market share, they focuses on helping new customers get comfortable with buying shoes online (increasing the total market size).

· They attempt to make it easy as possible for their customers to be heard.

– They collect 100,000s of surveys per year and read every single one.

– Their phone # is on every page of their site.

·Your best marketing tool is always going to be your own customers.

Wendy Cebula, President, Vistaprint

· Vistaprint empowered their scared employees during the recession and set up new incentive structures to measure productivity.

· “We took away the “blaming the economy” excuse.”

Judy Newman, President, Scholastic Inc.

· Scholasitic attempted to implement a tracking strategy for their catalogs but the process ended up being too inconvenient for their customers.

· “Irrational competitors can create an opportunity for your business.”

 

 

Jack Jia, CEO, Baynote

· Jack’s presentation was about “like minded peers” and showed some very advanced personalization techniques that retailers are using to suggest similar products.

– The basic premise is that customers who have similar profiles (what they buy, how they get to your site, etc.) can be grouped together as “like minded peers” and should be marketed to accordingly.

· Jack asked the crowd who was would be more successful at selling their products – their best sales person or one of their own customers?

– Everyone agreed that their customers would out perform their best sales person.

· He advised every retailer to build their own collective intelligence platform.

· Sun and Ski increased their average order value by 59% by offering personalized landing pages based on the search terms that brought a customer to their site.

· U.S. Appliance used onosite search to find a gap in their product offering – they now sell televisions as a response to the customer demand.

 

* This was definitely some high level stuff and my dumbed down explanation probably doesn’t do it justice. Check out the Baynote Resources to learn more about their technology.

 

Keys to Surviving and Striving in a Challenging Multi-Channel Environment Panel:

Misty Locke, President, Range Media

· Retailers should think about alternative ways to use retargeting.

– She suggested running retargeting tests with suggested products (based on the products they already viewed) or using retargeting to increase customer loyalty.

· One of her clients sends a text with coupons to customers as they enter a retail location and follow ups with a Thank You text after an in-store purchase.

· The Container Store used paid search to promote local store openings.

· Journeys has retail store associates create YouTube videos about new and popular products .

Amy Lauer, VP of Banana Republic, Gap

· Amy discussed the success of their After 5 Sale which creates urgency for their customers.

 

Kara Trivuoic, Sr. Director of Strategic Services, StrongMail

· 86% of “forwards to a friend” happens through email

· Twitter has the highest click through rates but by far the lowest conversions (partly because of the “teaser effect” with bit.ly links).

· Twitter is great for exposure but poor for trust.

· Do it yourself tips:

– Know your audience

– Be compelling

– Motivate the conversation

· You can follow Kara on Twitter @ktrivunovic

*Kara wisely confessed her fear of not receiving any questions after her presentation which led to 8 questions from her audience (the most from any session I attended). Well played Kara 🙂

 

Jack Keifer, President, Baby Age

· “Once you hear something 3 times at one of these conferences, it’s time to do it.”

· Baby Age installed a Facebook widget which took only 12 hours to implement and led to Facebook going from their 15th most popular referring site to the 8th most popular.

· In October of 2006, they created a Celebrity Babies site which now gets 30k unique visitors per month.

– The initial investment was $49 and the total investment so far has been about $1,200.

– It now has a page rank of 5 and generates 15-20 sales per week for Baby Age.

· Consider a new marketing channel if it can add 1-4% of your total revenue within the first year.

· Baby Age used to spend 100k a year on Adwords but the 20-25% Cost of Sale wasn’t cutting it.

– They now spend about 15k a year and have cut back on all of their CPC channels.

· Focus on CPA channels since they are low risk.

· Jack recommended Amazon, eBay, Buy.com, Bing Cashback, Google Product Listing Ads, and the GoDaddy Marketplace.

· The Baby Age Ebay campaign has a 7% Cost of Sale

· Marketing Channels and Vendors are over saturated right now so retailers should:

– Negotiate even when you think you can’t

– Make sure to align your incentives with vendors to form true partnerships

· Affiliates = 11% of Baby Age Revenue

– They use Affiliate Traction to setup and manage their affiliate programs

· SEO tip:“If you don’t know what canonical tags are – look them up now!”

· Use Google Optimizer to run multivariate tests

– It’s easier than you think, so don’t be intimated and start testing ASAP.

· Always focus on DOING SOMETHING!

– Not every initiative needs a detailed strategic plan before you act

 

*Even though Jack bashed all things CPC (which I can’t help but take personally), he was my favorite speaker of the entire conference. He was completely transparent and focused on some specific tactics that have worked for Baby Age. His presentation was full of action items and his audience appeared to be taking more notes than any of the other sessions I attended. Coincidence? I think not!

 

Michael Cooper, VP Specialty Channels, Home Depot

· 10 years ago Home Depot opened 200 stores a year, now they open about 4 per year.

· Treat average order value, conversion rates, and cost per order as independent variables. If you can get all 3 to increase, you are going be in good shape.

 


Day 2 Notes

Robert Cell, CEO, MyBuys

· If you know your customers and treat them with relevancy they will buy more (higher AOV) from you, more often (customer retention).

· Robert suggested combining retargeting efforts with direct mail campaigns.

 

Lewis Goldman, SVP Marketing, 1-800-Flowers

· The company acquired 1-800-Flowers phone # in 1986.

· 1-800-Flowers partnered with Justin Beiber to leverage his 1 million + followers on Twitter.

· They also have a partnership with Patti Stanger from “The Celebrity Matchmaker” reality show.

· They used Alvenda to create their Facebook app.

· They use Facebook as a sales channel and Twitter for customer service.

· They no longer spend a lot of time focusing on blogs since blog readership is declining.

 

Jason Bertrand, Manager of Online Campaigns, Under Armour

· Jason was the first and only speaker to mention the comparison shopping engines. They use Channel Advisor to manage their CSE campaigns.

· His presentation focused on Revenue Attribution which he defined as:

– The process of tracking, sequencing, and valuing the contribution of revenue for activities across all business channels.

· They use ClearSaleing to understand how each piece of their marketing mix contributes to a sale.

· They break down their marketing channels into:

– Introducers

– Influencers

– Closers

· The closers typically get overvalued because they get 100% of the credit for a sale.

· Introducers and influencers often get undervalued because it’s difficult to understand and measure their influence on a purchase.

· He gave an example of a general search on Google like “underwear” as an introducer.

– If you just look at the ROI for general searches it will typically look poor. However there is almost always more value to those clicks than is being tracked (since most retailers only track the final step of the sale).

· Display Ads, Paid Search, and social media all serve as touch points for your customers and all the interactions with your site can influence a sale.

 

Making Informed Decisions to Prioritize Projects Based Upon Their ROI Potential Panel:

Carol Steinberg, SVP eoCommerce, ShopNBC.com

· 35% of ShopNBC’s total revenue is from their site.

· 2010 Initiatives:

– Mobile

– Video

– Social media

Marc Miller, SVP eoCommerce, Aeropostale

· Aeropostale outsources all of their IT to GSI Commerce.

· Facebook growth has been “eyeoopening” and very profitable.

· 2010 Initiatives:

– Mobile

– Facebook

– Expanding to markets outside of North America

James Keller, SVP Marketing & Business Development, Shoebuy.com

· Shoebuy has a goal of adding 2 brands per day and they just launched Watches and Sunglasses categories.

· They are growing profitability faster than revenue and they have had double digit YOY growth for 10 straight years.

 

Jamie Iannone, EVP Shopping, BarnesandNoble.com

· Missed a huge opportunity in Q4 ’09 by severely underestimating the demand for the nook.

– The nook can send customers coupons as they walk into a B&N store (free cookies!)

– Also while inside of a B&N retail location, nook users can read any book in the store for free.

· They use Certona as their vendor for personalized product recommendations.

· They reobranded the pickup in store option on their site – it’s now called “Pick Me Up” and 80% of the online reservations convert into retail sales.

*IMO Jamie had the best slides out of all the presentations I attended.

 

Miguel Almeida, VP Online Merchandising and Fulfillment, Walgreens

· “Become part of something bigger.”

– It will motivate your employees and customers.

· Empower your customers so they can help to make a difference.

· Walgreens is doing their best to improve health care convenience and access for their customers.

· They now have a PickupZone program in 3 cities which allows customers to shop online and have their products shipped to a local Walgreens.

– This has the potential to make a huge impact on ecommerce since 75% of people in the U.S. live within 3 miles of a Walgreens.

 

Steve Zapf, EVP Multi-Channel Management, Guitar Center

· Steve was the founder of Music123 which was purchased by Guitar Center.

– You can read the story of Steve’ grandpa on the Music123 About Us page.

· He was very transparent about the mistakes that Guitar Center has made and learned from.

– One funny example was a pair of jeans that Steve bought on his own site which was shipped to his house with the ink-tag still on the jeans.

· Guitar Center shows real time inostore availability on their product landing pages.

· They have more used musical instruments than eBay but until recently, their customers had no idea.

– They created a Used Gear section on their site to serve this market.

· Cool stats from Steve’s presentation:

– 31% of customers who buy electronics online start their search on Google

– 11% start their electronics search on Amazon

· They want to eventually integrate their online customer profiles with their retail stores to improve up-selling and crossoselling opportunities for retail associates.

· Steve ended the presentation with a 2 minute clip from this John Mayer and BB King YouTube video and called it “120 Seconds of Zen”.

*This was a great way to end the Keynote Presentations!

 

Ron Rogowski, Principal Analyst, Forrester

· The main theme of Ron’s presentation was that most ecommerce sites don’t adequately support their brand.

· As examples of brands that are consistent with their core message, he showed:

Target’s landing pages which displays pricing and savings very prominently

– Tommy Bahama which uses a very plain font on their landing pages (aiming to look like a “note in the bottle” font).

– The Nintendo Wii site actually looks very similar to the Wii itself

Tiffany’s blue borders are the same color as the signature Tiffany’s blue jewelry box

– Zappo’s 404 redirect page with Dash the Dog

· Most users won’t notice the subtle brand similarities but it reinforces your perception of the brand.

· The problem for most companies is that they can’t even articulate what their brand stands for.

· Each employee should be able to describe their brand in 3 words.

· “Look for ways to infuse your brand into every part of the site experience”

 

 

Cost Effective Innovations in Social media That Drive Sales Panel:

Lauren Coberly, Director of Worldwide Marketing, Kodak

· Half of product lines that make up 70% of Kodak’s revenue didn’t exist 5 years ago.

· Kodak uses Radian 6 to help guide their social media efforts

· Kodak received a lot of criticism for the naming of their first generation pocket video camera (Kodak Zi8) so they had a twitter contest to allow their followers to name the 2nd generation cam.

Eoin Comerford, VP Marketing, Moosejaw

· Moosejaw has 1 time full time employee managing their social media campaigns.

· Eoin said that MySpace’s fatal flaw was allowing retailers and marketers to say whatever they want. This lack of moderation leads to so much spam which really hurts the MySpace user experience.

· Moosejaw promoted their 20 day of decent giveaways on Twitter and Facebook from 12/4 – 12/23.

– The promotion increased their fan base by over 30% on both channels.

– Each product that was promoted during the promotion received a 5-15% bump in sales during the week it was promoted.

*This panel gave away copies of Crush It to anyone who asked a question which (not surprisingly) led to a lot of questions. The moral of the story is that bribing always works!


Twitter Stats

· There were 355 eTail specific tweets during the 2 day main conference!

· The top 3 most active Twitterers were:

Sativa Bella (@SativaBella) – 21 tweets (not including RTs or replies)

Bob Williams (@Bob_Williams) 17 tweets

Alexis Karlin (@akarlin) – 16 tweets

· Also make sure to check out Bob’s takeaways from Day 1 and Day 2 at eTail!

 


My Suggestions for Next Year

· Break up the sessions to better serve specific segments of the audience.

– There was a LOT of time spent discussing the integration challenges for large retailers who have both a physical presence and an online store.

– These discussions were completely irrelevant to the large portion for the audience that only sells their products online.

– There should be some sessions next year for eTailers who don’t have a brick and mortar presence.

· The speakers should give more tactics and fewer concepts.

– A lot of the concepts start to overlap and become redundant.

– I think the audience gets a lot more from specific tactics that they can begin implementing immediately (that’s why I was such a big fan of Jack Keifer’s presentation).

 


Summing it up

It was such a gratifying experience to meet with a few of our clients and I really enjoyed all of the random conversations with the other attendees! If we didn’t get a chance to meet at the conference, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or follow us on Twitter @cpcstrategy.

I’m about to start my journey back to San Diego and I’m already looking forward to Internet Retailer in June!

-Rick

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