Online Retail Today
relevant personalization for mobile commerce

IRCE 2017 Report: The Data To Power Relevant Personalization Is Within Reach

The 13th annual Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, better known as IRCE, was last week, and personalization was the dominant theme. Not only do merchants recognize the brand differentiation potential of one-to-one relevance, but they’re making personalization a reality — often based on data that’s readily available.

 

From the bevy of vendors promising “AI-powered personalization” in their toolsets, to the speakers discussing innovative uses of data to deliver one-to-one shopping experiences, to the conversations we had at the Kibo booth, it’s clear that merchants are making personalization a priority.

 

One big reason why, as articulated throughout the conference: the increasing dominance of Amazon.com. In his address as part of an “Amazon & Me” workshop, Scott Wingo of ChannelAdvisor noted that Amazon accounted for fully 53% of all eCommerce growth in 2016. He also revealed a chart showing the “AmazonScape” of the more than 200 public-facing programs Amazon offers — demonstrating Amazon’s omnipresence and influence on consumer expectations.

 

Personalization’s ability to meet consumers’ specific needs in the moment is one way merchants can counter the dominance of a mass merchant selling everything, but specializing in nothing. In a study cited by eMarketer, the BCG Group predicts that fully $800 billion is set to shift toward merchants who deploy personalization effectively.  

 

The happy news from IRCE is that more and more merchants are hitting their stride — and not always due to prohibitively complex big-data implementations. Conference speakers demonstrated that simplicity could be effective, and much of the information merchants need to deliver relevant experiences is readily available. Among the winning tactics on display:

 

Tailor eCommerce site content to the stage of the customer lifecycle.

Merchants should use analytics to understand how new visitors, returning visitors, and customers move through the eCommerce site, and adapt content at crucial decision points accordingly.

 

At IRCE, Kibo merchant Zoro.com detailed how product detail pages, which serve as entry points for 80% of the B2B distributor’s search traffic, could adapt in real time based on whether the visitor was new or returning, with more attractive pricing potentially served to loyalists. For existing buyers who largely enter the site via the homepage, Zoro.com facilitates re-orders by displaying previously-purchased products and previously-viewed items prominently. Below, returning visitors who previously searched disposable gloves see a mix of personal protection products in the home page carousel.

 

Zoro IRCE 2016

 

Navigation for existing customers also adapts to prioritize categories previously browsed and bought. The personalization features have produced a 10% lift in sales so far, with further implementations on the horizon.

 

Use implicit and explicit  information to drive relevance.

Merchants can also derive valuable data from the context of shoppers’ actions. Greg Zakowicz, analyst for Kibo partner Bronto, showed how taking into account  the location within the eCommerce site where shoppers opted to sign up for email promotions could inform the products and offers within welcome email messages — for example, by serving only products for women to those who signed up from within women’s categories on an apparel site. Similarly, tracking which email content attracted subscribers’ clicks could then be used to inform the array of items offered in subsequent campaigns, Zakowicz said.

 

Armani Exchange IRCE 2016

 

Of course, merchants can also solicit such information explicitly, as Kibo merchant Armani Exchange does in its modal email signup window. And more elaborate content can further unlock data riches: While not every merchant can or should build their businesses around personalized shipments like KidBox (for children’s toys) or Stitchfix or Trunk Club (for apparel), the practice of using a detailed profile builder or questionnaire to gauge shopping preferences is one many sellers can emulate.

 

Interactive buying guides, quizzes, or design tools that spur shoppers to volunteer information about their shopping quests can yield detailed data to shape the subsequent online experience — from displaying only apparel items in the right size in search results to prioritizing product categories that match shoppers’ preferences.

 

Create apps with real-life utility that accrue rich data.

As a corollary, merchants should think beyond merely streamlined shopping when considering mobile app development. Instead, sellers should consider tools that align with their audience’s lifestyle and goals and that provide solutions above and beyond making purchases.

 

Such apps not only demonstrate that the merchant brand has a deep understanding of their audience’s needs; they’re also likely to be used more often than a pure shopping app. And merchants gain access to a wealth of data that can subsequently inform personalized content, products, and offers.

 

IRCE keynote merchant Under Armour is a case in point. Via its dozens of fitness mapping apps, the athletic apparel and equipment manufacturer gains credibility as the definitive platform for a community of fitness enthusiasts — and reaps insights into its audience’s priorities. While the apps aren’t related to shopping per se, Under Armour can use profile data to act as a “digital concierge,” helping address users’ needs  in the moment with relevant products and offers.

 

“Brick mine” the in-store experience.

Merchants with physical outlets have yet another trove of information to inform personalization efforts — activity within store locations themselves. IRCE presenters pointed to formerly online-exclusive brands such as Warby Parker — and, yes, Amazon — that have now branched out into bricks-and-mortar retail partly for the information-gathering potential stores represent. Retailers should take advantage of the opportunity to interact face-to-face with shoppers and build rich behavioral profiles.

 

Fabletics is an extreme example; the online-first apparel manufacturer uses its retail outlets to track consumer behavior so closely, even items shoppers take to the dressing room to try are scanned and added to their profiles, as IRCE attendees learned. But every retail merchant can use a mobile point-of-sale tool to unite store selections with previous online activity and gather product feedback.

 

What were your top IRCE takeaways, and which sessions were most valuable?

 

Kibo Software, Inc

The Top Five Reasons To Meet With Kibo At IRCE 2017

1. It’s The Year Of Personalization, And Things Are Getting Overwhelming

We are here to help! Let’s talk about our personalization platform, the latest technology, and everything it can do for your company.

We are also co-presenting a session about personalization:
Making B2B Sexy—It’s All About Personalization
Tuesday, June 6 at 12:45-1:30pm
A joint presentation between Kibo customer Zoro’s Director, E-Commerce Serchandising, Kyle Hillbrenner, and Kibo Product Manager, Danielle Roberts.

2. Because Your In-Store Sales Are Down

We love talking about and providing solutions for the decline of in-store traffic and sales. We believe the store is still very much a player in commerce, however its role isn’t the same as it used to be.

3. Integrated Customer Experiences

Every customer is completely over siloes. Why? Because siloes can only provide disjointed customer experiences. Let us help you break down some walls, make some connections, and let your customer breathe a sigh of relief.

4. 2016 Was The Year Of BOPIS, What Are You Doing With It?

2016 wouldn’t stop talking about Buy Online, Pickup In-Store. Now that it’s 2017, the chatter may have ceased, but the implementation is still in progress. Let’s strategize about the best uses of BOPIS.

5. Win the Wheels

Our booth is one of the stops for Win the Wheels, and we are doing our own Google Home giveaways.

 

Fill out this form to Book A Meeting with Kibo at IRCE 2017!

 

From The Trenches: Kibo Summit 2017

If you are looking for more information on Kibo Summit 2018, please follow this link.

 

For the second consecutive year Kibo gathered with customers, partners, and industry thought leaders for a few days in New Orleans, Louisiana to share best practices, discuss industry trends, and reveal our joint commerce roadmaps at our Kibo Summit 2017.

While there were many highlights from the event, below are our key takeaways:

1. Personalization

In 2017, many of us will be investing our dollars in various areas to strengthen our commerce capabilities that will lead to enhancing our customer experience. Throughout the entire conference it was clear that this is the year of personalization. While many have discussed or implemented personalization to some degree, the difference now is that we heard personalization was at the top of the list for many across the extended ecosystem. Whether it was Brendan Witcher from Forrester Research Inc., or a customer with millions of online GMV, or a partner working on implementations, the story was clear – personalization has made it into budgets and is garnering significant interest from all levels in the industry. The story of personalization is not limited to the website alone, but there are many deploying personalization on email, mobile apps, call centers, and in-store.

2. Enhancing The In-store Experience

We have all seen the headlines that are plaguing our industry – store closures happening for retailers with bankruptcies following shortly after for many. It is no surprise that enhancing the in-store experience was often a topic at our Summit in New Orleans. It seems that many have focused their efforts on digital channels or mobile technologies and coupled these with in-store promotions. While this has helped curb some of the decline of in-store sales, more can be done. To help energize the in-store channel, retailers spoke a lot about turning their focus from promotions to experiences. Many have made it a strategic imperative to enhance the in-store experience – and this might not always include technology. For example, we have heard recently about Target changing the layout of their stores based on product type. It seems like retailers are looking to embrace such unconventional approaches to ensure the in-store experience is aligned with consumer expectations. We also heard about organizations that are experimenting with smaller stores (to drive more personalized engagements), leveraging mobile for the in-store associate (such as a tablet for easy access to information), ensuring online inventory visibility matches what’s actually available in-store, and increasing self-service options so visitors can find the products they are looking for (Note: this is different than self-service checkout). It is exciting to see so many retailers embracing the idea of changing the dynamic of the in-store experience versus running away from it and simply declaring that “stores are dead.”

3. Integration is Critical

Integrate everything to reduce friction. Technology, teams, systems, processes, experiences, and channels all need to be integrated in order to reduce friction. No matter what topic we discussed, who we discussed it with, or what the role of the attendee was, it was clear that retailers do not have enough resources to accomplish everything they need to accomplish. There simply is not enough bandwidth to take on additional work or absorb inefficiencies. The result is a strong desire to integrate as much as possible to drive more seamlessness into day-to-day operations. Some specifics include reducing the numbers of vendors retailers are working with, integrating teams that traditionally do not cross paths, and cross-department training to help drive more connectedness across the organization. This might sound like common sense, but practically speaking it can be hard to implement due to siloed departments, misaligned goals, or physical distance. At the end of the day, many organizations are challenged at the speed of operations – they simply cannot move fast enough – and it was the general belief that integration from all aspects will help to alleviate the challenge.

4. Improving Fulfillment and Delivery Maturity

We have all used strategies to leverage fulfillment and delivery options for consumers as a competitive differentiation. However, the tides have changed. Delivery and fulfillment options have become table stakes. For example, in our annual survey we learned 55% of consumers are willing to switch retailers if their preferred method of fulfillment is not available, and 68% expect delivery of their online purchases within 3 days. The amount of sales risk directly tied to fulfillment has significantly grown over the past few years. This year’s Summit attendees agreed. Several times we heard retailers talking about revamping their buy online, pickup in-store programs or that they are looking for ways to streamline in-store fulfillment. This makes sense as 48% of consumers say they are less likely to buy from a site that does not offer in-store pickup. This naturally led to conversations around showing in-store inventory on eCommerce sites as well. While there were many debates on what the challenges are, there were absolutely no arguments on why it is important for consumers.  Showing online inventory helps drive online sales, encourages in-store visits, and provides consumers a sense of urgency to take action. While many retailers have invested in fulfillment and delivery options, almost all of them were looking  to grow along the maturity curve.     

5. No “Buy” Button for Social Media

While we see significant growth in the social media ad space, most of the retailers we heard at Summit were not looking for ways to monetize their social media efforts. They were leveraging these channels to grow their brands, drive traffic, improve reach or engagement, and build followers – but not for conversion to sales. The feedback was consistent: most retailers were not looking to utilize a “buy” button on social media. In the end, this decision will depend on individual retailers and the types of products they are selling, as well as the business goals they have surrounding social, but by and large retailers are looking to social to engage their audiences.

We appreciate all who came out to support the event and hope you came away with as much as we did. We look forward to hosting our ecosystem next year. Stay tuned for dates and locations!

From The Trenches: NRF 2017 Recap

The 2017 NRF Convention and EXPO, or better known as Retail’s Big Show, was a fantastic event with many takeaways and discussions of industry trends. While many areas of the retail industry were covered, here is a recap of our top findings:

Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) is Table Stakes

2016 was the year of investing in buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) fulfillment, especially if one wanted to be considered an omnichannel merchant.  So much so, that BOPIS has become table stakes for any modern retailer who has brick-and-mortar stores. Consumers like the convenience of researching, browsing, and purchasing online, but they want the flexibility of saving money on shipping and the ability to have their product within the same day – without paying extra for it. Recent surveys suggest BOPIS fulfillment is now expected by consumers and many consumers are willing to switch vendors if their fulfillment choice is not available.  At NRF, almost every retailer we spoke to had rolled out a BOPIS strategy or was in the midst of rolling one out. 2017 will be the year of optimizing the BOPIS process by investing in order management software, in-store technology, or training for sales associates.

Omnichannel Fulfillment is Stressing Supply Chains

Speaking of buying online and picking up in store, one common conversation at NRF was regarding the stress that new in-store fulfillment options are putting on store operations and supply chains. For example, several retailers experienced challenges in keeping up with BOPIS orders over the holidays – simply because their stores and associates were not ready for the high levels of traffic that BOPIS sales brought to the stores. Many had to rent out extra storage facilities, hire additional labor, and put in manual processes to keep up with the demand.
In 2017, retailers will need to assess the affect that BOPIS and other in-store fulfillment strategies have on store operations. Several elements and costs need to be taken into account – cost of inventory, store associate training, and increased staff to handle additional traffic. In addition to changes and upgrades needed in-store, there are several technology and process elements that will have to be evaluated, such as supply chain software, planning management, order management, and real-time inventory models. While in-store strategies are great for creating a unified, connected experience for consumers, retailers must invest in other areas of the business to ensure that these strategies are well supported and do not negatively impact the business.

2017 is the Year of Personalization

The retail industry and marketers have been talking about personalization for years. We believe 2017 is the year where retailers and branded manufacturers will actually invest in personalization technology – and not just talk about. Initially, the technology was not mature enough for industry-wide adoption, however recent advances in data science, algorithms, and machine learning are making the return on investment (ROI) of personalization technology a no brainer. We heard several retailers speak about double digit increases in average order values (AOV) and conversion rates that resulted in an ROI of less than 4-5 months. Personalization not only increases sales, but it also helps drive brand loyalty for retailers. In 2017, look for retailers going from personalized recommendations to 1:1 personalized experiences with content, merchandising, and promotions that span across channels and devices. Every consumer is unique and every retailer will strive to take advantage of this uniqueness to drive increased engagement.

Too Early for Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR)

Intel, Google, and even the CEO and President of NRF were encouraging the attendees to take advantage of the technology advances in virtual reality, augmented reality, and wearable technology. Following some fantastic keynotes and sessions, the show floor was littered with interesting and appealing demos of the latest technology. While there is a push from many technology providers to leverage these new technologies, we are still skeptical. I believe a majority of retailers still have much to implement with respect to basic modern retail strategies – mobile responsive/adaptive, mobile apps, omnichannel fulfillment, personalization – that most will opt not to invest in these advanced and unproven technologies in 2017. However, we do believe the more mature or profitable retailers will leverage 2017 as a testing bed by implementing certain sites with VR/AR technology to prove ROI – subsequently making major investments in 2018 or beyond.

The Omnichannel Vision is Still a Vision

While many will consider themselves to be an omnichannel retailer, there is still much work to do. The intentions are there, but not every retailer has implemented all the necessary components to be considered a true omnichannel merchant. Throughout our few days in NYC, we heard many stories of retailers struggling to provide consistent experiences for their consumers, specifically between the digital and the physical in-store channels. Many are still investing in mobile, whether that is mobile adaptive websites or mobile apps, and there are still a large amount of disconnected strategies when dealing with email promotions, inventory availability, and local product search. All in all, vendors are saying the right things and are trying to get there, but we did not come across any merchant who is satisfied with their omnichannel retailing.

This creates a huge opportunity for retailers as they head into 2017.  Our prediction is that retailers who invest in omnichannel will be the winners in the next 18-24 months. Retailers do not have to have every element of omnichannel to win, they just need to find a handful of use cases or scenarios that are relevant to their business and ensure those are executed flawlessly. We will not make any predictions as to who those retailers might be, but we think those who are nimble, agile, and using Cloud technologies have the highest likelihood of getting there.

All in all, NRF was a great show and we are interested to see how the thought leadership presented at the show converts into real life implementations and investments. Retail is still an exciting sector and the best in user experience is yet to come.

Posted by / January 25, 2017 / Posted in Events