July 27, 2006, 12:00 AM

Internet Retailer 2006: Report from the conference

(Page 4 of 9)

Loyalty programs actually are relationships with customers, said Mark Goldstein, CEO of Loyalty Lab. "And knowing your customers will give you a competitive advantage.

Persuading peers to purchase

Social Networking: The Peer Persuasion Marketing Tool
Peter Kosciewicz, director of e-commerce, The Eastwood Co.
Chris Saito, senior director, shopping products, Yahoo Shopping

Social networking plays a critical role in how individuals succeed in meeting personal goals; the same now can be said for e-retailers, said Peter Kosciewicz, director of e-commerce at The Eastwood Co.

"Word of mouth from friends or other consumers totally trumps any message that can come from a corporate entity," Kosciewicz says. The multi-channel retailer of automotive tools and equipment operates a users forum, dubbed Shop Talk, as part of its e-commerce site.

The efficacy of conventional marketing strategies and tools is eroding significantly, Kosciewicz says, citing recent studies from Forrester Research and Datamonitor. "Social networking," he adds, "helps users cut through the increasing clutter in e-mail and on the Internet."

And with the steadily increasing popularity of general social networking sites, more online shoppers will become familiar with and attracted to the technology, says Chris Saito, senior director of shopping products at Yahoo Shopping.

Online malls help boost traffic

Making Sense of Online Shopping Malls
Jacob Hawkins, vice president of online marketing, Overstock.com
Cory Nielsen, Internet marketing manager, Woodwind and Brasswind

"Whoever said money can`t buy you happiness didn`t know where to go shopping." Cory Nielsen used the wit of Bo Derek to begin his IR 2006 address. Online malls can be key to boosting traffic to an e-retailer`s site, said Nielsen, Internet marketing manager at Woodwind and Brasswind.

"You must know all the players; each brings something different to the table," he said. "Once you decide on which to work with, you must know how to work with each one. It`s useful to have a mall account manager to help optimize your presence."

Account managers, Nielsen added, can assist an e-retailer with tracking traffic and conversion, creating marketing opportunities, and deciding how tools can help or hurt.

They also can help with understanding shoppers and customers and their online activity, said Jacob Hawkins, vice president of online marketing at Overstock.com. "You have to understand things like what they`re looking for, and why they clicked on the links they did."

Soothing the jumpy consumer

Getting the Nervous Nellies to Buy Online
Gerry Sweeney, senior vice president, Visa USA
Michael Phillips, Internet strategist, Yankee Candle

With customers wanting more payment options, web retailers have to address these desires to get still-wary potential web shoppers to purchase online, said Gerry Sweeney, senior vice president at Visa USA.

"Debit cards, for example, are becoming more popular; they help shoppers better manage their budgets," Sweeney said. "But because debit cards are tied directly to people`s checking and savings accounts, they`re very concerned about security."

But security is not an issue unique to the web--it`s a concern facing all sales channels. Nonetheless, the perception among shoppers is that security is a greater concern online.

"As a result, e-retailers must address the issue," Sweeney said. "And the best way to do so is through educating shoppers. Education can beat perception."

Nervous consumers` negative perceptions of Internet security is the core issue, said Michael Phillips, Internet strategist at Yankee Candle, which uses a security signature to ease consumers. "Getting the message out is key," he said.

Operations & Payment: Winning New Users with Excellence
Track C -- June 6

Doing DIY customer service right

Web Site Self-Service Doesn`t Mean Auto-Pilot
Gustavo Garcia, director of business development, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories
Tom Denison, director of e-commerce, Personal Creations

When it comes to online self-service, customers will come if retailers build and market their programs the right way. In a recent survey by Genesys, 73% of executives rated interactive self-service as a high or very high priority for their organization`s web site, says Gustavo Garcia, director of business development. "Consumers are growing used to, and preferring, self-service applications for getting questions answered and issues resolved," Garcia said.

To encourage customers to use its latest self-service tool, a live chat box that scrolls across its customer service page, PersonalCreations.com uses incentives such as 10% off a purchase to generate a customer contact. The live chat feature also enables shoppers to initiate and control the customer service session. "This self-service program gives us new ways to cross-sell our merchandise and personalize the exchange," said Tom Denison, PersonalCreations.com director of e-commerce.

Quality, not quantity

Lost in Cyberspace: Do E-Retailers Just Ignore E-Mail?
Terry Golesworthy, president, The Customer Respect Group
Mike Faith, president, Headsets.com

E-mail doesn`t have to be spam or just one more unopened message in a customer`s inbox if retailers are willing to better manage their programs, Headsets.com CEO Mike Faith and The Customer Respect Group president Terry Golesworthy told the conference.

The retail industry is responsive--only 13% of all messages are ignored or go unopened by recipients, Golesworthy says. But only 25% of the e-mail thatretailers send to their customers is personalized. "Retailers are missing opportunities," Golesworthy says. To build lasting customer relationships, Headsets.com answers all e-mail within one hour, but just being responsive isn`t enough, Faith says. "Quality matters even more," he says.

Headsets also sets up education programs for all service reps that include ongoing training andbetter ways to be courteous and responsive. "An auto responder that says `Thank you for your inquiry` should not be acceptable," he says.

Satisfying the customer and the board

Growing into the Next Level E-Commerce Platform
David Brumback, director of operations for American Eagle Direct
Doug Allen, marketing director, ComputerGeeks.com

Web retailers must keep multiple channels in mind as they plan their next e-commerce platform upgrade,director of operations for American Eagle Direct David Brumback told attendees at Internet Retailer 2006. Over time American Eagle has upgraded its web and store infrastructure to support one integrated platform, which next year will help the company launch a buy-online-pickup-in-store program. "Multi-channel clients spend four times as much as single channel clients," Brumback said.

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