June 16, 2011, 2:00 PM

IRCE 2011 Report: Small retailers can compete with multichannel giants

Giggle CEO Ali Wing says retailers need to leverage what makes them unique.

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Small online retailers face tough competition from the multichannel giants, but focus and flexibility can enable even the tiniest web merchants to thrive, said Ali Wing today during a featured presentation at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in San Diego. Wing is the founder and CEO of Giggle, an independent multichannel retailer that sells baby products, a market crowded with big competitors.

“You have to be all things to all people pretty quick,” she said. For instance, smaller retailers need to realize that customer service is no longer focused on the telephone skills of call center employees; rather, many customer service tasks now involve written communications via e-mail and Facebook. “It’s a changed skill set,” she said.

Smaller retailers also should be cautious about embracing every e-commerce innovation, Wing said. This includes the proliferation of daily deal and group-buying sites. While she closely examines new marketing tactics she is often reluctant to use those approaches if she believes it will require Giggle to pay too much to acquire a customer or will lead to a discounted sale to a customer unlikely to return.

Wing also urged retailers to pay attention to the vital parts of their e-commerce operations, notably ensuing that consumers have the ability to quickly and easily checkout. When it comes to e-commerce technology, retailers need to respect the role that third-party integrations play. “You live and die by your integrations,” she said.

She also offered the following tips to help smaller retailers compete:

• Find a reason for being, and focus on the areas that support that. For instance, she said, if a retailer wants to be known for low prices and speed of delivery, that means heavy attention must be paid to logistics and inventory.

• Leverage your unique strengths or, as she put it, “stay true to what makes you special.”

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