July 31, 2007, 12:00 AM

IRCE 2007: Report from the Conference

(Page 2 of 3)

With as many as 85% of search engine users` clicking on results from organic searches, retailers are putting a greater emphasis on ­improving their organic search rankings. "Once a site is fully optimized, every incremental click driven from a natural search listing leads to incremental revenue and profit that falls to the bottom line, as opposed to a paid search campaign where every click costs incrementally," says Rob Murray, president of search engine marketing agency iProspect.

Yet as important as optimizing organic search results is, many retailers do not keep pace with changes in the way consumers search for products, because once their search strategy is optimized they think no further optimization is needed. What many retailers overlook is that search engines` algorithms, competitors` search strategies, and interfaces between the search engine and retailer web sites are constantly changing. "Our role is to help retailers build a strategy that helps them stay ahead of the curve," says Murray.

The foundation of online success
Mike Wachner, General Manager, e-Commerce, Junction Solutions

Too often the online shopping experience falls short of consumer expectations, which reduces conversion rates and customer satisfaction. Implementing a next generation e-commerce platform can help retailers address these issues by increasing site performance and scaling to handle enormous traffic loads that can occur at any time and deliver global load balancing. Other considerations in selecting an e-commerce platform include guided navigation that helps customers shop by category and brand. "It`s the little details of best practices that can strongly drive conversion and help the customer experience," says Mike Wachner, general manager, e-commerce, of platform provider Junction Solutions.

Further, selecting a platform delivered through the software-as-a-service model not only reduces equipment, and support and maintenance costs, but also provides access to the latest applications as they become available. "This allows smaller retailers to take advantage of features that typically only tier one retailers would be able to," says Wachner.

Beyond business intelligence
Brett Kilpatrick, President and CEO, Panoratio Inc.

Having reached the limits of business intelligence applications for making sense of customer data, e-retailers are embracing analytics. What separates analytics from business intelligence is that it provides deeper insights into why a consumer made a purchase, greater detail about the shopper from a behavioral standpoint, and how shoppers make purchasing decisions.

"Business intelligence told retailers what was purchased, analytics tells them the who, why and how behind the purchase, as well as the what," says Brett Kilpatrick, president and CEO of data analytics provider Panoratio Inc. "It`s about getting a composite 360-degree view of the customer."

By applying analytics to customer data e-retailers can quickly discover new sales and marketing opportunities they may have overlooked previously. "E-retailing is happening way too fast for daily reports, weekly summaries or monthly dashboards that are part of business intelligence," says Kilpatrick. "Analytics is about speed of information and that helps retailers understand the customer relationship and act to personalize the customer relationship faster."

Alternative payments boost sales
Diane Sasseville, Director of Sales, PayPal

As concerns about the security of credit card transactions on the Internet grow, consumers are demanding e-retailers offer secure, alternative forms of payment that allow for prompt checkout without the risk their account data can be compromised. Concurrently, alternative payments can help retailers drive revenue by increasing conversion rates. "Merchants who offer three or more payment methods can increase conversions at the shopping cart level by 14%," says Diane Sasseville, director of sales for PayPal, the payment provider owned by eBay Inc. "That translates to a payment strategy being a significant contributor to sales."

A key contributor to PayPal`s allure to e-retailers is its account holder base of 145 million, which increases 5 million accounts per quarter. "This creates a beautiful network effect," says Sasseville, who adds PayPal is in 190 markets globally and supports 17 currencies. "As our user base grows, our merchant bases grows because they see the value of our users as a way to drive revenue," she says.

Getting the most out of rich content
Rick Martin, CEO, SellPoint

Consumer demand for a richer, interactive shopping experience is prompting e-retailers to use video as a marketing and merchandising tool. SellPoint`s online product tours combine rich media presentation of the product with in-depth detail, such as owner`s manuals, sell sheets and product reviews that can be downloaded. Shoppers spend more than two and a half minutes reading the information and viewing a product tour.

Product tours can also boost sales. A national retailer saw a 12% increase in sales between the web store and the storefront after adding product tours, according to SellPoint CEO Rick Martin. SellPoint makes product tours available to retailers at no charge, because production costs are underwritten by the manufacturer. Product tours can also improve customer retention and reduce returns because the depth of information in them usually answers all customers` questions so shoppers are likely to get exactly what they want. "You can`t always get that level of information with a picture and a paragraph," says Martin.

Watching each shopper
Geoff Galat, Vice President Product Marketing and Strategy, Tealeaf Technologies Inc.

Viewing customers as a data stream is causing many retailers to suffer a disconnection when interacting with them. "Customers aren`t data streams, customers are people and retailers need a full understanding of the human layer of experience that underlies customer interaction," says Geoff Galat, vice president of product marketing and strategy for Tealeaf Technologies Inc.

Tealeaf`s customer experience management application captures each customer`s interaction during the shopping trip and applies analytics to that information to help retailers understand what the customer saw and did while at the web store. It is similar to the observations in-store managers make about how customers shop and how staff interacts with customers. These insights have helped Tealeaf customers reduce the time and cost to fix errors by up to 60%, and improve conversion and customer retention. "Being able to drill down into why customers take the actions they do is key information every retailer needs," says Galat.

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