March 3, 2014, 11:31 AM

Redefining e-retail

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The rapid pace of change is also leading retailers to rethink the online design process, as several speakers described. Executives from various divisions at web-only retailer Newegg Inc., for instance, hold daily meetings to get reports on what customers are saying to customer service agents and on social networks; they then hammer out their daily priorities, said chief marketing officer Soren Mills. Flash-sale e-retailer Rue La La created a cross-company product council that meets twice monthly to set mobile priorities, reported chief technology officer Susan Standiford.

Staples has created two development labs devoted to digital initiatives, and hired hundreds of engineers—many from web-only retailers—to accelerate product development, Masud said. And for retailers wondering how to keep up with the latest mobile devices coming to market, Kenneth Weiss, director of digital marketing at multichannel personalized gifts retailer Things Remembered Inc., suggested dispatching employees to a Best Buy store every Friday afternoon to check out the latest gadgets.

The pace of change is so fast that it's often better to launch a new feature without taking the time to test it, and let consumers tell you what they think, said Annie Trombatore, director of product at Thrillist Media Group, whose holdings include Jackthreads, a web-only retailer of apparel for young men.

"Make a decision, even if you have no data," Trombatore told the web design conference. "The information you'll get from having a product in the wild will be so much more than you'll get from focus groups."

That may be a radical suggestion for e-retailers accustomed to relying on hard data to make decisions. But today, given the rapid-fire change described at the IRCE Focus events, e-retailers late to the party with new ideas may as well not bother to show up.


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