We’ve just concluded day one at IRCE 2016. Today alone, there were over forty sessions and workshops. Before cocktail hour begins and I forget everything I’ve just seen, I thought I would share information from some of my favorite sessions of the day, including a breakdown of the keynote and special guest. If you’re attending IRCE, please comment and let us know your favorite takeaways from today’s sessions. If you’re not attending IRCE and have questions regarding these topics, let me know and I’ll try to answer or get you in touch with the right people.
Keynote: How the New Global Dell.com Keeps Customers Happy Around the World
Speaker Greg Bowen’s first career gives him a unique perspective; one you probably won’t find often anywhere and especially not at IRCE. Before he was VP of Commerce Services at Dell, Greg was an art curator. While the relevance of that experience may not jump out at you at first, it becomes apparent quickly. In user experience design, we frequently employ metaphorical language about the customer experience to help us visualize what’s happening. As an art curator, Greg designed customer experiences–experiences that he could design and then witness in person. He could move or replace a piece and watch customers walk through the gallery. He could observe customer flow. To the credit of online retailers, more imagination is required to design in the abstract world of ecommerce. Well, imagination and heaps of customer data from analytics. But Greg’s topic wasn’t so much on the imagination required. Instead, he focused on something we all talk about but too often forget: the customer.
Greg reiterated the following line several times, “If you start with the wrong reasons, you’ll end with the wrong results.” In essence, if the business requirements are your main reason for a transformation on your site, if they overshadow the customer’s needs, then you won’t see good results. Conversely, if you make success about the customer’s needs, you’ll find the right results. When you think about your customer experience, think about it like an art curator. If you focus on your own tastes, you’ll wind up with a stuffy, irrelevant museum that satisfies only a handful of critics. If you consider your target audience, you’ll pack the house, sell more tickets than you ever have before, and create meaningful experiences for your customers.
Special Guest: A Social Strategy Tailored for All of Humanity
Speaking of meaningful experiences, John Yembrick, social media manager for NASA, had a lot to say about using social media to engage, in his words, “all of humanity.” His mantra that helps him manage over 500+ social media accounts spanning from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the ISS Science Lab? “Make people care.”
In the private sector, we often boast about our flexibility while badmouthing the impersonal and obstinate nature of government agencies. Yet most of us struggle to go beyond “a social media footprint” and really leverage social media to “make people care.” Meanwhile, in a giant government agency with a stubborn bureaucracy, John was able to create a hugely successful and robust social media program with engagement that is unrivaled in the private sector. While much credit should be given to him for creating such an incredible program, you have to consider that equally talented people at other agencies must exist, but they still have not reached his level of success. Why? Content. It’s the rocket fuel that keeps followers engaged. NASA is at the forefront of aeronautics and space discovery; and every day scientists discover new things. By giving fans access to those discoveries, and making them palatable to those of us without a physics degree, he’s created ambassadors out of NASA fans and millions of devoted space nerds out of previously indifferent social media users. Don’t believe me? Last year, John fought his peers for the right to post the first photograph of Pluto on Instagram before it was released anywhere else. He won the argument, and in doing so it became one of the most talked about events for weeks. The Instagram account alone gained hundreds of thousands of followers because of one picture, posted only an hour before an official press release. While you may not walk into the office and find amazing scientific discoveries on your desk every morning, you will no doubt have engaging, relevant content for your target audience that belongs on social media. Being brave, opening up, and putting it out there on social media is a surefire way to make people care about your brand. After all, if John can sell inspiration to all of humanity, surely the rest of us at IRCE can apply some of his lessons to better sell products online.
What Shoppers Want from Online and Omnichannel Retailers
For five years, UPS, comScore, and “The E-Tailing group” have conducted a survey on a broad selection of topics, but what I found most fascinating was the findings presented by UPS about the behavior of online shoppers (not the general population) when it comes to mobile shopping.
Smartphone shopping satisfaction is up to 73% this year. Why? Probably because screen sizes have gotten bigger, but also because retailers have been doing a better job designing their apps and responsive sites.
Eighty-two percent of online shoppers use retailers’ apps. It’s a commitment of time and storage space to download a mobile app, but a large percentage of users are going forth and hitting download anyway. Whatever the reason, the pressure is on for retailers to build mobile apps or improve their responsive designs.
The problems people had with online shopping ten years ago are the SAME problems people have today with mobile shopping. Mainly, security and confidence. The larger the screen size the more people are willing to spend. Is there a ceiling on mobile? If there is, it’s going to be your job to raise it as much as you can.
Why the Top 500 Should be Scared of the Second 500
For the first time in five years, the second 500 has surpassed the growth rate of the top 500. So despite smaller budgets and the pains of being in the mid-market, there’s something the second 500 are doing to increase their growth rate (to 14.9%) while the top 500 has been slowing down (to 13.5%). Well, actually, according to Stephanie Zaroban, Director of Research at Internet Retailer, there are three things:
Be First. Whether you’re the first to do something or the first in your category.
Be Everywhere. Wherever your customers are, you’re there.
Redefine a Category. Sell the same product in a new way. Stephanie’s top example here? Blue Acorn’s client Casper. They’ve done more with the mattress category than anyone thought possible.
Prescriptions for the Growing Pains of Mid-Market E-Retailers
During this session, we heard a lot of really good tips on replatforming from Weblinc and two retailers, The Sak and Webs: America’s Yarn Store. For mid-market retailers (think between $5-100 million in online revenue) the two words of the day are priorities and balance. As a mid-market retailer, you’ve outgrown the solutions built to help people get started, but you can’t yet afford the full suite of enterprise technology and solutions. So what do you do? Prioritize which features are important to you, but keep your team balanced. You can add bells and whistles later when resources aren’t so limited, but rebalancing your organization from a back-end heavy or front-end heavy organization is slow-going and difficult. Which brings me to a few great points about your team.
From Weblinc: Split out your team when replatforming. Don’t say, “On top of your normal job, here’s another huge project I’d like you to manage.” Divide and conquer. The alternative is not just bad for them, it’s bad for the project.
From Webs: Take care of your internal team after replatforming. If you’re spending hundreds of thousands on a new site, make sure to budget something early on for your team when the new site launches. It should just be a part of how you do business.
From The Sak: Invest in education and merge business needs with career needs. As a mid-market retailer, you won’t always have the budget to give your employees everything they want, so create a culture of continual education and find creative ways to satisfy their needs while fulfilling your business needs. You’ll create and retain amazing employees who you’ll need when you hit the top 500.
The Night Begins
Now it’s off to the awards ceremony. This year, Blue Acorn’s client Le Creuset is a finalist for Web Redesign of the Year. Wish us luck! And if you’re at the show, be sure to stop by tomorrow and say hi before we head back to Charleston.