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Ecommerce: Why online retailers are experimenting with brick-and-mortar locations

August 28th, 2015 No comments

“There are so many ecommerce retailers who now believe that in order to differentiate themselves and establish better brand relationships with their shoppers, they [need to consider] opening brick-and-mortar stores,” Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief, Retail TouchPoints, said.

According to Advertising Age, 80% of companies have increased digital marketing budgets for 2015. Whether it’s selling products on a website or through a mobile or desktop app, virtual marketing has become the norm.

However, some ecommerce retailers have recently invested in the opening of brick-and-mortar stores in order to stay ahead of the marketing curve and establish better relationships with their customers.

The growing popularity of this omni-channel trend was recently explored by Retail TouchPoints, a digital publication for retail executives, offering content focused on optimizing the customer experience across multiple channels.

At the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2015, Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, interviewed Debbie Hauss on why expanding to brick-and-mortar stores is becoming common for online retailers.


Retailers are trying to use more face-to-face interaction in order to enhance customer experience, and therefore gain a competitive advantage on solely online-based businesses.

Debbie explained that brick-and-mortar and ecommerce purchases are now becoming intertwined. It is desirable to get an in-store experience online, as well as an online experience in-store, which can be a difficult balance to achieve. Opening a physical location also has its difficulties.

“[Retailers] need to go about it in a creative way in a lot of cases, because it’s expensive, time consuming and stressful to go out there and try and open a retail store,” she said.

Debbie lists the following steps online retailers can take to build successful brick-and-mortar stores.

 

Experimenting with new locations via mobile stores

When looking for a good place to put down roots, location is essential. Retailers need to know where their main customers are located and where their products sell. Trying out different locations is a way to tap into new markets.

Debbie uses Alton Lane, a men’s clothing company, as an example.

“Alton Lane is one company [that] has taken it to the road with Airstream trailers. They are going to be traveling around the country and introducing their brand in specific locations, and it’s going to expand their brand to different groups of customers in different regions,” she said.

This serves multiple purposes: to grow their customer base and gain exposure, as well as to find out which location might be the best to open up a brick-and-mortar store.

Brands such as Alton Lane can utilize their current online client base, as well as their credibility that they’ve already built from their ecommerce sites, in order to bring people out to their physical locations. This gives them the ability to reach customers from various avenues.

 

Opening pop-up and showroom stores

To complement Alton Lane’s idea to use mobile Airstream trailers to appeal to new markets, many ecommerce companies have begun to utilize pop-up stores in order to explore new concepts and locations, and get more face-to-face interaction for their brand. A pop-up store is a store that is opened at a temporary location for a certain amount of time.

Having mobile point of sale technology and trackable inventory, as well as being able to order and ship to multiple locations, has revolutionized the way companies sell and has made these stores possible.

Debbie also mentions that pop-up stores can be simply showrooming stores, which are shops that allow customers to view and browse through products, but then make their actual purchases online. She gave the example of how Samsung has used this to its advantage to enhance customer experience.

“’Showrooming’ used to be a bad word … and it’s really not. I was remembering several years ago when I went on a store tour in New York City and Samsung had [its] ‘Samsung Experience’ store in the middle of Manhattan,” she said, “Everyone kind of scratched their heads and said … ‘why are they doing this? It’s costing them who knows how much to have this in New York City, and they’re not selling anything from there.’ Basically it was called the ‘Samsung Experience’ because it was about the experience. It’s about trying out the products and having a relationship with that brand.”

 

Utilizing customer data to create an effective brick-and-mortar location

Having data on customers is essential to being successful in developing a brick-and-mortar strategy. By understanding the customer and their motivations, retailers will be able to provide them with the best possible experience, therefore driving more sales.

Debbie said, “Anytime you’re interacting with a customer — be it via mobile technology, in a pop-up store, driving in your Airstream, online [or] on your tablets — you need to be able to collect and effectively analyze that data so that you know who your best customers are.”

Ecommerce brands who have customer intelligence and increased face-to-face interaction are really differentiating themselves from other brands who operate solely online.

“We hesitate to use the word ‘omni-channel’ anymore because we are all tired of saying it … but that’s what it’s about. It’s about having that consistent customer experience from every touchpoint in the shopper journey,” she said, “These days you don’t know where your shopper is necessarily going to start — on their mobile phone, on their tablet, in your store, on a website, via social media … you need to be able to tap all those channels in order to reach your customers more effectively.”

 

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43 Interviews about ecommerce from the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2015

Ecommerce Research Chart: How reputation affects success (and 5 ways to improve it) [From MarketingSherpa]

Ecommerce Research Chart: What makes customers more likely to buy online? [From MarketingSherpa]

What’s the Most Important Ecommerce Challenge? On-time Shipping

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Dimensional Weight Pricing: How a “17 pound” feather can affect your ecommerce profit margins

August 25th, 2015 No comments

Ecommerce has long been considered to have a cost advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers. After all, real estate, inventory and human resource costs are all lower.

However, these reduced costs come at an expense — Internet retailers rely on a third-party for fulfillment. Which means their margins and perhaps overall business model is at the mercy of other companies.

This dependency became all the more clear recently when UPS and FedEx announced a significant change to shipping policies by applying dimensional weight pricing (also known as DIM) to all ground shipments. This means that the size (length, weight and height) of even lightweight objects could cause increases in shipping costs for ecommerce vendors.

A concrete example of this is The Wall Street Journal estimating a 37% increase in price for a 32-pack of toilet paper and a 35% increase for a two-slice toaster.

At the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2015, I spoke with Abe Garver, a contributor to Yahoo! Finance and an M&A (mergers and acquisitions) banker, to discuss how these shipping changes are affecting ecommerce companies. Abe used the example of a peacock feather — which may really only weight six ounces, but due to its large size is considered weighing 17 pounds when calculating the cost of shipping.

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The Power of Visuals: How four companies effectively used visual content and three tools to get you started

August 18th, 2015 1 comment

An image is a powerful tool in the digital world.

It can draw attention, communicate value, increase shareability and so much more. In fact, HubSpot pulled together the “17 Stats You Should Know About Visual Content Marketing in 2015” to display this. From what your peers are doing to how effective visual content is for social sharing, the stats of recent studies are certainly interesting.

Two stats stuck out to me while researching this topic.Visual storytelling in the digital world

First, tweets with images were clicked 18% more and retweeted 150% more than those without, according to Buffer.

Second, when looking at the most shared posts from Facebook pages, a photo post made up 87% of interactions.

Even better than stats, I came across four success stories that show how visual content can greatly impact your content and social media marketing efforts, from blog views to Facebook shares.

 

Case study examples

Content Marketing: Interactive infographic blog post generates 3.9 million views for small insurance company

As a smaller insurance company, HCC Medical Insurance Service (HCCMIS) needed a way to stand out in its marketplace. While insurance can typically be thought of as a boring product, the HCCMIS team decided to make their blog content more exciting with interactive infographics.

The result? The team saw a 1,000% lift in blog traffic, as well as significant lifts in social media followers and email revenue.

Interactive infographic blog post generates 3.9 million views for small insurance company

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Email Marketing: How to utilize your consumer data without being creepy

August 11th, 2015 4 comments

Have you ever been at a social event and a person, unknown to you, eagerly greets you by name? Recall the creepy feeling you got in that situation.

It leaves you thinking — who is this person and how do they know this personal information?

Thanks to the Internet, marketers have the ability to collect and use an absurd amount of personal consumer data. As marketers, we’ve used this data to guide consumers to ideal products and services without them even knowing. Well, let me revise that last statement — we used to do this without consumers knowing.

 

Avoid This: Personalization                                                                                             

As personalization has become a buzzword over the last few years, efforts to connect with consumers have gone haywire. Every day, I receive emails from companies who promote products similar to those I’ve pinned on Pinterest and address me by my name, or at least attempt to:

The Adverse Effects of Email Personalization

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21 Subreddits Every Digital Marketer Should Subscribe To

July 24th, 2015 No comments

The best way for anyone to stay on top of any news, events and information around almost any topic imaginable in the 21st century is Reddit. Hands down. Most digital marketers know this already so I won’t waste too much time proving the point here. If you don’t know this, it’s okay. Here’s a five minute synopsis to get you up to speed.

 

The real trouble with Reddit, even for marketers who are familiar with the platform, is its unfriendly UX and search feature.

It’s very difficult to find the subreddits you should be following.

To help give you a head start with finding marketing subreddits, here’s a list of 21 you should probably be subscribed to if you’re not already …

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The Benefits of Combining Content Marketing and Segmentation: MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 replay

July 17th, 2015 1 comment

One of the most talked-about marketing trends at the moment may also be one of the most effective. According to Demand Metric, content marketing generates three times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing while costing 62% less.

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, sat down with Stephen Bruner, Marketing Manager, Precor, to discuss the value of content marketing and segmentation as well as the benefits of implementing a strategy using both of these marketing methods.

Precor is the second largest fitness equipment manufacturer in the U.S. and third in the world. Its clients are primarily fitness clubs and consumers. The company focuses on helping each of these consumer segments find the best products for their needs.

Watch the video excerpt from the MarketingSherpa Media Center to learn more about the relationship between content marketing and segmentation:

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What Single Attribute Can Improve Your Marketing? Sales and Marketing alignment

July 10th, 2015 No comments

After writing hundreds of MarketingSherpa Newsletter case studies and, in the process, interviewing, speaking with and getting to know many, many marketers, one attribute really stands out for influencing successful marketing — Sales and Marketing alignment.

It doesn’t guarantee success and lack of alignment doesn’t automatically mean failure. However, when Marketing and Sales are working together as a team instead of as adversaries within a company, the entire sales pipeline is much more effective.

One reason for this success is that companies with a Sales and Marketing alignment are much more likely to see the entire customer experience holistically, where each person is seen in terms of where they are in the process.

For example, that person will be seen as a freshly generated lead, a prospect who has been handed off to Sales, a paying customer requiring service or an ongoing nurturing to ensure they remain a customer.  This is much more preferable than being just a cog in a process that begins with Marketing, goes to Sales — where, at that point, the person drops off of Marketing’s radar altogether — and then, hopefully, is passed to customer service and is no longer a Sales concern.

msfinal

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Email Marketing: How the Kentucky Derby engages customers with relevant email

June 30th, 2015 1 comment

The Kentucky Derby is a once a year event worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It has been held annually on the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky since 1875.

It’s a race like no other, filled with traditions like the sweet taste of a mint julep dancing over the ice of a frozen silver cup, women in lavish hats ringed in a halo of soft glowing pearls and the victorious aroma of 554 red roses dripping across the backs of the winners.

Even with its long traditions, it takes a lot of effort and hard work to give the Kentucky Derby’s spectators exactly what they come to expect year after year as those expectations change through time.

To find out how the Kentucky Derby consistently makes this high level event continually more successful, Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, sat down with Kate Ellis, Marketing Analyst, and Jeff Koleba, Vice President of Marketing and Programming, both of the Kentucky Derby, at the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 Media Center to discuss how the Kentucky Derby keeps its customers engaged all year long for an annual event.

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Email Marketing for Nonprofits: Communicating value proposition

June 26th, 2015 2 comments

We generally think of only companies or campaigns having value propositions. For nonprofit companies, communicating the value proposition effectively is necessary for survival.

There is a value prop behind every action, including each email sent — why should people read your entire email or click through to a landing page? In the case of nonprofits, it seems this challenge is stronger, with no promise of a product at the end of the cycle.

This value proposition of action for email marketing answers the question behind why customers should take a specific action when they get your email — click.

Once people land on your page, that’s when you give them the reason to take action.

At Web Optimization Summit 2014, Tim Kachuriack, Chief Innovation and Optimization Officer, NextAfter, shared his experiences of working with nonprofits on email and landing page designs.

He explained that he was inspired at a MarketingSherpa conference a few years prior, when his page was selected for live optimization and critiqued in front of the entire MarketingSherpa audience.

Although confident that the page could more effectively communicate his value proposition, he mentioned his reservations when asking to test this page for the first time, saying,

“You guys helped me create this ugly, Frankenstein-looking version of the landing page,” Tim said. “It took much convincing and pleading, and many adult beverages. I convinced my client to actually let us,  in fact, test this.”

It resulted in a 274% increase in revenue for the nonprofit.

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Creating a Viral Environment to Serve Your Customers

June 23rd, 2015 No comments

The impulse to share something new with someone else is a natural and universal trait.

In the age of the Internet, why are some things shared while others are not? What causes a piece of content to go viral? To help answer this, Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, sat down with Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 to learn how an email marketer can create a viral environment. 

 

Word-of-mouth is extremely important in creating a viral environment. You have a subscriber list but to grow that list you have to get people to share your content. We all know word-of-mouth marketing matters. What’s less clear is how to get it.

There is a science to word-of-mouth, and the key is to think about it internally and externally while keeping the customer at the center. Too often we find ourselves focusing on the product — but how in-depth do we go thinking about the users? What drives them? What is that underlying behavior that triggers them to share content?

After spending 15 years studying the science of why things catch on, Jonah Berger developed the S.T.E.P.P.S. framework, which is a series of psychological factors that drive and trigger the sharing mechanism.

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