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EBay: Omnichannel Is Overused Term

David Geisinger, Ebay's head of retail business strategy, spoke at the Stella Summit 2013 at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

Forget the term omnichannel — start thinking like a consumer instead.

This story first appeared in the October 21, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That’s the conclusion of David Geisinger, head of retail business strategy at eBay Inc., who spoke on “eBay’s Focus on Innovation in an Omni-Channel World” at Stella Summit 2013 at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

Geisinger believes that the word omnichannel is “grossly overused.” He noted that because consumers don’t use the term, there’s no reason for retailers and marketers to use it either and that the focus should really be to “start thinking like a consumer,” instead of silos of distribution such as buying online, on a mobile device and in brick-and-mortar.

For Geisinger, thinking like a consumer really means learning how to integrate the platforms so that service becomes the key to engaging the customer.

He gave an example of abandoning an online shopping cart for a particular brand, and then heading into the city the same day and going into that brand’s store and having to find all the things that had been in the online cart to put into the physical cart. His point is that from the consumer’s standpoint, it would be easier and better if he could walk into a physical store and the store associate would know automatically to put the same items in a cart for him. In some respects, those tools are in place given the mobile gadgets that consumers carry.

Similarly, when a consumer buys online and goes to a store for pickup, the experience now is that one has to go to customer service and is lucky if the item is already available for pickup, Geisinger said. Even if the item is already ready for pickup, “that may be efficient, but is that engaging the consumer?”

Geisinger explained that it would be great if the store associate could pull complementary items for what was ordered to hold up to the consumer and suggest whether such and such items are also needed.

Mobile should be thought of as a complement to existing tools to reach customers because not all people need mobile as a platform, he said.

 

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“Mobile is about engaging consumers and creating moments of inspiration,” Geisinger said, adding that there should be a cadence to the outreach as well a proactive interpretation.

“Think of consumers [in terms of] when they buy a product and when they might need something else,” he explained.

He gave as an example buying a 50-pound bag of dog food.

“Do I get a message close to when I’m running out of dog food?”

According to Geisinger, what usually happens is that he suddenly realizes he’s run out of food and then has to go to a different store for a smaller bag as an interim fix until he has time to go to his regular pet store to pick up another 50-pound bag.

“That’s a lost engagement with the brand…. Retailers can create moments of engagement instead of waiting for consumers to raise their hand,” he said, suggesting that retailers can use push notification via an app for a mobile device within parameters of privacy requirements to maintain contact with their customers.

He also told attendees that retailers need to innovate, even if in small ways. “There’s no such thing as innovating to survive….[You should] innovate to succeed,” he said. According to Geisinger, a certain amount of failure is needed because that’s how one learns. “If you’re not failing, you’re not taking enough risk,” he concluded.

According to eBay, industry data is projecting that 50 percent of its total traffic will be through mobile by 2015. There are six purchases every second, and 190 pieces of apparel, shoes and accessories sold every minute. Currently 56 percent of mobile is through a smartphone user, and 19 percent via a tablet user.

In addition, between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. is when smartphone usage is at the peak, while tablet peak use is between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.

On average, consumers use their smartphones about 40 times a day. And Generation Z, those born after the Millennial Generation or in 1995 and after, give Web sites or a mobile site just six seconds to capture their attention before deciding whether to abandon it. That means that when talking to them, retailers need to provide a relevant rich experience that needs to be immediate, he advised.