LOS ANGELES — One could liken last week’s all-day conference to a war room in which executives from the retail and technology industries gathered to hash out tactics to boost online commerce programs as they head into holiday and beyond.
“There’s so many trends right now, it’s easy to latch on to one of them,” said Jim Davidson, head of research at cloud-based software company Bronto Software.
But it pays for retailers to be far more strategic about how they spend their tech dollars in the war for conversion rather than jumping on trends.
Although there’s chatter and opportunity in mobile — with smartphone preferences jumping from 51 percent in 2014 to 63 percent this year and tablet preferences rising 37 percent to 50 percent for the same period — consumers still favor desktops and laptops when making actual purchases.
A Bronto study released this year found most consumers prefer to shop and buy on laptops and desktops at 62 percent and 63 percent, respectively.
The results were based on a study done in January surveying more than 1,000 U.S. shoppers who made an online purchase in the past 12 months.
And when it comes to holiday promotions, retailers might want to consider tailoring their marketing programs to more closely resemble the types of promotions consumers prefer. The two sale channels that saw the greatest disconnect between what consumers want and what retailers intend to use were flash sales and doorbusters, according to Bronto.
Some 29 percent of consumers say flash sales inspire them to make a purchase, while 60 percent of marketers said they plan to use them. The disparity was just as wide-ranging for doorbusters with 28 percent of consumers saying they’re wooed to make a purchase with that type of promotion, while 70 percent of marketers listed that as one of the offers they intend to use.
“If we just look at the changes in how consumers are shopping, it’s light speed,” Davidson said. “It’s difficult for any retailer to keep up.”
And each retailer’s business and customer base varies.
“Being a smaller to mid-size company and having limited resources, we still see so much opportunity online,” said Courtney Lear Wallace, director of digital marketing and e-commerce at Burbank, Calif.-based e-tailer Unique Vintage.
The online company, which sells vintage-inspired brands including its own dresses and swimsuits, sees 80 percent of its overall revenue coming from the site. The rest of its sales are evenly divided between the wholesale business — which counts Zappos as its largest customer — and the company’s sole brick-and-mortar flagship in Burbank.
“I think honestly for us, a lot of it is just being honest about our resources and where our biggest ROI is,” Lear Wallace said.
The 15-year-old company, which she said it’s profitable, is now entertaining the idea of bringing on venture capital as it turns to a new phase of growth.
With whatever plan it devises for its next phase, Unique Vintage will have to be in tune with its customer as fashion companies continue to move from promotion-based campaigns to engagement-heavy plans built around consumers.
Engagement is at the heart of cart recovery solutions that force e-tailers to become much more proactive and targeted when it comes to addressing cart abandonment.
Los Angeles boho- and vintage-inspired e-tailer Johnny Was went live with a cart recovery e-mail in May and has seen a 57.2 percent open rate with a 17.5 percent conversion since the launch. The average order value from the cart recovery e-mail is $364.34 and slightly higher than orders from other e-mail traffic, according to Johnny Was e-commerce marketing manager Frederique Meijer.
But where one technique works for one company, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. And that’s the rub. Each business has a different model and a different customer base to appease.
Claire Gordon, vice president of marketing at window treatments manufacturer and direct seller Smith & Noble, said her company doesn’t do a cart recovery e-mail because the buying process of the company’s customers is a much longer span of time. So the goal for Smith & Noble is how to actually get customers in stores.
“Conversions are great,” she said, “but we also like appointments.”
“It’s a very noisy world, so how does a brand stand out from the competition?” said Bronto founder and chief executive officer Joe Colopy. “It’s all about image. It’s all about how you present yourself. It’s not only about you having gorgeous clothes in store and on your site. It’s how you talk to people.”
The fashion vertical continues to be a growing business segment for Bronto, which is expanding and relocating its West Coast office within Santa Monica in anticipation of growth in the business. The move is expected sometime next month and is designed to hold twice as many people. The West Coast currently has 10 employees.
“We set up here because we focus on fashion and we focus on retail and the two big hubs in the country are New York City and L.A.,” Colopy said. “They have very different personalities. In New York City, you have a lot of the traditional, longstanding well-known brands but over here [in L.A.] there are a lot of brands but it’s a slightly different group that’s refreshing. It’s a little bit newer and more open.”