Jun 10 2016


Day two of IRCE is over already (insert weeping emoji). There are already a few articles out there covering the keynote, so I want to focus on some of the other, less covered sessions I came across throughout the day.

The Top 500: Riding the Wave of E-Commerce Opportunity

Directly following the keynote and featured session, Internet Retailers VP of Research gave us an in-depth look at his 2016 Top 500 report. The session, which was supposed to be fifteen minutes long, ended up going on for almost twice the planned time as Mark related the details of this year’s findings. Many of the new numbers focused on Amazon; some of the data felt familiar but was a good reminder. For example, one-third of ecommerce sales happen on Amazon. In every other session, speakers brought similar statistics regarding the giant online retailer. In fact, during the pre-show, Internet Retailer dedicated an entire track to Amazon.

New numbers on Alibaba proved to be equally impressive; the Chinese retailer did over $485 billion in gross merchandise volume, more than all of the top 500 retailers combined. That’s part of the reason why China is now the single biggest ecommerce market. Meanwhile, the U.S. lags behind–China grew at 2.3 times the rate of the U.S. But it’s not just China’s ecommerce market that’s outgrowing the United States; the rest of the world is growing at 1.6 times the rate of the U.S. So what’s the good news? There is still a lot of room for retailers in the United States to grow, and the rest of IRCE’s sessions gave us some great ideas.

Here are a few more numbers from Mark’s session:

  • The top 500 accounts for over 85% of ecommerce revenue.
  • The top 500 grew slightly slower than total ecommerce in 2015 (as opposed to slightly faster in 2014)
  • 18 of the 25 fastest-growing e-retailers in the Top 500 sell only on the web
  • 2 of the 4 fastest growing (five-year compounded growth rate) work or have worked with Blue Acorn (just saying).

Data and Automation Are Driving the Future of All Marketing Communications

So you think you know your customer? Matthew Butelein doesn’t, but he thinks he does. Paradoxically, he’s the one who told me. Still, it’s a pretty humble statement coming from a guy who has really spent some time talking to his customers and learning how to market to them, not just based on who they are, but on what they do. You’ve probably heard of using behavioral triggers to send out emails and customize display ads, but you probably didn’t know that it could be incredibly easy. After Matt walked us through the basics of his store’s marketing automation program, Max Bennett, co-founder of Bluecore labs, showed us his single, end-to-end system for quickly creating flexible segments and automating emails and display ads. Basically, you the retailer select attributes you want to target, whether they are fixed (like gender, age, or location) or behavioral (like viewing a specific product page, abandoning a cart), and then you create customized personalized emails to send to your segment.

Good Isn’t Good Enough: How to Meet the Highest Standards for Website Simplicity and Usability

If you haven’t been conducting user testing on your site, you may want to stop reading this blog and go create an account on usertesting.com. If you’re not familiar, remote user testing boils down to recording someone as they perform tasks and answer questions on your site while you sit behind a figurative two-way mirror. Compared to traditional lab-based testing, which can take weeks and cost tens of thousands of dollars, remote testing is easier, faster, cheaper, and gets your whole team involved. With usertesting.com, you can pick the demographic, edit and send clips to share with your team, and write scripts for the users to follow.

To understand a potential client’s site, I’ve performed user testing myself with no training or experience and loved the results. Meanwhile, our optimization team uses it for a number of reasons, including to test user experiences before they go live. And for our main speaker, Jonathan Serebrin of Home Depot, they use it ALL OF THE TIME and for all of their things. And after he got through talking about his robust process, I thought, “Why not?” I’ve included a few of his top tips for creating an incredibly robust user testing below:

  1. Build a culture around user testing. Include everyone by providing a public repository and share it often. Your whole team benefits from understanding what’s impacting customers negatively and why.
  2. Aim to learn, but remember to focus on business decisions. You might be applying scholarly principles, but remember that user testing is a business investment and should be used to guide business decisions and drive action. Keep this in mind always.
  3. Don’t slack on the repository. Keep your inventory of tests up-to-date to prevent duplicate content and put valuable insights at your team’s fingertips.

Getting Your Customers to Do Your Merchandising—How to Acquire User-Generated Content and What to Do With It

UGC, or user generated content, is one of the most valuable things an online retailer can have. Almost everyone has the basics baked into their site (reviews and social sharing), but few are going beyond that. I can’t help but think that this is an excellent place for someone to move ahead of their competitors, both by engaging new customers and retaining old ones.

Jai Rawat, CEO of ShopSocially, made an incredibly good point about most UGC content: it’s almost always text. When the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text and every one of your customers probably has a camera in his or her pocket at all times, it’s wasteful not to engage happy customers and ask them to create visual content for you. Of course, you need incentives and you need to be great with your timing. Here are three recommendations from Jai on how to create more visual UGC.

  1. Send an email to old customers. Ask them to upload a photo, then provide them with a hashtag so you can compile the photos easily. Encourage shoppers to share their reasons for buying the product.
  2. Insert a flyer in every shipment. In your flyer, ask users to share a photo. Offer an attractive incentive for sharing a photo-testimonial.
  3. Use in-store promotion. If you have a physical store, engage your customers with props and products and ask them to share on social media. For example, one brand, Beretta, created a sign that said “All I want for Christmas is…” and had customers fill it out and share on Instagram with a hashtag.

The Small Things That Add Up: How to Find Which Design Factors Influence Conversion Rates

Here’s an assumption most of us make: user experience determines conversion rate. But conversion rates are affected by many more factors. Tammy Everts, senior researcher at SOASTA, spoke at length about how conversion rates are negatively affected by poor web performance. Fanatics, an online retailer, found that a 2-second improvement in median page load time almost doubled mobile conversions. The easiest thing you can do to improve page load times? Optimize your images. By reformating, resizing, compressing, caching, or using lazy load, you can increase page load times and improve your conversion rate. If you’ve got more development experience, here’s a quick checklist of other things you can do to increase page load times:

  • Consolidate page resources
  • Make sure stylesheets are in the document head
  • Optimize web fonts
  • Optimize pop-up scripts
  • Monitor third parties.

Get your tickets for next year

IRCE is an impressive conference for a broad range of retailers. I barely scratched the surface of what a person can learn in the span of a few short days. If you missed the conference, make sure you get your tickets for next year and don’t forget to comment and let me know what you learned at IRCE this year. I’d love to hear your favorite takeaway. Or, even better, were there any ecommerce questions you wish they’d answered? Let me know and I’ll get back to you.

Matthew Rickerby

Head of Marketing

Matt began his career in ecommerce at Blue Acorn over five years ago. His areas of expertise include persona development, account-based marketing, and content marketing. He has co-written speaking sessions for Bronto Summit, DIG South, GIANT, and Revolve, and received multiple awards for videography, blogging, and copywriting.

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