Top 5 Trends & Best Practices From the Experts at eTail West 2015

Customers are far more empowered and connected than ever before but many retailers have been struggling over the past several years just trying to keep up. This week at the eTail West Summit in Palm Springs, over 2,000 attendees came together to explore the latest and greatest in tools and technologies that provide visibility across all disciplines and channels of retail and etail, from CRM to customer service, from third party marketplaces to internal marketing and fulfillment.

After attending several sessions on topics that included email optimization, enhancing search, and converting big data into actionable insights, there were a few eTail and retail trends and best practices that stood out: 

1. The Importance of Understanding the Customer Journey

During the keynote “Innovations in Personalization: Improving Customer Experiences Through Data-Driven Messages,” Graeme Grant (Demandware) and Cindy Go (Staples) presented a visual that accurately portrayed how Calendars.com has evolved, from a data standpoint, over the last 15 years (see below). The reason we’re on the upswing and have far better customer data is because we’ve been able to fine-tune our business and partner with the right companies to get clearer insights into what our customers are experiencing when interacting with our brand and products. With the right data, we can truly understand our customer’s purchase journey, offer relevant and personalized content and make more informed business decisions. 

2. Once You Understand Your User’s Journey, Remove Friction Points

The world’s largest online history resource Ancestry.com gave an excellent presentation on usability testing, highlighting the ways they’re using data to remove friction points throughout their users’ website experience. From the point of entry, where they “gamify” the experience by making data-based assumptions to assist users in filling out their family tree (i.e., making data-informed assumptions about parents’ birthdays), to streamlining the checkout process by eliminating many “billing address” fields (they only ask customers for their zip code and country, and then they infer the city, state, etc.). Calendars.com uses a data-driven approach to understanding the customer journey using the data insights that Umbel provides to offer an experience that’s far more seamless andrelevant.

3. Make Sure The Mobile User Experience Is Fully Considered 

There was a lot of conversation at eTail West about responsive versus adaptive design for mobile. After seeing our own traffic increase more than 150 percent on mobile last year, we are faced with making a similar decision. We will be carefully analyzing our big data insights around mobile user data to fully understand who is visiting, engaging, and converting on mobile so that we select the optimal solution for our business. One brand that has created a brilliant mobile experience is Sephora, and over the spring we’ll be working on creating a similar, seamless user experience for our customers. 

4. Don’t Discount the Power of Brick & Mortar

Since Calendars.com also operates nearly 1,000 seasonal brick and mortar stores throughout the US under the Go! Calendars brand name, I was particularly inspired to learn that 16 percent of online shoppers in the U.S. use the “Store Pickup” option all or most of the time. And 26 percent of them use it sometimes. We are going to evaluate launching a test program with our stores this year!

5. A Customer Data Platform Can Help Unify All Your Data

A recurring theme at eTail West this year was that big retailers and eTailers have massive amounts of customer data from numerous, fragmented sources but need help unifying that data. Calendars.com has leveraged Umbel to help unify its customer data, better understand customers, and alleviate pain points throughout the customer journey. 

Another recurring theme this year was “Omni-Channel,” probably one of the most overused buzzwords currently. Our AVP of ecommerce and Digital Marketing Jason Yau’s photo (and caption) below highlight the popularity of this topic. More on this in a future blog post.

The eTail West conference provided valuable information that provided a strategic framework for new initiatives using big data. The conference is a great place to be inspired, learn from other eTailers and retailers, find solutions for your business and build lasting relationships. The Calendars.com team is excited about implementing some of our key learnings in the year ahead!