State Of Online Retailing: Takeaways

Josh GordonLast week, while attending's Annual Summit, I saw Forrester Research's VP and senior analyst, Sucharita Mulpuru, give her annual State of Retailing Online presentation. She focused on "the bright side" of online retailing. While the presentation was fascinating, Mulpuru concentrated less on the specifics of direct digital marketing than in recent years where she has covered the importance of relevant messaging, for example.
Having read the State of Retailing Online 2009: Marketing report published in June of this year, I have several key takeaways that I feel are interesting and important in the online retail space that Mulpuru simply did not have time to cover during her live presentation (thought it is possible to sit and listen to her insights all day!).

The report – and it is well worth the money and recommended reading – explores how retail for the Web channel has not just been able to withstand the economic hardships of the last year, but actually grown. The report attributes the growth to an interesting dynamic borne out of the uncertain economic climate. In recent years, online retail businesses have balanced their marketing efforts well between acquisition marketing and retention marketing. As the economy turned, so did the strategy. Larger online retailers infused their marketing budgets with more money dedicated to customer acquisition. Likewise, smaller retailers – now in danger of losing customers to their larger competitors – must move to effectively “protect their flank,” pouring more funds into retention marketing to retain customers and ward off a price war with great relationship marketing.

It is a fascinating dynamic. Interestingly, the most cost effective, best channels to execute these campaigns for large and small retailers alike are two pillars of direct digital marketingemail and mobile. While email is historically the premier retention tool, the perception of mobile marketing is changing more in favor of retention, and less as an acquisition tool (read: M-Commerce) is a misnomer. Simple mobile programs touting a time sensitive offer, local store event, or providing valuable information on merchandise in the store are excellent retail retention marketing campaigns that are simple to operate.

Ignoring mobile marketing, or resigning it solely to acquisition duty, is a failure to understand the value the mobile channel holds for the customer – and the marketer.

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  1. Posted October 1, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Great article. One point I would make is that customers are also craving interaction, even with mobile devices. Providing rich media at the point of sale will engage and increase customer interaction. Increasing customer interaction at the point of sale leads to increased sales and high brand loyalty. One approach is for manufacturers to push their company, product and brand back story to all distribution points, given that customers are also demanding transparency and more information about products (i.e., expecially green/eco-friendly products). This approach would address both online and mobile users.

    • Posted October 1, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the comment, Chris. I agree that customers are craving interaction. Mobile is a great channel to achieve engagement goals and be proactive about retention marketing tactics. Mobile is also a good strategic channel to bridge offline and online data gap and attribution issues that arise for many multi-channel retailers.

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