I attended eTail’s late summer show in beautiful Boston this past week. The conference was abuzz with everything from holiday preparedness to omnichannel marketing, but there were several reoccurring themes that stood out among the general discourse.

Personalization Needs More Focus

Personalizing the web experience is certainly not a new topic, but it is starting to hit a fever pitch among retailers. During the session led by MediaMath’s Dave Reed and Fossil’s Philip Thompson, the 120 or so attendees in the room were asked to raise their hands if they were using some degree of personalization on their ecommerce sites. About 15 hands went up. Then the speaker asked how many were using personalization effectively; three hands remained up. That means less than 3% of retailers have found the right solution to create personalized web experiences for their customers.

In the ensuing conversation, retailers discussed the needs for getting to the right level of personalization, but cited these inhibitors:

  • lack of resources;
  • choosing the wrong vendor; and
  • the need for a Big Data strategy.

Discussions on a related topic—consumers’ growing use of smartphones and tablets—also dominated the water cooler talk. One attendee I spoke with indicated that about a third of her brand’s email campaign messages are opened on a mobile or tablet device. Given that, the brand is working to ensure its landing pages are mobile-friendly, and to better understand how the mobile and tablet user differs from the traditional desktop/laptop traffic in order to deliver the right content in the right format.

Using Omnichannel to Create a Culture of Engagement

Another popular theme at eTail Boston was omnichannel marketing and using all channels to create a culture of engagement. Retailers get that they need to present consistent messages across channels, from the in-store experience to ads, emails, social channels, and beyond. But some retailers are taking omnichannel a step further and empowering their customers to associate the messaging from channel to channel.

In a presentation by Kelly Cook, Senior Vice President of Marketing at DSW, she described a recent initiative that encouraged customers to take to the brand’s social media channels to recount their own experiences relating to a DSW ad campaign.  Through tweets, Facebook posts and videos, customers recounted their stories of being asked, “Where’d you get those shoes?”—the theme of the ad. The engagement level on DSW’s social media channels shot up, and DSW was able to identify a 95% retention rate on Facebook, which helped prove the ROI of social channels.

As Cook put it, “Once you’ve got them there and interacting, they’re not going anywhere.”

Bonus Track!

Three other topics that permeated eTail Boston:

  • Know your customer—online or offline, retailers need to know who’s buying their products.
  • Show passion for your brand through your website—a bland brand kills the web experience for the customer.
  • Gather Big Data in a usable way—this is the biggest challenge in personalized ecommerce right now.

Marifran Manzo-Ritchie is the Director of Corporate Communications at Monetate. She has over 12 years of experience in helping companies create and share the messages that resonate with their target markets. In a previous life, Marifran worked as a radio news writer, producer, and occasional on-air talent. She is always trying to learn the Italian language and the piano.