Commersations Resource Center

Live from eTail West, Day One

The eTail West conference is once again in Palm Springs this year, with the theme, “The Future is Now: Managing ‘What’s Next’ While Remaining Focused on Today’s Brand Experience.”  It’s a timely theme --  with the pace of change in ecommerce, the challenge is definitely in executing today while planning for tomorrow.  GSI comes to eTail for the obvious marketing benefits. We meet with current clients and prospects, but each of us also attends to learn the various approaches that retailers are taking to succeed in multichannel commerce.

eTail West

Day one kicked off with an interesting panel discussion on “Moving Beyond Internal Challenges to Create Effective Multichannel Experiences.” The panelists were Ron Boire, President and CEO of Brookstone, Shery Clark, President and CEO of Boston Proper and Mark Pierce, CEO of MarketLive. 

On the very first topic -- “What is a multichannel experience today and is the term even relevant?” -- both the retailers on the panel felt that no matter what we call it, it is all about the customer experience. Ron highlighted the experience of getting your receipts e-mailed to you at an Apple Store checkout as a great example of controlling the customer experience and differentiating it.  Sheryl agreed that multichannel is just a term. She said it was mostly an internal theme to gather around in order to just deliver the experience that the consumer wants. She thinks it should be easy, fast, and of course reliable.

What was interesting about the panel discussion was how quickly the discussion concentrated around internal organization. How do you organize for multichannel success? It was obvious from the discussion that both the CEOs had seen their share of challenges and were focused on driving their organizations towards a common multichannel purpose, with little tolerance for silos. Gone are the days of each channel doing their own thing with little collaboration.  The theme that both CEOs pushed is to have a common multichannel purpose that is very clear and then figure out internally how you are going to get there.  As Ron said, “The internal transformation can be gut wrenching!” Sheryl echoed the need for “one merchant, one creative, one marketing”, as the strategic view no matter how your internal functions were organized.

As Brookstone’s CEO Ron Boire put it, success comes when you can get both the intellectual construct and the emotional connection right.  In their attempts to work with a single purpose across all channels, Brookstone avoids titles such as Online Merchandiser, since a merchandiser may be a notch below the merchant in people’s heads.  When it comes to their webstore, they use the title “Online Merchant”, full well knowing that most of the Online Merchant’s effort goes towards merchandising their channel correctly to support the Corporate Merchant’s strategy. Creating the emotional connection at Brookstone also involved the balancing act of having to say goodbye to those that could not make the common purpose transition, while at the same time promoting from within to fill 60% of the open positions.

Beyond getting the intellectual constructs right, like avoiding P&L by channel, Boston Proper CEO Sheryl Clark was emphatic about putting great efforts to getting the cultural changes right to corral the entire organization.

Getting the people issues right is not new, but it was great to see a couple of CEOs energized around the nuances of building those emotional connections for their multichannel success.

As for building emotional connections with customers, the discussion quickly jumped to social. Sheryl from Boston Proper talked about their approach to social media, which was all about treating it as key customer touch point and making sure they spoke with the same voice and provided the same escape to their customers.  To Sheryl, it was not just about increasing the count on “Likes” on Facebook, but about keeping customers engaged.  Ron from Brookstone viewed social as an emerging affiliate channel that is a great feedback mechanism for customers.  He wondered out loud how we can tolerate 8 hour queues on e-mail but fret about few minutes of wait times on telephone calls. He views social media as a great source for finding and answering these types of holistic customer experience questions.

Day one at eTail got off to a great start and I am looking forward to other keynotes on Day two, including Sheryl Clark from Boston Proper on “Organizational Change Management for Success in Multichannel Environment” and another keynote by Laura Saati of e-Dialog (a GSI company) on the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Email Marketers.”

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