We’ve been in the ecommerce space for a long time and (from working with companies around the country) we have experienced first-hand how the Twin Cities region is under-served and under-represented from an ecommerce perspective.
We started Ecomm Forum in 2015, and have held it every year since as a way to build awareness of the accomplishments and opportunities that exist in this region. Each year, the Forum has grown in size, scope, and profile, with an increasingly large number of returning attendees sharing what they’ve learned and taken away from the event.
We’ve summarized the most impactful takeaways from each of this year’s speakers to help you prepare for what’s here to stay and what’s coming in the future.
We had two panels, two spotlight speakers, and one keynote speaker at the event to share their thoughts, observations, and opinions on the ecommerce marketplace now and into the future.
Today’s Best Practices Panel
Russell Griffin on the Post Purchase Experience
Russell Griffin is the Senior Director of Channels for ShipStation. Prior to ShipStation, he was the VP of Enterprise Sales and Agency Partnerships at BigCommerce. He also spent time at Rackspace, Peer 1 and Hostway building and developing ecommerce focused partner programs and great relationships with the best ecommerce minds around.
Companies today are forgetting about the post purchase experience. The number one touchpoint after a sale is the tracking number email confirming the purchase, which is clicked on 99% of the time. It’s important to make the page align with your company brand standards to give users a simple yet effective brand experience. There’s no better way to leave a consumer dissatisfied with their purchase then sending a generic email linking to the UPS tracking website with a number that hasn’t been scanned in yet.
There are different tools companies can use to make sure that your branding is extended through purchase process and fulfillment process, whether that’s through the use of a logo or clean email being sent confirming the purchase. Services that make it easier to pay attention to the little things.
Today’s consumers expect free shipping, the number one reason for cart abandonment is being overcharged for shipping. If you offer free shipping you need to figure it out so you won’t be losing money whether it’s through having a minimum purchase spend or other incentive. Free shipping is a great way to convert consumers but converting at a loss won't help your business. Make sure business is efficient before offering incentives that won’t help you in the long run.
Andy Barker on Online Payments
Andy Barker is the Head of Payments at Magento Commerce. With more than 20 years ecommerce experience and 15 years specializing in payments, Andy brings a wealth of hands-on business and technical knowledge to the complex, global payments landscape. With a desire to make payments easier for merchants and consumers, he continues to push industry thinking to creatively address the future of commerce.
When it comes to online payments, it’s important to focus on the basics and what your customers want. The trendy new Amazon or Apple pay won’t be effective for your business if you haven’t done the basics right. Some questions you can ask yourself are:
- What’s your bank acceptance rate when it comes to processing cards?
- Do you effectively give refunds or are you having consumers pay with one method and get refunded with another?
- Do you have a responsive design when it comes to check out? There’s a difference between online and mobile or tablet. You can have a responsive design but if you’re having your consumer enter their card number with a whole keyboard instead of a number pad you still have work to do.
Your goal should be to make it as easy as possible for the end consumer to purchase. At the bare minimum you should be looking at your region for what payments are the most successful. Just because you’re doing great in one place doesn’t necessarily mean that payment method will work in another.
Talk to your customers and understand them. By picking up the phone, calling your customers and asking them questions like Why’d you shop with us? What can we do better? Who are potential competitors? you can build that brand loyalty. The only way you can drive the brand acceptance and loyalty is if you have open conversations with end users. If you prepare ahead and get the right support from your agency and/or development staff, and know what the potential for your business is.
Wendy Sorquist on Your Top Product
Wendy Sorquist is currently the Director of Marketing for WOODCHUCK USA, she is leading an effort to expand and diversify WOODCHUCKS's customer base and channel expansion strategy in B2C, Commercial Interiors and Retail, while keeping a critical focus on strengthening the core B2B business. At WOODCHUCK she's overseeing initiatives including micro influencers, corporate giftology, and inbound marketing and advertising.
One of the best things to do for your company is to focus on what product or service is making you the most money and make sure you’re doing that well. Having the basics down around your top selling product with marketing, customer service, post purchase fulfillment, etc. will make it easier to make strides with other areas. By doing this and focusing on the data, you can expand and put resources into other areas, products, or channels without worrying about your main product.
Theresa Kuske on SEO
Theresa Kuske is currently the Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Ergodyne, Division of Tenacious Holdings, Inc. and oversees the development and growth of the ecommerce website and online digital marketing from SEM, SEO, UX, CRO and email as well as administrates and develops the CRM system.
SEO 100% still matters in all aspects of today’s and tomorrow’s marketing. As we know SEO is, and has been, rapidly changing on a continual basis but it’s never mattered more than it does now. It’s not just about keywords anymore but focusing on context and what the user’s intent is. Test, and actually test, and look at the differences in conversions, values, etc. to see what’s working (and not working) for your business. If you don’t look at the data, it’s hard to determine what is worth it for your business.
One of the best ways to see what keywords and intent your audience has is by talking to them. By listening to your customers and going through their reviews you can get the most organic results. If you’re an ecommerce company that sells on Amazon, go through the organic review because there’s no better place to look for users words and phrasing than when looking at reviews.
Tink Taylor on Omni Channel Marketing
Tink Taylor is the Founder & President of dotmailer & dotdigital Group PLC (founded in 1999). He has 20 years’ experience in the field of digital communications and has introduced digital marketing to companies large and small. Tink has been pivotal in the development of digital marketing since its outset in both the UK and the US. Tink first launched dotmailer in the US at the back end of 2012 and later took dotmailer to APAC in 2015.
Omni channel messaging in your marketing is all about having human conversations at scale. What does this mean? Put simply, it’s the use of technology and data to create more natural, more human marketing. We do this to meet rising consumer expectations and be more successful in this competitive marketplace.
In today’s world, the customer expectation is immediacy. Whether it’s through SMS, mobile, push notifications, social message, live chats, etc., customers are used to posting and getting responses in a matter of seconds. What does this mean for businesses? To feed the data into each channel and use them in combination, focusing on which channel your consumer prefers. It’s much easier to have conversations at scale by doing this. You should be focusing on the right place, right time, right message and ultimately right channel.
Consumers leave lots of data behind them, they’re leaving 10 times the data than they were five years ago through digital breadcrumbs (registering through email or phone number, liking, sharing, or commenting). Consumers are happy to give you personal info about themselves in exchange for value. By using this data to segment and optimize what you’re sharing with the consumer while focusing on the right place, right time, right message, and right channel, people will react positively to your marketing. In the end, people are still people and will seek to build relationships with brands.
Christina Lord on Scaling Effectively
Christina Lord is a Product Marketing Manager who helps bring Shopify Plus global products to market. With an MA in global studies and previous careers in sales and international customer success, she offers an informed perspective on global commerce trends and product market fit.
The world of commerce is changing, high volume merchants want technology, tools, and services that they need to make time for the meaningful. You should be focusing on channel expansion, new customer segments and business models, growing geographically, and delighting customers along the way.
There are new paths for business growth and you can use channels that offer flexibility by being innovative to be where customers are and will be. Regardless of how you go global you can experiment and look for smart ways to handle increase in volume. By being at the forefront of ecommerce technology, you can focus on automation for the front and back end. Built in automation can optimize operations to sell faster and increase growth all while redefining what it means to sell online.
When scaling to global markets, you should provide international experiences that are built as seamlessly for your international audiences as they are for your immediate market. Being flexible is key. By choosing solutions that work the way you do, you can provide them at scale and by reacting quickly to market changes, you can hop onto upcoming trends. As with all marketing, you should create experiences that focus on the users and make them segmented so your audiences feel special and not like a generic afterthought. Solutions should empower you to pivot quickly so you can focus on your solutions not tech.
Tomorrow’s Emerging Trends
Keith Bundy on Accessibility
With more than 20 years of experience in accessibility, and as a user and trainer of various assistive technologies himself, Keith Bundy is an integral partner for Siteimprove customers in creating successful and sustainable accessibility processes.
Accessibility is important and is only going to increase in importance. Currently, ⅕ of individuals have some sort of disability that impacts how they use the internet. How does this affect you? If you’re a business person and running an ecommerce site, you may be excluding ⅕ of your customer base by having an inaccessible site.
If we keep digital accessibility in front of us, we’ll automatically build websites with accessibility in mind, similarly how buildings are built with accessibility at the forefront. What can you do today? Start with analyzing where you’re at right now - use a program, manually test, have people with disabilities test your site. Once you’ve analyzed your site, go through the A, AA, and AAA errors. You should be striving for a WCAG AA compliance, meaning that you pass the A and AA errors. See which have most views, fix A and AA errors.
Websites are inaccessible because many companies don’t use the tools to check accessibility or realize it’s something that should be at the forefront of a website build. Hopefully, Keith can help put a face to accessibility and make you realize why it’s vital for the future. What can you do going forward?
- Go through your semantic markup and make sure it’s all correct. By properly organizing headings, people reading by keyboard or voice reader will be able to scan the site, blog, etc. to get an idea of what it’s all about
- Make sure your links have proper link texts
- Pictures have alt text so they can see why they’re on the page
- Make sure forms can be filled out and navigable from a screen reader or keyboard only (no keyboard traps!).
Ryan Kuo on Privacy
Ryan Kuo is the Head of Private Equity for Consolidated Investment Group (CIG) and CEO of Funky Chunky - an ecommerce gifting and snacking company. Ryan is also CEO of Caesar’s Pasta, another CIG portfolio company, and sits on multiple advisory boards of CPG start-ups.
Privacy is still a big issue in the United States. In Europe they recently passed the GDPR and similar regulations will quickly span around the world. It’s not an “if” conversation but a “when” for this spreading to other countries, including the United States.
Voice search is only getting bigger with 40% of adults utilizing it now and 50% projected to be using it on a daily basis by 2020. What’s holding people back from using them is that users are concerned with the privacy aspect and the chance that your Amazon Alexa or Echo is listening to everything and potentially gathering data about you. If companies can solve the privacy issue then voice trend will continue to pick up, people need to feel confident and comfortable that their privacy won’t be impacted with the use of smart speakers.
Mark Redetzke on Regulations
Mark Redetzke is a seasoned ecommerce, digital and direct marketer with over 20 years of experience including agency side management of some of the world’s most recognizable brands, client side experience managing P&Ls in excess of $1B as well as founding his own ecommerce business.
Paid search advertising through Google has become increasingly regulated to the point where some companies, like companies that sell hunting products, are unable to include certain products in the Product Listing Ad. This results in being unable to advertise or price compare with competitors. The same goes for YouTube, the same products that are regulated through Google are also regulated through YouTube and de-monetizes any videos that mention the product or service. This has resulted in the creation of new platforms that offer the same thing, but are unrestricted from guidelines or regulation and censorship.
Brian Parks on Adding Value
Brian Parks is the Vice President of Enterprise Solutions at BigCommerce which includes sales, sales engineering, and design partners working with enterprise clients. He brings more than two decades of experience helping technology companies grow revenues at companies including MessageOne, Dell, and Tippr.
Retail is not dying and not all stores are going away. Traditionally online companies like Amazon or Warby Parker have been opening up Brick and Mortar stores throughout the United States. For some companies this has backfired because consumers walk into the store then look up the item they’re looking for online to receive competitive pricing. The companies that have the biggest problems are the ones who are a retailer and all their goods can be bought somewhere else, like Best Buy or Sears. The goal is to add value to the people coming into the store, if you can’t do that then that’s where the struggle comes in. Companies like Home Depot do the majority of their sales in person because the associate adds the value by giving guidance or tips for what you need. Similarly, the missing value means we’ve excluded some customers, they’ll feel differently about something in store. If you find where to add value, whether that’s instore or online, you’ll be successful for the future.
Amanda Brinkman on Doing Well by Doing Good
Amanda Brinkman is a revolutionary brand marketer, passionate speaker and the creator, producer and co-host of the acclaimed “Small Business Revolution – Main Street” series on Hulu and SmallBusinessRevolution.org.
We’ve heard it all before, by giving back and being a socially conscious company you can have stellar results. Amanda’s company Deluxe Corporation had a 1% name recognition, so to them they could only go up. By focusing on helping small businesses, rather than putting their budget into Google Ads, they were able to increase their reach by 12x what it would have been through online advertising. The goal for helping small businesses was to help them understand the digital side of the world to help them compete with the bigger competitors in their market. With 51% of small businesses not having a website, she worked with them to control what they could. Like making sure they were searchable online, claiming their google listing and updating it with the correct information. In Amanda’s words, not being searchable online was as silly as not having a front door on your brick and mortar store.