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eTail West 2024 - Conference Report

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By: David Slavick, Ascendant Loyalty |

Posted on February 28, 2024

Celebrating 25 Years of Omni-channel Marketing

The 25th eTail West Conference is being held this week at the JW Marriott Desert Springs in Palm Springs, CA. The popular event is designed to ignite ideas and foster meaningful conversations across a  spectrum of multi-channel retailers and service providers.

It is a well-organized event by Worldwide Business Research (WBR). The Wise Marketer is covering the event and David Slavick, Ascendant Loyalty, prepared this report covering all the activity from the first full day of the conference.

The theme of the first day was “The New eCommerce Business Model: Balancing Growth & Profitability.” The keynote discussions and panels revealed how e-commerce, merchants, loyalty leaders and customer experience professionals are continuing to serve the individual needs of consumers who choose to shop online to meet their daily needs.

Sabrina Callahan, VP e-commerce and Jordan Eddy, VP Digital Merchandising at Sam’s Club talked about how Sam’s Club delivers operational excellence to serve member needs. The club experience is centered on a Mobile app that allows members to explore the goods and services available.

In-depth analytics helps Sam’s Club personalize the mobile app experience to meet the needs of their digitally engaged membership. Sam’s Club tracks shopping and browsing behavior to understand how and why people shop when not physically in the club environment. An important metric of success for the e-commerce team is to encourage lift in order frequency.

Recognizing the importance of convenience for members led Sam’s Club to test a Scan N’ Go technology solution that takes customers from cart to exit with no time spent in long lines at the register or self-checkout. The technology is being tested in 10 stores at present.

Sabrina’s past experience in the hospitality industry led her to adopt the practice of listening intently to customers, gaining feedback and being willing to test, learn, fail, refine, and ultimately win at retail by challenging the status quo. Both she and Jordan shared with Michelle Evans, Global Lead of Retail & Digital Consumer Insights at Euromonitor International that the power of innovation is found in the team pushing everyday to make membership experience better and more fulfilling.

Richard Jones, CRO Wunderkind, moderated a keynote panel session “How best to Shape the Ideal Digital Customer Experience” which featured Douglas Hwang, VP Head of DTC Harry’s, Stephanie Urban, VP eCommerce & Marketing, Vince Camuto Group, Ruchika Julapalli, VP Product J. Crew, Jenna Posner, Chief Digital Officer Solo Brands, and Michelle Fitzpatrick, VP Strategy Marigold.

Richard asked the panel to share their keys to shaping the ideal customer experience, and the best-in-class practices to achieve optimum return on investment.

Keys to Shaping Customer Experience

  • Take inspiration from other verticals, document best practices from leaders in adjacent verticals, and watch how customers are responding.
  • Stay away from generic approaches. Think “channel-first” and build journeys that match your customer’s needs and expectations.
  • Make mobile app a membership-only experience so it is valued and used to manage needs and wants.
  • Be selective, test and learn, and leverage AI/ML powered data with a strong commitment to daily analysis. Use it all to forge strategic moves to drive business metrics.

Best in Class Methods/Practices

  • Do your best to deliver seamless experiences and remove friction at every opportunity.
  • Solve for Direct-to-Consumer challenges but embrace customers who may buy from Amazon with their first purchase even after browsing your site. Win them back through satisfying product and service experiences.
  • Embrace Influencers and considering a test/learn approach to build unique value propositions for them. Listen to their feedback and build on their experience to roll out benefits to the rest of your customer base.

Wrapping up the day’s highlights, Michelle Fitzpatrick, VP Strategy at Marigold reinforced that consumers will always demand that you “show me that you know me.”  She used the term “Contextual Relevancy” to describe the best practice of making it worthwhile for a consumer to share more about their likes, turnoffs, future state purchase plans, media, or communication channel preferences. Over time, she advised, the most successful companies will achieve the ultimate win by achieving true “brand love.”

Part Two of the eTail West 2024 conference report continues tomorrow.