Ecommerce is more complex than ever. Consumers are increasingly discovering products and shopping across a wide array of channels. Retailers and brands are scrambling to ensure their products end up in front of the right customers in the right place at the right time. To examine how retailers and brands can address these challenges, Internet Retailer recently spoke with Mike Shapaker, chief marketing officer of ChannelAdvisor Corp., a provider of ecommerce technology.
IR: What are some current trends confronting retailers?
MS: As consumers, we have more choices than ever when it comes to discovering and buying products and we have become more demanding. For example, consumers may discover products on their favorite retail sites, on marketplaces, on social networking sites or via shopping results returned via a search engine. Thanks to an always-on device, we can discover and purchase from any location at any time of day. After we buy online, we expect free delivery within one or two days—sometimes the same day. We have growing expectations, and retailers need to meet those expectations.
Another important trend is that branded manufacturers are becoming a lot more aggressive online, likely in response to the struggles of some key retailers. Though most traditional brands still drive a majority of sales through their retail partners, we see more that have a direct-to-consumer strategy or are working hard to get there.
IR: What issues are these trends presenting to retailers?
MS: Retailers need to support multiple business models to keep their customers happy—online, offline, and buy online pick up in store are examples. Additionally, it’s very costly to meet fulfillment expectations. Very few businesses have the scale to put a product in their customers’ hands within a day or two and at a sustainable cost.
IR: Why is it important for retailers and brands to react to these challenges quickly?
MS: Retailers that don’t appear where consumers are discovering products and are unable to differentiate the customer experience are going to struggle to stay relevant over the long run.
For branded manufacturers, the concentration of sales in a specific channel isn’t a good thing. It’s in a brand’s interest to increase the portion of sales that go direct while working to ensure a diversified set of retail partners are all successful selling its products.
Big players in the industry are evolving to meet the needs of consumers and react to the moves of the other big players. Amazon has a large advertising business. Google Shopping Actions allows purchases directly on Google. Facebook is starting a marketplace. If you’re not experimenting now, and constantly, you will fall behind.
IR: How can retailers overcome these challenges?
MS: Retailers and branded manufacturers need a digital presence that aligns with where their customers discover and shop for products. Whether your customer is searching Google, browsing Facebook, looking on retail websites or shopping on one of the dozens of niche marketplaces, you need to be there.
Brands should be well represented online by having accurate, relevant product content—including product descriptions and images—that provides consumers the information required to finalize a purchase.
Leading retailers and branded manufacturers implement a platform like ChannelAdvisor to connect with consumers and increase global sales via connections to hundreds of marketplaces, retailers, and digital marketing destinations. Our solution transforms product data to ensure it is optimized for each destination, enables collaboration between brands and retailers, efficiently routes orders to optimize fulfillment operations, and provides actionable analytics to improve competitiveness. In short, we help our customers improve their online performance in the areas of marketing, selling and fulfilling.