Online Retailers Talk Mobile and Social Reality

 eTail ConferenceeTail Palm Springs 2012 Conference Recap – Part 1

I just wrapped up a stint at eTail Palm Springs and thought I would share my key takeaways from the conference. For those not familiar with the conference, it is described as,

The leading multi-channel and online conference since 1999, eTail presents the latest detailed tactical case studies in e-commerce and cross-channel campaign management.

Having taken a 3 year leave of absence from the e-commerce space, I was super excited to see what had changed. I’m pleased to report, in many ways nothing has changed. And in many ways, everything has changed. In this first of two posts, I’ll cover what was clearly the two most used words at the conference, mobile and social.

The Mobile Mandate

Across a slew of keynotes and breakout sessions, presenters shared some very interesting stats about mobile:

  • Although still a small part of overall e-commerce site traffic, the growth rate is accelerating and is on pace to account for 40-50% of traffic in the next 3-5 years
  • Mobile traffic has different use cases, different intent, and different requirements than PC or tablet oriented traffic
  • Using today’s metrics (clicks to conversions), mobile is 25% as efficient as PC traffic
  • Average page load time on a PC is 3 seconds, conversely it is 9 seconds on a mobile device
  • Tablets are not mobile phones – they are used more like a mobile PC – the “in between” screen if you will
  • Mobile advertising is struggling to gain effective adoption and use cases

Imagine a day in the near future when you wake up and more than half your e-commerce traffic is on a mobile device. At the same time, the marketing spend driving that traffic is significantly less effective on a conversion basis. To put it another way, you have 35% less “retail ready clicks.” What does that mean for your business? Bottom line:

  1. You have to understand the unique role mobile plays in the purchase process, both today and tomorrow.
  2. You need to invest and build an experience that supports those use cases in a manner optimized for the devices.
  3. You need to begin planning for and testing new marketing channels to offset the different economics of the channel.
  4. The limited pixels and importance on an efficient and simple user experience makes model the ideal channel for targeted relevance and personalization.

QR Code Kool-Aid

The general consensus seems to be most everyone drank the QR code Kool-Aid. Only to find out it didn’t taste that great without a well-thought strategy. Not surprising, the “put a code on it” approach taken by many has proven not to be that effective. Consumers remain confused by QR codes, popular phones don’t ship with a standard reader, and marketers are muddling their way through appropriate integration into their programs. Does anyone even know what QR stands for? QR codes have a future, but like most marketing tools, they are great for specific purposes and require careful planning and integration as a part of the overall marketing mix. And at the end of the day, if you don’t have a well-designed and executed mobile experience on the other side (see above), don’t bother “putting a code on it.”

Dropping F-Com Bombs

Like QR codes, it seems the “F” in f-commerce now stands for something other than Facebook – fill in your favorite expletive. Retailers have opened storefronts on Facebook and waited for the orders to pour in. Nothing happened. Others have used advertising, bribes, and extortion get consumers to be their friend (Like) and expected the orders to pour in. Nothing happened. We’ve built great pages, ran contests, tried to engage with our new friends and thought the orders would pour it. Nothing happened (with a few exceptions that the social media gurus hold up as proof of widespread efficacy). What the “F-book” is a retailer to do? My conclusion from the conference is that the ultimate role of social, and Facebook specifically, is yet to be fully discovered. It is quickly proving to not be f-commerce. Here are three promising areas being explored by forward-thinking retailers:

  1. Using the Open Graph and social content to inform marketing and make the offers more relevant – go beyond profile data to mine signals relevant to your business
  2. Leveraging word-of-friends, product ratings/reviews, and other social marketing tactics to influence, not drive, the purchase process
  3. Using social based customer engagement to drive greater loyalty

The challenge? These are farily loosely connected to a measurable outcome of incremental conversions. It will be hard to make the connection and justify the investments.


Personally, I’m not a “pinner.” I get it, but right now I am not compelled to add it to my social media addiction. Clearly it came out of nowhere and is on fire. That tells you there is some real value being provided to consumers—predominately female consumers at this point.  Of course Pinterest was in big lights on many vendor booths and it came up in almost every presentation I attended.  Here are a couple paraphrased sound bites from those sessions:

@scotthcohn EVP – Pinterest is performing the same as Facebook for referring transactions with no investment, and we are investing in Facebook – definitely a possible growth channel

@rickwatson GM Marketplaces – Readers are sharing book covers on Pinterest; it offers a possible new channel for Barnes and Noble

@scotthcohn EVP – The challenge, with new and emerging channels, is keeping a consistent brand voice and experience for our customer in our stores and

Three to four years ago, social and mobile were just really forming as forces that would change the #ecommerce industry. It is crazy to think about how much has changed in these two areas. We’ve clearly made it through the early discovery and trial phase of these potentially value producing opportunities. So far, there are some wins, some loses, and a lot more work to be done. The technology and marketplace is very dynamic and moving quickly.  In the second part of this two part series, I will cover some interesting insights on marketplace selling, competing against or with Amazon, and new emerging retail models such as group buying.


About Casey Carey

VP, Marketing at Monsoon Commerce.
This entry was posted in E-Commerce Strategy, Industry Trends, Mobile, Online Stores, Social Media, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Online Retailers Talk Mobile and Social Reality

  1. Pingback: Commerce Weekly Small banks lagging in mobile O'Reilly Radar | Near Field Communication (NFC) / Smart mCommerce

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