Retailing and the Impact of Social Commerce (Part 2)

Written by Nick SanchezApril 4, 2011

Part 2: eCommerce Success Via Cross Channel Marketing  

In part one of this series, Social Technology Review analyzed RSR’s recent retail survey which made it empirically clear that, “the store-only trip, where customers begin and end their shopping process only in a store, is heading for extinction.”

Moving further into survey, RSR makes it plain that the most successful companies—groups experiencing 3–9% and double-digit growth (“winners” and “winners plus”)—are already engaging with the online world. And, not only that, these retailers are actively striving to keep up with diversifying shopping channels by implementing multiple online presences (such as social and mobile).

Appropriately enough, RSR found that from 2009 to 2010 the number of retailers in the annual survey reporting that they only operate one online site fell from 45% to 34%, and the number of retailers reporting that they operate 2–4 sites increased from 30% to 40%. In 2010, the majority of both winners and winners plus operated more than two online presences, while “laggards” (companies with less than 3% annual growth) were operating one website (56%) or none at all (22%).

By covering all the online bases—websites, mobile sites, and social sites—companies are turning double digit profits. Fantastic! Opportunities abound! But where to begin?

Cross-channel titans, from big-boxers like Wal-Mart to single brands like Nike, are still actively building their online infrastructures and adding new features all the time. This said, it’s clear that one single-best formula for approaching online has not been established. (To see how an e-commerce pro operates, however, read up on the history of Nike’s web presence. Its online shoe customization tools were—and still are—light years ahead of the game, and so is its Nike+ line of products, which fosters a branded online sport community wherein users interact with both the brand and each other.)

When RSR asked companies to identify which specific facets of e-commerce infrastructure they find most valuable, ‘investing in cross-channel capabilities’ emerged the number one answer. This is in accord with our earlier examination of the survey, in which companies predicted that cross-channel harmony between brick-and-mortar store and digital store would yield the most profits.

As Figure 9 shows, concerns like ‘improving online merchandising,’ ‘improving search and browse,’ and ‘leveraging emerging channels (mobile, social)’ are deemed much more valuable than smaller items like online payment processes.

Luckily, the catch-all answers of Figure 9 correlate with Figure 10, which shows that the valuation of these opportunities—such as the number one answer ‘investing in cross-channel capabilities’—remained consistent among both winning and laggard companies. I use the word “lucky” because this correlation shows that building a web presence is fairly intuitive.

Figure 10 does show some divergence in valuation among winning and laggard companies (RSR emphasizes this in the figure’s title), but examined critically it’s clear to see that winners value opportunities related to refining an already established web presence while laggards are clearly still trying to set up the online basics (such as customer acquisition and search and browse capabilities).

So what’s stopping companies from improving their web capabilities? In 2009 RSR identified budget at the biggest inhibitor. In 2010, however, companies reported that they ‘didn’t have enough resources to manage all the available opportunities.’ The survey also showed a near doubling in the number of companies reporting that ‘the existing technology infrastructure is preventing us from moving forward.’

In Figure 14, employees throughout the company structure reported what they needed most in order to advance their cross-channel businesses.

Most companies expressed their biggest lack in the form of executive leadership dedicated specifically to online. This, however, was not the only remedy uncovered.

In part 3, the Social Technology Review will review the solutions companies are seeking to implement as well as RSR’s survey-inspired recommendations


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