I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Online Retailer event
in Sydney recently and I must say, I was impressed. The quality of
exhibitors, attendees and speakers was high and the topics addressed
and discussed very valuable. My congratulations go out to the
organisers – they created a lively and engaging event which captured
the attention of most of the local etail industry.

Over the two-day event I enjoyed talking to many retailers looking
for ways to enhance their online business performance, which lead to
interesting discussions about today’s marketing tactics and whether
they’re generating real results. What was most interesting to me was
that no matter what the focus of the retailer, everyone I spoke to was
looking to shift to a new model of marketing in the immediate future.
Let me elaborate…

From clothing retailers to wine cellars and electrical goods
wholesalers, most attendees were looking for ways to personalise their
marketing tactics to stay ahead in the online retailing game. Everyone
grasped the concept that it’s simply too easy for customers and
prospects to shop with competitors if the online experience is too
boring, complicated or confusing.

So what are they doing at the moment to engage people online? Most
talked about a compelling online presence that was easy to navigate,
looked good, read well and ranked high in search engine results. Many
were also using free web analytics services to monitor traffic to their
site and regularly sent out emails to customers touting sale items and
special offers. All of this adds up to a great start for any online
marketing strategy. However, it quickly became apparent to me the
attendees weren’t that impressed with the results. In fact, most people
I spoke with were looking for ways to personalise their marketing
tactics on a whole new level. They felt that they didn’t really know
who their customers were and how they could enhance communication with
them. And so the shift to contextual marketing begins to take shape.

Retail marketers (out of all the different kinds of marketers out
there) are probably among the first to understand just how important
sophisticated marketing tactics are to a business’ profitability. Many
rely solely on the online store to drive sales. And even those with
traditional stores are quick to understand that they could lose out big
time if they don’t improve their online strategies pronto. Therefore,
the need to hold fast to existing customers and entice new ones is
paramount. But how do they improve on existing tactics? Interestingly,
most thought that by gaining a better understanding of who their
customers are, how they engage with the business, what their
preferences are and entire history with the company, would reveal
important information to answer their marketing questions. And they’re

Knowing exactly who you’re customers and prospects are, what they’re
interests are in your business, how valuable they are to your sales
etc. is the only way to personalise your marketing. There’s no point
trying to send targeted email campaigns to your female customers about
baby wear when only half of them are mothers and have actually sought
information about your baby products online. Just as pointless is the
exercise of highlighting a particular service or product as a ‘special
offer’ on the homepage when none of your customers have ever shown any
interest in it. Just because you want to move that product or try out
that new service, doesn’t mean your customers are interested and it
should take up prime space on the homepage. And what about
re-developing your website to make it more aesthetically pretty when in
fact your customers found your contact page and check-out system
extremely easy to navigate? Why fix what ain’t broke?

I wanted to share my experiences at the Online Retailer event
because it raised marketing issues and a change in thinking relevant to
all businesses. And if you’re not convinced that you need to heighten
your online marketing efforts, think about every time you’ve had great
customer service at your local café where, as soon as you’ve walked in
the perfect brew is already being prepared for you. Now that’s great
customer service and why wouldn’t you want to offer your online
customers the same experience? Lord knows your competitors soon will be.