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Highlights of the 2016 Digital Summit

Fall is in the air and that can mean only thing for the eCommerce industry: we all come together for one of the biggest online retailing conferences of the year. Every fall retailers make the pilgrimage to the Digital Summit to learn about the latest digital shopping trends and technologies to improve their ecommerce site traffic, shopper engagement, and, ultimately, to make a major impact on their conversion rate and online sales.

At last week’s Digital Summit in Dallas, attendees got the opportunity to meet leaders in eCommerce face to face and hear directly from outstanding brands like Sephora, Lands’ End, Ulta, and many more. The conference kicked off with a laugh thanks to the famed comedian Marc Maron, and Michio Kaku, who talked about the future of technology and eCommerce with a significant slant on the Augmented (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). His prediction is that the Internet contacts will soon overlay content for instant knowledge resulting in “perfect capitalization” where supply and demand is equal. In other words “if the shopper wants it, they can get it instantly.” While this sounds perfect for the shopper, it sounds costly and challenging for the retailer. Two more realistic suggestions were to focus on branding, as it will be the only way to cut through the competition, and establish site friendliness and ease of use.


Thanks to “The Jason and Scot Show” we got to learn about lagging mobile conversion rates and Amazon domination. Amazon has captured 42% of the (non-grocery) retail growth in 2015 and Wal-Mart has nearly 10%, leaving only slightly more than 35% of the digital retail growth to be spread across all remaining brands. The chart below shows that the Amazon domination over Walmart (and everyone else) should be a wake-up call for all eRetailers to fix mobile conversion friction as soon as possible.


Another interesting stat that emerged from the conference was that while shoppers are spending 65% of their time on retail sites on their mobile devices, they are converting at just an average of 1.2%. The recommendation is that brands must fix this ‘mobile gap’ by applying a few short term tactics: first optimize the mobile performance, decreasing page load time impacts our ability or desire to continue to shop. Lastly, retailers can ease check out friction with less fields to enter and consolidate around a few digital wallets options.


One of the highlights of the conference was the well-attended session from an industry veteran, Becky Gebhardt, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Lands’ End. Genhardt examined how establishing brand identity throughout the shopper journey is critical. Land’s End, a long-standing pioneering brand with the first 800 number for catalogs and one of the first eCommerce sites, is now focusing on deploying new technologies to attract younger shoppers while working to keep loyal customers engaged and satisfied.


And it’s always great to learn from leading innovative brands like Sephora. Johnna Marcus, Sephora’s Senior Director of its Innovation Labs, shared how her company is focused on innovation with a small highly-skilled team and how that team is bringing innovative thinking throughout the entire organization.


What were the big takeaways and the future of ecommerce from the 2016 Digital Summit?

  1. Massive growth: eCommerce is predicted to increase by 59% over the next three years. That’s both exciting and terrifying for the digital retail community. If your brand doesn’t grab that growth percentage, will you make it to 2020? Aerostople and Sports Authority were both IR 500 companies in 2016, yet both went bankrupt and were sold in pieces.
  2. Mobile shift: “Mobile First” and “Mobile Only” are here with over 50% of traffic on mobile in 2016! However, conversion rates from mobile are not growing fast enough. Retailers can’t sit back and wait for mobile performance and ease of check out to improve. We must make this an active part of our efforts by focusing on the mobile experience, engagement, performance, and the overall customer journey.
  3. The future is here: Augmented and Virtual Reality in the shopping journey has begun and we will see this continue to emerge over the next 3 to 5 years. We are excited with the HD and rich imagery, but device technology and network performance must catch up to truly make AR and VR a “reality”.
  4. Attention spans are dwindling: The best new device is always on the horizon and the shopping experience is all about more content, more options, and more speed. Shoppers want instantaneous brand experiences, quick comparison shopping, and easy purchase processes so they can get onto the important things… like binge watching ‘Luke Cage’ on Netflix, watching trending video’s or hiking a mountain with your family.
  5. Brand is always in style: Staying true to your ‘Brand’ will never go out of style and it is your best differentiator. To achieve this, you must merge content and commerce. Additionally, eRetailers must continue to roll out new ecommerce technologies to best represent the brand experience without giving up performance since shoppers are not willing to wait. is known for delivering events that help build a tight knit eCommerce community and it’s always wonderful to see friends and colleagues, learn about new eCommerce trends and technologies, and let loose at the fun evening events. Thank you NRF for a great Digital Commerce conference with many lessons and laughs. And since we were in Dallas, Texas, thanks for the armadillo races. Those were fun too.


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