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Putting the Customer at the Center of the Omni-channel Experience at eTail East

Earlier this month, Merkle participated in eTail East 2014 in Philadelphia. If you don't know eTail, this event brings together 2000+ senior-level e-commerce and marketing professionals for networking, education, and an exploration of the latest omni-channel retail solutions.

While I listened to speakers and spoke to retailers, one message rose to the top. Our primary mission in retail is to build a meaningful connection with our customers. This is what every retailer strives to do, and retailers are spending a lot of time and money trying to achieve this goal. Today, with the proliferation of social platforms and digital media, the ability to create those meaningful relationships is finally a reality, but it is not about simply pushing messages to your customers. It is all about creating personalized experiences and optimizing customer interactions across all channels. Here are some key takeaways from the event:

It's all about being social

Retailers should leverage multiple social channels to connect with customers, but it is important to prioritize and identify those channels most relevant to your customer base. Remember that these channels are all about being social. That means being responsive to customers and building conversations—not only on products but on lifestyle and important trends. This can have a profound impact on how consumers perceive your brand. Don’t forget—your social channels are just that—a channel. Social channels are part of the omni-channel experience, so it is important to ensure your merchandising and store operations teams are aligned and engaged in your social media conversations.

There is no stopping mobile

The role of mobile as part of the shopping experience is now the norm. It can’t be denied. The critical point to consider is that consumers expect the same brand experience on a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and they expect that your brand experience is consistent between online and your physical store. If your mobile site is not optimized for mobile or slow to load, chances are, you will lose that customer. If you were implementing your e-commerce channel from scratch today, we’d have a long conversation about starting with mobile and tablet first before implementing the standard desktop browser-based website. The reality is most retailers already have a website. Responsive design allows you to develop and maintain multiple platforms cost effectively, avoiding a separate effort for each channel. Merkle’s own Patrick Collins spoke to a crowd at eTail East on “20 Ways to Increase the Performance of a Responsive Design Site”—exploring the state of mobile commerce, Responsive Design and best practices for performance.

Merkle's Patrick Collins discussed the importance of responsive performance at eTail East 2014

Attention spans are dwindling

Consumers expect speed. Their average attention span has shrunk. Most people will give up on a page that takes longer than two seconds to load. Content delivery engines are now using algorithms to determine the “best” time to serve the content. For example, when is the best time to send an email promotion based on when a consumer is most likely to be online.

To keep consumers engaged, not only must you optimize online channels for all devices, but it is critical to personalize the messages based on your customers' buying history or segment. Personalizing each interaction will ensure engagement. There is nothing we all hate more than spam.

At Merkle, we are constantly challenging ourselves on how we can optimize the addressable customer experience. Keeping these points in mind, we will be developing a series of blog post with helpful tips you can leverage for the holidays and beyond. Keep an eye out for our latest thinking on this page, and follow us on Twitter for all of the latest insights from Merkle experts. 

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