Home / “Content is Critical to Brand Differentiation” said everybody at shop.org.

“Content is Critical to Brand Differentiation” said everybody at shop.org.

If I had to choose one theme of this year’s shop.org annual summit, it would be ‘Content, Content, Content’. The summit started with REI CEO Jerry Stritzke where he described REI as a Storytelling Company. Starting with the brand’s origins as a community of climbers, he described the passion for the brand held by consumers and employees alike, with the passion fitting of the brand he described. He talked about REI.com as a ‘Catalyst for Discovery’ and his desire to make the site more than just a site. He described the .com as one of the premier Flagship stores where consumers can “dream, plan, imagine and prepare”. He talked about digital as the perfect fusion of creativity and technology, and where inspiration rules the day.

From there, Brad Brown, SVP of Digital Retail, took things down a notch in to the practical world of online retail and talked to the crowded auditorium about “Mobile Moments”. According to Brown, REI.com is the #1 site visited on a mobile device by users while in REI retail stores. 75% of customers who make an in-store purchase browse REI.com first. REI consumers are going online to learn about the product, the store and prepare for an in-store shopping trip. Because of this knowledge of their consumers, REI has adopted a “content-first” approach to digital.

The next session I went to was titled “Do You Need a Physical Store?” The answer was largely ‘yes’, but the physical store is beginning to change and evolve through advances in both technology and consumer expectations for technology. Stores like Kate Spade Saturday and Adidas are already seeing success with touchwalls and interactive in-store digital experiences.

It was also in this session that I came across this fun fact: 50% of consumers believe they are better informed than in-store associates. After some digging, I found that this stat came from a Motorola-sponsored study from December 2012 that looked at how consumers use mobile devices in store. The study also said that 46% of Gen Y shoppers believe it’s easier to locate information on their mobile device than ask a store associate.

My favorite session of the summit was called “Customer Influence on Building Brands” and featured heavy-hitting newcomers Birchbox, Houzz and Zulily who are largely responsible for the digital transformation we’re seeing today. This session was moderated by Matthew Kaness, the former Chief Strategy Officer of Urban Outfitters. He kicked off the session with his view on the customer experience: “by Pleasing the Customer we Drive Profits” and talked a little about how they successfully implemented that philosophy at Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People.

This sentiment was quickly echoed by all panelists as they talked about their own approach to building their brands. This session was perhaps the most interesting because we were given a peek inside the mind of a digital disruptor. All three brands have a relentless focus on the overall customer experience combined with a true understanding of the data behind these experiences. Birchbox collects an extraordinary amount of data to ensure they’re sending their customers the exact products they never knew they needed. Zulily launches a new catalog EVERY DAY and within 5-6 clicks on their site, they are able to provide each customer with a curated product selection. Houzz actually delayed monetizing the site so they could get the experience down perfectly. They wanted the monetization aspect to fit in with the experience, not detract from it. And all three of these brands had the growth numbers to back up this customer-first approach.

All-in-all, this year’s Shop.org summit was great. The speakers were dynamic, the content was interesting, and best of all, it helped to validate what we’re trying to do with Acquia Commerce: give brands a platform to create beautiful, engaging commerce experiences. Because commerce should be beautiful.

Key Takeaways from Shop.org:

  • Consumers are passionate about content, in all locations, and on all devices
  • Consumers are looking at your content while in your stores to help make an informed in-store purchase decision
  • Now is a great time to consider experimenting with in-store technology if it will improve your customer experience
  • Great customer experiences drive conversion
  • Data-driven experiences are they key to the future – understand how the customer defines value and give her that

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