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HSN, Disney execs: Content trumps retailers’ omnichannel efforts

PALM DESERT, CA – HSN, The Disney Store and Sur La Table executives at eTail West 2015 revealed their view of omnichannel as a dying term, encouraging retailers to focus more heavily on content instead to drive sales and connect with consumers, especially via mobile-optimized emails.

During the “Keynote C-Level Panel Discussion: Staying Competitive In A Rapidly Evolving Retail World As A Multi-Channel Organization” session, executives from HSN, The Disney Store and Sur La Table highlighted the importance of creating experiences for the customer that will fuel long-term loyalty and excitement about future purchases. They also cautioned brands against developing one unified solution to market across all digital channels, claiming that each platform must have a unique strategy.

“Omnichannel means all, and the idea that you have one strategy across all channels doesn’t make sense,” said Kevin Ertell, senior vice president of digital at Sur La Table, Seattle, WA. “The key is to figure out how to make a great customer experience and figure out each one’s strength.”

Mobile email
The executives tapped mobile-optimized email as a strategy to watch, as many of their brands’ consumers choose to open weekly or promotional emails via mobile. Customers appreciate the convenience and ability to bring the smartphone in-store to show or redeem a coupon to a sales associate, rather than having to print out a physical flyer or copy.

“We ran our Friends and Family event this past weekend, and we saw more and more people coming in with the coupon on their mobile devices,” said Elissa Margolis, senior vice president and general manager at The Disney Store, Pasadena, CA. “Our number one priority this year is mobile engagement.

“Mobile is becoming the device that is the connector.”

Sur La Table’s executive echoed these thoughts, revealing that the company sees more email opens on mobile devices, although the majority of transactions come from desktops. This further corroborates the need for a cohesive mcommerce strategy that is tailored to each specific platform but provides a seamless experience of continuity for the consumer.

“People are interacting with us digitally a lot,” Mr. Ertell said.

Creating experiences with content
Brands must leverage content to create a unique experience that will personally connect the customer with the brand and fuel them to shop directly via the brand’s channels rather than a third-party commerce platform.

The Disney Store sells many products on Amazon, but also offers exclusive items only through its store to ensure that guests can receive that special Disney experience.

“Our mission statement is to create a magical experience for guests of all ages,” Ms. Margolis said. “There’s nothing magical about an Amazon experience.”

Meanwhile, Sur La Table employs over 100 chefs and offers consumers a taste of their vast knowledge via online and email channels. The brand does not post prices for any of the available items for purchase, because to the consumer, it is about the experience of connecting with a cooking expert and having a unique experience.

When the brand sent out a content-heavy email with advice from the chefs to a select group, it found that the consumers that received that email were more likely to open all forthcoming emails from the company.

HSN is attempting to branch out from the video-centric content the brand is known for, in an effort to provide more bite-sized pieces of information to customers.

“We take video extremely seriously,” said Ryan Ross, senior vice president of digital commerce at HSN, Saint Petersburg, FL. “What we are doing now is leveraging non-video assets.

“That’s the next big mountain we’re climbing right now.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York