In the opening keynote session for the ecommerce-centric Shop.org Summit, Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, highlighted some issues many retailers have listed as top priorities this year.
Three things were mentioned: Low conversion rates on mobile when compared to desktop, the question of how to attribute sales in a multi-channel environment, and a busy Q4 overwhelming shippers in the days leading up to Christmas. The first two key concerns were addressed in a following conversation with Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI, and Brad Brown, senior vice president of digital development at REI.
"We believe that our digital assets represent our 21st century stores," said Stritzke, emphasizing that the use of mobile devices in REI stores is a focus for the company. These interactions, though leading to lower mobile conversion rates for the retailer, help create a brand atmosphere that establishes REI as an "expert" and "leader" in the outdoor retail sphere. Store associates may help customers find the right fit of a boot researched online, or even check the snow forecast for a local ski resort. He also mentioned the role of the retailer as a "storyteller," being there to help guide experiences through customer service and inspiration.
Mulpuru also said that retailers are struggling to find a coherent method to attribute sales when customers are visiting multiple channels before they buy. While many retailers use the last touch point model, she states that this practice may be taking away from mobile conversions.
Addressing this problem, Brad Brown said that REI is focusing more on the "mobile moments" customers experience while in-store. This includes checking both the app and mobile site using the retailer's in-store WiFi (REI.com is the most visited site in the retailer's stores). The retailer is currently in the process of revamping both its website and mobile app to help it better smooth the transition between devices and keep customer engagement.
REI seems to have an interesting take on digital, viewing it as a stepping stone to in-store sales rather than a final channel in the customer journey. According to Brown, 75% of customers that bought in stores last year visited one of the retailer's digital channels before their visit.
Establishing REI's helpers as knowledgeable outdoor experts and maintaining its trusted brand image are two ways the retailer is striving create a cohesive mobile/in-store experience. With this engagement, REI can also build a lifetime customer that is loyal to the brand. They are also looking to take this expertise online, with free guides and tips for outdoor activities.
"We need to find a way to move the attention to detail and branded experience found in flagship stores to digital assets," said Stritzke. "I think the idea of a flagship presence online takes an infusion of creativity and technology, which will be one of the most important aspects of success as we move into the future."