Inside eCommerce: Bringing Together Marketing and Technology in the Fashion Industry
By Danielle Savin, Director of Digital Strategy & Digital Marketing
In this retail reality dominated by the hyper-connected digital consumer, companies leverage a myriad of technology solutions and data-driven marketing to reach, engage and convert shoppers. At the same time, customer behavior is changing at a faster rate than ever before.
To continue to keep up with customer expectations and needs, we must adapt more often and more quickly. In order to address these omnichannel eCommerce challenges, marketing and technology investments are becoming the fastest-growing budget line items. But where does one department end and the other begin? The blurred line means CMOs, heads of eCommerce, and CTOs are forced to work more closely together than ever before.
After all, you can’t run a lead generation campaign if your backend technology, whether it’s OMS, CRM, ESP, etc., isn’t in place (and tied together). You won’t be able to manage email marketing campaigns if your server, or IP address isn’t whitelisted, hygiened and integrated with a web analytics platform. And most importantly, customers expect better service across devices which requires a single view of the shopper.
A Tale of Two Departments
A couple of weeks ago, I moderated a panel at Fashion Digital New York that brought together CTO’s, CMO’s, and heads of eCommerce (after all, digital marketing success requires these areas to work together). In the fashion industry where, as Heidi Klum has noted, one day you’re in, the next day you’re out, it’s imperative that brands and retailers bring together these departments to effectively listen to and deliver on customer expectations.
My discussion at Fashion Digital ranged over several topics including: how marketing and technology departments are dealing with changing consumer demand; the need to rethink loyalty and engagement; and the effect of new software and point solutions that are becoming the new middleware. We heard from Mark Friedman, President of eCommerce at Steve Madden, and his technology counterpart, Rodney Woodruff, Director of Retail and eCommerce. Brian Rigney CEO of Zmags, a technology platform used to create digital experiences, represented the ever-evolving marketplace of eCommerce solutions.
Here’s a more in-depth look at what we talked about. Perhaps you’ll see some of the same questions your own company is facing or these will give you a head’s up on what may be coming down the line for your eCommerce business.
What changes in customer behavior are you dealing with as CMO’s and Marketing Leaders? What challenges do these changes pose for eCommerce?
- Customers are using many more devices/screens to shop and research than ever before—smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, desktops at home, on the go, and even at work. It makes it very difficult to understand where they’re consuming advertising and then buying.
- Shoppers are engaging with many more marketing programs before they actually make the purchase. A few years ago, a customer would search on Google, come to a site and pull the trigger. Now it seems the number of marketing touchpoints has increased. The customer does a search on Google, and winds up on an affiliate site, and then they are dynamically retargeted before ultimately making a purchase. So the question is, were all these programs needed as an assist for the sale and how much weight do you give to each?
What’s technology’s biggest frustration when it comes to marketing?
- The biggest frustration technology feels is that marketing doesn’t understand the constraints that prevent technology from responding immediately to requests for new functionality. There are back-end systems, which may not have been designed to work well with eCommerce platforms. There are a lot of bugs to fix and maintenance to perform to keep things running optimally (at a minimum). What’s needed is someone in marketing who also understands technology. That way they could work together to help set priorities.
Content is KING in so many different ways. We’re talking about not just for Google and SEO; but for CMS systems and product information. Often, this data resides in several systems. How do you think we should be managing data?
- One thing people need to realize is the huge amount of information and content that’s out there. What seems to be happening is people are storing it in systems that weren’t designed to handle both content and assets. An eCommerce platform shouldn’t be used for catalog and content management.
- Data is used in many ways, so aggregating and distributing data can be challenging.
Let’s talk about mobile — Responsive, Adaptive, Apps. How do you think technology & marketing need to adapt to stay on top of consumers and their phone needs?
- We need to design from small to large based on device size and resolution.
- We have also come full circle for mobile apps. Optimal user experience and customer behavior may dictate that a mobile application is necessary. Retailers who’ve created a contact strategy that engages customer’s daily; multi-channel retailers who have distinctly different experiences in store vs. their website – they may need to create a user experience that is adaptive vs. responsive.
- We must continuously look at pathing by device in our analytical platforms.
With so many new systems and point solutions to choose from, how does everyone vet them?
- Hopefully there are a minimum of three players in an emerging market or trend. An example would be user generated content and how point solutions like Olapic, Piqoura and Curalate differ from one another.
- It is important that retailers have put aside monies for testing.
- Writing good business requirements for current and future state will help vetting needs and solution.
- Look for point solutions that can go around your operating platforms and act as middleware.
What to Look For in the Future
Based on the discussion at Fashion Digital, as well as what I see working on Digital Marketing engagements at LYONSCG, two topics stand out when it comes to technology: product information management (PIM) and easy to integrate marketing technology.
The time is quickly approaching when all eCommerce companies will need a PIM. With so much data being created and timing so crucial, a PIM makes it possible to market effectively and efficiently.
Marketing technology that can easily be integrated is another trend that should grow bigger. Solutions that serve as middleware between legacy systems will make it easier for both technology and marketing departments. Offerings such as Olapic, Zmags, Bounce Exchange, or SmarterHQ are just a few examples of software that is changing the way our customers engage.
When it comes to eCommerce, marketing and technology are one and the same. As retailers, it is a must that we continue to react quickly to changing trends and take advantage of point solutions and new software that enhance the customer experience and do not obstruct our operational systems.
Learn how LYONSCG’s Digital Marketing services can enable you to stay a step ahead in the ever-evolving eCommerce marketplace.
Danielle Savin is the Director of Digital Strategy & Digital Marketing at LYONSCG, working with client teams to help define scope and recommended approach for major digital projects and retail strategy for clients. Danielle has spent over 17 years in the eCommerce industry and has eight years of digital consulting experience. Danielle loves traveling and is a champagne enthusiast.