Opinions

iMedia Industry Update: Trends in Commerce

Posted by Chris Arens on April 18th, 2014 at 12:00 pm

The first quarter of 2014 is already in the books. Wow. Time flies. It seems like just yesterday that we were worried about Y2K and whether or not one could reasonably sell products online with a positive margin. Pets.com couldn't. But Amazon.com has certainly long since shown any naysayers that it is a more than viable way to do business.

Here at iMedia, as we continue to crank through Q2, all eyes are on the topic of commerce. It's by no means a new focus for our industry -- but it is one of the fastest moving. Back in the early 2000s, the conversation was dominated by marketers trying to convince brands that their consumers were online. At summits back then, we spent a lot of time making (somewhat futile) comparisons between online tactics and their older, traditional brethren. Although it's frustrating that some of the questions of yesteryear still haven't been resolved completely, the industry has continued to move forward.

These days, iMedia guests and readers are focused on the pervasiveness of the digital medium -- and how to harness it for continued brand (and ultimately sales) success. In June, iMedia will bring the foremost experts on the matter together at its first-ever iMedia Commerce Summit, featuring a blockbuster lineup that includes keynoter Kelly Thompson, SVP of merchandising, merchandise planning, and marketplace at Walmart.com. Topics of exploration at the summit will include the following four commerce-related trends that all marketers must be tracking.

Ubiquitous shopping
Now that the year of mobile has come and gone (with no real agreement on which year it actually was) and comScore puts smartphone penetration at 66.8 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers, Americans have the ability to transact anytime, anywhere.

But are they?

Glad you asked: According to comScore, m-commerce sales were up 27 percent through Q3 of 2013, netting a total of $16.4 billion -- and that's before the biggest shopping quarter of the year. That means m-commerce in Q4 2013 alone likely topped $9 billion. Venture capitalists have made fortunes on markets a fraction of that size.

Distributed cataloguing
Digital media really does make us all rethink how we operated in the past. Cataloguing was always a way to aggregate your product suite into a beautifully laid out magazine-style book that brands would mail to current and prospective customers. Today the item -- not the brand -- is king. Now the name of the game is to get your product featured or displayed on a variety of websites that will ultimately lead interested parties back to your site or a third-party commerce site.

Social personalization
It isn't news that word of mouth is the No. 1 influencer of sales. So it's only natural that social media would enhance commerce in both the digital and physical worlds. But now we are seeing trends that take the phenomenon of social media and leverage it as a predictive method to increase the life-time value of customers. Amazon has perfected the "customers who bought this item also bought..." recommendation engine. But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this idea of social selling. The basic notion behind this selling model is that if people are connected socially, they have a shared interest. If brands can identify that shared interest, they can use consumers' social connections as purchase influencers.

Co-created retail
Some folks might file this under the more-traditional monikers of licensing or co-op promotions. But the basic concept is this: To attract new customers, you can enhance your product by aligning it with other brands that resonate with a desired audience. For example, if you've identified that casual mobile gaming is a passion-point for your target audience, a co-created product with Rovio's Angry Birds might spark new sales.

These and other trends will continue to reshape the commerce landscape as we know it. Are you prepared?

Leave a comment