Recently, eight members of the Blueport Commerce team attended the MITX: What’s Next E-Commerce Summit (Twitter hashtag
#MITXECS) to learn about the latest trends and technology in Boston-based e-commerce. Below are seven highlights we took away from this high-energy, informative and inspiring e-commerce experience.
Biggest Recurring Theme: Big Data
The phrase of the day was definitely “big data”. This was a key focus of Wayfair’s panel to kick off the event. Ben Clark, Director of Software Engineering at Wayfair, spoke to the need to structure the data post-capture and being able to create a tailored experience via tactics like clickstream tracking. By creating a record of how people interact with an e-commerce website, such as their products and interests, retailers can create a truly customized experience that is better than any canned solution. We appreciated the focus on consumer behavior pre- and post-purchase and optimized your e-commerce site for maximum revenue generation.
Most Fascinating Technology Application: Mobile App Segmentation
One of Blueport’s favorite quotes of the day came from SapientNitro’s Mark Berinato, Associate Creative Director, Experience Design, who said “Your customers aren’t monolithic,” referring to the need for retailers to meet their customers where they are. During the “Building the Next Wave of Great Mobile User Experiences” breakout session, various mobile experts discussed the need to create different levels of apps for different fan bases. For example, designing a full mobile app with each device getting its own platform works for a client like NASCAR, who has some of the most passionate fans on the planet. In contrast, for the casual Indianapolis 500 fan, NASCAR also commissioned a hybrid mobile app which used a combination of an app plus HTML to engaged mobile users who didn’t require the full functionality of a full mobile app. At the end of the session, the panel concluded that designing a mobile app was all about “choreographing the customer journey,” a phrase we at Blueport really loved as it speaks to the heart of the true customer e-commerce experience, not just purchase.
Best Example of Customization in E-Commerce: Boston Fashion
One of the most “tailored” presentations was “Boston Fashion Gets Personal with Gemvara, Blank Label, CustomMade, Bow & Drape”. All four companies cater to a more affluent and unique type of customer that wants the highest level of personalization possible in jewelry, furniture, and fashion (men’s and women’s), respectively. Blueport Commerce really enjoyed this panel for its focus on extreme personalization, loyalty tactics and high-end service. For example, Bow & Drape has photorealistic technology which allows a woman shopping for a custom-made dress to virtually “try on” the clothes on a body that mimics her measurements. Bow & Drape also has an at-home-try-on program, where muslins in up to three different sizes will be sent to potential customers, complete with seamstresses’ marks, in order to ensure the best fit possible. These “fit kits” lead to a whopping 60% conversion rate. Also impressive was Bow & Drape’s surprise post-purchase gifts to their loyal customers. We at Blueport Commerce loved the concept of learning to emotionally connect with highly selective consumers pre-purchase to establish trust, something essential for selling big-ticket items such as furniture online.
Most Interesting Presentation: Karmaloop
A crowd-favorite presentation was the always-entertaining Greg Selkoe, the founder of Karmaloop, a Boston-based streetwear company. In this fireside chat, Greg touched on multiple topics including the fact he hires passionate people who wear his products as his customer service representatives, knowing that it adds credibility to have people that truly care about the brand representing it. Greg also says he doesn't hire experts anymore regarding his site content because they don't know his audience the way his team does. Greg also spoke passionately against rigid Boston laws that he feels prevent Boston start-ups and businesses from thriving, and encouraged people to check out his project, Future Boston Alliance, which advocates for collective action to improve Boston laws and businesses.
Best Vendor Station: STaples
Thanks to their adorable mini-cupcakes and enormous pastry spread, Staples absolutely killed it in the vendor display department. And who doesn’t love a little conference carbo-loading? Oh, and their panel in the morning on creating an omnichannel experience was delicious as well, touching upon the need for automated metrics around page speed and page performance before even thinking of rolling out new capabilities.
Most Controversial Statement: Omnichannel
Speaking of omnichannel, the most controversial statement of the day belonged to Steve Davis, President of Rue La La, who boldly stated his disdain for the phrase “omnichannel”, insisting that it’s overrated and what really matters is the customer experience. Steve also views traditional customer service as reactionary, while by contrast, a great concierge anticipates your needs. Rue La La is extremely focused on NPS (Net Promoter Score) as a mission-critical metric and feels strongly that customer loyalty must be earned. While we at Blueport don’t necessarily agree the need to be omnichannel is overrated, Rue La La is a great example of a truly customer-centric company that prides itself on and strives for great customer service.
Most Engaged Tweeters
No surprise, but MITX was full of very active social media enthusiasts. Some of our favorite tweets came from the following companies, speakers and audience members:
Overall, the #MITXECS was a very informative, fun and engaging day that made Blueport Commerce proud to be a part of the fabric of the Boston e-commerce scene. Our hope is that big-ticket retail is an even bigger focus at the next e-commerce event.
Want to read more? Read the MITX Event Recap: Top Tweets from the 2013 "What's Next" e-Commerce Summit (#MITXECS) and listen to Greg Selkoe’s Fireside Chat on Boston.com [may require Boston.com registration].