Digital Commerce Q&A: The Future of Shopping

By , VP, Marketing & Business Strategy, Hanson Dodge

This January at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City and the SIA Snow Show in Denver, Tom Flierl of Hanson Dodge Creative presented on “Digital Commerce and the Future of Shopping.” His seminar provided strategies and insights for brands and retailers to establish a successful digital commerce ecosystem. The presentation emphasized the power of an integrated, omni-channel approach to e-commerce, covering everything from brand strategy to tactics like SEO and PPC.

Below, Tom answers a series of questions about digital commerce and the future of active lifestyle shopping.

1. Which brands are doing it right when it comes to digital commerce?

There are brands that are doing components of it right. But the reality is that digital commerce is really moving toward omni-channel and one seamless customer experience down to the independent retail level. This is a new frontier for brands that sell through independent retailers.

2. What are the most important elements of a successful digital commerce strategy?

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Think of digital commerce as one big ecosystem. It starts with a strong brand that resonates with target consumers and their beliefs. This brand then lives on social channels and a technology platform where its story can be told through content, and which allows the brand to capture its customers and remarket to them. Providing meaningful, useful, differentiated product information and content is crucial to winning the search game.

3. How can traditional retailers leverage digital commerce trends to increase sales?

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There are a lot of ways. First and foremost is to partner with the manufactured brands that they sell in their stores, and find ways to promote and drive traffic to their stores. Have a very strong website that uses best practices in SEO and leverage the brands that you represent in your SEO. Also, consider doing PPC and social ad buys that are targeted down to the zip codes you serve to drive traffic to your stores.

4. What is the most common mistake you see manufacturer brands making in the digital commerce space?

Thinking in tactical silos instead of integrated ecosystems.

5. How are physical retail locations adapting to the evolution of consumer shopping preferences?

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The majority of purchases still happen at retail. Leading retailers are focusing on maximizing the portion of the shopping experience where they have leverage. Owning inventory and customer information, remarketing, providing an incredible experience, building community, using digital strategies on a regional or local basis to target people and engage them. We also see some retailers experimenting with showrooming — using their stores not to hold inventory, but as a place where you can touch, feel and try on the product before ordering online. But this is a big commitment and lacks the instant gratification of traditional in-store shopping. It requires an efficient ordering process with fast order fulfillment and is very process-intensive.

6. Should brands sell their products through

Companies should have a strategy around it. Amazon can be a great place to sell product. Companies that sell on Amazon lose some margin — but more importantly they lose their customer data, which is the biggest drawback. It’s a great short-term play, but I’m not sure it’s a good long-term strategy.

7. What can retailers learn from

How to provide an incredible customer experience. Amazon grabs the customer information; they know who the customer is and what the customer’s buying habits are, and they use that information to remarket to the customer. It’s all the things that retailers should be doing out of their physical space.

8. Any bold predictions for the future of digital commerce?

Retailers must share real-time inventory information with manufacturers. The two parties must co-market together and both parties must use digital as a means to capture their customers and remarket to them. That’s not predicting the future — we’re already there. From a survivability standpoint, those that don’t embrace omni-channel won’t be around for long.

9. What role will physical retail locations play in the future of shopping?

It used to be that people saw two different worlds: e-commerce and retail. With omni-channel, retailers can gain a significant advantage because if the consumer can see what’s in inventory, there’s less incentive to buy online. It allows the retailer to leverage the strength of immediate gratification.

Tom Flierl, VP, Marketing & Business Strategy, Hanson Dodge

Tom leads the Hanson Dodge  marketing and business development teams where he leverages more than 20 years of business experience in marketing, technology and media. Tom knows what it takes to successfully manage and grow a business. He has more than 13 years of executive experience and has held equity positions in two companies including a successful startup firm. Tom writes and speaks nationally on the subject of digital commerce, helping businesses identify and deliver greater value through the integration of their branding, marketing and technology efforts.

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