With the rise of mobile, social, and e-commerce, the digital environment has turned the shopping process upside down. From smartphones to tablets to desktop, fragmentation is a more challenging hurdle than ever before. Both in stores and online, the new landscape is providing retailers with both dangers and opportunities to grow and thrive. While many approach e-commerce as a separate unit from the rest of the business, this strategy may actually be jeopardizing sales.
In a keynote presentation at the inaugural iMedia Commerce Summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, Gian Fulgoni, chairman and co-founder, comScore, introduced new statistics on the growth of e-commerce across all devices. After his presentation, he invited Mike Amend, VP, online, The Home Depot, to join him on stage for a fireside chat covering how The Home Depot approaches digital and e-commerce in the context of its broader business strategy, as well as how it has successfully adapted to the current omni-channel landscape.
Fulgoni started things off by giving attendees a comprehensive overview of e-commerce sales trends, "the digital omnivore," as well as digital's impact on in-store. E-commerce as a whole accounted for 13.2 percent of consumers' discretionary spending in Q1 2014. The top three categories showing growth in this space include apparel, CPG, and computers/electronic devices. The growth of mobile in this space is undeniable. What Fulgoni calls "the digital omnivore" refers to the consumer that spreads time spent online across many devices. And contrary to what some may claim, desktop remains a healthy platform for online shopping, despite the growing importance of mobile devices. As far as in-store goes, the influence of digital on today's in-store sales translates to 36 cents of every dollar.
Amend brought tremendous insights from The Home Depot to the discussion, with his key takeaway being the significance of alignment. Calling it "interconnected retail," he explained that his primary goal is to bring online and in-store together as a single vision. At The Home Depot, online sales are actually attributed to stores, and the online team and the broader team share KPIs and metrics. Fulgoni remarked that e-commerce is often managed as a separate channel, but for Amend, a unified experience for the customer, rather than a channel-segmented view, is imperative. And it's the entire brand's responsibility. "Online is not just something I am focused on, but something everyone at our company is focused on," he said.
One way The Home Depot maintains a consistent, integrated experience is with an aligned pricing structure across online and offline. Systems are also integrated so that if you buy a product online, you can return it at any store. Shifting gears to mobile, Fulgoni remarked that 80 percent of all mobile time is app-based. In this way, a retailer's mobile app can seemingly be the most important channel. But Amend stressed the importance of other channels such as the mobile web experience. An impressive mobile website helps bring in infrequent shoppers, users surfing the web, and shoppers who come to stores only a few times a year. The Home Depot app, on the other hand, has many unique capabilities, largely due to the brand's internal technology team, but it is geared more toward loyalists. The app even provides a "store mode" where shoppers can use an interactive map of the store, providing true contextual relevance.
Amend emphasized that online is not only a channel for sales, but a portal for customers to gather information, do research, read ratings and reviews, and even check inventory and item locations at the store level. Online retail is about much more than online shopping. The goal is to make the customer experience better, whether it happens online or in-store. To conclude, Amend echoed that alignment is key for multi-channel retailers. "It is truly everyone's job," he said.
Chloe Della Costa is an associate editor at iMedia Connection.
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