March 01, 2012

eTail West 2012 - "Make API Your Brand's Top Priority"


The focus of Day Two at eTail West was primarily about getting retailers to think about how to effectively and efficiently create profitable and customized growth strategies. Whereas the first day of eTail entailed what retailers and brands should be doing to meet customer needs, the second day honed in on exactly how retailers should go about doing so. This is best summed up from the highlights of the keynote session on how retailers should be optimizing their business for the "Era of Agile Commerce."

The guest speaker, Brian Walker, a VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, spoke about how customers are exposed to a variety of means and touch points when it comes to consuming data and buying products -- be it through channels, retail stores, contact centers or the web. With many digitally-enabled touch points (as established by the increased presence of tablets, mobile phones, etc.), Walker urged retailers and businesses alike to experiment and really deep-dive into how customers engage and cross these different touch points in order to truly understand customer needs and wants.

Realistically speaking, executing a multi-channel strategy for any company is a very difficult task. Retailers are required to know where customers are and ultimately need to pull those social interactions together in a map in order to comprehensively understand what their business should achieve to provide "a holistic customer engagement experience" that supports market research on customers' "buying behaviors and how the evangelize" brands. In order to do so, Walker noted four keys to agile commerce transformation. The first point mentioned was to develop a cross touch point that is integrated with customer experience. By that, Walker referred to a means of having a set of metrics set up around customer behavior, having interviews and focus groups to better understand how customers may perceive products and services, conducting customer interaction surveys, and the like.

The second key to successfully transforming a business's agile commerce is to enable with technology via commerce APIs. With commerce APIs, brands can effectively extend their markets and influences into new touch points. In fact, Walker suggested retailers to go back to their offices, look at the queue of tasks that need to be done and urged them to consider placing APIs and API strategy as a top priority for their business. With APIs, retailers can effectively gain a huge advantage in increased flexibility by operational costs significantly. Not only do commerce APIs enable you to abstract and gain freedom, but they will also enable businesses to drive new partnerships to adapt to customers' ever-changing needs. This will ultimately transform your organization and culture, the third key to agile commerce transformation. And lastly, Walker advised retailers to evolve their tools of measurement and metrics.

Concluding his talk, the Forrester analyst advised to the crowd: "Stop obsessing over conversion rates and start focusing on creating a holistic model."