Live from ACCM: Power Forum Explores the Multichannel Consumer Unmasked
May 20, 2008 — Yesterday, at the 25th Annual Conference for Catalog and Multichannel Merchants (ACCM) in Orlando, attendees got a shot of power with their brunch, as a keynote panel explored issues affecting multichannel commerce. ACCM’s Brunch & Power Forum, entitled “The Mystique of the Multichannel Customer — What Engages Customers and Prospects?” was held at the Gaylord Palms Resort during the conference, which runs through Thursday, May 22.
Multichannel Merchant Editor-in-Chief Melissa Dowling moderated the panel, which included Lauren Freedman, president, the e-tailing group; Terry Flynn, president, Gibraltar Group; Steve Leveen, CEO and co-founder, Levenger; and Milton Pappas, executive vice president, corporate marketing & e-commerce, Redcats USA.
So who are today’s multichannel customers, and what is their mindset? According to Freedman, today’s consumer is demanding and information-hungry. “They’re in a hurry,” she said. “If you don’t have what they want, they’re not going into the store.”
“There’s no such thing as a non-multichannel customer today,” Flynn said. “The more ways you have to market, the more channels, the more valuable that customer becomes.”
“What should print catalogers do to cater to multichannel customers?" Dowling asked, “and how do you transfer that to the printed page?”
Pappas said, “Versioning is increasingly important these days — especially given the postal increase we were hit with last year. It’s going to be more and more important, especially with the ability to segment multi-channel versus single-channel customers.”
“I think A great product trumps all,” Freedman said. “The challenge lies in the product, and also in the visual imagery of the catalog that is not personified online yet.”
When it comes to Web 2.0, user-generated content with reviews is one of the most exciting innovations, according to Freedman. “This is the Consumer Reports of the day,” she told ACCM delegates.
“We were pleasantly surprised how many reviews we got on our website,” Pappas said. “We were getting a lot of good news about our products and our brands. . . . We’re not in a position where a customer can touch and feel the product. [Reviews] give them the opportunity to get a feel for the product.”
“It’s fascinating to be able to sort by most recent, or best or worse, or most helpful,” said Leveen. “Amazon is setting the standard. You can sort by ‘most helpful positive,’ or ‘most helpful negative.’ Customers also take pictures of their use of our products, and have shown enormous creativity. One customer even did an eight-minute video on one of our fountain pens! You can’t help but feel encouraged when you see so many customers engaged in the brand in that way.”
“Customers who traditionally bought retail now are converting and are more comfortable buying direct,” said Pappas. “Mutichannel integration is great. Customers can do research on the website, return to the store, and the store associate has access to the website to get the color, [creating a] seamless integration among channels.”
“How do you drive sales in a down economy?” Dowling asked.
In many ways, you do so the same way as in an “up” economy, as Leveen explained. “By delivering great value — it’s not a good sale until it’s a good value for the customer. Today’s economy forces us to adapt quicker and find new ways of delivering that value.”
Pappas advised, “It’s about product. Product is king. It’s also about service. They’ll come back. If you look at the trends, e-commerce continues to grow. There’s the perception that you can get a deal on the Web. So it’s important that you can find my website. [The customer] believes she can get the best deal possible by doing the searches.”
“Give the lady what she wants,” Freedman told conferees. “It’s not that complicated. People forget the price. People forget the product. But they remember the service — it’s one of the best retention practices that’s undervalued.”
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