A recap of key takeaways from eTail West 2019.

Each year, eTail West promises to “bring together the top minds at America’s most successful retailers” to discuss challenges and successes and to focus on what’s next in the industry. It’s a chance for e-commerce companies to plan their retail strategies for the rest of the year and beyond. This year’s event was held in Palm Springs, California and featured speakers from top brands like Kohl’s, Harry & David, Dollar Shave Club, Poshmark, Amazon and The Home Depot. The experts represented a wide swathe of differing retail models, from classic direct-to-consumer, brick-and-mortar-first brands to next-generation, digital-first brands, subscription services retailers, and online-only marketplaces — and everything in between. The top challenge all these brands face is the same: the quest for personalization.

Here are four important lessons on personalization from the speakers and experts at eTail West that cross border e-commerce retailers can apply to their own global personalization strategies.

1.  Social media: It’s personal

In her presentation, “Selling At The Speed of Social Media Culture,” Zulily’s Vice President of Merchandising Kerry Gibson-Morris shared the story of how the brand cultivated millions of customers through their global social media strategy. As an online marketplace whose audience is primarily young, tech-savvy mothers, the brand’s ability to quickly identify social media trends – not just domestically, but in all countries where they sell – has been vital to its continued growth. Gibson-Morris shared a few examples of how Zulily’s global e-commerce marketing team has been empowered to personalize the experience in each market. The company built its own global vendor operations portal, giving their team of merchants and vendors a centralized place where they can share and compare trends in real time, and then use these trends to personalize engagement and present relevant offers to millennial followers in their target countries. According to Gibson-Morris, Instagram and Snapchat have been the top social media channels for Zulily as the brand grows globally. But brands and retailers should keep in mind that different countries have different top social media networks.

2.  Don’t forget to personalize payment preferences

When brands invest in technology and tools that improve personalization, it’s important to factor in a personalized checkout experience. In his presentation,  “Marketing to Millennial Consumers Across the Globe,” Nick Molnar, co-founder and CEO of Afterpay, pointed out that millennial consumers came of age during a global financial crisis. This experience has shaped their relationship with money and credit. Brands and retailers must recognize that millennial consumers have redefined purchasing behavior, and offer the payment preferences that reflect these new behaviors. It’s important to note that payment preferences not only differ according to age demographic, but also by region.

3.  Personalization can maximize loyalty programs

The lively panel, “Overhauling Your Loyalty Program For Today’s Digital  Customer” included the Vice President of E-commerce at MVMT Watches, a fast-growing DTC watch retailer recently acquired by Movado, and also a Flow customer.  Also on the panel was leadership from Teleflora, Rothy’s, Caesars Entertainment and Express. The panelists agreed that customers want to readily connect digitally with their favorite brands and reap loyalty rewards at all points along the customer journey.  Effective loyalty programs are essential to converting additional sales. The right digital tools can facilitate a seamless experience for the customer. These tools should include location-based marketing, being “always on,” regardless of time zone, a strong mix of local payment options, among other features.

4.  “Hyper-personalization” could be a trend for global product testing

In his presentation, “How To Unlock Loyalty Through Seamless Personalization,” Function of Beauty Co-founder and CEO Zahir Dossa shared insights into how his team engages directly with customers and creates what he calls “hyper-personalized and customized” personal care products. Hyper-personalization in the context of e-commerce combines behavioral and real-time customer data. For example, a consumer browses a website for health and beauty supplies, and the retailer simultaneously recommends similar products in real-time, based on that consumer’s specific search history. While Function of Beauty is still a strictly domestic retailer, Dossa’s approach to product testing – particularly how to make it truly customized to each consumer – was compelling. Hyper-personalization in the early stages of product development and testing, including the ability to change the product based on direct customer feedback, could become a major trend for cross border retailers entering new markets and testing new merchandise.

Flow’s international e-commerce experts are constantly attending retail conferences to stay on top of trends. If you’d like to connect with us at an upcoming retail event, get in touch.