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8 Takeaways from ShopTalk 2016: Preparing for Distributed Commerce

Posted by Peter Crosby on 9:14 AM on May 20, 2016

These guys know how to win at distributed commerce.
These guys know how to win at distributed commerce.

The Takeaway: We've compiled eight of the most important takeaways from the ShopTalk 2016 session "Preparing for Distributed Commerce."

One of ShopTalk 2016's standing room only expert panel sessions was titled "Preparing for Distributed Commerce". From the conversation, it was clear that addressing this challenge is a top priority for brands. We couldn't agree more.

Cathy Halligan, a member of the board of directors for Ulta Beauty and ClearSystems, led the discussion on the topic, explaining that we're in the era of distributed commerce - a time when there are more consumer touch points available than ever. To reach those customers and win conversions on those domains, brands are distributing product content across every channel - online and off, social and entertainment, physical and digital.

Halligan was joined on stage by:

These guys had a lot of valuable insights to share, so we figured we have to share this stuff with you.

Here are the eight most important takeaways:

Winning at distributed commerce must be a cross-organizational team effort - or it will fail.
When asked on a one-to-seven scale how often distributed commerce comes up in strategic and business planning dialogue, the answer was a resounding seven (except Sid, who said six). The bottom line is that these product content strategies are now fundamental to earning sales and growing business.

That means that succeeding at distributed commerce requires your whole organization to focus on these initiatives, Ryan pointed out. You'll need a "champion of distributed commerce," he said, but you can't just have one person or group lead the charge. Because of the way that shoppers buy nowadays, everyone - from the merchandising to planning to distribution and beyond - must work together to support distributed commerce strategies.

Distributed commerce channels could potentially source 20 percent or more of brands' sales in the next five years.
Sid explained that today, less than 5 percent of Under Armour's sales come from ecommerce and nontraditional channels - meaning domains other than its site. He observed that if you do the right things at the perfect time, those channels could source 30 percent of sales. Neil encouraged attendees to stay focused on real, achievable results now: driving Mondelez to get 3 percent of its sales from those digital customer touch points would be a major win.

As for five years down the line, things will change. You could earn 20 percent of sales with distributed commerce strategies. Neil said that Mondelez has made it a mission to pull in $1 billion per year across all digital channels and platforms by 2020.

Why is distributed commerce expected to pull in so many sales? It's the way consumers want to shop - and they are now in charge.

"Distributed commerce reduces friction on the path to conversion."

Distributed commerce makes selling products online easier.
According to Neil, distributed commerce reduces friction on the path to conversion. It's more convenient to purchase products when shoppers don't have to go out of their way to find product information and a place to buy it.

Distributed commerce allows brands to bring the store to their customers.
That's what's so great about it. You can use distributed commerce to drive sales everywhere, and that includes places that the customer doesn't expect to buy on, like HGTV.com, Ryan noted.

This is really important because, as Joe explained, "Shopping online is a terrible experience for discovery." It's easy to find a thing that you know you want, and comparing prices and details is just as simple. Unfortunately, new product discovery is hard. But that's where distributed commerce comes in. Which leads us to our next point...

Distributed commerce can help put shopping inspiration into the online experience.
The panelists stressed that you have to find new ways to inject product discovery into consumers' daily online experiences. For example, Joe noted that Joyus is putting product content on People.com, allowing customers to engage with products and actually buy them without ever leaving that entertainment media site. That way, Joyus' products are directly in front of customers when that moment of inspiration or serendipity strikes.

Content drives sales in distributed commerce.
Neil's top piece of advice for brands moving into distributed commerce?  "We've seen double-digit increases from improving our content. Make it a focus." They expected single digit growth after improving its product content, but the impact has been far greater. So, Neil went on, if you think optimizing content, providing an extra product image or adding another product attribute for SEO won't make a difference, you're wrong.

Content allows brands to take control over the customer experience when customers aren't on your turf.
This is a major point. Joe talked about how you need to ensure "brand strength" - or "brand equity" - while you're using distributed commerce channels, and product content is how you do so. And Neil supported that assertion, stating that your brand is just as responsible for shopping experiences as retailers. And...

Distributed commerce success relies on strong underlying infrastructure.
In other words, you must have the support systems in place to ensure you're controlling your brand across every channel with consistent and accurate product content. Sid explained that you need to focus on infrastructure if you want to do distributed commerce right, and that means getting everyone - from supply chain up - on board. With the right systems in place, you'll be on the road to distributed commerce success.

For some more insight on how your brand can win at distributed commerce, check out our new guide written by Lee Feigenbaum, our VP of Customer Success, and Rob Gonzalez, our VP of Business Development.

Topics: Shopping Experiences, Internal Management, Ecommerce, Omnichannel


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