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E-commerce takes seat at the table: Shop.org keynote

The Web is no longer the underdog and e-commerce is finally getting the attention that it deserves, said Sucharita Mulpuru, senior analyst at Forrester Research, in today’s Shop.org keynote address.

In the address, titled The State of Retailing Online, Mulpuru discussed how consumer behaviors are changing, and why and how retailers should embrace this change — noting that e-commerce will not kill the in-store experience.

“Retailers need to learn to share and look to a multichannel approach and share revenue for cross channel orders,” said Mulpuru.

Some retailers that are doing this include Best Buy, which has an in-store Web portal for employees, as well as Web-enabled kiosks and point of sale systems to order extended assortments. Another example is wedding dress retailer David’s Bridal, which shares metrics from its Web site with in-store appointments to tie the two channels together.

As retailers merge these channels and look to enrich the experience through both channels, Mulpuru suggested that some new elements would likely come into play and change the merchandising business, such as social media.

“Social media and user-generated content [have] the ability to turn merchandising on its head letting consumers have the control,” Mulpuru said. For example, multichannel merchant Wet Seal allowed consumers to put their favorite outfits together on its e-commerce site. Others voted on these fashion combinations and the winners were the featured outfits that were merchandized on the site and in stores.

Another key point that Mulpuru stressed is that content needs to be given more attention. “YouTube is the new Google,” she said, explaining that rich content should be given more attention as it allows for the transformation from a two-dimensional to a three- dimensional experience. This translates into the ability to create a more emotional relationship to the content through video, embedded zoom and merchandized search, which helps make the experience richer and more like a real life encounter.

Mulpuru also stressed the growing importance that the environment is having on consumers. “Green is the new black,” she said.

In fact, 38% of consumers would be willing to pay more for products and services that are environmentally sound, and 31% of consumers shop online more because of high gas prices, both highlighting consumer interest in helping to address a desire for sustainability. Mulpuru suggested that retailers be proactive about this.

Another of her rules is that cash is still king. She said that retailers should offer alternatives to paying with credit cards, and offer third party checkout options, such as PayPal, BillMeLater and Google Checkout, as more consumers have PayPal accounts than American Express cards and the ease of use makes it desirable for consumers.

The final point that she made was the growth trajectory that the iPhone presents.

“3G is the new T3,” she said, meaning that the iPhone is changing the way that consumers access the Internet. To take advantage of this, retailers should optimize their sites for the mobile Web, and think about making the experience easy to use and as fast as possible.

Multpuru closed by saying that these are the rules for now, though rules are always changing.

“It is interesting that no US president has ever served under a flag that had the same number of stars as when they were born,” she said.

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