April 23, 2013

Engage, Interact, Transact

E-commerce is hotter than ever as more and more consumers shift their focus to the online marketplace. Increased access to the internet via smartphones and tablets is reshaping how and when we buy. With that said, virtual consumer engagement, interaction and transaction are the key to surviving in this changing retail environment.

Consumers no longer want to be spoken at through advertisements but desire collaborative marketing that breaks down the barrier between companies and their customers. As we move forward, the brands that improve their products and recognize the importance of conversing with their consumers will find success by connecting with their audience through a co-ownership strategy. This new call for consumer engagement reflects our changing values towards transparency, accessibility and reach, personalization and curation.

video via DollarShaveClub.com

Meet Michael Dubin, the founder of Dollar Shave Club, a razor-blade business who's witty youtube video has now attracted over 10 million views. The video urges men to buy razor blades on a subscription basis for as little as $2/month and grossed over 12,000 orders in the first 48 hours of launching, causing the site to completely crash. With a background in digital media and marketing, Michael has created a lifestyle company dedicated to providing men with things they need in their everyday lives, in the most convenient and affordable way.

Recently launched to the public, The Cools, is a two year old members-only curated marketplace that connects over 50,000 active users with independent fashion and lifestyle brands. The fully integrated social commerce platform provides young labels with little online presence a chance to interact directly with consumers by managing their own stores, publishing content and engaging with consumers. With a 12% commission on sales, The Cools has recently revamped their business model from thousands of sellers as of January to a select 100 brands who best fit the criteria of the site.

photo via NY Times

Hashtagging is one major phenomenon that's gone internationally viral and now, it's about to get a little funny. Comedy Central and Twitter are teaming up to host a five-day comedy festival where comedians post short video clips featuring the hashtag, #ComedyFest. This partnership represents the merging of social media with television as Twitter grows to feature more video content via its platform, Vine. Due to the changing way viewers are watching videos via the internet and social media, television is beginning to experiment with new multi-platform strategies that incorporate more consumer engaging tactics to bring back their audiences.

Others look to advance their mobile efforts to build branding and traffic both on and offline. H&M has launched its latest Conscious Collection via a mobile video campaign using the Hulu Plus video app. Through these videos, H&M is running 15-seocnd clips that show various looks from the new line where consumers can click on a button on the screen that brings them directly to H&M's mobile site. Meanwhile, Kate Spade has built a Saturday mobile site where users can shop the latest trends and newest items from apparel to accessories, home and travel. Here customers can even design their own custom travel bag by personalizing the body, handle, base, front and back pockets, strap colors as well as monogram the bag.

photo via GIGAOM

While many brands link to social media and mobile platforms via their sites, getting customers to socially shop may not be as easy as one would think. Take a company like Zappos that has a huge online presence, but still struggles to capitalize on its social media activity because in their case, customers primarily demand overnight shipping and free returns over social media presence. The problem with large companies like that of Zappos, Amazon and Nordstrom is that they have such widespread customer bases – because they don't focus on one niche, they also can't just target one particular social media platform either. With so many new platforms out there from the most recent Pinterest boom to now Poshmark and Vine, it is extremely hard for retailers to keep up with how their clientele socialize online. Not to mention, how do large companies like this build smaller communities for those who engage and use social media regularly versus those that don't? The only answer thus far is to experiment with a social experience that is innovative, easily accessible and understandable to their customers like that of Urban Outfitters and ASOS.

It looks like the digital world finally has its own currency and its called Bitcoin, an electronic cash system that generates money via virtual computers, a shared public transaction log and mathematics to authentic each bitcoin exchanged. One bitcoin is approximately worth $70 USD and much like cash, there are no transaction fees. However, the information of your transaction is accessible by pretty much anyone and everyone including the amount and the address linked to the purchase. While this new controversial online economy may only be around a few more years, it is a monumental step towards changing the way we spend our money in the digital realm.

The power retailers possess is quickly fading as consumers grow more knowledgeable and demand to be more involved with what and how they are selling. It comes down to understanding how to approach the changing retail arena, really understanding and listening to your customers, as well as experimenting with how to apply these changes to your business model. Engagement and interaction aren't just the future, they are what's happening right now and in order to further make those transactions, retailers large, small, well-known and independent are going to have to make the shift to a more captivating way of doing business.

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