What are the biggest challenges you see online sellers facing in 2013?
Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: I discuss six digital commerce shopping trends to watch in 2013 in a recent post on the Demandware blog. I think the biggest challenges are inverse of the trends I outline: how to make stores nimble and intelligent; how to converge store and online systems, etc.
What are the biggest opportunities for sellers (and marketplaces) ahead?
Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: The arrival of more intelligent, digitally-oriented, destination-based stores; the continued decline of the incredibly shrinking Point of Sale (POS); the arrival of smarter mobile shopping experiences; the emergence of the elusive digital wallet; the rise in new services to combat the "Amazon effect"; and the extension of personalized social commerce into the physical world.
International selling, aka Cross Border Trade, is fraught with difficulty - how important is it for online sellers to actively engage in selling to international markets? What are the challenges and opportunites/ what trends or solutions do you see emerging?
Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: It is very important for online sellers to actively engage in selling to international markets. What markets and what their approach should be depends upon their consumers.
The challenges include technical (managing a global infrastructure, integrating and synchronizing data, defining user access controls), operational (defining merchandise and customer service processes, gaining best practices/processes ), creating digital commerce capabilities (managing features across languages, currencies and sites, managing orders and services, streamlining transactions), and organizational capabilities (how to optimize a global organization and technology foundation, establish best practices for the organization).
The biggest opportunities out there from a market perspective are Mainland China (huge market, but fraught with challenges).
What do you think of same-day delivery? Will any players get there in 2013, what will it look like?
Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: In 2013, same day shipping will become the norm, with providers such as eBay Now, TaskRabbit and others leading the way.
Retailers will leverage these services as well as provide their own same day shipping services through their web shopping experiences, perhaps leveraging these third party services.
What are your thoughts on Mobile Shopping, and how will it impact online sellers in 2013? What advice do you have for sellers?
Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: I believe 2013 will be the year that retailers create smarter mobile shopping experiences by designing for mobile first and providing contextual, mobile specific experiences, and we'll see retailers focus on differentiating their mobile experiences with richer, more interactive user interfaces that is very channel and device specific.
I have and remain a huge proponent of mobile. I've witnessed a fascinating evolution in retailer's approach to mobile and am very bullish that 2013 will be a year in which we'll see some major strides in a truly "mobile first" approach by leading retailers.
To what degree does mobile replace other shopping channels - how much is incremental?
Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: I don't think there is a large cannibalization of mobile for online transactions. Consumers are going to purchase online with the channel they are comfortable (web, mobile, call center, etc.). Not having a mobile optimized channel is actually a lost opportunity since consumers will likely not purchase via that channel and go elsewhere.
Mobile does cannibalize the store channel, namely through showrooming. Most consumers use their mobile smartphones in stores to shop, often times for price checking (tablets are typically used "on the couch" at home, which do not cannibalize store sales).
That stated, we are seeing retailer-provided apps, such as endless aisle or clienteling apps in the store actually saving sales for retailers (if they can't find something in the store, they can leverage online inventory to save the sale). So, in this case mobile actually is saving a sale for the retailer overall and adding to the store channel (most retailers give credit to the store where the purchase was made even though it was purchased online).
Who are the winners and losers in Social Networking in 2013, and what's the one Social Networking site on which every seller should participate?
Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: Interesting question...I used to think social commerce was going to revolutionize how we shop, but am not as bullish. I still believe it will and is having an impact, but not at the rate we had once hoped.
I do think that if social can be used to make the shopping experience more personalized, then that is where the real value is. We're starting to see that happen online, and will start to see that impact the physical store in 2013.
I think the biggest winners in 2013 will be Facebook as they continue to collect a huge amount of data about consumers and expose it for retailers to utilize (which many have not yet, so the opportunity still exists) and Amazon, who is not a social commerce vendor, but through their huge amount of data and ability to put resources behind it will continue to lead the way with what's possible with social in 2013.
Otherwise, I think other winners will be Pinterest (who I think will be acquired). The social networking site every retailer should participate is their own. (That's not meant to be a wise guy answer!).
There is a huge opportunity for retailers to leverage social data to make shopping experience on their own site (and other channels- store, etc.) more personalized and relevant. It's not easy, but should be a top 3 initiative for any retailer to tackle.
There are always regulatory/legal issues around selling online (state sales tax, Form 1099K, etc.) - what could have an impact on merchants in 2013?
Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: Clearly, the two biggest are the current debate on the fiscal cliff and the taxing of online sales by major online sites, namely Amazon.
The fiscal cliff is a macro issue that would impact consumer spending, and hence retailers. My guess is that we'll see a solution and this will be averted as a major issue for consumers and retailers.
Amazon's taxing of online sales will be mushrooming issue (Amazon has agreed to put a sales tax on purchases in Massachusetts), and could have a great trickle through effect to other states and other online sites that are tax free at the moment. We've always said it's a matter of time and with the need to find more revenue by the government, it may be an issue in 2013.
Finally, where should merchants be focusing in terms of getting traffic? Feel free to address: Google or Bing? eBay or Amazon? SEO, Paid Search or Email Marketing?
Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: The real answer is it depends upon the retailer and their consumer...that stated, if we were to generalize and if I were allocating the spend on marketing to drive site traffic, I would allocate 50% to SEO/SEM, 30% to marketplaces/CSEs, 10% to online ads, and 10% to "other" (i.e. email).
Google and other search engines drive an incredible amount of traffic and are typically the first place shoppers begin. However, marketplaces (such as Amazon) and CSEs (such as Google Shopping) also have a big level of influence, so they warrant a lot of attention.
Any other thoughts about ecommerce in the year ahead?
Demandware Solutions Marketing Lead Gary Lombardo: Nope, just that it's going to be an exciting year!
Gary Lombardo is Solutions Marketing Lead for Demandware.