Reporting from the trenches (or desert to be exact) in sunny Palm Springs, CA where thousands of retailers and marketers have come together for eTail West. Without missing a beat, we jumped right in by hosting a Margarita Mixer on Monday, National Margarita Day, with four other partners: Bronto, NetSuite, Retention Science, and Tealium. We enjoyed the 80-degree evening mingling with industry movers and shakers. The tequila tasting bar didn’t hurt the enjoyment either…

With eTail in full swing, the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa has been transformed as the hub for all things multi-channel and eCommerce. With a jam-packed four day lineup of keynotes, guest speakers, panels, interactive learning, and networking, eTail does not disappoint.

Equipped with the official eTail app in hand, the daily dash begins with a series of keynotes followed up with an afternoon of micro-sessions comprised of the following six tracks:

  • Track A: Retention, Loyalty & Engagement
  • Track B: Omni-Channel Everything (From Operations to Fulfillment)
  • Track C: Conversion Optimization & Testing
  • Track D: Traffic Acquisition & Digital Innovation
  • Track E: eCommerce Fundamentals
  • Track F: Omni-Channel & Digital Marketing

The Main Conference Day One on Tuesday was all about the nuts and bolts of online and multi-channel retail. I had the privilege of sitting in on the keynote executive presentation by Eric Anderson, President and GM of LensCrafters, who narrowed in on Creating Brand Excellence: Merging Technology into the Retail Arena. Eric highlighted three truths of digital:

  1. Know what you want to be (digital is only the enabler)
  2. Maintain flexibility in technology choices
  3. Invest in change management (adoption takes time)

We then dove right into Digital Marketing Trends for 2016 by Steve Dumas, Retail Segment Solutions Director for Silverpop, an IBM Company. He outlined seven key trends in 2016:

  • Trend #1: The “New” Social Media, transforming the role of social in marketing growth tactics
  • Trend #2: Sophisticated Ad Retargeting
  • Trend #3: Video Moves to Center Stage in the Marketing Mix
  • Trend #4: Top Companies Bust the Myth of the Marketing Suite
  • Trend #5: Leading Marketers Use Predictive Technology to Further Distance Their Companies from the Pack
  • Trend #6: New Channels?
  • Trend #7: Cognitive Technologies Change the Way Businesses Engage with Customers

Parting with the following challenge to retailers in 2016:

  • Greater agility
  • Better data
  • Sharper tools
  • Increased personalization

We also heard a similar challenge from Gregg Throgmartin, President Retail of JustFab, on Main Conference Day Two on Wednesday in the keynote session all about Reorganizing Your Organization to Create Amazing Omni-Channel Experiences:

  • Map your process with the team
  • Determine what is critical for success
  • Be strategic about what you own and what you outsource
  • Invest in having a strong partnership with the service providers you keep
  • Commit to regularly evaluating the process and be open to change

Day Two was all about Innovation and Transformation in the retail space. We heard from Jen Cotter, HSN’s EVP of Television and Content, on Making Video Content Shareable to Drive Engagement. For HSN, it’s all about great products, great stories, and great storytellers. It’s paramount for brands to be mindful that trust, credibility, and consistency is what forms a deep customer relationship.

After a morning refreshment break with Bloody Marys and Bellinis, the keynote sessions resumed with Kelly McGann, CMO and Head of eCommerce, Consumer Electronics, Connected Solutions & Wally Home, for Sears. Kelly filled us in on How Sears & Kmart Are Transforming Their Consumer Electronics Business into Connected Solutions by Integrating Retail, Mobile, eCommerce & Big Data. She emphasized the importance of starting with “why” rather than “what”. It’s so important that retailers start by identifying the need or problem first, then strategically market a solution.

The final day of the conference is today, and will be centered on mobile, social, and digital innovation strategies.

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Stay tuned for more highlights as we wrap-up this whirlwind week that is eTail West.