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L2 Says Companies Still Miss Digital Marketing Opportunities

Aug 15, 2013 4:45 PM   By Sandra Mardenfeld
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RAPAPORT... Although companies are using multiple marketing platforms more than ever to engage their customers, many are still missing opportunities to influence brick-and-mortar sales and improve the customer experience, according to today's L2's Intelligence Report: Specialty Retail 2013 Webinar.

Conducted by Maureen Mullen, the head of research and advisory,  and Stasha Rosen, research lead, the hour-long presentation discussed  L2's Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail 2013 study that was released in June.

The index looked at 71 specialty retailers and ranked them on website function (40 percent), digital marketing strategy (30 percent), social media engagement (10 percent) and mobile readiness (20 percent), ultimately placing retailers in five categories: genius, gifted, average, challenged or feeble. Watch and jewelry vendors placed both high (gifted: Coach and Tiffany & Co.), average (Swatch, Swarovski, Kay Jewelers) and low (challenged: Zales, Cartier) in the groupings. Only one company, Sephora, received a genius rating due to such regular marketing features as  loyalty program integration and the capability to book personal appointments and RSVP for classes online and a  store locator that alerts customers to nearby events.

Ecommerce is estimated to hit $327 billion by 2016, according to the webinar's leaders. Both the tablet and mobile platforms will facilitate future sales, especially in local markets where estimates suggest that 58 percent of mobile advertising will target nearby establishments by 2016. Mobile influence on store sales is also expected to increase -- to $689 billion by 2016, the researchers noted.

According to Mullen, Amazon's free shipping and second-day fulfillment have created consumer expectations for other retailers to follow. The online retail giant is currently ranked at the top for customer service by the National Retail Federation. Seventy-nine percent of the companies surveyed, the index discovered, offered some free shipping as well -- although 51 percent of these had a threshold amount ($132 on average) or a time limit (34 percent).

The webinar also pointed out that email could provide areas of customization for engaging customers.  Although most companies, at 86 percent, required an unsubscribe confirmation function, just one in four offered consumers the opportunity to reduce frequency rather than opting out and only 15 percent allowed consumers to modify email content. Watch and jewelry retailers sent out the least number of emails of all retailers on the survey at about once every two weeks. Opportunities for behavioral targeting weren't optimized either, with only 45 percent of all the retailers asking for gender during email sign-up. Of these, 43 percent used the information to send out gender-appropriate email.

Many companies never sent abandon cart reminders as well, with 31 percent sending an email and just one in five highlighting missed offers. Most of the company websites did contain user reviews (55 percent) and almost a quarter -- 28 percent -- had a live chat option. Product videos increased to 27 percent, up from last year's 18 percent.

The social media channels most often used by retailers were Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. With Facebook, companies such as Zales, Cartier and Tiffany & Co., showed mid-to-high percentages of customer engagement (just under 40 percent for Zales to slightly under 25 percent for Tiffany & Co.). Cartier found success with its YouTube channel, with a 24 percent increase in views. For Swarovski, Pinterest numbers surged from 937 followers in July 2012 to more than 1.6 million by April 2013. Success on the pinboard social media, offered Mullen, comes just as much from properly tagging content as it does from building community. Tiffany & Co. made the study's top 10 for its presence on Instagram. The watch and jewelry industry also were seen on Twitter's Vine, launched in January, with 43 percent using the medium as of April.

The index found that, ultimately, despite the hype around social and mobile, the best return on investment still lies in email marketing and cost-per-click search methodologies through which customers are typically more valuable and usually more engaged.

L2, a think tank for digital innovation, educates companies about digital marketing through events, research and other services.
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Tags: Cartier, digital, facebook, Instagram, L2, Pinterest, Sandra Mardenfeld, social media, Swarovski, Tiffany & CO., Twitter, Vine, zales
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