The imgix team just came back from Los Angeles, where we attended and sponsored a booth at NRF’s Shop.org conference, focused on e-commerce with this year’s theme: “This Is Digital”.
In line with the theme, current and near-future technologies were the focus at the conference. It was hard to pass a session or booth without hearing about the wonders of machine learning and what it can do with your mountain of customer data, or seeing the now-cliche scene of someone in a VR headset, mouth agape, wandering a digital version of a store.
And there are really incredible things happening tech-wise that will alter the face of e-commerce and retail in general. Disney shared how they’re leveraging customer data to create custom experiences online for customers that increase engagement and hopefully drive conversions. Instead of static websites that are the same for every visitor, you might encounter one of the many iterations of the Disney website based on your browsing history, purchasing decisions, etc.
Deloitte Digital had a booth that allowed you to virtually visit a campsite and interact with potential products that you might want to buy for your next trip. You even had the opportunity to sit and roast marshmallows, although you would have had to go to the Salesforce booth to get an actual gourmet s’more.
These new features and possibilities are great, and many sessions focused on how e-commerce giants could take on the great behemoth that is Amazon by personalizing the experience for their customers and building enough loyalty to overcome a great price or easy checkout.
We felt that some of the fundamentals of e-commerce were not focused on—specifically around maximizing conversions, creating easy checkout flows, and having a seamless/enjoyable customer experience. These are still fundamental challenges for many e-commerce companies, even if they’re admittedly less flashy than personal shopping robots.
Take for instance, something as fundamental as website load speed. Of the dozens of companies we spoke to that ran a PageWeight report, images generally accounted for 50% of the “weight” of the page and optimizing those images could save, on average, 4 seconds of load time. When even a 1 second delay can drop conversions by 6% alone, this important topic was minimally discussed.
Creating a fast, beautiful, and easy-to-maintain customer experience online is crucial and we thought a major piece of the e-commerce puzzle was underrepresented at Shop.org. One breakout session did focus on this topic—“Putting the Instant in Instant Gratification”—which we highly recommend checking out if you have a few minutes. In a sea of sessions and big names, it’s easy for fundamentals like this to get lost, but that doesn’t make them less important.
Overall, it was an effective conference that brought many of the big names in retail together, although in the future we’d like to see at least as much focus on actionable things e-commerce companies can do to improve their business today as sexy, forward-looking tech that might bear fruit someday.