SNEWS goes to Internet Retailer and finds six e-commerce trends for the outdoor industry

Internet Retailer Convention and Exhibition is the largest e-commerce event in the world and nine out of the 126 speakers were from the outdoor industry. Of all the trends that were shared at the show, SNEWS picked six that were relevant to outdoor companies.
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The outdoor industry is at the forefront of e-commerce innovation.

At the recent 2012 Internet Retailer Convention and Exhibition (IRCE), the largest e-commerce event in the world, nine out of the 126 speakers were from the outdoor industry. Retailers such as Backcountry, Altrec, Moosejaw and Giantnerd took the stage in Chicago to discuss topics like warehousing solutions to mobile development, while brands like Patagonia spoke on affiliate marketing.

Attendees such as Chris Bessmer, e-commerce director for Oregon Mountain Community, and Evan Keating, assistant sales manager for Superfeet, attended seminars and walked the show floor, looking for trends to take home to their digital teams.

Of all the ideas shared at the show, SNEWS picked six that were relevant to outdoor companies.

1. Reactive Web Design

“Ask your development team what they are doing in RWD,” said Eoin Comerford, CEO of Moosejaw, during a talk on mobile design. Reactive Web Design, or RWD, is a method of development that integrates both mobile and web commerce in one platform. Rather than building two separate sites, one for mobile and another for ecommerce, RWD-built sites sense the browser a visitor is using and displays accordingly. If a visitor is coming from an iPad, the site will recognize it. If the visitor is coming from a Blackberry, the site will display correctly for that device as well.

Considering that the costs associated with building a mobile commerce platform can be just as high as those for a web platform, there's incentive to get it right the first time. RWD is a way to kill two birds with one stone.

2. Integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

The majority of online retailers have 10 or more systems integrated into their e-commerce operations. While a traditional ERP solution may stitch together multiple systems like inventory management, order processing and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), an integrated ERP solution connects these components so reporting is collaborative and under one roof.

Companies like Netsuite have created user-friendly turnkey solutions that integrate the key components of ERP. This helps brands consolidate their e-commerce systems into their daily operations making reporting easier to manage for everyone in management.

3. Same-day fulfillment and local pickup

Sound like a contradiction? It’s not. Unless customers are located within a day’s driving distance from a fulfillment center, same-day shipping can only be achieved through local pickup. This concept was laid out by WalMart.com with the launch of its “Pay with Cash” option. According to Joe Anderson, CEO and president of Walmart.com, "Pay with Cash has now reached 2 percent of our total walmart.com sales."

In the outdoor industry, the concept is being played out by distributed fulfillment companies like Shopatron. Shopatron gives brands the option for online shoppers to receive shipments directly, or pick up at a local retail store. Even better is if a shopper orders an item and the exact same item is located in a local retail store. Then the customer can pick up for same-day fulfillment.

4. Automated fulfillment

Robots are expected to change the fulfillment game in e-commerce. They pick orders quicker than humans, they’re more accurate, they require less space and they don’t ask for raises.

When Amazon bought Kiva Systems in March, it also bought every order picking robot in the United States. However, SwissLog has just won its first U.S. contract to install its Autostore system, and is poised to be Kiva’s biggest rival for the automated fulfillment solution space in the country.

For the outdoor industry, this means that Amazon no longer has the monopoly for automated fulfillment solutions. Retailers with long tail SKUs will benefit most from these types of systems.

5. Scaling of stores

The quickest way to improve ROI is to scale, especially if it can be done at no cost. Imagine being able to multiply an e-commerce store into four e-commerce stores, quickly, with no upfront investment.

Services like Monsoon Commerce help brands place their current inventory on sites like Amazon and eBay and in effect, create new sales channels without the heavy upfront investment. Although third-party seller sites are not for everyone, they do drive revenue. Furthermore, these types of software services have streamlined data upload systems so exporting an inventory list is as simple as submitting an XML feed.

6. Content is still king

One of the workshop tracks at IRCE was titled “Search Workshops: Stay Ahead in a Fast Moving Game.” Ben Kirshner, CEO of Elite SEM said “How do we maximize the tail? An amazing content team.” Amanda Watlington owner of Searching for Profit said “Get busy writing and don't hire just one writer — hire many writers with many voices.”

Anyone who has heard of the names Penguin, Panda or Matt Cutts knows that to Google, high-quality content is still the single most important factor in any Google search ranking. Brands in the outdoor industry who have mastered this include ManualforSpeed.com, blog.scarpa.com and thecleanestline.com. By creating a “magazine,” brands get traffic and inbound links, then can redirect those links to product pages, helping produce pages move up in the rankings.

It was no surprise to see such a large presence of outdoor companies at IRCE; the outdoor industry is an industry that values innovation and performance whether it be gear or on the web. As an industry, outdoor will always recreate and innovate gear. The same will be said about what shoppers see in front of a monitor.

--Yoon Kim



Stay tuned for a seminar on e-commerce campaigns at Outdoor University@Outdoor Retailer. This will be on Friday August 3 at 2:00 p.m. at the downtown Marriott in Salt Lake City.

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