Forrester Analyst Outlines 7 New Rules for Online Marketers
It's time for Web merchants and operators to stop considering themselves the "underdog," according to Sucharita Mulpuru, senior analyst, retail, for Forrester Research. In a session at the recent National Retail Federation Convention in New York, Mulpuru preached a set of "new rules" for Web marketers to heed if they're to sustain the rapid growth they've enjoyed to this point.
"We're in the midst of disruptive changes," Mulpuru said, referring to her seven new "rules":
1. The Web is no longer the underdog. E-commerce executives are no longer living under senior management's radar screens, she noted. Management looks to them as an important piece of growth.
2. User-generated online content can turn the art and science of merchandising on its head. Mulpuru cited apparel retailer Wet Seal's Web site's ability to allow consumers to create their own outfits online. It received more than 100,000 outfits created online that Wet Seal had to act upon, letting consumers vote on other consumers' suggested outfits they would be interested in.
3. YouTube is the new Google. "The same way Google made search a force, YouTube is doing much the same to help retailers find ways to merchandise content on their sites," Mulpuru said. YouTube, she pointed out, which is at the fore of the Web's transformation from a two-dimensional medium to a 3-D one, now comprises more bandwidth than the entire Internet did in 1998.
4. Green is the new black. "Companies should think about profits under the condition of environmental sustainability," Mulpuru said, noting a recent poll in which 38 percent of consumers said they'd pay more for products and services that are environmentally friendly.
When the poll was taken last summer, another 31 percent said they'd shop online to avoid burning gas, but even as gas prices fell, that percentage hovers between 20 percent and 25 percent, she noted. "These data are as much about saving money," she said, "as they are about saving the environment."
5. Cash is still king. Noting how credit cards have been the domain of Web shopping for years because they're the only way to pay, "the truth is, consumers prefer different ways to pay," Mulpuru said. A significant portion of consumers prefer other payment choices, such as PayPal or Bill Me Later, but there's still a disconnect with retailers, "who don't always choose to offer these options."
6. "3G" is the new "T3." Referring to the 3G iPhone, Mulpuru calls it not just a smartphone, but a "religion." What's more, in 2001, nearly two-thirds of consumers were connecting to the Web from work, because that's where they could access broadband. But now, 60 percent of consumers connect from their homes.
"We're more likely than ever to increase the number of destinations and access to the Web," Mulpuru said. "So we need to make sure our Web sites are prepared."
7. Time is money, but money is really money. Consumers are turning to the Web more than ever for such free, time-saving features as free shipping and best values.
What to do with these rules
Mulpuru concluded that online marketers must always think multichannel. "Recognize the goal as to what the big drivers are," she said.
What's more, pure-play marketers can't simply provide the lowest price, because consumers are so quick to respond to free shipping offers. Mulpuru also suggested careful consideration of social computing, recognizing social computing, and prioritizing creative and content.