On the Scene at the Jupiter Retailing Forum: E-Commerce Lives On

Chicago–Far from being dealt a death blow by the recent dot-com fallout, e-commerce and e-marketing are alive and kicking–and an increasingly important component of any successful marketer’s business. That was the theme of the May 21 opening address by Ray Arthur, chief financial officer of Toysrus.com, at the Jupiter Retailing Conference, held by Jupiter Metrix Media at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers.

While initial predictions for e-commerce were overzealous, Arthur said that analysts, investors, and the media have swung to the opposite extreme. “We have a herd mentality,” he said. “The new perception is sensationalized gloom.”

In reality, Arthur pointed out, online sales for holiday 2000 were up 67% from the previous year, compared with a 2%-4% increase in overall retail sales. And while brick-and-mortar retailers need to find the patience “to learn to do e-commerce right,” he said, catalogers are well positioned to tap the full potential of the Web.

Several other speakers at the conference pooh-poohed concerns that the Web may cannibalize sales from other channels rather than contribute to a company’s overall growth. “Our customers who shop in all three channels are four times better than those who don’t,” said Monica Luechtefeld, executive vice president of e-commerce for Office Depot. Luechtefeld was a panelist in the sesson Retail Realities: Assessing New Opportunites for Merchants.

And as another keynoter, Clinique Laboratories president William Lauder, put it, “We don’t care what channel a consumer shops in. The real win is getting permission to communicate with the consumer.”

With this in mind, many attendees were intent on refining their communications with customers. Pati Baumann, IS manager of e-commerce developments for multititle mailer Fingerhut Cos., said one of her goals in attending the conference “is to find new ways to extend our personalization techniques.”

Similarly, Neal Patrick, e-commerce manager of apparel cataloger Chadwick’s of Boston, said, “Many small marketers are beginning a dialogue with the customer try to develop a prepurchase relationship. We’re looking to do more of that, and one method is via outbound e-mail campaigns.”

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