8 Yogi-isms for the Ecommerce World

New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra passed away Tuesday, Sept. 22, at the age of 90.

Though he was an 18-time All-Star and owns 10 World Series rings, Berra was known just as much for his colorful off-field quotes, also known as Yogi-isms.

Even if he never said most of the things he said, as he once said, Berra’s off-beat Yogi-isms have been quoted millions of times over in pop culture. And Yogi-isms have made their way into board rooms as well as the trade show circuit. I remember attending a conference session once, in which the speaker used Yogi-isms to successfully get his point across to the audience.

On my drive to work this morning, I was thinking how Yogi Berra said a lot of things that, many years later, can be translated into the retail world. So in honor of Yogi Berra, and using his jersey number, here are 8 Yogi-isms for the ecommerce world:

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Great merchants take chances when they look to grow their businesses. Sometimes they take the fork and it works in their favor, and other times, well, it just doesn’t work out.

Amazon is a (pardon the pun) prime example of a merchant that comes to a fork in the road and takes it. Jeff Bezos started Amazon off as an online bookseller, then diversified its portfolio with DVDs and electronics. Soon after came its marketplace model, Fulfillment by Amazon, and just about every physical object that could possibly be sold… including its own e-reader and tablet, the Kindle.

And even Amazon Prime has evolved to include video streaming services, making your cable provider obsolete.

Of course the fork also included the Amazon Fire Phone, but I’m sure Amazon doesn’t want to talk about that…

“You can observe a lot by just watching.”

And boy, are online retailers watching. Merchants are observing how customers are using their site with eye-scanning and heat maps, and are mastering the art of personalization to bring customers back into the purchase funnel when they leave their site.

Observing your customers is even more important in an omnichannel world. Online retailers are watching their customers for channel preferences, whether its for shopping or messaging. They are using geo-targeting to let customers know if they are near a brick and mortar location. And at the store level, retailers are using beacons to steer customers towards a sale.

Then there’s responding to the Voice of the Customer, and we’ll discuss that a little further down in this post…

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

This one is so fitting, since the holiday sales season is here. In an effort to maximize every sales opportunity, online retailers push the envelope with guaranteed on-time-for-Christmas deliveries dates. Even if its against the best advice from carriers such as UPS and FedEx.

I expect the “it ain’t over till it’s over” theme to continue in the 2015 holiday season, thanks to omnichannel options such as same-day delivery and buy online pick up in store. And with the number of last-minute shoppers out there, digital channels will definitely lead to sales spikes on Christmas Eve.

“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Remember when Ron Johnson took over JCPenney and changes its entire culture and mission? JCPenney, of course, is still trying to forget that. Johnson’s ill-advised makeover happened because he failed to understand what drove JCPenney’s loyal shopping base, and figured he could make people shop the same way Apple Store buyers shop.

Will Jos. A Bank bring déjà vu all over again?

Bloomberg reported just this Monday that Jos. A Bank will change the way its customer shops, dialing back in its aggressive discounts and updating its styles to attract millennials. Apparently parent company Men’s Wearhouse CEO Doug Ewert knows what he’s doing, having observed what’s going on with the brand. But will loyal Jos. A Bank customers shop the same way Men’s Wearhouse customers do, or will Jos. A Bank customers leave the brand?

“No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.”

Remember the shopping mall? The mecca for family shopping? Yes, traffic numbers are down, and malls are doing whatever it takes to bring traffic back. And Ecommerce is helping with foot traffic, thanks to omnichannel initiatives such as ship to store and buy online pickup in store.

Why are online customers displaying this behavior? Convenience. Either the customer wants an item now, but doesn’t have time to search the store, and can buy online and have the item waiting in the store. Or the buyer wants the order shipped, but doesn’t want to worry about someone taking it from their front porch, common area of an apartment, or delivered to the office.

“Never answer an anonymous letter.”

Okay, this may not be Yogi’s best advice for ecommerce merchants. But as I hinted above in the Yogi-ism “You can observe a lot by just watching,” merchants need to be on the lookout for disgruntled customers (as well as the satisfied ones).

Customers no longer just call when they have a complaint. They take to anonymous forums like social media, and your contact center agents need to observe how your brand is being talked about there. If a customer tweets about a negative experience, your contact center needs to react, and of course rectify the situation.

The same goes for your ratings and reviews section. If a customer is not satisfied, you need to find out why. It could be the customer just did not like what he or she ordered, and that could change your merchandising strategy. Customers complain for a variety of reasons, and you need to know what needs to be fixed.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

Let’s dig into retail history here. Remember Coleco? How about Tandy? Both started off selling leather goods, and morphed into toys and electronics. And remember when Pitney Bowes only sold postage machines, and IBM was the go-to for personal computers?

Retailers need to merchandise or provide services with the customer in mind if they want to survive in today’s retail landscape. If you give the customer a bunch of things they don’t want, your customer is no longer going to buy from you. Case in point, Coldwater Creek, which alienated its audience by straying away from clothing and accessories its customer wanted.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Basically, it’s an evolve or die retail world. When I started with Multichannel Merchant in 2006, the direct-to-customer world saw the catalog as a selling channel. Over time, it realized the catalog was a selling tool – a driver of web and in-store traffic.

While the Big Book catalogs no longer reign in the B2C world, smaller and more-frequently mailed look books are hitting customer’s mailboxes. And those catalogs are proving they can drive sales.

Tim Parry is Managing Editor of Multichannel Merchant.

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