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This week, I spent a day away from OpenView Venture Partners HQ and was in Dallas at the Shop.org annual summit, where I was able to get up to speed on some of the innovation as it relates to online retail. Given that the sector is going through explosive growth (2009 Spend – $106BN, 2010 Spend – $163BN, 2014E Spend – $249BN), I figured there could be some important tidbits of information to gather from the conference. The main theme I got out of the show not only applied to retailers, but to any business in today’s rapidly evolving technological world — how to better connect with your customer.

Below are some insights I got out of the trip that could be valuable to management teams looking to employ new business growth strategies:

1. Purchasing decisions on all levels are many times social, and people rely heavily on user opinion as it relates to making decisions. Highly leverage this, as it can make or break your business. Trying to understand your net promoter score is helpful here. Companies that can figure out how to leverage the “like” feature on Facebook can find huge results here as it relates to harnessing social opinion.

2. Go where your customer is and engage them there. A specific example, as it relates to retail, is if your consumers are spending half of their time on Facebook, getting them to transact on your e-commerce site may be difficult. Providing an option to convert prospects to buyers at locations where they are spending most of their time is key (ex. open a store right on Facebook like 1-800Flowers or create a killer mobile app)

3. Understand the environment of your buyer. In order to be relevant, understand how your target audience purchases and what influence marketing sources they use to become informed before making a buying decision. If you do not pay attention to this, you could have trouble converting prospects to buyers.

4. Really connect with influencers in your market, convert them into advocates and empower them. It’s not all about who has the most fans or traffic. Rather, it is those businesses that can take a loyal following and turn them into free salespeople!

Hopefully, at least one of the above points helps spawn some creative ideas as they relate to connecting with your target customer. Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation goes into detail on a lot of these themes, if you are interested in learning more.

-KKF

Kobie Fuller spends his time finding and building exciting emerging growth companies.

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