The 4th annual Home Improvement eRetailer Summit is set for November 6-8 at the Hotel Monaco Chicago.
Sonya Ruff Jarvis, founder of the Home Improvement eRetailer Summit, discussed in the following interview how the summit is positioned to connect home improvement vendors, distributors, e-tailers, logistics and digital service providers under a theme of optimizing e-commerce opportunities.
HOMEWORLD BUSINESS is the official housewares publication of the Home Improvement eRetailer Summit. HomeWorld Business Editor-In-Chief Peter Giannetti will moderate the summit’s educational program, initiating direct engagement between the speakers and attendees.
The summit celebrates its fourth anniversary this year. How has it evolved?
Sonya Ruff Jarvis: Because the summit is invitation-only and intimate, we are able to have candid conversations with attendees to pinpoint their specific issues, challenges and successes to incorporate into the event’s agenda.
The conference sessions have gotten stronger each year by identifying areas that can assist the home improvement retail and manufacturing industry to compete against sectors that have long been standard bearers in e-commerce, such as electronics and apparel, whose online transactions accounted for 30% and 22%, respectively, of their total sales last year.
The summit listens intently to its attendees and, as a result, has added technology service providers as participants. These providers, which the summit qualifies, offer software, logistics and digital marketing solutions that will assist our attendees in getting up and running or expanding their online businesses.
Internet marketing is widely used by retailers and suppliers across the country. Why, then, is an event like the summit still relevant?
SJ: Annual online sales of home improvement and garden products are growing at double-digit rates. But the home improvement market, in general, lags in optimizing the Internet as a distribution channel. Consequently, there are across-the-board opportunities for retailers and suppliers that compete proactively in this arena.
The Home Improvement eRetailer Summit is relevant because it is designed exclusively for the home improvement online retail sector. It is a curated environment, managed through an invitation-only process, that creates an intimate and concentrated opportunity for attendees. It is based on reciprocal relationship building and presents real potential for participants to gain insights and takeaways they can apply to their e-commerce business challenges.
What are these opportunities out in front of home improvement dealers and suppliers for online marketing and selling?
SJ: Incremental growth: Taking advantage of the Internet as a distribution channel clearly offers revenue gains for the home improvement and lawn and garden categories, especially since online shoppers are looking for more of these types of purchases online.
Expansion: Retailers and suppliers have the chance to expand their brand and mind share with consumers. It’s worth noting that something like 60% of purchases start with online research.
Diversification: Online retailing gives suppliers and retailers a straighter shot to hit a new shopper target: Millennials. Retailers and manufacturers are missing out on this gigantic market segment when they don’t engage in online retail in some way, shape or form.
What are some of the common misconceptions among dealers and suppliers about what e-commerce can or can’t deliver?
SJ: The overall challenge is finding the right partners to collaborate with. Suppliers need to recognize that while Amazon is the major player, it is not the only player, especially when it comes to home-improvement and hardware products. There are independent online retailers that serve the home improvement and lawn & garden markets. And there are brick-and-mortar home centers and hardware stores that are expanding their online services for these goods.
Drop shipment options shouldn’t frighten suppliers, either. The summit in November will have Rakuten Super Logistics discuss how implementing the right fulfillment logistics can help suppliers be more competitive.
It is sometimes a misperception among dealers and suppliers that it’s harder to control prices when selling online. It’s not impossible, but it takes strategy, monitoring and policies.
Where do you think the industry needs to improve in order to more fully engage e-commerce?
SJ: Companies need to make a commitment to fully integrate online retail into their business models versus conducting e-commerce as an afterthought or, worse, a separate enterprise. Fifty-six percent of online shoppers still prefer the brick-and-mortar shopping experience over online. So, the more successful retailers are taking a holistic approach that doesn’t leave customers or dollars on the table.
What new initiatives can attendees expect from the upcoming summit in November?
SJ: We are making a strong effort to invite more brick-and-mortar home improvement retailers that are interested in initiating e-commerce or expanding their online retail presence. We want to hear their unique perspectives.
This year’s summit will be more interactive. Peter Giannetti, with HomeWorld Business, will be moderator for the summit, which is structured for direct engagement between the speakers and their audience.
The summit is adding qualified technology service providers. These providers are invited to offer software, logistical and digital marketing solutions for attendees’ online challenges.
Any predictions about where e-commerce might be headed in the future?
SJ: Getting the logistics right is huge in order to build a profitable and sustainable online retail business. As we progress down this road, I believe that logistics and fulfillment will become more refined. You will see companies with these capabilities launch programs and services that make it easier and more efficient for dealers and suppliers to compete. Plus, software platforms will offer even more plug-ins and simpler-to-use options to enhance their value add.