Sandow hosts online technologies conference

Jenny Heinzen York — Home Accents Today

The world of technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, and even with a sometimes slow-to-get-on-board industry such as home furnishings, the tools are becoming so powerful that no one who is serious about business can afford to ignore them.

This was the key message at the recent Online Technologies Conference held in May at Atlanta’s Americasmart. The event, hosted by Home Accents Today and its sister magazines, drew more than 100 attendees to learn about email marketing, social media, web development, tablet computing, data mining and more.

“Business leaders understand that innovation creates high-margin businesses and drives productivity,” said Penny Schneck, online manager at Sandow Media and coordinator of the conference. “The ingenuity displayed in using the Internet in business to outsmart and ultimately generate new opportunities is a testament to the power of technology.”

Convergence

Eric Dean of Whereoware kicked off the conference with a presentation about “convergence” and how companies can tie their online and offline experiences together. He said all the channels that vendors and retailers use for marketing need to work together, including print advertising, phone, sales reps, websites, catalogs, emails, tradeshows and social media.

The reason why? “Consumers want whatever they want, however they want it, whenever they want it, wherever they are,” he said. The days are past when a company can dictate how it communicates with its customers – it has to be available on all platforms so the customers can do business on their own terms.

He cited an example of Old Navy, which sent an email to its customer list with an Easter promotion using QR tags. Customers were invited to visit the stores, look for 15 QR tags hidden through the store, scan them, then have a chance to win $50,000. This promotion used technology to drive people into the actual stores, then encouraged them to stay longer and look around more.

He also cited the changing role of catalogs in American life. Whereas in 1965, the Sears catalog was 1,810 pages, in 2010 it was 128 pages. But that’s not to say they are less important. In fact, Dean said, customers who are sent catalogs are 54% more likely to shop; twice as likely to make an online purchase; spend 163% more dollars; and are much more likely to visit your website. Catalogs are aspirational now, and work best to drive consumers to websites.

Other ways that technology is driving the B2B and retail worlds? Reps are carrying catalogs on laptops, and increasingly iPads or other tablet devices; and technologies are now available to automate post-market lead follow-ups.

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The conference was sponsored by Americasmart, Ayr1, Brandwise, FurnitureCore.com, FurnitureDealer.net, Myriad Software, Shopatron and Whereoware.