New Report Analyzes Ways That Online Retailer Experience Could Trump Discounts

Sponsored by marketing/commerce platform EPiServer, the study will be complemented by another report early next year that evaluates what worked best in the holiday season.

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Given all the marketing tech power at its disposal, what is a retailer’s best mix to keep customers — without promising them deep pricing discounts?

That’s the key question behind a new report sponsored by marketing/commerce platform EPiServer, out today. Called the US Retail Website Benchmarketing Study, it breaks down how 15 online retailers use their capabilities as they approach the holiday season.

The study, conducted this fall by a market research affiliate of Lutz Public Relations & Marketing Communications for EPiServer, is the company’s first such report for the US market. Several similar ones that cover Europe have previously been released.

The covered retailers are,,,,,,,,,,,,, and They represent such popular holiday gift categories as apparel/accessories, flowers, general gifts, stationery and toys/games.

The evaluated competencies for each retailer focused on content, such as content support of offered products, distribution through multiple channels, alignment with the brand and the balance between sales messages, product-related material and calls to action.

This is not surprising, in part because EPiServer offers content management among its capabilities. But VP for product management Bob Egner noted that content is essential for creating the kind of unique digital experiences that offer enough value to outweigh discounts.

Just presenting the online product catalog isn’t enough, he pointed out, adding that “retailers are looking for ways to get beyond relying on price.”

I agreed that knowledgeable store personnel and a comfortable environment at such physical retail outlets as Apple’s stores or Trader Joe’s appeals more to me than finding discounts by going to other physical stores.

But, I said, online is a different story.

Even if 1-800-Flowers has helpful live chat operators, easy tools for finding the right flowers and arrangements for an occasion and briefers on various bouquets, I can easily make my decision and then, with a few clicks, find the best price online for that selection.

In other words, the best online combination would seem to be a great digital experience — plus discounts.

It’s not yet clear if this report’s analysis of the retailers’ approaches supports its thesis that a digital experience can trump discounts for bringing customers back. That’s because, although this report has some scoring of individual competencies, it doesn’t really evaluate how well the retailers’ techniques work versus lower prices.

For that, Egner said, we’ll have to wait until first quarter of next year, when EPiServer will release a follow-up report based on this holiday season.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Barry Levine
Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.

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