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June 07, 2010

Is Your House Protected? How Under Armour Safeguards Its Brand

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In our third installment to unearth more learnings from the Adobe Scene7 Customer Experience Live Event, we turn our attention to Under Armour, a global manufacturer of athletic footwear, apparel and accessories.

For me, one of the takeaways from the Under Armour story is the importance of brand integrity, and how to protect it.

In just 14 years, Under Armour has become a credible player in the performance apparel and footwear business, challenging the most venerable names in the industry. Built on the back of innovative products and an aspirational brand story, Under Armour knows the value of a brand that incites passion and the importance of protecting that brand experience. As Under Armour racks up growth year after year, it continues to expand its sales channels. It has a growing direct-to-consumer business that it operates through its website and various retail outlets throughout the world. It also continues to sign up more retailers that resell its merchandise. As its sales channels expand, how does Under Armour safeguard its brand integrity to ensure consistency across all channels, throughout the world?

Under Armour has addressed this tricky area of brand management by using a solution that supports its retail partners in how they market and merchandise the company's products. It invests the time and resources to create great assets that tell the Under Armour story, then serves those assets from a single repository to all its retail partners. Whether they're video vignettes about an inspiring athlete, or a 3D rendering of a baseball cleat, these creative assets give shape to the brand and underlie Under Armour's winning merchandising story. And merchandising is a big deal for this company. Because it sells differentiated, high-performance athletic gear, many of its products are technical, so it needs to syndicate to its retail partners those smart merchandising assets that really sell the product story.

Serving creative assets from a single repository means no muddling or misuse of key assets, and also puts the marketing team on the same page with each other and the company's partners. That's especially important for a company like Under Armour that employs a deep matrix of marketers spanning retail, corporate marketing, ecommerce, and so forth. There are assigned owners for each type of content, and housing creative assets in a single-repository imposes order and reduces chaos, as what lives in the repository is the final word on what is official and sanctioned.

Brand equity takes years and decades to build, so protecting that investment should be a top priority of every brand-driven business. I encourage you to view an exclusive Adobe Scene7 webcast to get an inside look into a world-class company that deftly maintains control of its brand in the face of accelerated growth from all sides. I think you will come away enlightened. I did.

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May 13, 2010

Besting the In-Store Experience

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As promised, I am sharing in a blog series some insights culled from our Customer Experience Live Event held last month.

One of our featured customers, Michigan-based Summit Sports, gave us much food for thought, challenging itself with the mission of delivering a "better than an in-store experience." That's a tall order when you consider all the advantages a retail environment offers, where salespeople are standing by and shoppers can try the merchandise on for size. Add to this the fact that Summit is selling highly technical products like skis and snowboards that easily cost north of $1,000, and it becomes an even tougher proposition to convince shoppers to buy online.

Amid what it calls a "notoriously stubborn" conversion rate, Summit last year decided to overhaul its 13 online properties. The metrics it achieved as a result were nothing short of stellar: it grew conversion 11% and nearly doubled its online revenue. Among its revamp initiatives, Summit sharpened its focus on search engine optimization, added breadth to its product narratives, and amped up the site's rich viewing capabilities to enable shoppers to see everything granularly, right down to the stitching. It standardized on the product specs so that when you can compare one product against another, you're actually comparing apples and oranges. For each of its product categories, it offered supplementary content links, including buying guides, sizing guides and videos.

Impressively, Summit captured 1,400 product review videos in just three days to yield more than 3,000 videos that now live on its sites. The videos offer both breadth and depth: You can view a clip about how to mount ski bindings, or drill deeper and watch someone review a specific brand of ski. The best part is, these videos aren't big dollar investments. Summit didn't hire professional video producers to crank out them out; they did it all themselves. And the results are effective--the videos retained a grittiness that lended them authenticity, which for the free-spirited ski and snowboard crowds, imparts more credibility than would a slick and polished video.

I invite you to view an exclusive presentation Summit Sports delivered at the Scene7 customer event. I think you'll come away that given some clever and rich content, online shopping can best the in-store experience.

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May 06, 2010

Heard at the Adobe Scene7 Customer Experience Live Event: The big picture

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We held our third annual Adobe Scene7 Customer Experience Live Event last week to great success. It was well-attended, graced by the presence of customers like Staples, Nike, Old Navy and Williams-Sonoma.

I will be sharing the learnings from our featured customer presentations in the coming weeks in a blog series, but for now, I would like to reiterate the three important trends I talked about last week that are redefining the way we compute:

• Cloud + client computing;

• Social media;

• Multi-screen

With Omniture and Scene7, Adobe has become one of the largest, leading cloud computing companies in the world. One of our goals in supporting client and cloud computing is to create a consistent runtime environment for you to build great online experiences.

While the cloud answers many computing needs, some experiences may be better off running on the client desktop, and that's where Adobe AIR comes in. With AIR applications, you can get real-time alerts while interacting with your desktop content. Scene7 supports cloud and client computing. Scene7 lives in the cloud, but we've also released a Scene7 Publishing System AIR client that allows you to drag and drop desktop content right into it and push out your content to the Scene7 cloud, making your workflow seamless.

The second trend is social media, which is characterized by both chaos and opportunity. Consumers will increasingly share your content with others, as well as contribute to them. As users augment your professionally produced content with their more homegrown iterations, how will you manage your brand integrity? These Frankenstein creations could compromise your brand equity, but at the same time, you don't want to dissuade your fans from interacting with your brand. Companies like online real estate marketplace Zillow, whose self-service home listing service relies on photos uploaded by sellers, are using Scene7 to sanitize these user-uploaded images to make them more polished and consistent.

Lastly, I would urge everyone to begin pondering a multi-screen strategy. It's not too early to think about it, given the onslaught of connected devices from tablets to gaming consoles to interactive TV. Multi-screen computing is already here, and when it's in full-swing, it will come faster than many of us are anticipating. As believers in "author once, consume everywhere," we at Adobe are committed to helping our customers deliver a consistent and rich experience across all screens, exemplified by our Open Screen Project-- The industry-wide initiative that's backed by more than 70 partners in technology and media spanning the likes of Google and NBC Universal. Customers like Columbia are already well out of the gate in mobile, using Scene7 tools to re-render the content in mobile, optimized for the medium's bandwidth limitations.

Exciting days are ahead as Adobe addresses these important trends and help you stay ahead of the curve. Stay tuned.

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April 01, 2010

Exclusive Adobe Scene7 Customer Event!

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For the second year, Adobe Scene7 is hosting "Customer Experience Live!" - an exclusive customer event unlike any other. We'll kick off this one-of-a-kind experience with a special networking dinner in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 27th, followed by a full-day of presentations and (more) networking on Wednesday, April 28th (from 9am-5pm), in the Adobe San Francisco offices. We have spectacular content lined up for the event, including experts from multi-channel leaders Under Armour, Restoration Hardware, Hot Topic and Summit Sports who will share their strategies for creating engaging customer experiences, show real world examples of how they use Scene7 to differentiate their offerings and their results.

This is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to find out how e-retailers are leveraging video and other rich media merchandising, social, personalization and mobile marketing to drive their businesses, as well as how to optimize rich content for customer experience initiatives AND back-office workflows. Plus, we'll share the latest developments with the Adobe Scene7 global platform, including exclusive details on new automated workflows from desktop to Web, integrations with multi-variate testing and personalization solutions, and consumer-tested viewing preferences.

What's more, this is a FREE event where attendees can win fabulous prizes: gift cards from retail presenters & Adobe software!

Click here to learn more, review the full agenda, and register to be our guest in "the City by the Bay" on April 27th & 28th.

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October 29, 2009

eCommerce & eVideo: Seeing Double Digits

The 2009 eCommerce Expo in London proved interest in online shopping is as high as ever. Attendance was up 24% from last year's show and this double digit audience growth is in sync with the double digit growth in eCommerce that is taking place worldwide-especially in the UK where overall growth rates are 14.8% and the amount spent shopping online is greater than any other country in Europe. (eMarketer, UK B2C E-Commerce: Continued Growth in Tricky Times, September 2008/eMarketer, Germany Online: Europe's Biggest E-Commerce Market Comes of Age, May 2009)

During a session on trends in building a rich online experience, we shared our insights to a full capacity crowd in collaboration with our customer Debenhams Retail, the UK's ninth largest online department store. Brett Bennett, Debenahams' Senior Web Manager discussed a number of initiatives they have underway to improve conversion and increase engagement following a 10,000 customer survey which revealed by far the most requested feature was a zoom capability and improved product presentation.

These latest trends below complement some of our recent findings and blog entries:
• Content is King
• Video completes the story
• Search sells, Browsing Blossoms
• Guided navigation gets the goods
• Make it Personal & Empowering
• Community Content Captures Customers
• Mobility Drives Multi-Channel Movement

You can learn more about these trends in our whitepaper on building rich online experiences entitled Customer Experience: What's Best? What's Next? Download it here.

In conjunction with the eCommerce Expo, several hundred industry leaders attended the inaugural eCommerce Awards for Excellence dinner and ceremony hosted by IMRG (Interactive Media In Retail Group, an industry body for global e-retail). This gala event recognized companies making outstanding contributions to the market across 14 different categories. We were incredibly proud to learn that Littlewoods.com, part of Shop Direct - the UK's largest online and home shopping retailer, picked up the award for 'Best Use of Rich Media', after integration of our eVideo solution resulted in a double digit increase in conversion rates. The award called for the most imaginative and best use of video content to enhance the customer experience. The Adobe Scene7 cross-media platform was chosen to host and publish more than 1,500 videos, in an integrated multi-media viewer enabling video, zoom and alternative views. The videos, ranging from 30 seconds to several minutes, feature catwalk shows and product demonstrations.

Click here to learn more about Littlewoods' award!


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October 26, 2009

Adobe (and Scene7) + Omniture is complete

Things have been a little quiet on the blog front as closing an acquisition the magnitude of Omniture is a significant endeavor. I personally and professionally am thrilled that the deal is now officially completed.

A little over two years ago, Adobe acquired Scene7 and put the strength of a major, global software company behind us - and it has been a very successful deal for our customers, our team and Adobe. The Scene7 platform received significant investments enabling our customers to benefit from the integration of world-class Adobe technologies while enabling Adobe to take a great step into SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). In acquiring Omniture, Adobe is taking things to another level entirely - and we now have a collection of SaaS solutions that is one of the most compelling in the software industry.

With my Scene7 hat on, I am really excited to have two of the most important solution providers to the eCommerce industry under one roof and expect very interesting things to emerge over time. Thinking about how Scene7 can drive increased conversion through enhanced customer experiences and better visual information - and how Omniture can analyze and optimize those experiences - is very attractive indeed. Now that the deal is closed, I expect our teams will come up with all kinds of ways to create value for our customers.

While it has only been a matter of weeks since we announced the deal - there is additional information available now that it is closed. If interested, check out the following link for more info:

http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/invrelations/adobeandomniture.html

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April 29, 2009

The Trend is Your Friend: Consider Social Media & Rich Content for 2009

Last week, Priscilla Lawrence, our Principal Marketing Manager with Adobe Scene7, joined forces with Dayna Bateman, Senior Strategic Analyst with Fry, Inc. to enlighten 150+ attendees on the benefits of employing ecommerce best practices. The webinar was entitled “Adobe Scene7 2009 Online Customer Experience –The Next Generation Survey Results & Best Practices” and can still be experienced by emailing us and we’ll send you the link to view (and listen to) the recording.

This webinar was aimed at revealing more on the topics of rich media merchandising, social networking, mobile and personalization features – specifically focused on the ones that leading companies worldwide have deployed or plan to deploy in 2009.

Priscilla and Dayna unveiled the overall effectiveness of these topics relative to each other – drawing from a recent, quantitative survey conducted by Adobe Scene7. They also walked through live examples of best practices that support the survey findings and trends. Attendees got a first-hand look at rich internet applications, mobile device applications, social networking sites and user-generated content—all supporting better visual merchandising.

The survey found the two top-planned activities for the coming year are blogs and user ratings/comments. Consumers want to read first-hand what others are writing about a product - before they consider buying it. A consumer-contributed blog provides an even better resource for this kind of valuable information; buying decisions have become more influenced by other consumers, than ever before. Ultimately, consumers are driving the need for retailers to create an even richer content-filled experience.

Eddie Bauer’s recent launch of FirstAscent.com is a great example of a company employing today’s online best practices. The First Ascent product line of high-end outdoor gear and apparel reasserts Eddie Bauer’s mountaineering heritage. The site captures rich lifestyle imaging, zoom, videos and mouse-driven alternative images. This rich visual merchandising is coupled with a blog with video feeds to create a compelling experience where the story of summiting a mountain is at the core. The site is updated in real time, which encourages repeat visits, and spotlight pages provide consumers with an opportunity to “get to know” specific mountaineers – their accomplishments, their current ascent and their favorite gear.

Visual filtering, advanced search, lifestyle, search landing pages and zoom are merchandising components found to be deployed most often in the survey; likely because these are what rank most important to consumers. When you compare these results to last year’s survey results, three features stand out: alternate views, lifestyle images and zoom. Land’s End and Sunglass Hut are good examples of etailers extending rich media effectively beyond the product page to critical browse and search result pages. They provide all color imagery and/or alt views to give shoppers more visual information earlier on, enabling them to quickly find what they are looking for.

Over 30% of surveyed retailers claimed social networking and improved visual content were top planned features for 2009. Rating and reviews were the first of the social networking tactics that we saw online and continues to increase for 2009. Wet Seal has found a rather ingenious way of bringing the voice (and style) of the customer to their site through a community created with caution. They have developed an online Boutique and Runway for passionate customers to create and share favored outfits. Ratings (from other online shoppers) can only be marked as “love it.” There is no “hate it” and there’s no room for comments. This manages any negativity that can get out of control in online forums. As a result, the fashionista community has become very popular and has proved very beneficial for Wet Seal because those who engage in this community convert at 2X the rate of other customers.

The top-deployed mobile tactics are featured promotions that drive to store or web and GPS mapping/store locator. Consumers are looking for ease and convenience and this clearly meets that need. While mobile is still young, it bridges the gap between user and store. eBay uses text messaging as a conduit to reach customers who are outbid by other customers on auction items, Android Apps scan barcodes so that you can find an item of interest at the best possible price point, and Twitter is a prime example of a cross breeding between mobile and web; serving as a go between you and your preferred retailers and managing your text messages for you.

While personalization has been relatively flat year over year, product or visual configurators were ranked at the top as most effective. NIKEiD.com is a perfect example of best practice in this space. Consumers can create the "shoe of their dreams" from scratch. Click anywhere on the shoe and you're given "just in time" UI elements to customize the color of the laces on down to the sole. There is a task bar in the upper right corner that reveals how much more "work" is still needed to complete customization. You can enjoy photorealistic rendering in real time and create the shoes you want to wear.

If you’d like to listen to the full event and get more information on how other leading etailers are using cutting edge techniques for better merchandising, email us.

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February 05, 2009

Musings from Shop.org strategy conference…

I spent a little bit of time checking in with the attendees of the Shop.org strategy conference, just completed in Orlando, to gather some general thoughts and impressions to form an up-to-the-minute state of eCommerce.   Also, I’m adding a new format today – I asked my good friend Peter Cobb of ebags.com to add on his thoughts from the show to provide a view of the show through the eyes of a leading etailer.  So first, a few of my takes:

  • Attendance was visibly down from last year.  Clearly, tighter travel budgets and priorities back at the office kept more people than usual at home.
  • The feel was by no means ‘ominous’ – but several attendees did notice a significant change in the mood from the September show.  People are a bit more guarded without visibility to what 2009 will hold for their businesses. However, optimism runs high for the industry being stronger than ever when the economic funk clears.  Some would even say we are in a necessary adjustment period where the consumer needs to get back in control – finding a silver lining in the macro-economic clouds.
  • Everyone I spoke with feels eCommerce remains highly strategic to their overall company mission, and they are seeing published and verbal support from top executives to keep making eCommerce a key priority.  It was also noted that there is increased pressure to perform as a result.  While there is a general industry perception that budgets will be tighter this year, I also heard cases where budgets have not been touched to ensure a strong eCommerce agenda.
  • We all have heard the ‘talking heads’ on television discuss a second-half recovery – and joked a bit about how around this time, last year, they were talking about a second half (‘08) recovery.  In general, the consistent view was all of ‘09 will remain a challenge, and best case is to start to see some improvement next year.
  • Vendors are still getting business done – but the decision cycles have stretched out.
  • The general take was that the show content was excellent – diverse and topical – props to Larry J.  I received a particularly rave review from a ‘tough grader’ who felt the presentation by Bob Thacker of Office Max was one of the best ever… and was on the edge of commanding a standing ovation.   A strong reminder to keep on with the business of doing business.  If interested in more on Bob’s presentation, read Ellen Davis’ synopsis.

Now, Peter Cobb weighs in….

  • A frequent comment from attendees and a bit of a “silver lining” to the current economic challenges is the feeling that there will be a contraction of eCommerce players. Those who have solid business models and who have taken steps to be on sound financial footing will have less competition and will gain market share “once the skies clear” and online retail returns to a period of stronger growth.
  • Several attendees commented that they are “getting back to basics” and solidifying those areas that they might have recently overlooked. Optimizing areas like home page abandonment, shopping cart performance, and emails are areas that will get more attention in the coming months as online retailers strive to increase conversions.
  • Some good discussion about how to monetize the 97% of the traffic that does not purchase.
  • Several multi-channel retailers mentioned that the online retail division is getting more attention (and more capital) vis-à-vis their brick and mortar counterparts. In a few cases, members of the online team were recently given promotions in recognition of their ability to drive the business to success.
  • Shop.org attendees seemed more willing to share what worked as well as failures; and several presenters commented that if you don’t have a few failures, you are not stretching enough.
  • Twitter tweats were flying both days.

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So, summarizing what both Peter and I observed and heard – those who made the trip were happy that they made the investment of their time and money. This was a good example of the benefit of not “hibernating” in a tough market; but instead, continuing to forge ahead with confidence to run “business as usual as much as possible” with the mid- to long- term opportunity in eCommerce in mind.

If you were at the show, please comment on your experience.

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  • ShopTalk is a blog featuring "Quick Tips", trends and more written by experts from the Adobe Scene7 team who live and breathe web, rich media and customer experience. This interactive forum offers insights and best practices on the latest trends we are seeing in the marketplace to help improve your customer experience, ultimately driving conversions and revenues.
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