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3 takeaways from eTail East meeting of retail disruptors

In early August, U.S. retail leaders converged in Boston to explore what’s disrupting the industry and how it will change in the coming months.

The 3-day eTail East conference included retail education forums, success stories, and panel discussions. Several Affirm account executives participated in the event, and afterward they shared 3 themes that were key focal points for many attendees.

1. Customer acquisition is more challenging today

Digital marketing is not as efficient today as it used to be, so brands have to prioritize customer retention more. Many retail brands are shifting toward marketing strategies that rely more on owned channels, first-party data, and custom experiences. “For brands to grow, they need to focus on customer experience and be more efficient with their dollars,” said Panagos Papageorge, who works with mid-size retail partners at Affirm.

The bright spot in digital marketing and customer acquisition, however, could be efforts focused on Gen Z. Influencer marketing on Instagram and TikTok keeps winning with this younger customer segment. Experts noted that Gen Z’s spending has been more resilient than other age groups in this time of economic uncertainty, so continuing investments in social media makes sense for engaging these shoppers.

2. Consumers want more personalization and authenticity from brands

“Something I heard consistently throughout the event was that it’s more important than ever for brands to create a hyper-personalized experience for consumers while maintaining brand authenticity,” said Lindsey Zolot, who’s on our strategic brands team. It’s not enough to just have a store and a website. Shoppers expect to connect in other ways that are convenient and feel good to them, such as pop-up stores and virtual events.

The vast majority of consumers (90%) value authenticity from brands and want them to engage in real conversations about what’s happening in the world. Marketing campaigns that addressed sustainability, diversity & inclusion, and other social issues got much attention during the conference.

3. Buy now, pay later delivers a customer acquisition edge

Nate English, also on our strategic brands team, noted that more merchants are recognizing the customer acquisition benefits that come from offering buy now, pay later (BNPL) options. 

“This is especially true given the lackluster results from digital marketing,” he said. “Increasing the lifetime value of every customer is a top priority that fits well with the overall benefits of BNPL, like increasing conversion and average order value.”

Several merchants—like Tempo fitness brand—have seen that partnering with Affirm to offer BNPL options has increased their customer base, especially with younger age groups. It also helps that partnering with Affirm gives you access to over 13 million active shoppers, making it a cost-effective tool for customer acquisition.

Learn more how you can maximize conversion with Affirm’s flexible payment solutions.