This week, thousands of retailers converged on Boston for Etail East 2018 to network and learn about everything on the cutting edge of ecommerce.

With so much going on in our backyard, we obviously had to be a part of it. After going to tons of sessions and taking pages and pages of notes, we’re back and ready to share the very best ideas and the most interesting trends we heard about during the event.

While Etail East 2018 is sadly over, that doesn’t mean the learning has to stop now. Whether you couldn’t attend the conference yourself, or you couldn’t see every session you wanted while you were there, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve broken down the top takeaways from all the best sessions and exactly what you need to know to succeed in the ever more competitive world of ecommerce. Here are the most valuable lessons we learned at Etail East.

1. Traditional Brands Are Moving Aggressively into Ecommerce

“I have a tremendous budget. I control $100 to $200 million in campaigns. Startups can’t do that. That’s a strategic advantage.” Jim Edgett, Head of Integrated Marketing at Gamestop

Some traditional retailers and CPG brands have begun to adopt new technologies and realize the full potential of ecommerce and direct-to-consumer. For brands that decide to really focus on growing digital channels, they’ve realized they can compete with even the buzziest digital-native brands. With better existing brand recognition, larger teams, and bigger budgets, traditional brands are muscling their way onto the digital stage.

2. The Customer Is the Center of Everything

“We understand what we’re selling better than anyone. The challenge is how to convey that understanding of what your product does to the consumer on the other side of the keyboard.” Brad Wolansky, CEO of Dover Saddlery

For many B2C brands, the customer is the center of the world. But despite this, many brands make a lot of assumptions about what their customers want and need. More and more brands are taking their buyer’s needs into account — doing surveys, focusing on personalization, and mapping the customer journey with care. At Etail East, brands of all kinds were constantly talking about putting customers at the center of their marketing process.

3. Paid Acquisition is Increasingly Pricey

“We’re doing everything we can to get off Facebook, to be honest. I don’t see it going anyplace good. Traffic is down and the costs are untenable.” Jules Pieri, CEO of The Grommet

Paid costs are on the rise, and brands are seriously concerned. More than one person talked about the rising cost and diminishing returns of specific acquisition channels. More and more, brands are looking to own their communication with customers, focusing on the repeat purchase and driving customer loyalty. As the ecommerce market gets even more crowded, the prices will only continue to rise.

4. Omnichannel is Still Tough to Achieve

“When I think of omnichannel, I want to take a step away from the tech stack and focus on the people, process, and the overall organizational changes that need to occur.” Sam Norpel, GM, Digital Commerce at Vitamin Shoppe

Unfortunately, omnichannel remains a struggle for many B2C brands. Between the proliferation of marketing channels and devices and the ongoing difficulties in managing customer data effectively, omnichannel isn’t getting any easier. A lot of brands discussed this challenge and shared their methods of handling the data and executing marketing across channels. During Etail, they even did a live poll of the audience, asking how many brands feel like they’ve fully executed an omnichannel strategy. The results were not promising.

Think you’re ready for omnichannel? Take our quiz to test your team.

5. Pricing Strategy is an Ongoing Challenge

“We do a ton of testing around price — even how we show the price. Is it dollars off? Is it percent off? Is it a direct discount? Is it a coupon? Do we provide value in the product or in a bundle?” Robert Elzner, Director of Online Marketing And Ecommerce at Dell, Inc.

Discounting can quickly become a race to the bottom if you don’t approach it the right way. That’s why pricing and discount strategy has become such a huge trend in ecommerce today. Brands are thinking far more carefully about how they offer discounts — or if they do at all. A number of brands discussed only offering free shipping, but never devaluing the product fully. It’s a complex topic, but one that we’ll continue to follow with interest.

6. Seamless Customer Experience Wins

“There’s no one correct approach to creating great experiences for your customers. It’s unique to your customer.” Paul Pender, eCommerce Marketing Manager at Asics

Whether it’s Starbucks’ mobile ordering or Netflix’s fantastic recommendations engine, it’s all about seamless customer experience. Similar to putting the customer at the center, customer experience is the smooth transition from step to step in the customer journey. It’s the result of all the thought you’ve put into your buyers, and can seriously pay off in revenue if done well. More and more brands are trying to create these fantastic experiences at every turn.

There were many other interesting takeaways and trends from Etail East 2018, but these are the most interesting and noteworthy. Hopefully, this helped you learn a bit, think a bit more about your marketing strategy, and hopefully, improve your ecommerce marketing strategy.

Cara Hogan

Cara Hogan is the Content Strategist at Zaius, where she focuses on how technology can drive business growth. She is a grammar perfectionist, a data enthusiast, and a rock climber.