Online Retail Today
retailers digital transformation

Retailers: It’s Not An Apocalypse, But An Evolutionary Event

What’s really going on in retail? Bankruptcies and store closures splash across front pages, while at the same time Amazon and Walmart make headlines with their latest and greatest innovations. To determine what is really going on in retail, a recent retail technology study produced by Retail Info Systems with research partner Gartner and sponsored by Kibo, received results from 90 retailers on the following:

  • annual sales volume,
  • primary business model,
  • top obstacles over the next 18 months,
  • top technology driven strategies over the next 18 months,
  • stage of their organization’s digital transformation, and more.

It was found that 77% of retailers did not achieve the average gain recorded for the overall industry in 2017. They either went backwards, stayed the same, or registered a sub-par increase.

Despite this finding, it was concluded that no, retail is not going extinct, but instead is experiencing an evolutionary event. The study encourages retailers to jump on the big opportunities and strong headwinds accelerating the pace of unified commerce and digital transformation.

From the study, “Amazon is not the asteroid that struck planet retail. Competitive pressures from disruptive, pure-play e-commerce players and new physical retailing models are causing radical changes to antiquated business models, driving down prices and driving up costs. Retailers are rightfully concerned about how to accomplish the herculean task of transforming a traditional, multichannel retailer into a digitally enabled provider of unified retail commerce.

To combat market share erosion and take advantage of the opportunities offered by digital transformation, multichannel retailers need to recognize that their extensive network of stores can be part of an effective, unified commerce strategy. Expanding unified commerce initiatives takes the number one spot on our list of top technology strategies pursued over the next 18 months.”

The top four technology driven strategies over the next 18 months are:

  1. Expanding unified commerce (omnichannel) initiatives 54%
  2. Leveraging social media engagement 54%
  3. Increasing customer engagement 51%
  4. Developing personalized marketing capabilities 47%

More and more we see the need to focus on the customer experience. This focus is represented in all three strategies above, as retailers aim to connect with consumers wherever they may be.

 

To learn more from this report download it now.

Order Management System, Direct to Consumer Order Fuflfillment

3 Priorities For Manufacturers To Build Direct-To-Consumer Sales

Establishing direct-to-consumer relationships is more important than ever for branded manufacturers — many of whom hesitate to embrace eCommerce for fear of alienating retail partners. But with the right order fulfillment software in place, manufacturers can both establish strong direct relationships with customers while also driving business to their partner networks.

Branded manufacturers are considered definitive product resources. Superior product content was the leading reason shoppers would choose to purchase directly from a manufacturer’s Web site, according to consumers surveyed for the Kibo Consumer Trends Report 2018 Given that some 85% of shoppers start their research online before visiting stores, offering a robust online catalog is crucial.

But perhaps surprisingly, survey participants also favored branded manufacturers because of their enhanced inventory and fulfillment capabilities. Fully 45% of shoppers said they expected manufacturers to offer a wider assortment of products and 40% expected more products to be in-stock than could be found at local retailers.

Furthermore, close to a third of respondents said they expected manufacturers to offer the broadest array of order fulfillment options when compared with retailers — signaling that manufacturers should invest in robust omnichannel fulfillment software with capabilities such as real-time inventory visibility, Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) features, and connectors to order management software.

Adding these capabilities to match modern eCommerce standards needn’t conflict with manufacturers’ existing retailer partnerships. Instead, implementations can leverage — rather than cannibalize — these relationships to create a broader network of fulfillment options. For example, manufacturers who implement omnichannel fulfillment software can use retail partners’ physical locations to fulfill BOPIS orders. By inviting customers into local outlets to pick up orders, manufacturers hand retail partners an opportunity to win additional purchases. That opportunity is a growing one: during the recent holiday season, for example, leading retailers such as Kohl’s, Target, and Lowe’s reported that anywhere from  20% to 40% of BOPIS customers go on to buy more in-store, and add an average of 25% to the order total.

Similarly, partnering with retailers to provide ship-to-store services enables manufacturers to offer another free fulfillment option to consumers. And manufacturers who adopt distributed order management processes can rely on retail partners to pick, pack, and ship orders from stores for home delivery, speeding order completion for the customer and potentially realizing a cost savings compared with shipping direct from the manufacturer.

 

To seize the opportunity to build direct relationships with customers, drive sales, and benefit partners, manufacturers should:

 

Facilitate accurate inventory with real-time inventory feeds.

Nothing is more frustrating for shoppers than researching online to find where a product is available locally, only to discover upon arrival that the item is actually out of stock in the store. Manufacturers should avoid that scenario at all costs by ensuring that omnichannel fulfillment software can support constant updates to inventory feeds from multiple retailer sources.

If need be, manufacturers can step gradually into broadening their fulfillment options, keeping in mind that delivery  speed is increasingly of the essence for shoppers, 63% of whom say delivery within three days is now the norm. Manufacturers may want to test the fulfillment capabilities of their retailer network by offering free site-to-store shipping, then attempting ship-from-store home delivery before launching BOPIS.

 

Develop deep product content.

Shoppers have a keen appetite for robust content from manufacturers, who should deliver by offering deep-dive technical details, notes on product sourcing and development, comparison guides, and interactive fit and sizing tools. Customer reviews are important to shoppers, 61% of whom they expected manufacturer sites to have them, while customer Q & A, expert or celebrity testimonials, media mentions, and other endorsements from authoritative sources can also be aggregated and displayed.

Such investments not only satisfy shoppers’ expectations, but can help manufacturers earn visibility in natural search results — especially if content is presented in mobile-friendly format, which boosts rank in Google’s algorithm. An eCommerce software solution that supports responsive design can help manufacturers make the most of their content storehouse, as handbag maker HOBO did on the Kibo platform. The manufacturer has boosted visitors’ time on page by 24% with engaging features such as the Look Book, which renders equally well on desktop computers and mobile devices, and has seen revenue jump 62% year over year.

 

  

 

Smooth the path to (immediate) purchase.

Regardless of to what extent they integrate with retail partners, manufacturers should aim to move site visitors from research and consideration to immediate purchase on their own eCommerce sites. With Amazon and other industry giants setting high expectations for frictionless transactions, 78% of shoppers in Kibo’s survey reported that a simple, smooth checkout helps sellers win sales — so manufacturers should avoid bouncing visitors away to complete transactions. Instead, they should integrate retailer partner options together within their own branded hub, with orders routed to the order management system after purchase. In so doing, manufacturers cement their status with consumers as definitive information hubs for both product content and product distribution and availability.

 

By leveraging their dealer networks and implementing robust order management, omnichannel fulfillment, and eCommerce capabilities, manufacturers are well-positioned to earn sales and loyalty through direct customer connections.

delivery and fulfillment options for order management system

Order Management System: The Brain of Your Omnichannel Retail Enterprise

By Keith Blankenship, Regional Vice President of Sales, Kibo

 

Retail technology has evolved markedly in the last 10 – 15 years.  In the 1990s and 2000s, the Point of Sales (POS) was the focal point of an enterprise’s commerce strategy.  The POS handled all activities surrounding how customers interacted with retailers.  During this time, eCommerce became a viable option for consumers and offered an alternative to crowded stores with substandard shopping experiences.  This trend led to a rise in mobile POS which allowed retailers line-busting and save-the-sale functionality. Subsequently, multi-channel retail strategies began to evolve when eCommerce platforms began to integrate with POS systems.  While fulfillment options expanded, these systems were often installed on servers in retailers’ offices and required patches and maintenance resulting in cost escalation for the retailer.  These new features also came with a high price tag.

Today’s retail technology landscape has drastically changed to the advantage of retailers.   Retailers can now implement systems that provide instant access to features without the heavy upgrade costs associated with legacy on-premise systems.  By offloading the strain of supporting these systems in favor of multi-tenant SasS applications, retailers can now focus more on customers and their store experience.  With this renewed focus, retailers are able to offer intelligent fulfillment options that satisfy customer demands and control costs.  Modern systems must also shoulder the burden of communicating with other critical business applications such as ERP and CRM.  More and more retailers are turning toward an Order Management System (OMS).

An OMS allows retailers to provide a robust and satisfying experience for their customers.  By allowing your customers to fulfill in a manner of their choosing, you are actually increasing sales.  76% of buyers indicate that multiple fulfillment options influence them to complete a purchase, according to Kibo’s 2018 Consumer Trends Report. This is up from 64% the year before — an 18.75% increase.

An OMS doesn’t just enable fulfillment options, it also leverages a retailer’s most valuable asset, it’s inventory, in two distinct manners.  First, an OMS can give customers visibility into what inventory is available at certain stores and online.  68% of consumers are less likely to order from a site that doesn’t show in-stock store inventory availability, and 78% of consumers have looked up store inventory before a store visit.  Secondly, it allows retailers to optimize their existing inventory through intelligent, rules-based order routing and the ship-from-store function.

Customer expectations and demands have certainly changed, and retailers must adjust quickly to ensure a sound costumer experience in the most cost-effective manner.  Providing a customer experience that aligns with evolving expectations ensures market relevance and ability to thrive in the modern world. While POS and eCommerce platforms are important pieces in the life of a retailer, an OMS is the critical element that drives all of the enterprise.

Click here for more information on the Kibo OMS or to schedule a demo.

3 eCommerce platform Best Practices to Make the Most of Customer Reviews

The eCommerce Platform Agility Test: Can Your Brand Jump These Conversion Hurdles?

Despite double-digit growth, eCommerce still accounts for a small percentage of total retail sales, and new research reveals that the preference for store purchasing is actually growing. To counteract this trend, online merchants must pass the agility test — providing the eCommerce software and omnichannel fulfillment features that can boost online conversion and sales.

Low conversion rates are nothing new for online sellers. Just 3.5% of eCommerce site visitors using a desktop or laptop computer go on to complete orders, according to technology researcher Forrester — and mobile eCommerce conversion rates are lower still.

Furthermore, new data from the 2018 Kibo Consumer Trends Report reveals that the percentage of shoppers saying they prefer to purchase in stores jumped 330% from 2016 to 2017. While this may be welcome news for brick-and-mortar retailers, it also represents a lost opportunity to earn immediate orders from the 84% of consumers who research online prior to a store visit.

Thankfully, the Kibo data also points to a remedy — in a word, agility. From eCommerce software that integrates seamlessly with inventory and the order management system to omnichannel fulfillment capabilities that offer shoppers maximum flexibility, to responsive mobile eCommerce software, consumers are increasingly demanding that retailers adapt nimbly to their changing needs in the moment.

To overcome online conversion hurdles along the path to purchase, merchants should limber up and test their capabilities against this list of agile commerce must-haves:

 

☑ Dynamic promotions and pricing.
Price is still shoppers’ primary purchase factor, even as the shopping experience is gaining in importance, the Kibo study found. The ability to offer relevant promotions and competitive pricing is key: some 86% of shoppers said loyalty discounts were an important purchase factor, while 81% said they’d used a promotion emailed or texted to them in the past six months. Merchants with outdated enterprise eCommerce software platforms lack capabilities when it comes to linking discounts and merchandising tools with customer data culled from multiple systems and sources — one reason that eCommerce software replatforming is the top priority for merchants in 2018, Forrester found.

 

☑ Flexible order fulfillment software.
Increasingly, shoppers expect online order fulfillment to be both free and fast, with 40% saying delivery that takes more than two days would detract from online ordering. Thankfully, free shipping isn’t the only option shoppers will consider: fully 76% of Kibo survey respondents said it was important to have multiple omnichannel fulfillment choices, such as Buy Online, Pick up In-Store (BOPIS) and ship-to-store. To meet these expectations, merchants need comprehensive integration of store inventory and order management systems with eCommerce software. Not only do such solutions give merchants the capability to offer fast and free fulfillment to customers, but services such as ship-from-store make the most of local inventory, reducing costs associated with excess stock.

 

☑ Full-featured mobile eCommerce software.
Mobile devices now command the majority of minutes shoppers spend with retail brands, generating 49% of all online shopping traffic, Forrester found — but with less than a third of online revenues attributed to mobile, merchants must work harder to deliver a compelling experience. Responsive design enables merchants to deliver robust product content and merchandising regardless of screen size using a single set of code, ensuring consistency across touchpoints while eliminating the need to duplicate efforts. Merchants should also integrate eCommerce personalization solutions with mobile offerings so they can serve promotions specifically oriented to shoppers on the go.

 

Kibo merchant Bluefly.com saw mobile conversion jump 39% and online revenues increase 14% after deploying a responsive site that enabled the designer fashion retailer’s merchandising team to set  a trend-setting pace with fresh product assortments, lookbooks, and visuals for shoppers across touchpoints. The site also offers a streamlined checkout process, which is critical for 78% of shoppers in Kibo’s study and especially important on mobile devices, as smartphone keyboards are difficult to use for filling out long forms.

 

bluefly case study ecommerce platform    

 

☑ Personalized products and content.
Increasingly, shoppers recognize the value of personalization: 64% of Kibo survey participants said personalized recommendations on the eCommerce site product page would influence their purchase decisions — a 45% increase compared with the prior year. The ability to adjust products, content, and offers as shoppers move along the path to purchase is not only critical for product discovery and consideration; by showcasing unique brand assets and proving relevance at every turn, real-time personalization can help brands establish the credibility and trust that are crucial to boosting order completion. Furthermore, by integrating personalization techniques into post-purchase communications to deliver follow-up offers, replenishment reminders, and invitations to submit reviews, merchants can re-engage shoppers and begin building long-term loyalty.

 

What agile commerce techniques are you instituting this year to help boost conversion?

upgrade technology stack to saas solutions

Why SaaS Is The Right Answer To Upgrade Your Commerce Technology Platform

We are all reading the headlines of the retail apocalypse and it is causing retailers and branded manufacturers to rethink their digital and in-store strategies.  A significant portion of these strategic plans involve modernizing the omnichannel technology stack.

 

If you are one of these merchants looking to upgrade your eCommerce software, order management system, in-store associate platform, personalization engine, or some other commerce software solution, you should be looking at multi-tenant, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions to help provide a sustainable competitive advantage.

 

However, many organizations still struggle making the case for cloud technology due to legacy internal processes, IT’s perception of on-premise solutions providing more control, and assumptions that in-house proprietary solutions are more cost-effective.  Below are a few examples to illustrate the advantages of multi-tenant SaaS over on-premise software as it pertains to the commerce industry.

 

Speed of Innovation

 

With traditional on-premise solutions, organizations typically must wait for IT to install updates or upgrades, which can cause lengthy delays for business users, and not to mention the additional software or implementation fees from the vendor.  These hurdles create a situation where business users are not enabled with the latest and greatest capabilities, features, and tools that can help them drive revenue for their respective organizations.

 

Alternatively, SaaS solutions typically include continuous updates, upgrades, and software releases as part of the annual subscription.  Rollout of new features can happen automatically, enabling business users with the most current capabilities to fuel innovation.

 

In a commerce world dominated by Amazon, it is imperative that organizations empower their business users to stay ahead of consumer expectations to the best of their ability — and multi-tenant SaaS is one such way.

 

Total Cost of Ownership

 

On the surface, software owned and managed internally by your organization might seem like it could have a better cost structure.  Why not? You get to control when you upgrade, what to upgrade, and which internal resources get to do the work — all of which are assumed to be cost-efficient.  What these assumptions do not include are hardware costs, training fees, customization support fees, integration complexity, and most importantly, opportunity cost.  When you do the math, SaaS options more often than not have a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) when all factors are considered. Business users get what they want and IT can focus on more strategic projects versus low-value maintenance and upgrade projects.

 

Extensibility and Unique Brand Experiences

 

A common misconception is that on-premise applications provide more opportunities to create unique brand experiences because they allow for customization.  What most do not realize is that these customizations can cause significant challenges down the line when it comes time to update or upgrade — especially when one considers brittle integrations to a myriad of commerce systems.

 

Modern SaaS platforms are developed with an API-first architecture with built-in extensibility layers to allow development of unique experiences on top of the multi-tenant platform, without breaking the integration or update path.  This provides the best of both worlds — marketers and merchandisers can ensure customers are delivered unique brand experiences and IT is comfortable updates and upgrades from the vendor will not break their integrations and put critical selling channels in jeopardy of going “lines down.”  

 

Predictability

 

Commerce is currently going through some major transformations, causing significant chaos and pressures on retailers and branded manufacturers.  Lack of predictability has the potential to derail strategic omnichannel initiatives like your buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) program or your ship-from-store fulfillment plans.  

 

When organizations move to SaaS solutions, they get an inherent level of predictability with costs, uptime, software updates and upgrades, and scalability that allows the entire organization to focus on moving forward — and not on the technology.  Having predictability in the current state of commerce can enable the focus required for some merchants to exceed their growth expectations.

 

Multi-Tenant SaaS for the Win

 

As your organization looks to have a success and growth year in 2018, investing in multi-tenant SaaS solutions will be at the top of the list as an enabler for achieving those goals. While each organization has to look at their specific needs, when compared side-by-side SaaS commerce solutions will typically have more business benefits over on-premise solutions — allowing you to grow faster than your competitors in this ever-changing and competitive world of commerce.

To see the ROI of SaaS, download a copy of our Total Economic Impact Report and put some real numbers behind the benefits of SaaS.

consumer trends report, ecommerce success

New Survey Data Reveals the Unique Assets to Leverage for eCommerce Success

Proliferating touchpoints and the meteoric rise of online-only merchants have forced the retail industry into a race to the bottom. But the 2018 Kibo Consumer Trends Survey suggests that the tide is turning, and retailers and branded manufacturers can differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace by showcasing their most unique assets.

As we’ve discussed previously, competition has been fierce to offer the lowest prices, the steepest discounts, and the fastest free shipping — often to the detriment of small- to mid-sized merchants whose lower order volume can’t make up losses in margins. Furthermore, the dominance of mass merchants has steepened the challenge when it comes to attracting shoppers in the first place: when asked what sources they use to research potential purchases, 69% of participants said they turned to search engines — the top pick — while 61% said they used Amazon.com. Visiting a retailer’s Web site trailed the Amazon option by some 10 percentage points, while just 38% of shoppers said they researched on branded manufacturer Web sites.

On the other hand, the survey also suggested that shoppers hunger for experiences richer and more personal than what mass merchants can deliver. Indeed, while 61% of survey participants named price as the top factor influencing purchase decisions, indicating that it’s still their primary consideration, that percentage is down by more than 12.8% year over year.

By contrast, the importance of the shopping experience doubled, and the percentage of participants naming the variety and speed of fulfillment options as deciding factors grew by 1.3x and 3x, respectively. Furthermore, shoppers are less brand-conscious than previously, with the percentage seeking out products and merchants by brand name dropping — a finding that holds out hope to sellers when it comes to winning over new customers.

Purchase Factor

In short, in a world where sales and discounts are ubiquitous year-round, shoppers are increasingly cognizant of what sets merchants apart — and are willing to explore the possibilities with sellers who are new to them. To win them over:

 

Branded manufacturers should showcase deep content.
Whether or not they have a specific brand in mind, the Kibo survey found that shoppers primarily turn to retailers, both online and offline, to make purchases. But the availability of deep content, including inventory information, can counteract this tendency and encourage direct connection with branded manufacturers.

Indeed, more than half of survey respondents said they expect extensive content on branded manufacturer Web sites, suggesting that product images, videos, detailed specifications, comparison guides, and other consideration tools are all apt investments. More than 61% said they expect to see product reviews on manufacturer Web sites, a finding that reflects an overall preoccupation with authentic recommendations and ratings from shoppers, which a whopping 91% of survey participants have consulted in the past six months.

Another type of product information is also key for branded manufacturers: where and how to order products, and how many are available. Inventory access and availability are crucial: more than half of survey participants said they expect a manufacturer to have items in-stock, while 45% believe they’ll find a greater variety of products available, and 40% believe manufacturers will have more items than retailers. Similarly, a third of respondents said that a greater array of potential fulfillment options is a reason to seek out a branded manufacturer Web sites — suggesting that manufacturers need to implement accurate inventory visibility for items not only within their own direct-shipping operations, but for partner retail outlets as well.

 

Retailers should view stores as valuable assets — not relics.
The recent news about Toys “R” Us notwithstanding, headlines about the end of stores couldn’t be further from the truth. The Kibo survey found that shoppers increasingly recognize and value physical outlets not only as fulfillment depots that can offer a viable alternative to free home delivery, but also as valuable resources offering one-to-one assistance.

Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) is now considered a mainstream offering, with 67% of survey participants having used it in the past six months. Furthermore, shoppers widely recognize that BOPIS offers not only free order fulfillment, but also a degree of flexibility and control not available via home delivery.

Indeed, the ability to inspect items in the store before taking them home was the BOPIS benefit whose importance grew the most year over year — suggesting that stores’ tactile experiences are important brand assets. Substantiating this finding is shoppers’ increasing willingness to engage store associates for assistance finding items; 57% of survey respondents said they’ve done so, an 18.75% increase from 2017. More than two-thirds of respondents said they expected those associates to have access to their order histories, suggesting expectations are high for knowledgeable interactions that draw on shoppers’ past interactions across touchpoints.

On the other end of the spectrum, stores also hold appeal for high-efficiency shoppers. Not only is a dedicated BOPIS pickup counter perceived as a potential time saver, but curbside service is increasingly popular, with 13% of respondents reporting having used it — a jump of nearly 86% compared with last year. Similarly, half of survey participants have taken advantage of store associates’ “line busting” capabilities via mobile point-of-sale — and the percentage doubled of those who’d used the service more than seven times in six months, suggesting its appeal and adoption are growing.

 

Download the complete survey for many more data points on topics ranging from personalization to loyalty discounts to live chat usage. How are you maximizing your unique assets to survive and thrive in 2018?

business case kibo ecommerce software

The Business Case for Kibo eCommerce Software

There is no doubting the importance of eCommerce software in the current retail landscape, and with so many eCommerce platforms to choose from, which is the right one for your company? Many retailers are looking to provide agility and speed to their teams, to do more with less, and to ultimately have a modern technology stack that works well for the business user while providing the framework to delight and surprise customers.

To provide retailers with concrete data on the benefits that the Kibo eCommerce software can bring to an organization, Kibo commissioned independent market research firm Forrester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact (TEI) study[1]. Forrester Consulting employed four fundamental elements of TEI in modeling Kibo’s value: benefits, costs, flexibility, and risks.

 

Forrester Consulting concluded that Kibo’s set of solutions would likely generate a risk-adjusted return on investment (ROI) of 144 percent, and a payback period of 3.3 months.

 

As part of the study, Forrester Consulting interviewed the VP of technology for a midsize online specialty retailer and Kibo client, who highlighted issues they faced pre-Kibo, their technology selection criteria and goals, and post-Kibo deployment results. Following are the interview highlights:

 

“We can work faster, deploy code faster, update content faster. What took 3 hours per week in the past only takes 5 to 10 minutes now.”

 

“We had separate desktop, mobile, and tablet apps that were all handled separately. It became challenging to keep them consistent day-in, day-out. Kibo allows us to consolidate the code, resources, time, and effort. We were able to reallocate 3 people.”

 

“We selected Kibo for its responsive design, native functionality including a CMS, it’s API-based, and the price is effective for what we need.”

 

Kibo eCommerce is the only leading solution developed in the smartphone and tablet era, with a mobile ready architecture that automatically creates higher converting responsive or adaptive sites from your main site theme. Businesses using Kibo do not have to worry about the latest software version or accessing market-leading features with automatic upgrades needed to stay competitive.

Kibo’s platform is designed to help retailers and branded manufacturers work smarter and empower business users to make site updates without IT involvement.

 

Among the benefits highlighted in the Total Economic Impact study were the following:

  • Incremental eCommerce earnings – 40% uplift in mobile conversions and the resulting 13% incremental revenue from mobile
  • Solution cost model effectiveness – Ongoing costs display a better business value
  • Improved user productivity – Tasks that took hours each week are reduced to minutes
  • Mobile investment effectiveness – Kibo’s inherent responsive design for both desktop and web allows for discontinued maintenance of two sets of code, updating process and data, and resulted in reallocation of three resources to other value-add activities
  • Hardware and software cost avoidance – Reduction of on-premise infrastructure investment

To read the complete study, you may download it here.

 

[1] The Total Economic Impact™ Of Kibo eCommerce, a November 2017 commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Kibo

data security ecommerce platform

Can Your Platform Deflect A Data Breach? Check For These 5 Security Must-Haves

Even as shoppers’ expectations rise for sophisticated omnichannel shopping experiences, they remain concerned about the security of their personal and financial data. As merchants continue to enhance their offerings, they should upgrade their security capabilities to match, lest a breach undo years of efforts to build brand reputation and trust.

High-profile cases such as last year’s Experian breach mean that concerns about identity theft and fraud remain top of mind for consumers. Fully 60% of shoppers say that current security is inadequate to protect their information on eCommerce Web sites, according to technology researcher Forrester.

Even otherwise-trusted brands aren’t immune to the perception of vulnerability: 30% of consumers say they’re not comfortable storing payment information even with retailers they frequent regularly, Forrester found. And security concerns can have a dampening effect when it comes to trying new outlets: during the 2017 holiday season, close to two-thirds of shoppers said they would only purchase from brands they already know, or at least recognize as reputable, in an effort to keep their information safe, according to Accenture.

This discomfort is even more pronounced when it comes to new commerce touchpoints. Even as the popularity of mobile shopping soars, one in five shoppers say security concerns and a reluctance to share private information prevent them from using devices to make purchases, the Internet Advertising Bureau found.

Similarly, use of mobile wallets — whereby shoppers pay in-store or online via phone apps instead of plastic credit cards — is hampered by security concerns for 24% of consumers surveyed by PYMNTS magazine. And when it comes to “smart” appliances or digital assistants like Apple’s Siri, 76% of consumers say they worry about data privacy, and 71% cite data security fears.

As it turns out, shoppers’ concerns are well-founded. The number of identity fraud victims grew 8% year over year in 2017, affecting a total of 6.64% of U.S. consumers, according to Javelin Research. Moreover, fraudsters are increasingly infiltrating and taking over online shopping accounts and payment tools, such as Paypal, in addition to stealing credit card numbers directly. A whopping 49% of merchants admit some form of sensitive data breach occurred within their organizations in the past 12 months, Forrester found.

As merchants increasingly implement personalization features, more and more personally-identifiable information is on the line for consumers — making the stakes even higher for merchants. Given that 30% of consumers say they avoid brands that have experienced a breach, sellers must do their utmost to prevent attacks.

The first line of defense is the eCommerce platform itself. While merchants often entrust the technical details of security to their chosen vendors, it’s essential to understand and evaluate platform offerings so that potential risks can be identified and eliminated. And with an increasing number of interactions and data transfers occurring between the eCommerce platform and integrated systems such as inventory and order management, merchants must track an increasing number of potential vulnerabilities. Among the points of inspection:

 

Maintain stability with monitoring and contingency planning. Merchants should ensure their vendor and hosting solution can adapt to short-term spikes as well as long-term growth. Multiple physical instances of servers in different regions provide insurance against outages and attacks. Performance and security should be monitored 24/7/365 to ensure proactive response to threats, and disaster recovery plans should reflect the latest potential scenarios.

 

Keep up to date with payment security certifications. Merchants should seek Level 1 PCI DSS compliance and ask vendors to furnish verification of compliance from their Qualified Security Assessor (QSA). Furthermore, technology vendors should be listed in registries of compliant companies maintained by the major card issuers, who require that eCommerce platform providers subject their operations to quarterly network scans and re-validate their PCI compliance annually in order to be listed. Compliance with SOC 2 and 3 standards for data privacy and security are another means of ensuring the eCommerce platform offers adequate safeguards.

 

Analyze threats with each upgrade, app, and third-party integration. In an environment of rapid innovation, the ability to rapidly deploy new modules, upgrades, and third-party integrations is important. At the same time, merchants should ensure that any new code they add to their organization’s ecosystem is thoroughly vetted prior to implementation. The application firewall should be tested anew with each modification, in addition to routine round-the-clock monitoring.

 

Develop a data encryption protocol that goes beyond payment information. With personalization engines processing ever-deeper troves of consumer data, from social media profiles to location readings, merchants must ensure personally-identifiable information stays secure. That means classifying data so that sensitive information can be flagged, and using encryption both in transit and at rest.

 

Maintain strict access control down to the store level. If they haven’t already, merchants should institute role-based access management, and review settings frequently to reflect any staffing changes. With store associates increasingly accessing online assets for clienteling, to “save the sale” by placing orders for home delivery, and to transact purchases, security measures must extend into store locations. Access to the administration console and servers should be available using tightly-controlled secure http and VPN connections — not the store’s public wifi — and associates should have access only to the assets they need, not to merchandiser- or administrator-level controls.

Considering an upgrade? Read more about Kibo’s secure, comprehensive eCommerce solution. Meantime, what new security protocols are you employing to keep up with omnichannel initiatives?

commerce-on-site search personalization

6 Reasons On-Site Search Personalization Should Be A Priority

Personalization is now considered merchants’ best opportunity to differentiate their brands and compete with the Amazon juggernaut. But when prioritizing how best to implement personalization technologies, many sellers overlook a crucial component of the shopping experience: on-site search.

Shoppers increasingly expect merchants to deliver contextually-relevant experiences that take into account their past interactions with the brand. For example, personalization features were three of the top five improvements shoppers sought during the recent holiday season, Kibo found — from on-point gift picks to loyalty reward tie-ins based on past purchases. And in general, two-thirds of consumers said they were willing to share data with brands in order to receive relevant discounts and loyalty perks, with 11% saying they wanted “totally personalized experiences,” according to a study by Bazaarvoice and the CMO council.

In response, most merchants have prioritized personalization features with rich, immersive experiences in mind. Using dynamic recommendations and content personalization from the home page onwards, merchants are tailoring the browsing experience to surface serendipitous finds as well as precisely-attuned picks that address shoppers’ immediate needs.

But as important as it is to entice browsers with personalized experiences, merchants must also cater to so-called “spear fishers” — shoppers who arrive at the eCommerce site knowing what they want, and who are apt to use on-site search to locate it. Indeed, technology researcher Forrester found that fully 80% of consumers say they know, in general, what they’re looking for when they start their shopping journey.

When these searchers are well-served by eCommerce site offerings, they reward merchants with orders. If they find what they’re looking for, searchers convert at double the rate of site visitors as a whole, MOZ.com reported.

For that reason, bringing the powers of real-time personalization to the on-site search experience is a crucial priority for merchants as they move past cross-sells toward true individualized shopping. Personalized search can:

Help long-tail shoppers connect with their intended products.

Shoppers on the hunt for rare or back-catalog items can benefit from the machine learning today’s real-time personalization technologies employ. By narrowing results based on what other shoppers have searched and clicked, merchants’ search technology can surface relevant picks more quickly. Furthermore, personalized suggested search terms that appear as shoppers type can draw on their past browsing and searching history to prioritize the most likely relevant matches.

Kibo client House of Antique Hardware has an extremely specialized product catalog thousands of SKUs deep, which posed a challenge for shoppers unfamiliar with standard industry descriptors or product classifications. “Zero results” searches were all too commonplace. But by applying personalization technology, House of Antique Hardware was able to offer shoppers relevant recommendations and prioritized search results, driving a 5% lift in conversion.


Help B2B buyers stay on budget.
Business buyers who order items for their company online are often working within far narrower constraints than shoppers casting about for holiday gifts. Procurement requirements may include compatibility with existing office equipment or a defined set of brands, as well as an upper limit on the price tag — which means connecting business buyers with products that match their parameters is of utmost importance. Merchants can use personalization to key search results off stored order histories and other business rules so that buyers see only those products they’re authorized to consider.

Boost relevance of top results on small screens.

Mobile commerce is booming, and merchants are enhancing the mobile shopping experience accordingly. Fully half of sellers in a Forrester survey said improving mobile browsing and research functionality was of primary importance — the top priority on the mobile investment list. Given the primacy of on-site search for mobile shoppers reluctant to page through multiple screens to reach their intended target, it’s crucial to optimize the limited screen real estate to deliver the most relevant results set possible.  

Show shoppers on the go products that are in-stock nearby.

Merchants already integrate store inventory visibility with on-site search, typically by allowing shoppers to explicitly filter results based on local availability. But for shoppers whose past interactions indicate a preference for in-store fulfillment, merchants can streamline the process and automatically prioritize products that are available at nearby outlets.

Eliminate the “no results” page … or at least make it engaging.  

Misspellings happen — but they don’t need to lead to a search dead-end. By tapping into the big data that informs real-time personalization, merchants’ on-site search functionality can suggest keyword terms that will bear fruit and even return results for inexact matches based on how others searched previously. Should a query trigger the “no results found” page, displaying an assortment of product and content picks based on shoppers’ preferences increases the chance that they’ll stay engaged and eventually find the right item.

Position merchants for voice-driven search.

Usage is on the rise of digital personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon Alexa. While currently most interactions are information queries (about the weather, for example), Forrester predicts that in the next five years, consumers will engage these intelligent agents in commerce-related quests — and that the agents will begin to curate and recommend items based on past interactions. Merchants who hone their on-site search capabilities now will be in a better position to compete when the time comes to optimize for this emerging shopping format.

Learn more about Kibo’s industry-leading real-time individualization solutions and how they can drive on-site search relevance that leads to sales.

customer experience with omnichannel

Looking Forward In 2018: The Technology That Will Save The Customer Experience

What is the technology that will save the customer experience? Is it face recognition? Is it virtual assistants?

Nope.

It’s not the newest and flashiest technology of 2018 that will save the customer experience. The truth lies in what we’ve been talking about for years: omnichannel. Omnichannel allows retailers to deliver on what customers are already expecting. 

In order to provide a seamless omnichannel experience to consumers, retailers must have a complete  picture of all consumer activities, regardless of buying channel. Nothing is more frustrating to a consumer than a  retailer who has  blind spots of their activity. For example, if the consumer is in a store, and a retailer cannot look up their online activity; or if a consumer calls into a call center to add more to their online order they just placed, but the call center agent cannot modify that order or doesn’t have access to the website promotions.

Personalization is a leading initiative for retailers, however if retailers don’t account for all in-store, online, or call center activity, they cannot accurately individualize the experience for the consumer. This all leads to a disjointed experience that makes consumers look for better shopping experiences elsewhere.

In a recent study, we found that 58 percent of retailers say they don’t have in-store technology to view customer information across touchpoints. The in-store devices that typically enable access to this type of cross-channel view of the customer are mobile apps, tablets, or scanning devices. The technology behind them such as the ecommerce platform, order management system, and personalization solution all need to work together to gain a true understanding across touchpoints.

A simple solution is to empower in-store associates with mobile devices that connect into these systems — thereby providing the much needed consumer data to drive an individualized experience when face-to-face with a buyer.  Improving in-store experiences is at the top of many retailer’s lists because a majority of sales still take place through physical buyer touchpoints.  It is critical for retailers to leverage the use of technology with their store associates to deliver the experiences consumers are not only craving, but demanding of retailers.

Unfortunately it is a matter of reality that companies still have siloed data. It really can be a mix of situations that lead to retailers having siloed customer data and consumer experiences across channels. Some retailers are on older versions of technology that won’t allow easy integration with new systems. Those that are looking to upgrade their commerce platform are faced with a plethora of vendor and technology choices that mainly fall into one of three camps:

Home Grown.
They create a homegrown system to their exact specifications, however it will be extremely expensive and any future development or maintenance are completely dependent on the  retailer’s IT team.

OR

On Premise.
They can go with an on-premise solution, which also allows for exacting specifications, however are typically very expensive to deploy with a very long launch time. The retailers are also then faced to pay for future upgrades – increasing their total cost of ownership (TCO).  

OR

The Cloud.
The technology with the most flexibility and cost-effectiveness are multi-tenant, cloud-based solutions. The retailer can launch faster than homegrown or on-premise, still have their needs met, always be on the latest version of the technology — future proofing their investment and driving their TCO lower than traditional technology approaches.  

 

Here at Kibo we believe the Cloud is the best place to build, particularly for retailers and manufacturers who are growing and changing as the market changes. The Cloud allows for more flexibility than on premise solutions, and allows for a robust order management system. A robust  (OMS) is key to enable enterprise-wide inventory visibility, intelligent order routing, and a streamlined interface for store associates to use when preparing the order to ship or for pickup. As this study indicates, retailers are using a variety of technologies from warehouse management systems (WMS) to enterprise resource planning (ERP) to OMS. Those that are using WMS or ERP without OMS are limiting their abilities in omnichannel fulfillment, as those systems lack robust functionality to provide accurate inventory visibility and be a retailer’s single version of truth for their inventory.

Using our OMS, we have seen customers with significant uplift after deploying ship-from-store and in-store pickup. Ship-from-store allows retailers to expand the number and assortment of items available for online purchase, and reduces the need to discount slow moving items that are sitting in stores. In-store pickup has the added benefit of uplift in additional sales during in-store visits; retailers who provide best-in-class in-store pickup experiences are seeing up to 40% of their customers purchase additional items while picking up online orders — resulting in true ROI of their omnichannel strategies.

 

Discover more omnichannel technologies that are changing how we think of brick and mortar here.