Online Retail Today
on-premise software SaaS, amazon

What To Do On Prime Day If You Aren’t Amazon

The dust is settling on the third-ever Prime Day at Amazon.com, and once again, blockbuster revenues for the eCommerce giants are predicted. While a slew of online merchants tried to ride the wave with limited-time special offers, in the long run merchants can benefit by making Amazon’s priorities – as revealed through its Prime Day discounting strategy – their own.

By all accounts, Prime Day, held Tuesday, July 11, was a success for Amazon. Amazon confirmed that the site was bringing in more revenue than it ever had in a single day; analysts estimate that worldwide sales this year could top $2.1 billion, up by 20% compared with last year’s Prime Day. The boost may be due in part to preview sales that kicked off July 5, and to an extended main Prime Day event that lasted a full 30 hours, with new deals released every five minutes around the clock exclusively for members of Amazon’s Prime subscription service.

Amazon’s big day makes such a wave in part because of its massive audience: a whopping 58% of U.S. consumers said they planned to shop Prime deals, according to marketing services firm Market Track. That wave is so huge that it lifts other retailers’ boats, too. On Prime Day last year, eCommerce sites of all stripes saw a 15% increase in visitor traffic, with conversion rates jumping 19% and orders increasing 38%, according to marketing services firm Bazaarvoice. Even Prime members get in on the action on other sites, Bazaarvoice found, with 76% reporting they check out deals from other sites on Prime Day as well as heading to Amazon.com.

For that reason, a number of sellers offered deals to coincide with Prime Day. Internet Retailer reports that 47 of its top 100 merchants offered Prime Day Deals. And in the six weeks leading up to Prime Day, merchants attempted to pre-empt the big event with stepped-up discounting. The average discount on leading eCommerce sites was close to 40% off, retail analytics firm EDITED found, while the number of products experiencing their first discount over the July 4 weekend increased 51% year over year.

But sellers who view Prime Day as nothing more than a Black Friday-style scramble to come out on top of a heap of discounts are missing the point. Indeed, analysis of Prime Day deals from 2016 found that most of Amazon’s Prime Day discounts are not as deep as the Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers later in the year.

While no one would dispute that bringing in record revenues on an otherwise humdrum July day is a significant feat, it’s worth analyzing Amazon’s Prime Day offerings for their longer-term implications – and, rather than trying to win a race to the bottom they can’t afford, merchants should tailor their strategies to pursue the larger opportunities Prime Day represents. The top three:

Loyalty Rules

It’s easy to overlook the paramount fact of Prime Day: Its deals are exclusively for members of Amazon Prime, who pay $99 per year to receive free 2-day shipping on all purchases. So Prime Day is, at its most basic, an incentive to join its loyalty club.

With an estimated 85 million members, the value of the Prime subscription program goes far beyond the sales they generate on Prime Day: U.S. Prime members spend $1,300 per year on Amazon, compared with $700 per year for non-members, according to estimates from securities research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), and they also shop on Amazon more often than non-members, purchasing an average of 25 times per year, compared with 14 times per year for others. The Prime program also boasts an astonishingly low churn rate: 91% of first-year paid subscribers renew for a second year, and 96% of second-year paid subscribers renew for a third year, according to CIRP.

Merchants who want to compete with Amazon in the long-term should put a similar focus on retention efforts. Sellers across the spectrum report that returning customers are valuable, comprising 33% of eCommerce buyers while contributing 42% of total revenue, according to technology researcher Forrester Research, Inc. To cater to returning customers, merchants should consider ways to integrate loyalty club perks into all aspects of the shopping experience, from exclusive deals, shipping perks, priority service in stores, and mobile integration for redemption of points and offers.

Think Beyond the Keyboard

In the week leading up to July 11, preview deals were available exclusively to Prime members using Alexa, Fire, Echo music speakers, and Amazon’s mobile app – thereby spotlighting shopping touchpoints beyond the computer. Amazon further encouraged the shift to mobile and Internet-of-Things-style shopping with Prime Day deals on everything from Alexa devices to Dash buttons, which enable quick reorder of household items using physical buttons shoppers place in convenient locations around the house.

Clearly, Amazon is hoping to connect with consumers away from computer screens so they can reach shoppers with contextually-relevant offers. With shopping shifting inexorably to mobile devices, merchants would do well to double down on their own priorities for mobile commerce, including online-to-offline connectors for retailers with physical store outlets and apps that encourage loyal followers to engage frequently with store offerings. For retailers servicing cutting-edge audiences, experiment with voice-activated purchasing and other tools that streamline the purchase process.

Engagement Counts

The strategy of releasing new deals every five minutes was more than a stunt: with constant reasons to revisit the site throughout the day, shoppers engaged with Amazon’s content and fueled the merchant’s recommendation engines. Amazon is prioritizing collection of data, not just purchasing – a strategy other merchants would be wise to emulate, given that consumers increasingly expect merchants’ offers to be relevant to their immediate needs. Merchants should pursue deployment of real-time individualization tools and techniques to boost relevance, and give shoppers plenty of reasons to engage with the brand via value-added content as well as rich product information.

How did Prime Day fare for your business?

Three Ways to Provide Hassle Free Shopping Experiences

It takes a strong commerce game to attract, engage, and entice shoppers to keep coming back. Customers can be fickle creatures, ready to move to a different retailer or branded manufacturer for any reason. One negative customer experience can really hurt a retailer and studies have shown that to make up for one unresolved negative experience, it takes 12 positive experiences.1

 

Of course, that is true only if the customer gives the retailer the opportunity to provide those positive experiences in the future. Providing a smooth, hassle-free experience will keep customers excited and happy with your brand. Below are three ways to provide hassle free shopping experiences, and it starts as the customer begins to interact with your brand.

 

No. 1: Optimized Digital

Digital has become an increasingly popular mode to engage with brands. According to Pew Research Center, “close to two-thirds of US consumers now own smartphones, and one in five rely primarily on their phone for Internet access.”2  Additionally, consumers are frequently shopping off mobile devices. In the period from November 23 to January 3, smartphone revenues shot up 50 percent year over year, and smartphone average order value rose by 9 percent to more than $140–just $10 behind desktop AOV.3

Mobile needs to be treated as a viable engagement and selling source. Optimize your digital plans with responsive mobile web pages. Make it easy for consumers to browse, find product information, search, and buy. With limited screen space, products and calls to action should be center stage. The navigation should be intuitive, and the actual purchasing process needs to be very easy. With address fields optimized for mobile, checkout is a breeze and completely hassle free.

 

No. 2: Inventory Visibility

A beautiful mobile-optimized website is just the beginning. While a customer is shopping, entice them to consider completing a purchase for in-store pickup by listing local product availability on product pages. It’s a powerful tool to list product availability, as the customer, who may have been passively shopping online, now knows they can go to their local store and get that exact item immediately.

The fulfillment options available to the customer during online checkout is also a major factor in creating a hassle free shopping experience. According to the Kibo 2016 Trends Report, 60 percent of consumers will go to another retailer if their preferred fulfillment method isn’t available.

Successful omnichannel fulfillment starts with inventory visibility. If your order management software has a clear view of all inventory across the company, it can then inform the customer if the product is in stock and if it is in stock locally. The customer can then determine their preferred fulfillment method, whether ship-to-home, in-store pickup or ship-to-store.

 

No. 3: Inventory Availability

If you want to sell your inventory, you must have inventory available to purchase. This may seem like a no-brainer, but some retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, don’t have stock available when customers want to buy it. Some stores only have a display model or are always out of stock and some eCommerce sites are continually on back-order. If you want to challenge Amazon, you need to be prepared with inventory available, and if it isn’t in the store or available from your eCommerce fulfillment warehouse, you need to provide options to get it to the customer quicker than their Amazon Prime membership can deliver.

An accurate, real-time available-to-promise inventory count will help with this. Knowing where inventory is and if it’s available to sell is the first step in being able to move that inventory. Put software in place to easily reorder inventory when it gets low on the shelves or to quickly drop-ship an item from another local store. Are you truly out of stock, or is extra inventory waiting on a store shelf a state away, destined to be sold at a discounted price at the end of the season because the inventory count was guessed incorrectly at these stores?

Optimized digital, inventory visibility and inventory availability are three solid tools to provide a hassle-free customer experience. Allowing a customer to engage successfully with your brand, find what they want, and be able to receive it how they want will produce many happy customers who will return time and time again.

 

  1. “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner
  2. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/
  3. http://www.marketlive-blog.com/2016/01/08/use-holiday-mobile-success-to-justify-further-investment-heres-why-holiday-flash-report/
  4. Kibo 2016 Consumer Trends Report
4 Reasons Retailers Should Ship-from-Store

4 Reasons Retailers Should Ship-from-Store

Welcome to swimsuit season! Swimsuits are flying off shelves to adorn hard bodies at an alarming rate. That is, until fall fashion rolls in. That’s when swimsuit prices are slashed and swimsuits are relegated to dangle on a haphazard clearance rack. But what about the stores in the land of eternal summers and severe droughts aka California? Their stores have high demand and thus nothing in stock, and the stores in the north have way too many end of season swimsuits. This is the continual, inevitable, retail cycle. This, in conjunction with online competition, has retailers trying to figure out their next move.

Ship-from-store allows online orders to be fulfilled from a physical retail store. Like those northern stores with all those swimsuits. A good order management system will allow you to customize the routing of an order based on specific parameters which will assign it to the optimal location for fulfillment. Parameters such as inventory availability.

Ship-from-store allows you to reduce cart abandonment, move stale inventory, reduce costs, and deliver on customer expectations.

 

1. Reduce cart abandonment

A shopper is more likely to find the item they want when all available inventory across the entire company is made available online. This helps to avoid purchase abandonment. According to Forrester Research, “Our interviews with retailers revealed that when online stores are able to sell both store and online inventory, a profound uplift in online revenue in the region of 10% to 30% can be achieved.”1

Not only does ship-from-store reduce online shopping cart abandonment, but it will also reduce in-store sales loss. If a customer walks into a store and the inventory is low or out of stock, a store associate can route the desired item from a different location to fulfill the order.

 

2. Move stale inventory from stores and decrease markdowns

Reduce end of season markdowns by fulfilling online orders from stores with the slowest moving inventory. Instead of discounting end of season inventory like those swimsuits, use ship-from-store. According to Forrester Research, “One retailer we spoke to reported a 30% improvement in in-store inventory margins after optimizing its ship-from-store program to avoid markdown situations.”1

Also, returned items that are no longer in season won’t have to be in an automatic markdown situation. That item can be sold online, and the store that has the item will fulfill the order.

 

3. Reduce Costs

Reduce carrying costs when you fulfill and ship online orders with items sitting on your shelves. This increases inventory turns, and as a bonus gives retailers a better idea of the items they want to sell in their stores. During seasonal peaks when retailers would need more people to fulfill online orders at a distribution center, retailers that utilize ship-from-store have the opportunity to save costs on temporary workers by spreading that workload out to the retail locations.

Additionally, an order can be routed from the store closest to the consumer, saving on shipping costs. In a report done by Forrester Research, they say, “Retailers with an operational ship-from-store program have the opportunity to ship locally from a store in geographic proximity to the customer’s delivery address….Consider that the standard cost of shipping a one-pound package via UPS ground from New York State to California is $7.71, versus $6.24 for shipping the same package within California.”1 This is convenient for either party who may be paying the shipping.

 

4. Deliver Superior Customer Satisfaction

Ship-from-store opens up a wider range of inventory. When an online customer can’t see store inventory, they don’t have a full view of the items available for purchase. As a result, you might have an avoidable out-of-stock scenario where the item might not be available in a distribution center or warehouse, but is available in retail stores. This could lead to a disappointed customer who will leave a retailer’s website and go search elsewhere on a competitor, like Amazon.

The current ways of buying and selling need to change. Customers demand more, and retailers want to give more while also succeeding and surpassing business and customer expectations. Ship-from-store is quick to implement and easy to use. Ship-from-store can be the tool that will improve sales, build greater customer satisfaction, and even change the way you look at end of season swimsuits.

 

Consider this information from Macy’s: The number of Macy’s stores doing ship-from-store grew from 23 to nearly 300 in 2012, with 200 more planned for 2013. Macy’s made plans to ditch distribution centers and instead implement ship-from-store fulfillment. Terry Lundgren, CEO of Macy’s explained, “We’re no longer going to need fulfillment centers anymore. We’ve got 800 of them, and they’re called Macy’s stores.” Innovators like Macy’s chose to turn their stores into assets by utilizing ship-from-store.

 

Contact us today to find out how you can easily implement ship-from-store.

 

  1. Why Every Online Retailer Should “Ship from Store”, Forrester Research, Inc., May 1, 2014.
buy online pick

3 Ways Omnichannel Merchants Can Avoid Shipping Surcharges This Holiday

The news that UPS plans to add surcharges during peak periods of the winter holiday season has retailers rattled—especially as the costs are likely to hit small- to mid-sized sellers hardest.  But while these new charges are unavoidable to a degree, there’s still plenty sellers can do to shift the messaging spotlight to focus on less-costly alternatives.

In mid-June, UPS announced that charges ranging from 27 to 97 cents per package would be levied during the peak online sales period of Nov. 19- Dec. 2, which includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as well as for last-minute shipments Dec. 17-23; analysts expect Fedex to follow suit with extra fees of its own. UPS claims the fees will help it provide stepped-up service during the year’s busiest period, when shipments jump from 19 million to more than 30 million packages per day and on-time delivery rates drop.

The new fees put online merchants between a rock and a hard place. To cater to consumers’ expectations for fast and free shipping, sellers are under pressure to offer free shipping discounts and to use the fastest available carriers; with mass merchants such as Amazon and Wal-mart offering low free shipping thresholds, small- to mid-sized merchants risk losing online business if they don’t match rivals’ offers. But the new surcharges will only increase the degree to which shipping charges cut into margins, which are often already razor-thin thanks to holiday discounting.

With holiday plans already set, merchants may feel their hands are tied when it comes to swallowing increased shipping costs. But by tweaking their promotional calendars to emphasize less costly options, sellers – and especially retailers with brick-and-mortar locations – can provide shoppers with an array of flexible options that don’t break the bank.

Of course, sellers can only be as agile as their technology platforms allow, which is why unified platforms such as Kibo’s that connect order and inventory management, point-of-sale, and eCommerce are increasingly in demand. More than half of merchants now offer omnichannel fulfillment capabilities, according to technology researcher Forrester, and another 24% plan to launch such offerings by next year — a jump of some 42%.

Sellers who’ve invested in the right technology and training for store staff have the flexibility to pivot faster in response to last-minute changes such as the UPS surcharges. Among the shifts in promotional messaging they can make:

 

Position stores as the ultimate speedy solution using BOPIS. 
Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) is already popular with consumers; fully 78% of shoppers report using it in the past six months, according to Kibo’s 2017 Consumer Trends Report, and 49% say they’re more likely to stay loyal to merchants who offer it.

During the holidays, BOPIS can be an enticing alternative to home delivery—if merchants position it as a convenient solution for same-day pickup and make good on that promise with flawless execution. Spotlighting the hassle-free element of BOPIS is essential, given that the top reasons shoppers avoid holiday shopping in stores are crowds and long lines, according to Deloitte’s 2016 holiday survey.

Indeed, “quick in and out experience” was the top benefit of using BOPIS for 56% of consumers, with “no waiting in line” coming in a distant second at 22%, according to a Bell and Howell study; more than half of study participants said they expected to wait less than 10 minutes to collect BOPIS orders. Curbside pickup, service desks dedicated to online order fulfillment at the front of the store, abundant signage, and extensive training for store staff are among the tactics retailers should incorporate to deliver on the promise of convenience and speed.

 

Offer incentives to shop early and often.
While the majority of shoppers do tend to complete their gift purchases in December, they aren’t doing so because they expect better deals. Overall, 40% of shoppers said they planned to buy only items marked on sale during the holidays, according to the Deloitte study—but slightly more of them, 30%, thought the best deals appeared early in the season, while 27% thought last-minute discounts would reap the most savings.

To encourage shoppers to act on offers early, merchants should highlight messaging promising the best deals of the season. Popular promotions such as free shipping and free gift cards with purchase should be calendared to encourage early buying, and merchants should consider offering extra points for loyalty club members who complete gift purchases by a certain date. Retailers with physical store outlets can encourage shoppers to take advantage of the pre-holiday rush by promoting in-store services such as concierge gift recommendations and personal shopping assistance that offer convenience while capitalizing on early-season selection.

 

Promote e-gift cards for last-minute shoppers.
While promotions such as Free Shipping Day make late delivery cutoff dates a necessity, that doesn’t mean merchants can’t promote other fulfillment options just as prominently. In addition to showcasing store pickup options, merchants should be sure to highlight virtual gift cards as a perfect pick that always ships free.

Gift cards remain hugely popular, with 56% of consumers estimating they’d buy one for the 2016 holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. And when it comes to fulfillment options, digital gift cards that are emailed or shared via social media are on the rise: e-gift card sales are growing 200% annually, compared with 6% for physical gift cards, according to CardCash.

With mobile devices providing a connector between online and offline sales, 48% of consumers say they want digital wallets on their phones to store gift card information, according to technology researcher Forrester. Merchants should serve this rising expectation with seamless digital gift card purchasing and redemption processes for mobile users, and sellers should promote that ease of use during the final runup to the holidays.

 

How are you planning to cope with peak-season shipping surcharges?

mobile commerce

You Ought to be in Pictures – Why Visual Strategy is Key for Social Commerce

Social media is image-obsessed — literally. With mobile-first, photo-centric social platforms leading the way, more and more consumers are interacting with products and brands primarily through visuals, which means merchants must adapt their content strategy accordingly.

 

The popularity of image-based social networks is soaring. After Facebook, photo-centric sites Instagram and Pinterest occupy the #2 and #3 spots on the list of social networks, attracting 33% and 31% of U.S. online adults, respectively.  And unlike Facebook, Instagram is forecast to see double-digit growth this year, with visual blogging platform Tumblr notching second place for growth at 8.6% year-over-year.

 

Not only are visual social networks popular; they’re effective drivers of eCommerce revenue. While Facebook’s massive audience uses the platform for everything from sharing family vacation photos to following live news events, Instagram and Pinterest are more narrowly focused on aspirational imagery, which is closely linked with the impulse to browse and shop for pictured products.Fully 22% of social traffic coming to retail brand sites is from Pinterest or Instagram; three quarters of Pinterest users say they’ve gone on to buy products they spotted on the platform, whileInstagram leads social networks in terms of brand engagement, notching fully 92% of all social interactions.

 

To underscore this link, both Instagram and Pinterest have lately launched new shopping-friendly tools.Pinterest has upped the ante on its identity as a visual search engine: browsers can now search for items similar to individual elements in photos (such as the blouse pictured as part of an outfit); they can also use their smartphone camera to snap pictures of items, and then see Pinterest pins featuring similar subjects; and they can even download a browser extension search tool that will return Pinterest results to match any online image.

 

Meanwhile, Instagram has just expanded availability of an icon that, when tapped, shows viewers product tags for items pictured in an image. Shoppers can tap from the tags directly to the eCommerce site product page, easing the connection to commerce.

 

Kate Spade

 

Even Facebook has increasingly put the emphasis on visuals, with “carousel”-style image displays for both organic and paid posts, a live video service, and, most recently, a “stories” feed that rivals Snapchat’s popular ephemeral photo-sequencing feature

 

The big picture is clear: merchants need to invest in visual content creation for social media, or risk being left behind. To make the most of image-centric social media, merchants should:

 

Make every post a visual post. Merchants should get creative with how they use images in social media to ensure every post achieves its full engagement potential. That means posting photos with recipes, sourcing illustrations for quizzes and polls, and translating text quotes into images that can easily be re-pinned or reposted. Kibo merchant Learning Resources, which sells educational toys and learning materials for classroom and home use, recently featured “around the world” factoids with colorful images, making them as eye-catching as they are timely and shareable.

 

Learning Resources

 

Integrate the product catalog for easy tagging. To ensure that images can link easily to products, merchants should add social media platforms to their list of product catalog integrations. As the ability to “tag” individual products within images — and even to add “buy” buttons for transacting within the social environment — becomes increasingly available, it’s crucial to be able to link accurately to the correct product detail page and access updated product data.

 

Develop video content and adapt it for native social formats. Social media video draws heightened engagement and improved visibility — and with 51% of video plays coming from mobile devices, it’s an essential way to connect with brand followers.  Merchants should develop a deep library of video content and adapt it for individual social networks, as well as taking advantage of live video options for such content-building opportunities as coverage of live events, behind-the-scenes peeks, and sneak previews.

 

Invite and promote visual contributions from shoppers. Merchants should encourage active participation with the brand by building momentum around Instagram hashtags and offering “pin it to win it”-style sweepstakes. Such contributions should be incorporated across social outposts and even on the eCommerce site itself; showcasing how shoppers interpret the brand demonstrates that merchants are authentically interested in what consumers want and are listening for feedback and inspiration.

 

Kibo merchant Title Nine’s #MyT9 hashtag campaign showcases customers’ outdoor recreation stories, reinforcing the brand’s identity and demonstrating the utility of its products.

 

Title Nine

 

Understand the legal issues behind visual content. With increased usage of user-contributed snapshots, candid video and live streaming comes a new raft of privacy and intellectual-property concerns. Merchants should ensure that new initiatives around image content follow best practices that include updates to their privacy policy, explicitly stating how user-submitted content might be reused and prominently featuring contest rules that are concise and easy to read. Third-party user-generated content tools such as TINT and Chute offer automated solutions for locating and seeking permission to reuse content; merchants can also manually request to repost items when in doubt. Merchants should also research and adhere to any existing industry standards, such as the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for online video and the Internet Advertising Bureau’s guidelines for digital video.

 

How are you maximizing the visual impact of social networks?

MAP vs MSRP

MAP VS MSRP: What Pricing Strategy Works Best for eCommerce Success?

Merchants know that price is an obsession with customers. Meeting expectations for discounts while juggling in-store versus online promotions and avoiding channel conflict is a challenge that sellers have tackled using pricing tools such as the MSRP and MAP. But increasingly, just one of those methods retains relevance in the world of omnichannel retail.

By multiple measures, price continues to reign supreme with consumers. Kibo’s 2017 Consumer Trends report found that price is the top reason 70% of shoppers choose to purchase from a particular Web site — dwarfing the next highest factor, brand name, by a factor of four. And  60% of shoppers say attractive prices prompt them to shop with favorite retailers, according to consulting firm PwC — close to double the percentage who chose brand trust and item availability, which were the next most important factors.

The quest for discounts has led online mass merchants to strategically offer deep discounts, making up in volume what they erode in margin. In this race to the bottom, small- to mid-sized merchants have struggled to keep up, using dynamic pricing tools to track competitors’ product price fluctuations and offering price-drop alerts and other discount-focused features for shoppers.

The situation is further complicated by increasingly sophisticated personalization tools, which enable merchants to send individualized offers to consumers based on past purchasing behavior, and apps such as RetailMeNot that act as discount clearinghouses, enabling shoppers to harvest promo reward codes without building relationships with individual brands.

And then there are the unique challenges faced by brand manufacturers and their retail partners. Fully 48% of brand manufacturers now sell products directly to consumers online, creating potential for channel conflict when it comes to price. And retailers selling manufacturers’ goods find themselves competing not only with mass merchants, but with cut-rate sellers whose products are featured on third-party marketplaces on sites such as Amazon, Walmart, and eBay. Those with physical store outlets must additionally have strategies in place for shoppers using their phones to comparison shop and requesting price-match discounts.

Given all of these competing demands, the promise of establishing pricing consistency is alluring. Merchants have long turned to tools such as the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) and the Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) to attempt to establish pricing parity and level the playing field against deep discounters. But do these strategies, which have been around for decades, still apply in the age of omnichannel retail?

 

The MSRP: Almost a Dinosaur?

In theory, the MSRP is the price that represents what manufacturers believe products are worth in the marketplace, and the price they believe retailers should set. But as anyone who’s haggled for a car knows, the MSRP more typically is just a starting point from which retailers deduct discounts to spur purchases.

In fact, the tendency never or rarely to charge the displayed MSRP has gotten eCommerce merchants into trouble, with complaints being filed in the courts on behalf of consumers who claim the list price is nothing more than false advertising designed to make discounts seem bigger.

Legal challenges aside, the MSRP is less relevant in an age of personalized offers and dynamic pricing, when product prices vary depending on availability, seasonality, and the shoppers’ own purchasing history, location, and situation. Perhaps for those reasons, online behemoth Amazon.com has been experimenting with eliminating list price displays.

Setting an MSRP can still be a useful exercise for manufacturers; by calculating the cost of production and assessing the market forces that might drive demand, manufacturers can use the MSRP to derive wholesale pricing and sales programs.

 

MAP: Work it to make it work

Using MAP agreements, manufacturers can standardize among its resellers the lowest price at which products can be advertised. In practice, resellers still retain pricing flexibility: online, they can typically apply discounts in checkout, or send personalized promotional offers, without violating MAP agreements, which apply only to broadly-advertised pricing available to everyone in paid search ads or shopping search engines.

MAP pricing strategies can be helpful both to manufacturers and retailers. By standardizing advertised price, MAP pricing strategies enable retailers to put the promotional spotlight on differentiators such as service, product support, customer communities, in-depth content such as buying guides, and flexible fulfillment policies — all of which can help small- to mid-sized retailers compete against bargain-basement mass merchants.

For manufacturers, using MAP policies as a baseline enables collaboration with resellers that can help brands meet consumers’ expectations for service and product availability. For example, manufacturers can route direct Web site orders to retailer for fulfillment and share proceeds of the sale — potentially speeding delivery and giving shoppers the additional option of in-store pickup. Kibo merchant Mizuno USA uses just such a fulfillment program, sending online orders to nearby retailers for swift fulfillment.

But MAP policies require an investment in resources to execute successfully, as manufacturers must both communicate the policies to retailers and follow up with monitoring and enforcement. At a minimum, manufacturers who set MAP prices should:

  • Reconsider marketplaces. Undercutting prices is rampant on third-party marketplaces,  where merchants offering the lowest price often win the coveted “buy box” prompting shoppers to add items to the cart. Manufacturers may decide to limit participation on marketplaces for authorized retailers and resellers as a way to keep their products out of the fray.

 

  • Monitor paid search ads, and own branded terms. Locking down brand names and product titles — using trademark enforcement if necessary — ensures that bargain-basement resellers won’t steal the limelight from manufacturers and their partners in Google Shopping ads and other high-visibility placements.

 

  • Build in flexibility to accommodate retailers’ needs. MAP violations jump by 15-20% during peak holiday sales as retailers vie to offer gift buyers the bargains they seek — so manufacturers should cut resellers some slack during such highly competitive periods. In addition, manufacturers should consider whether to partner with authorized resellers to offer sought-after free shipping promotions or free gift cards with purchase as a way to sweeten sales without sacrificing pricing.

 

What pricing strategies are you employing to establish consistency across touchpoints?

Kibo Software, Inc

The Top Five Reasons To Meet With Kibo At IRCE 2017

1. It’s The Year Of Personalization, And Things Are Getting Overwhelming

We are here to help! Let’s talk about our personalization platform, the latest technology, and everything it can do for your company.

We are also co-presenting a session about personalization:
Making B2B Sexy—It’s All About Personalization
Tuesday, June 6 at 12:45-1:30pm
A joint presentation between Kibo customer Zoro’s Director, E-Commerce Serchandising, Kyle Hillbrenner, and Kibo Product Manager, Danielle Roberts.

2. Because Your In-Store Sales Are Down

We love talking about and providing solutions for the decline of in-store traffic and sales. We believe the store is still very much a player in commerce, however its role isn’t the same as it used to be.

3. Integrated Customer Experiences

Every customer is completely over siloes. Why? Because siloes can only provide disjointed customer experiences. Let us help you break down some walls, make some connections, and let your customer breathe a sigh of relief.

4. 2016 Was The Year Of BOPIS, What Are You Doing With It?

2016 wouldn’t stop talking about Buy Online, Pickup In-Store. Now that it’s 2017, the chatter may have ceased, but the implementation is still in progress. Let’s strategize about the best uses of BOPIS.

5. Win the Wheels

Our booth is one of the stops for Win the Wheels, and we are doing our own Google Home giveaways.

 

Fill out this form to Book A Meeting with Kibo at IRCE 2017!

 

seamless customer experiences

Creating Seamless Experiences for Customers: The Overlooked Facet of Individualization

Commerce professionals have noticed that “omnichannel commerce” was simply a building block for the next customer driven desire: unified commerce for better customer experiences. The industry has been talking about this all year, and commerce professionals are looking for ways to deliver on better customer experiences.

Many things contribute to this concept of unified commerce for better customer experiences, and today we will discuss a frequently overlooked facet: Individualization. For the purposes of this article, “individualization” is not “personalization” as personalization simply cannot provide the technology needed for a holistic view of the customer. More on that here. 

History has shaped us, now press on to the future

First generation personalization was a great start on the personalization path, but the current demand is for something greater. One of the key limitations of first generation personalization systems is that they were built for a single channel like website or email. Depending on which channel the system was designed for, they have a bias for how they collect and store data. For example, website oriented systems will collect and store data in cookies in the customer’s browser, and email systems will build a database that is keyed off of the customer’s email address. The two aren’t exactly connected.

This was a great starting point, but now it has become imperative that we are able to provide personalization across all devices and touchpoints. The evolution of the personalization solution can be compared with the natural evolution of the customer, from one touchpoint to multiple touchpoints; from silos to omnichannel to unified commerce.
You can’t have an individual experience if you don’t know how to interact with the individual consumer across devices and touchpoints

Personalization (or as we like to call it: individualization) allows the brand or retailer to see consumer behavior across all different touchpoints. Compare this to a siloed experience: seeing only website or only in-store or only mobile or only call center behavior. If you can only see a fraction of what the consumer is doing, you are missing out on major opportunities to provide them with a better customer experience and your company with more sales.

Customers are feeling the division made by the silos, and are taking their phones into their own hands in an effort to connect channels: some 77% of U.S. shoppers have used their smartphone in store to help them shop. With consumers already using their mobile devices in store, it begs the question: Does your technology allow you to see that the consumer is in your store using their smartphone?  Individualization sheds light on what people are doing holistically.

What data do you have, and what do you do with it? 

There are many systems and programs to gather customer data across touchpoints, and what you do with it makes all the difference. Let’s break this down into two goals.

Goal number one: Capture as much information as possible to understand customer behavior across touchpoints in one repository.

The company sees many benefits from understanding customer behavior, but what does it do for the individual customer?  Enter goal number two.

Goal number two: Communicate with the customer across touchpoints. Don’t just take data, but now it’s time to push it back out, and actually provide individual experiences.

Data comes from everywhere, and the data that is currently the most limited is store data. Right now store data is mostly purchase data. However, we see it’s evolving rapidly (enter beacons) which will provide more store data once they are more widely used. The great news with machine learning individualization systems is the more data you can gather, the better. Great systems can easily scale to take on more data.

Consider this customer expectation from Kibo’s Consumer Trends Report — 2017 Edition: 74% of consumers expect store associates to access their customer history data when they visit a store after purchasing online. This expectation simply connects two touchpoints: online and in-store. Let’s take it further as you consider the following example:

Imagine an in-store experience where the customer gives their email address to a tablet-enabled store associate and together they look up purchase and browsing history. The associate recommends a few products based on that history. The customer informs the associate they are not interested in that product. The associate enters this preference into the tablet.
If they were simply taking a local note, the only other person who would know about this preference would be the next associate using the tablet. And imagine the frustration of the customer if they keep seeing that same product recommended to them over and over again while shopping on desktop and mobile, despite having already made their preference clear.

True individualization will give the store associate the opportunity to input the consumer preference into the software, and that data will then be pushed out across all touchpoints. Suddenly, the consumer feels like they are known to the company, and that their preferences are actually taken into consideration while shopping with that company.

Not every company has a store associate for every customer who walks in the store, but that’s okay because customers can also receive this kind of individualization via a mobile app. Strongly consider how a mobile app will benefit your customers, and if you already have one, determine if it functions as you need it to.

Seamless customer experiences

Individualization leads directly to better in-store experiences. It’s not hard to imagine how it will also lead to a better call center experience, mobile experience, or desktop experience. These are the seamless experiences customers are looking for.

A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, and this is a great way to look at unified customer experiences. Does your omnichannel strategy have a weak point? The technology industry uses the word “smart” to imply connected devices or products, so take inventory and enable all  touchpoints to be smart touchpoints. Companies who want great customer experiences have smart channels. These channels capture data and then push it back out.

Remember back to that in-store example. The system the associate was using is a learning system, which collects all the information available and puts it back into the system. In our example the customer wasn’t interested in the product, but the opposite could very well be true. The customer may have been shown a recommended product, the associate had the benefits and features right there on the tablet, and the customer decided to make the purchase. The associate can then add all of that information and that experience into the system to better inform future communication with this customer. They are able to close the feedback loop, and the learning system becomes smarter.
It today’s market, the search for seamless customer experiences must include individualization. Smart channels bring connection between companies and consumers, which in turn leads to great customer experiences.

mobile paid search

Five Ways To Boost eCommerce Success In The Era Of Mobile-First Paid Search

Mobile paid search was once considered a bargain buy. Now that the majority of searches occur on mobile devices, however, CPC bids are catching up to reality. ECommerce merchants must invest their paid search dollars more wisely than ever to execute an effective mobile paid search strategy that drives omnichannel sales.

Smartphones are now the dominant search tool in terms of both clicks and search volume, according to a study from Google and ROI Revolution, with phones surpassing desktop and laptop computers and tablets for the first time in 2016. And 55% of clicks on ads in the popular Google Shopping format are on smartphones, according to Marin Software.

This surge in mobile paid search usage is boosting CPC rates for search ads targeted to mobile devices. Although smartphone ad rates still trail desktop by some 20%, according to Marin Software, that gap has closed by 9 percentage points, or 30%, in the past year. During the peak holiday shopping period, competition is particularly intense, with mobile CPC rates jumping 5% year-over-year in 2016, compared with price declines for desktop computers and tablets, according to the Google/ROI Revolution study.

Given these pricing pressures, small-to-mid-sized merchants must wield their paid search investments more carefully than ever to ensure maximum impact. By matching segments with the appropriate ad types and content, sellers can demonstrate their brand’s relevance and boost omnichannel conversion. Among the best practices:

 

Check landing page speed. One key to driving mobile search ad conversions has nothing to do with the ads themselves. Mobile site speed is crucial to winning conversions, with pages that load in less than 3 seconds earning peak conversion potential, according to the Google/ROI Revolution study  — so merchants should do everything in their power to ensure that paid search ad landing pages not only clearly convey key product information, but are also swift to load on smartphones.

Don’t forget the “phone” part of smartphones. Merchants should take advantage of click-to-call features within paid search ads, and ensure that the numbers listed actually reach live people. Geo-targeting ad content to feature local store phone numbers puts shoppers in touch with merchants’ local representatives, who can help them address questions with store resources in mind.

Geo-target store-related promotions. With mobile commerce conversion rates still lagging mobile browsing and research, merchants would do well to remind searchers of the services and promotions available at nearby outlets. In addition to experimenting with Google’s Local Inventory feature, merchants can promote buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and other fulfillment services, along with store events.

In addition to geo-targeting, store promotions can also be prioritized for delivery to prior mobile site visitors who left without purchasing — in effect, creating retargeting campaigns letting shoppers know they have alternatives to buying on their phones.

Narrow the field for Google Shopping ads. With competition for popular Shopping ads intensifying, and screen real estate limited on mobile devices, merchants should do their utmost to use these compelling image-and-text ad formats as efficiently as possible. To do so, they should experiment with:

  • Targeting prior buyers. Those already familiar with the brand, who have presumably enjoyed a positive purchase experience, are more likely to act on a Shopping ad alerting them to product availability from a trusted merchant.
  • Showcasing exclusive products. Attempting to compete in the Shopping space for commoditized products is a losing proposition for most merchants, whose paid search budgets are smaller than mass merchants and whose product prices may not compete with big players’ deep discounts. Instead, merchants should shine the Shopping ad spotlight on their unique finds and private-label items. To promote visibility of these items for shoppers not yet familiar with the brand’s niche offerings, merchants should use natural language descriptors in the ad text.
  • Bidding on specific vs. broad search terms. To reach shoppers who are nearing a purchase decision, merchants can throttle their bids to focus on keywords with a higher degree of specificity, such as precise brand or even product names.

Experiment with paid search spend on social platforms. Social networks are overwhelmingly mobile, with close to 80% of time spent on social media occurring on mobile devices, whether through apps or the mobile Web, according to measurement firm comScore. For that reason, merchants should think beyond Google when it comes to making placements, and explore paid search, retargeting, and programmatic ads on platforms such as Facebook and Youtube, where fully 70% of viewership occurs on mobile devices.
How are you optimizing paid search dollars for mobile audiences?

on-premise software SaaS, amazon

Depreciating Assets: New Cars And On-Premise Solutions

“Everything must go!” Is a popular slogan from car dealerships. The reason, as we all know, is to make way for the latest models, the newest colors, and the latest automobile technology.

Occasionally because of this, a salesperson will offer a steep discount and someone will buy. In no time at all two things will happen: 1) Immediately their car depreciates in value 2) They now own old technology. The newest technology will always be just beyond their fingertips.

But it is what it is, and the new owner will feel pride in their latest acquisition and may choose to customize their car a little. Perhaps nice rims, perhaps an upgraded sound system, perhaps a vanity license plate.

Car owners know general maintenance is a necessary evil, including insurance and costly fuel.  Everyone is familiar with the costs and compromises associated with buying a car, and everyone is familiar with the concept of a depreciating asset.  Buying a car certainly has it’s ROI as a car empowers you and creates substantial benefits and efficiencies. But here’s the kicker: if you buy a new 2017 sedan it will still be a 2017 sedan in 2020, and the same applies to on-premise software and solutions. On-premise is and will forever be a depreciating asset.

 

On-premise will never be what it’s not: 

Continuing with the car analogy, if the car owner wants more features and functions, it will likely be either very expensive or rather impossible (within the realm of reason). Aftermarket parts could be added to enhance and power up the vehicle, but it’s core is still an aging technology.  And  consider the body: if it’s capacity is for five passengers, it will never be able to safely hold even one more. Consider adding more capacity like a luggage rack or a trailer, but it will affect performance, particularly if this vehicle wasn’t meant to haul.

On-premise solutions, much like a car, can only do what it was originally created to do, and can’t have major upgrades without major labor and cost involved. It is what it is, no matter what changes may happen with your business or the industry.

 

The curse of customization:

With both a car and on-premise OMS, if you customize, you say goodbye to easy updates. If a rim is stolen, you can’t just buy any old rim, you have to, again, get it customized.

Of course, once it’s time to get a new car, if you want those features again, customization is inevitable, and you are once again paying a big chunk of cash for the core product and then all new customizations.

The same goes with on-premise order management. Any time an on-premise solution gets tricked out, upgrades, updates, or simple changes become exponentially harder and more expensive.

 

SaaS in the Cloud will always be what it needs to be: 

It’s against conventional wisdom to buy a 12 passenger van when you are a family of three with only future plans to become a family of 12. By the time your needs change you will want the latest model. The same goes with on-premise, you won’t buy more than you think you will need in the next few years. But, what if your plans change? What if you have a delightful uptick in traffic? Will the onslaught of customers break your platform, or will it easily scale to fit your needs?

Ideally, cars would transform over time, so that you could get a car that was updated with the latest technology inherently, i.e. your 2017 model sedan was a 2020 model three years from now without having to pay for a whole new vehicle, with the option to gain more or fewer seats if necessary.  Ideally, maintenance on cars would just happen as part of your purchase price.

Seem like a dream?  Well, when it comes to cars, it is. But when it comes to enterprise software, this is a reality. Software is moving to the Cloud, and multi-tenant SaaS solves every pain point we mentioned above.

Benefits of multi-tenant SaaS in the Cloud:

  • Always running the most current version
  • Easily scale up or down based on your businesses needs without compromising performance
  • Automatic updates
  • Inherent maintenance
  • Faster speed to market
  • Easy usability
  • Lower total cost of ownership

For more benefits of the Cloud vs on-premise solutions, read more here.