Online Retail Today

Beyond Abandoned Cart: 3 Overlooked Email Automation Triggers

Email personalization is now widespread – but still shallow. While 71% of U.S. marketers report sending some form of personalized messaging, according to eMarketer, 39% admit the majority of emails they send are not tailored, and just 34% say they personalize a quarter or more of their campaigns.

Boosting that percentage should be a top priority, given that shoppers increasingly expect brands to deliver individualized products and offers. Two-thirds of consumers say contextual relevance is important, according to Adobe – and more than 15% say they spend less if companies fail to deliver.

One way to meet expectations is through intelligent automation. Thanks to tools powered by machine learning, merchants can now combine pre-set contextual triggers with personalized content and products to create aptly-timed, ultra-relevant messages in real time.

Abandoned cart email is the best-known use of such triggered messaging, which is highly effective: triggered campaigns earn an open rate 76% higher and convert at double the rate of regular marketing campaigns, according to data from Epsilon.

Given such strong performance, 60% of marketers plan to expand their triggered email automation, eMarketer found. There’s room for growth: currently less than half of marketers send triggered campaigns, and of those, fully a quarter only use the technology to send “welcome” messages when shoppers first subscribe to email updates.

There are numerous other possibilities for triggered, personalized campaigns – but to respect consumers’ privacy concerns and demonstrate practical relevance, merchants should prioritize a solution-oriented approach. Triggered emails can help shoppers:

Use products better.

Links to installation manuals and how-to videos in transactional videos can be followed by replenishment reminders at a cadence specific to the product in question. Maintenance reminders, service and upgrade offers, and ideas for accessorizing can all help customers make the most of what they’ve purchased.

Stay current on favorites.

Not every personalized recommendation needs to be generated by sophisticated AI algorithms; shoppers can also explicitly choose to receive updates about specific products or categories. Merchants can build on signups for sneak peek previews and back-in-stock alerts with broader offers in relevant categories.  

Navigate the calendar.

Merchants should adopt a gifting strategy that extends beyond the fourth quarter and send reminders about other red-letter dates relevant to their audience, from high school graduation to Single’s Day. And they can help shoppers discover new events worth calendaring by combining location and product preference data to suggest relevant happenings at local stores.

How is your business using triggered messaging?

All Talk, No Action? 4 First Steps to Win at Voice Search

If Santa brought you or someone you know a “smart speaker” for Christmas, you’re not alone. Use of Amazon Echo and Google Home devices is skyrocketing, with Adobe estimating some 40% of U.S. consumers would own one by the end of 2018.

Hands-free voice commands are even more popular for mobile devices. More than half of U.S. consumers have used voice assistants on their phones, PwC found, and 90% are at least aware of the voice capabilities their devices offer. Marketers have scrambled to follow the shift away from text-based search and position their brands for maximum visibility in the world of Siri and Alexa.

Although voice search marketing is still nascent, 2019 brings a growing number of opportunities for you to gain exposure on voice search. Here are a few strategies to get you started.

Focus on natural language, not keyword stuffing.

The artificial intelligence that powers voice search results replicates the human brain’s neural networks to interpret meaning, not just parse keywords so thankfully, the days of cramming nonsensical paragraphs “above the fold” in value-added content are drawing to a close. Instead, merchants should use blog posts, buyers’ guides, articles, and how-to features to address common questions about products and provide answers to frequent customer service inquiries.

Structure value-added content for featured snippet visibility.

A study by Moz found that Google’s voice search results rely heavily on featured snippets, which extract page information for display directly on results pages. That makes SEO efforts more important than ever. Using “structured data” markup to tag content can help boost your visibility and open your content to featured and rich snippet display.

Add Shopping Actions to paid search plays.

Last year, Google launched Shopping Actions, which enables search and transactions across touchpoints, including via the voice-activated Google Assistant. With paid search positions available in Shopping Actions, a clutch of leading brands took the plunge prior to the holiday season. Merchants should watch these early adopters’ results closely and calibrate their paid search budgets to include Shopping Actions for key categories.

Enter the Amazon Marketplace and play to win.

Unlike Google, Amazon so far hasn’t opened paid placements for its intelligent agent, Alexa. But merchants can win Alexa sales through participation in the online giant’s third-party marketplace. Earning the Amazon Choice badge and optimizing product pages increase the likelihood of Alexa recommendations. That means that merchants who enter the Marketplace should plan to invest wholeheartedly in meeting Amazon’s criteria.

How are you optimizing your online offerings for voice?

Takeaways from NRF Big Show & Expo 2019

This year’s National Retail Federation event promised to be the biggest yet, and they did not disappoint. The Kibo commerce crew was in full force, making connections and getting the word out about cloud commerce solutions that are inspired by our customers’ needs.

There was so much happening at this year’s show, it was impossible to see it all. So here are three big themes from 2019’s NRF Big Show and Expo that you may have missed.

Retail Machines

They’re everywhere. Developers from around the globe came to the Javits to show off the latest in retail robotics. There were robots to check out groceries, robots to scan aisles for empty shelves, robots to greet customers and answer questions, robots to sort packages. One booth was even exhibiting robots that deliver sushi to your table – though I assume they could deliver many types of food. Many of the robots and related machines on display were in support of the concept of unattended retail – which are essentially stores that don’t need people to operate. If it catches on in a big way, this will have enormous downstream effects on the industry, and we should keep an eye on it.

The End of Omnichannel?

Trends come and go in every industry, and retail’s no different. While the dream of true omnichannel is still alive and well, this year we noticed that the word, “omnichannel,” is being used less and less. In 2019 you should expect to see a lot more talk of commerce that is “unified,” “connected,” or built in the cloud. Whether this shift in language reflects an underlying shift in the goals of retail technology – or simply the next wave of marketing speak – will require some digging to find out.

Kibo is ready for Action in 2019

Last year was a year for transformation and for clarifying our purpose. We embarked on an extensive listening exercise to discover what the market needed in a cloud commerce provider. We learned that, in an unpredictable world, merchants are looking for a partner who is committed to their financial success.

We’d love to show you how we can be a partner in your organization’s success. You can take the first step to learning more about Kibo with these brief explainer videos. And if you want to learn more, request a demo today.

retailers digital transformation

Making the Most of Holiday Return Season

Merchants may dread the surge of returns that inevitably follows the holiday season – but with a combination of transparency and omnichannel savvy, they can transform the process into an opportunity to earn loyalty.

The rise of online shopping has brought with it an increase in returns. Some 10% of all retail purchases are returned – and during the holidays, that percentage is higher, with some 28% of 2017 holiday gifts returned or exchanged, according to data from Red Stag and Optoro. Online, the percentage is higher still, with 44% of U.S. online consumers having returned a purchase in the past year, according to the 2018 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper survey.

As we wade through returns season, merchants can convert these potential losses into new opportunities. Just as cart abandonment is now viewed as part of the research and consideration phase of the purchase cycle, so too can holiday returns become a means to winning new and repeat business. An overwhelming 95% of customers overall say they’ll buy again from a retailer offering a positive returns experience – including 54% of new customers, Narvar found.

To do so, sellers should focus on streamlining the process as much as possible across touchpoints, with clear messaging throughout. Among the tactics to consider:

Turn off the meter.  

Many online buyers freely admit to buying multiple sizes or styles and keeping only those items that work. More than 40% of U.S. retailers say they’ve seen an increase in these “intentional returns” in the past year, according to Brightpearl. In response to this trend, in May Amazon announced it would shut down accounts of buyers who return items too frequently, and some 60% of merchants in Brightpearl’s survey said they were considering following suit.

But during the holidays, merchants should ease up on enforcement of such policies. Blameless gift recipients should be able to return or exchange unwanted presents without worrying about how the transaction will impact their standing with the retailer.

Communicate policies clearly.

Merchants should message returns timeframes, costs, and restrictions at multiple points on the path to purchase, and restate them clearly in post-purchase transactional messaging, as well as on gift receipts and package inserts. Given that nearly half of shoppers check return policies prior to buying, according to data from Narvar, it’s especially crucial for sellers to spotlight the information early and often.

Ramp up stores for BORIS, not just BOPIS.

Omnichannel merchants have a distinct advantage when it comes to returns, given that 58% of shoppers prefer to handle the process in a store, according to the UPS survey. Buy Online, Return in Store (BORIS) transactions should be as seamless as in-store order pickup, with store directional signage designating where to go for returns, and staff well-versed in holiday policies. The value of a good BORIS program should not be overlooked, as shoppers who enter a store with the intention to return an item very often leave having made a new purchase.

Re-circulate merchandise via store-to-store fulfillment.

More than half of returned merchandise goes back on store shelves, according to a Supply Chain Management Review survey; merchants with a distributed order management platform can boost efficiency by routing items to the outlets where they’re most likely to sell.

How are you handling holiday returns?

A pile of gambling chips in a casino

Cyber Week Takeaway: go all in on omnichannel … or go home

As the holidays enter the final stretch, strong results from the season’s peak week show that merchants must go all-in on omnichannel implementation to meet shoppers’ expectations.

Cyber Week results, from Thanksgiving on Nov. 22 until the following Wednesday, Nov. 28, show that merchants using Kibo saw their online sales grow between 8 and 12 percent over last year. And Kibo eCommerce customers experienced a healthy 21% increase in average order volume over 2017 numbers.

To achieve this success, merchants took advantage of real-time personalization techniques and omnichannel order management – technologies that are increasingly must-haves for modern brands. A deeper dive into the numbers show that merchants who go all-in on comprehensive implementations and plan for sustained peak holiday activity are most likely to succeed in 2019 and beyond.

For maximum sales growth, personalize far beyond product page cross-sells.

Throughout Cyber Week, personalization drove peak performance for Kibo clients. On Black Friday, the average order value was 99.85% higher for purchases that included real-time product recommendations versus those without them. For the week overall, the AOV boost for recommendations was 50.79% – tangible proof of consumers’ preference for tailored shopping experiences. To make the most of the opportunity, merchants should implement personalized recommendations widely, including:

Upgrade fulfillment to handle peak weeks – not peak days.

Kibo order management clients saw an uptick of 40% in sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but Cyber Week overall notched still higher growth – 44%. Promotional efforts to transform red-letter sales days into week-long events are paying off, creating a high-volume period merchants must support with flawless order execution. They should:

  • Fine-tune BOPIS execution for extended timelines. Some 45% of consumers said in October they planned to use BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-up In-Store) this season, according to Deloitte. Giving customers more time to claim orders boosts convenience, enabling them to avoid peak-day crowds.
  • Staff for the duration, not just Black Friday doorbusters. Demand for online order pickup and ship-from-store processing stays high throughout the peak week, rather than spiking for a single day; merchants must boost store staffing and invest in comprehensive training for fulfillment roles.

What are the holiday takeaways for your brand?

Photo credit: Jamie Adams – Wikicommons

holiday shoppers

5 Keys for Re-Engaging Holiday Shoppers In 2019

So far, the holiday season is exceeding expectations, with overall retail spending on track to grow more than 4% year over year, and online sales for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday surging more than 20% on average, according to Forbes.

While the majority of holiday shoppers find gifts with sellers they already know, three-quarters of holiday shoppers say they’re open to trying new brands, according to Deloitte’s 2018 holiday survey. Those new customers not only boost immediate sales, but represent an opportunity to drive repeat business in 2019 and beyond. To do so, merchants must create distinctive experiences through a combination of brand storytelling, personalization, and omnichannel loyalty rewards. They should:

Win trust with transparency …

Given that fewer than half of consumers are comfortable sharing more than their name and gender with retailers, Deloitte found, it’s no surprise that the U.S. is following Europe’s GDPR lead when it comes to privacy legislation. As they attempt to woo back holiday shoppers, merchants should proceed with complete transparency. Email and SMS signups should follow double-opt-in protocols, while apps should disclose data collection and use.

… and reward sharing with personalized experiences.

Even as consumers balk at unfettered data access, 87% are willing to share some degree of information in exchange for a personalized shopping experience, according to Bond Brand Loyalty. Sellers should make the most of available data by prioritizing investment in personalization tools that deliver 1-to-1 recommendations and content in real time.

Promote loyalty perks in post-purchase transactional emails.

An overwhelming 86% of consumers said the availability of loyalty perks influences purchase, with interest growing more than 56% year over year, according to Kibo’s 2018 Consumer Trends Report. Merchants should use transactional emails to promote the availability of points on gift purchases and invite loyalty club sign ups with perks relevant to holiday shoppers, such as VIP pickup services in-store.

Bond with a brand story.

While rewards are an important driver of repeat business, consumers also hunger for a deeper connection with brands; this means that when the bustle of the season ends, distinctive, authentic voices will remain standouts. Social and environmental responsibility are top concerns, with two-thirds of shoppers willing to pay a premium for brands taking a stand, according to Deloitte.

Make loyalty mobile-first.

Whichever loyalty tactics merchants try, mobile should play a central role. Kibo data shows that 45% of Black Friday transactions were on mobile devices; as more shoppers use mobile checkout, redemption of loyalty rewards should be integrated. Mobile web and app experiences should personalize products and content based on past brand interactions, and given that email — long considered merchants’ top retention tool — is now primarily consumed on mobile devices, enabling SKU selection and even purchase within messages should be a priority to streamline return purchases.

How will you re-engage holiday shoppers?

Boscov’s Wins Gold in Retail TouchPoints 2018 Store Operations Superstar Awards

At Kibo, we pride ourselves in working with each and every customer to serve as a trusted partner and guide them in the age of digital transformation by driving innovative solutions for our customers. As the saying goes, “our customers are our most valuable assets,” and we love to see their hard work and innovation be recognized by notable industry watchers. As such, we were thrilled to hear that Retail TouchPoints recognized Boscov’s as a Store Operations Superstar Award Winner for its work in Last Mile Fulfillment!

Established in 1914, Boscov’s is the oldest family-owned department store in the U.S., with 47 stores in the Mid-Atlantic region and a commitment to thoughtful, prudent growth strategies and fostering customer loyalty. It’s this focus on smart growth that makes Boscov’s an industry outlier. In a landscape where department stores are shuttering, Boscov’s continues to grow and thrive.

“It’s about loyalty to the Boscov’s brand,” says Toni Miller, Boscov’s Senior Executive Vice President. “We’re their local store, and have been for generations. They see us and say, ‘That’s my Boscov’s.’”

In an effort to meet their customers’ needs for more flexible online order fulfillment — as well as remain competitive in an evolving retail market — Boscov’s worked with Kibo to launch a meticulously-planned initiative to roll out a buy-online, pick-up in store program in 2016.

Impetus for Change

Boscov’s made the move to online sales — offering ship-to-home — over 12 years ago. Since then, online sales have accounted for roughly 5% of their total sales. Soon after launching their eCommerce platform the merchandising team tracked credit card purchases and found that their most frequent online customers were also reliable in-store customers — evidence of a base of truly multi-channel customers. Further exploration into these customers showed that they wanted a BOPUS option. In response to this demand for greater flexibility in online order fulfillment, Boscov’s launched an ambitious project to rollout BOPUS to all of its locations.

In keeping with their strategy of thoughtful, prudent growth, the Boscov’s team took a studied and deliberate approach to their BOPUS implementation. They began by undertaking a thorough investigation of other retailers’ BOPUS programs — including an extensive secret shopper project in which they carefully evaluated the end-to-end consumer experience offered by their competition.

When it came time to build out the technical infrastructure of their program, they partnered with Kibo to create a scalable platform that integrated with their in-house eCommerce solution and the handheld inventory devices used by their in-store associates.

When launching in-store pickup, the team rolled the program out in four phases, to ensure that every associate in each store was properly trained on both the software as well as the process behind the program. The implementation team, which included executives from the corporate office, spent many hours in each store working alongside the in-store teams to maximize program adoption. More than anything else, this focus on motivation and skills-building contributed to the success of their BOPUS program. Not long after launch, employees began holding friendly competitions to see who could fulfill in-store pickup orders the fastest.

Results and Next Steps

Since its full rollout, the Boscov’s BOPUS program has proven wildly successful — resulting in a 40% attachment rate, meaning that every $100 of BOPUS spend has resulted in an additional $40 of in-store spend when the consumer comes into the store to retrieve her order.

The BOPUS program is also expected to give Boscov’s an edge during the holiday season, by allowing their online shoppers to make last-minute BOPUS purchases that could not otherwise be fulfilled through conventional ship-to-home — effectively extending their online holiday buying season by an entire week.

And as an added benefit, the Boscov’s team has discovered that implementing BOPUS has increased the accuracy of its in-store inventory, which has in turn improved their ship-to-home efficiency as well. Finally, having successfully rolled out its in-store pickup program, the Boscov’s team is now looking to expand its use of the Kibo platform to manage their ship-to-home order fulfillment as well.

We are thrilled to see Boscov’s recognized for its innovative work in up-leveling its customer experience initiative through last mile fulfillment! Congratulations Boscov’s!

Order Management System, Direct to Consumer Order Fuflfillment

3 Steps Manufacturers Need to Take to Sell Directly to B2B Buyers

Manufacturers may hesitate to invest in eCommerce because of potential channel conflict with retail partners. But there’s a lucrative online market that manufacturers can build on online functionality to own: B2B corporate sales.

When it comes to direct online sales, the market for B2B purchasing dwarfs direct-to-consumer retail spending. Technology researcher Forrester estimates that B2B eCommerce will reach $1.2 trillion in the U.S. by 2021, almost exactly double the 2021 forecast of $648 million for B2C retail sales transacted directly online.

Furthermore, B2B buyers are increasingly bringing their expectations as individual consumers to the workplace, and prefer online convenience to working with a sales rep. More than half of B2B buyers in a recent B2B E-Commerce World survey said they considered “very important” online self-service tools and online returns. Overall, 48% of buyers said they made at least half of their business’ purchases online.

These purchasers aren’t typically served by consumer retail brands — which means manufacturers with online capabilities can build on direct-to-consumer eCommerce functionality to court a B2B audience without fear of channel conflict. As they explore the B2B possibilities, manufacturers should consider these best practices:

Offer tailored entry points into the product catalog.
Manufacturers should streamline product navigation to focus on B2B-friendly categories and incorporate relevant cross-sells and up-sells, as Kibo client MyMMs.com does in its “For Your Business” section. The tool for customizing candy colors and designs is tailored for business, with options to upload a logo and select packaging in large quantities for trade show giveaways.

Use personalization to streamline purchasing.

Business buyers have an incentive to create login accounts on eCommerce sites — they can save their shopping carts and payment information to ease repeat purchases. Manufacturers should further encourage loyalty by streamlining the purchase process via personalization — including one-click ordering and custom navigation that speeds access to order histories and recently-purchased items.

Include retail partners according to their capabilities.
Manufacturers who want to bring retail partners on board as they expand to serve corporate clients can design front-end experiences accordingly. Manufacturers may want to tap retail outlets for corporate order pickup, localized delivery services, or returns; while manufacturers primarily serving other businesses can give corporate sales teams exclusive purchasing access so they can place orders on behalf of customers.

Manufacturers, how are you catering to corporate buyers through your online offerings?

gift card promotion

Customers Demand Flexible Gift Card Options this Holiday Season

With roughly 80% of consumers expecting to buy gift cards this holiday season, offering them is a no-brainer for merchants. To make the most from this opportunity, they should invest in ensuring a seamless integration for the purchase and redemption of gift cards – both in store and online.

By now, 9 in 10 U.S. consumers have purchased gift cards, according to BlackHawk’s 2018 Consumer Gift Card Preferences Study. Cashstar found that four in five shoppers plan to buy gift cards for the upcoming holiday season. And given that 59% of recipients report spending more than the dollar value on the card, the gift card opportunity goes beyond the initial sale.

But with widespread use comes an increased expectation for flexibility when it comes both to purchasing the cards, giving them to recipients, and redeeming them. Among the preferences:

  • 74% of consumers prefer to buy from a multi-brand “gift card mall” rack display, compared with just 49% who buy a gift card directly from the retailer.
  • Just over half of consumers, 55%, prefer to buy and receive online gift cards that can be redeemed via a mobile device. That number jumps to 67% for Millennials aged 18-34.
  • More than half of Millennials would like to purchase gift cards directly via social media platforms.
  • Two-thirds of consumers would like to personalize gift cards, whether through a holiday-themed design, personalized messages, or online designs that incorporate personalized photos or video.

Now more than ever, gift cards are being redeemed at touchpoints (i.e. at retail locations or online) that are different from the places they are purchased. That means that merchants need their eCommerce and fulfillment software to adapt for maximum flexibility. At a minimum, they should offer:

  • Online and offline cross-redemption capability. Recipients should be able to use physical gift cards for online purchase, and online cards received via email or a retailer app should be scanner-ready for the store point-of-sale.
  • Mobile-friendly features for gift-card purchase. With mobile purchasing expected to account for 28% of all online retail this year, merchants should cater to mobile buyers with a seamless gift-card process that includes alternative payments (like Kibo’s) and optional addition of personal messages or even phone camera photos.
  • Social gifting shortcuts. Merchants should use social media to promote gifting options and provide direct links to gift card purchase in boosted posts and other paid placements.

What steps are you taking to maximize gift card flexibility for the holiday season?

Just in Time for Holiday Shopping: 3 Tips to Boost Confidence in eComm Security

 

Consumers are cautious about online security as they head into the holidays. But so far, merchants have been relatively complacent about reassuring shoppers. To correct the disparity, not only should sellers ensure their security protocols comply with industry standards, but they should be talking about security with their customers early and often.

In the past six months, a handful of leading brands – Newegg, Macy’s, and Adidas among them – reported consumer data breaches. This recent history, plus the tendency for omnichannel fraud attempts to spike by some 30% during the holidays, makes consumers understandably wary as they head into the busiest shopping season of the year. In 2017 62% of holiday shoppers said they were concerned about online shopping security, and 30% said they would avoid brands that had recently experienced breaches, Accenture found.

In response, merchants need to make online security a top priority. But for the most part, sellers seem content with the status quo; according to technology researcher Forrester, eCommerce checkout and payments made the list of top 2018 priorities for just 5% of merchants. And despite the growth of mobile shopping, just 17% of merchants report having a mobile-specific fraud prevention strategy, according to payment firm Braintree.

To step up security efforts for the holidays, merchants should:

  • Ask vendors the right questions. Sellers should investigate whether their eCommerce and fulfillment platforms are level 1 PCI compliant across touchpoints (like Kibo’s) – including for mobile. The depth of third-party security integrations also deserves a close look. Available upgrades or updates should also be undertaken now to ensure any and all security patches are in place.
  • Adopt best practices for customer-facing security features. Merchants should message data safety across touchpoints with third-party certifications and links to privacy statements, while implementation of alternative payment methods enables shoppers to skip entry of credit card information. Sellers should test mobile presentation to ensure messaging remains prominent on smaller screens, as it does for Kibo merchant Bluefly, whose mobile site highlights “secure checkout” with a padlock icon and prominently promotes alternative payments from the cart onwards.

Bluefly's mobile shopping experience uses several methods to communicate a secure shopping experience.

Bluefly uses several methods to communicate a secure shopping experience.

  • Proactively establish customer service channels for fraud claims. Merchants should incorporate language on the customer service section of their site about how to dispute charges and purchases. They should also have plans on standby for how to reach customers proactively in the event of a breach.

What steps are you taking to reassure shoppers about security this holiday season?