Online Retail Today

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?

Business man sitting at his desk

4 Tips for International eCommerce Success

Merchants are increasingly looking beyond U.S. borders to attract new customers. While the potential upside is great, sellers should prepare extensively and ramp up gradually to ensure they’re equipped for global success.

Technology researcher Forrester estimates that some 15% of all eCommerce sales will be transacted across borders by 2021, and leading online brands such as eBay report that more than a third of their revenues are already generated internationally. But with new opportunity comes new risk; given cultural differences and regulatory hurdles, there’s a real danger of flubbing entry into international markets.

Merchants considering international expansion should research their options extensively – Export.gov is one good resource to explore – so they understand the logistical and legal ramifications. Among the to-dos:

Know the local calendar. Single’s Day is a key fourth-quarter retail event in Asia, while U.K. customers hunt for post-holiday bargains on Boxing Day. Merchants should familiarize themselves with local customs by tracking competitors’ promotions and connecting with potential audiences on social media to learn their expectations.

Mind the (GDPR) gap. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been in effect for nearly six months now, and it applies to any company doing business in the European Union, even those without a physical footprint there. The law requires companies to protect consumers’ online privacy and grant control over how personal data is collected and used. Merchants should check with their eCommerce and personalization vendors to ensure compliance, rewrite privacy and security policies in plain language, and make access to data collection controls prominent throughout the path to purchase.

Consider online marketplaces as an entry point. Merchants can take advantage of Amazon and eBay’s extensive international marketplaces to establish a foothold, while region-specific hubs from Taobao in Asia to Mercado Libre in Latin America offer still further localized options.

Boost OMS functionality to support international fulfillment. Before launching a localized Web site or opening foreign fulfillment centers, merchants can iron out international logistics by shipping internationally from their U.S. eCommerce sites The potential revenue can motivate merchants to upgrade their order management systems for global operations; for a shorter-term solution, vendors such as FloShip offer turnkey service.

Does your brand have an international following? How do you serve audiences abroad?

3 Ways to Brace for Online Sales Tax Changes

So far, June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on sales tax collection has had little effect on merchants. But amidst ongoing debate in Congress and statehouses nationwide, sellers should brace for change in the coming year, and prepare to mobilize omnichannel efforts to smooth the transition.

The Supreme Court’s South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc. decision opened the door to sales tax collection for online purchases, but states are still formulating their responses. A Congressional hearing last month gathered input from supporters and opponents of the ruling, while past attempts at creating federal policy to simplify the existing patchwork of sales-tax rates and rules have continued to stall.

With so much variance in state-by-state sales tax rates, compliance can be tricky and costly.

With so much variance in state-by-state sales tax rates, compliance can be tricky and costly.
Source: Wikideas1 on wikicommons https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57036307

Amidst the confusion, merchants wonder what they can do to prepare for whatever the eventual result may be. The good news is that they can position themselves for success now – and many of the tools they need may already be available to them. Among the moves to consider:

Secure a nimble solution now for eCommerce sales tax compliance. Keeping up to date on changing legislation state by state and municipality by municipality can be onerous for small- to mid-sized merchants. They should verify whether their eCommerce software integrates with specialized solutions that help with up-to-the-minute sales tax compliance. Kibo clients can activate Avalara with a one-click integration, while the service TaxCloud is free to merchants.

Offset online sales tax with alternative discounts. One analyst conjectured that 1 in 10 online shoppers will revert to purchasing in physical stores due to implementation of online sales taxes. Merchants should anticipate that the bump in total order cost may dissuade price-conscious shoppers or buyers of big-ticket items, and find other ways to motivate the sale. Item price discounts, double loyalty rewards, or value-added services such as white-glove delivery and installation are among the options.

Strengthen online/offline connections to win sales. Merchants with physical outlets have an advantage if online sales taxes are levied more widely, in that store and eCommerce site pricing can be completely consistent. Shoppers can opt for stores to receive items instantly – or avail themselves of free store pickup for online orders as a means of skipping delivery costs and  keeping the online order total as low as possible. Merchants should work to fully integrate back-end operations in real time and streamline store pickup processes to encourage fluid omnichannel experiences.

How are you planning for potential sales tax adjustments in the coming year?

How to Avoid an eCommerce Race to the Bottom with Dynamic Pricing

Going to see a movie is cheaper on weekday afternoons, or if you’re a senior. Likewise, if you’re looking to book a flight or a hotel for a Friday evening, you’re likely to pay more than you would for the same service on a Tuesday. Want to pay less for that bottle of wine with your dinner? If you’re willing to go out on a Wednesday, you just might.

Dynamic pricing is nothing new. And we’re faced with it more often than we often realize. In the examples just listed, we take it for granted that some things cost less (or more) depending on who you are or when you’re buying.

At the same time – whether we’re talking Uber’s surge pricing model or Amazons variable pricing – there’s no shortage of research and reporting detailing how much people hate the concept when applied to online purchases.

“Dynamic pricing” is a phrase that encompasses a whole host of retail practices, from using tools to monitor competitors to employing markdown timelines that aim to reduce leftover inventory. The advent of “big data” for retail means that shoppers’ activities on websites, mobile devices, and at store point of sale (POS) terminals can be processed and analyzed within minutes, not days, enabling merchants to change prices in response to competitor information and supply and demand as often as the market will bear.

It’s no surprise then that the biggest names in retail are using dynamic pricing to win the discount battle. Amazon notoriously changes prices for 15 to 20 percent of its items more than a half-dozen times a day, and  mass merchants use dynamic pricing to undercut competition for key shopping events such as Black Friday.

But for small- to mid-sized retailers, dynamic pricing carries with it significant risks. Among them:

  • Dynamic pricing can speed the race to the bottom. If implemented in a “keep up with the Joneses” fashion to continually undercut competitors, dynamic pricing can be a slippery slope, leading merchants to destroy their own margins — especially when free shipping and other promotions are factored in.
  • Price discrepancies can bruise merchants’ reputations. While they hunger for discounts, consumers also claim they want pricing consistency across online touchpoints and in stores: a majority say online and offline prices should match, while 60 percent say they expect to see the same promotions and offers in stores as they do online. If merchants begin dropping online prices using dynamic pricing but leave physical stores out of the equation, they’re likely to ruffle feathers as a result. Amazon’s foray into physical stores is instructive: shoppers can scan shelf product labels to see the prices, which are the same (and potentially change as frequently) as online.

As a result, merchants should exercise caution when it comes to dynamic pricing — even (or especially) during the crucial holiday season, when the discounts will fly fast and furious. To wield the power of dynamic pricing for eCommerce responsibly, merchants should:

Start with intelligence. As a first step, merchants can use price comparison and monitoring tools to understand the competitive landscape and to analyze their own past pricing strategies. Merchants should identify which product categories and audience segments are price sensitive, how often prices change for top sellers and sought-after items, and which discounts have been successful in the past.

Further, they should understand how their business’ pricing strategy stacks up against competitors, and use that information to communicate their rationale transparently for shoppers. This exercise can help merchants identify key differentiators, such as superior customer service offerings that are offered at no extra charge, that can serve as the basis for promotions and online content.

Factor in fulfillment efficiencies.  Consumers are obsessed with avoiding delivery charges for online orders: more than 60 percent of all purchases now include free shipping. But merchants who can’t afford to offer standard free shipping can still offer savings tied to fulfillment, by enacting dynamic pricing that reflects the cost of assembling, packaging, and delivering items. For example, if all the items in the cart can be sourced and shipped from a nearby physical store location, the product price can be set to reflect the cost savings compared with delivering from the eCommerce warehouse. This kind of pricing can even win plaudits from consumers for its ultra-transparency: they can see what makes up the total order cost and drive their own discounts.

Upstart Jet.com is a prime innovator in this category, with the price of each product in the cart dropping as more items are added. Shoppers can further lower their costs by opting out of free returns and using debit cards to avoid credit card fees. This policy is transparently promoted as a major benefit of using the site, starting with the tagline “prices drop as you shop.”

Make it all about loyalty. More than 70 percent of consumers are members of loyalty programs, and they expect that such programs offer savings: Instant discounts, reward certificates, and points applicable toward purchases top the list of desired features in a loyalty program. Merchants can play into these expectations by tailoring pricing to loyalty membership status and past spending — achieving what is, in effect, personalized pricing based on past interactions with the merchant brand.

Kibo merchant Cost Plus World Market transparently displays loyalty perks in stores, including on shelf labels, where member pricing is listed alongside regular pricing when applicable. Special member discounts are displayed in relevant aisles, such as 10 percent volume discount wine purchases.

How are you using new pricing technologies to remain competitive — without breaking the bank?

 

increase foot traffic

 5 Ways for Retailers to Increase Foot Traffic  

With store closures skyrocketing in recent years, the retail sector is poised to lose over 100 million square feet of space in 2018. This equates to roughly 3,400 expected store closures stemming from what were once thought to be stable big-box chains, like Toys R Us, Sears, and Sam’s. These closures are a harrowing reminder that consumer expectations are always changing. Household names like JC Penney, Bebe, Radio Shack, Sports Authority, Cabela’s, Payless, Macy’s, and countless others are experiencing the pain striking the retail industry.

The traditional retail landscape has no doubt changed partly due to the global eCommerce industry, which is expected to grow to $3.4 trillion by 2019. Some retailers and brands may feel this is a threat to stores, but we see it as an opportunity.  With changing customer preferences there must be a change in tactics. Consider these five unconventional tips to increase foot traffic to your stores:

  1. Buy Online Pick Up In Store (BOPIS)
    A sure-fire way to increase foot traffic is through BOPIS. It is the perfect example of marrying eCommerce with traditional retail in stores. BOPIS gives customers greater control and convenience when purchasing their items.  Additionally, when BOPIS customers come to pick-up, our research has found that these customers make another purchase at least 40% of the time. The retailer who can flawlessly implement flexible fulfillment options will win the day. But a word to the wise: In order for customers to continue to use BOPIS over and over again, the entire experience needs to be easy and streamlined. It’s always a good idea to check in with in-store operations and get feedback from your customers.
  2. Local Inventory Availability  
    Simply put: if the consumer can’t see on the website that what they want is on the store shelf, they won’t risk a trip to the store. As stated above, customer expectations are changing, and our latest research found that 64% of customers expect to be able to view local product availability prior to visiting the store. Additionally, 81% of consumers said they have looked up inventory on a retailer’s website before visiting the store and 80% are less inclined to visit a store if a website does not provide current product availabilityThis is an enormous set of people who will make their purchase locations based on whether it’s obvious their desired item is available. Consumers have greater choice between individual retailers and will make decisions in their self-interest. Local inventory availability is a giant flag to customers that you have the items they need, right now. The visibility provided by a robust order management system is sure to address this. Find out everything you need to know about order management in this eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Order Management.
  3. Personalized Promotions  
    Retailers have the responsibility of using their online real estate to drive sales, and each pixel on your customers’ screens can be used to better serve them and your stores. Offering in-store promotions, even through email, will help build brand loyalty and invite customers to experience your stores.Customers are moving toward a distaste in generalized targeting, and a real thirst for personalized promotions. Kibo’s patented machine learning engine combines layers of algorithms with the online data hub to create a composite framework that delivers more meaningful results. With advanced individualization and a store-centric call to action, customers will find themselves in your store more frequently than if you were using a typical mailer.
  4. Transform Stores Into Experience Centers
    If the traditional retail store is failing on its own, then something must change. In addition to working hand in hand with eCommerce, a great way to increase foot traffic is to transform your stores into experience centers. It’s easy to look to popular beauty retailers as good examples of stores-as-experience-centers. In another example, some stores are implementing interactive dressing rooms with smart mirrors. Even Amazon has chosen this path, with their physical bookstores providing one of the most coveted experiences of their online shop: product reviews.And don’t forget about the power of the store associate. If the store associate is equipped with knowledge about a product, if only simply on a tablet, it makes in-store purchasing that much easier for the consumer. Drive brand loyalty and foot traffic by providing a consistent, unique, and fulfilling shopping experience.
  5. Go Mobile
    Go where your customers are: on their phones. Sticky sites build loyalty and raise your conversion rates. Any time spent on your site that creates a positive experience will surely capture attention, one of our most precious commodities. Customers are frequently on their phones because they are on the go. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, no matter if you have BOPIS and local inventory visibility, if the customer can’t see that on their mobile phone then they simply won’t use it.Increase in-store foot traffic by increasing convenience via mobile websites. If a parent waiting to pick up their kid from soccer practice can easily use your website to get a question answered, even something as small as hours of operation, then they are much more likely to make a stop at your store before heading home instead of skipping you all together. Forrester’s annual retailer survey ranked mobile at the top of the list of strategic priorities for the fourth year in a row. This blog has 4 ideas about how to think about stores with mobile.

 

The retail space is certainly changing, and  companies must take a more nimble, calculated approach to promoting and selling their products. Those keeping up are the ones who place high priority on the complete unified omnichannel experience. Don’t give up on stores, just use them differently. How have you increased foot traffic?

eCommerce, Order Management, instore pickup, ship from store

To Compete On Prime Day Retailers Must Deliver Omnichannel Relevance

Amazon.com’s Prime Day is now widely recognized as both a threat and a boon to other merchants, who stand to lose ground to the online giant or benefit from increased shopping activity across the Web — or both. With last-minute tactics that spotlight omnichannel capabilities, merchants have the opportunity to tilt the balance in their favor.

 

Prime Day is thought to be set for July 16 this year and will offer Prime club members exclusive deals on a bevy of items. Initially held as part of Amazon’s 20th anniversary celebrations, Prime Day is now heading into its fourth year, and has become a Christmas-in-July-like event that generates hype — and sales — for the online giant. In 2017, Amazon reported that Prime Day sales topped the prior year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday totals, and generated more new Prime club signups than on any other day previously.

 

As the event’s popularity has soared, not only have merchants selling via Amazon’s third-party marketplace seen a boost — but other retailers have succeeded with promotions intended to compete with Prime Day. Last year, close to half of the sellers on Internet Retailer’s list of top 100 companies offered Prime Day alternatives in the hopes of capturing the attention of the 76% of shoppers who told Bazaarvoice they’d check sites other than Amazon for deals.

 

The lift for other retailers on Prime Day can be substantial, with brands seeing conversion rates jump by as much as 41% and a sales boost of some 57% last year, according to commerce marketer Criteo; even those not offering a Prime Day-related promotion saw a revenue bump of 5%.

 

While it’s too late for merchants to upgrade their eCommerce software or Web site personalization in time for this year’s Prime day, they can still position themselves to take advantage of the spike in shopping activity — with omnichannel fulfillment and one-to-one personalization playing a key role. Among the techniques to consider:

 

Put stores front and center. Amazon’s acquisition of upmarket grocer Whole Foods was too fresh on last year’s Prime Day to have had much impact on the day’s offerings — but this year is likely to be another story. Amazon has recently rolled out Whole Foods discounts available exclusively to Prime members, and Prime Day 2018 is likely to see a similarly integrated effort.

Retailers with physical outlets should make stores the centerpiece of their own Prime Day promotions — both by highlighting special store events and discounts for the occasion and by touting the ability to use stores for fast, free, convenient order fulfillment via Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) that rivals home delivery via Prime.

 

Play up the everyday savings contrast. Promoting BOPIS as a year-round, free fulfillment option isn’t the only way merchants can position themselves against Prime Day’s flash-sale hype. By spotlighting such omnichannel offerings as everyday free shipping policies, fuss-free returns in stores, and post-purchase support across touchpoints, merchants message brand value that goes beyond individual product prices.

 

Spotlight concierge loyalty service. Given that Prime Day is, at heart, a giant promotion of Amazon’s paid membership club, merchants should do their utmost to showcase the perks that come with their own loyalty programs — from easy reordering via mobile eCommerce apps to in-store clienteling services that draw on past interactions with the brand. Potential loyalty rewards should be spotlighted extensively both in stores and online, as Kibo merchant World Market does with a dedicated page accessible from the global header.

Demonstrate relevance.

Shoppers increasingly appreciate brands’ abilities to save them time and money by curating offerings to reflect their preferences; indeed, more than half of shoppers say their purchase decisions are influenced by personalized content, according to Kibo’s Consumer Trends report. Merchants who can combine shoppers’ preferences and order histories with deep, rich content can go beyond Amazon’s broad-but-shallow carousel of products to create unique, engaging shopping experiences. Merchants can further demonstrate real-life relevance by creating campaigns on social media, the eCommerce site, and in stores that spotlight user reviews, photos, and testimonials.

 

Save discounts for where it counts.

While the impulse to slash prices across the board to keep up with Prime Day deals is tempting, merchants are unlikely to win a race to the bottom, given Amazon’s deep pockets. Instead, sellers should focus their Prime Day discounting on the top sellers and trending items that shoppers seek out most, and drop prices for those items as low as their margins can withstand. To drive volume, merchants should align paid search spend and other digital advertising for the day to focus on those products, and optimize content resources to the hilt with how-to instructions, product demonstration videos, and imagery.

 

How are you preparing for Prime Day, and what special discounts will you offer, if any?

 

How to Use Personalization Throughout the Customer Lifecycle

Make mobile the cornerstone of eCommerce personalization efforts

By now, merchants are well aware that mobile eCommerce is central to the omnichannel shopping experience. Especially crucial is mobile’s potential as a source for the data that powers relevant personalization — so merchants implementing personalization technologies should adopt a “mobile-first” philosophy and include mobile sites and apps as part of the rollout.

Mobile shopping continues to soar, with some 28% of all online sales expecting to originate on mobile devices this year, according to data from Business Insider. Furthermore, measurement firm comScore found that more than three quarters of shoppers’ interactions with brands now occur on mobile devices, giving merchants the opportunity to engage with consumers as they research prior to store visits, in the aisles, and elsewhere on the go.

With this surging usage, merchants have been ramping up to meet shoppers’ growing expectations for engaging mobile eCommerce experiences and streamlined checkout processes that mimic mobile-first innovators such as Uber or Groupon.

As part of these upgrades, merchants would do well to integrate personalization technologies into their mobile offerings. The ability to deliver singular, relevant shopping experiences is increasingly important for shoppers, who say it’s important for merchants to personalize content and offers across touchpoints. The 2018 Kibo Consumer Trends Report found that more than half of shoppers are influenced by personalized content throughout the path to purchase — from the home page to the cart and checkout.

Merchants who’ve responded to shoppers’ expectations for tailored offerings report increases in traffic and sales, with over half of merchants realizing conversion rates at least 50% higher for personalized offers versus mass promotions.

When it comes to mobile eCommerce, personalization can not only boost conversion rates and revenues; by delivering real-time personalization, merchants can increase relevance across the entire omnichannel experience.

 

As long as merchants heed industry privacy standards — including the new GDPR legislation in Europe — and seek permission to collect data, they can maximize personalization opportunities on mobile such as:

  • Locator services for store outlets and more. Merchants can draw on cell phone location data to serve information about inventory and localized specials at nearby stores — not just on the product page, but via personalized search results and in listings of in-store events. In addition, geographic location can influence tailored recommendations to reflect local climate variations, as well as regional events and demographics (such as college students in a university town).
  • Specialized in-store browsing. By detecting whether shoppers are using in-store wifi networks, merchants can deliver a differentiated mobile experience tailored to in-aisle needs, from a bar code scanner to easy coupon retrieval to a store map to precise directional navigation to individual items.
  • Email. More than half of all email messages are opened via mobile devices, which means that merchants should not only be designing responsive email templates, but incorporate personalized recommendations and content in promotional campaigns. Tailored triggered messages when shoppers abandon shopping carts, complete their first purchases, or sign up for deals and updates can spur mobile shoppers to re-engage with the mobile eCommerce website.
  • Time-saving preferences. To save shoppers extra taps and multiple mini-keyboard inputs, merchants can use personalization tools to incorporate saved criteria such as preferred sizes or categories, while recommendations and re-order prompts based on stored order histories can help speed the purchase process.
  • Social media connectors and promotions. The majority of social media interactions, from Instagram to Facebook and Pinterest, occur on mobile devices — so merchants who incorporate eCommerce personalization for their smartphone offerings can build a seamless record of interactions from their social outposts through to the eCommerce site, and use the data to deliver ultra-relevant products and offers.
  • In-app experiences. Merchants who’ve developed custom mobile apps should incorporate personalization into specialized app tools or content, from augmented-reality visualizations for planning furniture purchases to daily content tips personalized via a customer profile questionnaire.  

 

How are you optimizing mobile to create one-to-one shopping experiences?

in-store fulfillment

3 Tips to Getting the Most from Your In-Store Fulfillment

Reports of the death of stores have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, savvy merchants recognize that their networks of physical locations – far from being costly liabilities – have the potential to give them an edge when it comes to fast, efficient order fulfillment. But to take advantage of that opportunity, sellers need to implement not only modern order management software, but the best practices that fulfill customer expectations.

Merchants need look no further than the biggest names in retail to see the power of in-store omnichannel fulfillment. After purchasing Whole Foods for $14 billion last year, Amazon has now installed lockers in some 16% of the grocer’s 473 locations for pickup of online orders. Walmart, meantime, offers 700 pickup towers of its own, which act like large vending machines dispensing products purchased online prior to the store visit. And department store Kohl’s enjoyed 6.3% year over year holiday revenue growth in 2017, thanks in part to operational efficiencies that saw more than a third of online orders fulfilled through its store locations.

Such gargantuan efforts to integrate order management systems, eCommerce software, and store point-of-sale terminals help meet rising customer expectations for integrated omnichannel experiences. In-store fulfillment capabilities:

  • Enable popular in-store pickup options — fast. Some two-thirds of participants in Kibo’s 2018 Consumer Trends survey said they used Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS), and 30% said that when they did, they expected to be able to retrieve items ordered online within 24 hours. Store-to-store networks help merchants fulfill pickup orders more quickly than shipping to stores from a remote distribution center.
  • Enable faster home delivery. Kohl’s reported that home delivery timeframes were 25% faster when using store fulfillment — satisfying shoppers’ growing need for speed even for economy or free shipping. And thanks to proximity, costs can be lower than shipping across state lines from the distribution center.
  • Make out-of-stock a rarity. Access to the brand’s entire inventory is crucial to both online and offline consumers: Some 57% of shoppers in Kibo’s study report relying on store associates to source out-of-stock items at other locations, while online, access to store inventory can prevent cart abandonment on the part of some 24% of shoppers who report leaving sites when they discover items aren’t available for immediate fulfillment, according to technology researcher Forrester.

 

Retailers additionally benefit when they leverage their networks of store locations, because:

  • They achieve optimal inventory efficiency. Processing online orders with existing in-store inventory can help manage stock organically, instead of relying on tactics such as deep end-of-season discounts. And retailers who draw on local inventory to fulfill both online and offline purchases can better understand regional demand.
  • They earn incremental revenue. Customers who pick up items shipped from another location are likely to add more to their orders. Forrester found 34% of customers who used in-store pickup made additional purchases in the store.

 

To realize these omnichannel benefits, however, merchants must make significant investments in order management and eCommerce software – and follow through with extensive reorganization to support new offerings. Among the line items to include when scoping the project:

 

Store layout overhaul and stockroom expansion.

Retail stores and fulfillment warehouses are very different facilities for good reasons, largely related to maximizing revenue per square foot. Traditional physical stores are designed to maximize showroom floorspace, leaving the stockrooms in often-cramped quarters not designed for employees to efficiently pick orders.

In many cases, merchants have opted instead to send associates into the aisles to pick orders for shipment, which comes with its own inherent inefficiencies — such as shoppers interrupting pickers with time-consuming requests for assistance. Retailers who can dedicate more room to stockroom inventory and streamline showroom space can keep employee functions separate.

 

Development and testing of new procedures.

Merchants should engage store management to develop new routines for modern omnichannel operations. For example, merchants should have a plan for how to handle orders that contain items sourced from multiple store outlets – an increasingly-common situation that requires logistical prowess. Such new practices should be tested extensively before introducing them to store staff and customers.

 

Staff diversification, expansion, and training.

With omnichannel fulfillment comes new roles for store employees, such as servicing online order pickup and picking and packing orders for delivery. Retailers should include the cost of hiring additional associates for such tasks when budgeting for omnichannel fulfillment expansion.

And, of course, ongoing employee training is crucial if new offerings are to succeed. Training in omnichannel processes is key, as are incentive programs that reward associates not only for closing sales in the aisles, but taking advantage of store capabilities as service and fulfillment hubs.

Despite the logistical and technological complexity of mastering store-to-store fulfillment, the potential rewards are significant. One Kibo customer integrated order management functionality, eCommerce software, and in-store operations in order to offer swift in-store pickup for online orders – and reported 110 percent year-over-year online revenue growth as a result.

 

What’s holding you back from implementing new in-store delivery services?

buy online pick

What Lies Beneath: the 3 Fundamentals that Power eCommerce Agility

Given rising shopper expectations for omnichannel agility, it’s no surprise that shopping for a new eCommerce software platform is at the top of many merchants’ priority lists. To ensure that performance matches promises, merchants should look beyond trendy front-end features to evaluate the nuts and bolts that drive successful eCommerce interactions.

Shoppers increasingly expect merchants to deliver rich shopping information and intuitive services across touchpoints. Usage of mobile commerce is soaring, with fully a third of online purchases occurring on mobile devices, according to technology researcher Forrester. Meanwhile, shoppers rely on unified store and online brand experiences to seamlessly deliver such options as store pickup, which half of all U.S. shoppers have used in the past year, according to the latest UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper report.  

To deliver the rich experiences shoppers seek, merchants must nimbly adapt their offerings to reflect changing priorities and seasonal trends, and to take advantage of new touchpoints as they enter the mainstream. In many cases, homegrown or legacy systems are increasingly inadequate for the job — leading a third of online merchants to undertake eCommerce software replatforming this year, Forrester found.

Many vendors promise such trendy features as mobile-friendly designs and social media content integration. But given that the definition of rich customer experiences is ever-changing, sellers need to dig deeper to discern whether eCommerce software platforms offer a foundation for ongoing innovation and growth.

To meet the standard for omnichannel excellence, flexibility and customization must be built into eCommerce software technology from the ground up. Merchants should seek out the following back-end fundamentals to ensure their front-end customer-facing sites are up to snuff:

 

Control in the cloud.

 

Many small- to mid-sized merchants opt for cloud-based eCommerce software in order to alleviate hosting headaches and take advantage of innovative technology. But when considering new a new eCommerce solution, sellers should dig deeper to uncover what vendors mean when they say “cloud architecture.” Reduced IT and development overhead can also bring reduced flexibility and scalability when it comes to site features and performance capabilities.

Merchants should seek out those vendors whose eCommerce platforms enable site-by-site flexibility through modular features and access to APIs for custom development. Use of industrywide development standards eases use of third-party integrations for additional new features. An existing network of thoroughly-vetted partners can give merchants turnkey options for specialized site experiences that engage their target audiences.

 

Real-time business-wide data access.

 

Shoppers now consider omnichannel features to be routine offerings. Fully 86% of consumers report doing online research before a store visit, and 78% report having checked in-store product availability online before heading out to shop, according to Kibo’s 2018 Consumer Trends Report survey. To meet these expectations, merchants considering a new eCommerce platform provider should be on the lookout for silo-busting integrations that enable the free movement of data among order management software, inventory and warehousing systems, fulfillment tools, and the online storefront.

Data processing and integration capabilities are also crucial to effective eCommerce personalization, which connects shoppers with the products and offers most relevant to them in the moment. This one-to-one experience is increasingly important to shoppers: personalized assortments displayed on the product page influence 64% of shoppers to purchase, the Kibo survey found — up by 45% from the prior year — while integrated customer loyalty and discount offers convince 86% of shoppers to buy, a year-over-year increase of 56%.

 

Design autonomy.

 

To ensure that the online look and feel aligns with store branding and even product packaging, access to eCommerce software templates for every touchpoint is crucial. Merchants’ in-house marketing and design teams should be able to change templates and themes without enlisting the help of IT or, worse, incurring extra change fees from the eCommerce platform provider.

Sellers should also be able to go beyond logos and color schemes to optimize the user experience, including creation of new product categories and theme-based navigation without needing to alter code. Control over labels, drop-down menus, and placement of global banners enables nimble adaptation in order to reflect shoppers’ priorities in the moment and highlight seasonal specials.

Outdoor outfitter Sun & Ski uses Kibo’s eCommerce software platform to optimize its categories and navigation seasonally, elevating “Patio” to a global position during the summer months and creating a themed category page for one-stop warm-weather shopping from across the catalog. Merchandisers and user experience team members can incorporate search-engine optimization data to label categories and navigation links in alignment with top keyword searches — all without relying on IT resources to alter code.

 

Learn about Kibo’s eCommerce software to see more essential underpinnings of a successful online shopping experience. What functionality is essential to power your omnichannel offerings?

 

Kibo Personalization Engine Maturity Chart

Kibo’s Personalization Maturity Chart

As retailers and manufacturers increasingly adapt to meet their customer’s buying preferences, the focus on personalization has turned toward digital channels using personalization software, and the customer’s personalized experience along the buying journey.

Because of the focus on the personalization engine as a powerful tool for phenomenal customer experiences, we are introducing the Personalization Maturity Chart, which outlines the different maturity phases of a personalization strategy and the corresponding impact to the organization’s bottom line.

Phase 1: Basic Recommendations
In today’s world, basic product recommendations are table stakes and considered the most primitive of approaches. As a consumer, everyone has experienced them. The recommendations can be tailored to a specific customer or be utilized across a group of anonymous customers.

This approach usually involves looking in the rear view mirror and it’s business impact increases as you are able to target against specific segmentations.

Phase 2: Segmentation & Targeting
The second phase of personalization maturity involves the introduction of targeting products and content based on segments. With this approach, customers are grouped together into buckets based on commonalities. Typically, we see traditional categories—geographic, demographic, psychographic, and behavioral to create segments.

When segmentation is combined with recommendations to create targeted offers, retailers and manufacturers will experience an increased business impact of their personalization strategies.

Phase 3: Machine Learning
Retailers and manufacturers can mature their segmentation-based personalization approaches that rely on historical patterns, rules-based actions, and collaborative filtering with a solution that leverages machine learning to predict forward-looking buying intent. Machine learning utilizes a set of algorithms to dynamically drive personalized experiences for customers—whether that be promotions, recommendations or interactive web content. The result is a significant reduction in manual effort, the ability to automate targeting, and the potential to surface highly relevant content to increase conversions and engagement. This is all made possible with a personalization engine that produces the true individualized experiences in Phase 4. 

Phase 4: Individualization
The fourth phase of personalization is individualization or commonly referred to as “Personalization 2.0.” Individualization builds on the core principles of personalization—segmentation, targeting, and relevant content—by enabling the creation of 1:1 experiences for each individual customer. Each customer becomes a unique segment of “one,” enabling retailers and manufacturers to drive truly personalized experiences.

Bonus: Amplify Personalization with Real-Time Data
Most personalization software engines will utilize a batch-based approach for syncing user data. User data is periodically sent to the system and analyzed for upgrading personalization rules or algorithms – creating a missed opportunity for engaging your buyer with relevant content at that specific moment in time while they are showing buying intent.

Real-time data makes all the difference. Amplify any phase of your personalization strategy by capturing customer behaviors and preferences to create predictive models of buyer intent in real-time. Personalization software based on real-time data actively create personalized experiences based on what content known or anonymous customers are engaging with at that specific moment in time.

 

Each phase on the Personalization Maturity Chart is valuable and has a place in a personalization strategy. As retailers and manufacturers look to increase the impact of personalization efforts, they must consider maturing their approaches for sustained competitiveness.

Today, most companies have implemented a basic personalization engine, but there is significant opportunity to improve its effectiveness by leveraging modern technologies and maturing the approach to stay competitive. Find out how in our eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Personalization.