Online Retail Today
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.

 

omnichannel fulfillment - buy online, pickup in store

How To Use Omnichannel Fulfillment For Better In-Store Experiences

In the increasingly intense battle for survival, retailers are focusing more than ever on the in-store experience. So far, the crucial role stores play in omnichannel fulfillment has been undervalued — suggesting that more retailers should focus innovations on the stockroom as well as the showroom.

By multiple measures, shoppers’ expectations for omnichannel fulfillment are growing. More than three quarters of consumers say having multiple fulfillment options is important when deciding to purchase, according to survey data in Kibo’s 2018 Consumer Trends Report. Fully 78% of shoppers have looked up store inventory online prior to a visit, the survey found, while two-thirds have completed purchases online for store pickup.

Furthermore, investment in omnichannel fulfillment can not only help online researchers become store buyers; it can help retailers deliver shoppers in the aisles the same unlimited options and availability they might find with a keyword search online. Indeed, 57% of participants in Kibo’s survey reported completing orders in-store with the assistance of associates who located out-of-stock items and arranged delivery — an increase of more than 18% compared with the prior year.

Given such clear indications of consumer preferences, it’s surprising to learn there’s a disconnect between the goal of omnichannel excellence and an investment in the omnichannel fulfillment solutions that support it. Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) and “endless aisle” capabilities do indeed top the list of customer-facing store priorities for retailers in 2018 — but just 5% of retailers said order management software was a key initiative on the operations side, according to technology researcher Forrester.

Perhaps because of this gap between store-experience vision and operational reality, many retailers give themselves low marks when it comes to omnichannel execution. Forrester found that just 16% of retailers agreed completely that they had the right omnichannel technology in place, for example.

This glum assessment nonetheless presents an opportunity for retailers who want to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. By using modern omnichannel fulfillment software, sellers can increase inventory transparency and fulfillment flexibility, leading to improved store experiences that:

 

Connect online shoppers with (more) products faster.

Services such as BOPIS give shoppers an alternative to home delivery for online orders — enabling them not only to save on shipping costs, but to set their own fulfillment schedule. Indeed, 85% of Kibo survey participants said BOPIS was beneficial because they could pick up orders when they wanted, while 73% said they used store pickup so they didn’t need to wait at home for a delivery.

But given shoppers’ growing expectations for speed, it’s not enough for retailers to offer BOPIS without the order management moxy to back it up. Indeed, 30% of shoppers in Kibo’s survey said they expected to be able to pick up items in-store within a day — signaling that slow freight from a distribution center is no longer adequate.

Merchants who meet rising expectations for speedy store pickup are more likely to win additional business from BOPIS customers. The latest UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper reports  that 44% of those using store pickup go on to buy more items while in-store — so the opportunity is significant for those merchants who get BOPIS right.  

Kibo client Cost Plus World Market allows many of its home furnishing items ordered online by 5 p.m. to be picked up that same day at local stores — giving shoppers immediate access to their chosen goods. Real-time transparent inventory is coupled with up-to-date store information to give shoppers all the information they need in the moment to select a location and commit to purchasing prior to pickup.

 

 

 

Give store shoppers access to the “endless aisle”.

Given that shoppers consistently cite unique finds and broad selection as top reasons to shop online, merchants should open their entire inventory to store visitors — including limited-edition and exclusive items and products from prior seasons housed elsewhere. Omnichannel fulfillment software that connects inventory from store outlets and distribution centers through a seamless portal can help store shoppers source products from across the network, without needing to drive from location to location.

Real-time inventory can also make “out of stock” obsolete — if merchants equip store associates with the tools and technology they need. Forrester found that 61% of store associates can locate items at other outlets or the distribution center, but just 23% can access eCommerce site product information, and a mere 17% can actually “save the sale” on the spot with a mobile point-of-sale. Merchants who invest in mobile connectors to integrated order management software and omnichannel fulfillment options can differentiate their store experiences significantly.

 

Keep revenues from returns and exchanges in-store.

The benefits of flexible omnichannel fulfillment extend beyond the purchase process. Given that 13% of online orders are returned, according to Forrester, merchants should also leverage order management software and omnichannel capabilities in reverse to deliver a hassle-free experience that encourages further spending along the way.

Not surprisingly, the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper survey found that 58% of U.S. shoppers prefer to return items bought online to physical store outlets.  Many merchants still charge a restocking fee in addition to postage for online returns — and, of course, making a special trip to the Post Office is an added hassle.

Merchants who help shoppers avoid such a tedious process can earn plaudits for customer service — and, once shoppers are in-store, they can be enticed to spend refund or exchange monies on new products more to their liking.

 

How are you leveraging order management and omnichannel fulfillment capabilities to enhance the store experience?

retailers digital transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

To learn more from this report download it now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

bluefly case study ecommerce platform    

 

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

 

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

upgrade technology stack to saas solutions

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Speed of Innovation

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Total Cost of Ownership

 

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

 

Extensibility and Unique Brand Experiences

 

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

 

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

 

Predictability

 

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

 

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

 

Multi-Tenant SaaS for the Win

 

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

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

consumer trends report, ecommerce success

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Factor

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Retailology: How Not to Run Your Omnichannel Commerce Strategy Like March Madness

March Madness is one my favorite times of the year. There is something about unpredictable outcomes, the emotion of winning or losing, the challenge of picking the right teams in your bracket, and the anticipation of the next Cinderella team that simply gets me excited.

Millions of people will be filling out their brackets with a variety of strategies – best mascot, most unique school name, or best jersey color – all in hope of having winning results. While strategies centered on hope and luck may work for March Madness, a winning omnichannel commerce strategy should be centered around creating seamless consumer experiences across every buyer touchpoint.

Organizations who are looking to thrive in the era of Amazon should look to incorporate these 5 elements into their omnichannel commerce strategy:

 

Unified commerce platform

 

A unified commerce platform is one of the essential elements for delivering true omnichannel experiences. It starts by having a front-end eCommerce website that ties a back-end order management system to provide order routing and processing, flexible inventory sourcing optimization, customer-driven fulfillment, and consistent and personalized customer experiences.

By utilizing integrated software that enables seamless, customer-centric omnichannel experiences that drive more traffic to your website and more foot traffic into stores you reap the benefits of customer loyalty and growth that far exceed that of traditional retail solutions today. Merchants who are able to connect channels to blend digital and in-store touchpoints into one seamless customer experience will be the winners of tomorrow – and it starts with a unified commerce platform.

 

Scalable and extensible eCommerce

 

At the core of any omnichannel commerce strategy is modern eCommerce software. With online sales growth outpacing in-store sales, choosing the right enterprise-class eCommerce software is imperative for long-term sustainability. The ideal solution will be built on a truly SaaS foundation to provide continuous, non-disruptive upgrades and reduce your total cost of ownership (TCO). Modern ecommerce software is designed to enable business users to launch new promotions, create landing pages, or publish new content-without burdening IT resources.

A winning solution should provide extensibility with an API-first architecture to allow your organization to drive customized experiences without breaking the upgrade path – allowing you to integrate with best-of-breed third-party applications, such as product reviews, social engagement, payment, or loyalty programs.

 

Enable omnichannel fulfillment

 

One of the biggest drivers for converting an online sale is flexible, consumer driven fulfillment. This means providing the consumer with their choice of fulfillment option – whether that is based on lowest price, proximity of inventory, time to delivery, or convenience. Forward thinking retailers and merchants leverage a modern order management software to drive a variety of fulfillment options, such as buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS), ship from store, ship to store, store-to-store transfer, vendor drop ship, or even return to store.

By leveraging a distributed order management architecture, merchants are able to connect inventory across their ecosystem to their customers in real-time – enabling flexible and convenient delivery of purchases. An order management software that has the appropriate integrations enables the merchant to save costs, provide faster delivery, and expand online product mix by leverage inventory in stores – all proven to increase digital sales and brand loyalty amongst consumers.

 

Personalized Experiences

 

Personalized experiences have been on the top of investment list for many merchants for several years. There are several ways a merchant can use personalization throughout the customer lifecycle, but the key is to drive 1:1, individualized experiences that are relevant to the customer.

By investing in personalization software, merchants can drive personalized experiences across each customer across any touchpoint – including website, mobile apps, in-store, email campaigns, and even customer service. The key is to leverage a solution that is based on predictive, big data technology to drive content based on the consumer’s interaction in real-time. An ideal software package will also empower your merchandising teams with the tools required to optimize the omnichannel commerce experience, such as category sorting, recommendations, real-time previews, and simple to use user interface (UI).

 

Mobile First Design

 

We live in an instant gratification world where every consumer has a point of sale system attached to their hip at almost every waking hour – the smartphone. This means that mobile commerce must be at the center of any successful omnichannel commerce strategy. Whether you are creating a native mobile app or simply a mobile responsive website experience – the key is to have a seamless experience across device types.

While this might not come at a surprise, the effort and resources many merchants spend on creating superb mobile experiences can be sub-optimal. Merchants must invest in technology that enables them to build once and deploy everywhere. Retail has become extremely competitive, and those who are able to shift their organizations to think “mobile first” will be at a significant advantage over their peers.

 

March Madness is incredibly unpredictable and most leave their bracket strategies to chance; however your omnichannel commerce strategy should not be left to luck and merchants must look to be proactive and implement the necessary solutions to win a competitive landscape.

business case kibo ecommerce software

The Business Case for Kibo eCommerce Software

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

data security ecommerce platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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