Online Retail Today

SEO Tips for Global Reach

 

 

Hi and welcome to Kibo’s Marketing Minute where we share digital marketing tips, trends and news from the eCommerce industry in about a minute. I’m Bryant Goodall, the Digital Marketing Manager at Kibo and here’s what’s happening. In a previous episode I discussed some must-haves for entering the global market and in this episode, I wanted to touch on some SEO specifics for targeting for global reach. The key ingredient is knowing what type of company you are. And what I really mean is: know whether you are a multilingual, a multi-regional, or just a international company. You don’t have to be just one or the other, but it helps to know so you can focus your efforts accordingly. A multilingual company is just that, it’s targeting multiple languages. This means that you’re going to need either a subdomain or a sub directory dedicated to each language, as well as proper hreflang tags to point to each. This can also mean different dialects of the same language. Having to target multiple languages doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an International or multi-regional company. A great example of this is Canada. If you’re a Canadian marketer than you already know that you have to focus on both English and French. And this can be complicated when you have a single website with a ton of great information, but you don’t want to deliver the wrong language to the user.

A multi-regional company is one that has to market inside of a region that may have different countries and different languages. One great example of this is trying to market in the European Union. Not only are you going to have to work within each country’s processes you’re obviously going to have to work within languages and dialects as well. Set up your website so that you can not only deliver regional specific content but deliver language specific contact for the regions your targeting. A great example of this is using a subdomain or subdirectory for your language and then a subfolder for your country or region. Now keep in mind that you can also target countries or regions using the domain itself. Using a top-level domain like .eu, .us, .ca can help you increase your targeting efforts while still using a subdirectory or subdomain for the language.

Lastly an international company is one that just targets outside of its borders but may not have to be a tune to the language or regional needs of the other types of companies. A great example of this is a company that is only targeting English speaking countries. In this instance you may want to still have a different subdomain or subdirectory for each country you’re trying to target. Keep in mind that is generally regarded as best practice to have these in a subdirectory so that Google doesn’t see each country’s instance as its own website. If you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask and let’s keep the conversation going in the comment section below.

commerce-on-site search personalization

6 Reasons On-Site Search Personalization Should Be A Priority

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

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

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

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

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

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

Help long-tail shoppers connect with their intended products.

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

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


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

Boost relevance of top results on small screens.

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

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

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

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

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

Position merchants for voice-driven search.

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

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

mobile commerce

Five Priorities To Make The Most Of Mobile Commerce In 2018

Years of predictions finally became reality this holiday season, with mobile activity playing a dominant role. To prepare for 2018, merchants should rigorously test the most popular activities on their own mobile sites, and prioritize investments accordingly.

By all counts, mobile played a central role during the peak holiday shopping period. As of December 5, mobile accounted for more than 48% of online shopping activity and nearly a third of online sales, according to Adobe. Furthermore, conversion rates for mobile had jumped 12.9% year over year, signaling that shoppers are increasingly comfortable completing transactions on their mobile devices.

This growth means mobile commerce must be considered a core component of merchants’ omnichannel commerce strategy. Just as “online shopping” is now simply “shopping,” “m-commerce” is now inextricably woven into all commerce — which means most merchants face a long list of to-dos in order to bring mobile experiences up to par.

After addressing fundamentals like mobile site speed, merchants should let shoppers’ experiences be their guide when it comes to prioritizing projects. Not only should merchants shop their own mobile sites; they should enlist others to identify potential hurdles along the mobile path to purchase. While it’s ideal to conduct formal testing with unbiased recruits in a lab where results can be painstakingly recorded, those with limited budgets can assemble an ad hoc group of testers from among colleagues, friends, and family on a range of devices who can at least screen-shot awkward mobile moments and pass them on for improvement.

 

Among the key mobile tasks to assess:

Locate products nearby using generic and branded search terms.

The majority of search engine activity occurs on mobile devices, both in terms of volume and clicks on the overwhelmingly-popular Google Shopping ads. Merchants should both hone paid-search budgets to focus on visibility for key terms, and optimize natural ranking factors for mobile.

Once searchers locate products, they should be able to access accurate inventory levels at local outlets. Close to 60% of shoppers said they planned to use “buy online, pick-up in-store” (BOPIS) options during the holidays, according to Kibo data, and 54% said local inventory information justified store visits. To connect shoppers with nearby products swiftly, local availability data should be just one or two taps away from mobile search landing pages; once shoppers select their preferred store location, subsequent browsing should reflect that choice and automatically display local inventory status.

 

Access buying guides and product reviews in-aisle.

Nearly 60% of shoppers use their smartphones to shop while inside physical store outlets, according to Retail Dive — behavior that should be supported to enable connection with relevant products. To start, merchants should offer free in-store wifi to support research and browsing and alert shoppers to its availability with signage at the entrance and in the aisles.

When it comes to specific product information, merchants should connect shoppers to relevant content via QR codes, shortcut URLs, or even image-recognition search tools that take input from camera-phone snapshots. Product reviews are key purchase drivers, with 82% of overall online shoppers saying reviews influence buying decisions, according to Kibo data. When it comes to in-store behavior specifically, 41% of shoppers who use their phones while in the aisles seek out in-depth product information, with a third accessing reviews in particular, according to technology researcher Forrester.

 

Request customer service help via social media.

Social media is an increasingly popular means for shoppers to lodge customer service queries, and given that a whopping 79% of social media activity now occurs on smartphones, according to measurement firm comScore, merchants would do well to ensure that social customer service is attuned to the needs of mobile shoppers. That means proactively inviting transitions from wall or news feed posts to private-message queues, and then incorporating click-to-call options along the way to let shoppers know they don’t need to keep pecking out questions on small-screen keyboards.

In addition to removing technical and logistical hurdles, merchants should remove barriers to problem resolution by empowering social customer service staffers to access incomplete online orders, enter payment information, and award free shipping and other discounts at their discretion.

 

Purchase products for home delivery.

The growth of mobile commerce signals that shoppers are ready to go beyond research and make purchases on mobile devices — but many retailers’ sites still deliver a clunky small-screen experience from the cart onwards, with long checkout forms that make buying a chore.

When asked what single improvement would convince them to buy on mobile devices, 19% of shoppers said faster sites would help, 15% wanted enhanced security, and 13% sought one-click ordering, according to eMarketer. To meet these expectations, merchants need to translate proven best practices for communicating security and earning trust to small screens. Streamlining checkout by offering alternative payment options can also help boost efficiency and win sales.

Once ordering is complete, merchants should offer the option to receive post-transactional messaging via text message as well as email — thereby taking advantage of a ubiquitous mobile-only medium to engage customers.

 

Apply loyalty rewards while shopping and buying on mobile.

One way to help shoppers streamline mobile purchasing is by convincing them to create an account, thereby enabling saved addresses, payment information, and more. Connecting online accounts to loyalty incentive programs can also help — that is, if shoppers can actually apply points and perks during the mobile shopping purchase process.

The good news is that integration efforts have the potential to pay off: fully 72% of holiday shoppers told Kibo they’d be willing to create an account, suggesting that merchants who promote the omnichannel benefits of doing so — and then follow through on their promises — can reap significant rewards.

 

Read about how Kibo’s omnichannel commerce platform helps merchants integrate mobile into every phase of the customer lifecycle. And tell us: what mobile features and functionality are you testing now for potential improvement in 2018?

holiday strategies for year round success

Holiday strategies to adopt year-round for 2018 success

The close of the holiday season brought plenty to celebrate, with sales outpacing predictions and eCommerce once again fueling overall growth with double-digit gains. But that doesn’t mean sellers can take success for granted in 2018. Rather, to remain competitive they must continue to implement the holiday strategies that showed success and focus relentlessly on the customer’s point of view — ensuring their brand experience stands out.

Holiday retail sales overall rose 4.9 percent year-over-year, the biggest increase since 2011, according to preliminary results from Mastercard SpendingPulse. The strong showing beat the National Retail Federation’s prediction of a 3.6 to 4 percent gain.

As in previous years, online commerce was the engine driving overall growth: eCommerce revenues jumped 18 percent, according to Mastercard. Mobile commerce demonstrated its worth, with fully a third of sales on Cyber Monday originating on mobile devices, according to Adobe Data. Mobile traffic and revenues spiked still higher on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, when consumers were away from their computers but still at leisure to browse and buy.

While the rising holiday tide lifted all boats, giving retailers respite from doom-and-gloom forecasts, there were clear standouts. Those who outpaced the pack went well beyond simply offering standalone eCommerce, mobile, and store “channels” to creating integrated, alluring experiences.

The principles behind the leaders’ winning strategies are worthy of consideration. As we’ve written previously, merchants of all stripes must contend with Amazon, which captured 44% of all online sales in 2017; by learning from the holiday highlights, merchants stand a better chance of differentiating their brands and earning sales in 2018. Among the principles to consider:

 

Reimagine brand offerings as experiences, not commodities.

 

Most merchants can’t afford to compete with the likes of Amazon on price alone. So to appeal to shoppers, sellers must create value in the brand experience itself — shifting the focus from a pure calculus of products, order costs, and discounts toward something more ineffable. Rich online content, customer communities, savvy apps, and immersive store environments must work in concert to create a connection with the brand that goes beyond the price tag. Personalization can further enrich the experience by delivering only the most relevant products, store events, how-to content, and recommendations.

For retailers, the experience imperative means rethinking store space to accommodate consultative sales, interactive displays, and signage and shelf tags that connect shoppers to online resources. For manufacturers, definitive and robust online content about products, apps that serve essential needs for customers, and stellar customer support can go a long way toward delivering a standout experience; popup stores within retail outlets or at key events can boost visibility in the physical world.  

Lululemon Athletica, which saw sales jump 15% year over year during the fourth quarter, has built community both via an online hub and in physical stores, where customers can not only shop for athletic apparel, but take yoga classes and get recommendations for local fitness classes to try.

 

Don’t let customers see you sweat the details.

 

Part of creating a rich brand experience means eliminating distractions and barriers, especially when it comes to purchasing and fulfillment. By easing logistics so they can essentially be taken for granted, merchants can help maintain the focus on the products and services that inspire and delight.

Of course, a seamless customer experience is the result of complex technology integrations behind the scenes. Manufacturers must quell concerns about channel conflict and ease connections with products, whether by seamlessly displaying inventory availability through retail partners, by offering “buy now” capabilities for direct-to-consumer sales, or both.

For retailers, real-time inventory visibility is by now essential. Indeed, 81% of consumers have used inventory lookup tools before visiting stores, and 80% said they’d be less likely to patronize brands that didn’t offer the capability, according to Kibo data.

And enterprise-wide inventory visibility can help merchants serve customers whose expectations for flexible, fast delivery continue to rise. During the holiday season, mass merchant Target used store outlets to fulfill some 70% of online orders, thereby leveraging its nationwide network to draw on existing inventory and deliver efficiently to customers. Target reported overall sales gains of 3.4% for November and December, with online sales growing 25% for 2017.

 

Know when to set loose the machines — and be transparent about it.

 

There’s no question that artificial intelligence is on the rise. In 2018, one in 10 purchase decisions are forecast to be mediated by intelligent agents such as Amazon’s Alexa, according to technology researcher Forrester. To compete, sellers must stay at the forefront of AI offerings, and understand the benefits and drawbacks. While attempting to replicate the complex interaction of a store associate helping a shopper — with all the intuition, body language, spoken intonation, and visual cues that entails — is a long ways off, simple AI applications can now handle the straightforward requests that comprise the bulk of customer service inquiries.

Direct-messaging chatbots can deliver store locations and hours, book in-store appointments, locate assembly instructions or how-to videos, and update delivery status for orders — thereby freeing human live chat and phone service agents to tackle the truly complex interactions that call for nuance and higher decision making. Such partitioning of labor delivers superior service to customers: chatbots can quickly handle volumes of simple requests, thereby fulfilling expectations for quick response, while in-depth human interactions for complex questions demonstrate brand know-how and commitment to service.

During the holidays, Best Buy’s chatbot delivered order status information and fulfilled other simple requests. The service identified itself as an automated response system, rather than attempting to pass itself off as a human — thereby clearly setting expectations for its capabilities. The system used verification questions to maintain privacy and security when accessing order information.

 

Which successful holiday strategies will you carry into 2018 to drive sales and loyalty?

Four Ways to Think Store First with Mobile

RWD, AMP, PWA? The ABCs of prioritizing mobile investments for 2018

As mobile investments assume primary importance in the omnichannel shopping experience, merchants must balance building rich experiences with rising consumer expectations for mobile site speed. Prioritizing which programming and design techniques will achieve the greatest benefits for the widest audience is the first step toward successful implementations in 2018.

Merchants needn’t look far to find the latest evidence of mobile’s swift and increasing dominance of the shopping experience. Some 59% of shoppers say they’re planning to make a purchase on a mobile device at some point during the current holiday season — a jump of more than 37% from just a year ago, according to Deloitte’s 2017 holiday study.

In response to consumers’ increasing mobile usage, Google has shifted its algorithm to favor sites that are optimized for mobile. A 2015 change dubbed “Mobilegeddon” began prioritizing mobile-friendly results, and the ultimate goal of a mobile-first index that assigns rank primarily based on mobile site performance and content could arrive as early as 2018.

For merchants striving to keep up with both consumer expectations and search engine algorithms, it’s been a breakneck series of developments, accompanied by a wave of innovations. Among them:

 

RWD and PWA for rich mobile experiences

Responsive Web Design (RWD), a technique which optimizes sites on the fly to render legibly across devices, helps merchants meet consumers’ expectations for rich mobile experiences that are consistent with desktop versions. By and large, merchants have moved away from maintaining separate mobile and desktop sites in favor of RWD: more than 50% of eCommerce sites are now responsive, compared with just under 18% using separate mobile URLs, according to Smashing Magazine.

A still more recent toolset, collectively known as Progressive Web Apps (PWA), enable delivery of features such as push notifications and offline browsing within the mobile web site, rather than in separate downloadable apps. And because PWAs can make use of cached content, they can boost speed. While adoption of PWAs is still far from widespread, early metrics are encouraging, with some sites reporting 50% higher conversions via PWAs versus standard mobile Web sites.

 

AMP for speed

As consumers increasingly use mobile sites, expectations for speed are on the rise. The oft-cited statistic that shoppers abandon sites taking longer than 3 seconds to load is only part of the story. Fresh data from Google found that abandonment probability rises swiftly even within that relatively short timeframe: if page load speed increases from 1 to 3 seconds, the likelihood of abandonment increases by 32%.

To meet consumers’ expectations for mobile site speed, Google has backed the development of Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP for short. The open standard enables developers to publish stripped-down versions of pages and even have them cached on Google’s servers for lightning-fast delivery. Sites conforming to AMP code standards are now badged in search results; given that page load speed has been a ranking factor for years, the imminent switch to mobile-first indexing may give AMP-optimized sites an SEO edge.

Facebook offers its own version of accelerated pages, called Instant Articles, but so far adoption is low, at just 2% of sites, according to Smashing Magazine. By comparison, close to 1 in 10 Web sites now offer AMP versions, including a growing contingent of retailers that includes eBay.

 

Getting it right for 2018

The wide array of options for mobile investments may leave merchants struggling to prioritize projects heading into the new year. But they can achieve success if they:

  • Invest in sound code. Whichever technique merchants adopt is more likely to succeed if they possess the expertise to implement it correctly. Early instances of responsive sites featured bloated code that slowed site speed; newer PWAs rely on sound caching architecture to maintain speed and functionality.
  • Keep the focus on swift task completion. Shoppers who turn to mobile devices likely have a goal in mind rather than a desire to browse aimlessly. In Deloitte’s holiday study, for example, tasks such as checking order status, comparing prices, and finding store locations were among the top five shopping functions for mobile shoppers. Merchants should focus mobile investments on tools that make such functions efficient and fast.

 

With those precepts in mind, we recommend that merchants:

Continue investment in RWD.

A unified code base continues to offer merchants the most streamlined means to deliver rich, consistent experiences across devices. Kibo’s industry-leading eCommerce platform is designed with mobile in mind and integrates responsive design throughout merchant sites.

Prioritize focused experiments with PWAs over native apps.
PWAs that help shoppers complete key tasks within the mobile Web environment have the potential to demonstrate customer-friendly efficiency to the widest possible audience. PWA features such as push alerts have the potential to drive significant engagement via mobile devices, while offline browsing enables shoppers to have a seamless experience on the go even when connectivity is spotty.

By contrast, merchants should recognize that only a subset of brand loyalists are likely to download and routinely use native apps; while mobile consumers report using an average of 25 apps monthly, fully 77% of time spent is devoted to their top three apps, according to measurement firm comScore. And with social, messaging, and search apps dominating the top 10 in app penetration, merchants can’t count on significant usage of their app offerings.

Wait and watch AMP developments closely.

While the prospect of lightning-fast load times is enticing, AMP has generated a fair amount of skepticism. The AMP standards require a stripped-down version of pages; while it’s possible to integrate simple versions of features such as customer reviews and product recommendations, AMP requires a different set of code than for the regular mobile Web site or desktop site. So to embark on AMP, merchants must return to maintaining two versions of their Web offerings. Furthermore, tracking usage of AMP pages is complicated by Google’s AMP caching service. In effect, AMP-optimized pages act as teaser content akin to a search ad, with trackable user activity only kicking in once shoppers transition onto the merchant site.

 

For now, merchants can work to satisfy shoppers’ need for mobile speed with a focus on sound RWD and PWA development. But with the rollout of Google’s mobile-first index, they should stay abreast of how AMP will affect organic page rank, and act accordingly.

 

How are you prioritizing mobile investments for 2018 and beyond?

bopis, personalization amazons shortcomings

Amazon’s Secret Shortcomings and How to Capitalize on Them

By multiple measures, online is surpassing in-store as the growth driver for the 2017 holiday season — and Amazon is leading the way. With the online giant poised to make even greater gains in 2018, merchants must act now to heighten and promote their unique advantages.

Once again, online shopping is powering retail growth during the holiday season. eCommerce revenues represented 57.6% of the total retail sales growth for the period from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, and accounted for one in five dollars spent overall, according to Internet Retailer. Cyber Monday alone brought in close to $6.6 billion in online revenues, making it the largest eCommerce sales day to date.

Meanwhile, foot traffic retail outlets decreased by just under a percentage point on Black Friday compared with the prior year, according to ShopperTrak, and Internet Retailer estimates in-store sales growth of around 2.5% — healthy, but nowhere near the rocketing increase in online activity.

The online growth is driven by consumers who increasingly express a preference for online shopping during the holidays. Fully 50% of participants in Deloitte’s pre-season survey said they favored going online for gifts, while participants in Kibo’s holiday survey named convenience, the lack of crowds, competitive prices, and wide selection as the top reasons they preferred shopping online.

The single brand benefiting most from this changing sentiment is, not surprisingly, Amazon.com. Amazon generated more than 56% of online shopping sales over the Thanksgiving-to-Cyber-Monday period now dubbed The Cyber Five, according to Internet Retailer. Hitwise reported that on Cyber Monday itself, some 60% of all online transactions were conducted on Amazon.

As Amazon’s juggernaut plows through the season, there’s a ripple effect for merchants in the form of rising shopper expectations. Amazon’s Prime service, which offers free two-day shipping to its 90 million members (that’s a quarter of the U.S. population),  now sets the standard for delivery that’s both free and fast. The site’s more than 300 million SKUs prompt shoppers to expect that they’ll be able to find “long-tail” rarities online.

And, of course, Amazon’s practice of undercutting the competition on product pricing has led shoppers to expect online deals. Indeed, relevant discounts topped the list of expectations for eCommerce sites in the Kibo holiday survey, with 70% of respondents saying they expected to see them when shopping online.

But for many small- and mid-sized merchants, a race to the bottom when it comes to pricing is dangerous to start, as are perennial free shipping offers that erode margins. Instead, in order to take advantage of secret Amazon’s shortcomings, merchants must maintain and grow their businesses by doubling down on their unique assets, demonstrating worth through relevance and creating a valuable experience that spans touchpoints.

 

In 2018, merchants should prioritize:

BOPIS. Buy online, pickup in-store, aka BOPIS, is a retailer’s magic bullet when it comes to fast, convenient, and free online order fulfillment. In order to meet and exceed expectations, however, merchants must execute flawlessly, which means deployment and exhaustive testing of:

  • Real-time inventory visibility. More than one in two shoppers in Kibo’s holiday survey said they use online inventory information to justify a trip to the store, so that information must be accurate, especially during peak seasons when store stock is in rapid flux. Flagging items that are almost gone in stores can give shoppers extra motivation to commit to purchasing online before jumping in the car.
  • Speedy site-to-store fulfillment. Shoppers expect BOPIS to beat home-delivery orders when it comes to speed, with more than 80% saying they their items should be ready for pickup within 24 hours and 59% expecting pickup within 4 hours, according to a BOPIS study by Bell & Howell.  Merchants should meet this expectation wherever possible and promote it, flagging items available for one- or two-hour pickup on the product detail page as well as highlighting the overall speed of BOPIS service.
  • Seamless and efficient pickup execution. Merchants should invest heavily in testing post-purchase transactional messaging and in-store pickup processes to ensure BOPIS delivers on its promise. Notification messages should clearly spell out next steps for pickup, store signage should prominently point the way to pickup desks, and the counters should be adequately staffed to reduce wait times. While merchants may be tempted to place pickup counters at the back of stores in the hopes of encouraging additional purchases, delivering on the expectation of speedy pickup can foster longer-term loyalty. In fact, to make the process more efficient, merchants should even consider self-service lockers, which are rapidly being deployed for Amazon in Whole Foods locations, and holiday curbside service for BOPIS orders.

 

Real-time personalization. Creating valuable brand experiences means delivering relevance in the moment, from showcasing unique finds that match shoppers’ holiday gift lists to offering proactive suggestions based on past orders. Shoppers now expect merchants to be able take into account their past interactions with the brand when it comes to site offers and content, and while personalization has been a buzzword for years, the latest real-time individualization tools can help merchants realize the goal of providing one-to-one shopping experiences. To deliver on the promise of personalization, merchants should employ:

  • Explicit as well as implicit personalization tools. While much is made of technologies that churn through behind-the-scenes big data to power product recommendations, merchants can also deploy features that ask shoppers to volunteer information outright. By taking a page from concierge-style startups like StitchFix and Trunk Club, merchants can ask shoppers to create style profiles that can then be used to inform product recommendations, buyers’ guides, and in-store personal shopping services; or, on a smaller scale, merchants can ask shoppers interested in new products from a particular line or brand name to sign up for alerts of upcoming launches. 
  • Robust loyalty programs. Merchants are increasingly investing in customer retention, and for good reason: returning buyers comprise just a third of customers, but account for 42% of online revenues, according to Forrester Research, Inc. Merchants can use loyalty points to their advantage to encourage engagement with the brand, offering rewards for activities that enrich customer profiles as well as deliver on the promise of personalized products and services. Offering exclusive perks — such as free expedited shipping for last-minute holiday shoppers, sneak peeks at new products, dedicated VIP BOPIS pickup counters, and members-only in-store events — can extend the benefits of membership beyond product discounts, and help customers maintain ties with the brand.

 

Read how Kibo’s industry-leading fulfillment and real-time individualization solutions can help merchants not only survive, but thrive in 2018.

GivingTuesday

Doing well by doing good: Year-round lessons from #GivingTuesday

Amidst the Black Friday / Cyber Monday / “Cyber-week” frenzy, it’s easy for merchants to overlook the charitable event dubbed #GivingTuesday — but that would be a mistake. Socially-responsible brands increasingly win more of shoppers’ business, so merchants should add winning #GivingTuesday strategies to their year-round playbooks to demonstrate goodwill and earn loyal fans.

Now in its fifth year, #GivingTuesday is intended to counterbalance the Thanksgiving weekend shopping spree with a day of philanthropy celebrated on the highly-visible stage of social media. The event has caught on, with one in four Americans aware of it as of last year, according to the Harris Poll.  Donations have increased steadily: in 2016, the event drove $168 million in donations — a 44% increase from 2015 — and this year’s tally is on track to top $180 million.

Given the focus on charity rather than consumerism, it may seem counter-intuitive for merchants to participate in #GivingTuesday. And indeed, with the expansion of Black Friday and Cyber Monday into week-long promotions, many sellers have remained wholly focused on winning holiday shoppers.

But dozens of brands do take up the #GivingTuesday banner, including some of the biggest names in online commerce, such as eBay, which this year pledged to help combat hunger by donating proceeds from the sale of exclusive products and celebrity experiences. A home page promotion and global header banner reminded shoppers to contribute to the cause, which was also promoted heavily on social media.

Not only do such initiatives present an opportunity for companies to give back, but they’re savvy from a business perspective, too. Evidence is mounting that consumers are more likely to buy — and buy more — from brands connected with social causes: 60% of consumers believe doing good should be part of a brand’s core mission, according to Edelman, while Nielsen found that two-thirds of consumers overall and 72% of teenagers say they’re willing to pay more for goods from brands that support social and environmental sustainability.

Furthermore, standing up for causes can boost both acquisition and retention. Edelman found that 50% of consumers say they’ll buy or boycott a brand based on its stance on controversial issues; of those, 67% said they’d try new brands that support their beliefs, while 51% said they’d stay loyal to those brands.

While these numbers are compelling, merchants can get into trouble if they hop on a bandwagon with solely mercenary motives. Consumers believe brands are most obligated to act on issues that affect customers or employees or influence how their products are made or used, Edelman found — which means that without an authentic connection to the brand’s core identity, a charitable campaign can fall flat. While social media is an ideal medium to share successful charitable initiatives, it can also whip up a frenzied backlash for initiatives that hit the wrong notes (Pepsi, anyone?).

So merchants should select their causes carefully, and consider making appeals throughout the year — not just for feel-good effect during the holiday season. Among the winning #GivingTuesday strategies to consider retooling for year-round use:

 

Find occasions to rally around. While #GivingTuesday is a high-profile event for every kind of charity, specific causes also spotlight other days, weeks, or months for heightened awareness or community action. Merchants supporting those organizations should plan their charitable campaigns accordingly, thereby demonstrating to their core audience that the brand is authentically attuned to the causes they care about.

 

Model community involvement, not just cutting a check. Small- to mid-sized retailers without big budgets for charitable giving can demonstrate their commitment to causes by showcasing other ways to contribute — from company employees taking volunteer days together to in-store toy or food drives to organizing local fundraising events for selected charities. Such activities not only demonstrate company goodwill, but give causes a wider platform via the merchant’s audience of brand followers.

For this year’s #GivingTuesday, Kibo merchant Francesca’s sent several team members to local animal shelters near the company’s headquarters in Houston to donate supplies and food contributed by employees. The day kicked off with a Facebook Live announcement of the day’s activities, and was documented via an Instagram story that solicited responses from followers. Francesca’s demonstrated a long-term commitment to the cause — the company has been involved in animal rescue efforts since Hurricane Harvey hit months ago — and spotlighted animal welfare for the brand’s 600,000+ social media followers.

 

Encourage and reward sharing of good deeds. To go even further to shine a spotlight on community activism, merchants can use their platform to share brand followers’ own stories of volunteerism and charity. Incentivizing user-generated submissions with a donation for every entry, or with a prize drawing for a donation to the winner’s charity of choice, gives audience members further cause to share. Such initiatives both encourage followers to do good works, and give merchants heightened visibility among participants’ own friends and followers when they post hashtagged content.

Offer “one for one” purchasing. The “one for one” model pioneered by Tom’s shoes, whereby each time a product is purchased another is donated to a worthy cause, has caught on like wildfire. Sellers of everything from socks to sunglasses have launched in the past five years with the “one for one” promise built into companies’ DNA. But traditional merchants needn’t miss out on the trend: they can offer “one for one” deals  in conjunction with charitable campaigns, using limited-edition items, exclusives, or top sellers to help drive sales and donations.

On #GivingTuesday, children’s clothing manufacturer Carter’s partnered with the Pajama Program to offer a “one for one” drive, with each pajama purchase earning a donation to the organization, which delivers new pajamas and good-night stories to children in homeless shelters, foster care, and other organizations working with at-risk youth.

 

How did your brand mark #GivingTuesday, and how do you demonstrate social responsibility throughout the year?

 

Buy Online Pickup In-Store, BOPIS

New Report: 25% Increase In Consumers Planning On Using BOPIS This Holiday!

Buy online pickup in-store (aka BOPIS) services have been growing steadily in popularity, and give retailers an edge when it comes to fast, free order fulfillment. In the fiercely competitive holiday environment, new Kibo research gives merchants new ways to promote the BOPIS service to maximize its usage and thereby cement their brands’ reputations for stellar service.

According to the new research presented in Kibo’s Holiday Consumer Trends Report, consumers say they’ll rely on BOPIS more than ever. Close to 60% of shoppers said they’ll select the service, an increase of more than 25% over last year. Year-round, Kibo research indicates that fully 78% of consumers have used BOPIS services in the past six months, demonstrating that store pickup services are now considered mainstream.

Evidence suggests buy online pickup in-store has a positive impact on the bottom line. For starts, more than 70% of shoppers say they made further impulse purchases when they visited stores to pick up items ordered online, according to research cited by eMarketer.

BOPIS has the added benefit of differentiating small to mid-sized retailers compared with online-only behemoths such as eBay or Amazon, which can’t compete with the niche expertise and personal service specialty retailers can offer in stores. Amazon’s launch of its own brick-and-mortar locations and acquisition of Whole Foods supermarkets are testament to the importance of physical store outlets.

During the all-important holiday season, then, it makes sense for merchants to make the most of the BOPIS services they offer. That means positioning BOPIS to address consumers’ expectations for holiday offerings and promoting it throughout the path to purchase, not just in the cart and checkout. Among the promotion options:

 

BOPIS is the default free option. Consumers’ desire for free shipping is as strong as ever, with 70% saying they expect free standard delivery during the holidays, according to the new Kibo data. And they recognize cost savings as the primary benefit of BOPIS, with 66% saying that’s why they’re likely to use it. Not only can buy online pickup in-store help meet these expectations, but it can help merchants stay competitive even if they can’t afford to offer frequent free home delivery promotions (or across-the-board free shipping) during the holidays.

Spotlight BOPIS for cart abandoners. The cart abandonment rate hovers around 60% and is likely to spike higher during the holiday season, when consumers are researching and comparing total order costs at a furious clip. To lure them back, 71% of shoppers say merchants should provide a discount, and 69% say they hope offers triggered by cart abandonment will specifically contain free shipping. Spotlighting BOPIS in abandonment emails gives merchants the means to save the sale with free fulfillment — without breaking the bank.

BOPIS helps combat last-minute crowds. When asked why they prefer to shop online, 58% of consumers in Kibo’s holiday study cited the lack of crowds and lines, and 68% said it’s more convenient than visiting stores. And more than half said they’ll use buy online pickup in-store services to help them save time in stores. To highlight this benefit when it matters most, merchants can use BOPIS to reassure last-minute shoppers who missed shipping cutoffs by highlighting the speed and efficiency of store pickup services. Whether merchants follow Walmart’s lead and position pickup stations at the front of the store or not, they can make the process smooth by clearly communicating logistics in post-purchase emails and ramping up store signage to help holiday shoppers in their last-minute dash.

Concierge BOPIS service is a loyalty club perk. Extra loyalty club rewards were second only to discounts as the top way to improve the holiday shopping experience, according to Kibo holiday study participants. Furthermore, club members are looking for perks when it comes to shipping, with 49% saying they’d expect club membership to give them access to free home delivery. Merchants can enhance BOPIS services to help satisfy these expectations: they can accord loyalty members priority BOPIS service by giving them an express lane at service counters and offering to wrap gifts for free prior to pickup. Merchants could even connect buy online pickup in-store with personal shopping services and exclusive member events, enabling loyalty club members to have gifts picked and packed while they enjoy other store attractions.

 

Download Kibo’s Holiday Consumer Trends Report for further guidance on consumers’ omnichannel expectations for the holidays, from eCommerce site functionality to shipping speed to returns.

Kibo’s Marketing Minute: The Story Behind Google’s EU Fine

 

Striving to keep up with the ever-changing world of eCommerce?  Join Bryant Goodall of Kibo’s Digital Marketing team for a minute.  

In this minute, find out why Google was fined by the EU, and how to make sure you have smart digital strategy.

 

Transcript below:

Hi and welcome to Kibo’s Marketing Minute where we share digital marketing tips, trends and news from the ecommerce industry in about a minute. I’m Bryant Goodall, the Digital Marketing Manager at Kibo and here’s what’s happening.

As you’ve no doubt heard, Google’s in trouble again. A couple of months ago, the creator of the world’s most visited website, was found by the EU to be giving preferential treatment to their own Google Shopping over competitor price-comparison sites. The European Union fined Google $2.7 billion, ruling that Google’s behavior was illegal and anti-competitive. The commission responsible for the ruling gave Google 90 days to begin ranking its own shopping comparison the same way as the other sites or face additional fines.

Although this doesn’t have a specific impact outside of the EU right now, it does serve as a reminder to all online retailers that even paid solutions can share the volatility of other channels on the internet. Just imagine if Google Shopping went away right? As the online channels continue to merge, it’s certainly smart that you not go all-in on just social, paid search or just SEO. It’s a lot like building a foundation on part of the house while the other parts are sinking into the mud.

Welp, that wraps it up. Quick right? but check out more great information on the Omni Channel and let’s keep the conversation going in comment section below.