Online Retail Today
GDPR requirements

GDPR Requirements: Why Merchants Should Stay Ahead with Privacy Practices

Last year marked the start of a new wave of digital privacy regulation that has now reached U.S. shores. To successfully navigate the changing tides, merchants should embrace both the spirit and the letter of new GDPR requirements and institute transparent privacy controls across touchpoints.

As of last May, Europe’s GDPR requires companies to request consumer consent prior to collecting data; in addition, they must provide the tools for severing the agreement at any time. The year prior, Canadian anti-spam legislation went into effect, impacting not just email but social media and SMS practices.

In the U.S., the start of 2019 marked implementation of a Vermont law regulating online data brokers;next year California will enact what is set to become the strictest data privacy law in the country. Several other states have passed new data collection rules, leaving merchants who are increasingly reliant on consumer data for personalization wondering how they can navigate the choppy legislative waters.

Happily, regulatory compliance can also satisfy consumers’ dual desire for control and relevance. Deloitte found that 73% of consumers are willing to share data if they have control. Furthermore, 6 in 10 consumers say they’d like to receive individualized discounts or promotions. To strike the right privacy balance, merchants should:

Explain GDPR Requirement Practices Plainly, Early and Often

Merchants should parse the legalese in their privacy policies into plain English for GDPR requirements; this succinct version then can be used in a pop-up box or even on-page to quickly summarize their company’s data collection practices and obtain consent.

Implement Best Practices for Email

Email firm Litmus found that the majority of GDPR-compliant brands saw their list size decrease by 10% or less. Nonetheless, merchants should carefully vet their signup and sending protocols, and apply double opt-in routines as well as prominent opt-out language.

Offer a Comprehensive Preference Center

Savvy merchants have long offered email subscribers “preference centers” for throttling messaging cadence and content. Now they can use the same concept to offer easy access to a broad set of data preferences: from email to SMS to stored size and color picks. To make these controls prominent, merchants should take a page from StitchFix and other popular subscription services; requiring shoppers to build — and maintain — a “style profile” ensures relevance.

GDPR requirements


Prepare to communicate proactively about data breaches.

In the event of a data breach, the fallout in lost sales and reputation damage can be significant. Sellers should have a response plan at the ready that spells out at least the nature and extent of the breach. Additionally, the response plan should show what steps the brand is planning to take to repair security in the future, and what services will be offered to data theft victims.

What steps are you taking to prepare for privacy regulatory compliance?

Learn how Kibo approaches GDPR requirements for the businesses and consumers.

website personalization b2b

3 Ways Website Personalization Helps Highlight B2B’s Unique Strengths Online

In recent years, B2B companies have been advised to adopt tactics like website personalization from the world of B2C retail if they want to thrive in the era of omnichannel commerce. But given corporate buyers’ preference for experiences tailored to their company needs, B2B companies would do well to emphasize — not eliminate — the unique characteristics of their business if they want to stand out from the crowd.

It’s true that B2B buyers increasingly desire convenience and accessibility. More than two thirds of corporate purchasing agents prefer self-service product research over working with a sales rep; this is a jump of  23% from 2015, according to technology researcher Forrester.  Amazon is making strides in B2B ecommerce with a business version of its dominant eCommerce site; from which these reviews, recommendations, and Prime shipping service shape consumers’ online expectations for product content, convenience and savings.

But as they strive to emulate Amazon’s features, B2B companies risk losing out on what makes them unique. The current push to provide generic B2C-like experiences runs contrary to B2B business’ long tradition of customized customer relationships, from tailored catalogs to unique payment terms.

Corporate buyers seek out B2B sellers that can adopt this one-to-one approach online. More than three quarters of B2B purchasing agents want to see content specific to their company; additionally two-thirds expect information specific to their industry, according to Demand Gen.

B2B merchants who prioritize website personalization can use it to deliver:

1.) Products and content attuned to the phase of the B2B purchase cycle.

Based on prior interactions and predictive intelligence, personalization can pinpoint whether site visitors are in research mode or ready to buy; this aspect is imperative to present them not only with relevant content, but with live sales or support connections. Post-purchase, timely replenishment reminders and upgrade offers can spur re-engagement.


2.) A custom B2B catalog experience

Personalization tools can combine business rules with behavioral insights to present products and recommendations within pre-set parameters, along with custom pricing and bundling options. Predictive personalization capabilities can also flag potential new product categories of interest — helping B2B suppliers capitalize on cross-divisional sales opportunities.


3.) Tailor the purchase process to individual corporate customers

B2B merchants can customize the online checkout process to accommodate customer-specific needs such as P.O. generation and purchase approval routines, while personalization software tools in  tandem with saved account data can enable quick access to tailored re-ordering options.

How is your B2B business harnessing website personalization to serve corporate customers? Kibo personalization can help you soar higher. Learn more here


Digital Stores Survey, Online Shoppers and account creation

For Personalization Success this Holiday Season, Unwrap the Gift of Data.

There’s no time like the holidays to prove the time- and money-saving potential of omnichannel personalization. To achieve optimal results, merchants should feed the right data into their eCommerce personalization engines now to drive accurate real-time recommendations during the peak season.

With so many products and offers crowding online search results and email inboxes, shoppers increasingly acknowledge the potential benefits of personalization. Some 83% of consumers say they’re willing to share data in order to enable a personalized experience, while 91% say they’re more likely to shop with brands that recognize them and provide relevant offers, according to global strategy firm Accenture.

91% of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with brands that recognize them and provide relevant offers.

But the key word, so far, is “potential.” While shoppers yearn for apt recommendations and individualized offers, many personalization attempts miss the mark as retailers struggle to wrangle data into relevant real-time experiences. Fully 48% of shoppers in the Accenture study reported leaving a business’ Web site because of poorly curated offerings, and technology researcher Forrester found that while 90% of retailers say they prioritize personalization, just 40% of consumers report receiving relevant products and offers.

Forrester found that while 90% of retailers say they prioritize personalization, just 40% of consumers report receiving relevant products and offers.

The holidays complicate personalization efforts further because even shoppers who’ve logged multiple interactions with brands often switch behaviors and interests when shopping for gifts for other people. And merchants who’ve yet to create unified customer profiles that incorporate online, mobile, and in-store interactions are at a further disadvantage during the holidays, when online-to-offline activity surges as shoppers research and locate gifts online for purchase in stores.

To overcome these challenges, merchants should begin now to step up data-gathering efforts in an effort to “train” the machine learning algorithms how to predict likely shopping preferences before the season begins. In addition to processing current eCommerce and mobile site data, merchants can run analyses on last year’s holiday activity to increase the likelihood of upcoming peak-season relevance. Among the data sets to glean:

Product pairings and groupings for gift sets. Gift buyers gravitate toward samplers and sets, so merchants should use recommendation engines to surface unique combinations of products that are frequently bought together yet might not typically show up in automated cross-sell or upsell picks. They can then use real-time personalization to tailor pairings or collection recommendations based on cues about preferred price points, brands, or colors.  

Holiday-centric customer segments. While segmentation is considered passé in the era of real-time personalization, customer segments are, in fact, a useful data point for recommendations and offers. And during the holidays, groupings such as loyalty club members, year-round versus once-a-year buyers, and online-only versus omnichannel users can help hone experiences significantly.

Gift-giving cues. While it can be difficult to determine whether purchases are for customers themselves or for others, some purchases can be flagged as likely gift picks – especially when analyzing past holiday data. They include:

  • Items not in shoppers’ typical size, gender, or price range
  • Items shipped to other names and addresses stored in customers’ address books
  • Items purchased using gift cards
  • Items purchased in orders that also include gift cards
  • Products saved to wish lists
  • Items shared or favorited socially

Online/offline usage. Merchants should do their utmost to understand shoppers’ store usage patterns, whether by knitting together online and offline interactions in a unified customer profile or by outright asking online shoppers to choose a store near them. Such localized information can then be used to inform real-time inventory information and back-in-stock alerts during the peak season.

Mobile search. More than half of all traffic to retail Web sites came from mobile devices during the 2017 holiday season, according to Adobe, so merchants should prepare for this year accordingly – including honing mobile search with personalized recommendations and suggested keyword terms. Search is especially important on mobile devices both because the smaller screen size is more suited to focused searching versus browsing, and because shoppers are likely to use mobile devices to hunt for items on the go, whether while between store visits or from within the store aisles. Search usage can also spike during the holidays when shoppers visit new sites at the behest of recipients who’ve requested specific items. Intelligent search can help these first-time visitors connect to the right products faster.

Explicitly-collected data. Given that shoppers are willing to share information with brands in the hopes of receiving relevant picks, merchants can devise opportunities to collect holiday information up front. Merchants can do this in the form of holiday surveys or sweepstakes responses, via gift guide customization tools that collect information on recipients and givers to make gift picks, or even in brief questionnaires attached to email signup forms.

Regardless of which information merchants feed their personalization platforms, they should test – and retest – the results as manifested in personalized eCommerce site, email, and mobile features. Asking friends and family to form ad-hoc test groups can give merchants valuable feedback on how personalization features work outside the office and over time.

How are you boosting personalization effectiveness for the holidays?

increase foot traffic

 5 Ways for Retailers to Increase Foot Traffic  

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

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

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

 

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

How to Use Personalization Throughout the Customer Lifecycle

Make mobile the cornerstone of eCommerce personalization efforts

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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.

 

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.

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?