Online Retail Today
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


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

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

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

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

Focus on natural language, not keyword stuffing.

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

Structure value-added content for featured snippet visibility.

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

Add Shopping Actions to paid search plays.

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

Enter the Amazon Marketplace and play to win.

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

How are you optimizing your online offerings for voice?

Takeaways from NRF Big Show & Expo 2019

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

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

Retail Machines

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

The End of Omnichannel?

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

Kibo is ready for Action in 2019

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

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

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Capitalize on Holiday Momentum to Thrive in an Uncertain 2019

Early reports indicate the holiday season has been a blockbuster. After a successful start to the season with strong gains during Cyber Week, new data from Mastercard shows consumer spending rose 5.1% during the season overall from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, while eCommerce jumped a whopping 19.1%.

At the same time, the stock market’s recent wild ride, upcoming tariffs, and the ongoing government shutdown all spell uncertainty for merchants in 2019. Potential volatility later in the year provides ample motivation for merchants to redouble efforts in January to build on holiday gains. Among the strategies to consider:

Appeal to Gift Card Recipients

Some 60% of consumers predicted they’d request gift cards this season, according to the National Retail Federation, and in January merchants should help them find relevant items — and encourage continued engagement beyond redemption.  Themed categories on the eCommerce site, store displays organized by price tier, and social content spotlighting fun finds can all direct shoppers to items that match their gift-card balances. Putting email or loyalty club signups, social media channels, and in-store events front and center encourage those new to the brand to return throughout the year.

Optimize Inventory With Store-to-Store Networks

As returns come in and stores assess which new inventory remains unsold after the holiday rush, merchants should redistribute goods according to regional demand using store-to-store fulfillment. With more than half of returned merchandise going back on store shelves, according to Supply Chain Management Review, optimizing placement with company-wide inventory visibility and order management can help merchants avoid clearance discounting — and improve planning for the next peak season.

Reconnect With Existing Loyalists, and Listen

More than half of merchants reported an increase in the cost of wooing new customers this year, according to Forrester — so more than ever, retention makes business sense. After the holidays, merchants often set their sights on winning repeat business from first-time gift buyers, but they should also take the time to reconnect with existing loyal customers. Sellers can end the holiday season on a high note with exclusive promotions or thank-you offers, while surveying loyal customers about their holiday experiences and future preferences can help root out any gaps in service or product offerings. Addressing any unmet needs early in the year demonstrates merchants are willing to go the extra mile for their most valuable brand advocates.

A pile of gambling chips in a casino

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upgrade fulfillment to handle peak weeks – not peak days.

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

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

What are the holiday takeaways for your brand?

Photo credit: Jamie Adams – Wikicommons

in-store fulfillment

Gold Mine or Minefield? How Manufacturers Can Succeed With Online Marketplaces

With the holidays approaching, online marketplaces have a potential for unprecedented reach and revenue through eCommerce. Manufacturers building direct-to-consumer channels online may be tempted to try selling through third-party marketplaces to gain visibility with new audiences. But with existing retail partnerships hanging in the balance, careful navigation of marketplace options is a must.

Third-party marketplaces, where individual merchants sell goods through another brand’s platform, have never been more popular due to their breadth of selection and perceived competitive pricing. Marketplace sales account for half of all eCommerce transactions, according to research from Internet Retailer. Why wouldn’t brand manufacturers want a bigger piece of the eCommerce pie?

Marketplaces offer sellers the opportunity to connect with new buyers who haven’t yet found their way to brands’ standalone eCommerce sites. But the equation is tricky. In addition to losing a cut of sales to marketplace operators, brand manufacturers risk undermining existing retailer partnerships; indeed, protecting dealer networks was the top concern of brand manufacturers surveyed about marketplaces by the CMO Council. Respondents also expressed hesitation about customer data ownership and privacy and knock-off or counterfeit items circulating on marketplaces. 

To navigate these potential hazards and realize the benefits of marketplace exposure, brand manufacturers should:

 

Think eBay, not Amazon. Amazon.com may offer the largest third-party marketplace around, but it can be difficult to win the “buy” box without dedicating significant resources to product feed management and customer service. And Amazon is strict about owning the customer relationship, negating one reason manufacturers begin selling direct-to-consumer in the first place. Very small brands without standalone eCommerce sites or retail networks may find Amazon gives them a much-needed boost; other manufacturers are probably better off opting for eBay, which hosts listings for dozens of brands and empowers sellers to connect with customers directly.

Explore niche marketplaces. With 75 marketplaces generating 90% of marketplace revenue, according to Internet Retailer, brands have plenty of options beyond Amazon  and Walmart. The variety of marketplaces available not only enables manufacturers to connect with niche category audiences or new markets abroad; listings on smaller platforms can be less expensive and more effective due to a relative lack of competing sellers. And retail partners are less likely to object to marketplaces for focused segments they don’t serve.

Limit listings to unique items. To ensure marketplace items don’t compete with retail partner offerings, and to limit the potential for counterfeiting, brand manufacturers can create exclusive offerings such as gift sets or one-of-a-kind SKUs, or feature “long-tail” items with niche appeal to the marketplace audience.  Such curated selections can not only reduce channel conflict, but can help manufacturers avoid duplicate product page content from proliferating across the Web, which can negatively impact search engine optimization.

Learn how Kibo’s industry-leading commerce solution can help manufacturers sell direct while supporting retail partners, like Boscov’s. 

     When it came time to build out the technical infrastructure of the BOPIS program, the retailer partnered with omnichannel              commerce provider Kibo to create a scalable platform that integrated with its in-house e-Commerce solution and the                        handheld inventory devices used by in-store associates.

     …Having successfully rolled out its in-store pickup program, the Boscov’s team is now looking to expand its use of the Kibo              platform to manage ship-to-home order fulfillment as well.

Let us know: do you sell on third-party marketplaces? Why or why not? Partner with Kibo to make it easier.

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

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

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

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

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

Impetus for Change

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

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

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

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

Results and Next Steps

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

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

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

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

commerce-on-site search personalization

Kibo eCommerce recognized as a “Strong Performer” among B2C platforms

We’re proud to share that Kibo was recently named a Strong Performer in The Forrester Wave(™): B2C Commerce Suites, Q3 2018. Forrester’s review of the 11 most significant vendors in retail B2C eCommerce.

Commerce is changing, fast. And in an industry where a handful behemoths work to suck all the oxygen out of the room – you know who you are! – we at Kibo are proud that we can punch above our weight and provide robust tools and services that give our merchants the agility they need to compete and thrive.

As they create seamless online/offline connections, offer a growing array of fulfillment options, and deliver relevant product content to new devices, merchants must simultaneously meet current expectations and lay the groundwork for new developments. Forrester tested how vendors support retailers who are “fully focused on how to grow in a time of continual digital transformation.”

Based on performance across 31 criteria, Forrester recognized Kibo as a Strong Performer. We believe our standout benefits include:

Robust personalization

Kibo earned the highest possible score in the personalization criterion. Our tools enable merchants to tailor content, products, and  promotions in real time. Culling data from a robust customer profile to deliver relevant mobile and web experiences, as well as to inform store associates via a clienteling tool, Kibo’s toolset provides “excellent control of merchandising throughout the shopper journey.”

Kibo client Sun & Ski, a sports and recreational outfitter, draws on these techniques to create a dynamic selling environment. Not only can online shoppers see on the product page what others like them view and consider complementary cross-sells, but the entire site experience, from category pages to promotions, is tailored to their interests based on past site activity.

kibo commerce sun & ski merchandising

Commerce tools that puts sellers, not coders, in control

Forrester cited Kibo’s “easy-to-use business user interface,” which, combined with cloud-based architecture, reduces the need for specialized IT investment. Merchants can directly manage their offerings and give marketers and merchandisers access to the tools and data they need to gain customer insights and deliver effective experiences.

Big-league functionality priced for the mid-market.

Forrester described Kibo as delivering a “cost-effective cloud-based suite,” and clients like our  “responsive” client service and competitive pricing. This was great for us to hear; because it is so important to us that our eCommerce solution meets the needs and budgets of our merchants – whether they are long established online or just beginning to grow their online presence.

To read the full evaluation, The Forrester Wave(™): B2C Commerce Suites, Q3 2018. To learn more about how Kibo’s solution can drive growth for your business, read more about our robust omnichannel toolset and contact us to schedule a demo.

Order Management System, Direct to Consumer Order Fuflfillment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use personalization to streamline purchasing.

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

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

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

gift card promotion

Customers Demand Flexible Gift Card Options this Holiday Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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