Online Retail Today

Beyond Abandoned Cart: 3 Overlooked Email Automation Triggers

Email personalization is now widespread – but still shallow. While 71% of U.S. marketers report sending some form of personalized messaging, according to eMarketer, 39% admit the majority of emails they send are not tailored, and just 34% say they personalize a quarter or more of their campaigns.

Boosting that percentage should be a top priority, given that shoppers increasingly expect brands to deliver individualized products and offers. Two-thirds of consumers say contextual relevance is important, according to Adobe – and more than 15% say they spend less if companies fail to deliver.

One way to meet expectations is through intelligent automation. Thanks to tools powered by machine learning, merchants can now combine pre-set contextual triggers with personalized content and products to create aptly-timed, ultra-relevant messages in real time.

Abandoned cart email is the best-known use of such triggered messaging, which is highly effective: triggered campaigns earn an open rate 76% higher and convert at double the rate of regular marketing campaigns, according to data from Epsilon.

Given such strong performance, 60% of marketers plan to expand their triggered email automation, eMarketer found. There’s room for growth: currently less than half of marketers send triggered campaigns, and of those, fully a quarter only use the technology to send “welcome” messages when shoppers first subscribe to email updates.

There are numerous other possibilities for triggered, personalized campaigns – but to respect consumers’ privacy concerns and demonstrate practical relevance, merchants should prioritize a solution-oriented approach. Triggered emails can help shoppers:

Use products better.

Links to installation manuals and how-to videos in transactional videos can be followed by replenishment reminders at a cadence specific to the product in question. Maintenance reminders, service and upgrade offers, and ideas for accessorizing can all help customers make the most of what they’ve purchased.

Stay current on favorites.

Not every personalized recommendation needs to be generated by sophisticated AI algorithms; shoppers can also explicitly choose to receive updates about specific products or categories. Merchants can build on signups for sneak peek previews and back-in-stock alerts with broader offers in relevant categories.  

Navigate the calendar.

Merchants should adopt a gifting strategy that extends beyond the fourth quarter and send reminders about other red-letter dates relevant to their audience, from high school graduation to Single’s Day. And they can help shoppers discover new events worth calendaring by combining location and product preference data to suggest relevant happenings at local stores.

How is your business using triggered messaging?

online b2b marketplace

Online B2B Marketplaces: Beat Them or Join Them?

Online transactions are on course to make up nearly half of all business buying by 2020; as B2B grows, so does the activity on third-party marketplaces, aka an online b2b marketplaces, geared toward corporate purchasing. Indeed, Gartner predicts that by 2022, some 75% of companies’ “tail spend” will occur on third-party marketplace sites. This is because businesses look to streamline purchasing of non-strategic, increasingly-commoditized products such as office supplies and IT equipment.

Dominant eCommerce brands are already well-positioned to take advantage of this trend. Chinese juggernaut Alibaba offers a B2B marketplace and has partnered with Office Depot to smooth distribution within the U.S. Meantime, Amazon Business now claims $10 billion in annual sales, with 50% of its revenue coming from third-party marketplace transactions.

As B2B marketplaces rise, business suppliers are asking themselves the question that has long dogged B2C sellers: Can we beat them, or must we join them?

While answers will vary, every B2B seller’s online strategy should at least acknowledge the growing role of marketplaces. To develop the right approach:

1. Accurately Gauge Vulnerability for Online B2B

B2B vendors should assess their product lines and their current customers’ purchasing patterns to understand how much exposure they have to competition on marketplaces. Vendors with products that are highly technical, customized, or specialized are likely to be less vulnerable to the self-service, commoditized environment of a marketplace.

2. Set Strict Parameters for Marketplace Selling

Marketplaces can be a double-edged sword: even as they can boost brand visibility with new audiences, they can inhibit loyalty, since ownership of customer data often belongs to the platform, not the seller. The downward pricing pressure common to marketplaces is a concern for B2B vendors accustomed to offering custom catalogs to their customers; A third of B2B sellers fear pricing transparency on the Web could undermine their business, according to B2BeCommerce.

Vendors who do proceed with marketplace selling should restrict activity to set categories unique enough to withstand price pressure, without cutting into core sales. This includes specialty items that have “long tail” appeal within the industry, for example, or hard-to-find accessories or components.

3. Use B2B Marketplace Efficiencies To Test New Markets

B2B vendors looking to reach new audiences abroad or to test prototypes in new categories may find marketplaces advantageous for their quick visibility. This can make marketplaces a more cost-efficient way to launch initiatives than developing comprehensive new eCommerce offerings.

How is your business navigating the B2B marketplace conundrum? Learn more with the help of Kibo.

personal customer service

How to Balance Personal Customer Service and Automation for Maximum Impact

Personal customer service is a crucial brand differentiator, but the growing use of automated tools poses new challenges as well as promising new benefits. Heading into the crucial holiday season, sellers should redouble their efforts to provide customer service that is seamless and authentic.

Good customer service doesn’t just benefit brand reputation; it can have a tangible effect on the bottom line. Consumers are willing to pay a premium of 16% on goods and services enhanced by great customer experiences, according to firm PwC.

As companies boost investment in personalization and artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver on these expectations, the arena of personal customer service has seen new tools proliferate. Chat bots, automated SMS messaging, robots patrolling store aisles, and more all promise to enhance live customer service.

The danger is that a patchwork of technologies can deliver an inconsistent series of interactions for shoppers, creating experiences that are memorable for the wrong reasons. And consumers still value live, in-person service; 83% of consumers said interacting with real people will only become more important as technology improves, PwC found.

This preference, combined with the push for greater data privacy and transparency, signals that merchants should roll out automation efforts carefully, and promote the personal touch widely. To do so:

1) Strictly define use cases for automation — and be transparent.

Some 80% of routine information lookups can be handled by AI. But shoppers react negatively to machines masquerading as humans; so AI-driven tools should be explicitly identified as such, which helps set expectations for purely informational interactions. Complex queries should be transferred to live human help, and the handoff should be clearly communicated.

2) Train staff to leverage digital assets.

Whether in-store or online, shoppers equate good customer service with the ability to locate items quickly, a survey from the ICSC found. Staff on the sales floor and in the call center need to be able to tap inventory across the company and access customer profiles to make the most relevant recommendations; then present the most efficient fulfillment options.

3) Offer the human touch as a loyalty perk.

Style consultations and dedicated personal customer service lines that grant easy access to one-on-one experiences are essential. They can be positioned as value-added benefits to loyalty club members and other VIPs.

How is your business combining automated and personal service to meet consumers’ expectations?

1 day delivery

3 Ways to Counter Amazon’s 1 Day Delivery Prime Push

Amazon recently stated its intention to make 1 day delivery the default for Prime members – moving the goal posts for retail brands already straining to match Prime’s long-held two-day standard. With the crucial holiday season already on the horizon, sellers should double down on omnichannel initiatives in order to meet consumer expectations for fast, free fulfillment.

In truth, Amazon’s announcement is old news for the more than 70% of U.S. residents who can already receive Amazon shipments within a day. Competing mass merchants like Target and Walmart responded to the Amazon headline by pointing to competing services already in play or at least in development.

Pressure For 1 Day Delivery

Still, the announcement means smaller merchants are likely to feel even more pressure to shorten their fulfillment timeframes. On the surface “free” still trumps “fast” 1 day delivery. More than half of shoppers say free shipping is of primary importance; compared with 10% or fewer who rank speed in first place, according to measurement firm comScore. But at the same time, 40% of consumers say they’d be less likely to purchase if delivery took more than two days, according to Kibo’s Consumer Trends survey.

Adding urgency is the looming holiday season, when claims of convenience and speed are due to escalate. Time savings comprise three of the top five reasons shoppers buy gifts online, Deloitte found, and merchants catering to harried last-minute shoppers need proven solutions. Among the options:

1) Perfecting in-store fulfillment operations

A network of physical stores can be an advantage for retailers, if they’re able to nimbly optimize inventory for Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS). Two-thirds of shoppers have used BOPIS, Kibo found, with pickup flexibility and time savings ranking high on the list of benefits. Similarly, retailers who can ship local inventory to nearby homes can shorten delivery timelines; this makes integration of in-store, order-management and eCommerce systems a high priority.

2) Offer white-glove service to differentiate

Fulfillment options now come with stepped-up service combined with 1 day delivery; from stylist consultations for items reserved in stores to in-home installation. This gives merchants the opportunity to showcase in-house expertise and stellar customer care and deliver value beyond mere speed.

3) Join the (shipping) club

Thanks to Prime, consumers are used to paying for shipping perks. More than 70% of Millennials and Generation Z say they’re willing to join paid loyalty clubs, according to a survey from CrowdTwist. Merchants should consider adding premium free-shipping tiers to loyalty offerings; in addition, they can reward members of free loyalty clubs with complimentary shipping upgrades, VIP express lanes for BOPIS order pickup, and free gift wrap services.

What is your business doing to counter Amazon Prime’s one-day delivery promise? Learn more with the help of Kibo.

personalization experience

Personalization Experience: Pop the Question(s) to Improve Personalization

Retailers and manufacturers are obsessed with personalization experience, and for good reason:  Four in five consumers are willing to share data in order to receive a better shopping experience, according to Accenture, and 91% say they’re more likely to shop with brands that recognize them and remember their preferences.

In the quest for personalized experiences, most of merchants’ focus has been on harnessing artificial intelligence to provide real-time predictions and recommendations. But there’s another way to learn and deliver on shoppers’ preferences: Just ask them.

By explicitly gathering information about shoppers’ interests and fit requirements, merchants can supplement aggregate algorithmic data used by AI personalization tools. Additionally, they can meet and exceed the requirements of new privacy regulations by confirming they have consent to access each piece of new information. Among the top opportunities:

1) Capture basic preferences by using email or SMS signup forms.

Modal and other pop-up windows often entice shoppers to sign up for email or, increasingly, mobile messaging updates often with a discount offer attached. Thanks to the incentive, shoppers are unlikely to object to answering a few additional questions, and those responses can provide foundational information for sellers about preferences and interests. Apparel shoppers can indicate whether they’re looking for items for men or women; recreational outfitters can ask which activities are of interest.

2) Reward trend-setters and brand loyalists with VIP status.

For the best personalization experience, offer shoppers the opportunity to sign up for alerts when new releases arrive from favorite brands or product lines. Also, when up-to-the-minute seasonal products are released, or when upgrades and accessories become available for existing products, reward shoppers for their information with “sneak peek” and limited-time exclusive access.

3) Use interactive buying guides and fit finders to create profiles.

Subscription-based brands such as StitchFix and BlueApron rely on extensive questionnaires to discover the most relevant products for their customers; there’s nothing stopping other merchants from offering the same tools as useful buying guides. Merchants can learn shoppers’ size and style preferences, expertise levels, or budgets, and tailor future content and offers accordingly.

4) Ask loyalty club members to pick a local store.

When shoppers join loyalty clubs, merchants have the opportunity to learn about fulfillment preferences and establish links to local outlets most likely to be used for order pickup. With this information, merchants can not only streamline checkout to foreground local pickup and delivery options, but they can also highlight store events and promotions.

5) Post-purchase, solicit more than a product review.

Post-purchase triggered emails can invite customers to engage with surveys that not only gauge satisfaction, but indicate how they’re using products thereby helping sellers suggest more relevant follow-up offers. Requesting user-submitted content tied to specific occasions or topics can also help merchants predict future preferences.

How are your providing personalization experiences for your customers? Learn more with the help of Kibo.

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.

upgrade technology stack to saas solutions

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