Online Retail Today
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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?

Just in Time for Holiday Shopping: 3 Tips to Boost Confidence in eComm Security

 

Consumers are cautious about online security as they head into the holidays. But so far, merchants have been relatively complacent about reassuring shoppers. To correct the disparity, not only should sellers ensure their security protocols comply with industry standards, but they should be talking about security with their customers early and often.

In the past six months, a handful of leading brands – Newegg, Macy’s, and Adidas among them – reported consumer data breaches. This recent history, plus the tendency for omnichannel fraud attempts to spike by some 30% during the holidays, makes consumers understandably wary as they head into the busiest shopping season of the year. In 2017 62% of holiday shoppers said they were concerned about online shopping security, and 30% said they would avoid brands that had recently experienced breaches, Accenture found.

In response, merchants need to make online security a top priority. But for the most part, sellers seem content with the status quo; according to technology researcher Forrester, eCommerce checkout and payments made the list of top 2018 priorities for just 5% of merchants. And despite the growth of mobile shopping, just 17% of merchants report having a mobile-specific fraud prevention strategy, according to payment firm Braintree.

To step up security efforts for the holidays, merchants should:

  • Ask vendors the right questions. Sellers should investigate whether their eCommerce and fulfillment platforms are level 1 PCI compliant across touchpoints (like Kibo’s) – including for mobile. The depth of third-party security integrations also deserves a close look. Available upgrades or updates should also be undertaken now to ensure any and all security patches are in place.
  • Adopt best practices for customer-facing security features. Merchants should message data safety across touchpoints with third-party certifications and links to privacy statements, while implementation of alternative payment methods enables shoppers to skip entry of credit card information. Sellers should test mobile presentation to ensure messaging remains prominent on smaller screens, as it does for Kibo merchant Bluefly, whose mobile site highlights “secure checkout” with a padlock icon and prominently promotes alternative payments from the cart onwards.
Bluefly's mobile shopping experience uses several methods to communicate a secure shopping experience.

Bluefly uses several methods to communicate a secure shopping experience.

  • Proactively establish customer service channels for fraud claims. Merchants should incorporate language on the customer service section of their site about how to dispute charges and purchases. They should also have plans on standby for how to reach customers proactively in the event of a breach.

What steps are you taking to reassure shoppers about security this holiday season?

Business man sitting at his desk

4 Tips for International eCommerce Success

Merchants are increasingly looking beyond U.S. borders to attract new customers. While the potential upside is great, sellers should prepare extensively and ramp up gradually to ensure they’re equipped for global success.

Technology researcher Forrester estimates that some 15% of all eCommerce sales will be transacted across borders by 2021, and leading online brands such as eBay report that more than a third of their revenues are already generated internationally. But with new opportunity comes new risk; given cultural differences and regulatory hurdles, there’s a real danger of flubbing entry into international markets.

Merchants considering international expansion should research their options extensively – Export.gov is one good resource to explore – so they understand the logistical and legal ramifications. Among the to-dos:

Know the local calendar. Single’s Day is a key fourth-quarter retail event in Asia, while U.K. customers hunt for post-holiday bargains on Boxing Day. Merchants should familiarize themselves with local customs by tracking competitors’ promotions and connecting with potential audiences on social media to learn their expectations.

Mind the (GDPR) gap. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been in effect for nearly six months now, and it applies to any company doing business in the European Union, even those without a physical footprint there. The law requires companies to protect consumers’ online privacy and grant control over how personal data is collected and used. Merchants should check with their eCommerce and personalization vendors to ensure compliance, rewrite privacy and security policies in plain language, and make access to data collection controls prominent throughout the path to purchase.

Consider online marketplaces as an entry point. Merchants can take advantage of Amazon and eBay’s extensive international marketplaces to establish a foothold, while region-specific hubs from Taobao in Asia to Mercado Libre in Latin America offer still further localized options.

Boost OMS functionality to support international fulfillment. Before launching a localized Web site or opening foreign fulfillment centers, merchants can iron out international logistics by shipping internationally from their U.S. eCommerce sites The potential revenue can motivate merchants to upgrade their order management systems for global operations; for a shorter-term solution, vendors such as FloShip offer turnkey service.

Does your brand have an international following? How do you serve audiences abroad?

3 Ways to Brace for Online Sales Tax Changes

So far, June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on sales tax collection has had little effect on merchants. But amidst ongoing debate in Congress and statehouses nationwide, sellers should brace for change in the coming year, and prepare to mobilize omnichannel efforts to smooth the transition.

The Supreme Court’s South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc. decision opened the door to sales tax collection for online purchases, but states are still formulating their responses. A Congressional hearing last month gathered input from supporters and opponents of the ruling, while past attempts at creating federal policy to simplify the existing patchwork of sales-tax rates and rules have continued to stall.

With so much variance in state-by-state sales tax rates, compliance can be tricky and costly.

With so much variance in state-by-state sales tax rates, compliance can be tricky and costly.
Source: Wikideas1 on wikicommons https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57036307

Amidst the confusion, merchants wonder what they can do to prepare for whatever the eventual result may be. The good news is that they can position themselves for success now – and many of the tools they need may already be available to them. Among the moves to consider:

Secure a nimble solution now for eCommerce sales tax compliance. Keeping up to date on changing legislation state by state and municipality by municipality can be onerous for small- to mid-sized merchants. They should verify whether their eCommerce software integrates with specialized solutions that help with up-to-the-minute sales tax compliance. Kibo clients can activate Avalara with a one-click integration, while the service TaxCloud is free to merchants.

Offset online sales tax with alternative discounts. One analyst conjectured that 1 in 10 online shoppers will revert to purchasing in physical stores due to implementation of online sales taxes. Merchants should anticipate that the bump in total order cost may dissuade price-conscious shoppers or buyers of big-ticket items, and find other ways to motivate the sale. Item price discounts, double loyalty rewards, or value-added services such as white-glove delivery and installation are among the options.

Strengthen online/offline connections to win sales. Merchants with physical outlets have an advantage if online sales taxes are levied more widely, in that store and eCommerce site pricing can be completely consistent. Shoppers can opt for stores to receive items instantly – or avail themselves of free store pickup for online orders as a means of skipping delivery costs and  keeping the online order total as low as possible. Merchants should work to fully integrate back-end operations in real time and streamline store pickup processes to encourage fluid omnichannel experiences.

How are you planning for potential sales tax adjustments in the coming year?

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?

How to Avoid an eCommerce Race to the Bottom with Dynamic Pricing

Going to see a movie is cheaper on weekday afternoons, or if you’re a senior. Likewise, if you’re looking to book a flight or a hotel for a Friday evening, you’re likely to pay more than you would for the same service on a Tuesday. Want to pay less for that bottle of wine with your dinner? If you’re willing to go out on a Wednesday, you just might.

Dynamic pricing is nothing new. And we’re faced with it more often than we often realize. In the examples just listed, we take it for granted that some things cost less (or more) depending on who you are or when you’re buying.

At the same time – whether we’re talking Uber’s surge pricing model or Amazons variable pricing – there’s no shortage of research and reporting detailing how much people hate the concept when applied to online purchases.

“Dynamic pricing” is a phrase that encompasses a whole host of retail practices, from using tools to monitor competitors to employing markdown timelines that aim to reduce leftover inventory. The advent of “big data” for retail means that shoppers’ activities on websites, mobile devices, and at store point of sale (POS) terminals can be processed and analyzed within minutes, not days, enabling merchants to change prices in response to competitor information and supply and demand as often as the market will bear.

It’s no surprise then that the biggest names in retail are using dynamic pricing to win the discount battle. Amazon notoriously changes prices for 15 to 20 percent of its items more than a half-dozen times a day, and  mass merchants use dynamic pricing to undercut competition for key shopping events such as Black Friday.

But for small- to mid-sized retailers, dynamic pricing carries with it significant risks. Among them:

  • Dynamic pricing can speed the race to the bottom. If implemented in a “keep up with the Joneses” fashion to continually undercut competitors, dynamic pricing can be a slippery slope, leading merchants to destroy their own margins — especially when free shipping and other promotions are factored in.
  • Price discrepancies can bruise merchants’ reputations. While they hunger for discounts, consumers also claim they want pricing consistency across online touchpoints and in stores: a majority say online and offline prices should match, while 60 percent say they expect to see the same promotions and offers in stores as they do online. If merchants begin dropping online prices using dynamic pricing but leave physical stores out of the equation, they’re likely to ruffle feathers as a result. Amazon’s foray into physical stores is instructive: shoppers can scan shelf product labels to see the prices, which are the same (and potentially change as frequently) as online.

As a result, merchants should exercise caution when it comes to dynamic pricing — even (or especially) during the crucial holiday season, when the discounts will fly fast and furious. To wield the power of dynamic pricing for eCommerce responsibly, merchants should:

Start with intelligence. As a first step, merchants can use price comparison and monitoring tools to understand the competitive landscape and to analyze their own past pricing strategies. Merchants should identify which product categories and audience segments are price sensitive, how often prices change for top sellers and sought-after items, and which discounts have been successful in the past.

Further, they should understand how their business’ pricing strategy stacks up against competitors, and use that information to communicate their rationale transparently for shoppers. This exercise can help merchants identify key differentiators, such as superior customer service offerings that are offered at no extra charge, that can serve as the basis for promotions and online content.

Factor in fulfillment efficiencies.  Consumers are obsessed with avoiding delivery charges for online orders: more than 60 percent of all purchases now include free shipping. But merchants who can’t afford to offer standard free shipping can still offer savings tied to fulfillment, by enacting dynamic pricing that reflects the cost of assembling, packaging, and delivering items. For example, if all the items in the cart can be sourced and shipped from a nearby physical store location, the product price can be set to reflect the cost savings compared with delivering from the eCommerce warehouse. This kind of pricing can even win plaudits from consumers for its ultra-transparency: they can see what makes up the total order cost and drive their own discounts.

Upstart Jet.com is a prime innovator in this category, with the price of each product in the cart dropping as more items are added. Shoppers can further lower their costs by opting out of free returns and using debit cards to avoid credit card fees. This policy is transparently promoted as a major benefit of using the site, starting with the tagline “prices drop as you shop.”

Make it all about loyalty. More than 70 percent of consumers are members of loyalty programs, and they expect that such programs offer savings: Instant discounts, reward certificates, and points applicable toward purchases top the list of desired features in a loyalty program. Merchants can play into these expectations by tailoring pricing to loyalty membership status and past spending — achieving what is, in effect, personalized pricing based on past interactions with the merchant brand.

Kibo merchant Cost Plus World Market transparently displays loyalty perks in stores, including on shelf labels, where member pricing is listed alongside regular pricing when applicable. Special member discounts are displayed in relevant aisles, such as 10 percent volume discount wine purchases.

How are you using new pricing technologies to remain competitive — without breaking the bank?

 

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

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

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

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

 

Unified commerce platform

 

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

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

 

Scalable and extensible eCommerce

 

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

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

 

Enable omnichannel fulfillment

 

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

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

 

Personalized Experiences

 

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

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

 

Mobile First Design

 

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

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

 

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

Three Ways to Provide Hassle Free Shopping Experiences

It takes a strong commerce game to attract, engage, and entice shoppers to keep coming back. Customers can be fickle creatures, ready to move to a different retailer or branded manufacturer for any reason. One negative customer experience can really hurt a retailer and studies have shown that to make up for one unresolved negative experience, it takes 12 positive experiences.1

 

Of course, that is true only if the customer gives the retailer the opportunity to provide those positive experiences in the future. Providing a smooth, hassle-free experience will keep customers excited and happy with your brand. Below are three ways to provide hassle free shopping experiences, and it starts as the customer begins to interact with your brand.

 

No. 1: Optimized Digital

Digital has become an increasingly popular mode to engage with brands. According to Pew Research Center, “close to two-thirds of US consumers now own smartphones, and one in five rely primarily on their phone for Internet access.”2  Additionally, consumers are frequently shopping off mobile devices. In the period from November 23 to January 3, smartphone revenues shot up 50 percent year over year, and smartphone average order value rose by 9 percent to more than $140–just $10 behind desktop AOV.3

Mobile needs to be treated as a viable engagement and selling source. Optimize your digital plans with responsive mobile web pages. Make it easy for consumers to browse, find product information, search, and buy. With limited screen space, products and calls to action should be center stage. The navigation should be intuitive, and the actual purchasing process needs to be very easy. With address fields optimized for mobile, checkout is a breeze and completely hassle free.

 

No. 2: Inventory Visibility

A beautiful mobile-optimized website is just the beginning. While a customer is shopping, entice them to consider completing a purchase for in-store pickup by listing local product availability on product pages. It’s a powerful tool to list product availability, as the customer, who may have been passively shopping online, now knows they can go to their local store and get that exact item immediately.

The fulfillment options available to the customer during online checkout is also a major factor in creating a hassle free shopping experience. According to the Kibo 2016 Trends Report, 60 percent of consumers will go to another retailer if their preferred fulfillment method isn’t available.

Successful omnichannel fulfillment starts with inventory visibility. If your order management software has a clear view of all inventory across the company, it can then inform the customer if the product is in stock and if it is in stock locally. The customer can then determine their preferred fulfillment method, whether ship-to-home, in-store pickup or ship-to-store.

 

No. 3: Inventory Availability

If you want to sell your inventory, you must have inventory available to purchase. This may seem like a no-brainer, but some retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, don’t have stock available when customers want to buy it. Some stores only have a display model or are always out of stock and some eCommerce sites are continually on back-order. If you want to challenge Amazon, you need to be prepared with inventory available, and if it isn’t in the store or available from your eCommerce fulfillment warehouse, you need to provide options to get it to the customer quicker than their Amazon Prime membership can deliver.

An accurate, real-time available-to-promise inventory count will help with this. Knowing where inventory is and if it’s available to sell is the first step in being able to move that inventory. Put software in place to easily reorder inventory when it gets low on the shelves or to quickly drop-ship an item from another local store. Are you truly out of stock, or is extra inventory waiting on a store shelf a state away, destined to be sold at a discounted price at the end of the season because the inventory count was guessed incorrectly at these stores?

Optimized digital, inventory visibility and inventory availability are three solid tools to provide a hassle-free customer experience. Allowing a customer to engage successfully with your brand, find what they want, and be able to receive it how they want will produce many happy customers who will return time and time again.

 

  1. “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner
  2. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/
  3. http://www.marketlive-blog.com/2016/01/08/use-holiday-mobile-success-to-justify-further-investment-heres-why-holiday-flash-report/
  4. Kibo 2016 Consumer Trends Report