Meeting Consumer Needs at Speed Requires Flexible Technology and the Right Partners

May 7, 2020
bopis software ecommerce

“Why do we keep going to the grocery store for toilet paper—there is tons of it at Home Depot!” asked a member of my moms’ group back when the pandemic first started. 

Fast forward to today—while the cat’s out of the bag about getting toilet paper at your local hardware store, retailers and brands still find themselves in constant business continuity planning mode, and are continuing to pivot in both what they manufacture and sell and how they’re selling it.

The businesses that are succeeding during this time of flux are asking themselves questions like: How are we meeting the needs of our buyer and buyer community? Are we meeting those needs by surfacing and recommending the right products to them onsite—products that they may not have known we even carried (like toilet paper)? And are we set up to deliver those products in a way that addresses the current crisis? 

If you are a retailer or manufacturer, here are three things to consider when working on answering these questions, with the understanding that you need the right technology and the right partnerships to respond to them at speed. This is based on what I am seeing of businesses as the leader of professional services for a company that provides eCommerce, personalization, and order management solutions. 

The Importance of Search and Site Recommendations

Are you in tune with what people are searching for on your eCommerce site during the current crisis?

One of our clients realized that search results for “hand sanitizer,” on their site were suboptimal. Though they aren’t a business that’s typically associated with hand sanitizer, they had plenty of similar products that could be used in its place in stock and wanted to respond to current customer activity. They noticed that when customers were typing in the term, the search results showed nothing related to their search, resulting in lost or reduced sales.

But, because they already had our personalized recommendations technology in place, we were able to implement a remedy in just a few hours as a back end configured rule. Through this rule, recommendation containers from searches of terms like “toilet paper” or “hand sanitizer” would now filter for the right categories.

Example: A search term of “alcohol,” “sanitizer,” or “hand sanitizer” would now result in recommendations filtered to match exact category IDs of products that had ingredients that corresponded with these search terms.   

This strategy is working very well for them and has been activated across all of their properties. As a result, they’ve seen an increase in engagement of over 100% since those updates were made.  

So it bears repeating: Are you in tune with what people are searching for on your eCommerce site during the current crisis? The answer is most likely no. But having the right tools in place to optimize your search and site recommendations can help attend to those customer needs and behaviors accordingly. 

The Importance of Having a Flexible Online Payment and Fulfillment Infrastructure

Several retailers and manufacturers are accelerating 2020/2021 initiatives in the areas of Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) or curbside pickup, ship from store, and drop shipping.  Many are getting “scrappy,” as one client explained, and turning on things like drop shipping almost overnight. 

But the only way these initiatives can be implemented in such a speedy manner is by having flexible order management technology already in place. 

One client came to us wanting their BOPIS functionality re-configured and we were able turn that on for them in just a few hours—with full rollout to all their locations in just a few days. Similarly, another client quickly turned on BOPIS to begin to test their new curbside pickup experience at two onsite stores. From initial conversation to having a detailed plan on what needed to be configured or implemented one week later, the test was up and running in less than two weeks’ time.

After only a week of testing, they are now looking to expand curbside to over a dozen more stores now with another 100 to quickly follow.

In another example, the client is looking to maximize in-store inventory distribution either direct to customers or via new fulfillment channels so their inventory does not go stale.  So we are working on enabling ship from store, shipment-level payment capture, and drop shipping all at once. A process that will only take eight weeks.   

Some of our customers are also starting to integrate buy now, pay later (BNPL) solutions online. For example, we will be spending a few weeks helping a client enable BOPIS along with this type of online payment integration so that a larger financial purchase does not have a big immediate hit on the consumer. An option that becomes especially critical for those households contending with constrained or constricting budgets. 

The Importance of Having Partners, Not Vendors

To meet customer needs at speed, it’s important to not just work within the walls of your business but across a larger ecosystem of vendors. This becomes especially important so as to ensure ongoing innovation and optimal adaptability. But not just any vendor can be a part of that ecosystem, it needs to be one that has proven it can be trusted, add documented value, and be willing to collaborate on win-win solutions to get both your business and theirs through this challenging time.   

So, reach out to your key partners and ask what challenges they are facing and if there is a way for you to assist them, and vice versa. Maybe you will find something you can contribute, like a new strategy, idea, or approach that can yield a solid solution? Or you can recommend another business in your ecosystem to help meet a challenge you cannot meet yourself?

On this front, Kibo’s Head of Partnerships recently connected with one of our many personalization partners. During that chat, the partner noted that one of their clients needed to update their order management system, something that fell in our purview, and voila, a new connection and opportunity was made.

Though we’re months into the crisis, it isn’t too late to ensure your online search and personalization capabilities are properly optimized, that your fulfillment and payment infrastructure can respond to changing demands, and that you are brainstorming with your most valued partners to meet new challenges at speed. Though it’s the butt of many a joke now, even ensuring that your customers can find toilet paper conveniently and speedily online can help immensely during a time of great anxiety and disruption for your customers. They’ll thank you today and long after this crisis has been resolved.

This post was written by Jaime Chambron, VP of Services at Kibo Commerce.