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Six 2017 E-commerce Trends to Watch

September 15th, 2016 by Paul Matker

Trending

 

It may be too soon to predict where e-commerce is going to go in 2017, especially considering how quickly technology advances are being made, but a few things seem to be fairly obvious and worth keeping an eye on.

  1. Smartphone revenue — Will it take over desktop revenue? My guess is yes. No one predicted how quickly mobile activity related to product research and general website activity would surpass desktop activity. Mobile conversions continue to increase and it seems only logical that mobile revenue will overtake desktop revenues and I won’t be surprised if it happens in 2017.
  2. Beacons will drive more sales — Beacon technology is perfect for “nearby notifications,” and location-based marketing and proximity marketing with beacons are projected to grow exponentially in the next few years. BI Intelligence reporting estimated that beacons would be driving $44 billion in-store sales will be influenced by beacon-triggered messages in the U.S. by the end of 2016.  If nothing else, it’s a fascinating topic and a technology trend that is worth watching.
  3. Advanced personalization and context based merchandising — A user-centric optimized experience is becoming more than a priority, it’s a competitive advantage.
  4. Omni-channel is the new normal — According to Google, 85% of online shoppers start a purchase on one device and finish on another. Businesses that fail to deliver a friction-less “any-channel” experience will begin to lose market share quickly.
  5. Dynamic landing pages will continue to replace static pages — We’ve come a long way when it comes to being able to personalize the shopping experience based on the source of a visit, not to mention the ability to incorporate personal data to deliver a highly relevant landing page. It’s all about being customer-centric and understanding that today’s consumer is more comfortable with technology (and giving retailers to personal data) than early web shoppers.
  6. Big Data and predictive analysis technology will increase business margins — Last but not least, businesses that integrate big data with predictive analysis technology are going to win. Consumers are more willing than ever to allow retailers to use certain data to personalize their shopping experience. Businesses that integrate collect the right data, have the right technology and use them both in the right way are sitting on a gold mine.

It’s going to be interesting so see where it all goes!

B2B vs B2C E-commerce Features | What’s Different?

September 6th, 2016 by Marcel Munoz

Businessman pushing button with b2b dollar currency.

 

Many of the best practices for B2B e-commerce carry over to the B2B world as well, but have some slight nuances that are important to a business buyer. In my last post, I reviewed some of the key differences between a B2B buyer and a B2C shopper. Now we’re going to functionality that is required to deliver the best online experience for the B2B buyer based on those differences.

E-commerce Features with a B2B Twist

  • Quick order – “Quick order” for B2B means more than providing the ability for someone to enter one or two product numbers and make a purchase. Make it easy to order multiple items at a time, place a reorder, and export data from their account.
  • On-site search – All of the cool (and necessary) features like smart auto-complete and dynamic landing pages are important in both worlds. Search by product number and manufacturer part number are critical for B2B.
  • Guided navigation and Faceted Search – Providing the ability for shoppers to drill down and refine search results by product attributes is becoming a standard practice on e-commerce sites. Offer the ability to narrow results on multiple parameters such as manufacturer, make and model, and application.
  • Product detail page – Obviously this is important to all types of consumers. Without adequate information on the product detail page it’s difficult to make a purchase decision. Include the item #, manufacturer part #, UPC code, and any relevant cross reference #’s the buyer might be using to find a product.
  • Split Shipping/Multiple Ship To Addresses – It’s common for a B2B buyer to have responsibility for purchasing goods across multiple locations. This means it’s important to allow them to ship the content of a single cart, and ideally a single line item, to multiple shipping addresses.
  • Personalization – B2B companies have a big advantage when it comes to the topic of personalization, since most transactions require a login. Use information about their company, industry, and transaction history to personalize content and product offers.

B2B Specific Features

  • Quotes and RFQ – Allow prospects the ability to submit a Request for Quote without having to create an account and log in. Honor any special contract pricing and make it easy forIt is also important to make it easy for them to turn a finalized quote into an order.
  • Competitor cross reference – If you’re a distributor or manufacturer with competitors across broad product lines it can be beneficial to enable competitor cross-reference numbers in the search experience. It sounds counter intuitive, but allowing a customer to search using competitor part numbers that correspond to your part numbers makes you a valuable resource.
  • Custom Catalog and contract pricing – Contract pricing and special product offerings are one of most difficult aspects of B2B e-commerce to execute, but are also arguably one of the most important features. When a customer logs in, they should only see the products they are allowed to purchase, and the prices that are displayed should be their contract price (including volume discounts).

Optimizing the B2B e-commerce experience to include these functions and features will differentiate you from the competition and keep your customers coming back to your site time after time.

Are B2B Buyers and B2C Shoppers Different?

September 1st, 2016 by Marcel Munoz

B2B-B2C-Featured-455x319

The blurring lines between B2B and B2C e-commerce continues to be one of the most popular topics of 2016. We know that Amazon has shaped consumer expectations in a big way and B2B consumers have begun to expect a B2C-like experience online.

It’s true that B2B buyers are “consumers with an inbox,” but there’s more to it than that. B2B buyers also have unique needs and behaviors that are very different from the average online shopper looking for the best deal on a new pair of shoes. Generally speaking, B2B buyers are more directed and less likely to “window shop.” Realistically, who browses commercial furniture or appliances just for the fun of it.

The B2B Buyer vs the B2C Shopper

Business buyers are sophisticated and it’s not out of the question that they understand your products better than you do. They:

  • buy products to stay profitable competitive and successful
  • are far less likely to succumb to impulse buying behavior
  • has a high interest in content that educates and informs them about your product/service
  • negotiate pricing contracts
  • place frequent repeat orders (depending on the product line)
  • need access to purchase history and account activity

B2C shoppers are increasingly tech savvy and are usually looking for the best price. They:

  • research the competition prior to making a purchase
  • are heavily influenced by shipping costs
  • often make impulse purchases (especially when there is free shipping available)
  • are less directed and like to spend time browsing their favorite websites as a way to pass the time
  • are less brand loyal and more likely to buy from a competitor based on price alone
  • are likely to choose guest checkout and visibility into order information after the order has shipped is less important

Both buyers are interested in a great online experience and quality customer service, which is where the two worlds are really colliding. When building a B2C like experience to meet the changing demands of the B2B buyer, don’t lose site of the fact that they are motivated by different things and have different needs for pre and post purchase activities.

Next up we’ll talk about the most important features to meet the needs of the B2B buyer.

Leverage Mobile to Deliver Personalized Messages “In The Moment”

August 25th, 2016 by Marcel Munoz

Black Friday shopping concept

 

Last year we saw an increase in the number of retailers implementing personalization into their holiday strategies. With almost a full year of experience under their belts, marketing and merchandising professionals can now turn their attention to making personalization truly personal.

Personalized emails are a natural go-to for many retailers, new technologies that enable targeted or location-based personalization on mobile phones are growing in popularity, especially among retailers that have a brick-and-mortar presence.

U.S. Consumers Want a More Personalized Experience

Accenture research found that 60% of shoppers want to receive real-time promotions when they’re inside the store. The most welcome in-store communications and offers cited by the survey respondents include:

  • 82% enjoyed automatic discounts at checkout for loyalty points or coupons
  • 57% liked real-time promotions
  • 54% liked complementary item suggestions

The desire for a personalized experience isn’t limited to in-store. When it comes to personalized on-line experiences the most popular features include:

  • 64% noted website optimization by device
  • 59% noted promotional offers for the items the customer is strongly considering and personalized web navigation
  • 59% compared prices to buy an item

There are some generational differences when it comes to which consumers are willing to share information with retailers.

  • Generally, Millennials reported the highest response when it comes to sharing information and being receptive to advice and recommendations regarding their purchases.
  • Baby Boomers tend to be more demanding and have higher expectations when it comes to being rewarded in exchange for their data. According to the study, 74% expect to get automatic crediting for coupons and loyalty points and 70% expect special offers as compared to 58% and 61% of Millennials, respectively.

“Leading retailers understand that every shopper is different and look for insight in terms of what works best across product and service lines or with high-value customers,” said Chris Donnelly, global managing director for Retail, Accenture Strategy. “It is critical to test how customers might respond to a particular personalization strategy. Data-driven testing should include the behavior of individual customers, demographic indicators and factors relating to the item itself. For instance, while some people may want to be told they are out of milk, they may not feel the same way about personal care products.”

Getting Holiday Personalization Right

  • Right Story — A “me too” approach to personalization in the form of discounts is overused and only appeals to customers who are discount shopping. Focus on the distinct attributes of your brand and product, connect with your customer, and tell a story.
  • Right Way — Shoppers are getting increasingly blind to paid media and referrals. Shoppers are sharing their experience on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and through other forms of user-generated content, like product reviews. Make it easy for your shoppers to share the story and then, get out of the way.
  • Right Time — Understand where the shopper is in the shopping journey and target messaging to make the most of the micro-moments. Learn more about how to find and win the micro-moments here.

Here’s to a happy and personalized holiday shopping season!

How to Manage Holiday Season Out-of-Stocks

August 19th, 2016 by Dan Bulauski

out-of-stock-holiday

It’s estimated that at least 35% of customers who are unable to find exactly what they are looking for switch brands, especially during the holidays. As we all know, online shopping has made it easier than ever for customers to find what they are looking for on a competitor site if you run out of inventory. During the holidays, how a retailer manages out-of-stocks can make or break the season.

In an ideal world you’ve done a fantastic job of purchasing the right inventory during your preseason planning, the supply chain is ready and can easily be replenished and there is no cross-channel conflict over who owns the inventory.

But, sometimes out-of stocks are inevitable and these best practices can help you avoid a poor customer experience, negative feedback and lost sales.

Managing Holiday Season Out-of-Stocks

  1. Avoid surprising the customer — It’s not uncommon for a consumer to want the chance to look at a product in person before buying it and the last thing you want to have happen is for someone to see a product online, think it’s in stock in your store, and then are surprised when they find out it’s out of stock. If you have  a brick-and-mortar presence, provide options for consumers to check in-store availability and offer the option to put items on hold (for a reasonable amount of time), in addition to the option to buy online and pick up in store.
  2. Use inventory from other channels to fill the order — If an item is unavailable in one location, offer to bring it in from a nearby store, or ship it to the customer’s home at no extra cost.
  3. Offer the option to pre-order — For “hot items” on back order, allow customers to place a pre-order with a clear (and realistic) delivery date.
  4. Offer alternatives and match the promotion — Before busy season even starts, identify great alternative products for items that may be at risk of selling out. Merchandise them on your website and make sure your store associates are aware of what they are. Match the promotion and pricing for the original item and/or on other items to keep the customer’s business.
  5. Help them find the product elsewhere — If there is no way that you can fulfill the customer demand, offer them suggestions on where they might find the item in stock, even if it means sending them to a competitor. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate you are a customer-first organization and generate positive feedback. Chances are good that the customer will remember how you helped them and come back again.

 

4 Tips For Holiday Marketing | Make Your Season Sparkle

August 18th, 2016 by Dan Bulauski

santa_july

The biggest shopping days of the year will be here before we know it and there’s no doubt that there’s a lot on the line for most online retailers. The holiday shopping season can either make or break the year and set the stage for the following one.

In addition to making sure your website merchandising strategy is in place and you’re ready with  holiday-themed landing pages, gift guides, content and promotions—your marketing strategy needs to be spot on for a successful outcome.

The stakes are high, but there’s no need to be intimidated. These four tips can help you grab the holiday season by the horns.

Holiday Marketing Tips

  1. Go Mobile — Mobile commerce made a big splash during the 2015 holiday season, racking up $12.65 billion in sales (a 58% increase over 2014). There’s no doubt it’s going to be even bigger in 2016. Think mobile when planning your digital marketing campaign and consider promotions geared to the small amount of real estate on a mobile device. For example, make it easy for mobile shoppers to pre-order holiday items by tapping on a banner. Use geo-targeting to personalize offers and send location-based reminders about purchasing holiday foods to a shoppers mobile device when they are near a grocery store.
  2. Be Social — Use social media as a way to build engagement and humanize your brand. User-generated content (UCG) such a pictures, can be a powerful “secret ingredient” in the holiday marketing mix. UCG that is shared on social is like free advertising. Consider running a Pinterest board or hosting a holiday photo contest on Instagram and give prizes for the best photos. Combine UCG platofrms and encourage people to submit photos and videos and share them through Facebook and Twitter.
  3. Be Engaging — Quizzes, contents, and other types of activity designed to encourage interaction with a brand or product can gain a lot of traction during the holiday season. They give “grown ups” a chance to play and have a little fun while shopping. The online retailer Journelle ran a highly successful 2015 holiday promotion. The online lingerie retailer’s “25 Days of Journelle” page, designed to resemble an Advent calendar, produced a conversion rate that was 3X higher than the site average.
  4. Keep Promises — One of the biggest challenges during the holiday season is with cross-channel services such as buy online/pick up in store. Successful retailers will start hiring and training additional staff early to make sure they avoid over-promising and under-delivering.

3 Omni-channel Tips for a Profitable Holiday Season

August 11th, 2016 by Paul Matker

Babbo Natale compra online

It may feel like the holiday shopping season is several months away, but summer is winding down and now is the time to make sure your holiday strategy is in place and that you’re positioned to have a profitable peak season. If you have a brick and mortar presence, hopefully you’ve already taken steps to integrate your online and offline channels to  capitalize on the increasing importance of mobile devices in the online shopping experience.

If not, take this season to closely monitor key metrics, keeping these omnichannel retail tips in mind so you can hit the ground running in 2017.

  1. Provide real-time inventory visibility — Shoppers are becoming more channel agnostic and there’s a growing desire to check in-store product availability before visiting a store. 73% of shoppers are more likely to visit your local store if you provide this information on your website. In fact, 49% of U.S. shoppers say this capability improves their shopping experience. Don’t lose out on a chance to make an in-store sale by shying away from providing real-time inventory visibility.
  2. Buy online & pickup in-store — 78% of shoppers say it’s important for retailers to offer in-store pickup. Why? Because they can avoid shipping costs and they can get their order sooner. It also increases store foot traffic that can lead to upsell opportunities. Buy online and pickup in store may be the only way for many retailers to compete with Amazon Prime.
  3. Unify your customer care channels — Delivering a seamlessly consistent experience during the holiday shopping season (and all year long) means making it possible for customers to initiate contact through their channel of choice. Whether it be phone, email, online self-service, live chat, or social media, customers expect to be able to initiate it in one channel and shift to another without missing a beat. It’s a tall order, but one that retailers need to master.

It no longer makes sense to think of customers in terms of their “channel preference.” Truth is, they probably don’t have a preference and use web, mobile, and social in addition to visiting your store. Their channel preference depends on their current needs, and what’s clear is that they want a consistent experience regardless of the channel they choose.

Providing customers with a true omni-channel experience can increase loyalty, reduce costs, and increase profits during the peak holiday shopping season.

Drive Holiday Sales with a Mobile Mindset

August 2nd, 2016 by Marcel Munoz

smartphone and money

 

Back to school shopping is in full swing and before you know it, we’ll be in the middle of the 2016 holiday season (!!!). The stage is set for a profitable holiday season for retailers who are prepared and have a smart digital strategy in place, with mobile front and center.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that e-commerce sales are expected to grow at a 3.1% rate in 2016, exceeding the 10 year average of 2.7% growth. The report also noted that non-store sales would outpace overall retail sales growth, increasing from 6% to 9% for the year. Last year, Internet Retailer reported that mobile commerce sales accounted for 30% of all U.S. e-commerce sales in 2015. It’s entirely possible that by 2020 mobile commerce will make up 45% of total e-commerce sales.

“This year, the increase in mobile commerce will be driven by a few things,” said Jaime Toplin, a research associate with BI Intelligence. “Millennials use their phones as their primary device, and as they make more, they’ll spend more. And on the retailers’ end, they are going to create more opportunities for people to buy.”

Drive Sales with a Mobile Mindset

Advances in technology and changes in consumer expectations have made it necessary for retailers to have a streamlined, consumer friendly omni-channel strategy in place. Making it easy for shoppers to buy from a mobile device should be a top priority for online retailers, but it’s also important to remember that smartphone activity also drives traffic to brick and mortar.

  • Focus on the mobile Web, not the app — Unless you’re an industry leader with a very large reach and a product assortment that lends itself to frequent usage, you’re better off focusing on optimizing the mobile web experience rather than building an app.
  • Optimize the mobile checkout process — Require minimal path-to-purchase effort. A few tips to optimize the mobile experience include:
    • Avoid pinch & zoom
    • Eliminate redundant entry fields
    • Shorten the checkout flow and show progress
    • Make it obvious that the checkout is secure
    • Disable autocorrect on certain fields (like addresses)
    • Make your keyboards field sensitive, e.g. default to the number keyboard if the field is numeric
  • Leverage mobile to drive in-store traffic — Give customers a reason to come into the store by offering “in-person” experiences, such as tailoring, product pick up, returns, and exchanges.

The increasing use of mobile devices is a great opportunity for retailers to achieve one-to-one communication with consumers and increase sales across all channels.

 

 

B2B Long Term Success Starts With the Fundamentals

July 28th, 2016 by Marcel Munoz

infographics background E-commerce

I hope you’ve enjoyed the series about the B2B e-commerce landscape inspired by the Forrester report, B2B E-commerce: A Trillion Dollars For the Taking,” In the first three articles we reviewed:

We’re going to wrap things up with a summary of the report and the importance of focusing on the fundamentals.

B2B E-commerce Fundamentals for Success

  • Build a customer-centric B2B eCommerce experience — Online commerce has made customer loyalty harder to come by. It’s not like the “old days” when there was a high cost associated with changing vendors and the interaction with a sales rep was the buying experience. Today, B2B e-commerce organizations need to adopt a customer-first strategy and build experiences that meet or exceed customer experience standards that have been set by leaders in the B2C industry. The B2B organizations that will succeed in the future are the ones that employ best practices to deliver relevant and value-added experience that go beyond the initial sale.
  • Implement self-service tools and migrate customers online — Make it easy and profitable for your company to do business with companies of any size and reduce the costs associated with routine account management tasks.
  • Think creatively about staffing — In addition to educating and training internal resources to be valuable contributors to your e-commerce team, invest in experienced B2C professionals to add to your team. Find them through organizations such as Shop.org, tap into personal and professional networks and use recruiters such as Ecommerce Recruiter, who specialize in finding and placing e-commerce professionals

It’s an exciting time to be in B2B e-commerce! Check out these articles to help you get started down the path of evolving your customer experience.

Source B2B E-Commerce Talent Creatively

July 26th, 2016 by Marcel Munoz

Business meeting flat illustration concept

Now that we’ve talked about the importance of optimizing the B2B customer experience and reviewed some tips on how to overcome channel conflict between e-commerce and sales organizations, let’s talk about staffing. This can be a real challenge for B2B organizations and companies are struggling to find both technical and nontechnical B2B e-commerce talent.

Because B2B e-commerce has lagged behind the B2C model in areas of merchandising, personalization, marketing, and other onsite features, they may lack the internal knowledge and experience required to optimize the B2B experience to match B2C expectations. On the flip side, there are complexities to running a B2B business that are different from a B2C organization—things such as:

  • CRM
  • Sales force enablement
  • Purchasing workflows
  • Complex pricing models
  • Custom Catalog and contract pricing
  • B2B specific fulfillment methods

In the Forrester report, B2B E-Commerce: A Trillion Dollars For the Taking,” Andy Hoar offers a couple of insights about soucing talent to grow your B2B business:

  • Import talented B2C staff — According to the report, “Most B2B e-commerce executives tell Forrester that they prefer to hire employees who have a background in B2C e-commerce on the grounds that many strategies and tactics that have succeeded in B2C will also succeed in B2B.” A winning strategy is to hire talented B2C professionals who can share insights and help create B2C-like experiences and train them about doing business in the B2B world.
  • Convert promising internal employees — Many companies initially grew their B2B e-commerce presence by establishing a cross-functional team from tech management, marketing, and customer service. Then, for some reason, after the website is up and running, the focus for staffing returns to looking outside of the organization. But Forrester now sees B2B organizations that are struggling to hire experienced B2B employees opting to retrain internal resources so they can join the e-commerce team.

Staffing for the future of B2B e-commerce is going to necessitate training, collaboration, and creative thinking.

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Paul looks forward to discussing ways to develop your website into the ultimate sales channel, while also bringing you the latest Thanx Media news and announcements.
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Check out Marcel’s blogs for insight into developing a more technical approach for your website, as well as creative ways to generate more revenue.
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