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Six 2017 E-commerce Trends to Watch

September 15th, 2016 by Paul Matker

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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!

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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.

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Online Retailers: Is Your Website Ready for Santa?

July 7th, 2016 by Paul Matker

santa_july

It’s July, and the annual holiday countdown clock has been ticking since June for most online retailers. There are only a few months left to lock down marketing strategies and implement new technology and e-commerce functionality.

E-commerce retail sales are projected to grow 13.3% this year and the bar has been raised when it comes to meeting customer expectations. Amazon’s highly personalized and relevant product recommendations have influenced the way consumers want to shop. They are growing less patient with online retailers that don’t deliver a relevant, easy to use, and fast online experience.

3 Key Ingredients to Holiday Shopping Success

  1. Know your customers better than the competition and personalize their experience — Technology today makes it possible to recognize consumers across devices, track their online and offline behavior and preferences, and use that information to deliver a highly relevant and personalized experience. You don’t have to be Amazon or Zappos to have the ability to immediately customize the shopping experience when a shopper visits your site. Modern on-site search engines and predictive product recommendation engines make it possible for you to leverage first-party customer data to exceed customer expectations and win the sale.
  2. Make it fast! — Page speed is easily one of the most crucial ingredients to a successful holiday season for online retailers. Customers expect the experience to be fast and secure. Start doing load testing now to make sure you have the capacity you need to handle the holiday traffic.
  3. Make it easy for customers to find products — Holiday shoppers are crunched for time and are not in the mood for browsing through thousands of products to find the right gift. Product findability and merchandising based on shopper behavior can make a big difference in conversion rates and average order value. Your product offering should be well organized, based on how customers think about your products (not how you organize them internally) and it has to be easy to filter results based on item attributes.

The holiday shopping season is a great time to earn new customers by delivering a top notch experience. The million-dollar question is: Is your website ready for Santa?

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ROC Commerce Delivers a Customer Centric B2B Digital Experience

June 20th, 2016 by Paul Matker

Reinders

One of my favorite things about being a part of the Thanx Media team is sharing customer success stories. I’m especially excited to share why , a family owned distribution company, chose ROC Commerce as their B2B e-commerce platform.

Reinders is one of the largest suppliers to the golf and grounds industry in the Midwest and they share our passion for delivering a world class customer experience. The Thanx Media team is especially passionate about assisting B2B companies transform their online customer experience so that it meets (or exceeds) shopper expectations.

It’s a great story all the way around and one of the things that resonated with me was the way Reinders entered into the B2B e-commerce space. They started in 2015 by launching an online store stocked with residential and commercial irrigation products. “Before attempting to launch our entire product line onto an e-commerce platform, we started with one. We saw it as a great way to gain experience in e-commerce and learn what our customers are looking for,” explained Robin McGuire, Director of IT for Reinders.

Their approach paid off and by launching an online store stocked with residential and commercial irrigation products. “Before attempting to launch our entire product line onto an e-commerce platform, we started with one. We saw it as a great way to gain experience in e-commerce and learn what our customers are looking for,” explained Robin McGuire, Director of IT for Reinders.

They initiated a search for a B2B e-commerce platform that would integrate with SX Enterprise ERP and enable them to deliver an online experience that differentiates Reinders from the competition.

Key customer-facing features included:

  • Robust on-site search functionality
  • Multi-level accounts and permissions to control user access
  • Workflow systems to manage a B2B purchasing process
  • The ability to create a Wish List and save favorite products to it
  • B2C front end to support the ability to do research without having to sign in
  • Customer specific pricing capabilities

Internal business and IT requirements included:

  • Business user control over the online shopping experience
  • Ability to customize product and landing pages
  • Analytics and data driven merchandising and marketing capabilities
  • Intuitive development and business user tools
  • Robust PIM (Product information Management) solution
  • Integration with SX Enterprise ERP
  • Ability to tie CMS and e-commerce systems together to deliver relevant marketing messages

The Results

Five months after the project kick off, Reinders  launched their entire product line on the ROC Commerce platform. In addition to replatforming, the project also included a full redesign of the user interface and full integration with SX Enterprise ERP.

The ROC professional services team worked closely with the developers at Reinders to leverage expertise and successfully expedite the ERP integration. The internet staff was also heavily involved in the entire process and is well positioned to take advantage of the features ROC Commerce has to offer and to grow the business significantly.

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IRCE 2016 Highlights

June 13th, 2016 by Paul Matker

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Once again IRCE was an outstanding experience! McCormick Place West was packed with industry experts, valuable sessions, panel discussions, and opportunities to learn about the latest trends in technology to support evolving shopper preferences.

In particular, UPS’s session, The Pulse of the Online Shopper, provided attendees with fantastic insights into channel dynamics and the “evolved shopper.” It didn’t come as a surprise that the 2016 study revealed these three foundational trends:

  1. Digital fuels future growth.
  2. Smartphones are the driving force in retail change.
  3. Cross channel purchases are growing.

In a nutshell, the trends mean that retailers who don’t up their game to optimize the mobile experience and implement marketing strategies and technology that support the overall flow of the consumer life-cycle won’t be on the playing field for much longer.

We spent the majority of the event in the exhibit hall, where we were able to showcase Hawk Search and ROC Commerce. It’s always fun to catch up with current customers, meet new and interesting people, and share what’s trending.

In case you didn’t have the opportunity to visit us at IRCE 2016, here’s a quick overview of each one of our e-commerce technology solutions that can help you future-proof your digital presence.

  • Hawk Search — Our on-site search and e-merchandising technology that enables Enterprise Search, B2B and B2C e-commerce companies to deliver a next generation experience to visitors. In addition to the advanced core intelligent search engine, Hawk Search offers the ability to implement personalized product recommendations based on individual buyer behavior.
  • ROC Commerce — E-commerce technology for today and tomorrow. ROC Commerce provides the ability to easily deliver the most relevant and consistent shopping experience possible in every channel and along every step of the journey, including desktop, mobile, tablet, social media, in-store, and call center. ROC combines the best e-commerce strategies into a modern platform that meets the demands of today and scales for the future. The platform was designed allow businesses to start with the features they need today and grow for tomorrow with pre-built modules that can introduce new functionality when needed.
  • Site Vibes — A social engagement platform that captures shopping and social activity about the products on your website and exposes them to help extend your social reach and improve the customer experience. The platform gives marketers and merchandisers real-time insights into on-site shopper behavior and social activity at an individual product level. Site Vibes tracks shopper activity, including:
    • Add to cart
    • View product detail
    • Facebook likes
    • Tweets
    • Pinterest pins
    • Product reviews

Once again it was a great conference and we look forward to next year!

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5 Ways to Identify Gaps in Your Online Customer Experience

March 18th, 2016 by Paul Matker

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Customer experience is the last source of sustainable differentiation and the new competitive battleground.Tiffani Bova, Gartner Vice President and Distinguished Analyst

Bova sums up the growing importance of delivering a world class customer experience in a nutshell. I think most business leaders would agree and are doing their best to meet or exceed customer expectations, but we still have a ways to go. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, in 2015 customer satisfaction with Internet Retailers dropped 2.4% in spite of an increased focus and investment in technology and resources to support e-commerce.

Why are so many still missing the mark? In my experience the number one reason for the gap is that too many businesses rely on personal preferences and internal opinions when it comes to designing the user interface.

The best way to close the gap and win the customer is to tap into the voice of the customer and use it to define your road map. Let’s take a quick look at five ways to identify gaps between your customer experience and consumer expectations.

Listen to the Voice of the Customer

  1. Check in with your customer care representatives and find out what customers are saying about each part of the experience. Have them track the number of calls that are related to the website, the mobile experience, and the store. Better yet, also sit down with one of them for an afternoon and listen in on some calls.
  2. Read inbound emails and live chat transcripts and identify common themes. Don’t forget to monitor social platforms
  3. Get out from behind the desk and visit the store. Watch, listen, and gain insights into shopper behavior. Pay special attention to how they interact with mobile devices while they’re shopping. Are they taking pictures of products, taking selfies next to mannequins, or asking a sales rep to help them locate a size or color that isn’t in the store?
  4. Conduct focus groups or usability studies that cover a wide variety of scenarios and take cross-channel/multiple-device shoppers into consideration.
  5. Gather feedback through product reviews and/or tools like ForSee to help you turn customer insights into an action plan.

Use this information along with traditional metrics such as traffic, bounce rate, time on site and pages per session to identify the gaps and develop your road map toward building a world class customer experience.

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It’s Almost 2016! Happy New Year from Thanx Media!

December 31st, 2015 by Paul Matker

It’s New Year’s Eve and another year has flown by. Tonight at midnight, we’ll ring in 2016 and on Monday return to work with brand new 365 days ahead of us. I have a feeling that 2016 is going to be a huge year in e-commerce and both B2B and B2C businesses will be faced with a now-or-never choice: either modernize their digital platforms to deliver a truly omni-channel experience or fall permanently behind. Most, if not all, will opt for the former.

It’s an exciting time to be a part of the world of technology and we’re looking forward to rolling out new ideas and product updates that will help our customers win the e-commerce race and delight their users. It’s going to be a great year and we look forward to working with all of you to find and implement the best solutions and the tools you need to to grow your business in this rapidly changing landscape.

Wishing you and your families good health, happiness, and success in the new year.

Happy New Year from all of us here at Thanx Media!

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Will Black Friday Become a Thing of the Past?

December 3rd, 2015 by Paul Matker

The Friday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, has been regarded as the beginning of the holiday shopping season in the U.S. since at least the 1930’s. For many retailers it’s the busiest (and most important) day of the year. In recent years the shopping frenzy has started long before Thanksgiving and a larger percentage of that business is happening online rather than in the store.

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Happy Thanxgiving!

November 25th, 2015 by Paul Matker

As we head into the business of the holiday season, I want to take a moment to pause and express my gratitude for all of the blessings we’ve experienced over the past year.  2015 has been a whirlwind year and I am incredibly thankful for my team, our family of clients, and our rich network of partners.

You have all contributed to our success in so many ways. Enjoy your time with friends and family. Here’s wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and a joyful holiday season.

I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together in 2016!

Happy Thanxgiving!

 

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Thanx for Sharing: Conference Takeaways on Millennials

November 18th, 2015 by Paul Matker

 

 

We’ve had the exciting opportunity to enter into the Electrical Distribution e-commerce space with our Hawk Search and ROC Commerce platforms. E-commerce is increasingly important for distributors as consumers, especially millennials, continue to shift toward doing business online.

The National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) offers its members opportunities throughout the year for education, networking and booth sessions with industry leaders. Recently we had the opportunity to attend the Eastern Regional NAED Conference in Orlando, Florida. It was a great way to meet people within the industry, but more importantly learn about the challenges, opportunities and future trends facing distributors today and in the future.

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