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January 2019

View all on this date written articles further down below.

QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD BE ASKING WHEN CHOOSING AN AGENCY

One thing my clients always tell me is that they worried about choosing the “right agency” to partner with, before meeting The Playhouse Group. Selecting a vendor is an important decision, particularly if your project is likely to last a while, so you want someone who is not only knowledgeable but who you also get along with. The fact is that when you choose the right agency, everything will just seem to “click” and you’ll find your job a lot easier than it used to be.

Evaluating your project

Before even thinking about agencies, it’s crucial to look at the nuts and bolts of your project. Just a few things to consider are:

  1. Your project goals: What are you trying to achieve? What are your KPIs? Do the different stakeholders have varying expectations for the project? What will you use to measure the agency’s success? Will you require ongoing support? How will this scale?

  2. Scope and requirements: Your business should already have data on your customers like their personas, behaviours, likes and dislikes so take the time to map out your user journey. Using all the information you have available, consider what features are necessary and build your scope from there.

  3. Operation mode: Decide whether you’d prefer the 24-hour access of an international business, the benefit of a face-to-face local company, or something in between. Similarly, think about whether you would prefer the project to be delivered in short stages, run different tasks simultaneously, and how much input you wish to have.

  4. Your budget: As much as we’d all like the CFO to approve an unlimited budget, that’s not always possible. Use pricing as a guide for what agencies are including in their scope, but also be aware of the level of service your budget can realistically purchase and adjust your scope if necessary.

Evaluating the right partner

Once you’ve fully mapped out the requirements of your project (and trust me, the agency that you end up choosing will thank you for doing this), it’s time to pick a partner. You will have some questions which are specific to your project, but generally speaking, we recommend considering the following:

1. The Staff

Find out about the size of their team and the level of experience of the people who will be working on your project. Are the developers officially certified and authorised to work with the software? Are they partners with reputable providers such as Magento, Salesforce or Acquia? If they are partnered with external providers, do they receive regular training? Are they aware of all updates and improvements? In short – are they good at what they do?

For example, at The Playhouse Group, we make sure all members of our team are fully certified on a variety of platforms, and attend monthly training sessions to keep us on our toes.

2. The Quote

I mentioned earlier that it’s important to look at pricing and be realistic. If the proposal you receive seems financially unviable, it’s worth asking them if they have varying rates for projects vs ongoing support. Personally, if I like a client, I’ll work with them to come up with a solution (even if it means working on smaller portions over a longer period of time) because I want them to get great results.

Also, always check the statement of work. I can’t count the number of horror stories I’ve heard about where the quote seemed unrealistically low (it turns out a lot of things were not included in the scope) or astonishingly high (the scope contained all these extra features the client had never asked for).

3. The Experience

How big is the team and how long has the company been in business? If an agency has been around for a while, chances are they will have developed strong relationships with providers and developers, which means a much smoother project for you.

That said, don’t just take their word for it. Ask to see examples of case studies, testimonials and client lists. You wouldn’t give alcohol to a minor without checking their ID, so why would you hire a company without checking their experience? That’s why we publish all of our case studies on our website – so you can see that we know our stuff.

4. The Back-Up Plan

Despite all your planning and research, there’s always the chance that something can (and will) go wrong. How does your agency handle a crisis? Find out how they handle customer data (in terms of security and compliance), and the level of support and response time offered in your SLA. In the worst case scenario (someone hacks your website and takes it down), what is their plan in terms of rolling back the website and data recovery?

The Ultimate Test

When it comes down to it though (and if you’re really struggling to decide between two agencies), I like to conduct the beer test. Basically, you’re looking for a partner you’d be happy to sit down and grab a beer with. If you can’t do that, then how can you expect to work with them for the next year?

On that note, why not test us out? Just get in touch with our team today – the drinks are on us!

PERSONALISTION AT EVERY POINT IN THE PATH TO PURCHASE

Last week, I travelled interstate to meet with a client. I’ve made this journey several times and I always use the same hotel every time. Why? Because from the booking process to check-in, to my stay and check-out (and even when I haven’t been there), they’ve always remembered me. Now, I know the hotel has all this information stored in their internal CRM systems, but when the receptionist asks me what I’ve been up to since my last visit and tells me that they’ve reserved the same room for me, it feels great. I feel valued and appreciated, and that the company sees me as more than just a source of money.

It’s like when my friends remember my birthday!  Okay, Facebook probably reminded them as well; but it still feels great when people know who you are and act on the information that they have about you.

This is the sort of feeling you want to instil in your customers. Everytime your customer has a touchpoint with your company as they decide to purchase a product from you, you want to ‘remember them’.  This is called personalisation in the path to purchase.

The benefits of personalisation

Before we jump in, I want to emphasise that the whole point of personalisation is to make life easier for your customer. Rather than wasting their time starting from scratch each time they interact with your business, we recommend keeping a “Golden Record” so that you have all the customer’s information on hand for easy reference. In fact, a study conducted by Salesforce found that:

  • 57% of consumers are willing to share personal data in exchange for personalised offers or discounts
  • 52% of consumers would share personal data in exchange for product recommendations
  • 53% would do the same for personalised shopping experiences.

I’ll even go a step further and say that personalisation is not only needed – it’s expected. According to a consumer content survey conducted by Adobe:

  • 67% of respondents said it’s important for brands to automatically adjust content based on their current context
  • 42% of respondents said they get annoyed when their content isn’t personalised
  • 66% of consumers said that this would stop them from making a purchase.

So, how do you create a truly personalised experience for your customer?

Examples of personalised content

  1. Email marketing

    All email marketing platforms give you the option to personalise emails and include details like your customer’s first name, last name, birthday, location and more (depending on what information you gathered in the first place). Use this to customise your emails by addressing your customer by name, offering deals based on their location, or recommending new products based on previous purchases.

  2. Product recommendations

    First done by Amazon but now seen in eCommerce shops everywhere, product recommendations based on your browsing/purchase history. Not only is this great for customers as they now have a curated wardrobe, but also for your company (since Business Insider says this kind of personalisation can increase sales by up to 10%).

  3. Geo-targeting

    Most eCommerce websites will have some element of geo-personalisation when it comes to delivery methods, but you can use geo-targeting for so much more. Make things simple for your customer by giving them the closest option for in-store pick-ups, repairs, and available stock.

  4. Continue the experience in-store

    If your business has a bricks and mortar front, make sure the customer experience bridges both online and offline. This includes everything from customer loyalty programs and dedicated click-and-collect desks to more advanced forms of tech like RFID, branded apps and beacon technology.

A step-by-step example of a customer’s path to purchase and how it can be personalised

Here we will walk you through what could happen in your customer’s path to purchase. We will call our customer Betty – as that is a good name. And then we will illustrate how you can personalise that experience for your client. Each touchpoint builds on the last one. Here we go…

Betty gets an email from your company – you should know your customers purchasing habits. What has Betty purchased from you in the past? For example if she has bought a Nintendo Switch, you might want to send an email upselling a game and an extra controller.

Betty goes to your website but doesn’t complete her purchase – Send an email to Betty to remind her that she hasn’t completed her purchase, and then send a follow-up email 48 hours later with a discount for continuing her purchase OR retarget Betty with those products in banner advertising.

Betty is scrolling through Facebook later that day – you can set up retargeting campaigns to make sure Betty sees an ad, not only for your company, but for the exact product that she was looking at on your website. Maybe you are even offering 10% off!

Betty is back on your website and clicks to chat – Betty has decided to check if she will get the extra controller in time for a party she is having on the weekend. You should know exactly what Betty is looking at and if it is in stock so you can advise her the best option to get her controller in time.

Betty continues her research on mobile – You can see that Betty is no longer on her desktop and is now on her mobile. You have made a seamless transition for Betty with your responsive website, and made sure her intended purchases are still in the basket waiting for her to check out.

Betty is on a product page – Betty decides to look one last time at the product page to make sure she is choosing the right contoller.  She also notices a game that she really wants to try in your Cross-Sell options.

Betty decides to Click & Collect – Based on the advice Betty received on her click to chat conversation, she decides to Click & Collect her items from the store near her work.

Betty picks up the product from store – Betty walks into your store and you immediately know she is there. You have a loyalty program, an app with location sensitivity, and beacons that let floor staff know she has arrived. Betty makes her way to the Click & Collect counter and her products are all bagged up and ready to go. All the common accessories and consumables are available at the Click & Collect desk so upsell upsell upsell!

The product breaks and Betty calls your customer information line – The operator, from one or two questions, knows they are talking to Betty. They know  her purchase history and immediately inform her how she can either get the product fixed, replaced or refunded.

Betty goes into a different store to get it fixed or to get a refund – Your staff greet Betty as they are expecting her. With just a couple of simple questions, Betty is provided with a refund or, a time when she can return to pick up her fixed product.

As you can see, regardless of how you choose to interact with your potential customers, it’s clear that personalisation is necessary to surviving in the digital age.

Personalisation is built into all of our projects and we can talk about this topic at length. But really, all you need to know is that we’ll create a strategy that lets you connect with your customer at every stage of the buying cycle.

Get in touch with our team for a free personalisation health check.

Bonus material

Luke’s Tips to Fast-Track Your Personalisation Success with Magento 2:

Like your iPhone, Magento 2 has an app store and you can easily add a POS module that means you have a completely integrated POS that is tightly integrated with your eCommerce website.

Why is this good you ask?

  1. You can search in your POS and see all your online and instore customers – they become one and the same
  2. Any online or instore purchases are saved in the same location
  3. Your coupon codes work online and instore
  4. It becomes much easier to roll out Click & Collect and Ship-From-Store.

If you have a physical POS and are considering renewing it, then get in touch as my rants are much more personalised in person.

THE IMPORTANCE OF B2B ECOMMERCE WEBSITES

Open 24 Hours Neon Sign
Open 24 Hours Neon Sign

It’s 2019, and if you haven’t upgraded your systems to include a B2B eCommerce site, then now is the time.

The thing is, your consumers are changing. You may have been in business for 100 years and have a good reputation but if you don’t change with the times your consumers will find easier means to purchase the things that they want.

More and more your consumers are going to be millennial who have grown up with technology and don’t just want it, they expect it. In fact, 89% of B2B research takes place online*.  So, if they can’t find you online and can’t purchase it online, in coming years, then they probably won’t.

Reaching more potential businesses and growing your customer base

One of the biggest advantages of having a B2B website is the ability to be more visible and have greater reach – which essentially means reaching and acquiring new customers more easily and increasing your customer base and bottom line.

The facts remain, B2B eCommerce sites have higher order values and higher conversion rates (10%), than B2C sites (3%)* so your marketing dollar goes a long way online in attracting new customers.

And the biggest advantage is that it is 24/7, 365 days a year, not just at the stands at the local trade show twice a year.

Communication is enhanced with an eCommerce solution

If you set-up your systems right, communicating with your customers will also be much easier.  

With a B2B website, your customers will have clear visuals of exactly what they are purchasing, know what is in stock and potentially, for popular sold out items, when it will be back in stock. They can do this at any time of the day or night. Meaning you could be making money after hours not just from 9am-5pm. Who doesn’t like making money while they sleep?

Your customer will also be inputting all their details and will receive clear instant invoicing, cutting down the need for many manual processes.

You will also be able to easily create campaigns for stock on-sale which encourages stock turnover.  Your product pages also create the opportunity for a cross-sell or up-sell – which a plain spreadsheet ordering form doesn’t.

Faster order fulfilment

A B2B eCommerce website also allows for faster order fulfilment with cloud-based eCommerce systems.

Old complicated purchase order forms make it almost impossible for your customer to know exactly what they are purchasing, let alone what is still in stock. We’ve had a client tell us it is almost a wing and prayer to order stock from some companies and see what turns up that month.

The manual labour involved in then having to decipher the form at the business end, fulfill the order with pick and pack and get it all off to the right address in a timely fashion is next to impossible.

Changing to an online eCommerce system doesn’t have to be daunting – in fact, it can be exciting and change the efficiency with which you do your business and allow you more time to work on your business more effectively.

A change to an B2B eCommerce system can provide a seamless platform from ordering, payment, confirmation, shipping and tracking.

Get ahead of the competition

Not everyone is embracing the change to doing business online, so you have the opportunity to get ahead of the competition, improve your business operations and work through any teething issues well in advance of it becoming a complete necessity.

Some other pros and cons

Cons
Not having a B2B eCommerce site
Pros
Having a B2B eCommerce site
Difficulty in reaching potential
customers in a timely fashion
losing out on customers and sales
Stay ahead of the competition and
reach more customers all year
round where your customers are
searching for you
Complicated ordering forms that
don’t allow customers to see how
much it is all going to cost

Being able to cater to millenials (aswell as other clients who might
prefer the old-fashioned ordering
method)
No real visual for the customer of
what they are purchasing
Customers know exactly what
products they are purchasing and
how much it costs
More customer and office manual
labour
Ensuring that clients can
self-service at any time of the day
or night
Having to call customers when
items are out of stock
Up-to-date stock levels online so
your customers always know whatyou have on hand
Having to call customers to advicewhen stock will be inClear catalogues so the customer
can actually see what they are
purchasing instead of guessing
Limited knowledge of stock levels
and how they are selling in real
time
Less manual errors for the business
Separate payment systemsAutomated confirmation emails to
the client of exactly what was
purchased
Manual notification of shipping
and tracking or not advising your
customers at all
Transparency of service
No transparency of serviceGreater ability to communicate anddevelop relationships with your
consumer base.
More room for error to creep in
with all the manual processing
Makes business operations more
efficiently
Lack of communication Up-selling and cross-selling
opportunities

The benefits of having a B2B eCommerce site are too high to be ignored – in fact, with the way things move it could just mean you start to see a serious downturn in your profits in the coming years.  If you aren’t constantly innovating in the digital space then you are running the risk of being out of business entirely.

If you want to stay ahead of the game and seriously talk about getting your B2B business online then talk to The Playhouse Group.  You can also check out some of the work we have had the pleasure of completing with B2B businesses such as Taylors and ADMA.  Call us on +61 1300 442 424 today  for a free consultation to discuss your needs.

*https://b2xpartners.com/b2b-ecommerce-trends-and-statistics/

HOW TO WRITE A GOOD BRIEF WHEN ENGAGING AN ECOMMERCE AGENCY

You’ve finally received approval from your CEO to start building the new eCommerce website your company so desperately needs. After months of discussion and proposals, it’s time to start looking at vendors to build (or rebuild) the new site.

Here at The Playhouse Group, the most common complaint we hear from our clients is that their previous agency “didn’t meet the brief” or “didn’t deliver on expectations”. As a manager, it’s probably something you hear quite often as well. The fact is that the most common reason projects fail, don’t deliver as envisioned, or take longer than expected is because of poor briefs.

The entire purpose of a brief is to give your agency as much information as possible. However, it’s important to give the right information in the right way, so you get the results you want. After a decade in the industry we have honed in on the most important things to consider when writing a good brief.

1. Know your objective

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a supercomputer revealed that “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.” The problem is, nobody knew what the question was.

The same concept applies to your brief. If you want a meaningful solution, you need to be clear on the problem you’re trying to solve. Sit down and define your business objectives and what you want to achieve, taking the time to ensure they’re measurable (so you also have benchmarks to judge the success of your project). Some common objectives we see are:

  • Offer a better Customer Experience
  • To increase ecommerce sales from x to y
  • To increase ecommerce conversion rate % from x to y
  • To increase average order value from x to y
  • Increase Click and Collect orders from x to y
  • Grow email subscribers from x to y

2. Get granular

As the person driving this website project and the person with the most valuable insights about your business, it’s important that you outline your expectations. It can be tempting to make excuses like “they are the experts they should know what we want” or “I’m too busy” but doing so is just going to cause delays and frustration in the long run.

What’s more, the more detailed you can be in your brief, the easier it will be to compare proposals from different agencies, letting you make a more informed decision. So, what sort of details should you include in your brief? Ask yourself questions like:

  • What support model do I need from my digital agency?  E.g. Full service (I do nothing), partial service (I do the day to day and agency does the heavy lifting), self service (I do everything)
  • Who is my target audience and what are their personas?
  • How much website traffic do I expect?
  • How many categories and products will I have?
  • How many orders will I have?
  • How many breakpoints? e.g. Mobile, Tablet and Desktop
  • What features will it have?
  • What are the integrations?
    • ERP
    • Email Marketing
    • Search
    • Payment
    • Social
  • What data do I need to be migrated?
  • What are my Must-Have’s, Nice-To-Have’s and items that can be deferred to a later phase?
  • What is my timeline and budget?

3. Take it in stages

If you expect to have a large or complex website, it’s worth considering breaking your project up into different stages. This is especially the case if you have multiple goals or audiences for your website, and need it to serve a variety of purposes. Generally speaking, the website development process involves eight stages:

  1. Research and discovery
  2. User Interface Design
  3. Website development
  4. Website integration
  5. Testing and review
  6. Content migration
  7. Launch
  8. Maintenance

If you’re unsure about what your exact needs are, it’s best to consult with an agency and scope out the project before putting it to tender. This can save you time and money in the long run, and also give you a better understanding of what to expect from your chosen vendor.

4. Know your ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’

As touched on above, once you have established exactly what you want you need be clear on your ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ for your project.

At The Playhouse Group we always walk our clients through a detailed process to ensure that we are clear and our client is clear on their ‘must haves’ and the ‘nice to haves’ and divide them in order of importance.

In our experience, it is rare that a client can achieve all their wants in one project with their allocated budget and timeframes. Which leads us into…

5. Budget and timeframes

If you have an unlimited bank balance and timeframe for completing your project then ignore this section. Otherwise, be 100% clear on your budget and timeline and communicate this. At the very least indicate a ballpark figure and timeframe to your agency.  If your agency knows your budget and timeline they are in a far better position to tailor a solution to meet your needs and budget or tell you if it is even possible.

If you think revealing your budget will cause someone to overcharge you then, you don’t trust them and, you shouldn’t be hiring them in the first place! Make sure you have an agency that isn’t afraid to tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear.

Here at The Playhouse Group, we know what goes into creating a website that works and we provide the best solutions for our clients. Have a look at our brief template and get in touch with our team today for advice on your next project.