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February 2019

View all on this date written articles further down below.

DIRECT TO CONSUMER SUCCESS

It’s no secret that consumers have come to expect that they can buy products straight from brands with just a simple click these days. According to one market report, eCommerce sales are expected to account for more than $4 trillion in the US by 2020, making up almost 15% of all sales.

Adding a direct-to-consumer digital sales channel isn’t just a boutique marketing strategy anymore – it’s the new normal. However, if you haven’t set up a clear retail eCommerce strategy yet, don’t panic –  it’s not too late! Starting a project like this isn’t just something that can be completed overnight, and there are a number of factors you need to consider first so that you can do what’s best for your brand.

The benefits of a direct-to-consumer channel

One of the biggest advantages of selling straight to shoppers is that it offers better margins. By not having distributors and other middlemen, brands can now claim the entire difference between the cost price and the selling price. Since you’ll be selling your products at a price similar to that of what bricks and mortar shops would, higher sales margins can be expected.

Another potential benefit of going direct is that it can mean better sales overall. Many consumers now prefer the ease of shopping online to going to an actual store, and even those who do go to physical stores tend to do their research online beforehand. Having eCommerce functionality doesn’t just make things easier for your brand; it makes it easier for your customers to purchase exactly what they want, resulting in higher sales.

Of course, an underappreciated aspect of launching a direct-to-consumer channel is the chance to establish a direct relationship with a customer. The firsthand consumer data gathered through this approach can be used to streamline and optimise their shopping experience, potentially improving brand loyalty and their lifetime value. In addition, the ability to give feedback straight to your brand – as opposed to a salesperson in a physical store who may or may not be personally involved in your brand – means that you can easily and quickly address any issues they raise.

The challenges in going direct

It’s crucial to keep in mind that going direct to consumers isn’t an instant, guaranteed success if you don’t invest in the right infrastructure. Building the right technology foundation is necessary for supporting a customer experience that runs smoothly and predictably. A thoughtful operational strategy is key for your backend systems and logistics to be able to handle order placement and fulfilment, payments, shipping, returns, and customer service. In addition, having the capability to ship single items from a warehouse, as opposed to an entire crate, is something that you’ll need to address.

Providing great customer support is an element of going direct that can’t be overlooked. Remember – your competitors have been doing this direct-to-consumer thing a lot longer than you, so you’ll need to go the extra mile. Your call centre staff will need systems to easily check on the status of an order, check if a product is in stock, process refunds and address customer complaints. Customers expect to be able to contact you via phone, email and Live Chat.. and they should be able to. These are all qualities that can ensure the direct-to-consumer experience is a satisfying one.

Despite these challenges, the benefits of going direct-to-consumer are too great to pass up. By instituting the right technology, practices and partners, you can position your brand to take advantage of this growing demographic and succeed into the future.

Want to establish your own direct-to-consumer sales channel but aren’t sure just where to start? Not a problem! Just drop a line at hello@theplayhousegroup.com.

HOW TO LAUNCH A LOYALTY PROGRAM

Your business is booming and you’re seeing loads of sales from new customers. You’re doing well, but could you be doing better? My honest answer is… yes. Now that your business is established, your goal is to turn those new customers into repeat customers. The fact is that most businesses get 80% of their revenue from 20% of their returning customers. Before we continue, let me hit you with some quick stats:

  • Loyal customers buy more often
    The likelihood of purchase increases each visit from 27% to 45% to 54%.
  • Loyalty customers spend more
    A repeat customer will typically spend 3-5 times more than a new customer.
  • Loyal customers refer more business
    A customer who has purchased from you 10 times refers 3 times more people who then convert 7 times higher than traditional paid campaigns.

Do your customers have a reason to be loyal to your business? While you think about it, let me tell you that after years of working in the industry, I know that an exciting and robust loyalty program is the best way to gain and retain customers.

The next question is, what kind of program is best for your business? Look at what you are trying to achieve with the program and set up key benchmarks that align with your goals.

For example, you could measure:

  • Sales revenue
  • Average order value
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Purchase frequency
  • Cart abandon rates
  • Customer retention rates

Once you’re clear on your KPIs, you can look at the type of program that will best achieve your needs.

Types of Loyalty Programs

1. Points Loyalty System

This program suits businesses encouraging frequent short-term purchases like cafes, pharmacies, or massage parlours. It’s great because it encourages repeat spending by working towards a goal. However, be careful of discouraging customers if the number of visits/purchases needed is too high.

2. Loyalty Card Program

If you want to inspire frequent, high-value purchases, then this is the program for you. This type of program is common with larger chains like Coles, Woolworths, and Myer. Members feel special when they get access to exclusive discounts, coupons and points – just make sure they remember to bring their card with them!

3. Cash-Back Loyalty Program

For businesses that want to encourage frequent, high-commitment shoppers, then rebate/cash-back programs are the way to go. A well-known rebate program that you probably know about is FlyBuys. If you use it, you’ll understand that these sorts of programs are easy to understand but expiry dates on points and lack of instant gratification can be off-putting to many.

4. Mobile Loyalty Program

A mobile loyalty program is where all businesses should be heading, in my opinion. A lot of innovative businesses (Sephora Insider, Starbucks and AMEX Plenti Rewards) are adopting this tech – and it’s no surprise when you consider the amount of data and insight it gives you.

It’s time to go mobile

It’s 2019 and although many businesses still use physical loyalty cards (or even those punchcards they used to have at Starbucks), the days of these wallet-stuffers are numbered. At The Playhouse Group, we’re seeing an increasing shift in the market, with companies migrating from printed cards to cloud-hosted system and eWallets.

The cloud-based loyalty space is crowded and is growing rapidly. That’s why it’s crucial that you step up your game with a solution that covers your customers both online AND offline.

We’ve recently run RFI’s for clients like ILR and Camerahouse to help future clients (like yourself) make an informed purchasing decision. So, what are you waiting for? Get in touch today.

WHY YOUR BUSINESS SHOULD MAKE THE MOVE TO MAGENTO 2

It’s no surprise businesses love working with Magento. Built in PHP, this open-source eCommerce platform has, for many years, provided elegant and streamlined eCommerce solutions for retailers around the world. If your business is currently using Magento 1, however, you should be aware that as of November 2018, new features for the the program  are no longer being offered. What’s more, from June 2020, Magento 1 will no longer be supported. So, if you want to continue working with the best platform, you should seriously consider moving to Magento 2 now.

What is Magento 2?

Magento 2 was released in 2015 and, in my opinion, is a much sleeker and higher-performing platform than its older sibling. A common misconception many people have, however, is that this is a simple upgrade. Don’t get me wrong, Magento 2 will feel very familiar to administer but if you look under the hood, you’ll find a completely different engine. So, it’s not a case of pushing the “upgrade” button and bingo-bango-bongo!

Your design can be migrated, but it will need to be recoded as a Magento 2-compliant theme. Your team will need to rebuild any custom modules and re-purchase Magento 2 compatible versions of any commercial modules. If you’ve previously added any customisations, you’ll need to migrate those too. Now, I know this sounds like an immense amount of hassle but trust me, it’s worth it.

The benefits of Magento 2

Improved performance

One of my favourite things about Magento 2 is its improved page load times. The Magento team have installed a number of enhancements including:

  • Pre-integrated page caching (Varnish) and Ajax Cart for faster out-of-the-box performance with minimal tuning
  • Extensive backend improvements, including optimisation for PHP 7, for faster admin performance and support for more concurrent product and order updates
  • Master databases for key subsystems – including order management, product management, and checkout

What does this mean in plain English? Basically, your system will be able to handle more traffic and pages will load 30-50% faster, which means your site will be able to process more orders per hour, improve user interaction, and increase add-to-cart times.

Boosted conversions and sales

Everything about Magento 2 is geared towards creating a seamless path-to-purchase for your customer. And, considering mobile commerce continues to grow at a rapid rate, this improved usability is crucial. You can expect:

  • Responsive design reference themes for seamless multi-device shopping
  • New features including content staging and preview for promotion-testing  
  • “Elasticsearch” which supports 33 languages out-of-the-box, and is easier
  • Enriched product merchandising with the ability to add HD video content from YouTube and Vimeo
  • PayPal in-context checkout and saved credit cards, resulting in faster checkouts and easier PCI compliance

Streamlined backend for business users

Another feature I love about Magento 2 is their improved data views and filtering functionality. Always needing to refer to your developer can be a time-consuming process, but the new Magento Admin Navigation is perfect for just about anyone on your team. It includes:

  • Drag-and-drop tools to customise and save admin panel views of crucial product, customer, and order data
  • Step-by-step product creation tools, making it easier to manage new and existing product information
  • Improved product importing and exporting to support upsell and cross-sell products
  • Data safeguards that now allow multiple users to work on product data simultaneously

It’s time to make the switch

It might seem intimidating to make the switch to Magento 2 but the effort is well worth it. Furthermore, I encourage you to take this as a chance to overhaul your site and improve its overall business functions. In fact, this is exactly what we at The Playhouse Group did for our clients King Living and Taylors, resulting in significant traffic and sales increases for both!

Another factor to keep in mind is that a project of this sizes typically takes 4-6 months depending on the complexity of the site. In fact, it could take up to 8 months if you’re using this as an opportunity to completely overhaul your site, optimise your content, and add new features and functionality. When we account for the funding and planning stages, the time for you to look into moving to Magento 2 is now – I’ll even go so far as to say that if you haven’t started planning by mid-2019, then you’re falling behind the rest of your competitors.

I mentioned customisations earlier and I know you might be hesitant to move to Magento 2 because of the hassle of migrating these across. What I can tell you is you’re not alone. To quote a wise old sage (alright fine, I’m quoting An American Werewolf in London), “Stay on the path”. The upgrade path, that is. Look at using out-of-the-box functionality and commercially available modules before considering a customised or bespoke solution. I can all but guarantee that anything you are considering has already been globally rolled out in some way, shape or form. We can help you navigate these functions and reduce your customisations, so you won’t have to worry about expensive and time-consuming development updates in the future.

So, are you ready to take the leap to Magento 2? Get in touch with the team at The Playhouse Group and find out how we can help you improve your sales.