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October 2020

View all on this date written articles further down below.

Utilising User Generated Content

Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, high-quality user-generated content (UGC) is easy for your customers to produce – so long as they are motivated to do so. Whether they’re sharing a picture of their lunch to Instagram, or their new purchases from the upcoming crazy sales period to Facebook, this content can be invaluable for eCommerce businesses to boost their sales.

Put simply, UGC is content created by those who interact with your brand, rather than you yourself. Back in July, we looked at embracing reviews, which are one of the key types of UGC. As we noted then, 92.4% of customers use reviews to guide the majority of their ordinary purchasing decisions, and 40% of online customers use social networks to research new products and brands. But UGC is more than just reviews, but any content generated by your customers, such as social media posts, videos, and photos. Maybe it’s a photo on Instagram, or maybe it’s an unboxing video shared to YouTube.

Particularly with the rise of Direct to Customer (D2C) transactions, which we discussed in last week’s blog, UGC has become the weapon of choice for reaching and selling to Millennials and Generation Z. Forbes reported this year that ads based on UGC receive four times the rate of click-throughs and cost up to 50% less per click than average ads.

Kirsten Baumberger, Founder of minisocial.io, said: “UGC has levelled the playing field for marketers in recent years. Now anyone with a good product and a few super-fans can compete with the big dogs on acquisition channels, vying for (and converting) the same customers as publicly traded companies.”

Social Proof

The huge advantage of UGC is that potential customers believe it, while they remain sceptical of direct marketing messages. When people see other people endorsing a product it provides “social proof”, giving external validation of a product from real customers. We see this with the adoption of innovation. A few early adopters lead the way – they’re our crucial first UGC creators – then as more people validate the product, it becomes less of a risk in the customer’s mind to purchase it. If you can trigger this adoption and UGC – before long, even laggards are buying the latest must-have product of the season.

Effective and Engaging

UGC is cost-effective, by having your customers as your content producers, photographers, influencers and marketers. Properly harnessed, you can have a steady supply of content without having to create it all yourself. Not only do you save time, and consequently money, on content creation, UGC is also valuable because it reaches into the social networks of the content creators, expanding beyond the original social-network reach of your brand. Additionally, UGC provides engagement between you and the broader community. By studying the UGC, you can come to a better understanding of how the community views your products, get to know them better, and build stronger relationships with them.

Using UGC

UGC sounds like a marketer’s dream, but for it to work you need to:

  • motivate your customers to create content
  • have channels for sourcing and collection content
  • have a plan for using the content

Some brands, such as the iPhone, are fortunate. People line up to buy the latest version (well, maybe not the latest in this specific example) and are immediately sharing all kinds of content about it. For most brands, you’ll need to motivate your customers to create content, and in particular the kind of content that helps you build your brand. Two of the most helpful ways are to solicit UGC in post-sales emails, and to incentivise content creation with contests and giveaways.

To source and collect content, you must have social channels that your customers can either post to or tag, whether it’s a Facebook page, Instagram feed, or Twitter handle. It is equally important to create specific hashtags for your customers to use with their UGC. They need to know what to tag, whether it’s a specific tag for your brand or the product, or both. Both your social channels and your hashtags should be shared and reinforced at check out, in thank you emails, on your social channels, on your website, on product packaging… wherever you can. This is the key to sourcing and collecting UGC.

Once you have UGC, it can be used in multiple ways depending on its type, from being incorporated into traditional advertising, to being reposted on your social channels, to being embedded on your website, or included on a social media wall.

UGC is just one point on the marketing spectrum, but is an increasingly effective one. If you’d like to discuss your marketing objectives with an expert from The Playhouse Group, please don’t hesitate to click the button below. We have expertise in everything from large distribution sales catalogue mail-outs, to Facebook and Google ads, to UGC.

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any eCommerce questions you may have.

The Rise in Direct-to-Customer

The traditional supply chain of manufactures selling their products to customers via wholesalers, distributors and retailers is being either replaced or complemented by many manufacturers with a direct-to-customer (D2C) model. Driving this change are the growth in online sales, and the drop in the price of setting up a high-quality eCommerce website.

In the days of bricks-and-mortar dominance, using the traditional supply chain was the most effective way to sell your products – very few customers would turn up at your factory to make a purchase, and even then sales would be significantly limited by geography. Put simply, you needed wholesalers, distributors and retailers, so that your products could be within easy reach of your customers.

That was before eCommerce.

As we noted this month in encouraging businesses to take full advantage of the upcoming sales season, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that online shopping had increased by 81.1% in just one year from August 2019 to 2020.

Now if you don’t have an eCommerce website, you’re being left behind.

Fortunately, it is easy for manufacturers to embrace D2C, cutting out middlemen, increasing their margin and giving more flexibility to compete on price. But D2C is not just about money, it also puts you in control of your brand, reputation and sales strategies, and enables you to better receive feedback directly from your customers. 

Embracing D2C does, of course, come with additional responsibilities – especially if you choose to retail exclusively through this channel. Fulfilment, marketing, customer service and more now falls to you, as does maintaining a high-quality eCommerce website. 

This can come as a big step for a manufacturer, but The Playhouse Group is here to help with the transition into the online world and the possibilities it holds. In recent blogs, we’ve also covered fulfilment, search engine optimisation (SEO), and embracing online reviews, as well as many other topics that can help you maximise your online performance.

Working in your favour is that customers generally prefer to research products on a manufacturer’s website, and over half prefer to purchase that way as well. With D2C those customers will be yours and not a third-party retailer’s, so you are in charge of who they are, how you build your relationship with them, and how you provide value. This direct connection enables your business to personalise your service and be agile in adapting to your customers’ changing needs. 

Now more than ever retail is shifting online, and D2C is increasingly part of it. Of course the growth in online sales is only of use to you if you have a high-quality eCommerce website developed to take advantage of the opportunity. In the past, this was often both expensive and time consuming to deploy. However, The Playhouse Group have created a Magento Accelerator product that is both affordable and quick, while still including the key features of the Magento 2 platform and the ability to scale and integrate more to your bespoke specifications.

Click the button below to set up an obligation-free consultation, and The Playhouse Group can have you online in 4-6 weeks, in time for Christmas. Getting online will not cost you an arm and a leg unless you aren’t online.

With decades of experience and as a certified Magento partner, The Playhouse Group can help your business maximise its online sales capabilities. Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any other eCommerce questions you may have.


Don’t let voice commerce leave you speechless

Voice commerce is about enabling your customers to make purchases using just voice commands, with the help of digital voice assistants. These are primarily found on smartphones and smart speakers, with the most popular being Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri.

Many people already use these assistants to check the weather, turn on the lights, or to play music, but moving beyond these simple tasks and expanding into the eCommerce realm is tipped to be one of the most significant trends of 2021.

Research from Statista released last month found: “In 2020, there will be 4.2 billion digital voice assistants being used in devices around the world. Forecasts suggest that by 2024, the number of digital voice assistants will reach 8.4 billion units – a number higher than the world’s population… Virtual assistants have become a key component of the smart device industry, being absolutely integral to the way that consumers interact with their devices.”

Improvements in voice recognition software and artificial intelligence have matched the proliferation of digital voice assistants, enabling customers to enjoy a shopping experience more akin to a conversation with a dedicated salesperson. Without having to use a keyboard, mouse or screen, customers can ask questions to find product information, check availability and pricing, and place an order. 

Just as online shopping, and then mobile shopping, were significant steps forward in the retail experience, voice commerce is the next phase. Ultimately for any retailer, the goal is to remove barriers to purchase. Providing an engaging and quicker customer experience through voice commerce helps this.

As with all emerging technologies, there are challenges faced by voice commerce: adoption will be slow, particularly amongst older customers; customers are used to buying through increasingly visual, image and video driven, interfaces; voice recognition software favours certain languages, dialects and accents; and the voice assistant applications themselves are in the early stages of development. 

The software will improve over time, and the adoption of innovation always has its laggards, but this will not stop voice commerce from becoming an essential complement to online and mobile shopping. In practical terms, the biggest hurdle for your business in implementing voice commerce is how committed you are to making it work. There are various software integrations that The Playhouse Group can implement to make your shop voice commerce ready, or we can create a customised solution for you.

Importantly, voice commerce needs to be a sales channel that integrates as part of an omnichannel approach, and should be used in concert with online, mobile and even instore to provide the best customer experience. Voice commerce is best for repeat orders, where customer trust and expectation is already established and the time saving most evident.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, these were rapidly evolving times. To ensure you are best positioned to take advantage of the acceleration of adoption of online shopping, and to stay at the forefront of the latest trends and technologies, such as voice commerce, click the button below to set up an obligation-free consultation with The Playhouse Group.

Ask about our Magento Accelerator package that can get your business online in less than a month for less than $10k in 4-6 weeks.

With decades of experience and as a certified Magento partner, The Playhouse Group can help your business maximise its online sales capabilities. Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any other eCommerce questions you may have.


Are you ready for Black Friday, Cyber Monday & even Christmas 2020?

The acceleration of the shift to online purchasing during the pandemic has set the stage for this month’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to eclipse all records. Consumer confidence was further boosted by tax cuts announced in this week’s Australian federal budget, backdated to the start of the financial year. 

“Continued improvement in the local news around the pandemic and talk of early tax cuts and other fiscal measures in the Budget led to a gain in consumer confidence for the fifth straight week,” ANZ Head of Australian Economics, David Plank, explained on Tuesday. “Consumers are still pessimistic, but confidence is at its highest level since June.”

This month’s data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that online sales rose 7% in August in seasonally adjusted month-on-month terms, following a 6.3% rise in July. “These results followed large rises in March and April 2020,” its report stated, “as consumers turned to online shopping as a way of complying with regulations introduced to encourage social distancing In through-the-year terms, the seasonally adjusted series rose 81.1% in August 2020 compared to August 2019.”

The Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales provide an opportunity for eCommerce retailers and High Street retailers to ride the wave of continued improved consumer confidence and online purchasing trends… so long as your business is ready for the traffic. Here are some tips to make the most of these events.

Quick-Change Flash Sales 

Black Friday sales earned its place in the retail psyche with images of crowds surging into bricks and mortar stores in search of huge but limited discounts – much like used to happen in Australia with the Boxing Day sales (remember the scenes at Myer & David Jones Stores?). Before it was outlawed in many places here, people trampled over each other to try and get one of the few $10 televisions or other big-ticket items. This loss-leading sales tactic worked so well because it created a sense of urgency and scarcity, and drew in a crowd who were then exposed to other sales or their associated items.

You can boost online sales by creating this same sense though short time-constrained flash sales. Instead of offering a set discount over all products for the whole Black Friday to Cyber Monday period, you should consider shorter sales periods for different products and different times, changing as much as hourly. Not only will this prompt customers to make immediate purchases, but it also adds an element of surprise. It encourages customers to return to your site multiple times over the sales period.

Segmented Targeting

To maximise the effects of your sales, you should target them at different segments of your customer base. Rather than offering a store-wide 30% off, for example, you can go through your existing customer lists and segment them based on prior purchases so that you can more effectively target them with different offers.

You can begin marketing to these lists a week before the sales to whet their appetite for the upcoming specials without offering specifics. 

Offer Unique Deals

It can be tempting to think that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just about massive price discounts, but competing on price alone is ultimately a race to the bottom that may generate turnover but little profit. Especially for online retailing, where customers are easily able to compare prices from a range of stores, just being the cheapest is a hard game to win and sustain.

It is better to create unique deals for your customers, whether that is through a partnership with your suppliers, creating unique or “exclusive” bundles of products, or offering non-discount incentives such as increased loyalty program points or exclusive gifts. 

These are just some ideas to help you enjoy a successful sales period. But for any of it to work, the key is preparation. To discuss how you can get ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and even for Christmas, click the button below to set up a free consultation with The Playhouse Group now.

Ask Peter about our new Magento B2C Accelerator – Launch your B2C commerce store with ready to deploy modular, pre-configured solutions built on industry and leading functional practices.  Activate your site in 4-6 Weeks with:

  • Industry-Specific Designs
  • Pre-Coded Functionalities
  • Essential Integration

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any eCommerce questions you may have.

eCommerce Spring Clean: Price

Basic economics teaches us that nothing affects demand quite like price, yet it is potentially something that eCommerce businesses often spend little time reflecting or studying on as they instead focus on crucial yet peripheral areas such as SEO, shopper experience, and order fulfilment. Pricing of products is not a process in retail, it is very much science when done correctly.  Any successful retailer will tell you “pricing implemented correctly, will deliver the results you and your customer want.” 

There’s the old anecdote of the grocer who takes delivery of tomatoes and puts half at the front of the store on sale and the other half at the back at double the price. Those wanting a bargain buy the discounted tomatoes and those wanting quality buy the expensive ones. The grocer is happy because he sells out both.

As this anecdote illustrates, even though the price is the decisive factor for most consumers, simply being cheapest is not always the best strategy for maximising sales or revenue. Price optimisation is about adjusting product pricing to achieve the best possible outcome for your store, and sometimes that might mean putting prices up. 

Companies such as Amazon can change a product’s price up to six times per day, and average almost four changes per product per day. They do this to:

  • Maximise yield for each sale
  • Increase sales for lagging products
  • Improve profit margin for products with a limited competition or with good brand positioning
  • Maximise profit based on market comparisons

There are three basic steps that your business can take to optimise its pricing: analyse competitor pricing, measure willingness to pay, and test your price points. Playhouse’s CEO, Luke Goldsworthy, who also a former Woolworths executive can’t emphasis enough, “Always analyse, always measure and always test your price points”.

Analyse Competitor Pricing

To effectively analyse competitor pricing you’ve got to define your competition, track their prices, and analyse the results. The challenge here is tracking competitor pricing. As mentioned above with reference to Amazon, this can change multiple times per day, and if you’ve got a large product offering doing this manually across the board would be nearly impossible. At The Playhouse Group, we can build an in-house pricing engine for you, or recommend price tracking software. Alternatively, you can just select a few key products to analyse. 

Once you’ve gathered your competitors’ pricing data, you can analyse it to react immediately to their pricing decisions, and over time to determine patterns in their pricing behaviour. This analysis will provide valuable insights to help you gain a competitive advantage, such as exposing who competes over the most popular brands and products, for which products your competitors offer the most competitive prices, and which products the big retailers mostly compete on.

Willingness to Pay

There are many ways that businesses set their pricing. The worst is to take a “cost plus” approach. Potential customers aren’t concerned with your costs, but will evaluate the price based on their expectations. Alternatively, you can copy your competitor pricing, but this may not work as each business has different costs, value propositions and market alignments. Finally, you could just take the average price of your competitors, but this will leave you lost amongst the herd.

What is important to take into consideration is your customers’ willingness to pay. Your market should be differentiated from that of your competitors in some way, and they will have different expectations of price. This willingness is affected by factors such as location, demographics, and consumption behaviour. To understand your market it is helpful to conduct targeted surveys to find out what is the maximum price they are willing to pay for a product, and what price do they think it should be offered at. Not only will this information help you set the optimal price, it will also give insight into which products represent the highest profit opportunity and which will need to be discounted. 

Price Testing

In a recent post on the value of A/B testing, we discussed how you can use it to optimise your eCommerce store, and it is particularly useful for assessing price points. Competitor pricing fluctuates constantly online, so you will need to continually reassess and test new pricing points to find the right price/demand ratio for your products. 

In addition to the above strategies, many eCommerce businesses rely on dynamic pricing engines, either built in-house or utilising licensed software, to be able to automatically update their prices according to demand, supply, competitor pricing, and other factors. These frequent price changes help maximise revenue, but rely on significant data collection and analysis and can only be done by computers.

If you would like to learn about dynamic pricing, and want help in setting up an A/B test, with assessing your pricing structure, or for any other eCommerce related matters, please don’t hesitate to click below to set up a free consultation with one of The Playhouse Group specialists.

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any eCommerce questions you may have.