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January 2021

View all on this date written articles further down below.

Interactive eCommerce

Interactive eCommerce integrates elements of community, recommendations, and entertainment in the shopping experience, seeking to bring the pleasurable experience of shopping in the physical world into the online – and ultimately providing better value-for-money to the customer. 

Many online stores are little more than digital catalogues, albeit with advanced features. In contrast, the emerging trend of interactive eCommerce – seen particularly in China with companies such as Pinduoduo – seeks to create an experience closer to traditional shopping, reflecting its recreational and emotional roles.

Pinduoduo pitches itself as an interactive and fun virtual bazaar, recognising that shopping is often about far more than commercial transactions. It shies away from assumptions that shopping is merely a task to be checked off a to-do list.

Tupperware with its parties embraced the importance of community as core to its business strategy. Shops on high streets such as Rodeo Drive know the experience is about much more than buying luxury items, but also about being in an environment of sophistication and prestige. Similarly, shopping centres are places to pass time as often as they are places to make purchases.

Interactive eCommerce seeks to build a bridge between these traditional experiences and what is commonly offered online. It begins with interactions and connections between customers to drive the discovery of new, interesting and value-for-money products, rather than relying on conventional search. 

Online gaming, social media and entertainment platforms have led the way in humanising their interaction with their users, and their approaches are now being applied to shopping. At its core, interactive commerce is where community, recommendations, and entertainment overlap.

Community

Most eCommerce is often a solitary experience, with no interaction, sharing, streaming, or public disclosure. This is very different from traditional shopping with friends or a partner. On interactive eCommerce platforms, interaction is incentivised. Furthermore, users are encouraged to form groups to make purchasing decisions and to use their buying power to drive down prices.

Interactive eCommerce platforms provide a seamless experience across the native app and social media platforms, where users share the purchase decisions with their friends. The platforms also host live-streamed interactions with customers, product reviewers, and manufacturers.

Recommendations

In traditional eCommerce, recommendations are driven by online searches for specific products or services, with the key differentiators often being price or features. The user is intent driven. He or she wants to buy a camera, searches for cameras, and after some research selects the one that best suits their budget and needs.

Interactive eCommerce is curiosity and discovery driven, with users scrolling past an array of content and making decisions guided by emotion and impulse… just like walking down the aisles of a supermarket. This distinction leads to users being serendipitously exposed to products they would not have discovered on an intent-driven, search-based platform.

Entertainment

Entertainment is basically absent from traditional eCommerce. Maybe you’ll get an interesting product video, but that’s about it. Traditional eCommerce is about efficiency. Let’s get you to the product that’s best suited to you in the fewest clicks possible, and then guide you through the checkout process with an equal absence of fuss.

This is good practice, without question, but interactive eCommerce seeks to add entertainment to delight and engage users, encouraging daily usage habits. With constant new features and games, it provides a dynamic and lively user interface and builds a sense of achievement with customers. Entertainment is common in shopping centres or at weekend community markets but is rarely seen online. Interactive eCommerce seeks to address that.

While interactive eCommerce represents a shift in how platforms operate and therefore cannot be integrated into most existing platforms, lessons can be learnt from it to improve your traditional online store’s performance and potentially can become a supplementary sales channel. It’s core elements of community, recommendations, and entertainment can still be embraced by your website.

Here are just a few ideas on how you can make your online store more interactive:

Community

  • Reward customers leaving reviews
  • Allow customer profiles to link with other customers
  • Get customers to share their purchases online
  • Provide forums for customers to interact with each other

Recommendations

  • Display most recently purchased items
  • Display trending items
  • Post recent positive reviews

Entertainment

  • Gamification
  • Live streaming
  • Flash sales
  • Holiday shopping galas
  • Events

What interactive eCommerce has proven is that customers want more from what they are currently experiencing online. To consider ways to apply some of the elements of interactive eCommerce to your existing online store, click the button below to discuss this or any other eCommerce questions that you may have with one of the Playhouse experts.

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.


Rapid Deployment Packages

At The Playhouse Group, we’ve launched our Magento Accelerator, which you may have seen recently mentioned in some of our blogs. It enables businesses to quickly and affordably go live with an online store, with ready to deploy modular, pre-configured solutions built on industry and leading functional practices. You can activate your site in 4-6 weeks with:

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

Our Magento Accelerator is a Rapid Deployment Package, born out of the online retail boom during the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen many businesses that only previously had a bricks and mortar presence rush to set up eCommerce websites.

It is suited to businesses with aggressive growth strategies that need to launch a revenue-generating site fast. It will get you online and in business, able to engage customers, expand your presence, and most importantly transact and maximise revenue.

Ideal for those seeking more than just a SaaS offering, it can grow with a business while still meeting current budgetary requirements. Built on the Magento 2 platform, our Magento Accelerator allows integration with your existing technology as well as the ability to rollout new capabilities as opportunities arise.

To help you make the most of our Magento Accelerator, or any Rapid Deployment Package, here are some key considerations:

Scope

We will work with you to keep your goals clearly defined and focused during the scoping phase, helping you avoid the dreaded “scope creep” that sees both budgets and delivery times blow out. Even subtle and minor changes to the technical requirements for your website can have a significant impact if left unchecked. There are several factors that can cause scope creep, not all of which are avoidable, but to help minimise it, we will work with you to:

  • Complete a Scope of Work Assessment
  • Outline the Scope of Work in your Contract
  • Define a Review Process with you

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

It can be tempting to try and launch with a full array of functionality, but with this you can say goodbye to the deployment being quick and affordable. What is important is to launch with a MVP that is scalable in the long term and enables the site to develop as the business does – and after you are generating revenue.

Our Magento Accelerator provides this scalable MVP, allowing you to quickly and affordably launch with a website that provides fundamentals such as a landing page, product and category pages, a checkout and payment options.

Rely on Our Experience

At The Playhouse Group we are experts in both traditional and online retail. We are here to help you. This may be your first foray into eCommerce, but it’s a long way from ours. Your business can save significant time and money by learning from our experience, starting from our very first meeting. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions, especially during the scoping phase where we whittle down your goals and the parameters of your MVP for launch.

After the launch we will still be here for you, and ready to help your business and your website grow. The capabilities of Magento are near limitless, but the goal now is to get you online quickly and affordably.

If you’d like to find out more about The Playhouse Group’s Magento Accelerator, just click the button below to set up an obligation free consultation to discuss this or any of your other eCommerce needs.

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.

Customer Journeys

A customer journey is their interaction with a brand over time. Unlike a buyer lifecycle, it understands the interaction between the customer and the brand from the perspective of the customer rather than the perspective of the business. Analysing the buyer lifecycle helps you target actions to progress a customer through your sales funnel, but analysing the customer journey is about improving their experience.

While each journey is unique to the individual customer, we can divide a journey into stages that are typically common across all customers. These are: awareness, consideration, decision, retention, and advocacy.

Awareness starts when a potential customer has their first interaction with your brand. It can be triggered by the customer’s actions, such as searching for a product online and finding your business in the search results, or generated by your efforts, such as through various types of marketing.

At the consideration stage, a potential customer is assessing the value and suitability of your product offering. Their journey with your brand will likely involve them visiting your website or social media pages, and reading product pages. However, it is also likely they will research outside of your customer journey to consider competitors, and independent reviews of products.

In the decision stage, the customer has chosen to make a purchase. In an ideal world they would simply add a product to their basket and complete the purchase. However, many customers are lost at this stage. To minimise checkout abandonment rate, you want to remove as many barriers to purchase as possible, and re-emphasise your value proposition. Other strategies to boost conversion include offering free delivery, or highlighting that the purchase is a limited offer. For more, you can read our blog posts on best checkout practices or more generally on improving your conversion rate.

The customer journey does not stop with a purchase, or necessarily follow the above progression all the time. You want to encourage repeat business, so that means regularly increasing knowledge of your brand and products, even if that only sometimes progresses to a purchase. Similarly, just because a customer did not make a purchase when they first become aware of your brand, does not mean that they may not prove to be a valuable customer in the future.

Retention is the fourth stage of the customer journey. It starts with the delivery and use of the purchase. If the product is delivered late or in poor packaging, it will reflect negatively on your brand and limit customer retention. If customer service is poor or non-existent, it will harm you. And above all, if your product does not at the very least meet the customer’s expectations for it, you can forget about retention.

The final stage is advocacy. A retained customer will make repeat purchases forming loyalty to your brand, so long as their experience of both your products and business continues to meet their expectations. Over time, this repeat custom will lead to advocacy, as your customer tells others about your brand and products, through word of mouth, writing reviews, or sharing on social media.

To help your customers progress from those early stages of awareness all the way through to becoming advocates, it is helpful to create a customer journey map. This is a visual representation of all the experiences a customer can have with your brand along this journey. And remember, it is from the customer’s perspective. This will help you improve their experience.

If you would like help with creating a customer journey map, or for any of your eCommerce needs, just click below to set up an obligation-free appointment with a specialist from The Playhouse Group.

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.

Predictions for 2021

If the last twelve months have taught us anything, it’s that making predictions can be a tricky business. We learnt from 2020 the value of and growth in online retailing, as we discussed here last month. Now it’s time to consider what trends we may see in eCommerce in 2021, as the world slowly comes to grips with Covid-19 and vaccinations are rolled out.

Here are some of the key trends to keep an eye on:

Digital Transformation

Our lives were already shifting online before the coronavirus hit, but now the trend is accelerating at an exponential rate. Working from home, holding zoom meetings, streaming sport and entertainment, and shopping online are the norm. This will continue throughout 2021 as behaviour has changed through the past extraordinary twelve months.

If a business hopes to survive in these times, it must have a digital presence – especially if it’s a retail business. We even see a rise in direct-to-customer transactions, as manufacturers are sidestepping the traditional supply chain to take control of their sales. We recently discussed the direct-to-customer model here.

Growth in Marketplace Shopping

Marketplaces, such as Amazon, provide another channel for your products. For businesses that have just entered the online retail space due to the pandemic, it can be a cheap and effective way to get to market without the upfront expense of developing your own website. 

Marketplaces provide high customer convenience and satisfaction and benefit from high traffic reach. However, marketplaces should ideally be used as a complement to your own eCommerce website. It is important to capture customer data to develop your business, which is restricted in marketplaces. Additionally, it is harder to develop a brand without your own online presence.

As we discussed last April, marketplaces are not just for B2C companies but are increasingly being used to grow B2B sales. Learn how to build your B2B marketplace now.

Sustainability

As the coronavirus subsides, attention will return to the environment and sustainability. This will be accelerated as the US rejoins the Paris Agreement with the incoming administration of President-elect Biden. Even the laggard Australian government looks poised to commit to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Sustainability is no longer something for niche brands to differentiate themselves, but an expectation of most customers.

Last month we discussed here some ways in which you can move your business towards sustainable eCommerce.

2021 will be online. Now is the time to ready.

The Playhouse Group is uniquely positioned to help your business stay on top of eCommerce trends, with a valuable combination of digital and traditional retail experience.

We’re here to discuss any of your business needs. However, we are particularly excited by the Magento Accelerator product we’ve launched. It can get your business online both affordably and  as quickly as 5 weeks, while still including the key features of the Magento 2 platform and the ability to scale and integrate more to your bespoke specifications. Just click the button below to set up an obligation free consultation with a Playhouse Group expert.

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.