SHOP WINDOWS AND HOMEPAGES

If you were to walk by a shop on your morning commute every day, and the display window looked exactly the same for a month, you’d start to form an opinion that there were no new products, no special offers, and no reason to head in outside of necessity.

Companies employ Visual Merchandisers for a reason, they help entice you into the shops with creative and elaborate displays that capture the attention of passers-by enticing them in. That approach has to be the same for your website!

Managing a homepage needs to be the perfect execution of strategy and technology. In this instance, one informs the other and will help determine how you can keep the homepage refreshed and interesting.

Out of the Box features
Depending on your current tech, there are a number of out of the box features that you can switch on, that will work to refresh your homepage –

  • Magento: Take advantage of customer segmentation that serves different products/carousels based on known customer behaviour
  • Drupal: Personalise the experience for returning customers
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud: Utilise Predictive Intelligence to help make product recommendations using AI

For each of the above examples, you can dedicate retail space on your homepage, allowing the platforms to adjust and recommend products on your behalf. Customer trends and behaviours change, so having recommendations based on the “wisdom of the crowd” is a great way to provide relevant content in a timely manner.

Plugins
Tools like Visual Website Optimiser, Optimizely and Hotjar provide you with the means to A/B test your website. You can interrogate customer behaviour and build up a picture of what expressions, content, and colours are increasing presonses to CTAs or increasing basket sizes.

Strategy
With strategy, you need to have a good understanding of your current limitations and look at ways to keep the homepage looking regularly updates. The use of a Content Calendar is an excellent way of managing key elements of the page ensuring that you are regularly reviewing what is live and what can be updated. Running regular campaigns that are communicated through carousels or other means, ensure that the homepage doesn’t remain “static” for too long.

We firmly believe that a homepage’s content should evolve and update on a regular basis. There is no point providing an excellent offline experience and then having a website that doesn’t mirror that commitment. If you need support with either Strategy or Technology, reach out on the form below.

GET THERE WITH MIDDLEWARE

Marketing Managers and IT Managers will be aware of this all too well, but sometimes the systems you rely on to manage your eCommerce operations, just don’t connect.

As we’ve discussed previously, customisation can provide short term gains but add risk long term yet the importance of integrated systems is absolutely essential.

Finding the right middleware solution means your business can resolve complex integration issues without forcing development on either of your platforms, that could impact on their upgrade paths.

What is Middleware?
Middleware acts as a direct communication between applications and databases where there isn’t a standard connection between them. This means you are able to manage the flow of information in both directions to ensure a single voice of truth.

What are some examples?
A very simplistic middleware example is Zapier. This allows a User to take a basic function (email) and use information provided on a form, to be uploaded into a CRM. In instances where your CRM is standalone, this is a quick and efficient way to get the necessary information without manual intervention and copy/paste.

More complex applications of middleware can be taking information from standalone POS systems, and integrating them into your eCommerce platform. There are a variety of systems out there that can assist, with Mulesoft and Jitterbit being two examples.

Benefits
There are a variety of benefits to using middleware, see below for some examples –

  • No requirement for complex development between unconnected systems
  • Usually they are cloud based which means no further costs for self-hosting
  • They are incredibly flexible, so you can connect multiple systems together using process flows and normalisation of data
    • Linking Business Intelligence / POS / eCommerce for example

Considerations
When choosing the right platform, you need to have a clear understanding of the systems you have in place and where the pain points are. Middleware comes with a variety of pricing, end point users, licenses, and volume of integrations – all of these will determine which product is suitable for you and your business needs.

At the Playhouse Group, we love complex integration projects and finding practical solutions. If you are currently facing issues with connecting multiple platforms, we’d love to hear from you and so we can provide recommendations, support and implantation. Reach out on the form below for more information.

CONTENT IS KING

Online Retailers are constantly under pressure to produce rich, effective, and engaging content for their websites. With the speed that trends change online, staying ahead of the curve is a challenge and one that can be made even harder if you aren’t using the correct CMS or the right resource internally.

Outdated CMS
With a lot of Clients we meet, invariably we’ll work together on platform selection. Typically companies have retained old tech due to heavy customisation and integration with existing systems. Consequently, though the status quo is maintained, restrictions on what can be achieved start to mount up. Outdated platforms tend not to include –

  • Marketing Automation
  • Drag and Drop landing page creation
  • Flexible templates
  • Approval processes
  • Personalisation
  • Ability to roll out Mobile First Designs
  • Links to Social

Trying to stand out from a saturated market without being able to utilise even some of the above, can be an uphill struggle.

Speed to Market
A knock on effect of not being able to use the above features, can severely impact on your speed to market. An outdated CMS will typically use either HTML blocks or WYSIWYG blocks. From a resourcing perspective, you start having to find new staff who are competent marketeers who are competent in HTML to release campaigns. Modern platforms mean you can focus on bringing more marketing driven users who can quickly pick up simplistic “drag and drop” processes, instead having to spend money with 3rd parties to ensure deadlines are met.

Strategy
Not having a strategy in place when updating and managing content on your website can have a detrimental impact on repeat customers.

Ultimately, a website that is refreshing carousels, product images, category/subcategory (for example) on a regular basis are always going to look fresh and interesting to regular visitors. Thinking more broadly around different ways campaigns can be promoted throughout the website, is a great way to sure your message is getting across and building up interest in a new product. As mentioned above, inflexible templates lead to cookie-cutter promotions that typically use a header image, body copy, and terms and conditions. Utilising built in functions of modern platforms means you are able to break away from “landing page fatigue” and really start to give each new campaign an individual feel.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be running an event in Sydney talking about content success stories using Acquia/Drupal, if you are keen to know more and would like to attend, please reach out to us on the form below.

DO YOUR CUSTOMERS HAVE A REASON TO BE LOYAL?

We’ve touched on loyalty a number of times this year and cannot stress the importance of making your customers feel valued. A loyal customer, or brand advocate, will come back time and time again if you continue to provide excellent customer service and offers to entice further transactions.

In our previous blog, we talked about “Golden Records” and how it can lead to golden opportunities. In this instance, great customer data can empower loyalty programs.

There are many ways you can approach loyalty via your website, and these will differ depending on whether you are a “pure play” or not. Both present different challenges, and typically companies who sell online/offline must find a way to unify a customer’s data regardless of how they purchase.

Typically loyalty schemes are points based using physical cards and a unique identifier, meaning customers can collect their points regardless of how they are shopping. The use of mobile apps to track your points is on the rise too with Coles and Virgin Australia providing excellent examples.

From a technical point of view, there are now a wide range of modules that you can use with your Magento or Drupal instances that can add value to your website and ensure that customers have a simple scheme they can use.

Simply put, today’s shoppers expect to be rewarded for their loyalty to your brand. As a result brands are investing into loyalty programs more and more but before simply jumping in, there are a number of key considerations.

The biggest challenges you’ll face are around strategy and data. If you fail to execute the loyalty program in a way that benefits the customer, they’ll start to look elsewhere. Requiring customers to manually input their receipts as an example, will reduce the likely uptake from regular consumers. Likewise, running a loyalty program based on bad data will cause operational headaches. Analysing customer data will be a challenge initially, but it’s vital that you have the resources in place to be able to do so.

Promoting a loyalty scheme and using target campaigns is great, but if you don’t understand your customer and are pushing products to them they’ve never shown interest in, or worse still, already own, is a negative experience.

For an effective roll out, consider –

  • Simplicity: over complicating sign up or ongoing use, will turn customers away
  • Educate: give customers a feature and a benefit for signing up, simply asking if they want to join isn’t enough
  • Fun: gamifying the approach or using a social element is great to encourage engagement
  • Reward: don’t run a loyalty program if there aren’t genuine benefits to the customer or to your business.

If you’re looking to roll out a loyalty program but aren’t sure on the best approach, reach out to us on the form below and we can help you with scoping through to implementation, and ongoing support and recommendations.

GOLDEN RECORDS LEAD TO GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES

Consumers today expect personalised customer service. Not choosing to focus on this experience will cost you customers and revenue as a result. Creating this experience can sometimes be challenging, but the benefits outweigh the work required to clean your data.

Multichannel customer service points means that customers may communicate with your business in a variety of ways. This can be online or offline and include instore, social media, live chat, email, telephone and more. So aggregating all this data into a single view of a customer is one of the most crucial tasks that retailers need to undertake.

A single view of customer, or a “Golden Record”, means having all information known about a single customer in one place that all customer service teams can access. This then makes it easier to personalise information to that customer, whether for marketing purposes, answering enquiries or dealing with a complaint.

Other benefits that come from being able to collect, aggregate and analyse data and provide better customer service includes more loyal customers, higher conversion rates, greater longevity of that customer and even word-of-mouth referrals.

Cleaning your data
There’s a challenge with collecting all this data and creating a personalised experience, and that’s marketing from a database with dirty data. Examples include data that contains errors, is misleading, incorrect, duplicated, incomplete, non-integrated, violates business rules or is out of date.

Dirty data can have a number of negative impacts on your eCommerce business. Incorrect or outdated information can lead to wasted marketing efforts and lost revenue. It makes it much harder to successfully target the right customers with the right information, wasting company resources and potentially alienating the very customers for which you are trying to create a personalised experience for.

There are a variety of approaches you can take to clean up data and the difference between it mostly being automated to being cleaned manually is dependant on how you currently store that information. Talk to us to find out which is the best strategy for your circumstances.

How can you keep data updated?
A typical strategy is incentivising your customer to come back to your website, or in store, and refresh/update their information – working with your store staff to check this each time can really help improve data quality – but give them a reason to do so.

For example, if they are active on social media and use this as a means of accessing your site, you can target them through various social platforms. Offer discounts, rewards, and serve up relevant content that will encourage them to return and keep updating their personal information. This will not only ensure your data is up to date, but it gives your business the chance to create long-term customer relationships with clients who trust you to deliver what they need.

Another approach is offering them the ability to keep key information updated, in Salesforce Marketing Cloud for example you can provide them with access to a Profile/Preference Centre which allows the user to manually refresh their information. In Magento for example, providing signed in account users with prompts to check their data is another effective approach.

Explain your use of their data
It is important to be clear with customers and let them know how you will be using their data. This can give them peace of mind, and they will be more willing to share their information.

Customers these days don’t like being sold to. They want to want to enjoy an experience. Not knowing your customer intimately will mean you risk losing them. By explaining how you intend to provide them with timely, relevant advertising, can be critical in turning a golden record into a golden opportunity.

If you would like to discuss strategies in creating a Single View of Customer records or other data issues with The Playhouse Team, you can contact us on the form below, or via email or on Facebook, or on Twitter, or on LinkedIn. You get the idea!

IMPROVING YOUR MOBILE EXPERIENCE

Truth be told reader, I finalised this blog using my mobile phone while travelling to the office. Like you, the mobile has become an essential part of my everyday life and it’s use spans the personal and professional spectrum. Shopping for birthdays and anniversaries (home and abroad) is usually conducted on the way in, so finding sites that make the approach simple is important.

eCommerce and mobile devices are made for each other yet a surprising number of Australian websites aren’t giving that customer preference the attention it deserves.

Mobile continues to gain in importance
For eCommerce site traffic is typically 50% (or higher) from mobile devices and that figure only looks to be increasing. On Cyber Monday 2017, 60% of sales were made through mobile and tablet devices in the first three hours, which was significantly higher than sales via a desktop.

A poor mobile experience can cause consumers to abandon your site and look elsewhere. Page load speeds or lack of mobile optimisation, can cost you money on a daily basis. Recent data from Think with Google revealed that as loading times increase from one to 10 seconds, the probability of your customer leaving increases by a staggering 123%…

Users can even become frustrated if they have to zoom in to read text or rotate the screen. In a nutshell, we demand the most user-friendly experience, offering the best and fastest results.

What are some quick wins examples?
There are some simple and effective changes you can make to your website (without a complete redesign) that can benefit your customer.

Populating forms

  • Field specific keyboard layout changes are a simple way to reduce clicks
  • Android and iOS have a variety of native options that can be displayed via simple code
  • When requesting a customer to populate an email address, you can ensure the keyboard displays .com as a quick button.
  • When requesting a mobile number, you can choose to display a numeric keyboard.
  • Even something as simple as selecting a user friendly “calendar” element can make a world of difference to people entering in when they expect delivery.
  • Consider whether every field is essential when asking for information

Checkout

  • Enabling PayPal Checkout is an excellent way to streamline the payment process.
  • It reduces the need to find your credit card and type in all the details
  • If you aren’t using PayPal, providing customers with the ability to take a photo of the card you are looking to use speeds up the process too

Navigation

  • There isn’t the luxury of space for mobile, so look to see what is essential to present in your main navigation, and what can be dropped to a secondary navigation
  • Keep search visible and easily accessible
  • Consider the impact of a sticky nav if you are also advertising on your website – how much of the page is being obscured

If you are finding that customers aren’t converting as highly on mobile as they are on desktop, then some of these quick wins could help. Drop us an email on the form below so we can start the conversation on how to improve your mobile experience.

CLICK TO CHAT AND CHATBOTS, LET’S CHAT

If I have a product enquiry, the last thing I want to do is pick up a phone and call someone. I need answers, but I need them fast. Typically email can take a day to get a response, social a little quicker whereas Click to Chat is almost immediate.

As a result, Click to Chat and Chatbots are becoming more and more common place in Australian eCommerce, to the point that people preference these channels over email and social.

What is Click to Chat?
It is a live chat function, usually a module or snippet of code, added to your website. Deployed in various ways, it can open immediately and offer assistance, sit dormant and become active if you’ve spent X time on a page, or remain passive for you to click when you need support. An automated introduction is typically used and then you connect to a person in real time who can assist with customer or product support.

What are the benefits of Click to Chat?
The software has become more sophisticated over the last few years, allowing businesses to assign multiple conversation queues to individuals. You’re able to schedule when the chat function is available (providing extended office hours where possible) and provide the ability to leave a request for a call if it sits outside of standard hours.

Key to a successful Click to Chat setup, is ensuring the team behind the tool are able to quickly and efficiently respond to queries and questions, while at the same time provide product information that is relevant and helpful. Having that resource balance is critical to a successful implementation.

What is a Chatbot?
A chatbot harnesses the power of AI and presents in almost the exact same way as a click-to-chat or live-chat function. Instead of connecting the individual request to a ‘real person,’ instead, there is a database of answers, and AI takes key information from the customer’s question and matches that data to a response within your database.

It gives the illusion of being connected to a ‘real person,’ and it provides a rapid response to the questions asked. A chat-box can help significantly with faster response times, 24/7 availability, and the freeing up of your internal resources when questions are asked that require no human intervention.

What are the benefits of Chatbots?
Setting up a chatbot can initially be intensive as you need to provide plenty of information for the bot to learn from and prepare appropriate responses. If your call centre is regularly being called to answer very similar questions, this is an excellent way to provide cost-effective measures to respond in a timely manner.

Not only will it help you to free up your valuable resources, but also to deliver a better service to your customers as you will be able to respond to their questions instantly, even when your business is closed.

Evolving Customers
As we regularly touch upon in our blogs, customer behaviour and requirements are changing on a regular basis. Finding a solution for your website that meets this evolution is key –

  • Customers are more engaged with messaging apps on their devices and are buying from mobile devices with an increased frequency.
  • Customers are shopping around the clock, whether your business is or isn’t open.
  • Customers are time poor and less willing to be a repeat customer for businesses with slow response times

There are a variety of solutions in the market to meet your chat needs regardless of your business size. Choosing the right platform and strategy for ‘chat’ is important to ensure you provide customers with a feature that adds value to their day. Providing a function that allows speedy interaction that delivers results will only help build brand loyalty and drive revenue.

ECOMMERCE AND HOME DEVICES

The rise in home devices, thanks to Amazon, Google and Apple, has been significant. More and more Australian consumers are buying the hardware, and attention is slowly turning towards practical applications and eCommerce is at the forefront.

What are these devices and who is using them?
The smart devices allow users to perform a variety of functions around the home – control lights, music, TV, plan your day and get quick answers to questions. As people become more accustomed to using voice commands with devices, their use and functionality will grow and become a natural part of how you manage your home life.

At present, more than 20% of searches made on Google are now driven by voice command, and Amazon have seen significant growth in sales, which all points towards people being open to adopting the technology.

What does this mean for your eCommerce business?
Home devices and eCommerce look to be made for each other. As it stands, more than 50% have already used their device to place an order online. With sales of these devices skyrocketing, the online retail world needs to take this tech seriously.

Consumers are driving the industry by constantly demanding tools to make it easy for them to be able to search inventories, find new products and order and reorder.

According to recent statistics released by Gartner; by the year 2021, early-adopters will transform their eCommerce sites to support this demand, with voice search being cited as potentially being able to increase digital revenue by as much as 30%.

In Australia, companies like Officeworks and Woolworths are keeping at the forefront. Officeworks integration with Google Assistant allows you to browse their entire catalogue, check their availability, create shopping lists and check store details.

Woolworths app called Woolworths Assistant also works with Google Assistant. The app allows you to build your shopping list hands free, ask it if items are already on your list, view items on your list and remove them. The app will also suggest popular choices to you. What isn’t included is being able to place an order, track your order, do price and availability checks or check store details.

By the year 2020, it is estimated that voice and image-driven search could make up at least half of all searches performed online.

The use of smart devices is still in the early adoption phase in Australia, but with consumer demand increasing, being able to seamlessly create an entire order using nothing but your voice from the comfort of your couch is a likely and expected reality.

If the buying trends continue as they are, and the tech giants continue to push the hardware to grow and adapt, Australian retailers who look to include practical applications with home devices, will benefit long term.

THE IMPACT OF UNNECESSARY CUSTOMISATION

Is your eCommerce customisation causing you more problems and money than it should?
Development customisation can be a very valuable asset for solving issues facing online retailers and in some cases is absolutely necessary.

The decision to further customise your website or a module is sometimes due to an out-of-the-box solution not working for your business, products, or your customers. You need the customisation to allow you to stand out, give your customers a tailored experience and maintain a competitive edge.

However, using customisation to fix issues or just to create a bespoke functionality can set off a cycle that creates more problems in the long term. The impact needs to be considered carefully to avoid costly changes in the future.

What are the pitfalls of customisation?
The major pitfalls of creating too much customisation means that when you upgrade your platform, for security reasons for example, you run the risk that your customised module no longer works with the updated platform. The knock on effect is you have to invest in more development work with that module to upgrade it too, or potentially start all over again finding a new module that you then need to customise.

That’s a whole lot more time, energy and resources your business is spending unnecessarily.

At The Playhouse Group, we are finding more and more that when we speak with new clients, they have concerns that their current platform is overly reliant on customisation, and as a consequence are struggling to either upgrade or ensure that basic security patches are applied.

To avoid a customisation setting off a chain reaction and causing more problems in the future you need to exercise caution and use it sparingly.

Working with a partner who can help you evaluate this and give you an array of alternative options is crucial to avoiding any potential future pitfalls such as falling out of upgrade paths or creating future code headaches.

Future proofing your eCommerce business
Before you choose to add customisation software to your eCommerce platform, you need to understand the value that this will add to your business and your bottom line.
If you can’t confidently show that the customisation will deliver on your overall business goals and create a return on investment then you should consider alternatives, such as out-of-the-box modules that are built for your platform.

The situations where customisation is used need to be carefully considered to make sure the increase in development time versus the true value that customisation can deliver to your business is worth the investment and any future investment.

If you are looking at eCommerce customisation, then you can talk to a member of the Playhouse Group team. We can help you understand the different processes involved as well as any future potential challenges. Whether you use Magento, Drupal or another platform; we can offer you impartial advice that will ultimately help you to create a better eCommerce solution for your business and your customers.

OMNICHANNEL RETAIL INDEX 2017 REVIEW: PART 3 – CUSTOMER SERVICE AND LOYALTY

With the costs often involved in gaining a new customer, it has become increasingly important to online businesses to ensure that retention is front and centre. After all, it costs more to get a new customer than it does to retain one.

Email Marketing Still Has Prime Place
It might surprise you to learn that email marketing is still considered by top global retailers as a key tactic. With the undisputed rise in numbers of people who read their emails from their mobile devices, the optimisation of emails for mobile has been successfully adopted by 98% of brands and retailers in the Index.

In order to attain success with email marketing, it is of paramount importance to make sure email addresses are collected at each and every possible point in the consumer buying process. The core opportunities to grow this list are below:

  • Email Sign-Up in the Site Header
  • Sign-Up Pop-Up Banner
  • Incentive Online to Sign-Up
  • Email Sign-Up in the Site Footer
  • Email Sign-Up instore
  • Email Store Receipts
  • Instore Incentive for Email Sign-Up

Enhancing the Customer Experience
When you collect data about your customers, you can use this to enhance the personalisation of the experience they get when visiting your online store. Smart Retailers are capturing specific information such as sizing, style, and colour preferences which allows them to serve-up personalised communications to their customers while driving sales and engagements.

Loyalty Programs Lacking
The importance of a proving a seamless customer loyalty experience should not be underestimated. One of the areas that many retailers are currently falling short on at present is exactly this. Whether on the web, mobile or instore, loyalty programs need to be highlighted and customers should be either reminded or prompted of the benefits of the program. Simply asking “do you want to sign up?” without an explanation, isn’t sufficient.

67% of businesses within the index offer an online loyalty program. However, only 30% of these retailers of an incentive for customers to sign-up. If a company is taking the time and making the investment into any type of loyalty program, these efforts need to be driven across all channels in order to raise awareness, drive sign-ups, and encourage participation.

An intuitive way to do this, and to enhance the online presence of a business, is to reward customers for sharing their opinions or experiences of your products via social media.

Customer Service and Support
Almost 80% of customers agree that a poor customer experience would result in them ceasing to do business with a retailer and seeking out alternative options. In fact, 70% indicate they are prepared to pay more to a company with a better customer service rating.

Customers expect to be able to choose how they can contact you. Simply having an email is no longer acceptable and may result in lost sales, and unhappy customers. The below channels are accepted as the most important to offer to clients.

  • Live Chat
  • Social Media
  • Email
  • Secure Message
  • Phone

By offering multiple communication channels, customers feel reassured that should something go wrong, they can contact you easily to resolve matters. While 90% of retailers offer at least two methods of communication. However, only 1/3rd of these businesses make their contact details clearly visible in a site header.

Key opportunities that have been missed by many are the inclusion of contact details on product pages, checkout pages, and within pop-up banners

Live Chat is the most sought-after feature and shoppers agree that being able to get an instant response to their question elevates their customer experience and helps them to make a purchase quicker. Chat Bots are the latest innovation and harness the power of AI to deliver automated and intelligent responses to frequently asked questions by consumers.

In the dynamic world of eCommerce, IT capability can outstrip a retailers’ ability to maximise the effectiveness of the tools they own or are about to select. Playhouse commercialises the eCommerce proposition for its clients and manages their digital journey in four key areas – Strategy, Design, Mentoring, and Implementation.