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Luke Goldsworthy

View all authors posts further down below.

Using Chatbots and AI for self-service and selling online

These days, customers live in a world that is saturated with communication. They’re bombarded with material  at home, on their computers, on their phones, on the radio, and at work. With an increasing number of businesses vying for the attention of customers, personalising the customer experience has become the norm. However, with so many customer touchpoints available, engaging with them at every stage has become a mammoth task.

Enter chatbots. These amazing pieces of software are designed to talk to users using a live chat interface and are revolutionising the way we do business. They can be hosted anywhere online including your website, online marketplaces (like Amazon and Etsy), and through social messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Slack, and even Amazon’s Alexa.

The uses for these bots are endless and not limited to helping you buy a new outfit. For example, you can have bots that tell you the weather, bots that help you select and order groceries, bots that provide personal finance advice… the list goes on.

How does it work?

At the most basic level, a chatbot will provide a pre-selected list of answers that you can choose from (much like phone support lines asking you to press 1 to open a new account, 2 to get help, and so on). Advanced bots will scan the keywords in your enquiry to give you a pre-written answer based on your request. More sophisticated bots will go a step further and utilise artificial intelligence and machine learning, actively learning from previous conversations to create responses that are incredibly lifelike and natural.

The benefits of chatbots

1. Stay in touch 24/7

As much as you’d like to be available to help your customers at any time, the reality is that we humans need to sleep. That’s not the case for chatbots however. Whether you are operating locally or globally, chatbots will immediately respond to your customers helping them with their queries or complaints. The instant response means fewer delays in the buying process as customers immediately receive answers to their questions – waiting on a customer support line for hours will soon be a thing of the past!

2. Reduced overheads

Every member of your customer support team will only ever be able to handle one or two customers at the same time. By implementing a chatbot to manage these (often repetitive and manual) requests, your business will not only be able to handle more customers with fewer resources, but also potentially avoid any issues caused by human error. 

In fact, according to a study by Juniper Research, chatbots are expected to help businesses save over $8 billion in operating costs per year by 2022. 

3. Increased engagement

As mentioned previously, it’s important to deliver fully personalised content to your customers to keep them interested and engaged. Chatbots are a great way to do this, and not just because of their instant response. For more advanced systems, chatbots can integrate with your existing CRM, which allows them to pull details from the customer records. 

For example, Jane might come online looking to buy a new pair of shoes. The chatbot will be able to see Jane’s past purchases and make a recommendation based on her historical preferences; or it could schedule an appointment for a fitting if it sees Jane prefers buying in-store. 

4. Go where the users are

It may seem that every man, woman and child is on social media these days, but the facts show us that users actually prefer messaging apps. In fact, in case you missed it, research by Reuters showed that while users on social media platforms were decreasing, messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Messenger and WeChat were seen huge growth.

Another survey conducted in 2018 showed us that not only did messaging apps have more users, the users also spent more time there. For example in 2018, WhatsApp’s users spent a collective 85 billion hours on the platform, compared to Facebook’s 30 billion.

It’s become clear that when it comes to interacting with others, most customers will prefer to do it privately, at a time of their choosing, with 68% of consumers saying that messaging was the most convenient way to stay in touch with a business.

Chatbots are transforming the online user experience, moving towards a more personalised journey. Want to find out how your business could be using chatbots? Get in touch with us today.

Over the next two weeks we will be doing Part 1 and Part 2 of the pros and cons of each platform in implementing chatbots.  So stay tuned…

The difficulties of delivering a great omnichannel experience

When it comes to operating in a competitive environment, savvy businesses are utilising omnichannel commerce as a way to engage with the customer at all touchpoints. A great system will learn from the customer’s behaviour and deliver a consistent and tailored experience everywhere they shop.

If you can manage it, omnichannel commerce just makes sense. According to the Harvard Business Review, omnichannel customers “… spent an average of 4% more on every shopping occasion in the store and 10% more online than single-channel customers.” What’s more, the study also found that with every additional channel used, shoppers spent more in-store, with customers who used over four channels spending 9% more.

Unfortunately, the key phrase here is “if you can manage it”. Although omnichannel commerce is an asset to any business, it’s not always easy to execute. Here are some of the difficulties you might encounter when deciding to embark on omnichannel marketing.

It’s non-linear 

The omnichannel journey is complex and non-linear. With today’s technology, customers have a proliferation of touchpoints available to them. 

For example, they could follow your brand on social media but not buy anything; or they could walk in-store, check out your products and buy them online later; or perhaps they decide to buy your products online, collect their order in-store, and add more products to their cart as they check out. 

As you can see, there’s no straight line to the customer experience. Instead of a straight line, we need to re-imagine the customer experience as a spider’s web. And, no matter where your customer is in that web, you’ll need to be able to meet them in any given channel at any given time. Furthermore, because customers expect a personalised shopping experience, you will need to install systems that “remember” your customers no matter where they are. 

However, this brings up another challenge…

Your systems don’t talk to each other

Personalisation is key to the customer experience, but capturing and analysing all of this behavioural data is where things get complicated. Most omnichannel commerce involves the use of multiple standalone platforms, none of which talk to each other.

This means that a customer might have bought something online, but the in-store retail reps have no idea what’s going on. Customer behaviours might suddenly shift but the email marketing team won’t realise. Prices and stock levels online could vary wildly with what’s actually available in-store.

As you can see, the potential for chaos is high. To make it work, you’ll need a “Golden Record” – a single view of your customer that captures all information – whether that’s online, offline, through email, telephone, live chat, or social media. It lets you aggregate all this data into one place, which all teams can access, allowing everyone to get on the same page.

The only problem is creating a Golden Record is…

You don’t have the workforce or technology to support it

As we mentioned, managing multiple customers relationships at all touchpoints can be complex, especially when everyone is using different systems. For your omnichannel endeavour to succeed, you’re going to need employees who have channel-specific skills and experience, and the technology to execute this.

That’s why any great omnichannel experience usually starts with an ambitious dram and then a systems integration project. It’s an overhaul of every possible system you work with, (from product information and delivery to personalised email marketing and loyalty incentives) consolidating them all into a single integrated system.

All of these difficulties can be avoided when you choose Magento. Find out how to build a connected and customer-centric platform for your omnichannel experience in this PDF

3 Hints for Cross-Border Commerce Success

Thinking of expanding your sales internationally? Going international is a classic way to grow your business, allowing you to reach new audiences and new profits. According to Forrester, cross-border eCommerce is expected to reach “$627 billion in sales by 2022, making up a grand total of 20% of ecommerce as a whole.”

Online sales have made it even easier to test the waters in another country but if you want to succeed, it’s going to take more than adding some translations and currency options to your website. You’ll need to research the market, design strategies specific to those markets, and find the best way to execute your plans. The reason most businesses fail in other markets is logistics, so when you’re doing your research, make sure to consider the following:

Methods of payment vary in each country

I’m not just talking about having different currencies (although the currency your website displays should definitely automate based on the user’s location). I’m talking about the fact that people in different countries are used to paying in varying ways.

For example, here in Australia, we’re used to Pay Wave, paying with our credit cards online, PayPal, and AfterPay. However, if you wanted to tap into the Chinese market, your payment options would look very different.

According to a report by Penguin Intelligent, 92% of people in China’s metro cities use WeChat Pay or AliPay as their primary payment method. While the rest of us were messing around with credit cards, China bypassed this method completely and went straight to mobile payments. In cities like Beijing and Shanghai, people don’t carry cash or credit cards – preferring to pay using QR codes and other mobile methods.

So, if you want to stand a chance in the Chinese market, give your customers the option to pay via mobile.

Manage delivery expectations

It’s different for us here in Australia. Unlike the US or European countries, anything coming from overseas tends to take a really long time and it’s just something we’ve come to expect. In fact, according to the Global Online Shopping Study, 82% of Australian shoppers reveal free shopping with a longer delivery time, as opposed to paid shipping with a shorter delivery time.

On the other hand, according to the MetaPack Consumer Research Report, other countries expected, not only same-day delivery, but one-hour delivery in metro areas. That’s right, this is the expectation for 85% of Spanish shoppers, 70% of the US, 59% of Italians and 56% of the French. In the same study, 34% of UK and US shoppers also wanted the option of weekend delivery. Many UK stores will even offer a time-slot for your delivery!

Meanwhile, here in Sydney, I’m hoping my package arrives at all.

The fact is that if you want to stand any chance of competing with other retailers, you’ll need to step up your game in terms of delivery times. Think about this when choosing your fulfilment locations. For example, if your fulfilment centre is in New Zealand it will take a lot longer for you to ship your products to a North American or Eurpean customer.  So what you may gain with having a favourable currency conversion you lose by having a very unattractive shipment time.

Are you speaking the same language?

Obviously, you’re going to want to have translations available, depending on the country of your user. After all, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to navigate a website when you don’t understand the language.

However, I’m talking about some of the more subtle differences. For example, the US and UK might both speak English, but their sizing charts vary wildly. Meanwhile, words like pants and thongs might as well be in another language. I learned this the hard way when I asked my British cousin if he wanted to borrow my thongs.

Think about the way locals talk and make sure your website’s language reflects that. Alternatively, if you don’t have the ability to serve unique content to customers based on their IP, you’ll need to make sure that your web page has an “international appeal”  and avoid any wording that seems too localised.

We could go on for hours about the different things to consider when trading across borders. In the meantime, you can download this handy guide and find out more about how to expand internationally.

7 tips to eCommerce landing pages that convert

Recently my mother, my brother, and my 20 month old niece stayed at my house.  Along with my husband and my 3 year old, that made for quite a lot of people in a 2 bedroom apartment.  It was crammed, it was busy, it was noisy and it was a lot of fun. There always seemed to be so much activity that getting out of the house to go somewhere would take hours. So even though I really wanted to show my brother around the neighbourhood, take him to the beach and other fun things, we didn’t really accomplish very much or go out at all.

The next day, after everyone had gone back to their respective homes or vacations, my son looked at me and said “Mummy, why is it so quiet?”  and we grabbed our things and went to the beach.

And it got me thinking about the differences between websites and landing pages.

See websites are all the noise, they are all the things you want to sell, they are all the personality of your business, they are all the information that someone could need to make a purchasing decision. They can be fun, and full of choices, and they are great.  But sometimes, we need to focus our customers attention to get them to do what we want them to do. That’s where landing pages come in.

A landing page is a simple page that is directed and channels your customer towards one unique outcome.  Whether this is to download a free e-book or a coupon voucher, enter a competition, promote just one particular product or any other myriad of things. And they do this most effectively without a whole bunch of distraction.

Here are 10 tips and tricks to make sure they are the best they can be.

1. Reduce the clutter

Sometimes people think that the more information and visuals they put on a page the better.  But sometimes, less is actually more. Enticing your customers to actually want your offer is something that will only be lost if you cram everything you can onto one page.

Get rid of unnecessary text, unnecessary images and information.  Make sure your offer is front and centre.

Having all your banner headers and menu items on your landing page just invites people to click off and go somewhere else exploring.  And the truth is they are unlikely to find their way back.

Too much choice just forces your customer into a lot of decision making moments which has the effect of killing the intended action.  Make the decisions for your customer simple. One page should equal one choice and one action, which is ONE decision.

Sign-up landing page for driving with Uber – clean and simple.

2. Keep the messaging between your ads and landing page consistent

Whether you like it or not, the words that you use on your ads and landing page, make a huge difference.  If you are speaking your customers language, they will find the offer more compelling.

Similarly, you need to keep the messaging and content between any ads (paid or unpaid) consistent. This includes the words you use as well as the images.  Otherwise your customers may be forgiven for thinking they have clicked through to the wrong page and bounce right off.

LeadPages facebook advertisement
LeadPages Landing page

3. A/B test your landing pages

I ran an ad on Facebook recently that cost me $50 before I turned it off because it had received no conversions. I ran pretty much the same ad only a month before and had received 10 conversions for the same money.  I had only changed one thing but apparently this was enough! In fact, all I changed was from a single image, to a professional video. I went back to the single image and the conversions started again. Phew!

So if you are not sure on where to place your call to action or what wording will convert better?  There is a simple way to find out – A/B test it!

In the words of Bill Nye, “One test is worth a thousand expert opinions.”  (And a million times more valuable than guesswork.) If you have someone in the office just saying ‘let’s give it a stab’, suggest that testing it might help you better achieve your targets.

4. Design mobile first…that’s where you get your traffic from

When in the thick of a project, it is easy to get obsessed with what something looks like on your computer, on your preferred web browser.  Remember that screens come in all different shapes and sizes and just because it looks good for you doesn’t mean it looks good for someone else, say on a mobile.  

In fact, more than eight in ten APAC consumers research online, mostly on smartphones.

It’s more than likely these days that when you send out your campaign, that people are going to check it, on their way to work, at lunch time or on their way home or lying in bed.  So that means, they are most likely going to be looking at it on their portable device such as a mobile phone or tablet.

Having a responsive design and design mobile first is a MUST.

5. Call to action

If you don’t spell out to someone what you want them to do, then how will they know to do it? Make sure that your call to action is easy to find and clear.  This can be achieved by making it large enough and in a contrasting colour to the other elements on the page so it stands out.

Providing a logical sequence to your copy will also make it easier for your customers to click on the relevant call to action.

It can also be an idea to tailor the words on your CTA button to your campaign.  Unless you are asking users to “Submit to your will” try using words that more effectively match your offering. And also make sure they know what will happen when they click it.

It’s clear which button is the CTA button here – it stands out.

6. Clear headlines

Having a clear headline with who you are and the benefit you are providing is a real skill, but one worth mastering!

It can also sound hard to keep it under a couple of paragraphs!  But it is possible to get a clear pithy headline when you are clear about what you are offering and the ultimate benefit your customers are receiving.

7. Content

Ensure your written content is written in easily digestible chunks.  Bullet points can do the trick nicely here or clearly separated info that has neat headings.

Make sure the image means something too. Mountain ranges have nothing to do with computers for example, so why would you use them as the background?

Testimonials or reviews are a great way to sell your product or entice people into your offer.  If these aren’t relevant to what you are promoting then maybe think of some other way to get social proof into your landing page.

Of course, there are so many other things that go into creating a great landing page, but you follow these rules then you will definitely be ahead of the rest.  Want more great advice from The Playhouse Group, you can contact us anytime.

What goes into a successful checkout experience?

I was shopping for my favourite green powder drink the other day (yes I’m a health nut) with an online store that I was unfamiliar with. And when I didn’t get my confirmation email within a nano-second of hitting Place Order, I completely freaked out. You see, I didn’t know whether or not I could trust them yet and I’d taken a risk!

Online shopping is not new, and yet as we all know, not all online shopping experiences are created equal. And with cart abandonment rates which can run as high as 80%, how do you get someone to trust you and complete the checkout when they have never shopped with you before?

Well firstly, you have to remember that the checkout experience happens way before they actually reach the checkout. Just as you wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and ask them to marry you, you need to impress your customer through the entire experience, and then ask for the sale with an easy and fuss free checkout experience.

Let’s break it down.

Things you need to consider before the checkout page

  • Mobile first design – the highest abandonment rates of checkout occur on mobile phones, if they even get that far in to purchasing.  If your website and your checkout page are well designed and easy to navigate then you are further down the road than most.
  • Include a Shipping calculator – so customers don’t get an unexpected surprise in checkout. There’s nothing more frustrating than browsing through a store, choosing what you want, then heading to checkout and finding that shipping costs just as much as the products you want to order. Make it easy for customers to check shipping costs no matter where they are on the site, as well as offering multiple shipping options.  Unexpected costs in checkout is one of the biggest reasons for cart abandonment.
  • Similarly to shipping, make sure any extra fees and taxes are revealed early and before checkout. Your customers need to be able to calculate the total price before they get to the checkout pages. If your customer is shopping around for the best deal and suddenly discovers your price is just as much as everyone elses but you were being tricky about it – then you will lose trust, credibility AND the sale.
  • Clear refund and exchange policies. Let your customers know that if something DOES go wrong – they have options. This also protects your business by ensuring there are strict guidelines for what can be refunded or exchanged, and under what circumstances.
  • Reviews – if you have lots of great reviews from previous customers on your product pages or on your website, it shows a level of trust from others that helps ease the customers mind. It shows that you will do what you say you will do. This will translate to the checkout.
  • Provide quick, easy customer service options for when your customers are having difficulties checking out or need advice on an item.  These can be things like Live Chat or an easy to locate customer service number.

Where to next?

A successful checkout experience is as friction-free for your customer as possible.  Like we just talked about, if you have a well designed website with enough of the right content then your customer already knows exactly what they are buying, that they have the right size, has the social proof that you are reliable, knows how much it is going to cost including taxes and shipping and is confident of their purchase. So what else could halt their progress and cause them to abandon the purchase?

The checkout pages

Now, there will be people who are always looking for a discount and a coupon (and you may not be a discounting business), or just doing preliminary browsing research to buy it at some later stage.  But how do we keep the others and get them to feel confident enough to complete their purchase?

Now that we are at the checkout page, here are some things you need to consider:

  • Capture their email address as early as possible.  You may be losing up to 80% at the checkout page, but you can get around 15% back by capturing their email address and engaging an abandoned cart campaign. For those people who were just doing research to purchase it later, these reminders will be invaluable.
  • Take away the header and footer and remove any other distractions that will stop someone from completing the checkout.  Once someone has decided to make their purchase, your job is to make it as easy as possible. If they are distracted by unnecessary information then you are complicating the process.
The Checkout Page for OPSM
  • Make sure you have security and encryption in place so a customer feels comfortable sharing their personal and credit card details. You know that little lock symbol in the URL bar? That’s a clear sign to customers that any information they send across is protected by SSL certificates. And, in this day and age when everyone is so concerned about data reaches, this is definitely a must.
  • Trust badges are also an excellent way to convey trust.  A trust badge or trust seal is a symbol placed on your website that ensures your visitors know that you are legitimate and that all their data is collected securely. A trust badge can significantly increase conversions.

  • Partner with trusted affiliates. I always feel better when I see that a company offers payment through PayPal because I know that I am now also protected by PayPal’s rigorous returns policy if anything goes wrong. Partnering with known and verified companies helps bolster the authority of your own business – so bask in that reflected glow!
  • Offer a choice of payment methods. Even how we pay needs to have a variety of options these days because everyone has the method that they like to pay by. These can be things like credit card, Paypal, or Afterpay.
  • Consider where you place, and what you call your coupon code box.  If someone has a coupon code you want then to be able to find it. Also, there are some people who will abandon ship to find a coupon code just because they see a coupon code box and, if they can’t find one, end of sale.  This bargain hunter just may not be your ideal customer anyway (or a loyal one) but it is still worth considering where you put the coupon code box and maybe think of other names for it like “gift code”, so it implies that not everyone gets one.
  • Offer a range of delivery options. Offering same-day or next-day delivery in Metro areas is fast becoming the norm for those companies that truly want to compete.  Offering Express options for a premium and other options at a reduced price or even free can really seal the deal with many customers.
  • Consider offering Click-and-Collect services. Sometimes you just want to secure your items and then pick them up when you are ready. Offering click-and-collect services through stores or Parcelpoint is again becoming the new normal. Remember though, that your customers are expecting immediacy.  If it takes three days for their order to be ready it would have been easier for them to come in and shop for it themselves and takes the convenience and cost saving out of click-and-collect. So make sure before you offer it, you are set up to deliver it.
  • Don’t make your customer create an account. Look, if I don’t know you, and if I haven’t shopped with you before I don’t want to suddenly be your best friend.  The truth is, I may never buy from you again. Having to create an account at checkout is also one of the biggest reasons people abandon their carts. Let people warm up to you, and then give them a reason to create an account like a loyalty program. Once they love and trust you, then creating an account with you makes sense.
  • Keep it simple stu…ahem. If you have a long and complicated checkout process you will lose people. Make the experience as uncomplicated as possible. Ask yourself, for every field you have, if you 100% need to collect that information. That way you can be absolutely sure the information is serving a real purpose and will keep the form as short as possible.  The less fields you have the easier it is to get to the end of the checkout.

Unsure whether or not your checkout is converting well?  Maybe try some A/B testing or contact us at The Playhouse Group, so we can check out your checkout!  See what I did there?

HOW MOBILES ARE REVOLUTIONISING THE BRICKS AND MORTAR EXPERIENCE

We’ve all heard it and we’ve all done it.  Uttered those words “I just don’t have TIME”.  

“What are we going to buy Jeff for his birthday, I don’t have TIME to go to the shops.”  “Let’s do an online grocery shop darling, I just don’t have TIME to get to the supermarket”.

With the advances in eCommerce, our portable buying machines (your mobile phone), and with time becoming even more of a precious commodity, a dark cloud has loomed over bricks-and-mortar retail stores for a while that has meant those still standing have needed to reinvent themselves and do things smarter.

With the advent of marketplaces like Amazon, fitting in ‘shopping’ with our modern overrun lives just makes the convenience of buying things online so appealing.

But now it seems, that the smartest of retailers are turning the mobile phone into their bricks-and-mortar friend and embracing the benefits it has to offer using in-store apps.

While some are still struggling to embrace the omni-channel approach, those who have done it wisely are really reaping the benefits.

So why do in-store apps work so well?

The simple reason is, in-store apps create a more personalised experience for your customer and the more you know about them the more you can personalise that experience.

Starbucks for example, understood the time poor worker and made an app so you can order and pay online and beat all the queues – then all that is left to do is pop in and pick it up from the counter.

Beacons and geo-tagging are a great way to know when your customer is near or in-store and can be used to provide tantalising discounts or reasons to enter the store.

So perhaps you can imagine your customer walking towards their favourite product in-store and just as they are about to reach it, they get pinged with a special for 10% off!  YES PLEASE!

Customers most commonly use in-store apps to find coupons, redeem digital coupons in-store or even to locate sale items or in-store discounts. They also compare prices and view product ratings and reviews.

Store layouts are also a great opportunity to include on an app.

Similarly, using beacon locaters to know when someone is in store for a click n collect or a return is totally invaluable.  You could be getting things ready before they even reach the counter.

Making your loyalty program a part of the app is a no brainer.  Not only are they pinged sales items that you know interest them, they can then see if they qualify for further discounts or free items based on their loyalty points!

However, all this is just the tip of ice-berg for the opportunity for in-store apps and it is really limited to our imaginations.

Why not have a chat-bot built right into your app so that someone can scan the item they are trying on in a change-room and request a new size be brought to them instead of having to try and call for and track down a sales assistant?  Just one idea.

The thing is an in-store mobile app can create a really personal experience for your customer which in turn promotes loyalty.  So working out how to create a true ‘experience’ for your client is totally worth putting your thinking cap on for and one that your customers will actually venture OUT for.

Apps have the opportunity to totally disrupt the way business is done right now and continue to evolve our shopping experience.

If you want to continue to innovate your business, talk to us at The Playhouse Group.

Bonus material

Here are two fun ways that apps have been used to create a real ‘experience’ for shoppers.

Hointer

Hointer totally reinvented the shopping experience.  They have one item of each product on display effectively reducing the need for floor shop space and creating mini-warehouses out the back. You shop by scanning the barcode of the item you want to try via an app on your mobile or tablet.

Your items are then picked from the warehouse and delivered (via robot) to your dressing room within 30 seconds. With this kind of experience, people generally try on more items and buy more clothes. Plus it is a very easy experience. No trying to flag down an assistant whilst half-naked because you got the wrong size!  

Whatever you don’t want goes down the shoot and the rest stays in your shopping cart which you pay for with a swipe of your credit card.

Migros

The Swiss supermarket, Migros, used a Discover feature on their mobile app. Users can scan any of the 5,000+ products in the store to access product information, real-time ratings and reviews, recipes, and nutritional values.

This creates a range of cross-promotional opportunities that mean consumers leave with more items than they originally intended.

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.

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!

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 2 8096 3469 today  for a free consultation to discuss your needs.

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

THRIVING IN ONLINE RETAIL IN THE CHRISTMAS SEASON

Jingle bells, logistics hell, consumers giving bad reviews,  oh what fun it is at Christmas time to sing the online retailer blues – HEY!

Okay, it is the silly season so we thought we’d join in with what could be your version of Jingle Bells this year but we like to think it doesn’t have to be like this with solid planning and a little Christmas magic.

Why now?  Because now is the time you can really start to learn and note what is happening so you can improve things for next year.

While the 12 days of Christmas in a religious sense starts from Christmas Day and ends on 6 January, in this final lead up to Christmas day, we thought we would share some of the thing we know about online retail at this time in a traditional 12 points.

1. Woohoo it is the Silly Season with lots of customers wanting to buy your things -YAH CUSTOMERS – this also means that there is a high demand on both your logistics internally to fulfil this influx of orders, and a high demand on shipping agents to get your parcels delivered on time.  So make sure that you always have a way to scale your workforce and shipping at this time. Make sure all your systems are in place and are as foolproof as possible. With large volumes this is the time that mistakes can creep in, so test thoroughly ahead of time.

2. Be clear about expected delivery times on your website and communicate this information on relevant pages like the Product Page, Shopping Cart and within Checkout. This is essential.  Don’t make a customer search for your delivery timeframes at Christmas or be vague about what you mean (I’ve seen a lot of ambiguous statements this year!). It will be the make and break of the sale if they don’t know when they will get it by OR the cause of a lot of arguments if they order anyway and they had ‘expectations’!

3. More parcels are always going to mean that more things can go wrong – so also make sure your policies on refunds, lost packages and exchanges are clear and up-to-date on your website, otherwise it will just add to the morning after the Christmas party headaches. And make sure your customer enquiry number is easy to find.

4. Please help me Santa, my website is down! The only thing that should be going down at this time of year is one too many cocktails at your annual Christmas party and Santa down the chimney to deliver the presents.  Meet with your website hosting company and confirm your servers are large enough to cater for Christmas promotional traffic.  Consider increasing server sizes temporarily during this peak trade period.  Ensure you have proactive and reactive alerts in place (to let you know if your website is about to die / is dead).  Consider services like Pingdom.com and PagerDuty.com or NewRelic and Nagios.  

At The Playhouse Group, we can’t stress this one enough. Too often we see projects that clients want done ‘in time for Christmas’ but the timeline is not even mildly realistic (pro tip: to do it properly, and Christmas promotional traffic starts growing from October so your new website needs to be built and live by September). And while we would love to help, we take pride in doing a proper job.

The best time to come up with new project ideas for Christmas is earlier in the year, then you have time to see your agency, get quotes and pricing and ensure you have plenty of time for the project to be delivered and for your customers to be delighted. Also make sure you team up with your digital agency to ensure everything is up-to-date like security patches, load testing, payment gateways, shipping options etc.

5. Keep note of anything major or minor that happened during the Christmas season and actually invite your staff to a brainstorming session in the New Year to discuss what could be put in place to fix it.  Your staff will be eager to give you suggestions if they think it will cause them fewer headaches next year and if they think that you will actually implement solutions.What’s more, these solutions will probably help you on a day-to-day basis all year long. YAH efficiency!

6. Click and Collect – if you are going to implement Click and Collect in your stores make sure you do it properly.  If a customer puts in an order for a Click and Collect order and they don’t receive regular updates in regards to their order and when they can come and collect then this causes friction and unhappy customers.   People choose Click and Collect for a few reasons:

a) So they can save money on shipping 
b) For the convenience of online shopping so they don’t have to run all over the store themselves if they have a few things they want 

c) to make sure they secure the item at this busy time of year.  

It is generally expected that a Click and Collect orders will be ready to collect when ordered before 12 pm. If your Click and Collect method is not set up with in-store items you need to highlight this at checkout, not bury it in your Click and Collect terms and conditions.

Customers don’t want to wait excessively long times for their item if they thought that they could actually walk into the store and buy it today with a little more effort or if they thought they could source it from someone else. Just be honest about what you are doing here. Yes, with buried Click and Collect policies you might make a few more sales but just be prepared for all the extra manpower you will need to field the calls from unhappy customers. So if you don’t have it in store and it won’t be in for a few days, let your customers know this upfront. Successful retail = happy customers.

7. Communicate.We would like to say enough said but we will go into detail anyway. Make sure your automated email systems have been set up and are fully tested. There is nothing worse than customers not receiving the emails to keep them up-to-date on their orders. Worse still is if you don’t have your systems set up in the first place. And if you have a delay of any kind, have that email ready to go too. Minimising the friction that customers experience about their orders will mean more good reviews! Better yet, ask your customers for feedback at this time so you can learn from it for next year.

8. As retailers, you know that ‘Free Shipping’ is not all that free. In fact, it costs a lot!  But it increasingly influences people’s purchasing decisions online.  Shoppers want the convenience of not having to go to the shops but they don’t want to pay more either.  So consider how you can angle your shipping offers so that they actually work for you.  Consumers will spend more online to qualify for free shipping than they originally intended to spend. The trick here is to know your numbers so you can set your shipping offers at a price point that increases basket sizes but doesn’t break your bank.  Maybe you can set a flat shipping fee countrywide which reduces the cost of shipping for ALL your customers and also allows you to recoup some of the costs of shipping.

9. Customers will hold you accountable to the shipping experience they receive.  As a retailer, you know that when that package leaves your hands there is little you can do to influence it arriving on time and in good condition to the right address.  There is a little bit of a wing and a prayer because the shipping component is a third party business.  So make sure you are using people you trust and test out other options if you are not happy.  There is nothing worse than a customer being excited about the purchase they made with you, only to blame you for the disastrous shipping experience (lost package, damaged goods, delayed timeframes).

10. Stay on top of the packages you have shipped out and have an automated flag in the system if things aren’t reaching their destination on time.  You need to know what is happening because some customers won’t complain if they still get their parcel but they may be unhappy enough not to shop with you again.  It will also allow you to be on the front foot with your customer if you are communicating the delay to them. It will also let you know when you need to start trialling other shipping companies if your chosen provider is constantly letting you down.

11. What was true this year will not be true for next year.  Look at where trends are going to ensure you can attract more shoppers to your site for next Christmas and so you can plan ahead for your online projects. 

And drumroll please for our most important advice:

12. Smile!  It’s nearly Christmas! Consumers are more likely to buy from a happy elf than a grumpy grinch.

The Playhouse Group wishes you a very Merry Christmas for 2018 and an amazing New Year. We also regularly consult on, and assist businesses to optimise their logistics models and have rolled out advanced logistics offerings like Click and Collect for clients like Toys-R-Us. We can also help you get for site ready for the silly season. If you are interested in having an outstanding 2019 get in contact with The Playhouse Group for a free consultation.