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Luke Goldsworthy

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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.

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 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.