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SHIP-FROM-STORE AND HOW IT BENEFITS YOU

It goes without saying, in retail, business is tough. The competition is increasing on an almost daily basis, and margins have never been so tight.

With online revenues being the foremost revenue channel for many retail operations, organisations are always looking for new ways to position themselves above their competitors. This is one of the reasons why Ship-From-Store presents itself as such an appealing proposition.

What is Ship-From-Store?
A Ship-From-Store approach essentially treats each retail store as a miniature distribution centre and uses the stock that they have in-store to fulfil orders made online. One of the most significant advantages of this option is that the overall size of your retail business almost becomes irrelevant.

Why is it a good idea?
Let’s look at this from a consumer perspective first of all. They visit your website and the item they want is out of stock and won’t be available for fulfilment for another 4 weeks. How does that customer feel and what is their likely next action? Will, they visit their local store and pay travel expenses to get there if they think the item is out of stock? Probably not. Will they look for an alternative online? Most likely.

For the retailer, this impacts their overall service offering and of course their bottom line. Ship-From-Store changes this.

With this new strategy, the fulfilment of online orders will be carried out using stock that is housed in-store.

What this means is:

  • Customers who are located close to the retailer outlet receive their orders more quickly
  • It reduces a retailers shipping costs as a courier would be picking up from store and delivering to a customer that is in close proximity
  • It helps boost sell-through revenues for the retail operation
  • It improves the customer experience significantly, and
  • It delivers a superior stock-management strategy for the overall business.

Another huge benefit of Ship-From-Store for smaller retailers is that it means more boutique-style retail outfits can now expand their business without needing to invest in costly warehousing and distribution centres.

If you are considering Ship-From-Store, or simply looking for new ways to boost your revenue and improve your offering, then you aren’t alone; a third of retailers with a traditional ‘bricks-and-mortar’ presence have already included a plan to roll out this strategy in their 2018/2019 strategies.

Your inventory will be better managed
In retail, one of the constant concerns is inventory. If your stock turnover is down and you are literally sitting on stock it could start to impact your profits and overall business effectiveness.

Ship-From-Store can help to boost sales while helping to better manage your overall spread of inventory across the business. For instance, if a retailer is sending orders out from a distribution centre and the stock runs dry the chances are that sale with be lost. However, if a store has that particular item in stock, with Ship-From-Store you will sell the stock you have on hand and have satisfied customers.

Your customers will approve
Not only will the implementation of a Ship-From-Store approach enable you to keep up with your competition, but it will also significantly boost the experience you offer to your customers.

As we’ve already mentioned, this is something that retailers of all sizes can and will benefit from. When a customer enters a store, be that online or bricks-and-mortar, there are certain standards they expect as a minimum. Where service, shipping, and returns are concerned; these standards are the same regardless of the size of your operation.

Ship-From-Store helps provide retailers of all sizes the opportunity to deliver an efficient and low-cost fulfillment service to their customers by transforming the shelves of their stores into miniature distribution centres.

Ship-From-Store benefits both B2C and B2B
Regardless of whether you sell to the general public or to other businesses, you can adopt and implement a Ship-From-Store approach to your fulfilment. Both sets of clients have the same demand for quick shipments, and both sets of customers demand as near to instant gratification as possible.

Technology is a huge enabler in any type of business, and Ship-From-Store is no exception to that rule. Gone are the days where a shift in strategy requires a mammoth investment and intensive organisational training.

In the past, management of multichannel and multisite operations on this scale would have required a project team to implement the concept and intense ongoing management. However, by harnessing the power of cloud technologies, this gives each location complete ownership.

The software that is available can even provide your business with customised shipping labels, instant notifications, and other time-saving tools that can help ensure your organisation retains a professional image and delivers a high-quality service at all times.

Final thoughts
On-demand delivery is already here. When a customer decides they want something, the chances are, they want to get their hands on their desired product as quickly and hassle-free as possible.

In any retail survey conducted with consumers, quick delivery is always a key attribute that people look for when deciding where to spend their money. In fact, consumers are often willing to pay more in order to receive their goods more quickly.  

This game-changing strategy essentially makes all in-store products available to both online and walk-in customers. If you have a booming online business, why turn customers away or cause them to face unnecessary delays when you have the stock to fulfil their order within your business?

It is a revolutionary retail model that has been made possible through advancements in technology, and is being driven by consumer demand for quicker access to goods.  And when Ship-From-Store can save larger retailers from having to invest in more warehousing space, save money on shipping, and provide a more efficient service for their customers – well, it just makes sense.

The Playhouse Group regularly consults on, and assists businesses to optimise their logistics models and has rolled out advanced logistics offerings like Ship-From-Store and Click and Collect for clients like Target Australia and Toys-R-Us. If you are interested in rolling out Ship-From-Store for your business get in contact with The Playhouse Group for a free consultation.

SALESFORCE, SIRI, AND VOICE SEARCH

At the recent Dreamforce event in San Francisco, Marc Benioff (Salesforce CEO) announced that Apple’s Siri would now be available in Salesforce, exposing the backend to power apps and utilise their Einstein functionality.

Seeing two tech giants unite is exciting and with the increased use of “voice search” means this new feature couldn’t have come at a better time.

Below are some stats highlighting the rise in “voice search” –

  • 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020 (Source: Gartner, 2016)
  • There were one billion voice searches made in January 2018 (Source: Alpine.AI, 2018)
  • 72% of voice-activated speaker owners say their devices are often used as part of their daily routine (Source: Google, 2018)
  • By 2019, 39% of millennials will use voice-enabled digital assistants (Source: eMarketer, 2017)

What is Einstein?
You can read more about Einstein here but in short, Salesforce’s Einstein is a layer of artificial intelligence that delivers predictions and recommendations based on your unique business processes and customer data. You can then use those insights to automate responses and actions, which will help improve your staff’s productivity and enhance the customer experience.

How will this benefit retailers?
There are a number of ways Australian retailers will benefit from this link up –

  • Smart apps will be able to make recommendations based on the customers previous habits and at the same time, provide “shoppers like you” functions
  • Customers are increasingly using voice search for day to day things (weather/events) but to quick search for specific products at stores further improves the shopping experience
  • From a customer service perspective, staff are now able to record feedback that will be passed back into Salesforce as notes helping to grow your understanding of the customer
  • As per the Apple website – “Native Salesforce iOS apps for business: Salesforce, working with Apple, will redesign the Salesforce Mobile App to give customers rich experiences exclusively on iOS, with unique Apple capabilities such as Siri Shortcuts, Face ID, Business Chat and more.”

As previously discussed on our website, the evolving relationship between eCommerce and Home Devices is growing stronger and this new partnership will further influence how you and your customers interact.

SHOP WINDOWS AND HOMEPAGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GET THERE WITH MIDDLEWARE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONTENT IS KING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DO YOUR CUSTOMERS HAVE A REASON TO BE LOYAL?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For an effective roll out, consider –

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

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

GOLDEN RECORDS LEAD TO GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMPROVING YOUR MOBILE EXPERIENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Populating forms

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

Checkout

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

Navigation

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

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

CLICK TO CHAT AND CHATBOTS, LET’S CHAT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ECOMMERCE AND HOME DEVICES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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