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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…

B2B eCommerce Portals

Gone are the days of businesses faxing through stock orders and buying supplies in-store. According to Magento, these days, 93% of B2B buyers prefer to purchase online, with self-serve information, direct from vendors.

They want, and expect, 24-hour on-demand access, and an experience as smooth as that of B2C customers. That’s why an increasing number of manufacturers, providers and distributors are creating B2B ecommerce portals. The fact is that if you don’t give your buyers and clients an intuitive and effortless online purchasing experience, your competitors will.

In today’s crowded B2B marketplace, buyers demand an easy, intuitive online buying and account management experience that’s so good it feels like B2C. Experts agree, predicting B2B eCommerce sales will outgrow B2C eCommerce sales by 2020. According to researchers Frost & Sullivan

“Global business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce sales are expected to grow at an increasing rate and are predicted to reach over $6.6 trillion by 2020, surpassing business-to-consumer (B2C) valued at $3.2 trillion by 2020.”

What exactly is a B2B eCommerce Portal?

Simply put, a B2B portal is a website where B2B buyers can explore your digital catalogue and place orders online. It may be something as simple as a website with a login, or act as part of a larger platform that includes an app and secure portal. In fact, the only real difference between a portal and a website is that the information in the portal is secure and requires login information.

As we mentioned previously, today’s B2B buyer expects the same level of convenience they would get as a B2C customer, so this means mobile-optimised sites are a must. Already, 50% of B2B enquiries are made on smartphones, with the number expected to grow to 70% by 2020.

The same study by Google and BCG, found that “mobile can accelerate time to purchase by 20% by increasing efficiency in decision making and enhancing team collaboration, particularly in more complex purchases.”

What about B2B and B2C eCommerce websites?

As its name suggests, a B2B and B2C eCommerce website is an online site that lets you sell directly to both retail customers and B2B buyers. 

Thanks to the internet, businesses now have the ability to reach customers in every corner of the world. Because of that, you’ll see an increasing number of businesses selling to both customers and companies to increase their sales.

Some of these companies will use two separate channels – one for B2B and one for B2C. Originally, a lot of companies did this because the two markets were so different in nature. Amazon, for example, had two URLs for retail and wholesale customers. However, they found it too confusing and inefficient to manage, which is why you can now login as a business OR customer from the same page.

It’s more than just the URL though. Having an integrated B2B portal and B2C website (even if you aren’t currently selling to consumers right now) boasts an array of advantages over separate systems.

Find new clients and customers

By investing in a dual website that caters to both audiences, you’re accessing double the market size, simply by having an online presence. However, a great B2B portal will go a step further.  

For example, Magento Commerce allows you to nurture your existing customers with self-managed company accounts, the ability to track quotes and order histories, and manage their credit online. In addition it not only optimises your site for mobile but also offers B2C-tested merchandising, content management, and promotional capabilities for sourcing new business.

Full transparency across customers and stock

There’s nothing worse than when your systems don’t talk to each other. Online listings might not accurately reflect the stock availability in-store, while your staff might not be aware of your EDM promotions. It’s a recipe for miscommunication, mismanagement and misunderstandings.

Advanced B2B and B2C eCommerce websites will integrate your operations and orders across all channels, supplying customers and staff with accurate, real-time inventory updates. Some will even provide automated business rules that allow you to optimise your fulfilment costs and delivery times.

Respond to market changes quickly

Often, companies will be slow to respond to shifts in the market due to the amount of development involved. When your online customers expect an instant response, this delay can mean the difference between defeat and success.

Invest in an agile system that allows you to tweak your marketing and operations. Magento Commerce, for example, lets you assign custom catalogues and price lists to customers and target content and promotion to specific segments. 

Even if you are only serving B2B buyers right now, you should still  consider getting a platform that also handles B2C should you wish to expand in the future. Get in touch with our team today at hello@theplayhousegroup.com to find out more.

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

When an eCommerce site is not just an eCommerce site

According to the business coaching gurus, sales are easy!  All you do is just capture a lead, nurture that lead, make the sale and then get a testimonial. Job done!  

But what does it actually mean? Why does one brand have a cult-like following and another brand struggle even to make traction or sales?

How do you capture those leads in the first place to nurture them? And what is nurturing?  Do I invite them around to my house for a meal and a cuddle? I’m just trying to sell (insert product here ie newborn photography, plus size clothing, bridal dresses, pens etc)!!

The truth is, in today’s society, if you build it, they won’t come.  You need to start by building a community because more and more, people want their purchases to have meaning and they want to be part of something.

Aspirational brands help customers to belong

Look at Toms for example, they built their whole brand out of giving back.  So for every pair of shoes you bought someone disadvantaged would get a pair of shoes.  You purchase some shoes AND it made you feel so good about yourself, nice!

But more than that, they detail the stories behind your impact of buying shoes which shows you how you are making a difference and helps you feel like you belong to a community of people who want to create change.

TOMS has expanded into other causes

Harley Davidson have a Harley Owners Group section complete with member benefits and events.  Because people who love to ride are the ultimate in community.

Apart form membership, it provides Harley owners with local events where they can be part of the Harley community and many other tools and tidbits such as mileage recognition. All of this adds to the prestige of owning and riding their Harley amongst those who ‘get it’.

Harley understands its customers need to belong and their love of riding.

Sephora have one of the best communities of an omni-channel brand.  Sephora redefined how women shop for beauty products and created the Beauty Insider Community.  This ensures that their raving fans can join groups to connect with each other and follow topics of interest, they can ask questions of experts, browse the galleries and get inspiration, and score access to exclusive events.  Not to mention all their how-to videos and quizzes.

Sephora keeps its community engaged

So, whether you support a bigger cause like third world poverty or the growing concern of self-body image issues or have just created a brand synonymous with luxury or performance, when your customer feels part of a community there is power and loyalty in that.  So capturing and nurturing leads is about helping people to belong.

And loyalty goes well beyond a loyalty program when you have raving (mad) fans.  These are people who will line up for hours just to be first in line to get your new product and will keep you afloat in the tough times.

Your community and your website

Whether your business is based on helping others or is it about having others aspire to be like your brand, you need to create this reflection on your website where people can get involved.

Before you build your website, think about how you will represent this community experience and get your best customers involved on your website. And your eCommerce platform choice will be important here too because it will need to be flexible to allow you to represent your items for sale as well as your community and informational aspect.

It’s in this way that an eCommerce website is not just an eCommerce website anymore, and the more you can get your customers involved and part of your brand, the more you will have a customer for life.

If you want help discussing how you will reflect your community aspect on your website and help your customers to get involved and feel like they belong – just contact us on hello@theplayhousegroup.com

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.

When is it too late to start your eCommerce project in time for Christmas?

Like the annoying supermarket tactic that sees Easter Eggs on the shelves ONE DAY after Christmas has finished, I’m putting tinsel and mistletoe on your hearth already.

So what gives and why am I being so annoying?  Well, it’s just that Christmas comes around every year at the exact same time but so often people are surprised by it.

“Is it Christmas already?” they gasp! Usually followed up by the thought  “I thought I would have achieved more this year.”

All too often, however, I’ve pitched to eager potential clients that think that they can still get their eCommerce project done in time for the Christmas rush.  What’s missing, even if they’ve worked backwards, is they usually have left no time for testing, fixing any bugs or a/b testing with actual customers. And this all leads to rushed decisions and a lot of room for error.

It’s a bit like shopping for presents on the 24th of December with no idea what to buy!

And there is a reason we do this.  Coined by psychologists Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky, this is called the planning fallacy.

As Roger Buehler, a professor of psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University explains:

“So the planning fallacy is a tendency to underestimate the time it will take to complete a project while knowing that similar projects have typically taken longer in the past. So it’s a combination of optimistic prediction about a particular case in the face of more general knowledge that would suggest otherwise.”

So it turns out, we are all just super optimistic about what we can achieve in the timeframes that we have.

Knowing this means, at the Playhouse Group, we are far more careful about estimating the timing of our projects, and far more accurate. And just so you know, a project really needs to be live in October in order to set yourself up for a great Christmas period.

So now, so you don’t get surprised by the silly season, let’s put down the 5 top things you need to consider for your project and meeting your KPI’s and business goals for a successful Christmas eCommerce experience.

1. Strategy

What is your overall strategy? And, what are the tactical initiatives you are trying to achieve to deliver on this strategy?  

Working to a plan is advised, but trying to deliver too much too soon is always perilous and leads to scope creep. Engage your stakeholders and get all suggested features and functionality up on a wall via Card Sorting. Decide on the Must-Have’s and Nice-To-have’s and what can be deferred to a later date. Don’t try and be overly ambitious and if you’re not sure then try asking your customers what they actually want.

A final recommendation is to then plot each item on a cost versus benefit matrix. This top-down versus bottom-up assessment will help you put a well thought out plan in place.

2. Funding

Unless you are a small business and have total say over the budget to even get your project over the line you will need to secure some funding.  And with the End of Financial Year happening mid-year, sometimes purse strings get a bit tight for organisations for a while, until the new budget is set in place.  So make sure you secure your funding early with a clear business case.

3. Size of Project

How big is your project? Are you rebuilding your website from scratch on a whole new platform.  Ie custom design and integrations? These kind of projects can sometimes take up to 24 weeks. If you don’t know maths, that’s nearly a full 6 months. But even if your project is on a smaller scale, you’ve got to give yourself time, not only for the project itself but for decision makers to make those decisions.  And to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Even getting an idea how long projects like yours take from your agency will be a good start, so then you can work backwards.

4. Key People and Decision-Makers

Who needs to be involved in your project?  And how quickly do decisions get made in your organisation?  If you know you will need longer than the timeframes your agency have set out for you for making decisions let them know, and don’t try to fudge it. It will alter their resourcing plans, the timeline AND the budget.  Best to be honest up-front than trying to scrounge for extra funding when you need it at the last minute.

5. Choosing an Agency

I once knew of an organisation that took 3.5 years to choose an agency because of office politics.  Thankfully, most companies that want to be able to turn a profit don’t have the luxury to sit around for that long. But, it will take you some time to choose an agency because it is an important relationship.

If you don’t have an incumbent on board or if you are looking to take a new direction then give yourself the time to assess a few agencies. We have a great article on what to look for in an agency that you can read here.

Set yourself up for success

Remember to set yourself up for success around the holidays and start looking at your eCommerce plans for Christmas now.  Check that your hosting is up to scratch, trial some new logistics if your shipping options didn’t deliver last year (pun intended), solidify your staffing plans and templates.

Now, can you get all this done by October?

If you need helpful tips, need to know how long your project is going to take, how to plan your eCommerce year for success or would like to do a website project, then maybe drop us a line so we can help at hello@theplayhousegroup.com

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.

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.

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?

What good content does for your eCommerce Business

Online shopping is comfortable and incredibly convenient, so you think it’d be an easy sell. But there’s lots that retailers can do to sour the experience and turn potential customers off buying online. One of the most basic issues, is that it’s often harder to sell something when customers can’t access the physical object.

Sure, the convenience of online shipping and ability to compare prices is great, but this simple fact can be a sticking point. Think of it this way – have you ever held off on buying that suit online because you’re not 100% of the fit? Or maybe gone in-store to buy your laptop so you know just how heavy it is?  

Because of this simple point, you need to make your customer’s eCommerce experience more than just one of convenience (although that’s a necessity too).

Recreating the in-store experience

What your customers basically want is all the benefits of going to the shops themselves without actually having to do it. That means baking as much information and guidance into the item description as you possibly can – your customers want to know exactly what it would be like to hold your product in their hands. This means including key info like:

  • Multiple images with ability to zoom
  • 360 animation
  • Video of the product in use
  • Care instructions
  • Non-technical description of product
  • Specifications including weight, material, size, etc.
  • How-to guides and manuals
  • You get the idea…

It might seem like a lot of information to gather, but I promise you that it will make all the difference. What’s more, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel for this – just communicate with your supplier to get accurate specifications and descriptions.

What type of information you provide will depend on the product category. For example, always make sure that you include a list of ingredients if you’re an online food retailer – after all, in-store, your customers can simply flip the packaging and read them there. If you don’t list the ingredients, people with food allergies or special diets will simply not buy because they don’t want to risk it.

Don’t scare your customers away with poor writing

It’s amazing how much a well-written product description can do for you. For a start, spelling and grammar mistakes make you seem dodgy and untrustworthy. But it’s so much more than that: customers actually rate poorly written and wordy content as the most annoying part of online shopping and the biggest reason for abandoning the products in their shopping cart.

Poor wording can also be a major source of ambiguity, which you want to avoid at all costs. If a customer is unsure about an important detail of your product, they’re either going to abandon the whole purchase, or they will try to contact your customer service, meaning that you will have to put resources into explaining to customers what should have already been clear from the beginning. For example:

  • Make sure that your online shop is easily navigable and separated into logical categories and give your customers the opportunity to customize their searches by including filters. Think of it as giving your customers the best of both worlds: you’re making sure to recreate the in-store experience of physically interacting with a product while at the same time offering all the convenience of being able to quickly search through hundreds of products to arrive at exactly what they want.
  • Provide both imperial and metric measurements: No matter where in the world you are selling, you might have customers who are used to a specific measurement system. This means you need to make sure to include both pounds (lbs) and kilos (kgs), as well as centimetres (cm) and inches (“).

  • Include sizing charts for clothing and accessories: Make sure to include size equivalents from all countries so that your customers have an easy way to assess the size they need to order without too much hassle.

  • I’ve often found that a medium in Store A can be a large in Store B or a small in Store C. If you want to really stand out from the crowd, include the measurements of each size (for example, a Small fits a woman 27” waist). Bonus points if you also have instructions on how customers can correctly measure themselves.

Trust and security

Online purchases can still come with a nagging feeling of distrust on the customer side, so it’s super important to convey a sense of security by incorporating content that makes your customer feel like they can trust you. This includes things like:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Reviews are another way to convey trust, as it provides the social proof that others were willing to trust your business and had a great experience or you can resolve issues quickly.

Create your standards playbook

Thinking through your content will also help inform your website design to ensure you have the best website possible for your products or services.

But once you have that design, it’s tempting sometimes to do things quickly rather than properly.

You may have an extensive set of products and categories, for example, so pimping out your product data may seem an overwhelming task. So break it down.

Some products and categories have higher margin than others. So, build a category matrix for each category and its rank from a sales and margin perspective. Then look at the minimum amount of product information each category needs from a product data perspective.

e.g. In order for a TV to be put live and saleable then it must have…

  • Front photo
  • Back photo
  • Lifestyle photo
  • Marketing spiel
  • Technical Specifications

Set standards for yourself and don’t budge.

Need a hand? At The Playhouse Group, we do this regularly, so don’t be shy and get in touch today!