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WHY YOUR BUSINESS SHOULD MAKE THE MOVE TO MAGENTO 2

It’s no surprise businesses love working with Magento. Built in PHP, this open-source eCommerce platform has, for many years, provided elegant and streamlined eCommerce solutions for retailers around the world. If your business is currently using Magento 1, however, you should be aware that as of November 2018, new features for the the program  are no longer being offered. What’s more, from June 2020, Magento 1 will no longer be supported. So, if you want to continue working with the best platform, you should seriously consider moving to Magento 2 now.

What is Magento 2?

Magento 2 was released in 2015 and, in my opinion, is a much sleeker and higher-performing platform than its older sibling. A common misconception many people have, however, is that this is a simple upgrade. Don’t get me wrong, Magento 2 will feel very familiar to administer but if you look under the hood, you’ll find a completely different engine. So, it’s not a case of pushing the “upgrade” button and bingo-bango-bongo!

Your design can be migrated, but it will need to be recoded as a Magento 2-compliant theme. Your team will need to rebuild any custom modules and re-purchase Magento 2 compatible versions of any commercial modules. If you’ve previously added any customisations, you’ll need to migrate those too. Now, I know this sounds like an immense amount of hassle but trust me, it’s worth it.

The benefits of Magento 2

Improved performance

One of my favourite things about Magento 2 is its improved page load times. The Magento team have installed a number of enhancements including:

  • Pre-integrated page caching (Varnish) and Ajax Cart for faster out-of-the-box performance with minimal tuning
  • Extensive backend improvements, including optimisation for PHP 7, for faster admin performance and support for more concurrent product and order updates
  • Master databases for key subsystems – including order management, product management, and checkout

What does this mean in plain English? Basically, your system will be able to handle more traffic and pages will load 30-50% faster, which means your site will be able to process more orders per hour, improve user interaction, and increase add-to-cart times.

Boosted conversions and sales

Everything about Magento 2 is geared towards creating a seamless path-to-purchase for your customer. And, considering mobile commerce continues to grow at a rapid rate, this improved usability is crucial. You can expect:

  • Responsive design reference themes for seamless multi-device shopping
  • New features including content staging and preview for promotion-testing  
  • “Elasticsearch” which supports 33 languages out-of-the-box, and is easier
  • Enriched product merchandising with the ability to add HD video content from YouTube and Vimeo
  • PayPal in-context checkout and saved credit cards, resulting in faster checkouts and easier PCI compliance

Streamlined backend for business users

Another feature I love about Magento 2 is their improved data views and filtering functionality. Always needing to refer to your developer can be a time-consuming process, but the new Magento Admin Navigation is perfect for just about anyone on your team. It includes:

  • Drag-and-drop tools to customise and save admin panel views of crucial product, customer, and order data
  • Step-by-step product creation tools, making it easier to manage new and existing product information
  • Improved product importing and exporting to support upsell and cross-sell products
  • Data safeguards that now allow multiple users to work on product data simultaneously

It’s time to make the switch

It might seem intimidating to make the switch to Magento 2 but the effort is well worth it. Furthermore, I encourage you to take this as a chance to overhaul your site and improve its overall business functions. In fact, this is exactly what we at The Playhouse Group did for our clients King Living and Taylors, resulting in significant traffic and sales increases for both!

Another factor to keep in mind is that a project of this sizes typically takes 4-6 months depending on the complexity of the site. In fact, it could take up to 8 months if you’re using this as an opportunity to completely overhaul your site, optimise your content, and add new features and functionality. When we account for the funding and planning stages, the time for you to look into moving to Magento 2 is now – I’ll even go so far as to say that if you haven’t started planning by mid-2019, then you’re falling behind the rest of your competitors.

I mentioned customisations earlier and I know you might be hesitant to move to Magento 2 because of the hassle of migrating these across. What I can tell you is you’re not alone. To quote a wise old sage (alright fine, I’m quoting An American Werewolf in London), “Stay on the path”. The upgrade path, that is. Look at using out-of-the-box functionality and commercially available modules before considering a customised or bespoke solution. I can all but guarantee that anything you are considering has already been globally rolled out in some way, shape or form. We can help you navigate these functions and reduce your customisations, so you won’t have to worry about expensive and time-consuming development updates in the future.

So, are you ready to take the leap to Magento 2? Get in touch with the team at The Playhouse Group and find out how we can help you improve your sales.

QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD BE ASKING WHEN CHOOSING AN AGENCY

One thing my clients always tell me is that they worried about choosing the “right agency” to partner with, before meeting The Playhouse Group. Selecting a vendor is an important decision, particularly if your project is likely to last a while, so you want someone who is not only knowledgeable but who you also get along with. The fact is that when you choose the right agency, everything will just seem to “click” and you’ll find your job a lot easier than it used to be.

Evaluating your project

Before even thinking about agencies, it’s crucial to look at the nuts and bolts of your project. Just a few things to consider are:

  1. Your project goals: What are you trying to achieve? What are your KPIs? Do the different stakeholders have varying expectations for the project? What will you use to measure the agency’s success? Will you require ongoing support? How will this scale?

  2. Scope and requirements: Your business should already have data on your customers like their personas, behaviours, likes and dislikes so take the time to map out your user journey. Using all the information you have available, consider what features are necessary and build your scope from there.

  3. Operation mode: Decide whether you’d prefer the 24-hour access of an international business, the benefit of a face-to-face local company, or something in between. Similarly, think about whether you would prefer the project to be delivered in short stages, run different tasks simultaneously, and how much input you wish to have.

  4. Your budget: As much as we’d all like the CFO to approve an unlimited budget, that’s not always possible. Use pricing as a guide for what agencies are including in their scope, but also be aware of the level of service your budget can realistically purchase and adjust your scope if necessary.

Evaluating the right partner

Once you’ve fully mapped out the requirements of your project (and trust me, the agency that you end up choosing will thank you for doing this), it’s time to pick a partner. You will have some questions which are specific to your project, but generally speaking, we recommend considering the following:

1. The Staff

Find out about the size of their team and the level of experience of the people who will be working on your project. Are the developers officially certified and authorised to work with the software? Are they partners with reputable providers such as Magento, Salesforce or Acquia? If they are partnered with external providers, do they receive regular training? Are they aware of all updates and improvements? In short – are they good at what they do?

For example, at The Playhouse Group, we make sure all members of our team are fully certified on a variety of platforms, and attend monthly training sessions to keep us on our toes.

2. The Quote

I mentioned earlier that it’s important to look at pricing and be realistic. If the proposal you receive seems financially unviable, it’s worth asking them if they have varying rates for projects vs ongoing support. Personally, if I like a client, I’ll work with them to come up with a solution (even if it means working on smaller portions over a longer period of time) because I want them to get great results.

Also, always check the statement of work. I can’t count the number of horror stories I’ve heard about where the quote seemed unrealistically low (it turns out a lot of things were not included in the scope) or astonishingly high (the scope contained all these extra features the client had never asked for).

3. The Experience

How big is the team and how long has the company been in business? If an agency has been around for a while, chances are they will have developed strong relationships with providers and developers, which means a much smoother project for you.

That said, don’t just take their word for it. Ask to see examples of case studies, testimonials and client lists. You wouldn’t give alcohol to a minor without checking their ID, so why would you hire a company without checking their experience? That’s why we publish all of our case studies on our website – so you can see that we know our stuff.

4. The Back-Up Plan

Despite all your planning and research, there’s always the chance that something can (and will) go wrong. How does your agency handle a crisis? Find out how they handle customer data (in terms of security and compliance), and the level of support and response time offered in your SLA. In the worst case scenario (someone hacks your website and takes it down), what is their plan in terms of rolling back the website and data recovery?

The Ultimate Test

When it comes down to it though (and if you’re really struggling to decide between two agencies), I like to conduct the beer test. Basically, you’re looking for a partner you’d be happy to sit down and grab a beer with. If you can’t do that, then how can you expect to work with them for the next year?

On that note, why not test us out? Just get in touch with our team today – the drinks are on us!

PERSONALISTION AT EVERY POINT IN THE PATH TO PURCHASE

Last week, I travelled interstate to meet with a client. I’ve made this journey several times and I always use the same hotel every time. Why? Because from the booking process to check-in, to my stay and check-out (and even when I haven’t been there), they’ve always remembered me. Now, I know the hotel has all this information stored in their internal CRM systems, but when the receptionist asks me what I’ve been up to since my last visit and tells me that they’ve reserved the same room for me, it feels great. I feel valued and appreciated, and that the company sees me as more than just a source of money.

It’s like when my friends remember my birthday!  Okay, Facebook probably reminded them as well; but it still feels great when people know who you are and act on the information that they have about you.

This is the sort of feeling you want to instil in your customers. Everytime your customer has a touchpoint with your company as they decide to purchase a product from you, you want to ‘remember them’.  This is called personalisation in the path to purchase.

The benefits of personalisation

Before we jump in, I want to emphasise that the whole point of personalisation is to make life easier for your customer. Rather than wasting their time starting from scratch each time they interact with your business, we recommend keeping a “Golden Record” so that you have all the customer’s information on hand for easy reference. In fact, a study conducted by Salesforce found that:

  • 57% of consumers are willing to share personal data in exchange for personalised offers or discounts
  • 52% of consumers would share personal data in exchange for product recommendations
  • 53% would do the same for personalised shopping experiences.

I’ll even go a step further and say that personalisation is not only needed – it’s expected. According to a consumer content survey conducted by Adobe:

  • 67% of respondents said it’s important for brands to automatically adjust content based on their current context
  • 42% of respondents said they get annoyed when their content isn’t personalised
  • 66% of consumers said that this would stop them from making a purchase.

So, how do you create a truly personalised experience for your customer?

Examples of personalised content

  1. Email marketing

    All email marketing platforms give you the option to personalise emails and include details like your customer’s first name, last name, birthday, location and more (depending on what information you gathered in the first place). Use this to customise your emails by addressing your customer by name, offering deals based on their location, or recommending new products based on previous purchases.

  2. Product recommendations

    First done by Amazon but now seen in eCommerce shops everywhere, product recommendations based on your browsing/purchase history. Not only is this great for customers as they now have a curated wardrobe, but also for your company (since Business Insider says this kind of personalisation can increase sales by up to 10%).

  3. Geo-targeting

    Most eCommerce websites will have some element of geo-personalisation when it comes to delivery methods, but you can use geo-targeting for so much more. Make things simple for your customer by giving them the closest option for in-store pick-ups, repairs, and available stock.

  4. Continue the experience in-store

    If your business has a bricks and mortar front, make sure the customer experience bridges both online and offline. This includes everything from customer loyalty programs and dedicated click-and-collect desks to more advanced forms of tech like RFID, branded apps and beacon technology.

A step-by-step example of a customer’s path to purchase and how it can be personalised

Here we will walk you through what could happen in your customer’s path to purchase. We will call our customer Betty – as that is a good name. And then we will illustrate how you can personalise that experience for your client. Each touchpoint builds on the last one. Here we go…

Betty gets an email from your company – you should know your customers purchasing habits. What has Betty purchased from you in the past? For example if she has bought a Nintendo Switch, you might want to send an email upselling a game and an extra controller.

Betty goes to your website but doesn’t complete her purchase – Send an email to Betty to remind her that she hasn’t completed her purchase, and then send a follow-up email 48 hours later with a discount for continuing her purchase OR retarget Betty with those products in banner advertising.

Betty is scrolling through Facebook later that day – you can set up retargeting campaigns to make sure Betty sees an ad, not only for your company, but for the exact product that she was looking at on your website. Maybe you are even offering 10% off!

Betty is back on your website and clicks to chat – Betty has decided to check if she will get the extra controller in time for a party she is having on the weekend. You should know exactly what Betty is looking at and if it is in stock so you can advise her the best option to get her controller in time.

Betty continues her research on mobile – You can see that Betty is no longer on her desktop and is now on her mobile. You have made a seamless transition for Betty with your responsive website, and made sure her intended purchases are still in the basket waiting for her to check out.

Betty is on a product page – Betty decides to look one last time at the product page to make sure she is choosing the right contoller.  She also notices a game that she really wants to try in your Cross-Sell options.

Betty decides to Click & Collect – Based on the advice Betty received on her click to chat conversation, she decides to Click & Collect her items from the store near her work.

Betty picks up the product from store – Betty walks into your store and you immediately know she is there. You have a loyalty program, an app with location sensitivity, and beacons that let floor staff know she has arrived. Betty makes her way to the Click & Collect counter and her products are all bagged up and ready to go. All the common accessories and consumables are available at the Click & Collect desk so upsell upsell upsell!

The product breaks and Betty calls your customer information line – The operator, from one or two questions, knows they are talking to Betty. They know  her purchase history and immediately inform her how she can either get the product fixed, replaced or refunded.

Betty goes into a different store to get it fixed or to get a refund – Your staff greet Betty as they are expecting her. With just a couple of simple questions, Betty is provided with a refund or, a time when she can return to pick up her fixed product.

As you can see, regardless of how you choose to interact with your potential customers, it’s clear that personalisation is necessary to surviving in the digital age.

Personalisation is built into all of our projects and we can talk about this topic at length. But really, all you need to know is that we’ll create a strategy that lets you connect with your customer at every stage of the buying cycle.

Get in touch with our team for a free personalisation health check.

Bonus material

Luke’s Tips to Fast-Track Your Personalisation Success with Magento 2:

Like your iPhone, Magento 2 has an app store and you can easily add a POS module that means you have a completely integrated POS that is tightly integrated with your eCommerce website.

Why is this good you ask?

  1. You can search in your POS and see all your online and instore customers – they become one and the same
  2. Any online or instore purchases are saved in the same location
  3. Your coupon codes work online and instore
  4. It becomes much easier to roll out Click & Collect and Ship-From-Store.

If you have a physical POS and are considering renewing it, then get in touch as my rants are much more personalised in person.

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/

HOW TO WRITE A GOOD BRIEF WHEN ENGAGING AN ECOMMERCE AGENCY

You’ve finally received approval from your CEO to start building the new eCommerce website your company so desperately needs. After months of discussion and proposals, it’s time to start looking at vendors to build (or rebuild) the new site.

Here at The Playhouse Group, the most common complaint we hear from our clients is that their previous agency “didn’t meet the brief” or “didn’t deliver on expectations”. As a manager, it’s probably something you hear quite often as well. The fact is that the most common reason projects fail, don’t deliver as envisioned, or take longer than expected is because of poor briefs.

The entire purpose of a brief is to give your agency as much information as possible. However, it’s important to give the right information in the right way, so you get the results you want. After a decade in the industry we have honed in on the most important things to consider when writing a good brief.

1. Know your objective

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a supercomputer revealed that “the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.” The problem is, nobody knew what the question was.

The same concept applies to your brief. If you want a meaningful solution, you need to be clear on the problem you’re trying to solve. Sit down and define your business objectives and what you want to achieve, taking the time to ensure they’re measurable (so you also have benchmarks to judge the success of your project). Some common objectives we see are:

  • Offer a better Customer Experience
  • To increase ecommerce sales from x to y
  • To increase ecommerce conversion rate % from x to y
  • To increase average order value from x to y
  • Increase Click and Collect orders from x to y
  • Grow email subscribers from x to y

2. Get granular

As the person driving this website project and the person with the most valuable insights about your business, it’s important that you outline your expectations. It can be tempting to make excuses like “they are the experts they should know what we want” or “I’m too busy” but doing so is just going to cause delays and frustration in the long run.

What’s more, the more detailed you can be in your brief, the easier it will be to compare proposals from different agencies, letting you make a more informed decision. So, what sort of details should you include in your brief? Ask yourself questions like:

  • What support model do I need from my digital agency?  E.g. Full service (I do nothing), partial service (I do the day to day and agency does the heavy lifting), self service (I do everything)
  • Who is my target audience and what are their personas?
  • How much website traffic do I expect?
  • How many categories and products will I have?
  • How many orders will I have?
  • How many breakpoints? e.g. Mobile, Tablet and Desktop
  • What features will it have?
  • What are the integrations?
    • ERP
    • Email Marketing
    • Search
    • Payment
    • Social
  • What data do I need to be migrated?
  • What are my Must-Have’s, Nice-To-Have’s and items that can be deferred to a later phase?
  • What is my timeline and budget?

3. Take it in stages

If you expect to have a large or complex website, it’s worth considering breaking your project up into different stages. This is especially the case if you have multiple goals or audiences for your website, and need it to serve a variety of purposes. Generally speaking, the website development process involves eight stages:

  1. Research and discovery
  2. User Interface Design
  3. Website development
  4. Website integration
  5. Testing and review
  6. Content migration
  7. Launch
  8. Maintenance

If you’re unsure about what your exact needs are, it’s best to consult with an agency and scope out the project before putting it to tender. This can save you time and money in the long run, and also give you a better understanding of what to expect from your chosen vendor.

4. Know your ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’

As touched on above, once you have established exactly what you want you need be clear on your ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’ for your project.

At The Playhouse Group we always walk our clients through a detailed process to ensure that we are clear and our client is clear on their ‘must haves’ and the ‘nice to haves’ and divide them in order of importance.

In our experience, it is rare that a client can achieve all their wants in one project with their allocated budget and timeframes. Which leads us into…

5. Budget and timeframes

If you have an unlimited bank balance and timeframe for completing your project then ignore this section. Otherwise, be 100% clear on your budget and timeline and communicate this. At the very least indicate a ballpark figure and timeframe to your agency.  If your agency knows your budget and timeline they are in a far better position to tailor a solution to meet your needs and budget or tell you if it is even possible.

If you think revealing your budget will cause someone to overcharge you then, you don’t trust them and, you shouldn’t be hiring them in the first place! Make sure you have an agency that isn’t afraid to tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear.

Here at The Playhouse Group, we know what goes into creating a website that works and we provide the best solutions for our clients. Have a look at our brief template and get in touch with our team today for advice on your next project.



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.

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.