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.


With the costs often involved in gaining a new customer, it has become increasingly important to online businesses to ensure that retention is front and centre. After all, it costs more to get a new customer than it does to retain one.

Email Marketing Still Has Prime Place
It might surprise you to learn that email marketing is still considered by top global retailers as a key tactic. With the undisputed rise in numbers of people who read their emails from their mobile devices, the optimisation of emails for mobile has been successfully adopted by 98% of brands and retailers in the Index.

In order to attain success with email marketing, it is of paramount importance to make sure email addresses are collected at each and every possible point in the consumer buying process. The core opportunities to grow this list are below:

  • Email Sign-Up in the Site Header
  • Sign-Up Pop-Up Banner
  • Incentive Online to Sign-Up
  • Email Sign-Up in the Site Footer
  • Email Sign-Up instore
  • Email Store Receipts
  • Instore Incentive for Email Sign-Up

Enhancing the Customer Experience
When you collect data about your customers, you can use this to enhance the personalisation of the experience they get when visiting your online store. Smart Retailers are capturing specific information such as sizing, style, and colour preferences which allows them to serve-up personalised communications to their customers while driving sales and engagements.

Loyalty Programs Lacking
The importance of a proving a seamless customer loyalty experience should not be underestimated. One of the areas that many retailers are currently falling short on at present is exactly this. Whether on the web, mobile or instore, loyalty programs need to be highlighted and customers should be either reminded or prompted of the benefits of the program. Simply asking “do you want to sign up?” without an explanation, isn’t sufficient.

67% of businesses within the index offer an online loyalty program. However, only 30% of these retailers of an incentive for customers to sign-up. If a company is taking the time and making the investment into any type of loyalty program, these efforts need to be driven across all channels in order to raise awareness, drive sign-ups, and encourage participation.

An intuitive way to do this, and to enhance the online presence of a business, is to reward customers for sharing their opinions or experiences of your products via social media.

Customer Service and Support
Almost 80% of customers agree that a poor customer experience would result in them ceasing to do business with a retailer and seeking out alternative options. In fact, 70% indicate they are prepared to pay more to a company with a better customer service rating.

Customers expect to be able to choose how they can contact you. Simply having an email is no longer acceptable and may result in lost sales, and unhappy customers. The below channels are accepted as the most important to offer to clients.

  • Live Chat
  • Social Media
  • Email
  • Secure Message
  • Phone

By offering multiple communication channels, customers feel reassured that should something go wrong, they can contact you easily to resolve matters. While 90% of retailers offer at least two methods of communication. However, only 1/3rd of these businesses make their contact details clearly visible in a site header.

Key opportunities that have been missed by many are the inclusion of contact details on product pages, checkout pages, and within pop-up banners

Live Chat is the most sought-after feature and shoppers agree that being able to get an instant response to their question elevates their customer experience and helps them to make a purchase quicker. Chat Bots are the latest innovation and harness the power of AI to deliver automated and intelligent responses to frequently asked questions by consumers.

In the dynamic world of eCommerce, IT capability can outstrip a retailers’ ability to maximise the effectiveness of the tools they own or are about to select. Playhouse commercialises the eCommerce proposition for its clients and manages their digital journey in four key areas – Strategy, Design, Mentoring, and Implementation.

Automation is your extra team member

There isn’t a business going that wouldn’t benefit from a resource that works 24/7, who constantly kicks goals and ensures consistency of performance. In the real world (until robots take over) this isn’t an option.

That being said, Magento, Drupal and Salesforce Marketing Cloud (to name a few) all provide the end user with a variety of tools to create “set and forget” campaigns, marketing updates, and product changes, which is as close as you can come to a 24/7 worker.

Critical to benefitting from these platforms, is having a solid digital strategy in place which allows you to leverage the tech and free up resource to concentrate on other areas.
As retailers, we all understand our strengths and weaknesses, we know what works and what can be improved. Documenting the above is an important step to improving the day-to-day and can unlock further opportunities. Focusing on weaknesses alone, can miss situations where a business strength can be further enhanced.

One of our favourite examples of automation, can be found in Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Journey Builder. Creating onboarding email journeys for customers, that aren’t reliant on anything other the initial setup, can be have a big impact on retention and customer satisfaction.

The strategy here is to serve the customer information that is relevant to them and at a time where they are most engaged. Trying to run an email campaign live, without the benefits of automation, isn’t going to offer the same level of success.

Another example of automation that should be considered by all retailers, is abandoned carts. More than 65% of shopping carts get abandoned. In 2015 alone, the estimated overall value of those abandoned sales totalled $5 trillion. By having the correct strategy, and technical implementation, retailers can start to close the gap and reduce the financial impact.

We’ve touched on the importance of automation previously when discussing the last mile and integration and having a small team shouldn’t be a hindrance. Adopting automation where possible will provide the following benefits –

  • Increase productivity
  • Improve your Customer Services provision
  • Reduce time wasting
  • Deliver a controlled message to your audience
  • Maximise your revenue potential
  • Help you to scale and ultimately grow your business

If you’re struggling to constantly produce quality work against the clock, reach out and let’s discuss how we can get your technology working harder for you.

In the dynamic world of eCommerce, IT capability can outstrip a retailers’ ability to maximize the effectiveness of the tools they own or are about to select. Playhouse commercializes the eCommerce proposition for its clients and manages their digital journey in four key areas – Strategy, Design, Mentoring, and Implementation.


Online shopping is quick, easy and efficient. As the use of technology matures in the market, you are able to receive your purchases quicker than ever, and the ability to return an unwanted item is seamless. However, that experience is lacking when compared to directly walking in store, choosing your outfit and trying it on for the first time. It does ask the question, does the current online experience lead to more items being returned than traditional means? What can be done to help reduce the gap?

Putting the item on in person can make a world of difference in your purchasing decision. And that’s where online clothes shopping falls short. It can’t provide the visual and experiential assurance that conventional store shopping can and that’s why even in this current technology boom many people, especially when shopping for high end products, remain skeptical and tend to favour traditional shopping.

Bridging the gap between online and offline clothes shopping is underway, and the difference is getting smaller and smaller. With recent advancements in AI, reduction in technology costs, and an improvement in rollout of 3D mapping, virtual, and augmented reality, fashion designers and dress companies can now offer visual and experiential contentment to their customers when they order their products online.

3D mapping is a technology that can replicate any three dimensional object by bouncing infrared light off and beneath the surface, measuring perceptible depth. In the context of online shopping, this helps in recreating a life size digital avatar of a potential customer which then can be used to determine if a particular dress is a good fit and whether it looks right on that specific body type. This way a potential customer knows the dress goes well with their figure and if there’s any need for alteration without ever going to the store.

Eliminating doubt and scepticism from online shopping experience is a major breakthrough for eCommerce and it’s not surprising that according to a Goldman Sachs Virtual & Augmented Reality Report, visual experiences industry is going to grow beyond $100 billion by 2025. Apart from application of visualisation technologies in online dress shopping, it’s also being used by major fashion brands to give their walk-in customers interactive experience. Fashion mogul, Tommy Hilfiger now provides 360 degree virtual experience of seasonal fashion shows in their brick and mortar stores.

Aforementioned experiences are complemented by artificial intelligence that learns from your shopping habits and patterns using the data to make useful suggestions and recommendations. It’s also the force behind visual technologies that takes crucial data points, processes them and gives out precise results factoring in meta-information and other variables.

With recent developments in 3D mapping, artificial intelligence and visual technologies, the gap between retail outlet and online shopping is narrowing and soon there’ll be a time when a fashion brand or a clothing line not offering these features will be facing a serious competitive disadvantage.

In the dynamic world of eCommerce, IT capability can outstrip a retailers’ ability to maximise the effectiveness of the tools they own or are about to select. Playhouse commercialises the eCommerce proposition for its clients and manages their digital journey in four key areas – Strategy, Design, Mentoring, and Implementation.


With so much focus on the online market, there is a strong requirement to make sure that in store experiences are optimised to deliver a heightened experience to consumers. Digital tools have developed those experiences significantly and have helped to better serve those customers who shift between shopping online and in store. There are still many missed opportunities that retailers can capitalise on to further enhance their offerings.

Access to Information
Store personnel are still a focal point and key to delivering an exceptional in store encounter. Giving store associates access to key information is one of the many ways that retailers can help them do this. By giving consumers key information about products they want and telling them where they can locate items which are out of stock provides a far better experience and it helps with the overall revenue for the business, Vs. that of the individual store.

Access to Company Tablets or Mobile Devices
Only 15% of retailers are equipping their in store personnel with mobile devices to help them better serve their customers needs. Being able to engage with the consumer when they are present in store helps to close sales more quickly and facilitates cross-store selling. Without a device to hand, the value of those engagements is diluted. Mobile POS does come at a cost; however, it is proven to deliver value to the business and the consumer.

Capturing Key Customer Information
Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power. The bare minimum of data collection should entail the ability for a store associate to collect an email address for remarketing purposes. As of 2017, there were only 31% of in-store personnel asking for this information when interacting with customers. Loyalty and reward program sign-up requests have been adopted by almost half of the retailers, and 1/3 of these sign-ups were given an incentive for in-store signup.

Buy in store – Ship Anywhere/Collect Elsewhere
Almost half of the retailers now offer the ability to consumers to make a purchase in store and to have that product shipped to a location of their choosing. A similar figure can be seen for the buy in store, collect in another store functionality.

In store Signage
Interestingly, only 40% of retailers use printed and digital media to promote a website, social, or mobile application channel. Leaving a huge number of retailers missing out on key exposure opportunities for these other sales channels. Other visual aids of a digital nature such as digital help desks and kiosks have only been adopted by 13% of retailers, despite many consumers indicating they find these tools useful and vital for adding value tot heir overall shopping experience.

Free In store Wi-Fi
Only 26% of retailers actively offer this service to their shoppers. Of course, there are concerns from retailers that shoppers might use their Wi-Fi to locate cheaper or better-reviewed products with other retailers. Consumer behaviour dictates that shoppers are always going to use their phones for reviews to help guide their purchasing, and with almost 50% of consumers recognising that Free Wi-Fi can hugely improve their in-store shopping experience, there is a huge gap between that figure and the number of retailers offering this service.

Mobile Apps
Almost 75% of retailers offer or plan to offer a mobile app. However, there are many features that can truly drive purchases in store which are yet to be utilised. Some of the key features are:

  • Push Notifications
  • In store Incentive to Download the App
  • Self-Checkout Feature
  • Apps to Scan Products

So, if you want to know how to get ahead and capitalise on this information, try introducing any of these seven points to help optimise your in-store retail experience in 2018.

In the dynamic world of eCommerce, IT capability can outstrip a retailers’ ability to maximise the effectiveness of the tools they own or are about to select. Playhouse commercialises the eCommerce proposition for its clients and manages their digital journey in four key areas – Strategy, Design, Mentoring, and Implementation.


Website security is paramount right? There are so many areas of an ecommerce website needing to be kept secure or updated, that the list of potential vulnerabilities feels almost endless –

  • Security patches
  • Hiding admin URLs
  • SSL certificates
  • Webforms
  • Cryptojacking
  • Brute force attacks
  • Out of date PHP
  • Payment gateways

We could go on dear reader but understand you’ve probably only got a few minutes reading this before you must get back on with working.

Recently the Playhouse Group conducted a research piece and was surprised staggered at the number of Australian sites that aren’t as secure as they should be, leaving their data potentially vulnerable.

Interestingly, for a large number of Magento 1 users, we’ve noticed a trend for the Security Patch released in November (2017) is an outstanding update for a large number of sites. Would imagine in the build up to the biggest retail period of the year, companies were rushing to ensure excellent sales and that unfortunately there wasn’t time to apply the patch.

What was the patch?
SUPEE-10415, Magento Commerce and Open Source contain multiple security enhancements that help close cross-site request forgery (CSRF), Denial-of-Service (DoS) and authenticated Admin user remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities.

“For Magento 1 users, I think it is absolutely critical that users act upon updates containing references to “Remote Code Execution (RCE)” otherwise they can execute malicious code and take control of your systems.” (Andrea Andreoli, the Playhouse Group Magento Tech Lead)

Another trend we’ve noticed, is that PHP is another area companies are potentially leaving themselves open to vulnerabilities as versions are being left to fall out of date.

If you or your business have concerns that your site could be open to attacks, please let us know and we can work with you to run health checks and ensure you are up to date and secure.


The rapid pace of change within the industry along with consumer demands means that regardless of how we try; as retailers, our work is never really done. The Omnichannel Retail Index (ORI) was recently published, and we’re sharing key insights from 2017, across several blog posts in the coming weeks.

In this post, we highlight four key features that present as opportunities for retailers to improve loyalty, increase online sales and heighten the customer experience overall.

Convenience IS King

Making it easy for consumers to find what they want is key. Smart retailers are leading the way in providing a range of services that go part way to achieving this. However, even with the biggest brands, there are still many opportunities to improve the overall customer experience.

1. The Most Implemented Cross-Channel Functionality is BORIS – 92% ADOPTION RATE
Buy Online and Return In-Store (BORIS) is now A MUST HAVE. Customers want to buy their products on the channel that suits them most, with the option to return wherever is most convenient for them to do so.

By offering a seamless experience to customers can switch their buying channels increases loyalty and customer satisfaction.

2. Buy Online – Pickup In-Store (BOPIS)
Adoption is still lacking. In 2017, there were only 41% of retailers across the ORI who offered this service. Although this has increased on the previous year, this is a service that customers are demanding and a huge opportunity for the year ahead for those who are not providing this service to their customers. The reason shoppers love this service is due in most to the discounted shipping costs, the instant availability of the item, and the easy-return options that are linked with BOPIS purchases.

Retailers are also benefiting from add-on sales and impulse buying instore with this particular type of purchase.

3. Reserve Online – Pickup In-Store (ROPIS)
In 2016, only 9% of retailers within the ORI offered this service. In 2017, there are now 14% who offer this service. It is still a huge opportunity to those looking to be part of the early adopters.

It is ideal for customers who want to view or try out a product before they buy and not surprisingly, apparel retailers are leading the way with this initiative.

4. Real-Time Inventory Lookup
While the achievement of multichannel inventory lookup is not always easy, customers expect the ability to be able to quickly identify where the product they want is available at any particular point in time. The more information they have about this, the more likely they are going to be to make a purchase. This is all part of the seamless shopping experience that customers expect. 56% of retailers have adopted this, leaving another significant opportunity for those who haven’t, to make changes in the year ahead.

A subcategory within this point is the ability for people to search/filter out results based on their availability. With only 27% of retailers onboard with this functionality, another huge opportunity exists.

Whatever the size of your business, adopting these key functionalities within your business is essential to remain competitive in the future of online retailing. They will also endear your customers to your brand which as we all know, is crucial to the success of any business.


On May 25th, new data laws will be coming into force across the EU with the purpose of giving people more control over their data. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) addresses the issues surrounding the export of personal information outside of Europe. In this post, we discuss what this means for Australian and what you need to do to get your house in order.

The purpose of this new regulation is to boost the digital economy in Europe through the harmonisation of the regulatory scope for businesses that trade internationally. It is also going to provide individuals with more control over their personal information.

If this is an EU Law, why does it affect businesses in Australia?

First of all, while this is not a new law outside of the EU, it is a regulation. This means that it does not need our national government to pass any legislation for it to become applicable and binding. So, for those of you who thought it would only affect businesses and individuals in the EU, that is not accurate. You need to make sure that if your business processes information for citizens or companies within the EU, whether you have an office there or not, that you are compliant.

The penalties for those who do not comply could be anything up to 4% of your worldwide turnover or 20 million Euros, whichever is greater.

Who Does This Apply To?

If you aren’t sure whether GDPR applies to you, then read on to find out exactly what businesses the GDPR will impact.

GDPR applies to organisations in Australia that:
• Incorporated or established within the EU.
• Not established within the European Union but offer services or goods to individuals based in the EU, whether these are free or paid services.
• If your organisation accepts payment in Euros.
• Not established within the European Union, but who watches, oversees or monitors the behaviour of EU residents.

Practical Examples for online businesses in Australia would be:
• Delivers products anywhere within the EU
• If you handle personal data of an individual located in the EU.
• If you give advice to Australians who are located in the EU, this also applies.
• If you sell a device OR app that monitors the actions or any individual within the EU.

It is for these reasons that we know there are many businesses in Australia who need to take action and ensure they are compliant with this new legislation.

What Are Your Obligations?

This new regulation puts several obligatory requirements into force for those who control and process data. In the specific policy, these individual roles are defined as Data Controllers and Data Processors.
• A Data Controller is an organisation that decides how information will be used or processed.
• A Data Processor is an organisation that is tasked with processing the information on the controller’s behalf.

There are many different principals that need to be complied with. To make it easy to understand what practical actions you can take, each of the principals is associated with an example of a typical action that would fulfil your obligatory requirements.

Principal Description Typical Action You Can Take to Fulfil Obligations
1 Use the personal data for legitimate purposes only. Only utilize the information you obtain for the original intended purpose.
2 Process information in a manner that is fair, lawful, and transparent. Tell people how you will utilize their information.
3 Limit the use of the data to only what is necessary. Do not ask for data that you do not need.
4 Process the information in a way that retains its accuracy. When information is outdated, correct this to ensure it is accurate.
5 Do not store the information for any longer than is required. Delete or remove information when you no longer have a need for it.
6 Data must be processed in a secure manner. Use encryption or other information security protocols, alongside a robust and enforceable privacy policy.

Your Privacy Policy

If you decide you want to make changes to your company privacy policy, for example, you want to use data for another purpose, other than what it was originally intended for; then GDPR means that you must be transparent and inform your contacts of any changes as soon as you can.

Transfer of Information and Disclosure

From time to time, you may need to disclose personal information to a third-party. This isn’t always about selling on data; it could be something as simple as giving information to a marketing company or even your accountant. In these instances, you are only allowed to provide the required data for their specific purpose. The other party must also sign an agreement of confidentiality.
If this third-party discloses the information and breaches GDPR, then your business could still be liable for this. To avoid such an issue, you need to be able to clearly demonstrate you investigated the data protection capabilities of the third-party.

Data Protection Officer

If your organisation undertakes systematic or frequent monitoring on a large scale, you would be required to appoint a designated data protection officer. This could apply to online retailers with large global marketing capacities. This person would need to be available as a point of contact for any requests that could be made by a GDPR authority supervisor.


Organisations need to clearly request the consent to either process, or control personal information. The request must be made clearly and via a form that is easy to access. Companies are also required to:
• Make separate requests for every collection
• Make it easy to remove consent
• Send a ‘just-in-time’ notification prior to data collection or processing

These specific points will mean that many businesses will need to review their processes and perhaps the communications software that they use.


If your organisation collects personal information, the individual has a right to obtain and request copies of that information. They can also request that you delete information or even dictate that a restriction is placed on how their information can be used.

If an individual makes such as request, your obligations are to:
• Provide details about the length of time you intend to store their information
• Provide copies of all data held, and an explanation as to how you use that data
• Provide information about who that data is shared with

If you are asked to erase data, then unless you no longer need that information, you will need to comply with such a request in a timely manner.


If a personal information data breach occurs, then you are required to inform a supervisory authority. The data breach is only considered to be of importance if the rights of the individuals involved are at risk. For example, if you lose a list of names, this would be fine as no negative effects could come from such an action. However, if payment card information was compromised, this would be classified as an instance where the rights of those individuals would be affected. Notifications must be made within 72 hours so having these contacts ready in advance would be prudent.

While this is solely an EU regulation, for now, it is thought that other nations will likely be influenced by this. By achieving compliance with GDPR standards now, you are putting yourself in a stronger position to be compliant with any other future regulatory changes of this nature. This is also a reassuring confirmation to customers that you value their privacy and go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure their information is secure and protected at all times.

For further reading or information on GDPR, you can visit OAIC Guidance or the UK’s ICO GDPR website.As a final note, as you are preparing your business for GDPR, as per your obligations from 25th May, you need to ensure that anyone you work with who accesses or processes data for your business is also GDPR compliant.

In the dynamic world of eCommerce, IT capability can outstrip a retailers’ ability to maximise the effectiveness of the tools they own or are about to select. Playhouse commercialises the eCommerce proposition for its clients and manages their digital journey in four key areas – Strategy, Design, Mentoring, and Implementation.

How to fix Drupalgeddon2 vulnerability (CVE-2018-7600) in Drupal 7.x and 8.x

On March 28th, Drupal disclosed Security vulnerability called Drupalgeddon 2.  More information on this Highly Critical vulnerability in Drupal core (CVE-2018-7600) here.

Drupal versions 7.x and 8.5.x were affected by this vulnerability and if exploited will allow remote attackers to infect the site with malicious code. Reports are surfacing of Hackers using this exploit to install malware on the vulnerable websites in the form of cryptocurrency miners.

Am I vulnerable?

If you think your site is hacked and might be vulnerable then email Barry Marelli at  Our security team can do a security audit of your website and apply any security patches as needed.


You’ve spent the last few days furiously searching online for the perfect Mother’s Day present and you finally strike gold. In a hurry, as your lunch break is coming to an end, you add the product to cart and head on to checkout.

You fill in your bank details and go to select your delivery option, then BANG, it hits you – Free Delivery on Carts over $200 or “Express Delivery” that takes 5 days and costs $20.

Reluctantly, you abandon your cart, and Mum gets flowers from the local Coles servo.

Delivery methods need to be customisable, allowing customers to tailor the experience to suit their individual needs. Customer expectations have increased, and so should the options available to them.

As recently discussed at Magento Imagine, shipping is not just delivery anymore, it is part of the customer journey. Too many retailers are falling short at the last mile, and this is leading to either dissatisfied customers or a big increase in abandoned carts.
Some key notes include –

  • Simple tweaks to UX with introducing shipping costs and options earlier can have a positive impact on customers completing their orders.
  • Optimised warehousing, via automation, leads to faster processing and an improvement in delivery times.
  • Providing customers with the ability to select alternative delivery locations is a feature that has steadily increased, increasing customer satisfaction.
  • Improvements to the “return process” by offering it free of charge encourages customer loyalty.

Leading retailers are now offering their customers flexible delivery options like same day delivery before 12pm, next day delivery, free in store click and collect and pick up via parcel lockers. This is a growing expectation from an Australian consumer and we see retailers losing customers as they don’t offer offer these services. (Luke H , Online Strategy Consultant)

In the dynamic world of eCommerce, IT capability can outstrip a retailers’ ability to maximise the effectiveness of the tools they own or are about to select. Playhouse commercialises the eCommerce proposition for its clients and manages their digital journey in four key areas – Strategy, Design, Mentoring, and Implementation.