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Blogs & Insights

What’s your sales events plan?

The challenges of the past six months are unrivalled in our living memory. The skies were blackened with smoke as an area close to the size of England burnt. Our rivers ran dry crippled by drought. But even these disasters couldn’t prepare us for the Covid-19 pandemic. Not a single Australian has escaped the impact of the greatest health crisis in a century. It has literally shut down the country, and unloaded a volley of punches on our economy. The retail community is at the core of the economic downturn, but it hasn’t been negative for those well positioned. 

AlphaBeta provides weekly tracking data on the effects of the coronavirus on the Australian economy. It gives valuable insight into which categories are performing best now. Food delivery leads the way, up 258%. Following are furniture and office (155%), online gambling (114%), home improvement (57%), alcohol and tobacco (48%) and department stores (44%). 

The shining light for the broader retail community in these times has been the jump in online sales. From February figures provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, seven per cent of all retail sales in the country were online. In in the United States it’s 12 per cent, and in the United Kingdom close to 20 per cent.

Those numbers will have jumped significantly in the past three months as businesses evolve their strategies to cope with the new environment we all find ourselves in. This has included everything from adapting product selection through to providing social distancing contactless delivery services.

“A lot of retailers are probably taking a hard look at their store networks right now and considering whether they can survive without some of their physical stores in the future,” says Jo-Anne Hui-Miller, editor of industry publication Inside Retail.

News Corp reported this month that music and gaming stores, and even some home appliance retailers, may move their entire operations online after its contribution to sales jumped from less than 10 per cent to more than 30 per cent in a matter of weeks. Many stores that shut under the lockdown are choosing not to reopen.

In Australia we have now weathered the worst of the storm. Restrictions are easing, and opportunities are returning. Citizens are no longer focused on hoarding, but are willing to spend. To help that happen, sales events are returning – and we want you to take advantage of them. 

Brace yourself for Click Frenzy Mayhem Sale on May 19, EOFY sales in June, Amazon Prime Day in July, leading into the crazy Christmas sales period including Singles Day, Click Frenzy’s Sale that Stops a Nation and Cyber Monday. Australia has no shortage of sales events upcoming this year.

But are you ready to capture sales and make up lost ground?

Here at Playhouse, as the co-founder and former Business Development Director of Click Frenzy, I’m in a unique position to guide you through the online sales event maze so you can maximise the opportunity.

Not only can we assist you with a review of your current site’s capabilities but we are also well versed in product selection, landing page set up, cart and checkout improvements and hosting expansion.

Click Frenzy Mayhem starts at 7:00 pm on Tuesday May 19, and with 99%-off deals for members, the who’s who in retail getting involved, thousands of deals, and unprecedented online traffic, the team at Playhouse can help you get the most out of whats certainly going to be online mayhem.

With the launch of the Lets Regrow campaign focused on getting retailers involved, make sure you jump on board and let us ensure your online strategy is agile, robust, safe and secure, and gets the most out of the 53 hour sale.

Whether its Click Frenzy Mayhem or any other upcoming sales event we are here to help.

Make a FREE consultation with me, Peter Krideras, Co-Founder of Click Frenzy now. I will talk through some ideal prep for these big sales events.

Business is Ramping Up

Photo by Jozsef Hocza on Unsplash

Across Australia governments are beginning to lift coronavirus restrictions and the public are responding – opening their wallets as stores open their doors. Data from both the ANZ and Commonwealth banks has this week shown increased activity on their debit and credit cards. 

In March, consumers focused on essential purchases, hoarding everything from toilet paper to rice and pasta. In April, they just stayed at home, leading to a 20 per cent year-on-year fall in sales. Now, CBA believes spending is down just two per cent on the comparable early-May 2019 figures, while ANZ found spending to be up.

Importantly, while April spending was 20 percent down, online was actually 20 per cent up. This month it still holds a 15 percent boost on 2019.

Uncertainty led both consumers and businesses to put off non-essential purchases, but these are starting to return – though it would be wrong to assume it will return to business as usual. B2C and B2B sales have changed forever. Having moved online, many consumers will rely less on bricks and mortar stores.

Analytics company AlphaBeta is tracking real-time spending habits to study the effects of the pandemic. Director, Dr Andrew Charlton, believes new models of spending adopted by consumers during the lockdown will persist long past it. 

“There are a lot of consumer trends that this crisis has really accelerated,” said Dr Charlton, who was also an economic adviser to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

“In some ways Australia has been a bit of a laggard in online shopping, but this crisis has forced many people to get a login, open an account and work out how things work. And I don’t think they’ll ever go back.”

Premier Investments, which operates 900 stores across brands such as Smiggle, Just Jeans and Peter Alexander, provides an example of how Covid-19 has affected the retail sector. When its stores reopen on Friday it will draw a close to a six-week shutdown that saw global sales plummet 74 per cent. During this time, however, their online sales doubled. For Peter Alexander, the online sales for the last week of April exceeded both the online and in-store sales totals for the corresponding week in 2019.

With Australian rents, particularly in Sydney, extremely high, selling online is just good business. “There’s a retail restructure underway with online growing,” CEO Mark McInnes told the Sydney Morning Herald. “We don’t see this going back to normal.”

Retail is moving online, and the post-coronavirus economic recovery has started. A wave of non-essential consumer and business purchases is on the horizon. The pandemic is likely to be with us for a year or so more, but the window of opportunity to prepare your business for this online retail growth is shrinking. Businesses that fail to move online and adopt best practice will be left behind.

We recommend working with Magento 2 to make the most of this unique opportunity.  When running platform selection for our clients we regularly find Magento 2 is a perfect fit.  

  • Magento allows you to fully control your customer experience without the limits found in platforms like Shopify.  
  • Magento is scalable and will continue to scale as your business grows and changes over time.  
  • Easily manage a B2C and B2B or B2C/B2B from a single Magento 2 backend instance.  
  • Feature your products in local marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay and Gumtree.  
  • Open your borders and allow customers to transact in multiple countries, languages, currencies, and use a network of worldwide shipping providers.
  • Reduce your integration complexity by utilising the Magento Extensions Marketplace.  Easily add new features and integrate with common 3rd party ERP, CRM and marketing automation platforms.

Now is the moment to set up your business on a Magento eCommerce platform. Don’t miss sales. Don’t miss this opportunity.

With decades of experience and as a certified Magento partner, Playhouse can help your business maximise its online sales capabilities. Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any other other eCommerce questions you may have.

Understanding Seamless Omnichannel Experiences

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Successful businesses are embracing an omnichannel approach to their cross-channel strategy.

The key distinction between omnichannel and multichannel is that the latter is focused on the product while the former is focused on the customer. Omnichannel strategy creates a consistent and unified customer experience for your brand regardless of where and how customers interact with it.

“Rather than treating channels as independent silos, omnichannel accounts for the spillover between channels and offers customer experiences within and between channels,” Shopify.com explains. “In essence, omnichannel removes the boundaries between different sales and marketing channels to create a unified, integrated whole. The distinctions between channels—onsite, social, mobile, email, physical, and instant messaging—disappear as a single view of the customer as well as a single experience of commerce emerges.”

Omnichannel is powered by technology and reliant on in to coordinate customer interactions with your brand. Previously, where it may have been acceptable for in-store purchases and offline marketing, for example, to occur in isolation, now customers expect each interaction to inform the other – something that has only increased with the acceleration of online adoption during the coronavirus crisis.

The core advantages of an omnichannel strategy are that it provides a clear and consistent vision of the brand, and it gives customers the information and interaction they want and how they want it, which increases customer acquisition and retention, and ultimately leads to an increase in sales. 

The Google report, Omnichannel shoppers: An emerging retail reality, concluded: “Omnichannel shopping presents a dramatic shift in how we think about retail, but it’s a change that comes with huge opportunity. Start your journey by understanding the specific traits of these shoppers. Get to know who they are and what propels them to shop online and in-store by using the tools that will help you measure online and offline purchases effectively across channels. Most important, give your customers what they’re craving: instant, relevant information no matter where they are or what device they’re using. Ultimately, though, it’s your team structure, incentives, and measurement that together support the common goal of attracting more loyal, valuable omnichannel shoppers. By focusing on their wants and needs, you’ll create a seamless shopping experience that’s more likely to drive sales across your organization.”

IDC predicts that half of all retailers have already adopted an omnichannel strategy, resulting in up to a 30% increase in profitability, due to higher revenue, and reduced costs of ownership, inventory, operations and promotions.

The Magento platform is geared to facilitating omnichannel strategy. With Magento Commerce and Magento Order management, you can:

– link in-store and online giving customers the option to buy online and pickup in-store, or to check inventory levels before leaving their homes

– centralise your global inventory and product sourcing, increasing efficiency, reducing costs and providing the best possible shopping experience

– grow your business through flexible order fulfilment, with stores, suppliers and partners effectively becoming mini distribution centres

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any eCommerce questions you may have.


Coronavirus and eCommerce

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

The coronavirus pandemic currently forcing the world into shutdown will have legacies affecting nearly all aspects of life, including purchasing behaviour. As our lives shift online for the foreseeable future there has been an associated growth in eCommerce, which can be expected to continue after the crisis if retailers are able to use the opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of online purchasing.

In China, online retail sales of physical goods still grew by three per cent in the first two months of the year, at a time when overall sales fell 20.5 per cent. “The last two months of quarantine has reshaped consumers’ purchase and transactional behaviour to shift more towards online,” said William Chuang, Asia equity portfolio manager at AXA Investment Managers. “The biggest winner is likely to be online grocers where consumers can find the cheapest price and convenience.”

The source of the disease and the first country to start showing signs of moving past it, China provides an insight into what others can expect. S&P Global reports: “As the country shifted to what has been dubbed a stay-at-home economy, consumers ordered fewer restaurant takeouts and cooked more, bought more home cleaning and personal hygiene products, and ordered fewer fashion and discretionary items, according to an analysis of data released by the Chinese government and e-commerce companies. Sales of items such as yoga mats, pyjamas and kitchen utensils also surged.”

Consumers are avoiding high-priced discretionary spends and online grocery sales have skyrocketed. iiMedia Research reported in mid-March that it expects China’s online grocery sales to increase by 62.9 per cent this year, compared with 29.2 per cent growth in 2019.

An early-March study from Ipsos MORI, Tracking the Coronavirus: Results from a Multi-country Poll, confirmed these findings, with eCommerce replacing footfall in physical retail stores. It found that 50 per cent of Chinese respondents, and 31 per cent from Italy, said they were shopping online “more frequently” to purchase products they would have previously bought in store. In Australia, the response was 18 per cent, though that figure will likely increase following the implementation of nationwide shutdowns.

In the United States, demand at Amazon is so great that the world’s largest eCommerce firm has increased its overtime pay for staff as it struggles to keep up, while several retailers have turned to site-wide discounts and free shipping to boost online sales. For example, Nike has offered 25 per cent off everything on its site to offset the effects of store closures and the marketing downturn due to the suspension of the NBA season. 

“As the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S.,” Shelley Kohan wrote in Forbes, “there have been signs of changing consumer behavior. Self-quarantines and emerging consumer worry about public places will provide opportunities for the e-commerce business to thrive over the next few months. As consumers turn to digital options as a means to circumvent physical shopping environments, the change in behavior may impact longer-term comportment. Consumer behavior is influenced by technological advancements, but also by environmental, economic and sociological factors, all three of which are evident with the current COVID-19.”

Ultimately, the coronavirus will provide long-term benefits to online retailers, so long as they can weather the storm of an economically challenging short-term. Restrictions forced upon consumers have seen them embrace eCommerce where they previously wouldn’t have, exposing them to its benefits. This has been particularly so with groceries, but as the crisis continues other retail sectors will also see growth. After all, even discretionary spends eventually become necessary.

You can check out real-time tracking of the Covid-19’s effect on the Australian economy here: https://www.alphabeta.com/illiontracking

Like all tragedy, this too shall pass. Now is the time to ensure that your eCommerce capabilities are ready to take advantage of increased online consumer purchasing. During the outbreak, low-cost essentials are the focus of growth, but as the world returns to normal so will discretionary spending – but this time it will be far more online.

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any eCommerce questions you may have.


Coronavirus and Digital Transformation

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world in a few short months. While it will leave many negative legacies, one positive is the acceleration of the adoption of digital transformation in businesses.

Twenty years ago you would have thought it impossible that the world’s biggest transport company wouldn’t own a car, the world’s largest accommodation provider wouldn’t own property, or that the number one media company wouldn’t create any content. The changes brought about by digital transformation in business will be just as great.

With restrictions on everything from travel and work to education and entertainment, we’ve turned to digital tools to help a semblance of normal life continue. Businesses that are able to shift online ahead of their competitors will be the big winners during this crisis and after it ends.

There are two aspects for businesses to consider in digital transformation: enabling staff to work remotely, and the provision of their goods and services online.

Working remotely can be a significant advantage for employees, though many businesses lack both the technological infrastructure and the company culture to support this. With COVID-19 this has to change, at least temporarily, and it is likely the experience will prove that work can be done effectively remotely and it will be incorporated to some extent in most future working arrangements.

“The stakes for digital transformation have increased dramatically,” Marco Iansiti and Greg Richards wrote in the Harvard Business Review. “Now, digitizing the operating architecture of the firm is not simply a recipe for higher performance, but much more fundamental for worker employment and public health. This is creating a new digital divide that will deepen fractures in our society. The firms that cannot change overnight will be left way behind, exposing their employees to increased risk of financial and physical distress.”

For several years businesses have recognised eCommerce as a crucial sales channel, but now we are seeing services that were previously considered to be almost exclusively face-to-face being delivered online due to necessity. Three examples of this are telehealth, eLearnings and events.

In late March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced $669 million in funding for telehealth, supporting the ability of health professionals, such as GPs, psychologists and psychiatrists, to provide consultations over the phone or on video. Not only does this provide easier access to care for patients, but it also protects health professionals from exposure to the virus.

Similarly, eLearning is not new – accessing lecture recordings and course readings online has been part of educational delivery for over a decade – but now universities have been forced to move their entire offering digitally. Additionally, primary and secondary schools, which had limited experience with eLearning are also embracing its potential.

Finally, with conference centres, cinemas, theatres and musical venues shut, the events industry has had to look to digital transformation. Conferences alone are a trillion-dollar industry, and this year in quick succession we saw the cancellation of the likes of the Adobe Summit, Google I/O, Microsoft’s MVP Summit, IBM’s Think, TED and SxSW. These events aren’t as easy to take online with webinars and live streams, because crucial to their success is networking more than the content. But startups are beginning to think of novel solutions, such as running an algorithm over attendee profiles to arrange virtual “cocktail party” video calls, or through features that complement random connections.

The key takeaway is that no matter what your business, there are probably several aspects of it that can be aided by digital transformation, whether that’s through supporting remote work for your staff, and/or providing your goods and services to customers online.

Now is the perfect time to make those changes.

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any eCommerce questions you may have.

We are here for you throughout this crisis.

Build your B2B marketplaces now

Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

In last week’s blog we touched on online marketplaces as being one of the significant industry-driven trends in eCommerce. Within five years they are expected to account for 30% of global corporate revenue, so now is the time to get started if you hope to attract high-quality sellers and make your marketplace a destination ahead of your competition.

It only took Amazon Business three years to grow from US$1 billion to US$10 billion in sales, passing that point in 2018. These numbers were driven by 87% of business buyers making business purchases on online marketplaces. This is certain to grow.

Inspired by Amazon, businesses of all sizes are building their own similar marketplaces to great effect. According to December report Imperatives When Building an Enterprise Marketplace by Gartner, businesses that have operated their marketplaces for over a year have seen at least a 10% increase in their digital revenue. Even mid-sized and smaller companies have been able to position themselves as industry leaders with their marketplaces, and have been able to quickly add customers as a result.

So, why have a marketplace?

– You can help your channel partners sell more. When businesses visit a manufacturer’s site they often just find product information and links to distributors. There is not the option to purchase. This hurdle to sales causes some potential buyers to go elsewhere. By setting up a B2B marketplace, not only are you helping your channel partners capture lost sales, you are enlisting them to act as sellers and providing an ecosystem in which visitors can compare your partners’ offerings without having to contact them independently. This additional traffic will also lead to more demand for your products.

– Increasingly online sales are occurring within ecosystems that emphasise marketplaces and communities, rather than one-to-one sales. By creating your own marketplace, you are helping future-proof your online sales, and can get ahead of your more risk-averse competition. After all, companies that move first with digital strategies experience nearly double the three-year revenue growth on average than companies that play it safe.

– You can use a marketplace to expand your online store offering without having to add additional inventory. Even if you only offer a limited range of products, like most B2B merchants, you no longer have to assume the inventory and fulfilment management that comes with adding new ones from third parties. Adding a marketplace takes advantage of your web traffic and increases income.

– By owning the marketplace you are able to take advantage of the insights it offers into the businesses that buy the products listed, such as where they are, how much they buy, and what industries they are in. When selling through channel partners, this information is usually kept by them. By capturing and analysing the data you can adapt your marketing and product development strategies.

– A marketplace gives you an effective heads-up on buying trends. If one of your seller’s products does well, you can examine the viability of offering your own, similar product. Amazon is known for doing this, identifying opportunities to create its own brands.

– Finally, a B2B marketplace is giving customers what they want, helping retain existing ones while also attracting new. Customers want to be able to buy multiple products on well designed, secure, and easy-to-use marketplaces. Additionally, B2B buyers prefer marketplaces due to their perceived price transparency. 

Here are Magento’s marketplace dos and don’ts.

DO: 

– Choose sellers that complement your product offering and resell your products

– Develop a multi-channel marketing plan

– Create a seamless and automated onboarding experience for sellers

– Include a modern eCommerce front end

– Use your data to improve your marketing strategy or inform your product roadmap

DON’T:

– Compete against your own channel partners and distributors

– Neglect to promote your marketplace

– Make it difficult for sellers to sign up and get approved

– Require manual steps (like a phone call) for buyers to complete a transaction

– Fail to analyse your transaction data

The new generation of B2B marketplaces are not “one size fits all”. Broadly, you will either want to be a niche player or a market leader. The former focus on a niche market or community of users, while the latter is for businesses that already have a large customer base and organic web traffic, and are looking to offer more choices to their existing customers.

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any eCommerce questions you may have.

Staying on top of eCommerce trends

Consumers have come to expect excellent experiences across every channel, and this is driving the eCommerce industry to the cutting edge of innovation. Now more than ever as the rate of change increases, it is essential to stay in front to remain competitive and profitable in the retail sector.

Ecommerce is comfortably outpacing overall retail growth, currently at 14.1% per annum compared to 4%, according to Adobe Digital Insights (ADI). While we can expect some downturn due to the coronavirus, this is a force majeure aberration and shouldn’t distract from the unprecedented underlying growth seen across the holiday period at the end of last year, where online sales topped US$138 billion – a 12.7% year-on-year increase. But to get your share of the pie, you need to be ready.

Emerging eCommerce trends can be divided into three categories: customer driven, technology driven and industry driven.

Customer Driven

– Ethical eCommerce

Consumers have realised that they can temper, or even change, company behaviour with their purchasing power. Over the past year, in particular, there have been a number of campaigns targeting companies with a poor record on the environment.

– Seamless Omnichannel Experiences

Most consumers will pay more for a great retail experience. A core way to achieve this is through consistent and complementary product experiences across all channels. Getting the customer’s journey right will position your business to thrive.

– Personalisation

Consumers want more than basic personalisation. Instead, you should be utilising advances in artificial intelligence (AI) to learn from customer interactions to know not only who the customer is,  but also when, where and how to engage with them.

– Delivery Transformation

Same-day delivery almost seems quaint. With a move to autonomous vehicles in the long term, we can expect deliveries to become increasingly fast and flexible. In the short term, improvements to logistics will still see retail continue its shift online.

Technology Driven

– Headless eCommerce

Headless architecture decouples the frontend and backend, allowing your platform to be agile and to rapidly change to evolving trends. This will set free your marketing creatives, allowing them to quickly and cheaply experiment with changes, gain insights and boost conversions.

– Mobile Progressive Web Apps

The majority of web traffic has now shifted to mobile devices. PWAs bridge the gap between native app functionality and traditional webpages, expanding customer interaction and keeping pace with expectations of lightning-fast, app-like browsing experiences

– Micro Animations to Boost Conversions

AniGIFs aren’t new, but they’re now being pushed to new limits thanks to the ubiquity of cameras, editing and animations software, and fast internet. These animations are an effective way to emphasise your brand, improve the customer experience, and boost sales.

– Visual Search in eCommerce

Visual searches and image recognition will be vital in the future and will require a rethink and redesign of existing websites, which often place visual elements as supplementary rather than at the core.

– Voice as an eCommerce Channel

Consumers are becoming used to shopping with the use of voice commands, and this trend will only increase in the next 12 months. We’re still in the early days of voice as a mode of input, but early-adopting companies will see the benefits of its integration.

Industry Driven

– NextGen B2B eCommerce

Traditional B2B companies and expanding their direct-to-customer channels. Not only does this drive further sales, and potentially at better margins, but it also enables the company to capture customer data to better target growth. Expect to see the product-centric to customer-centric shift all but complete this year.

– Marketplaces

The top 100 online market places currently sell US$1.8 each year, and within five years could account for over 30% of global corporate revenues. These marketplaces are not just for B2C companies but are increasingly being utilised by B2B merchants to grow their sales.

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any eCommerce questions you may have.


Learning Management Systems & COVID-19

Learning Management Systems

If you run a business that’s been forced to have staff working remotely, due to quarantine from a virus pandemic for example, you may wish that you had already implemented a learning management system (LMS).

LMS were first developed to meet the needs of the higher education sector, managing all aspects of providing educational, training and development programs with software that looks after administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery. Now also heavily used in the corporate sector, a LMS identifies training and learning gaps, utilising analytical data and reporting, and delivers appropriate content – whether videos, courses or documents – to achieve learning online.

eLearning

Put simply, an LMS powers eLearning.

The most common uses for a LMS in business are to deliver employee training, employee orientation, knowledge retention, and general education. The main advantage for business is that employees can access materials when they want, from where they want, and at the pace they want. Additionally, once courses are set up on the platform there is no marginal cost for employees taking them. These factors keep productivity up and costs down.

Anyone who’s been to university knows that most practical knowledge is learnt on the job, so the more efficiently and effectively you can boost your staff’s knowledge of their jobs, the better.

Education isn’t just about productivity, but also career development, and when it comes to staff retention this is key. A Work Institute study found that 86% of companies had had employees leave due to a lack of career development, while having good training plans was one of the top reasons for staff staying.

Similarly, the 2019 Job Seeker Nation Study in the United States by Jobvite found that 61% of workers listed career growth as the top factor in looking for a job, outstripping pay (57%) and healthcare benefits (58%).

Docebo and SAP Litmos LMS

At Playhouse there are two LMS that we are recommending: Docebo and SAP Litmos.

In addition to the mandatory LMS requirements, Docebo relies on AI-powered learning to improve the learner experience and provide deeper personalisation. It has a fully integrated ecosystem of features and a modular interface, which is delivered device-agnostic and mobile-friendly. It also supports blended and social learning initiatives that engage users and encourage participation. As a bonus, you can integrate Docebo’s 700-course library within your platform offering.

While Docebo is regarded as the most comprehensive online training solution, SAP Litmos is the biggest. It boasts of over 21 million users taught, with a billion courses completed. Its content-rich course catalogue makes it easy to manage the entire learning program from system implementation and integration to ongoing administration. It also comes with features to help you build your online course, including creating assessments and gamification. Importantly, it is quick to deploy and integrates with nearly all of your existing systems, enabling information sharing and data synchronisation.

LMS & COVID-19

The current coronavirus crisis isn’t expected to peak until June, and will only be behind us in December. That’s nine months away! Restrictions on movement and gathering are going to become stricter, but having an LMS implemented can ensure that your business makes the most of this time while your employees are working remotely.

If you’d like to discuss an LMS with us, or for any Magento needs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Want to find out about more about Learning Management Systems (LMS) and how they can easily integrate into your business?

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about your LMS needs now.

Crisis brings opportunity, and we’re here to help you take it.

Artificial Intelligence and the Development of Chatbots

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Chatbots are an increasingly important part of the online sales experience, enabling automated interactions with potential customers, providing everything from information like marketing videos to sales receipts, to upselling through different or complementary product recommendations. In short, they give a merchant a head start to generating revenue and removing barriers to sale.

Great news for Magento users is that you now receive a free live chat agent as part of the standard out-of-the-box offering. Adobe’s release notes for Magento Commerce 2.3.4 explained: “Live Chat powered by dotdigital enables merchants to increase conversion rates, and keep customers coming back with real-time engagement. All Magento 2.3.x merchants (both Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce) can receive a free live chat agent without the need for a full dotdigital Engagement Cloud license.”

Chatbots carry the advantage of not coming with the human frailties of tiredness, time off and mistakes, and they are able to act based on extensive data analysis. However, they are only as good as they are created to be. This is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes in. The object of AI is to effectively engage with potential customers in a way that maximises sales. As customers search for more personalised experiences, the quality of the AI behind the chatbots will have a significant impact on their success. 

What is unique about AI is its ability to make computers seem like they are human. This is done through a combination of machine learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP). Put simply, machine learning gets the chatbot to look at other interactions to determine which responses were most successful, while NLP helps it interpret human input and to provide output that is consistent with human expectations.

Without AI, a chatbot is just a FAQ lookup. But getting it wrong can leave customers feeling unvalued. “I can’t speak for all chatbot deployments in the world – there are some that aren’t done very well,” says Salesforce chief scientist Richard Socher.

“But in our case we’ve heard very positive feedback because when a bot correctly answers questions or fills your requirements it does it very, very fast… In the end, users just want a quick answer, and originally people thought they wanted to talk to a person because the alternative was to go through a ten minute menu or to listen to ten options and then have to press a button – that’s not fun and its not fast and efficient.”

As businesses look to scale, it is essential that their customer engagement can handle volatile volume demands, provide a broad scope of support across products and services, and is able to quickly respond to changes to consumer tastes. AI-powered chatbots assist businesses in meeting these demands.
Specifically in relation to retail and eCommerce chatbot use, the technology: improves the customer experience by quickly and accurately providing requested information such as product details, shipping costs and delivery times; enhances the shopping journey by offering personalised shopping advice to assist customers while on site to ultimately boost conversion and revenue; and personalises marketing communication by collecting and analysing information generated through conversations, to better understand the customer’s needs and preferences and to anticipate user behaviour with customised offers and marketing messages.

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any eCommerce questions you may have.

Progressive Web Apps

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

The use of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) is expected to skyrocket through 2020, to the point where leading research and advisory company Gartner is predicting that come next year they’ll replace 50% of general-purpose, consumer-facing mobile apps.

Forrester Consulting found that last year the majority of worldwide web traffic had shifted to mobile devices. While these interactions have long been supported by existing technologies, PWAs are set to vastly expand this customer interaction, keeping pace with consumer expectations of lightning fast, app-like browsing experiences.

Analyst Jason Wong summarises: “Progressive web apps aim to disrupt the mobile app paradigm by bridging the web experience with native app functionality. Application leaders responsible for mobile app strategies must determine when — not if — they need to factor in PWAs as part of their overall mobile development strategy.”

PWAs are the next step. According to Jason Woosley, VP of Commerce Platform & Product at Adobe, “We have gone from static web pages to desktop web pages, and then to responsive mobile web pages… A PWA is the next evolution of this. It’s basically saying: there is no reason for you to even have a mobile application. You can do it all on the web.” 

Companies like Twitter and Starbucks are using PWAs to offer customers access to their services and things like push notifications, even when offline. “If you go to Starbucks.com, you can actually put their PWA on your home screen as an icon and use it exactly the same way you would the Starbuck’s app. You probably wouldn’t know the difference, and, in my opinion, it’s faster,” Woosley said.

Not only do PWAs ensure high-speed interaction, they also shield service delivery from the hazards of poor or non-existent internet connection, especially in emerging economies such as Africa or India, or importantly to us, in regional areas of Australia where connectivity is an ongoing issue. 

“With full websites or traditional apps,” Woosley adds, “you have to essentially scrunch down all of the information into your phone to send it along. With PWAs, you actually only deliver the assets that you need. This makes PWAs way better in terms of being a good citizen for low-bandwidth countries.”

An additional advantage of PWAs is their universal use across operating systems, like webpages, meaning that specialised iOS or Android code, for example, is not necessary. This is why PWAs are being so widely adopted for all new projects, especially on the commerce side of the house.

To address the growth in PWAs, Magento has created PWA Studio, a suite of tools for building online stores with app-like experiences that help merchants solve the mobile conversion dilemma and delivery highly personalised cross-channel experiences. The latest release of Magento, which dropped last month, has also increased Page Builder and PWA Studio compatibility, allowing content created in Page Builder to be rendered in PWA Studio’s Venia reference storefront.

Adobe explains, “With PWA Studio in Magento Commerce, you can transform the mobile experience and help merchants gain new customers, improve conversion rates, search rankings (SEO) and lower their development costs. PWAs use a variety of performance optimisation and responsive design strategies to load content fast on any network and thereby provide a consistent experience across desktops, tablets and smartphones.”

In short, PWAs deliver faster browsing, instant “app” gratification, push notifications, and rapid re-engagement. They are the future.

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any eCommerce questions you may have.