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retail

SHOP WINDOWS AND HOMEPAGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GET THERE WITH MIDDLEWARE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONTENT IS KING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK TO CHAT AND CHATBOTS, LET’S CHAT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE IMPACT OF UNNECESSARY CUSTOMISATION

Is your eCommerce customisation causing you more problems and money than it should?
Development customisation can be a very valuable asset for solving issues facing online retailers and in some cases is absolutely necessary.

The decision to further customise your website or a module is sometimes due to an out-of-the-box solution not working for your business, products, or your customers. You need the customisation to allow you to stand out, give your customers a tailored experience and maintain a competitive edge.

However, using customisation to fix issues or just to create a bespoke functionality can set off a cycle that creates more problems in the long term. The impact needs to be considered carefully to avoid costly changes in the future.

What are the pitfalls of customisation?
The major pitfalls of creating too much customisation means that when you upgrade your platform, for security reasons for example, you run the risk that your customised module no longer works with the updated platform. The knock on effect is you have to invest in more development work with that module to upgrade it too, or potentially start all over again finding a new module that you then need to customise.

That’s a whole lot more time, energy and resources your business is spending unnecessarily.

At The Playhouse Group, we are finding more and more that when we speak with new clients, they have concerns that their current platform is overly reliant on customisation, and as a consequence are struggling to either upgrade or ensure that basic security patches are applied.

To avoid a customisation setting off a chain reaction and causing more problems in the future you need to exercise caution and use it sparingly.

Working with a partner who can help you evaluate this and give you an array of alternative options is crucial to avoiding any potential future pitfalls such as falling out of upgrade paths or creating future code headaches.

Future proofing your eCommerce business
Before you choose to add customisation software to your eCommerce platform, you need to understand the value that this will add to your business and your bottom line.
If you can’t confidently show that the customisation will deliver on your overall business goals and create a return on investment then you should consider alternatives, such as out-of-the-box modules that are built for your platform.

The situations where customisation is used need to be carefully considered to make sure the increase in development time versus the true value that customisation can deliver to your business is worth the investment and any future investment.

If you are looking at eCommerce customisation, then you can talk to a member of the Playhouse Group team. We can help you understand the different processes involved as well as any future potential challenges. Whether you use Magento, Drupal or another platform; we can offer you impartial advice that will ultimately help you to create a better eCommerce solution for your business and your customers.

OMNICHANNEL RETAIL INDEX 2017 REVIEW: PART 3 – CUSTOMER SERVICE AND LOYALTY

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.

3D MAPPING AND AI: TECHNOLOGY AND FASHION

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.

OMNICHANNEL RETAIL INDEX 2017 REVIEW: PART 2 – MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

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.

OMNICHANNEL RETAIL INDEX 2017 REVIEW: PART 1

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.