In 2019, customers became bolder with their demands and expectations. You may have learned how to satisfy them with evergreen content,site optimization, and fraud protection. However, as 2020 picks up, merchants need to stay one step ahead of the competition by studying trends and going beyond customer expectations.Through convenience, conscious consumerism and flexibility, these 3 eCommerce technologies help B2B companies boost sales and improve shopping experiences.
1. Conversational Search in the Rise of Convenience
Conversational Search is designed to mirror spoken search requests rather than keywords. Siri and Alexa changed the way shoppers navigate the Internet and retailers are finding new ways to implement “Conversational Search” in their SEO strategy. Thanks to technologies like Klevu, customers can interact with a search engine and find answers using their normal, natural language. Activating Conversational Search on your site gives customers easy, on-demand, and frictionless access to the information and products they want.
Conversational Search for B2B
Automated email blasts and informal sales outreach alone, no longer close B2B deals. 30% of web browsing sessions will be conducted without a phone screen this year. Ensuring your online store is ready to provide a simple experience through search is key. To reach your customers, you must:
1. Research: Optimizing search requires getting to know your potential customers. Research and learn the questions they’re asking, challenges they’re facing, their priorities, goals, favorite products, and the phrases they’re using to search for products you provide.
2. Optimize: Once you know your customers’ burning questions, conduct a full search audit and optimize your site. Remember,90% of executives research using their mobile devices before making a purchase decision. You can better serve your customers when your site feels conversational and your voice search feature is user-friendly on all devices.
3. Create Content: Voice-search optimization requires your content to reflect your buyers’ needs. It should be easy for your customers to navigate your site search through natural conversation. Include “ask keywords” in your voice search strategy that answers your buyers’ questions. Some examples include, “how can I strengthen my eCommerce strategy? ” or “what are the product benefits?”
2. Loyalty’s Place in the Rise of Conscious Consumerism
In 2019, “Conscious Consumerism” became mainstream. Now 65% of global consumersmake belief-driven purchases. In addition, 66% of shoppers choose to stay loyal to brands that share their values.
Implementing platforms like Loyalty Lion will allow merchants to create unique loyalty programs. This will make it easier for customers to practice “Conscious Consumerism” while building authentic relationships between you and your customers.
Loyalty programs employed by companies likeStay Wildishare built upon members completing monthly challenges in exchange for points. Shoppers can then donate their points to non-profit organizations. This keeps customers returning to engage with the program as they earn social rewards they value.
Customers who are aligned with your mission are more willing to act as advocates and share brands with others who have similar values. By appealing to what your customers want, you’ll secure their loyalty long-term and increase their lifetime value.
Loyalty for B2B
To encourage your existing customers to return, implement a loyalty program in your B2B strategy that can help you acquire like-minded customers who will convert faster and stay loyal longer. According to B2B Marketing Academy, loyal customers arefive times more likelyto make a purchase and forgive mistakes. They’re also seven times easier to upsell if you include:
1. Personalization: One loyal customer equals a steady source of income. While B2B companies offer a smaller pool of customers than B2C, it’s critical to add a more personalized touch. Your customers are online, meet them there. Personalize their emails, and provide multiple ways to communicate messages to them such as text alerts. Personalization efforts can drive a six-fold increase in sales!
2. VIP Rewards: Customers love specialized perks. Don’t waste a good email without offering your customers exclusives like reward points, product sampling, and early access to promotions. Keep your customers’ goals in mind by figuring out how your reward points can directly impact their lives and be useful beyond your company’s objectives.
3. New Expectations Demand Shipping Flexibility
Customers want options, and they want them on their terms. Fast shipping, however, is no longer an option but an expectation. Retailers need to start looking at innovative and alternative shipping services and tools like ShipperHQ to meet these new expectations and create new and better experiences for customers.
BOPIS(Buy Online, Pickup In-Store) is a relatively new buying option that continues to rise in popularity. Like B2Cs, B2B companies are implementing this strategy to change how they interact with their customers. Just think about it, if your customer needs a machine part or tool that day, BOPIS allows them to buy it through your website in minutes and pick it up at a nearby store, reducing their project timeline. This also helps with items that have shipping restrictions and can take a long time to arrive where the customer needs them.
Additionally, 75% of BOPIS users make unplanned purchases while they’re in your store, according to Agilence. If Home Depot, Lowes, and Amazon can offer BOPIS options, it’s time more manufacturers and distributors take advantage of this powerful technology.
Other buying options include above-and-beyond services like same-day, white-glove, or in-home delivery. Theconstruction,wholesale and distribution, and automotive industries can benefit greatly from it. For example, construction employees are often sent out to pick up orders. Same day delivery cansave project managers timeand money. These implementations will keep merchants ahead of their competition and improve customer experiences.
Shipping Flexibility and B2B
B2B customer demographics are shifting. Millennials are becoming decision-makers and they’re expecting miracles. More than next day delivery options are driving sales, they’re relying on innovation and technological advantages to make their lives as buyers easier. Shipping is one of the buyer’s final touchpoints and B2B companies can improve these experiences through:
1. Price Transparency: B2B customers expect online stores to reveal shipping costs before purchasing. Consider options that are fast and can cut down shipping costs.
2. Flexible Returns: The ability to provideflexible and easyreturn options will make or break your reputation. To keep your customers’ trust, provide a clear and easy return policy on your website and include return labels with shipments.
3. Efficient Distribution Strategies: B2B eCommerce sales in the U.S are expected to exceed $1.18 trillion by 2021. Success in the marketplace comes from adapting to customer demands but also being aware of rising threats. Adding more distribution centers and new technologies that can improve tracking of shipments, real-time traceability, and threat detection such as environment monitoring can help streamline logistics.
Your recipe for success in 2020 is to take today’s latest technical capabilities. Effectively engage customers at the beginning of their shopping journey, encourage repeat purchase through advanced search, loyalty programs, and shipping convenience.
B2B companies who keep up with these industry trends will remain one step ahead of their competitors. A strategic, “customer-first” mindset will allow you to remain innovative while improving your customer’s shopping experience. Continuously ask yourself, “how can I make buying easier?” or “how do I like to shop?” Then implement the right technology.
To find out how you can integrate these technologies in your 2020 eCommerce strategy, book yourfree consultation with Redstage today. If you’re thinking about upgrading to Magento 2, learn more about our 40-Day B2B Accelerator here!
As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, retailers and e-marketers have a lot on their minds. With touchpoints coming from multiple directions across your customer journey, it’s easy to overlook critical components that can immediately affect your revenue goals. To keep you on track, we created this holiday roadmap that covers every part of your funnel. Grab some hot chocolate, scroll through our list, and rest easy while your holiday sales jump like Jordan.
1. The Difference Between Good & Great Content.
There are multiple ways to leverage content to hit different audiences. However, doing so well enough to generate leads, encourage customer loyalty, upsell, and build trust can prove challenging. In these 3 blog posts, we share a few gems to help you produce content that engages and will continue to drive value far beyond the holiday season. If your content marketing strategy doesn’t utilize these key principles, it’s not too late to inject them into your plan. Take a look and maybe grab an idea or two to spice up your content.
Content marketing should be a major cornerstone in your marketing arsenal. By providing valuable, free content, that builds customer empathy, you will attract and convert new prospects into brand-loyal customers. The caveat to producing great content is having the foresight to produce content that aligns with customer interests, while continuously delivering new content that your customers hunger for.
— Christopher Yin, Creative Director, Redstage
Know your audience and create content that hits them on a personal level. What are their interests and hobbies? What are the causes they care about? With a more complex buying process, B2B companies may want to consider producing content that hists each part of the sales funnel. Are you helping your audience think critically about the industry? How can you make your customers better-skilled professionals Furthermore, how can you align your brand with these things in a way that’s authentic and true to your brand?
Thanks to your engaging and authentic content, customers are flocking to your store. Lucky for you, holiday spending is expected to increase by 5% this year, but most customers won’t be visiting your physical location. More than half (around 53%) of your holiday customers will shop exclusively online. This surge in traffic has the potential to cause a lot of stress on your server, causing crashes or bugs that leave your customers aggravated or empty-handed.
You’ve worked hard to build trust and develop customer loyalty, you can’t fail them now, and with our help, you won’t.
The holidays are a time of increased profits, but that comes with a huge load on websites. So if you haven’t done proper stress testing to account for higher demand, you won’t know how your online store is going to react.
— Adam Morris, CEO at Redstage
Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Your customers won’t let you off the hook if you give them a poor experience, especially if you’re a wholesaler or manufacturer who has an inaccurate count of inventory. Twitter can be your best friend or worst enemy. Check out these articles to ensure you stick with the former by properly monitoring your site and completing our performance checklist. These 4 articles will help you optimize and digitally strengthen your store for the holidays.
By now you have done the research and collected the data. You know your customers’ buying habits, likes, and dislikes. You now only have 1 shot and a couple of seconds to impress them with frictionless and secure customer experiences. 32% of consumers change their minds about making a mobile purchase by abandoning their carts. Getting this step right can potentially cut your mobile cart abandonment in half. A part of stress testing your site is assessing your checkout funnel and you can do so with the Mobile Optimization Initiative. This blog can get you thinking with a mobile-first customer experience mentality so that you are not missing out on your share in over $500 billion.
Smart A/B testing based on data-driven analysis gives you insights that lead to successful, simple changes that can have a big impact on increasing your revenue per visitor.
— Benjamin Shapiro, Solutions Engineer, Redstage
Doing it right the first time can save you the trouble in the end. Potential consumers and corporate buyers want to check out with ease, the sooner you begin simplifying the check-out process the better your site will perform The sooner you start, the better your site will perform. Better performance means staying one step ahead of your competitors.
You have done your due diligence and can sit back and enjoy your holiday. Not exactly. While customers are increasingly shopping online, there is a huge risk that their data can be exposed. You may have heard of some common hacks such as phishing, payment fraud, and account take over. With an expectation of a $22 billion loss this year due to fraud this section is a must-read. Here you will find the top 3 tactics hackers will use to attack your eCommerce site and how to keep your store and customers safe. We also joined forces with our trusted partner Trustpilot to give you 7 ways to improve your website’s trust signal.
Merchants need to start with an honest evaluation of what fraud costs your company. This isn’t just the money you lose on fraudulent orders you ship; it also includes all the time your staff puts into screening orders as well as the revenue lost to rejected orders which may have been safe. When you add up all these costs, the price of top fraud prevention solutions starts to look a lot more attractive.
— Oliver Sosinsky, Sr. Solutions Engineer, Redstage.
Your customers deserve the same amount of protection as your store and protecting their privacy must be a priority. Monitoring is both crucial and necessary in keeping your customers and store safe. However, investing in a well-vetted Anti-Fraud Solution can ease your worries.
3 Stopgaps to Ensure Your Holiday Strategy Goes As Planned…
Ready or not, the holiday rush is coming, and it is up to you to properly prepare. B2C companies are rising at a steady pace and facing many challenges starting at the top of the sales funnel. However, B2B companies can learn a thing or two as they play a key role in ensuring B2C’s and their customers are benefiting from their product or services. Customers and their unpredictable demands and expectations are inevitableTo produce a safe, frictionless, shopping experience, both B2B and B2C companies must work in sync to increase conversion.
Whether it be online or a brick and mortar, your ultimate goal for this holiday season is to make a profit while increasing brand loyalty. If you want to stay ahead of your competitors here are 3 action steps, you should take.
Learn more about the Mobile Optimization Initiative and sign up for a free consultation here.
Schedule a free consultation to find out what testing feature is best for your site here.
Schedule a consultation to find out which security bundle fits your site’s needs here.
Congratulations! You survived the Back to School retail surge. While the true test of eCommerce performance is yet to come, any hurdles you encountered during Back to School should be taken care of well before then. Consider these your warning shots. To help, here are 3 precautionary measures you can take to digitally strengthen your store for the holidays.
1. Stress Test to Avoid Lost Revenue
A wave of more than 6.2 billion shoppers will descend on digital retailers during Cyber Week. Unfortunately, not all businesses are prepared for success…
For example, J. Crew’s site crashed on Black Friday in 2018 and issues persisted throughout the afternoon. Analysts predict the outage cost the company around $780,000 in just five hours. Shoppers flocked to Twitter to complain en masse, causing a firestorm of anger to erupt across the web. This is where the real damage was done. Like a ghost story from holidays past, this is a warning for retailers everywhere to change for the better.
Redstage’s CEO Adam Morris identified the top “holiday rush” issues we’ve helped clients through in years past. Here’s what to watch out for:
1. Slow Site Speed
2. Price Caching
3. Broken or Buggy Checkout
4. Server Overload or Timeout
5. Add to Cart Features Failing
“The holidays are a time of increased profits, but that comes with a huge load on websites,” Morris says, “So if you haven’t done proper stress testing to account for higher demand, you won’t know how your online store is going to react.”Adam Morris, CEO at Redstage
Preparing for the worst now can save you money and your reputation later with one simple step— testing. Skipping this step could spell disaster that leaves the specter of poor service hanging over your reputation for years to come.
2. Your Back-End Checklist at Present
From Thanksgiving to Black Friday through the end of Cyber Week, retailers have a few critical days to rake in as many sales as possible. During this shopping frenzy customers both in-store and online. Regardless of how they buy, your online store (or your app) will more than likely be their first stop. We developed a checklist of what you can do today to ensure your eCommerce site survives Cyber Week.
Optimize your site’s user experience with A/B testing.
Review all error codes to avoid a broken checkout.
Avoid overload and crashes by scaling your server.
Double-check key functions to avoid important features failing.
Complete load testing to prepare for an increase in traffic.
Utilize an automated monitoring system for real-time updates on 404s and checkout errors.
Upgrade your payments and security platforms to prevent payment fraud.
Lastly, be prepared to scale up your support team on the fly. If something goes wrong, even for a few minutes, you’ll need a sizable support team to manage angry customers and correct the issues.
“If you’re not using visitor data to identify the friction points in your checkout, you risk focusing your budget in the wrong places. A data-driven approach to optimization means trusting your analytics even when the message is counter-intuitive.”Oliver Sosinsky, Sr. Solutions Engineer at Redstage
Learn a valuable lesson from LuLu Lemon. Last year, the athleisure brand’s site went down the morning of Thanksgiving Day. Shopper outrage hit Twitter at 8am EST with a “Site is down. Ugh!”
In the first minutes of the shopping event of the year, the brand was stuck, entangled in crisis. Once the site got back online, more errors appeared, causing sales prices for in-cart items reset to regular prices or prevent customers from checking out.
With proper bug monitoring and back-end preparations, this fiasco could have been avoided. Take a page out of our book and start monitoring now. You’ve done the legwork to bring customers to your site, now protect it.
3. Capitalize on the Future
A single visitor doesn’t guarantee a transaction and a single transaction doesn’t guarantee a loyal customer. Flawless mobile experiences will do both, but takes some serious testing.
Conversion rate optimization turns your visitors into customers while ensuring they receive an immaculate customer experience. While no two customers are the same, simple tests can lead to enhancements that remove friction from the checkout and dramatically reduce abandoned carts.
Merchants like LawnmowerTirestore.com took advantage of testing their site before the holiday season and the results were a game changer. By making their checkout button stick to the site’s header and follow users while they scrolled, sales soared with a 29.5% increase in revenue per visitor (RPV) for desktop customers. For mobile, the test yielded a 7% increase in RPV, after only 4 weeks of testing. Now, Lawnmower Tirestore plans to roll-out the feature site-wide to capitalize on their new-found data-driven advantage.
As part of the Mobile Optimization Initiative, retailers can receive checkout tests 100% free. The goal of the initiative is to create a set of best practices for mobile optimization and share our insight with the world. Read more about the initiative here.
According to Internet Retailer, 60% of consumers plan to spend 50% or more of their holiday shopping online; spending over $21.6 billion during Cyber week.
It is not too late to prepare. If you start early enough and cover all the bases, you can sit back, relax and watch your revenue grow with measurably less stress. Remember, this is your holiday too. While there’s still time, monitor your site for bugs, load test, A/B test, utilize the data, capitalize on those results, and enjoy some eggnog.
Prime Day is Over, but Holiday Sales Have Only Begun
If January is the finish line for holiday sales, Amazon’s Prime Day is the starting gun. This year brands came out in force to compete and capitalize on the sales event. Flexing omnichannel marketing muscle, both digital natives and big-box stores sought to grab their share of winnings. Most importantly, the performance-enhancing tools both Amazon and others used on Prime Day can be repurposed for the holiday race ahead. Let’s review.
Quick Recap: Prime Day Milestones
This Prime Day, the ecommerce ecosystem got more than it bargained for. Brands broke through the clutter with new strategies to piggy-back off the holiday, while others launched their own sales events. Amazon’s reported sales for the two-day event beat last year’s totals for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. According to Internet Retailer, “The ecommerce giant sold more than 175 million items across its platform. Plus, sales by third-party marketplace sellers ‘far exceeded’ $2 billion.” However, Amazon wasn’t the only winner.
Last week, Adobe Digital Insights discovered a massive industry shift. Data shows that average daily revenues for retailers with revenues over $1 billion saw lifts of 54% and 72% Monday and Tuesday, respectively. The report concludes that mid-sized retailers shared the gains, witnessing an average revenue bump of 28%.
The two-days of sales also mark a notable shift in the industry at large, pushing the entire category to new highs. Thanks to this month’s 1.7% increase in sales across the online retail industry, non-store retailers (including Amazon and digital-only stores) now only trail Auto dealers in the U.S. retail market. As Bloomberg notes, “Online shopping has become the second-biggest chunk of the $520 billion U.S. retail market, after overtaking grocery stores and restaurants in June.”
How Amazon Became a Crowd Favorite
From free shipping to premium content, Amazon Prime members get an awful lot of added value. For an annual price of $119 (or $59 for students), users get unlimited music and photo storage, audiobooks, Kindle books, discounts at Whole Foods, and Prime Video where they can watch their favorite movies and shows.
The loyalty program also gives special deals to users, including early access to lightning deals 30 minutes before non-members. Additionally, Prime members can even share their benefits with other members of their household (or anyone for that matter). One of the newest features, Prime Wardrobe, allows loyal members to ship up to 8 clothing items from Amazon sent right to their door, and they can return any and all items for free.
The result of this massive loyalty program? Membership now exceeds 100 million subscribers. At the end of 2018, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CRIP), determined the average Prime member spent $1,400.00 on Amazon goods for the year, more than double the $600.00 that non-prime customers spent on average.
Building Your Fanbase Through Loyalty Programs
Users expect more from brands and online vendors. They want value beyond the products they’re buying and an interface that makes for swift shopping. Most, if not all DTC companies acquire the bulk of their new customers for the year during the holidays. The problem is engaging these customers and retaining them once the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. A loyalty program built specifically for your audience can help you keep the sales flowing and boost retention year-round.
The question is, how does your current loyalty program achieve this, and can it be optimized? Are there additional “freebies” you can provide outside of the occasional blog post, up-sell, or discount? In ecommerce, brand loyalty can be a massive differentiator between you and your competition. While Amazon’s loyalty program is difficult to match, exclusive deals, early releases, customer perks, and unlockable rewards are great ways to keep customers engaged and coming back.
If your rewards program was based on a subscription payment, how much could it cost to provide free shipping for customers? Perhaps rolling revenue would allow you to create new content for members like style guides, product videos, or pop-up events like Amazon’s Treasure Truck. Rewards programs like Swell even reward customers for creating content like product reviews, videos, Instagram photos and more, which in-turn drive additional revenue. For the holiday’s it’s time to think seriously about the value of customer loyalty.
Using Amazon To Your Advantage
Amazon offers benefits to sellers who use the platform, including specific advantages for Prime Day. Omnichannel merchants can submit for a lighting deal, which if approved, puts the platform’s marketing engine to work for you. Sellers who are selected for the option typically see a big boost in sales, though significantly lower prices are recommended to get approved (at least 20% off the current Amazon listed price and at least 5% lower than the lowest listed price for the same product in the past 28 days).
Amazon coupons are another example of some of the benefits sellers can use to get some extra juice out of the Prime Day frenzy. The coupons show up in search results, on the Amazon Coupons page, in the shopping cart, in your brand store, and in sponsored products listings. This year, many merchants combined these strategies with an increase in marketing budget to get their products seen and to the top of specific categories, but only with product that were performing well already.
Companies that sell consumable products have a massive advantage. Amazon’s subscription feature lets customers sign up for automatic rolling purchases that will keep sales going long after Prime Day. Using this option in combination with those mentioned above will likely prove powerful for merchants who sell on Amazon, and makes a compelling case to add subscription functionality to your ecommerce site. Our developers recommend using this extension here for Magento 2.
The Sales Race Ahead
Vendor beware, Amazon is currently taking steps to build it’s own collection of private-label brands. While the deal may seem outrageous, the “Amazon Accelerator” program offers free marketing support, preferred listings, and more perks for vendors. The catch? Amazon reserves the right to purchase brands that sign up for as little as $10,000 flat (WSJ). Most brands would agree this is a ludicrously unfair price for an entire product line. However, it’s likely one or two tiny companies in each category will part with a brand for the fast cash-grab before they’re bought.
While we don’t advise tossing your hat in the ring, this is a gentle reminder that competition for selling on Amazon will only increase, and you can bet the brands Amazon plans to snatch up will receive preferential treatment. Then again, if you’re a retailer or reseller with the ability to create a new brand quickly, it might not be a bad idea to sign up.
This Prime Day, brands proved a decisive ability to compete against Amazon. While some profited by selling on Amazon, others kept customers close by hosing their own sales events, focusing on mobile optimization, or pumping up their marketing budget. The road to beating Amazon isn’t easy, but these successes point to new ways to match the giant’s might (or at least profit from it).
Customer loyalty is just one area where merchants can improve their overall experience and prepare the holidays ahead. Whether you manage a B2B or B2C operation, there are likely tools and strategies available you haven’t thought about. Grab our free Power Index for insights on how to improve even the strongest tech stack and keep customers coming back long after the holiday season.
The 2017 holiday rush was a tipping point for eCommerce optimization. Between mobile sales taking over traditional retail and other trends that took the industry by surprise, the holidays gave retailers myriad reasons to rethink digital strategy. Today, with Black Friday looming only days away, 2018 stands to be another make-or-break point for online sellers who did or didn’t adapt.
Our partners at Shoppimon put together this list of last-minute reminders for retailers prepping for the big week of sales ahead. Dive in to discover the top recommendations for managing traffic, guaranteeing uptime, and perfecting conversion optimization that just might save your store this season.
#1. Test the full sales funnel – from landing page to checkout.
The full sales funnel should be tested and optimized leading up to –and throughout– the holiday season. However, some key points of weakness that lead to significant business downtime are:
1. Search: 0.7% of all issues Shoppimon sees are problems with search. When search isn’t working on a website and shoppers can’t find what they’re looking for, it’s all too easy today to buy elsewhere.
2. Page Errors: Exposed error messages are surprisingly common. In fact, they’re responsible for 0.6% of all issues Shoppimon identifies. These pose a problem for several reasons. The first is that they stop the shopping process dead in its tracks. As a result, they also scare shoppers off. Not only are customer unable to complete a purchase, but after seeing an error message, they may lose all trust in the site going forward. Lastly, depending on the error, exposed messages can pose a serious security risk to a website… Ensuring these types of message don’t happen should be a top priority.
3. Error Message Text:To cover all your bases, make sure the language in your error messages is friendly and less automatic. This will let the customer know you are aware a problem is occurring, and that it may be fixed soon. “Error 506!” sounds a lot worse than “Hey there! We are experiencing a slight issue due to heavy site traffic. Check back in 15 minutes and the problem should be resolved. Happy holidays!”
4. Missing Product Images: If a shopper can’t see a product, they won’t buy it, end of story. Missing product images are surprisingly common. In fact, they make up 2.1% of all issues we spot. Understanding when this happens and fixing it before you lose a sale is a must. Monitoring your site will help keep you aware and in the know about missing product images and info.
5. Add to Cart & Checkout Errors: You are likely losing 4% or more of your total sales to issues occurring in these two key shopping stages. Issues here range from missing add to cart buttons to problems with payment providers. The average retailer will lose approximately 13% of sales to functional and performance-related website issues during the holidays. To avoid this, thoroughly test your conversion funnel and upgrade your website in advance of the seasonal surge. It can make a significant difference to your bottom line. If you’re out of time for a significant upgrade, monitoring your site closely and proactively address issues as they occur. It will have a dramatic and positive impact on your bottom line.
#2. Stress-test your site’s ability to handle increased traffic.
Under enough stress, every system will fail. Stress-testing your website before the holidays is a great way to find out if additional traffic could be your downfall. Leading up to Black Friday, we recommend you do both of the following:
1. Load Testing: making sure that your site can handle a given number of users/requests consecutively and concurrently.
2. Completing A True Stress Test: load the site to the point that it crashes to see how that crash is handled by your software (and potentially, your team).
When a site is overloaded, if a server is properly configured, it should be able to handle the benchmarked number of consecutive or concurrent requests, after which requests will be queued. If you then pass the benchmark for you queuing, requests should time out, rather than the site itself going down completely.
If your server does crash, splitting the load across other third party solutions like CDNs will help in the long run, so the servers don’t need to handle each and every request. However, if you need a last minute fix you can quickly tune the configuration of your servers to change the amount of memory they use. You may also be able to manage the number of requests they handle (assuming your code has been built to allows this).
#3. Be prepared to scale-up on the fly (and know how to).
The first thing an eCommerce manager should do is simply talk to their team. Understand what is already in place and what it would take to scale-up their web and database servers if needed. In an ideal situation, when a website is on a cloud platform, you should have deployment automation that allows you to quickly spawn more servers (which should only take a couple of minutes to complete). This does however require that automation is already in place to allow you to do this, and that the code was written in a way to support the expansion to additional hardware. And this is true not only of web servers, but database servers as well.
In a typical eCommerce setup, the biggest bottleneck is the database, which also tends to be the hardest to scale in an emergency situation. With limited time to prepare before Black Friday and Cybyer Monday, your top priority should be to check if your database hardware can scale if necessary. This is critical. If the situation arises where the database needs to be scaled and it wasn’t prepped in advance, it will usually result in significant downtime for the full site.
Going deeper into the issue, Redstage CEO Adam Morris states, “…when downtime occurs, or things do go wrong during the holidays, the effect of those issues is compounded because you’ve probably expanded your customer service team to make up for higher demand, as well as increased marketing budgets to attract more holiday spending. So when things go wrong, those marketing dollars are lost, and [customer] support may suddenly be relegated to a more junior team with less experience and a lower quality of service.” (Check out more insights on holiday emergency management from Adam Morris here on Shoppimon’s blog).
#4. Find problems before your customers do.
At Shoppimon, we see retailers monitoring their websites in a multitude of different ways; From manual checks conducted by different team members, to using completely automated systems like Shoppimon, and everything in between. Unfortunately, many of the systems require resource-heavy investments, not just for setup, but also to understand them and react to the data they generate.
While we know that monitoring automation is key for any business at scale, it’s important that a team’s resources spend as little time as possible on the monitoring itself. Instead, team members should be free to spend their time making a website or application better, fixing bugs, and creating a great customer experience.
Luckily, Shoppimon supports script-free and integration-free automated setup, which takes minutes. The solution also automates issue prioritization and notification, so users get critical information when it’s most needed, but never bothers them when it’s not.
These benefits have made a huge difference for our customers leading up to the holiday season. We’ve seen brands successfully roll out new updates and upgrades just before the sales surge, and also helped them identify better ways to plan for next year.
Each year we see the biggest challenges and successes of major brands in the eCommerce Industry. Last year, in our Online Store Health & Usability Index (OSHU Index), we saw brands like Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club and Saatva excel during the holiday season, with consistently faster load times and fewer issues both leading up to and during the holidays. However, we saw other retailers, like One King’s Lane, that experienced significant downtime during Cyber Monday, really struggle. The difference relies on your ability to react.
Monitoring your online store for bugs and the ability to react quickly will determine the winners and losers for 2018. Testing is paramount (especially if you had issues last year), which means diving into your funnels, your site, and being prepared to tackle anything that needs fixing, fast. However, without a monitoring solution in place, you might not notice significant issues on your site causing lost revenue every minute. Do your due diligence and walk through each stage of the customer journey to make sure your holiday haul will be a happy one. Let us know what you think of these tips in the comments below, and enjoy the holidays!
Sellers wait anxiously as distant bells chime through the chilly air. Less than a week remains until Black Friday, and projections are looking good. Despite the ghost of retail’s past taking down giants this year, U.S. retailers are positioned for a “Trillion Dollar Christmas” in 2018 (eMarketer).
In line with holiday tradition, Redstage and our partners have an early gift for online merchants. Together, we’re launching this last-minute holiday prep series to ease your seasonal anxieties. The geniuses at Brightpearl combined this year’s top trends and strategies to create the ultimate holiday guide for omnichannel and back office prep.
Use this post as your last-chance optimization guide so you can sleep soundly and avoid the dread of feeling there’s one last thing you forgot. Here’s 8 critical areas you need to master to survive this year’s holiday rush:
#1 Understand your omnichannel buyer journeys
To truly tackle omnichannel retail this holiday season, there are a few steps you need to take. The first is to understand your omnichannel customer and the path they take to get to your ecommerce website or brick and mortar store, so that you can ensure you’re on the channels they use the most.
Nicole from Retail Minded has identified the following omnichannel buyer journeys. Which do you focus on?
1. The Omnichannel Savvy Customer:
○ The journey: Visits store > Connects on Facebook > Buys online via mobile
○○ This customer typically spends 10% more when shopping online
2. The Last-Minute Buyer
○ The journey: Searches online via mobile > Buys online via tablet or desktop.
○○ 75% of last-minute buyers rate shipping costs as the most important buying factor.
3. The Researcher
○ The journey: Searches online > Visits multiple stores > Continues researching online > Buys from one of the original stores
○○ It’s said that over 92% of online consumers don’t intend to buy during their first visit.
4. The Impulse Shopper
○ The journey: Visits store > Buys in store almost immediately.
○○ 5 in 6 Americans admit to impulse buying.
5. The Feel-Good Buyer
○ The journey: Scrolls through social media > Buys online or in store.
○○ 45% of digital buyers worldwide say reading reviews, comments and feedback on social media influence their shopping behavior.
#2: Gain a strong presence on your customers’ most used channels
Today’s digital age means connecting with customers has never been easier. As the above buyer journeys show, the majority of shoppers experience multiple touchpoints before buying. It’s important to show your presence across a number of channels and offer a consistent customer journey throughout (based on what you know about your own customers).
The following channels are a guide to show you what you need to consider adopting within your business:
Brick and mortar
Location based marketing
Text message marketing & live chat
“Know which popular channels your customers are most frequently fulfilling their orders, so that you know where to concentrate your marketing and inventory planning.” – Anthony Payne, VP of Global Marketing, Brightpearl
#3: Use omnichannel fulfillment as a differentiator
Getting omnichannel fulfillment right can have a huge payoff but it can be one of the most difficult areas to implement without the right technology. This is because it requires inventory to be tracked across all physical locations and sales channels.
Some key examples of how omnichannel fulfillment can be used as a differentiator this holiday season are listed below. Which are you taking advantage of this season?
Click and collect: The option for a customer to purchase online and pick up in store. By offering this service, you can expect an immediate uplift in revenue based on impulse purchases made in store when picking up items.
Ship from store/endless aisle: The ability to offer products not available at the location the customer originally visited. This helps avoid losing a customer if a product is out of stock at a particular location.
Online store inventory availability: The ability to lookup inventory at a given store online. This is important as it’s said that 33% of millennials (today’s most influential spenders) won’t visit a store if online inventory availability isn’t published.
#4: Clean up your inventory data
No one likes the idea of disappointing a customer due to inaccurate inventory availability, and especially not when that item was intended as a gift for someone else. Therefore, ahead of the holiday season, you should always endeavor to do a complete inventory count in your warehouse, ensuring inventory is correct across your back office and sales channels.
Furthermore, it’s also important that you know (and have recorded) your true landed costs as well. The holiday season is driven by discounts, promotions, and flash sale days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so getting a clear gauge on your true landed cost of products (e.g. the associated freight, duty, tax, and storage expenses) ahead of time is essential for making business decisions on pricing and for final supplier selections.
#5: Analyze your sales and inventory data
From knowing what items your customers love the most to knowing where you should be stocking your products, last year’s data is this year’s sales gold mine. At the very least, you should use your back office data and reports to analyze the following (and act on your findings) ahead of the holiday season rush. Check the box if you’re using your data for the following:
Best selling products: Stock them again if possible or look for similar alternatives
Top performing channels, stores and locations: Ensure you’re fully stocked up on your best channels
Most loyal customers (MVPs): Send offers and discounts to lure them back to your website or store
Stock-outs: Consider ordering more inventory or implement a process that ensures reorders are fast
Returned inventory reports: Ensure you know why inventory is being returned; you may need to add more detailed product descriptions, change suppliers or improve packaging
Time to ship: Consider the use of automation bots to speed up your time to ship and avoid unnecessary fulfillment delays
Warehousing inefficiencies: Implement barcode scanning in the warehouse to power up your staff and reduce cases of human error
Checking for business-wide integration
It’s not too late to ensure your different departments are all talking to each other where relevant. We suggest you focus on the following as a priority. What tech are you using to keep teams informed, in the loop, and up to speed?
CRM + Marketing: Ensures order confirmation emails, discounts, offers and other marketing messages can all be personalized, which increases their ability to convert.
Ecommerce + Shipping: Customers want to be able to track their orders all the way to their door, which means shipment notifications must contain tracking references. This is where easy to use back office shipping integrations like ShipStation or Shiptheory become your new best friends.
Inventory + Ecommerce: Avoid stock-outs and disappointing customers by ensuring your inventory levels can be automatically updated across all your sales channels whenever an item is brought into stock, shipped or returned.
Inventory + Accounting: With holiday season discounts and sales taking place, knowing your true margins is essential. With each inventory update, you should ensure your accounting is updated automatically… after all, who wants to be updating their accounts manually during the holiday season rush?
#6: Automate your workflows
If you already have a back office system that allows for automated workflows, then you should definitely make use of it as best you can. When setting up automation bots, it’s recommended that you map out your current workflows first in a tool like Lucidchart. This allows you to identify where bottlenecks can be removed by automation software.
“Make sure your operating systems don’t need any final touches and any special workflows are all set up before the holiday season because as you get closer and closer to the big day, your order volume and site traffic will just continue to increase. Fast and Frictionless experience is key for all your busy customers. Both before and after the holidays.” – Justin Press, VP of Global Customer Success, Brightpearl
#7: Make sure you’re ready for the inevitable holiday season returns
It’s estimated that 28% of holiday gifts bought last year were returned at a value of $90 billion. We all know that returns are inevitable after the drama of the holiday season, but you should be putting in steps now to ensure you’re able to ride the returns tsunami like a surfing pro.
Here are a few actionable steps for you to take as a starting point:
Assess your current ability to handle holiday season returns
We’ve recently created a self-assessment that enables you to assess your current returns processes. You’ll also gain actionable advice along the way for what needs to be improved. Check it out here.
Understand your return rates and reasons for return
Analyze your returned inventory reports from last year to identify common themes for why items were returned. Do you need to source a new supplier to improve quality? Should you stop stocking a certain item altogether? Does your packaging need to be improved? Try to isolate the problem and prevent it from happening again this year.
Give customers what they want
Everything that happens in exceptional events (such as when items need to be returned) is where your customers will measure the service they receive from you and whether they want to shop with you again, so it’s important to understand what your customers want (and expect) from your returns process. A survey sponsored by shipping technology leader Endicia revealed these insights about American shoppers:
51% want free return shipping
36% want an easy and convenient shipping process
12% want a swift refund or credit
89% say they’ll shop again at an online store after a positive returns process
62% want a returns label in the package
61% want an easy to print returns label
#8: Identify your “serial returners”
Recent data suggests there is a rise in “serial returners.” These customers are identified as those who purposefully buy more items with the intention of returning some. By flagging this type of customer within your CRM software, you can ensure they don’t receive certain marketing promotions or discounts as they are already likely to inflate your return rates. Check out Brightpearl’s Returns Readiness Guide to assess whether or not you’re ready to face the returns tsunami this season.
Author Bio:Justine Cross is the Content Marketing Executive at Brightpearl – a cloud-based back office solution for retailers and wholesalers. Brightpearl allows you to provide a truly omnichannel experience for your customers, whilst unifying all of your sales channels, inventory, accounting, CRM, suppliers, fulfillment, warehouse management, reporting and POS in one single automated system.