Effective change management for B2B companies demands close attention to operational requirements, capabilities, and challenges. Continuing our investigative approach to ecommerce, the Redstage team regularly meets with B2B executives to discuss the challenges inherent in driving change on a massive scale. In this interview, we speak with a marketing specialist responsible for guiding multiple B2B companies through the ecommerce transformation process.
In the Q&A that follows, we explore learnings from the cultural, technological, and organizational hurdles he’s faced to help others understand the procedures that drive successful transformations. As he notes, leading digital change is no easy feat. As you will learn, the outcome is entirely dependent on forming a united front within your organization.
Q1: What have been your biggest digital transformation challenges in the past year?
“It’s tough to find the right partners that can communicate what you’re planning and bring your vision to reality.”
A: That depends on your perspective. Mindset and process change are the biggest part, because going digital is very different if your company hasn’t adopted digital already. Internally, trying to take people-oriented processes and digitize them for an ecommerce experience means creating new roles and departments; making people at all levels take on new responsibilities, and combating a lot of kicking and screaming on whether or not this is a good direction for the company.
Externally, it’s tough to find the right partners that can articulate what you’re planning and bring your vision to reality. It’s usually hard getting them to understand your business and how to get you to where you want to go.
Q2: What has been your biggest challenge with regard to ecommerce?
“If the data isn’t already in your ERP, you have to change the way you do business in order to make it all fit.”
A: Ecommerce is such a big universe. There are so many moving parts involved in making a B2B ecommerce experience a reality. With many SKUs, our focus was putting a PIM (product information management system) in place to create a more robust, data-driven experience for the end user. If your company is not data-driven already, restructuring your company for ecommerce is a tremendous undertaking. All of your info needs to be there. If the data isn’t already in your ERP, you have to change the way you do business in order to make it all fit… and if you don’t, you end up attempting all kinds of customizations that will ultimately lead to failure.
Q3: What are some solutions you would recommend that allowed you to solve past challenges?
“More or less, the ecommerce initiative needs to be driven from the top down.”
A: More or less, an ecommerce initiative needs to be driven from the top down. If you don’t have the backing of the executive group and the resources and patience to do this — that’s the challenge.
Q4: What are your biggest fears and challenges about digital transformation in the year ahead and why?
“Executive management needs patience.”
A: There are so many obstacles along the way and pressures to quickly launch – but do not launch a site until it’s ready. Set the right expectations with executive management and allow yourself extra time on your roll-out plan for unforeseen circumstances. Ecommerce implementations can fail if you don’t have everything working in sync, but I’d also recommend you get the entire roadmap planned out and not just pieces of it.
“Some system integrators we’ve worked with, the big guns come into the office, they’re very knowledgeable, and then you don’t see them again…”
I had yet to come across a partner that says “Okay, you’re looking at Magento and here’s the 10 things you should worry about…” No questions about the quality of data you have, where you’re going to house product images, your plans internationally, or how you’re going to implement tokenization to meet privacy laws.
Some system integrators we’ve worked with, the big guns come into the office, they’re very knowledgeable, and then you don’t see them again… or the people hired for your initiative start working on another project, and you need to reach them but can’t. Delay, delay, delay, delay.
Q5: If you could give one piece of advice to B2B business owners, what would it be?
“You’re going to need to solve an awful lot of problems along the way, and you need to make sure you have the right people.”
A: Be a problem solver. You’re going to need to solve an awful lot of problems along the way, and you need to make sure you have the right people involved in your project. Lastly, don’t announce to the world what you’re doing until you’re ready, so there are no expectations. When the expectations are set, make sure you’ve given all parties involved an accurate and well-informed scope of what’s coming, and be investigative with your partners.
At Redstage, our engineers are dedicated to helping B2B companies understand the full extent of their needs, challenges and obstacles. Download our B2B Power Index for Manufacturing, Wholesale & Distribution for a better understanding of your current tech stack, and the technologies that can help you become a true digital leader.
On June 14th during Adobe’s first earnings call since the announcement of the Magento acquisition, the company reported, “The addition of Magento Commerce will enable commerce to be seamlessly integrated into Adobe Experience Cloud, delivering a single platform that serves both B2B and B2C customers globally while providing the flexibility to scale to serve mid-market and large enterprise customers.” No clear details of the software giant’s Magento roadmap were divulged on the call in June, setting off alarm bells across the world of internet retail… This week, we received some much needed clarity.
Back when the acquisition first occurred, we learned more about how “Adobe Magento” (Now Commerce Cloud) will create a premiere eCommerce experience for customers. Various Adobe and Magento execs have since shed light on how we can expect the Magento-verse to fold into the new cloud offering.
Adobe: Reimagining Experience Driven Commerce
The addition of Magento to the Experience Cloud portfolio creates a comprehensive suite of integrated tech to help merchants maximize their commerce capabilities. On the other side of this coin, current Magento customers gain the added advantage of real-time personalization and optimization from Adobe Sensei (the AI behind Adobe’s “intelligent experiences”). Altogether, this makes one compelling opportunity for Adobe Commerce users to upgrade to the new Magento Commerce stack.
Now, online retailers will be able to leverage the combined power of Magento BI and Adobe Analytics as an industry leading data tool, giving them unique insight into customer buying habits. With both Magento BI and Adobe Analytics pumping data to store owners, merchants can monitor exactly what’s happening with their products online and act quickly to get a leg up on competition.
“Consumers expect every interaction with a brand to be contextual, intuitive and meaningful, but companies have struggled to consistently deliver personalized experiences across the myriad of touchpoints. The innovations we are bringing to market enable companies of all sizes and across industries to make every experience shoppable.”Mark Lavelle, senior vice president of commerce, Adobe and former CEO of Magento
Adobe Cloud, Magento Managed Services Offering
Adobe’s Director of Commerce Program and Strategy, Errol Denger, explains “We’ve taken care of that primary integration between Experience Cloud and Magento.” Customers can now acquire the combined offering of Magento and Adobe Experience Cloud as a managed service. The bundle is integrated with Magento, I/O Runtime for experience extensibility and integration, Target Premium, Analytics Foundation, and 90 hours of engineering service.
“We’re excited to see Adobe integrate world class ecommerce into their suite of high-end experience platforms. Adobe Commerce Cloud will undoubtedly offer incredibly advanced B2B features backed by the firepower of best in class user experience tools.”Adam Morris, CEO, Redstage
The platform is built on top of Magento’s robust cloud ecommerce platform, with direct links to all of Adobe’s powerful marketing and experience tools. “For Adobe, that’s really important because it actually closes the last mile in its Experience offering,” Jason Woosley, Adobe’s VP of commerce product and platform (and Magento’s former VP of product and technology) told Tech Crunch. “It’s no mystery that they’ve been looking at commerce offerings in the past. We’re just super glad that they settled on us.”
Delivering Best In Class Omnichannel Commerce
“Adobe and Magento provide and integrated omnichannel platform to meet every commerce requirement, unlike competitive platforms that limit control and flexibility. We believe there’s a better way…” Denger says, “the combined solution of Adobe and Magento will help merchants create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
Some merchants already working with the combined power of both platforms include: LD Products, Harbor Freight and Abbott Labs. And don’t worry, your Magento 2 extensions will still work on Adobe’s Commerce Cloud. However, if you’re on Magento 1, we recommend you take a look at this.
Happy New Year! With 11 months of heavy-lifting ahead of you, there’s no better time to work smarter. To help, we’ve compiled this list of 5 Omnichannel Resolutions to incorporate into your 2019 ecommerce strategy. There’s a lot here, so bookmark this page and subscribe to ensure you’ll never miss a tip that will give your brand a competitive edge.
#5: Monitor & GroupKPIs for Data-Driven Decision Making
Here’s a short list of the standard KPIs that marketers, operations professionals, and Ecommerce managers use. Most, if not all of these should be familiar to you. We put them into a few separate buckets that help achieve specific goals. Our team recommends organizing them in a similar way, as each can help you create a simple report rather quickly, and each tells a very different story. Even if you have software that does this for you, putting stats in different tranches like this can help you identify key trends you can act on. Hover over KPIs for individual calculation formulas.
Customer Engagement KPIs
These KPIs allow you to see at a glance how your site is performing:
Conversion Rate (CR)
Average Order Value (AOV)
MVP/VIP AOV (AOV of your most valuable customers)
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Cart Abandonment Rate
Browser Abandonment Rate
Mobile Site Traffic (Make sure you’re using this in 2019!)
Returning vs. New Visitors (includes non-converting traffic)
Returning vs. New Customers (excludes non-converting traffic)
Page Views Per Visitor
Site Uptime %
Budget Management KPIs
Here we have a short list of “must-have” budget-oriented KPIs:
Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
Customer Acquisition Cost
Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
Return on Investment (ROI)
Fulfillment Costs (Especially Cost of Returns)
Customer Feedback KPIs
There are additional customer-facing stats you should keep an eye on, which help identify how your customers feel about your products, service, user experience, and more. Under analysis, these metrics are helpful for determining where friction occurs in the buying process. For example:
Customer Satisfaction Score
Net Promoter Score
Customer Service Avg. Response Time
Customer Service Call Count
Customer Service Email Count
Customer Service Chat Count (for those with chatbots)
Average Customer Service Rating (if you have surveys after chats, emails or calls)
Average Customer Sentiment (with tech like YOTPO, you can gage overall review sentiment)
Google Reviews Rating (if applicable)
Yelp Reviews Rating (if applicable)
Top 10 Products
Worst 10 Products
Top 5 Service Strengths
Top 5 Service Weaknesses
Number of App ‘Superusers’ (Customers who use your app every day)
Tracking Revenue Per Visitor (RPV)
In 2018, a relatively new KPI began gaining recognition in the market. Revenue Per Visitor (RPV) has been called “the most valuable metric” for gaging online sales performance, and is especially helpful when it comes to A/B testing. To find your RPV value, multiply your conversion rate by your average order value. This gives you an estimate of how much the average customer is spending.
#4: Make A/B Testing A Habit
A/B testing is invaluable. In an age where data-driven decision making has the highest ROI, companies who make experience alterations on a whim are falling behind. Whether its email subject lines or adding a PayPal Express Checkout button, merchants should be testing these changes with sample groups before making them across the board. Do your due diligence and add A/B testing to this year’s resolutions (especially for Mobile optimization).
Mobile Checkout Testing
Throughout 2018, we tested a variety of mobile checkout enhancements, eventually culminating in the global Mobile Optimization Initiative, now open to Magento merchants everywhere. After running tests on the mobile checkout experiences of more than 20 merchants, we noted several key trends, but one stood above others: The need for merchants to A/B test constantly.
“Some of the changes we assumed would have a big boost to revenue had very little effect and vice versa. It really highlighted the value in making data-driven decisions rather than going off conventional wisdom.”Oliver Sosinsky, Redstage Solutions Engineer
Every site is different, and more importantly, every audience is different. While some tests revealed huge opportunities for brands to rake in more dollars on mobile, the same tests flatlined or even resulted in a downturn for other merchants (in a few cases). As the race to close the mobile conversion gap continues, our top piece of advice is to start designing digital experiences for mobile users specifically. Most importantly, merchants must work to understand what their mobile customers expect and how to simplify experiences to match. If you’re interested in learning more about the initiative or getting some of your own mobile experiments in motion, sign up here.
“In a world where responsive design is trying to give [customers] all the same functionality we have on desktop in mobile, there may be a divergence here where we have to start thinking about different mobile-first customer experiences.”Adam Morris, Redstage CEO
#3: Create Rich, Interactive Brand Experiences
Creating & Curating Today’s Most Resonant Brands
Traditional retail has hit rock bottom. While Sears and Toys ‘R Us are two of the best known casualties, the implications stretch to each and every physical store on the planet. Both retail giants suffered at the hands of decisions that went against their customer experience. For Sears, the decision to switch to “Everyday low prices” was the first nail in the coffin. Prior to this, the company’s coupon catalog had created buzz and drove customers into stores weekly. Without it, there was little customer experience left, especially with a rapidly decaying in-store experience.
Toy’s ‘R Us was no different. Understaffed stores became empty warehouses. Items were difficult to find in these cold depths, and staff were largely unhelpful when it came to navigating the superstores. Eventually, there was no reason customers wanted to go visit physical locations. With other toy retailers offering better prices online, it was easy for the customer base to choose alternative means. Interestingly, in a last-ditch effort to save the brand, Toys ‘R Us created an augmented reality app. With the app, customers could quickly find the products they were after, and kids could play mini games, test out toys, and go on scavenger hunts around the store, guided by an animated giraffe (the company’s mascot). Unfortunately, it was too little too late, but what are today’s resonant brands doing to keep customers engaged?
The In-Store Experience Revolution will Dominate 2019
Amid cries of 2017’s “Retail Apocalypse,” we made a series of predictions for 2018. In an article titled AR & AI: The Ecommerce Armsrace we anticipated a revolution for in-store experience technology.
Interestingly, while we were wrong about which DTC giant would debut this tech, we were right to suspect its prompt emergence in the market. In early December, Covergirl shook the global beauty sector by installing an “Experiential Makeup Playground” in its Time Square flagship store. The store uses the latest connected retail technology, including voice, IoT, and augmented reality to let customers ‘try on’ products via smart mirror “glam stations.” Expect the company’s rivals to shortly follow suit.
Brand Loyalty and the Immersive Retail Experience
Nike took a similarly immersive approach with in-store experience upgrades at its first “Nike Live” store on Melrose Ave. in L.A. As soon as shoppers enter the store, geofence technology recognizes the presence of the app on their smartphone. From there, Nike’s customer algorithm will give product recommendations based on shopper stats, style and shoe size. Among the rich, app-driven incentives, Nike will even automatically reserve a pair of shoes customers might like. When customers buy Nike products online, Nike ships them to personal smart lockers in-store that can be accessed simply with a Nike+ member pass. No friction, no waiting, no problem.
“[I]n the heart of West LA is also the first Nike Live concept store that blurs the line between digital and physical shopping. Powered by Nike digital commerce data, everything about the store is designed to work seamlessly with the Nike Plus app on shoppers’ phones.”Fast Company
The Digital “Show Room”
Both Nike and Covergirl ushered in amazing retail makeovers by leveraging customer data to solve common customer challenges. For Covergirl, the new tech helps customers try out products they might not be able to physically test anywhere else. As a second key benefit, the experience encourages customers to try on more makeup during their session than they typically would. Third, because shoppers are using AR, this doesn’t cause physical product waste like the often seen “try me” lipstick in other stores.
For Nike, a key decision to place the concept shop on Melrose Ave. arose from the fact that “one in fifty pairs of shoes sold in the area was a Nike Cortez, which was reflected in the product selection available to customers,” according to the Fast Company article mentioned above. Based on this data, Nike responded by creating a store where customers could get expedient access to the newest products (which are usually in high demand). The connected retail space also creates a better environment for millennial shoppers who hate interacting with sales staff, something the retail sector has been slow to pick up on.
Experiences like these are the future of brand loyalty. While we predict stores will become more like show-rooms in the coming years, brand experiences like these will drive customer retention & acquisition. The stage has been set for the in-store experience revolution, and the brands that can best serve customers (digitally and physically) will make it known in 2019.
With this push toward immersive brand experiences in brick-and-mortar stores, brands who lack physical locations will need every advantage to ensure a fast, frictionless, and competitive online experience.
#2: Explore and Implement Deep-Personalization
As Apparel Magazine notes, “According to SAP’s Digital Readiness Survey, 75 percent of retailers believe it is important to deliver a valuable, relevant, and personalized experience specific to the consumer. Further, more than 60 percent of retailers believe it’s important to develop context-relevant, personalized recommendations based on consumer sentiment and history.” This rapidly growing trend is why today’s omnichannel push exists. Making your products available to consumers on their favorite platforms like Facebook, Amazon, Ebay and Google is simply a deeper way of aligning brand experiences with the habits of your customer. With this frame of mind, lets explore some additional methods for creating a rich, visible, and convenient brand.
Recalibrate Your Personalization Tech in the Year Ahead
1. PPC, Email, and Remarketing
Revisiting our #4 recommended resolution for the year ahead, A/B testing isn’t limited to the checkout. Review and optimize your lead-attractors, from PPC and remarketing ads to emails, popups, and SMS. Take a good, hard look at your targeting and make sure you’re using your data to its optimal effectiveness. Test out a revitalized approach to mobile advertising. Investigate your messaging effectiveness between channels. Is the message consistent? Should it be? Have your customer expectations changed? Are customers more responsive to different messaging on different channels or devices? Would you consider creating new PPC ad groups by repurposing your best email subject lines of 2018? Analyze, experiment, evaluate, and optimize.
2. Voice Search Marketing
Comscore predicts half of all online searches (or more) will be conducted via voice by 2020. Despite more than 100 million Amazon Alexas being sold to date, voice search only accounted for a measly 0.4% of online sales in 2018. However, $2.1 billion in sales is nothing to ignore. Between 2016 and 2017, voice search went from zero to 10% of all search volume. Today, more than 20% of searches have voice-based intent. Moreover, smart speakers are predicted to penetrate more than 55% of homes by 2022, a figure that doesn’t account for digital assistants already embedded in smartphones. With millennials relying more on mobile ecommerce and a growing interest in IoT, 2019 may be the year we see another jump in voice search. It’s time for retailers to get invested as adoption continues to pick up.
Video is a marketer’s best friend. Consumers are “anywhere from 64-85% more likely to buy after watching a product video,” and in 2018 the industry began using them in more creative ways. While tutorials, product videos, and UGC have historically driven sales, merchants with content-driven commerce strategies now use video to enhance, repurpose, and revitalize content. Consider creating interview-style videos where users discuss the product with a member of your team. Host a live Q&A on twitter or facebook for popular products, new releases, or products with high views and low sales. Another option is to record video introductions to new or once-popular blog posts to grab additional clicks on social media.
Think what you might about chatbots, but visit any merchant site and they likely have one (or at least a live chat). As customer patience becomes paramount, it’s important to give customers immediate help before they bounce. Moreover, make sure you’re optimizing and changing up your automated greetings at a reasonable pace. Setting up automated conversation paths is another promising benefit of chatbots, and programming responses based on keywords can save time for your sales & support teams.
Newly released data from Adobe and Internet Retailer reinforces once again that mobile sales will continue skyrocketing. As we mentioned earlier, payment options and your checkout process in general needs to be more than simply “responsive.” Mobile customers expect frictionless experiences, and as our research shows, are more likely to buy if you offer payment options like PayPal Express Checkout, Venmo, Apple Pay and even Amazon Pay. However, while we’ve seen success across the board for stores that add the PayPal option before regular checkout, every merchant’s audience will have different preferences. Be sure to make mobile wallet testing a priority, especially before Black Friday rolls around again.
6. Shopping Apps
Shopping apps allow merchants a chance to increase brand value, customer retention, and AOV. The promise of better experiences drives app downloads, which in-turn drive sales and customer loyalty. Think of apps as the most targeted remarketing channel brands can use. The ability to send a notification to a customer is one thing, but getting access to large swaths of individualized data is a whole new world. In this way, apps are the pinnacle of personalization, allowing retailers to alert users about products they might like or share reminders about past purchases they may want to replenish soon. Deals and coupons can be shared instantly, and with the average millennial spending 5.2 hours per day on their smartphone, it’s an avenue worth trying out (The average Gen-Z user spends 5.9 hours on their smartphone per day). Customers generally like apps due to their simplified functionality and UI compared to bulky company websites, and with your brand’s logo on their phone, they’ll likely interact with you more often.
Amazon, Customer Service & Social Selling
According to the Future Shopper Report, 68% of shoppers first visit Amazon.com when searching for products. 80% of shoppers compare prices on Amazon when they’re shopping somewhere else. Why? Because Amazon offers a simple and superior shopping experience. If we dissect the ecommerce monolith, the wide variety of products, wholesale prices, and incredibly fast shipping options make it the easy choice for finding just about anything. All things considered, it’s no wonder Amazon surpassed Google for most product searches last year. That said, theres a lot retailers can learn from Amazon, and several ways to fight back.
For starters, Amazon’s rich product information and advanced search abilities make finding the right product easy. All companies from B2B to B2C can make customer lives easier by following Amazon’s model in these areas. Next, Amazon’s customer support is second to none, replacing lost or damaged items immediately, without additional cost to the consumer (shipping included). In light of this, merchants should work to create better returns policies and frictionless customer service.
Another way to combat Amazon is to succeed in both product authority and social selling. As a specialized retailer, you need to prove yourself as a thought leader to rise above the competition. Whether that means having a presence at Fashion Week, getting influencer endorsements, or simply creating compelling and informative content for your blog — you need to earn authority and respect from your users. You can achieve the same effect by reflecting your extensive industry insight in product descriptions and including niche-specific attributes.
Beating Amazon’s customer support may prove tough, so social selling is another good way to fight back. Rather than focusing on reactive customer support, refocus your sales team’s time and energy on starting conversations that earn trust and influence sales. The team at 4-Tell have some great sales enablement tools, including machine learning algorithms for site search and product recommendations. Sales teams can also build custom product boards to share with customers based on shopping habits. Personalization doesn’t get more personal than that.
#1. Prepare for the Global Omnichannel Transition
Thanks to significant buy-in from major retailers, a global omnichannel transition is now underway. In 2019, more industry titans and mid-tier merchants will progress from the planning and building phase to execution. With this comes a threat to smaller retailers who harbor strong digital backbones, now having to fight on all fronts against groups with bigger budgets. What’s more, as a growing number of B2B companies undergo their own digital and DTC transitions, a realization is coming to the fore: Every business must adopt even stronger logistics capabilities. Here’s how:
Fighting “Faster” with “Frictionless”
With Amazon’s Prime Now option, customers can receive last-minute orders within 2 hours in 50 cities across the united states. However, items available on Prime Now are limited to household goods and groceries, with only a select few grocers (aside from Whole Foods) listing their products on the platform. Since most retailers are unable to compete in terms of delivery time, the industry’s best bet is to drive convenience through pervasiveness.
Use (More) Convenient, Shoppable Channels
Ebay, Newegg, Facebook Marketplace, and Etsy are just a few of the many sites where retailers can flex their omichannel muscle. In line with this thinking, retailers need to up their ad game and start creating more enticing shoppable posts on social media. It’s not enough to have a constant stream of social content. Brands need engaging content that resonates with their audience and keeps them coming back. Take a note from Young & Reckless, the Skateboarding brand that achieved a 3x return on adspend through Instagram. By combining influencer marketing campaigns with branded and shoppable posts, they were able to broaden their audience, reach more customers, and keep their products in the spotlight by aligning with trends and celebrities their audience cares about. In fact, half of the brand’s online traffic comes from social media. That’s the value of resonance.
“Companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to customer retention rate of 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement.”Invesp
Creating a simple and frictionless return experience was also a key part of Young & Reckless’ success. When customers know you have a safe and sensible return policy (usually with no cost to them), they’re more likely to buy your product. This is all part of ecommerce consumer psychology. Millennials understand the pain of buying something online that turns out to be the wrong size. Next comes the inconvenience of contacting the return center (sometimes a lengthy process), going to the post office, paying for shipping, and sending the product back. Lastly, the customer has to buy the product all over again, only this time, they’re short a few bucks and have to wait for the delivery to arrive all over again.
Having this experience just once might be enough to make customers look elsewhere for the same product, or worse, never shop on your site again. What might seem like a small inconvenience for some is unforgivable in the minds of millennials, who expect the utmost simplicity. When this expectation isn’t met, their trust in the brand is broken. Moreover, as the most cautious customer segment, they may suspect future purchases from your store could result in the same negative experience, compelling them to avoid the risk altogether.
In 2019, retailers should do their best to offer frictionless returns. Your customers will pay you back in spades. Critically review your returns process and policies. Consider using returnable, pre-paid packaging, and if you can, aim for BOPIS options. The Buy-Online, Pick-up In Store revolution is yet another movement born from evolving ecommerce psychology. It not only relieves customer contention points like faster delivery and delivery safety, but gives “bricks-and-clicks” retailers another opportunity to engage with customers in the physical world.
We designed this rather long-winded thought piece for merchants and marketers to vastly enhance customer experiences in 2019. We hope you found some valuable strategies and new ideas to use this year, or at least began to think critically about some aspects of customer satisfaction and engagement you may have overlooked. If you think anything should be added to this article, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below! If you’re looking for a team of Ecommerce veterans to help you achieve your 2019 goals, reach out today to schedule your free project consultation.
“It is easier to invent the future than it is to predict it.”
This variation of a quote by computer scientist Alan Kay was the last line of a 1994 job listing written by Jeff Bezos, and still holds true to this day. While Redstage’s team of forward thinkers possess a knack for accurate predictions, we’ve also helped shape the future of ecommerce through our mobile research initiatives.
Throughout 2018, our team made strides to advance the cause of B2B ecommerce, offering insight into new technology, mobile commerce, and the millennial customer experience. We remain dedicated to helping clients and readers alike stay informed of emerging trends and the strategies you can use to master them. With this said, here are the top insights and articles of the past year:
“B2B ecommerce has several types of customers, each with their individual requirements for how they define their success. These customer types include B2B consumers (the company plans to resell the product or service to them). Other customer types include wholesalers/distributors who will sell your products and services to other B2B companies and dealers who sometimes resell the company’s product for them. Knowing your customers, here’s a few things to consider when selecting the best e-commerce platform for your online store.” — Read More
“Will it be the illustrious AI, the illuminating abilities of augmented reality, delivery drones, or perhaps… chatbots? With the emergence of all this new tech, marketers are left to base their budget allocation for 2018 on speculation. As a result, I am inclined to believe that without a doubt, 2018 will be somewhat of a plateau for marketing; defined by a knowledge-gap surrounding new avenues for advertising and the deteriorating value of current methods. Here’s why…” — Read More
“At this very moment, it’s likely that retail executives around the US are screaming about their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales performance. For some, these sounds resemble a triumphant war chant. For others, these are the shrill cries of defeat. The reason? Mobile-first adoption. No matter where you stand, this data changes the ecommerce landscape. Here are the latest stats and key trends from the long-weekend of holiday sales events.” — Read More
“The development of AI and Big data, in recent years, has given online retailers both opportunities and challenges. In the next decade, digital stores will be equipped more optimized tools based on AI, and through this, they are empowered to strengthen customer relationship and enhance customer retention. This is a technology competition and I believe that the one who wins the game will also win the customer’s heart.” –Read More
“Today, a single blogger has the same opportunity to get a million comments on a post as Walmart does. A mom and pop online store has the same chance of winning over customers as Amazon. Time, resources and budget notwithstanding, the Internet provides a fair medium for all business to compete, and we owe the state of our world to this universal marketplace of ideas… With the Net Neutrality repeal in effect, major changes are coming that will affect every businesses, especially in the world of advertising and ecommerce.” — Read More
Top Case Study of The Year!
Check out our most viewed case study of the year: White Mountain Footwear. If this were a blog post, it would hold the #3 spot above!
Top Download of The Year!
Take a look at our Digital Sales Engagement Ebook, our most viewed downloadable of 2018! Discover all the tools you can use to optimize your digital sales team and top tactics to revolutionize your digital acquisition strategy.
Can’t find info on a specific topic? Send us a message and we’ll help you find it, or we’ll add it to our content schedule! Our team of researchers and thought leaders are always looking for ways to best serve our readers. Visit our blog page to subscribe!
A sustainable firm needs loyalty customers – this is undeniable. Over the last century, retailers have been using reward programs as an effective tool to gain more repeat customers, and from this, build customer loyalty. However, the fourth industrial revolution is coming and the perspective on loyalty programs is consequently different. Marketers and business doers today realize the importance of AI and Big Data in determining repeat buying behavior. Hence, to take advantage of high technology in loyalty programs catches online retailers’ attention and requires a lot of intellectual and financial investment.
2018 will be the year of AI and Big Data
Customer loyalty programs should be perceived as a campaign designed to build and preserve interaction between clients and brands, not just to increase revenues. From this new standpoint, apart from investing in a powerful reward program, customer experience and satisfaction will become an increasing concern for businesses. There should be additional methods to form higher customer retention, which requires the application of technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data. Interestingly, 2018 may be the year which marks an outburst of AI in general and AI application in customer loyalty programs. This is represented through the figure of NewVantage Partners’ annual executive survey conducted within Fortune 1000 corporations which shows that a very large proportion, 97.2%, of these organizations are investing in AI and Big Data even though the levels of investment is being kept low. Also, according to the BPR Consulting research in 2017, nearly half of retailers would utilize AI to improve CX, and 55% would plan to focus on increasing customer loyalty within the next 3 years. In addition, according to Accenture, customers today tend to be enticed by programs or deals which are tailor-made for their personal needs, as they favor personalized rewards and specialized care. This, as far as I’m concerned, cannot be done without AI-based tools. These facts raise a big question to marketers: How to deploy AI in building customer loyalty programs in future?
What is AI?
There are quite a lot of arguments among experts about the term AI, also known as Artificial Intelligence. In 1956, John McCarthy explained AI as science and its application to making machines, especially computer programs, which are considered smart. These intelligent machines are able to perform some tasks as a human being would. To clarify, they are able to recognize speech, learn, make plans and solve problems in the way a human does. In this early stage of AI development, people both doubt and fear its potential power in the future. However, for a marketer or an e-retailer, there is no choice but to accept and prepare for its upcoming presence in every single aspect of business.
Artificial Intelligence is no longer a foreign concept to most people nowadays, especially in e-commerce. Customers are now used to receiving personalized emails, being greeted by their names and being offered customized services. According to Chiefmarketer, buyers are, in fact, totally okay with their personal information being collected and analyzed, at an appropriate and considerable level, to get better discounts, more precise recommendations and more personalized services. Such services are what shopping doers are expecting from online retailers without any awareness of what AI is. However, we marketers have to start keeping a close eye on it from now on.
What is Big Data?
The term Big data refers to data sets which are extremely large, so large that traditional methods of data processing are unable to handle them. We usually get Big data when collecting information from sources such as videos, audio, social channels, log files, websites and networks which are literally created in real time. Big data can be used to help computers analyze patterns, trends and associations which are often related to human behaviors and interaction. Big data contains information which used to be left untouchable, and by analyzing this data, we are able to make better and faster decisions.
How AI and Big Data can contribute to customer loyalty programs
Tailor-made customer experience
Buyers are becoming more difficult about what they purchase and how they are served in your online stores. Most importantly, customers’ expectations of the personalization in products and services increase as the customer-centric culture is spread among big companies like Amazon. From this, I know that the one-size-fits-all era has ended, that mass-production is no more than an old-fashioned trend and that free-size jeans are being replaced by personally-designed ones on the shelves.
Big Data powered AI systems have made a big step in analyzing and understanding customers’ needs. Now, you are able to collect necessary information and track customers’ purchasing history, shopping behaviors and preferences. Based on these ‘big data’, AI learns and makes a decision to timely offer buyers a personal touch, tailor-made products and personalized services.
Not only is this about sales or conversion rates but also customer loyalty. By deploying AI, customers really get that attention which they crave for today. They know that their problems are heard and solved personally. Also, they get extra benefits when shopping at the store. This is a major factor to retain buyers in this digital era – the era of global shopping just with a few clicks, also the era of commitment and loyalty being difficult to gain.
Even better experience
Bombfell deploys AI to help their stylists pick individually suitable outfits for their customers can be a simple example for the era of personalized services. With AI, user experience in an online store is optimized at the highest level. Customers, thanks to this, find themselves cared for and feel important.
Not only can they have products customized for individual’s needs like at Bombfell, buyers can be welcomed in the store like the way it is at bricks and mortars. Customers are greeted and called by their first names. Their voices and faces are recognized by AI and, thanks to this, all information about their purchasing history or shopping habits is remembered, like the way a shopping assistant in your favorite local store recognizes you. She knows that you love discounts, you often go shopping on weekends and are willing to pay a lot for trendy shoes. And, on a Saturday morning, she speaks to you in a friendly voice: “Hey we’ve just released a limited model of trainers and, because I know you’d love them, I’ve kept them for you with 10% off. Thank me later!”
Besides all that, AI will develop to the level that customers can comfortably communicate with online stores through chatbots. Hence, the response time will be sped up to tick-tocks. Algorithms are developed to enable machines to think like human beings and even to understand customers’ emotions in order to perform appropriate actions. Not only solving problems quickly, AI also helps to replicate a human-like communication atmosphere.
Customer satisfaction and personalized experience combined with tailor-made services are the key points in showing buyers that they are highly appreciated by the brand and consequently in laying a great foundation for building customers’ trust. This is the fundamental of cultivating customer loyalty.
Challenges for brands
Questions about safety and privacy
As mentioned above, customers are willing to share their data for a better price, customized services or more convenience. However, worries about privacy and information security are still very much real, and they form a barrier between customers and brands in building trust. Shoppers, on one hand, understand that their data is collected and love the benefits coming from it. On the other hand, they question about the level at which their personal information is exploited and how it is used. Is their data safe when AI is that powerful? Are e-retailers able to protect them from frauds and identity theft when cybercrime is increasing?
To win customers’ trust is a big challenge that e-commerce websites are facing in building customer loyalty. Personally, I will definitely leave an online store which gives me doubts about security. For example, as a travel lover, I used to make a room reservation online on a well-known hotel booking site; however, one day, I was warned that this website leaked customers’ confidential information including credit card number, CVC and expiration date. Even though there was no frauds or misuse of the data recorded, I decided not to give this brand any second chance.
So make sure you provide your customers an optimized security solution, and more importantly, make a big commitment to providing the highest level of customers’ safety and privacy. They need to feel peace of mind by knowing that their data has always been and will only be used to improve their shopping experience and to give them personalized offers.
Big data is actually not difficult to be collected, yet it is hard to be captured, organized and analyzed. Different sources of data are always ready to be deployed but remain unused due to lack of structure and technical know-how.
The biggest challenge here is how to, through AI, really understand data and to have an overview of it while too much information comes from various sources such as invoices, emails, social media and CRM. Also, how to turn big data into patterns, trends or associations which are useful for marketing activities and customer insights in real time is extremely important.
Just like other actual personal relationships, that customer loyalty is built on trust, the consistency of high-quality services to buyers and unchanged commitment form a long-lasting relationship. That e-retailers are considering applying AI in building customer loyalty shows their dedication to it in spite of many difficulties.
The development of AI and Big data, in recent years, has given online retailers both opportunities and challenges. In the next decade, digital stores will be equipped more optimized tools based on AI, and through this, they are empowered to strengthen customer relationship and enhance customer retention. This is a technology competition and I believe that the one who wins the game will also win the customer’s heart.
Guest Author’s Bio:
Summer reads and writes blogs about marketing and e-commerce. She’s especially interested in solutions which help merchants improve their customers’ shopping experience and increase customer engagement for Magento 2. “One of the best ways to enhance user experience on an online store is to provide a better Layered Navigation” says Summer.
We’ve breached another new frontier in marketing. Thanks to the widespread adoption of IoT like Amazon’s Alexa and other smart speakers, a new channel has emerged and is rapidly picking up speed in the world of eCommerce: Voice-Commerce (vCommerce). Here’s a quick guide with all the stats and tactics marketers need to know to get a grip on the new technology, fast.
Forerunners & Followers
As more voice-enabled devices like Google Home, Echo Dots, and Apple’s recently released HomePod continue to pervade households, the rate of voice based purchases is skyrocketing. Forrester projects that by the end of 2018, 26.2 million U.S. homes will have smart speakers, spelling fortunes for online retailers.
What’s more, a report published by Juniper Research estimates that smart speakers will reach more than 55% of U.S. homes by 2022. With his residence completely integrated with Google Home, Redstage CEO Adam Morris says he’s “constantly witnessing improvements in voice capabilities from new commands to more accurate responses.” Considering the growing adoption rate and skill set of voice assistants, Morris says, “I believe voice is ready for eCommerce.”
Now that we can see the adoption curve, let’s dive into the implications from a search perspective.
The Heart of vCommerce
At the heart of the vCommerce movement lies our common frenemy, Google. Not only is Google now making all types of smart speakers to compete with Amazon, they’ve naturally gained dominance in the vCommerce search market. Remember, voice search did not exist before 2016.
To get an idea of how quickly the tech is taking over, heres some info from Kissmetrics: “Within 2016 alone, voice-based search went from zero to 10% of all search volume. Today, 20% of all searches have voice-based intent, and by 2020, ComScore estimates that half of all searches will be done by voice.”
“Today, 20% of all searches have voice-based intent, and by 2020, ComScore estimates that half of all searches will be done by voice.” –Kissmetrics
Say it again in your head… HALF of all searches… that’s real estate you can’t afford to miss out on. The fun game for the years ahead will be keyword planning for customer voice searches… but we’ll get back to that later on.
Here’s another one from Forbes: “Voice assistants are already being used to make purchases by 40% of millennials, with that number expected to exceed 50% by 2020.” So now you’re thinking, okay, great, more Adwords campaigns right? But wait! There’s more you can do to prep for this torrent of voice shopping.
Getting Your Share of Voice
Unapologetic marketing puns aside, here’s how to prep for vCommerce. Step 1: Behavioral Analysis
Get your strategy team together and dive deep into your customer behavior segments. Which of your products are getting the most search traffic? What are your top sellers? What are the top products customers search for within your site?
Step 2: Search Out Loud
Think about what products you’ve personally searched for recently and how you found them. Brainstorm which of these products you’d order on a whim from your bedroom, your kitchen, your laundry room, or your entertainment center. Think about things you might search for while out at the store to compare prices, and things you could order from your desk at the office. More importantly, think about a product you need, like a refill on paper towels, and ask for it out loud. It’s likely that the way you ask for something aloud is different from how you search for it online. Saying “Alexa, order me more [Brand name] paper towels” is a bit different from typing “[Brand name] paper towels” in Google. Use this to your advantage.
Step 3: SEO Linguistics
Once you’ve tackled mobile-first SEO, start to rethink SEO in terms of natural language. Grab your smartphone or your favorite smart speaker and run some voice searches. What are the top results? Which of your competitors are showing up? What meta descriptions and keywords are they using? What phrases are their Google ads populating for? Think long-tail, because every customer is going to be asking for things a little differently.
If you’re new to this, “Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they’re closer to a point-of-purchase or when they’re using voice search. They’re a little bit counter-intuitive, at first, but they can be hugely valuable if you know how to use them.” (Wordstream) Retool your content for natural language and start ranking for voice searches as well as regular (manual-typing) searches. With this in mind, remember that voice searches are the ultimate gateway to impulse purchases. Take advantage of this, make some tweaks and test, test, test!
“‘The websites that will win…are incorporating (voice) search strategies for typers and talkers, alike,’ says Michael Peggs, Founder and Chief Content Creator of Marccx Media.”
Step 4: Get Local, Get Vocal, and Get on Amazon
According to Search Engine Watch, “Mobile voice-related searches are 3X more likely to be local-based than text.” This means, it’s time to boost your local search magnet. If you’re not using Amazon as a channel to sell more products, now’s the time to start, as Alexa is programmed to suggest products from Amazon automatically. Don’t miss the chance to have your product recommended by a customer’s favortite digital assistant.
Additionally, consider reminding your customers that they can find you via voice search! This simple announcement can make a better CX for anyone who’s not yet accustomed to using voice search. More importantly, if you have Alexa Skills for your store, you’ll definitely want to tell the world. Send your customers an email telling them how they can order their next product just by saying a phrase. The’re not likely to forget it. Don’t have an Alexa Skill for your store? Read on:
Step 5: Get The Alexa Skills Kit Get the Alexa Skills Kit and start creating voice-enabled Alexa skills. According to PracticalCommerce, the kit is “a collection of self-service APIs and tools that make it easier to create voice-driven capabilities for Alexa.” Not only will this allow your customers to make purchases simpler, but more importantly, as an accelerating number of retailers invest in the trend, more customers grow accustomed to using this pervasive technology.
To recap, 2020 is shaping up to be a critical year for vCommerce. The projections scream 50% across the board. By then, roughly 50% of U.S. households will have smart speakers. 50% of all searches will have voice-based intent. More than 50% of millennials will shop via voice.
While voice as a channel begins to enter the main stream, Morris notes that eCommmerce traditionally lags behind the latest trends and technological innovations. “We [at Redstage] talked about mobile becoming the next big change in eCommerce 5 years ago. The industry collectively lagged far enough behind that now mobile traffic has overtaken desktop and today many still aren’t properly leveraging it. Mobile conversion rates are still roughly one-third of desktop rates, another sign that companies across the board haven’t realized mobile’s full potential. I have a feeling voice will follow the same pattern, though hopefully at a slightly quicker pace with what we know now. We’re witnessing and projecting massive adoption, so we’ve got a few years before the industry becomes accustomed to using voice competitively. However, voice-commerce is an inevitability, and we should start preparing now just as we had to prepare for mobile.”
Now if you’re now thinking, “vCommerce is still on its way to maturity, so I have some time right?” Consider this tidbit from DigitalCommerce360, “A recent survey by SAP Hybris found that 38 percent of U.S. consumers would consider using digital assistants for their holiday shopping this year, a significant increase over the 17 percent who reportedly used voice devices for holiday shopping [in 2017].” If you’re looking for an edge this holiday season, this could be it.