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.
Check your indexing to avoid price caching.
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.
No matter what, customers are always right. Today, they have more power than ever before. As you are well aware, it’s much more likely that your online customers interact with your website via smartphone than desktop. Therefore, their experiences need to be personalized, fast, efficient, and tailored for specific devices. If not, they’ll bounce to the next competitor for a better experience.
Statistics show that 40 percent of users will switch to your competitors after a bad mobile experience. A risk ALL merchants should avoid, especially with the stark rise in mobile sales. In fact, analysts predict that by 2020, 44.7 percent of all retail eCommerce sales will be generated through mobile devices.
Remember, your customers won’t stand for mediocre customer experiences. Your only job is to push them through the checkout in the most frictionless (and secure) manner possible.The digital experience should always mimic the desktop. A business buyer wants to be able to access or check inventory the same way during a commute or at an office computer. According to a 2018 Cyber Week report by Invesp, 32% of consumers changed their mind about making a purchase on mobile, abandoning carts packed with unsold products or sercives. It’s time for a change.
Why 2018’s mobile experiences left money on the table.
Last year, Black Friday’s sales turnout beat expectations by more than 10 percent. However, while many attempted to manage an anticipated mobile surge, conversion rates on the “favorite” shopping device came in dead last during Cyber Week. In the end, over $6.2 billion was spent online from Thanksgiving to the end of Cyber Monday. Mobile orders only accounted for 45% of sales. When you consider that mobile’s share of traffic was 62%, that’s a pretty weak conversion rate.
“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, CEO, Redstage
Merchants and B2B companies who don’t start thinking with a “mobile-first customer experience” mentality will be left behind. Of course, it’s ideal to know and understand the buying habits of each customer, but tricky to do without the right technology. Thankfully, free data-driven A/B testing provided by the Mobile Optimization Initiative can help you overcome these barriers. Your customers aren’t going to wait for better mobile experiences, so why should you? Customers want to “click and go.” Lucky for you, implementing optimization is not only easy but the best option for B2B companies and retailers. B2B companies have a more complicated sales funnel that tends to increase aggravation and cart abandoment by 26%. With the Mobile Optimization Initiative, merchants can increase completed purchases dramatically by improving customers’ mobile experience with simple tweaks. Here’s how it works.
The Mobile Optimization Initiative is the ultimate holiday tool!
“Optimizing your customer experience thorough data-driven optimization allows you to discover small tweaks that ensure you’re capturing as many sales as possible from the growing pool of mobile buyers.“
– Benjamin Shapiro, Solutions Engineer, Redstage
Those who join the MOI program with Redstage will receive a free checkout funnel assessment, custom test design, experiment implementation, and professional services during the active program. The goal of our global initiative is to help merchants get more revenue from mobile. In turn for the free services, we gather anonymized data about customer habits to create a knowledge-base for best practices in mobile. Learn more about our community proven experiments and sign up here. As the results show, it’s well worth it.
“With the current data collection and analysis tools available, we no longer have to speculate on where to put efforts to improve your site. The data is the guide in both where to focus your efforts, and where to expand after experimenting. 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. One recent participant – A lawn mower tire store – saw lifts of 24.9% and 7% RPV on desktop and mobile respectively through a‘sticky cart’ test.“
–Benjamin Shapiro, Solutions Engineer, Redstage
How Soon Should You Start?
The sooner you begin, the better. Participants start gathering testing data immediately, and all it takes is adding a simple tracking tag to your site (less than a minute). If you’re looking for a last-minute boost for your holiday marketing, this is it, and it packs a punch. Our latest test yielded a 25% increase in revenue per visitor.
The Mobile Optimization Initiative puts you ahead of the competition, because the experiments are proven, having been tested over millions of transactions across hundreds of merchant sites.As of December of 2018, experiments from 120 merchant sites generated a collective $22 million in revenue, averaging a 9.28% increase in RPV (extra revenue they would’ve missed without MOI testing). Today, we leverage the data from more than 200 participating merchants to ensure your tests are optimized for success. From this, we’ve created more than 130 standardized experiments to test, so now’s the time to join!
“We were struggling with mobile conversions and the MOI program helped us with the insights and adjustments we needed. This data-driven, forward-thinking program is certainly worth a try.”
– Digital Marketing Coordinator @ Lawnmower Tire Store
Ignoring the trends means you’re missing out on your share of over $500 billion in online sales. With 95% of mobile devices being used to look up local information to visit businesses, it’s your business they should be checking out (pun intended). By this time next year, we expect the number of participants in the MOI to double again, which means it may be too late to get a leg-up on your competitors. Since the experiments work best during high-traffic periods, there’s no better time to test! And don’t worry, the tests automatically notify you if they’re not giving you positive results.
If you’re still not convinced, or don’t know where to start, check out the latest results, case studies, and strategies in our new Holiday Mobile Optimization Ebook here! Good luck this holiday season! Want to learn more about the initiative but before you sign up? Contact us here for a free consultation with our testing experts.
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.
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.
At this very moment, retail executives around the US are likely 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. We will update this article as soon as new data is released, so make sure you subscribe to be the first to know!
Thanksgiving Takes an Extra Helping
On Thanksgiving day, as of 7:00am Pacific Time, U.S. consumers spent $406 million. By 2pm, Adobe announced that this number skyrocketed to a whopping $1.75 billion, representing a 23% increase over sales in the same time period in 2017. By the end of the day, Americans beat out last year’s sales for the day by a shocking 28%, resulting in a shocking 3.7 billion dollar Thanksgiving. Adobe initially projected a $3.1B bottom line for the holiday.
Mobile Wins Big
Here’s a quick breakdown of the major events in bite-size chunks:
$2.1 billion or 33.5% of sales came from smartphones this Black Friday. Another 10% of sales, or roughly $627 million, came from tablet users. All in all, the day yielded an impressive $6.2 billion, a 23.6% increase over 2018.
Cyber Monday Breaks The Internet
Here’s the big one. Cyber Monday sales shattered all previous records for online sales… in U.S. history.
“Cyber Monday [topped] $7.9 billion by the end of the day, making it the largest online shopping day of all time in the U.S. This represents a 19.7 percent increase year-over-year (YoY) as of 7:00 p.m. ET. In comparison, Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday brought in $3.7 billion (28 percent growth YoY) and $6.2 billion (23.6 percent growth YoY) in revenue, respectively.”BusinessWire
Here’s the share of devices (as of ~1:30pm ET November 27, 2018):
Additionally, Adobe’s latest report notes that this November has seen 7 days where total sales broke the $2 billion mark (as of Nov. 28, 2018)… Thanks in no small part to the mobile sales spikes.
Omnichannel Adoption Drives Sales
The trend of “buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS)” continued, with the trend growing 50% during this past weekend over 2018. According to Adobe, this spells dollar signs for omnichannel merchants: “As the online and offline retail experience continues to blend, retailers with physical stores drove 28 percent higher conversions online.” While this trend helped retailers increase their share of online earnings, in-store sales lagged far behind.
It’s time to join the mobile-first movement. As Adam Morris, Redstage CEO notes, “Cusotmers are no longer expecting an in-store Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but instead, an omnichannel experience.” While many retailers successfully ramped up their omnichannel strategies for this holiday, the data shows this trend is here to stay, and more work is needed.
If you want to reduce mobile checkout friction before the holidays are over, contact us asap! To see the results we’ve achieved with our recently launched Magento Community Initiative, find the latest data here.
These extravagant stats spell success for an industry racing to close the mcommerce gap. It’s seems the industry is all-aboard the mobile-first customer experience wave. As Internet Retailing points out, retailers may have finally reached ‘always-on‘ mobile consumers. Now it looks like the key areas for improvement are streamlining mobile checkouts, and optimizing omnichannel experiences.
For the first time in PayPal history, mobile payment volume topped $1 billion, and did so on both Black Friday (November 23) and Cyber Monday (November 26). – PAYMNTS
Adobe reports U.S. shopping carts averaged $138.00 during Cyber Monday, a 6% bump over last year.
49% of Black Friday traffic came from smartphones, driving 30% of online sales.
“In the [PYMNTS] Checkout Conversion Index report, the 30 merchants with the fastest, most streamlined online checkouts ranked well. Conversely, the 30 merchants with the lowest scores offer a widely inconsistent checkout experience…”
Our partners at BigCommerce identified a few additional trends in their Cyberweek 2018 Trends Report. Key findings include:
While online stores continue to have the highest AOV for any sales channel, Facebook took second place, accounting for “70% of total GMV” for Fashion and Jewelry brands using the channel. Home and Garden brands selling on Facebook came in at 16% GMV.
“The Fashion & Jewelry and Toys & Games verticals saw the highest GMV increases over 2017.
Counted among our 5 Most Costly Ecommerce Mistakes of 2017, payment method optimization is a must. Over the past year, we’ve seen a big push towards Apple Pay, PayPal Express, and even Venmo becoming “must-have” holiday payment methods for online stores. The reason? Customers that can click-and-go are more likely to convert.
With this in mind, we recommend reviewing what ways your site can keep gift-giving second-guessing to a minimum. In our mobile conversion optimization report, we found a few simple tweaks to reduce checkout abandonment and increase the likelihood of customers converting. If you don’t have time to review the full report, here’s our 3-minute breakdown as our gift to you.
Holiday Payment Hack #1. Zip-Code-First
On almost every site, the checkout form is the same, always starting with the customer’s first name. Sure, the name, phone, and email address areas might auto-fill based on browser settings, but location information isn’t always part of the one-click equation. Working with one of our clients, we found that a simple re-stacking of the typical model can cause checkout disruption to the tune of a 4.6% conversion rate lift (across all devices). Placing the zip-code first triggers browsers to auto-populate the country, city, and state data, making your checkout faster. In our report, we found that this simple change can yield conversion increases of 1.48% for desktop, 8.14% for smartphones, and a whopping 18% increase for tablets. Put this on your holiday upgrade wish list.
#2. The Card-Detecting Checkout
As the second test in our study, Redstage’s developers created a credit card checkout form that automatically detects the type of card entered based on the first 4 card numbers. I know, I know, you have that already, but what you don’t have is a checkout form that uses this data to automatically adjust your checkout form into the layout of the customer’s credit card. Different cards have their numbers, expiration, and even security codes in different areas, making the typical credit card form a little lacking in the CX department. Imagine a new customer with their card in one hand and their phone or tablet in the other. Now imagine them fumbling as they try to figure out how to enter their info… don’t let this be an opportunity for them to abandon the sale. Our smart bit of code automatically matches the form to the card in-hand, making it easier to fill out. Remember, the less friction, the better.
It might seem like a negligible CX change at first, but for phones and tablets, this smart checkout option drove a 3.7% and 6.1% conversion rate lift, respectively. The test didn’t add so much for traditional online checkout, only increasing desktop conversions by 0.4%… but every little bit counts right? How much extra joy would these numbers add to your holiday return?
#3. The Big One: PayPal-First
For the third and final portion of this 3-step study, Redstage analyzed what happens when we place a “PayPal Express Checkout” button above the traditional “proceed to checkout” button on the product page… The results were astounding. This change led to a 10.3% decrease in checkout abandonment across devices. That’s right. Simply putting the PayPal checkout option first on the page led to a 8.7% decrease in abandons on desktop, 11.2% less abandonment on smartphones, and shockingly, a 30.7% decrease in abandonment on tablets.
With so many payment options out there, it’s easy for the simplest conversion enhancements to go overlooked. Remember, it’s not just how customers can pay, it’s “how quickly” customers can pay. Want to get these holiday payment upgrades and more for free? Join round 2 of our conversion study now! Sign up here to see if you qualify for this round, and don’t forget to subscribe to receive the results of our next conversion report 2 weeks before anyone else!