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ADA Compliance Lawsuits Converge On eCommerce in 2019

ADA Compliance Lawsuits Converge On eCommerce in 2019

It’s 2019. Accessibility and social justice are everything. As a result, ADA compliance lawsuits are being filed in record numbers, and ecommerce companies are a major target. Here’s the info you need to understand the issue and protect your online business.

ADA Compliance Crackdown

Although the U.S. Department of Justice has delayed the release of the latest federal accessibility guidelines, companies are expected to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. Resulting from this lack of federal guidance, users with disabilities are lawyering up against even the biggest online behemoths. Among these, Amazon, Apple, and Nike have been called out for failure to comply with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, along with hundreds of other businesses, driving a torrent of actions.

According the the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, there were ”at least 814 federal web accessibility lawsuits filed in 2017, but an assessment of the issue by ClassAction.org shows the number of lawsuits [filed] in 2018 may far surpass that number.” In fact, in the first two months of 2018, roughly 200 different ADA lawsuits were filed against websites, at which point retail law advisory Goulston & Storris announced there was “No Relief in Sight”. While it remains unclear just how many lawsuits have been brought since last March, it is expected for this surge in suits to continue.

Why Haven’t I Heard About This?

If you haven’t been targeted yet, chances are you know someone who has. If not, the reason you haven’t heard about this is simple: The Wayfair case. The recent explosion of content on the Supreme Court’s South Dakota v. Wayfair decision incited a media frenzy that circled ecommerce’s corner of the web, from top news agencies to the smallest tech blogs. With the industry distracted by a wide-reaching tax-compliance issue —and retail giants like Nike keeping tight-lipped about their lawsuits— the compliance issue has remained largely under the radar.

In 2018, more than 13,000 suits were filed over online ADA compliance as of October, with ecommerce playing a large role. It’s not the issue alone that’s troubling, it’s the rate at which suits are being brought that’s startling. Last year, 7663 suits were arraigned in federal court, which at the time was a 16% increase over the previous year (see chartL ADA Title III Lawsuits in Federal Court: 2013-2017). With an ever increasing number of lawsuits looming on the horizon, the industry may face a 20% increase over last year for 2019. “I spoke with someone about these suits during Magento Imagine 2018. Just as the conference was ending, they received an email saying their own site had been targeted and served an ADA suit.” Adam Morris, Redstage CEO said. “Ecommerce companies should make accessibility a priority for the year ahead.”

Can My Site Be Next?

ADA compliance lawsuits converge on ecommerce in 2019, accessibility

While a discriminatory class action suit could spell disaster for any company, the first step is identifying the types of companies that fall into the legal crosshairs. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, these company categories are as follows:

  • Businesses engaged in an industry affeciting commerce (Title I)
  • Businesses with 15 or more full-time employees (Title I)
  • Businesses operating for 20 weeks or more every year  (Title I)
  • Businesses categorizes as “Public Accommodations” (Title III) including:
    -Inns, hotels, and motels
    -Restaurants and bars
    -Bakeries and grocery stores
    -Hardware stores or any sales/retail outlet
    -Banks
    -Laundromats and dry cleaners
    -Accountants and lawyers’ offices
    -Health care providers’ offices
    -Public transportation
    -Recreation venues
    -Schools
    -Social service centers
    -Gyms

While the ADA compliance is primarily focused on physical locations, Title III states that barring access to people with disabilities in the private sector is discrimination, which encompasses websites. With 15% of the global population living with some form of disability (41M+ Americans), and online shopping being so prevalent – think Black Friday – companies are losing business due to inaccessible websites and continuing to run the risk of being served an accessibility lawsuit.

How is Redstage Being Proactive?

Redstage recently partnered with Siteimprove, an all-in-one software that provides the insights needed to address issues relating to accessibility, as well as SEO, content quality, brand compliance, data privacy, and more.

“The Siteimprove and Redstage partnership is one we’re extremely excited about given our common goal of positively impacting web accessibility.” Siteimprove Sales Director Ted Goldberg Said. “We’re looking forward to working together to help facilitate increased accessibility for their client’s sites as well their own.”
The Redstage team is excited about this partnership, as Siteimprove’s automated accessibility checks help identify website elements that violate WCAG 2.0 guidelines, while also organizing those issues into a prioritized list. By partnering with Siteimprove, Redstage will be able to mitigate risk for our clients while building a strong, overall accessibility strategy.

Conforming Your Site to ADA Compliance

At Redstage, we’ve already had our fair share of engagements with merchants facing ADA lawsuits. “Our clients are seeing increased pressure from legal trolls targeting them because they are not ADA compliant. The ADA compliance rules are vague at best, so companies with an ecommerce channel should have an informed partner to help them.” Redstage CEO Adam Morris explained. To mitigate this risk, Redstage is working with specialized authorities in the ADA field to give clients and readers a comprehensive ADA compliance report.

“ADA compliance contains many elements of a great UX strategy,” says Adam Piken, Redstage’s Creative Director, “Your site should be user-friendly and intuitive, allowing customers to find buttons, check out, get your phone number, or type a question into your live-chat quickly and easily.” In this way, ADA compliance is reinforcing activities ecommerce companies should already be doing.

Most importantly, ADA compliance takes considerable design alterations in most cases, so the best time to get compliant is during your next redesign or site migration. If you’ve been following along with our Magento 1 End of Life Initiative, we recommend putting ADA compliance at the top of your Magento 1 to Magento 2 migration checklist.

Get Your ADA Compliance Check Now

If you think your site is at risk of being targeted, email us and we’ll get you set up with a team of experts to help identify and eliminate potential access barriers that may impede access and usability for your users, while safeguarding your business from legal action.

Merging Bricks and Clicks: 5 Omnichannel Resolutions for 2019 and Beyond

Merging Bricks and Clicks: 5 Omnichannel Resolutions for 2019 and Beyond

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 & Group KPIs 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
  • Churn Rate
  • Site Traffic
  • 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
  • Newsletter Subscribers
  • SMS Subscribers
  • Site Uptime %

Budget Management KPIs

Here we have a short list of “must-have” budget-oriented KPIs:

  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
  • Gross Profit
  • Average Margin
  • 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 

5 Omnichannel Resolutions for 2019 and Beyond

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 

5 Omnichannel Resolutions for 2019 and Beyond

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.

“If Snapchat can already morph your face and add eye-shadow, will brands like Ulta Beauty and Maybelline step up to the challenge?”Don Pingaro, Marketing Coordinator, Redstage

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

5 Omnichannel Resolutions for 2019 and Beyond

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.

3. Video

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.

4. Chatbots

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.

5. Payments

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

5 Omnichannel Resolutions for 2019 and Beyond

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

5 Omnichannel Resolutions for 2019 and Beyond

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

Understand Return-Psychology

5 Omnichannel Resolutions for 2019 and Beyond

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.

The Wrap-Up

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.

Here’s How Customer Service Will Kill Brick and Mortar Retail

Here’s How Customer Service Will Kill Brick and Mortar Retail

Customer Service

eCommerce baked-in customer service as a standard. Perhaps early innovators recognized its importance as a differentiator from in-store retail, or maybe it came naturally. Regardless, many traditional retail giants chose to ignore it altogether. In the stories that follow, we’ll explore vast disparities in customer service driving traditional retailers toward bankruptcy while simultaneously skyrocketing eCommerce sales.

Good CX Demands Good Customer Service

Major retailers now seemingly compete with airlines, telecoms and power companies for the worst customer service. The key difference, however, is the range of alternatives. Most regions of the U.S. don’t get to pick between more than two horribly aggravating cable providers, while anyone in the world can choose Amazon over local retailer. As a result, the need for retailers to optimize their customer experiences through customer service is paramount. However, those who only recently realized this may be too late.

Jura Live! A Customer Story:

Jura LIVE! allows customers shopping online to make live video appointments at their convenience, from the comfort of their own home. Customers can see the products in action in real time and leverage the knowledge of a sales rep. to help them make a purchasing decision. For a luxury product such as a super automatic coffee & espresso machine, this adds a significant amount of convenience to the customer’s experience while also dazzling them with high-end technology. These types of high-touch online experiences help the sites that have them dominate those without. Unfortunately, most brick & mortar stores don’t offer these experiences because they refuse to adapt.”

-Dave Gardner, Sr. Account Executive & Team Lead at Redstage

How Retail Heros Became CX Villains

Sears, JC Penney, and Toys “R” Us are known for major missteps that downgraded their in-store experiences and alienated customers. Sears simply stopped investing in its stores. Years ago, company leadership decided to introduce a poorly-managed customer loyalty program that caused much more harm than good. The “Shop Your Way” program caused extended checkout times; both for customers waiting in line behind someone signing up for rewards AND for loyalty members who facing constant discrepancies in “deal” prices at the checkout.

The Fall From Grace

Here's How Customer Service Will Kill Retail

When sales declined, products began to downgrade, the stores themselves fell to disarray, and customers naturally opted for other retailers like Macy’s and Home Depot. As a poorly planned remedy to decreasing sales, Sears chose to cut in-store staff in half across their locations, propelling worsening structural conditions that led to closures all over the U.S. To this day, the company continues to pump products into stores that no one will buy, without the necessary human capital to even unpack them.

A Sears Auto Story

Recenty, Redstage’s CEO Adam Morris had his own customer service blunder at Sears. He entered Sears Auto looking for a particular item, couldn’t find what he wanted, and exited the store only to discover his car had been towed. According to Morris, the towing company contracted by Sears was watching the security cameras while he was inside. Because he parked in a space for “Sears Auto Customers Only,” and hadn’t made a purchase, he wasn’t considered a customer, which allegedly gave the towing company license to tow his car.

In an attempt to get assistance from Sears, Morris spent hours on the phone with a “rude or unhelpful” customer service representatives. At the end of the ordeal, one rep told Morris to file a police report if he felt he was wronged. He had to pay to get his car back — more than the cost of the item he initially intended to buy.

Think he’ll be heading back to Sears anytime soon?

Alienating Your Audience

Here’s How Customer Service Will Kill Retail
JC Penney’s downfall came when it decided to switch to “low everyday prices” rather than focusing on their weekly coupon deals — something that created buzz from local customers and drove them to stores. At the same time, JC Penney switched focus from inexpensive products to more upscale merchandise, further alienating their customer base. As a result, shoppers decided to shop elsewhere. For a company founded on a middle class audience and low prices, this change was a signal for lifetime shoppers to exit, with seemingly no plan in place for attracting a higher-paying target audience.


Retail Giants’ Company Value Shift (2006 – 2018)

 
2006
2016
2018
06 – ’18
Company
Value ($B)
Value ($B)
Value ($B)
% Change
Sears
$14.3
$0.9
$0.3
-98%
JCPenney
$18.1
$1.7
$1.2
-94%
Source: Peter Diamandis, “The Future of Retail


Know Your Customers (or else)

Toys “R” Us CEO David Brandon mentioned in a recent SEC filing that the toy giant’s inability to invest in customer experiences in-store accelerated the death of the company. Last fall Brandon said the company’s mounting debt caused them to lose their competitive edge “on various fronts, including with regard to general upkeep and the condition of our stores.” In addition to the “general upkeep” Brandon mentions, if you’ve walked into a Toys “R” Us outside of the holidays, you’d understand. The massive store would appear as a moonscape, cold and nearly lifeless, save one or two employees and some barely audible music. Is that the environment that makes kids and parents think of fun?

This blog post does an excellent job of describing how Toys “R” Us could have boosted their customer experience through the roof, and honestly, it was probably within reach. “Special store events could include Nerf gun battles and dress up contests. Store representatives could excel at providing toy recommendations for particular age groups and interests (ever wondered, “What the heck do a get for my 8-year-old niece for Christmas?”).” These are the customer service based experiences consumers expect in our high-touch world. With eCommerce personalizing every customer interaction, it’s no wonder retail’s value continues to diminish.

Here’s Why Retail Will Die

As we can interpret from the examples above, traditional retail’s refusal to adapt (or perhaps retail’s lack of understanding about eCommerce) will be the industry’s ultimate downfall. One-time giants like Sears are ignoring systemic issues that directly impact in-store and over-the-phone customer experiences. Customer-minded marketing, store upkeep, and customer service — once staples of the retail experience — are being outsourced, downgraded or eliminated.

How To Bring The Magic Back

Here’s How Customer Service Will Kill Retail
In a last-ditch effort to get customer engagement, Toys “R” Us launched an AR app called “PlayChaser” to create gamified in-store experiences. There were a few issues with this, like parents who didn’t want their kids running around a massive store with their tablet — and also the fact that the company had already declared bankruptcy — but the intent was there. Toys “R” Us was ready to repent for decades of customer boredom, but it was too-little-too-late.

Retailers seeking a strong, successful revival need three things:

  1. A unified strategy that blends digital and physical experiences while thinking realistically about in-store capabilities (like employees, upkeep, and tech).
  2. A highly-tailored online experience that combines hardcore marketing tactics with artificial intelligence to boost customer retention & sales (watch video).
  3. Unrelenting customer service that makes everything easier for the customer (yes, we mean everything). Understand your customers and meet their demands.

Final Thoughts

Circuit City recently announced an ambitious plan to resurrect the company with an eCommerce focus and an impressively cool omnichannel strategy. The digital retailer relaunched February 15th and is moving forward rapidly. If Circuit City can make a comeback, maybe it’s time for other retailers to get with the program.

Is My Store Good Enough? What it means to give shoppers a frictionless experience.

Is My Store Good Enough? What it means to give shoppers a frictionless experience.

Is my website good enough?

Partner Profile: Shoppimōn
Redstage Worldwide partner Shoppimon provides top online retailers with the ability to know about performance, technical, and content issues before their shoppers ever encounter them. By visiting eCommerce sites the same way real customers do, Shoppimon behaves like a 24/7 mystery shopper, identifying any problems that impact the shopping experience and a customer’s ability to complete a purchase. Shoppimon currently monitors over 2,000 online stores, and publishes the monthly Online Health & Usability Index bench-marking major eCommerce health and performance trends.

Creating the Ideal Customer Journey:

Is my website good enough?

The ideal customer journey is fast, frictionless, and interruption-free. The best online retailers in the world have cut average site load times to tenths of a second, and have optimized the layout of each page to provide an intuitive shopping experience. Ideally, a website should also never suffer from major technical or content issues that interrupt a shopper. Unfortunately, this ideal is not possible today.

3 Things That Make or Break a Store’s UX

Every eCommerce manager should know what’s happening throughout their site, and be prepared to handle serious issues at a moment’s notice. It’s also important to be aware that no store is immune to these problems. Top retailers are prone to face these types of issues at rates similar to SMBs, with the average online retailer losing 13% of their annual revenues to them.

Is my website good enough?

#1 Entry Points

Landing pages and other forms of content that push large quantities of traffic to your site, but are not functioning properly or don’t render visually as they should can make or break a marketing campaign and the sales targets you have for the month. So ensuring there are no snags in the functionality of these gateways to your site is crucial.

#2 Checkout

We speak to many retailers who check their online stores including the checkout process thoroughly in a development environment, but once it’s live, they stop testing. Due to how many moving parts there are in a checkout process, particularly custom built checkout workflows, it’s critical to continuously check that there is nothing getting the way of a customer who has already decided to buy. Shoppers must be able to effortlessly see what they’re buying, the associated costs, easily enter coupon codes, select payment methods and complete a purchase. Do not rely on customers to report problems here, because you stand to lose significant business before a determined shopper actually reaches out. We know that 4% of all eCommerce business is lost due to technical issues during checkout, but with proper attention you can identify problems before customers hit them, dramatically reducing that number.

#3 Errors

In a recent post, Shahar Evron, Shoppimon CTO, discussed how to handle error messages with grace. He’s found that error messages are often left as an afterthought, rather than planned for during a site’s development. Something that is true of even the largest sites. Moreover, development teams regularly decide their content, leading to awkward, highly technical messages that scare customers away. Beyond having an immediate impact on sales, when messages are missing, this can also lead to error messages being exposed on a page. And this poses serious security risks. So make sure neither your site or your sales are at risk by planning for errors to occur in advance. Create simple messages that leave your shoppers with a smile on their face, and the opportunity to either continue down the conversion funnel or engage with you directly.

Site Monitoring: Top Challenges

Is my website good enough?
It is surprisingly common that these things are forgotten about, or put aside, all together. Error messages are a great example where they’re often left as an afterthought. Whereas, for checkout many people know there’s a problem, but either do not, or are not able, to test reliably.

So many eCommerce managers are forced to try and identify issues manually, or wait for customers to complain. And of course by that time, significant sales have already been lost, since the vast majority of customers will simply abandon a purchase.

It’s worth noting that manual testing is highly problematic. Not only is it time consuming, but you will inevitably miss many intermittent issues. Additionally, it is very difficult to manually check multiple variations of a given workflow. For example, testing checkout with one product, vs. 3, or checkout with normal pricing vs. discounted pricing etc.

For scenarios like these, functional (automated) testing, such as Selenium scripting is ideal, but it is not used by many site operators, particularly on a production environment as it can be very complex to setup, maintain and use on an ongoing basis.

The biggest challenge with entry points and traffic gateways is that even online stores which dedicate substantial resources to monitoring their sites on an ongoing basis often overlook off-site sources traffic, such as landing pages. Many eCommerce managers assume that if its not part of the site, then it doesn’t need testing.

The Best Chance for Optimizing Your Overall CX

Is my website good enough?
Awareness is #1: No matter how rigorously an eCommerce site is tested before it goes live, once it is in production it becomes a living breathing entity. Your website will change and be impacted by other integrated softwares, 3rd party services, and your customres. Issues will occur, and code will break. And it’s all par for course in managing and optimizing an online store.

Testing & Monitoring: Because issues happen, you need to keep finger constly on the pulse. Even if your development team has done an incredible job putting together a beautiful cutting-edge site, things can and will go wrong over time.

Therefore, automating testing of your store is an absolute must. Aim to use robust solutions that require less maintenance, and will provide you with clear insight into how customers experience issues, how those issues impact your business, and then help your development team quickly identify and fix their root cause.

And don’t forget to pay special attention to the campaigns and landing pages that bring traffic to your site in the first place.

Web Designer Woes: 5 More Costly Web Design Mistakes of 2017

Web Designer Woes: 5 More Costly Web Design Mistakes of 2017

Web Designer Woes: 5 More Costly Web Design Mistakes of 2017
The cornerstone of good UX is simplicity. As Redstage’s Creative Director Adam Piken says, “Don’t assume all your customers understand what a ‘Continue’ button does or what a ‘hamburger’ icon means… especially for eCommerce. Use well-known web design standards and simple, direct language.” If there’s one thing the web designers and developers at Redstage know, it’s that “no-brainers” aren’t always obvious in ecommerce. More often than not, it takes an expert with a critical eye to catch what others cannot (and we’ve got your back!). With this in mind, here’s 5 more costly web design mistakes of 2017:

Web Designer Woes: 5 More Costly Web Design Mistakes of 2017

5. Keep Your Fonts Consistent

It’s one of the most basic elements of good web design. Every site should have 1-2 fonts. One primary or master font for the entire site and a secondary font for links, CTAs, buttons, quotes, banners, and the special stuff. Often, the best solution is to simply find one font that looks good in any size, and use italics or different font weights to make special offers stand out. Keep it simple, or your site’s text will compete for attention and confuse or annoy the customer. Keep it simple. Keep it safe.

Web Designer Woes: 5 More Costly Web Design Mistakes of 2017

4. Click To Enlarge

All too often sites stray from the typical norm of “click to enlarge” and opt for a “zoom” image option that’s tricky, fuzzy, and confusing for users. Stick with the “click” option and make sure the product not only appears in high-definition once enlarged, but that customers can easily exit the enlarged photo intuitively (like with a big “X” or “close” button in the top right corner). Any time someone has trouble exiting the zoom function on your site, you’re creating a barrier between the customer and the checkout. Make this process as easy as possible. It’s UX 101, right?

Web Designer Woes: 5 More Costly Web Design Mistakes of 2017

3. View Our Reviews

Consider using a service like our partners at Yotpo to import your reviews directly from Yelp! This quick feature is easy to use and adds credibility as well as buyer certainty for customers. For your first-time customers, reviews could mean everything. If you’re considering adding reviews, make sure to put them somewhere they’re easily accessible (and make sure they’re good before you go live!). You’d also do well to add a script that hides those zero-star reviews on products that haven’t been reviewed yet. In our experience, it’s always better to have no review than a zero rating, which is a big “Don’t buy this” trigger.

Web Designer Woes: 5 More Costly Web Design Mistakes of 2017

2. Choose A Payment Method

Your items are in their cart… They’re on their way to the checkout… Make it as easy as possible for them to do so. You have all the major credit cards, but do you offer PayPal? What about Amazon Pay, Android Pay, or Apple Pay for those mobile users? Samsung Pay? Money order? Price-plans? Lay-away? Bitcoin? Sorry, but you see my point. Offering a variety of payment methods, online or off, means a better, faster checkout experience for customers, so make sure you optimize for breadth.

Web Designer Woes: 5 More Costly Web Design Mistakes of 2017

1. Would You Like To Checkout As A Guest?

In our last Web Designer Woes article, we mentioned the importance of featuring trustmarks and shipping info at the checkout. This time, we’re diving into something equally if not more important: Guest Checkout. Sites that don’t have guest checkouts are losing customers. If they have to think, or worse, feel like they’re being taken advantage of, they have one foot out the door. It’s that simple. When someone goes to buy something, give them the guest option. You’ll still collect plenty of data on them, but they’ll feel like they’re not being taken advantage of and won’t expect endless forms. This expedited checkout method prevents cart abandonment, and more importantly, speeds up the checkout experience — something that can be a game-changer for the holiday season ahead.

For More Tips, check out the previous post in this series:

Web Designer Woes: 5 Costly Web Design Mistakes of 2017

If you have any questions or tips that aren’t on this list, feel free to mention them in the comments below!