The Hurdles of B2B eCommerce and How to Overcome Them

The Hurdles of B2B eCommerce and How to Overcome Them

Large-scale digital transformations, while increasingly necessary in a growingly digital world, can be daunting and nerve-wracking projects that take a lot of time and investment from many different departments of your business. In the B2B world, these initiatives seem to face even more pushback due to the reluctance of change and adoption of eCommerce in many B2B organizations. Many businesses avoid taking the plunge to really invest in their digital channels due to the risks and fear of failing.

 

After over a decade of experience with these large-scale projects, Redstage CEO Adam Morris and Head of Digital Transformation Matthew Jasper know a thing or two about why companies are reluctant to start an eCommerce initiative and why some of these projects do not come to fruition. Having served over a hundred enterprise companies, from small and mid-market organizations to billion-dollar enterprises, they shared with us what obstacles usually keep organizations from succeeding in Digital Transformation and eCommerce projects.

 

In the first part of this in-depth interview, we will discuss why companies have been avoiding starting these transformation initiatives even in the “new normal” of an almost entirely digital world and what to make sure teams focus on to make sure the project reaches its full potential.

 

 

Why Are B2B Organizations Reluctant To Start Digital Transformation Initiatives?

 

 

I think the challenge is that a core function for us as human beings is that it’s difficult for us to act for the future, right? We’ve been discussing the changing demographics and needs of the buyer with our B2B clients, and it’s something that you can’t really see. When you’re not investing in a digital sales channel, and you’re using traditional methods, it’s hard to see that what are the downstream effects of these changing demographics and needs. What are the downstream effects for your customer experience, for digital natives that are coming in to be your main source of buyers? And what happens is this change happens slowly and is sometimes hard to perceive or see coming.

Adam Morris

CEO, Redstage

Yes. I think one key element is, are companies being proactive about going to kind of a digitally transformed eCommerce strategy? Or are they being reactive? And that, I think, is really what has kept most B2B companies on the slow side in the past. Prior to the pandemic, in order to digitally transform their business, they needed to be proactive and build a roadmap in advance to build out an eCommerce strategy. And most of them didn’t do that because they were chasing the latest thing to react to. But with the pandemic, ultimately, the solution has been digital transformation and eCommerce services to help keep the traditional businesses afloat, leveraging web sales and online sales in that respect.

So ultimately, this strategy has to be shifted from a reactive to a proactive one. So obviously, the pandemic has accelerated a lot of those types of initiatives that should have been happening over the course of the last five, ten, even twenty years, which some of these companies have been around for. But, the B2B space has been some of the last industries impacted by digital transformation in part because they were a little bit downstream or a little bit further nested into supply chains and distribution strategies for some of these other companies. So, they’ve been impacted a little bit further behind, as opposed to the business-to-consumer side of industries. But, that’s partially why they’ve been a little bit slow to react, is because they could get by with business as usual for longer.

Matthew Jasper

Head of Digital Transformation, Redstage

So there are three functions at play when thinking about digital transformation; you’ve got driving new revenue, you’ve got cost savings that might be missed opportunities by not investing in the digital channel, and you’ve got customer attrition issues. From the changing demographics and needs of especially the younger generation of B2B buyers, it’s really hard for some companies to quantify, and then the question becomes who owns that change, right?

Normally, if you’re talking about driving new revenue streams, well that’s traditionally the sales team in a B2B environment. The challenge there is the sales team, a director of sales, a chief revenue officer, their job is really mainly building driving sales teams. Personnel and people management. What is the sales strategy? What’s the funnel-managed pipeline? It doesn’t really include the expertise or KPIs around digital sales. It also has operational ramifications, right, so you need to involve operations, even though they don’t have revenue or sales as KPIs. You also have I.T. that might try to get involved, the CIO is really looking at how to enable business strategy and how to reduce costs. So, this is a cross-functional strategy that I think between the difficulty and challenges of quantifying what the digital transformation will hold for the business, as well as not having a true clear owner inside the organization, it makes it really challenging.

And now, we kind of look at the environment sort of in a post-pandemic world, where we’ve seen the conversation change a lot to okay, well we have to transfer. We’ve seen that the world has to have the digital capability, so we know that we need to change. We need to do five years of transformation that we should have been doing, in one year now. But the interesting part about that conversation is if you dig into why we need to change, the answer is sort of simply well because we have to.

Adam Morris

CEO, Redstage

Yes. I just got off a call with an essential client on the sales side, where they were asking this exact question. They said we know we need to build out a digital solution, and we haven’t done it yet. So, should it live with sales? Should it live with I.T.? Should we build a dedicated digital team or a dedicated eCommerce team? What should we do?

And ultimately, the way which I told them to think about it is you’re building an entire parallel startup that touches all of your business processes. But, there’s going to be somebody who is ultimately accountable for it. Whether it’s the chief marketing officer or the head of product, there’s somebody that’s going to have ownership of this element of the business, but it’s going to touch each individual element of your business. So, if you are the eCommerce operations manager, you might be tasked with figuring out things like how do we get our warehouses or business processes in order to make the digital solution a little bit more efficient? If you are on the marketing side, you might be tasked with figuring what paid advertising solution to use to drive traffic to our website. What does building our marketing pipeline look like on the B2B side of things? What does an Omnichannel marketing strategy look like to drive traffic to our site and then get people to convert? 

So every single element of the business needs to have a stake in the process for a digital transformation when going from a traditional business to a digital one. That comes from buy-in across leadership, as well as accountability for individuals either on the sales or marketing side. 

Matthew Jasper

Head of Digital Transformation, Redstage

Matt, I have something to add there too. You mentioned the word startup, and it’s a very interesting conundrum, and I think this is a blocker for a lot of transformations, especially why B2B companies are so slow to adopt or adapt or transform. We work with mostly larger enterprises, right? And a big challenge is when you’re creating something new, or you’re evolving something that’s in its early stages of maturity, you have to be able to react more entrepreneurial, more agile, right? You have to be able to iterate, you have to be able to test, and you have to move.

So if we’re talking about enterprises, where is this owned? Is it owned by the business unit head? A lot of these business units are mature. You don’t move quickly on purpose, you’re careful and methodical, and that’s going to lead to your success in a mature business. So, how do you balance creating this sort of entrepreneurial iterative culture in conjunction with your I.T. organization that’s going to want to be more methodical? With your business strategy, with your planning and forecasting. All of these things are often at odds with each other, create conflict and create roadblocks. So I think it’s important to acknowledge those issues, and set up a plan and roadmap, and get everybody on board that this is an iterative process. Understand which processes of the core business are going to need to break or need to change, or need to diverge, from what has made us successful to this point.

Adam Morris

CEO, Redstage

Yes, and one last point on that startup mentality versus mature business. Some of our clients have been around for hundreds of years, even. Where they’ve built a model over time by being focused on certain core activities and solving very specific business problems, and building long-term trusted customer relationships with their particular ecosystem. So, given that they’ve been around for so long, they’ve been at a certain scale of business. If you’re generating, you know, a billion dollar’s worth of revenue from traditional models, building a website to sell your products online may disrupt the apple cart, so to speak. Where you lose a little bit of that exclusivity of that trusted partnership with some of your supply chain or your distribution network. So, there’s an element of risk from a B2B customer perspective, whereby opening it up might be weakening some of those ties that have been some of the elements of your secret sauce.

Because of that, you need to navigate that carefully and manage that customer expectation. Where no, you’re not necessarily disrupting your business-to-business network, you’re just trying to support how that buyer wants to do business. They no longer are looking to necessarily be wined and dined in a COVID era, and instead would rather just go to your website and click purchase or maybe get a quote, and then work back and forth via email, instead of even a phone call at times. So, there’s a matter of how do you meet your customers where they are, without necessarily viewing digital as a risk to the business. Which I think is an important point, and maybe some of the traditional hesitancy pre-COVID, to taking your business model and transporting that online.

Matthew Jasper

Head of Digital Transformation, Redstage

 

 

What did we learn?

 

The major factors holding B2B merchants back from reaching their business’s full potential and maximize sales are unexpectedly simple; several departments in your organization need to buy in for a digital transformation to work, yet you need one business head to own the process and see it to fruition. Finally, you need to have an iterative and proactive mindset to these projects, understanding the future benefit while working in the present to see it through step by step. 

 

Often, organizations can see these projects as daunting and too risky to delve into in the middle of the year, or even to delve into at all. Sometimes, you just need an exterior team to evaluate your processes and look at your organization with a bird’s eye view. Contact Redstage today if you need help starting your eCommerce or Digital Transformation journey.

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Four Ways to Win at Convenience in B2B eCommerce

Four Ways to Win at Convenience in B2B eCommerce

Megan Wenzl

Megan Wenzl

SEO Content Manager

Megan Wenzl is the SEO Content Manager at Linnworks, a total commerce solution that connects, manages and automates commerce operations. Megan enjoys creating useful, informative stories to help businesses succeed. When not writing, Megan enjoys spending time with her family.

 

 

In the world of enterprise B2B eCommerce, ever-changing consumer trends continue to cling to one constant — convenience. 

 

In fact, a convenient buying journey has become the cornerstone for success in B2B eCommerce. But what makes a buying journey effortless?

 

Keep reading for four ways to win at convenience in B2B eCommerce to increase conversion rates and revenue.

 

 

Focus on a Frictionless Customer Experience

 

frictionless customer experience with advanced search

 

According to research on total commerce by Linnworks, convenience is defined by a frictionless online buying journey. In fact, 58% of consumers have stopped using a website altogether if they find it difficult to navigate, and 90% prioritize a trouble-free experience. 

 

So what can be done to create a frictionless CX? Every interaction a user has with a brand needs to be smooth and quick to avoid abandonment. Two of the most critical touchpoints are search and check-out. (Two out of three consumers have abandoned a purchase over complicated search and check-out touchpoints.) Offering smart, advanced search and check-out features will encourage buyers to stay on your site at the beginning of their journey and complete their transaction near the end. 

 

Speed is also a significant player in the eCommerce experience. No one wants to wait for pages to load. To increase speed, it’s essential to upgrade software, consolidate integrations, and minimize extensions. 

 

It’s also critical to increase product traceability and avoid human errors like over-selling by automating inventory management and similar processes. Automating inventory management will speed up the user experience and minimize errors across all channels, creating a more frictionless CX. (Read more about the importance of inventory management here.) 

Personalization is Key 

 

 

Ultimately B2B decision-makers are searching for solutions to a problem they’re experiencing. The buying journey needs to be as personalized as possible for them to feel like your company has the exclusive and best answer to their problem.

 

Employing AI technology to extract data can help automate this process. AI software gathers analytics from search, recently viewed, and purchase history. It can also collect demographics like location, company, email — and more to determine what problem a B2B consumer is trying to solve. Then, this data is used to create the most customized web-based experience possible that provides a solution. 

 

During a recent website migration, B2B enterprise company Sea Bags added a new AI feature to their website that collects data from previously visited pages and recent purchases to help consumers find recommended products. The addition of AI technology to personalize the buying journey was a significant contributing factor to an astounding 53% growth in revenue in just three months. 

Upgrade the Mobile Experience

 

mobile online shopping buying experience b2b

 

With the upsurge of easy-to-navigate eCommerce platforms, consumers have come to expect a seamless omnichannel experience. According to the research from Linnworks, 81% of consumers want a buying journey to begin on one device and end on another — without interruption. And to increase traffic and conversion rates, this seamless omnichannel experience undoubtedly should include updated mobile channels. 

 

The current expectation is that mobile purchasing should be as effortless as desktop. To optimize the mobile experience, focus on sleek minimalist design with features that surprise and delight your users — more specifically, micro-interactions. These seemingly insignificant moments pack a big punch when it comes to keeping buyers engaged (and coming back). 

 

High-end coffee giant Jura Coffee saw a hefty increase in mobile traffic and conversion rates after updating its mobile channel design. After creating an experience that closely measured up to that of the desktop, they saw a 55% increase in traffic and a 44% boost to their mobile conversion rate! With statistics like that, most companies can’t afford to continue offering archaic mobile buying experiences. 

Offer Innovative Features

 

innovative eCommerce features shipping inventory

 

At its core, consumer convenience is rooted in innovation. To keep up with the competition and trends in buyer habits, companies have to capitalize on innovation at every turn. Luckily, the fluctuating landscape of eCommerce affords the opportunity to continually offer buyers new and convenient ways to examine products and make purchases with the push of the button. 

 

B2B distributor The Binding Source worked hand-in-hand with Redstage Business Analysts to create a convenient buying experience for their customers with innovative features. Some of the additions to their website that capitalized on convenience were custom product filtering, advanced shipping options, customer segmentation, and payment storage. The addition of these convenient and innovative features helped increase their conversion rate by 170% in just one month! 

2021 MARKET SURVEY

2021 State of eCommerce Report

Answer 5 quick questions for our 2021 State of eCommerce Report to receive a free usability assessment from Redstage!

Learn More

Conclusion

 

To win at convenience in B2B eCommerce, the primary focus needs to be keeping up with innovation and subsequent consumer demand. If you don’t create a personalized and frictionless buying experience or offer innovative features to meet B2B decision makers’ needs, another company will. Contact Redstage to start maximizing convenience for your buyers today. 

Download the Latest Research from Linnworks for More Insights

 

How To Unlock More Mobile Holiday Revenue

How To Unlock More Mobile Holiday Revenue

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!

Last year, we published several articles about mobile optimization to help merchants close the “mobile revenue gap” by optimizing checkout experiences. With some of the tests we’ve run, retailers can cut mobile cart abandonment in half or more on certain devices.

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

Final Thoughts:

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.

What Prime Day Can Teach Us About Holiday Sales

What Prime Day Can Teach Us About Holiday Sales

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.

 

Final Thoughts

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.  

 

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:

  • [su_tooltip style=”red” position=”east” rounded=”yes” title=”Conversion Rate” content=”# Sales / # Clicks”]Conversion Rate (CR)[/su_tooltip]
  • [su_tooltip style=”red” position=”east” rounded=”yes” title=”AOV” content=”Revenue / # Orders”]Average Order Value (AOV)[/su_tooltip]
  • [su_tooltip style=”red” position=”east” rounded=”yes” title=”MVP AOV” content=”Revenue / # MVP Orders”]MVP/VIP AOV (AOV of your most valuable customers)[/su_tooltip]
  • [su_tooltip style=”red” position=”east” rounded=”yes” title=”CLV” content=”(Avg. Perchase Value x Avg. Purchase Frequency Rate) x Average Customer Lifespan”]Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)[/su_tooltip]
  • [su_tooltip style=”red” position=”east” rounded=”yes” title=”Cart Abandonment Rate” content=”# Completed Purchases / # Carts Created”]Cart Abandonment Rate[/su_tooltip]
  • [su_tooltip style=”red” position=”east” rounded=”yes” title=”Browser Abandonment Rate” content=”# Completed Purchases / # Unique Sessions”]Browser Abandonment Rate[/su_tooltip]
  • [su_tooltip style=”red” position=”east” rounded=”yes” title=”Churn Rate” content=”# Customers Lost / # Original Customers”]Churn Rate[/su_tooltip]
  • 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:

  • [su_tooltip style=”red” position=”east” rounded=”yes” title=”Cost of Goods Sold” content=”Beginning Inventory + Purchases During the Period – Ending Inventory”]Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)[/su_tooltip]
  • [su_tooltip style=”red” position=”east” rounded=”yes” title=”Gross Profit” content=”Sales – Cost of Goods Sold”]Gross Profit[/su_tooltip]
  • Average Margin
  • [su_tooltip style=”red” position=”east” rounded=”yes” title=”Customer Acquisition Cost” content=”Marketing Spend (over a given period) / #Customers Acquired (over a given period)”] Customer Acquisition Cost[/su_tooltip]
  • [su_tooltip style=”red” position=”east” rounded=”yes” title=”Customer Acquisition Cost” content=”Ad Spend / Ad Revenue”]Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)[/su_tooltip]
  • 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.

[su_quote cite=”Oliver Sosinsky, Redstage Solutions Engineer” url=”https://magento.com/blog/best-practices/mobile-optimization-initiative-key-findings-and-why-they-matter”]“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.”[/su_quote]

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.

[su_quote cite=”Adam Morris, Redstage CEO” url=”https://magento.com/blog/best-practices/mobile-optimization-initiative-key-findings-and-why-they-matter”]“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.”[/su_quote]

#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.

[su_quote cite=”Don Pingaro, Marketing Coordinator, Redstage” url=”https://redstage.com/conversion/ar-and-ai-the-eCommerce-arms-race/”]“If Snapchat can already morph your face and add eye-shadow, will brands like Ulta Beauty and Maybelline step up to the challenge?”[/su_quote]

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.

[su_quote cite=”Fast Company” url=”https://www.fastcompany.com/90201272/nikes-new-concept-store-feeds-its-neighbors-hypebeast-and-dad-shoe-dreams”]“[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.”[/su_quote]

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.

[su_quote cite=”Invesp” url=”https://www.invespcro.com/blog/state-of-omnichannel-shopping/”]”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.”[/su_quote]

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.