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eCommerce

Guest Blog, Annabel Daly: Personalisation – the next step in modern-day eCommerce…

Ask any eCommerce retailer how they strive to get ahead of their competitors and they will invariably tell you the same things. Some may focus on organic SEO, aiming to rank higher than the opposition for what they consider to be key customer search terms, whilst others may plough more time and monetary investment into pay-per-click advertising or email marketing.

It’s so easy, however, to think of our customers as one large populous of people rather than considering them as individuals. Technology is evolving, and today, more than ever, personalisation is coming to the fore.

According to Adobe’s Real-Time Marketing Study, 77 per cent of marketers consider “dynamic, personalised content” to be very important for successful eCommerce websites. So what exactly does this involve?

eCommerce personalisation can be broken down into three core categories: site search, product recommendations and automated email marketing.

Site search should be commonplace in all eCommerce sites, but a personalised solution enables you to quickly react to customers’ ever-increasing demands in seconds. For example, your Autocomplete feature should be more than just relevant search terms or products; it should have the ability to correct spellings, add synonym rules and allow content search, rather than just products. One step further, to avoid the dreaded “no results” page, is to show product recommendations and therefore encourage conversions.

Sometimes known as “personalised merchandising”, product recommendations allow you to personalise content areas for your website, such as the homepage banner or “you may also like” recommendations. These should be responsive, supportive of multiple content types (e.g. images or HTML) and varied – for example, based on your basket or previous purchases. The team at PureNet have recently released new software, PureClarity, to enable these systems to run themselves and determine the best content for the aforementioned content areas.

Finally, as mentioned previously, email marketing can be instrumental in driving conversions, but you can get one step ahead with personalised, automated email marketing. What differentiates  personalised email marketing from traditional email marketing is the ability to upload bespoke templates. Whereas automated emails may be sent to those who have abandoned their basket for example, personalised emails give you the freedom to insert product recommenders or personalised content.

The benefits of personalising your eCommerce site are virtually limitless. As a site owner, you should be wary of personalising not only your product recommendations, but also your content in general, ensuring you are targeting relevant customers and appealing to their interests.

Of course, the statistics speak for themselves: 75 per cent of us admit we prefer to use a retailer with a personalised experience. Moreover, from an email perspective, personalised emails improve click through rates by 14 per cent and conversion rates by 10 per cent – a true testament to the ROI of this marketing technique.

In the increasingly competitive world of e-Commerce, a business owner who makes his or her customers feel special is far more likely to succeed. Optimising your website for personalisation can be time-consuming, but ultimately will achieve a huge return on investment in terms of time and money. 

 

Annabel Daly is group marketing manager for Magento eCommerce and portal agency, PureNet. Annabel has worked within the eCommerce industry for many years across internal and client marketing, with portfolios including Krispy Kreme, The Royal British Legion and Illamasqua. Annabel has a particular interest in innovation including personalisation and conversion-focused design. 

Shop Direct ‘first UK retailer to launch WhatsApp-style service platform’…

Shop Direct has become the first UK-based retailer to apply conversational user interface (CUI) technology for customer service, launching ‘Very Assistant’ for customers to find answers to their questions in a WhatsApp–style chat environment.  

The owner of Very.co.uk, Littlewoods.com, VeryExclusive.co.uk and LittlewoodsIreland.ie has initially made the automated platform available via the Very.co.uk iOS app, and claims the technology makes the user journey even simpler for customer service questions, allowing people to easily interact with Very.co.uk representatives in a format that they are adept at using on a day-to-day basis. 

Developed in-house by Shop Direct’s multi-award-winning eCommerce team, Very Assistant works by asking the app user if they need any help. The customer is then presented with a sequence of questions and multiple action options, which the customer taps within the chat environment. The customer’s answers enable the platform to instantly serve up the information they are looking for. 

Jonathan Wall, eCommerce director at Shop Direct said: “This fully native platform is squarely focused on what our customers need. It’s delivered through our app because that’s where they want to have questions answered. It’s also the best place for us to collect feedback and constantly improve Very Assistant. 

“We think this new technology will simplify our user journey, improve satisfaction, and help to boost efficiency in our customer service operation. It’s also the first step towards ‘natural language’, AI-driven CUI – which is something we’re hugely excited about.” 

Customers can use Very Assistant to make a payment on their Very.co.uk account, check their payment dates, track an order, confirm that recent payments have been processed and request a reminder of their account number. 

eCommerce Christmas sales expected to hit over £16bn in the UK…

The data and market research company, eMarketer, has predicted that UK retail eCommerce sales will reach an estimated £16.9 billion during the ‘core’ season shopping period of November and December; an increase from the £14.65 billion recorded in 2015 and the rising use of consumers making purchases via their smartphones considered a major contributor to eMarketer’s predictions.

According to analysis, the smartphone medium will account for 36.4 per cent of total retail mCommerce (mobile commerce) sales for the whole of 2016, and by the year 2020, total mCommerce sales is estimated to reach 52 per cent.

Senior analyst at eMarketer, Bill Fisher said: “Retail ecommerce sales during the festive season look set to shine this year, despite the wider economic conditions in the UK. This is in no small part due to a digitally advanced consumer, who has been quick to embrace digital buying and particularly smartphone buying. And during the Christmas shopping period, these digital habits become even more accentuated.”

 

Read more from eMarketer here

Guest Blog, Cain Ullah: Building a prosperous and successful eCommerce platform…

Cain is the CEO and founder of Red Badger, with responsibilities including; strategy, culture, sales and marketing. He is extremely proud of Red Badger’s people and is focused on scaling quality and a lovely culture in the team.

The classic British brand, Fortnum & Mason, is widely known for its rich heritage and exceptional in-store service. But how does a brand with three centuries of legacy keep up with its peers, thrive in the digital landscape, and ensure its customer experience is replicated online? Cain Ullah, CEO and founder at Red Badger, details the agile software consultancy’s experience of developing a tangible eCommerce site for the luxury department store

Feedback and the right technology

In order to create an eCommerce experience that would give customers the same level of service that they would expect in-store, Fortnum & Mason partnered with Red Badger to further develop the medium. The site was built and tested in eight months and, since its launch, customer service enquiries reduced and website sales metrics have soared, contributing substantially to Fortnum’s best ever trading day over the Christmas 2015 period.

Putting their loyal and valued customers at the heart of the project, Fortnum’s carried out in-store face-to-face testing from an early stage of the process, as well as extensive beta testing so that feedback and requests could be actioned quickly from UX research. This brave approach, which many retailers still shy away from doing, meant that expectations were met well before the full go-live took place. This rapid approach meant that Fortnum’s achieved a re-platform in just eight months, for under £1.3million.

Three months of beta testing allowed the fully-integrated Red Badger and Fortnum’s team to discover how customers were using the site, why drop out occurred at certain stages and what was deemed to be off-putting – making it possible to streamline the checkout process, refine the user journey and solve specific integration issues.

Such extensive customer testing highlighted the desire for certain bespoke services, including the ‘Build Your Own Hamper’ function – a key service in store which hadn’t previously been available online.

Aesthetics

When a retailer focuses on the business processes in developing an eCommerce site, details that are considered small but critical to the customer experience can often be missed. An example of this during the Fortnum & Mason rebuild was the use of colour, which was carefully considered based on the feedback from the consumer testing. Fortnum & Mason is recognisable for their use of eau de nil, long associated with royalty and refined tastes and, corresponding with the store itself, the soft incandescent lighting-style colour scheme of the website mimics home lighting rather than the usual harsh shop-floor fluorescent bulbs. The soft background colouring also reduces on-screen glare. After reviewing customer feedback and analysing its use on packaging, our UX and design team recognised that the signature colour should be reserved for key product shots and call to action buttons.

The future

The website was built using systems and software that Red Badger chose specifically for the value it would create for the long term. The needs of the business and its customers can shift dramatically in a short period based on changing retail trends and customer behaviour, in addition to developments in technology. For several years forecasters have predicted that eCommerce revenue from smartphone devices will override revenue from large view portals. Fortnum’s fully responsive site, built without limitation to specific devices, will allow the company the flexibility to cope with these changes without being forced to make repeated platform or technology changes. The backend integrations with systems that run enterprise resource planning (ERP) and fulfilment for Fortnum’s can easily be switched for new versions, or entirely different software as the business updates its back office to cope with changing and growing demand.

Results

The new site celebrated its first anniversary in February 2016 and the difference has been significant; conversion improved by 14 per cent on the previous year with uplift showing from the first week of the launch; average order value increased five per cent; total sales increased 30 per cent; and calls to customer services were reduced by 40 per cent on the site’s first full day of trading. On top of these figures, online sales went up 38 per cent in 2015, which included a 26 per cent rise in the sales of the world-famous hampers. Personalisation services saw a 261 per cent increase in November vs October and, in regards to user experience, the drop off during navigation of delivery options reduced from 18.8 per cent to 12.9 per cent.

Industry Spotlight: Free returns obstructing UK eCommerce?

IS-Fashion eCommerce storyProviding a free returns policy can offer a competitive edge to a retailer’s eCommerce platform. However, can such a service equate to a loss in profits, or create a gateway to extra earning potential?

As eCommerce continues to grow in stature, so does the impact of the number of returns made as a result of online purchasing. According to a recent study from Barclaycard, 57 per cent of retailers have claimed that the daily process of handling returns is adversely impacting on trade; with 20 per cent resorting to increasing stock prices to neutralise the effects, and, considering its current status, 22 per cent of UK high street retailers have opted out of the eCommerce trend due to the costs of managing a free delivery and returns policy.

It’s all well and good for Barclaycard to suggest that retailers need to improve their services – such as the introduction of local ‘drop-off’ points and hourly courier services – but how can businesses implement beneficial changes without sacrificing on product quality and in store operations? Despite the struggle, this, according to Barclaycard’s director of customer solutions, Sharon Manikon, can be simple to manage: “Online spending will continue to rise and the need to keep pace with customer demands presents a dilemma for businesses needing to protect their bottom line. Fortunately there is light at the end of the tunnel with many ways retailers can streamline the returns process. From developing universal sizing to offering virtual dressing rooms, the key for today’s businesses is to determine which innovations work best for them – while ensuring they don’t lose out to their more savvy competition.”

Even so, with the research additionally finding that 30 per cent of consumers are purposely over-buying via online and returning the items at a later date, it is clear that an intervention across the board needs to be demonstrated. Reportedly, services such as the Metail app are currently being trialed as an inclusion by many UK clothing retailers, where a consumer can upload an image of themselves and virtually try on the clothing to check for the correct sizes before purchase.

Waitrose appoints AppDynamics to ‘fine-tune’ customer experience…

Waitrose eCommerce image EDITEDTo support its ongoing omnichannel strategy and further monitor the digital customer journey, Waitrose has introduced the data analyst platform, AppDynamics Application Intelligence across the whole eCommerce business to provide real-time performance metrics.

Appointed by Waitrose after an initial successful trial, the platform will allow retailer to make data-driven decisions on each department, including Waitrose Gift, Waitrose Florist and Waitrose Kitchen, on how to ‘fine-tune’ the customer experience and deliver exceptional service reflecting its current 344 stores in the UK. Head of IT operations, eCommerce at Waitrose, Alex Bowles, said: “AppDynamics has helped us take a proactive standpoint on delivering an exceptional shopping experience to our customers. We’ve been able to spot application and database issues earlier and quicker, helping us to act faster to improve our digital services — it’s been a real light bulb moment for the rest of the business.”