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Big-Ticket Online Marketing

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 by

Big Ticket E-Commerce Marketing

As director of marketing for Blueport Commerce, Betsy Miller drives crosschannel results for clients by translating complex retail chain marketing into online traffic and conversion campaigns. 
 
This blog will help keep you on top of the latest marketing trends and how they apply to your business as a big-ticket retailer.

 

Showrooming: Friend, Not Foe

Friday, April 26, 2013 by

 

Showrooming E-Commerce Furniture

To most furniture retailers, the word showrooming strikes a note of fear in their heart. That belief still stands in other industries all over the world – for example, the media had a field day with the specialty grocery store in Australia that now charges people a $5 fee “just for looking.” But before furniture retailers go that route, a study by Ipsos MediaCT and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) uncovered that the misconception that showrooming hurts brick and mortar retail sales may not be correct.

 

By the Numbers:

In a poll of 500 consumers about their consumer electronics shopping habits:

  • 42% who used a mobile device in-store completed their purchases online
  • 30% who used a mobile device in-store completed their purchases in store
  • 42% of shoppers who used a mobile device spent over $1,000; yet just 21% of shoppers not using a mobile device spent over $1,000
  • 65% of shoppers who use their mobile device in-store said it made them more likely to buy the product
  • 75% of those polled did research online before going to a store

Key Takeaway: Showrooming May Not Be a Dealbreaker

A big motivator for many showroomers is education – the consumer wants to be sure they are knowledgeable about a product that has caught their eye, either from an initial store visit or web search. And the same holds true for furniture retailers, whose price point and buying cycle are traditionally higher and longer than that of consumer electronics. Whether it is dimensions, weight, materials, construction, product reviews or all of the above, an empowered consumer is more than likely going to research their potential new leather sectional online. At the end of the day, showrooming may not matter as deeply as retailers fear, because even consumers who aren't online while in the brick and mortar furniture store have likely already seen what’s online before going to a physical location.

So How Do Furniture Retailers Increase Conversions?

In the Ipsos study, people who purchased offline cited convenience, ability to try the product and price as top considerations. Yet for those who chose to shop online, price was the top consideration, followed by convenience and selection.

Due to this, furniture retailers should spend less time fearing showrooming itself and recognize that they have two general customer segments: one who is sensitive to price and the other who prefer convenience, ability to try and select a product in person. Price and promotion have a large impact online, but retailers should avoid a risky price matching strategy targeting that one customer segment. By offering a truly unified omnichannel experience, furniture retailers can take advantage of increasing conversion through price, a strong selection of various styles, convenience and a seamless experience both online and off.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Pinterest: The Toddler Years

Friday, March 22, 2013 by

 

Pinterest for E-Commerce Furniture RetailersIt's been a little over a year since Pinterest burst onto the scene, so we at Blueport Commerce thought it a perfect time to check in and see if it's living up to all the initial hype, especially for our furniture retailers. It's certainly tapped into what is for many retailers a dream potential customer pool: women, aged 18-49, who are well-educated with higher incomes – ideal shoppers for furniture retailers. In short, Pinteresters are our buyers.

Pinterest Reaches Out to Businesses

Late last year, Pinterest created business accounts and now they’ve announced an analytics tool. This is a blessing for marketers and furniture retailers whose only option to login was through personal Facebook accounts. In addition, retailers can capture data on pinner, pins and repins, as well as referral traffic clicks and visits. Having even basic analytics is always a best practice when measuring Return on Investment (ROI) on a social media channel.

Offers More to Consumers

“Site experience” is a constant buzzword at Blueport and the same goes when optimizing social media for our clients. Pinterest is currently rolling out updates to its user interface, including increased speed browsing the site. Larger images and icons and discovery features such as “people who pinned this also pinned” images that appear upon zooming into an individual pin increase the site experience. We’re convinced this will only encourage people to spend even more time pinning and re-pinning, adding to the potential for retail conversion. 

A Year Later: Who’s Getting the ROI?

Consumers continue to embrace Pinterest: to vocalize their love for products, recipes and create wish lists. However, while many retailers have found success with increasing conversion on Pinterest, conversion for furniture retailers is still lacking. For items such as furniture, we’re seeing a lower ROI on Pinterest compared to other sharing methods such as Facebook, and email. We believe this is reflective of the type of purchase that is furniture: infrequent, where feedback from close friends and family is highly valued, and the consideration cycle is longer. According to a 2012 Google/Compete Retail Furniture Study, 36% of online furniture shoppers research furniture for over a month before pulling the trigger to purchase.

Using Pinterest is an easy way for people to be inspired by your furniture and accessories and be aware of current trends so you can focus on activities closer to the buy cycle. Pinning from your website should be simple for users to follow, with robust data attached to the pins. Encourage those wish lists, as you never know when they’ll bring someone closer to a big-ticket furniture conversion!

 

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Charitable Brands: How Companies Benefit From Doing Good

Friday, February 15, 2013 by

Sleepy's E-Commerce Retailer CharityMaybe it’s time to take some of that Super Bowl ad money ($262.5 million in 2013 alone) and instead give it to charity. At least that’s what recent studies suggest as they look at how charitable companies can create loyal and profitable customers.  

A trend that’s growing

Perhaps it’s related to the rise of social media, or the increased backlash against the power a huge corporation can wield, but how a company acts is having an ever increasing effect on the general public.

A worldwide study by public relations company Edelman showed that 53% of internet users said that when quality and price were the same, brands that had a social purpose were more likely to trigger a purchase. That 2012 number is an 11% jump from the 42% that was consistent from 2008 to 2010.

An even bigger increase was seen in the frequency of purchases: the percentage of customers who bought at least once a month from cause-focused brands went from 32% in 2010 to 47% in 2012 – nearly a 50% increase.

Consumers favored most highly brands that donated to causes either directly or in-kind, and in the US, charities that ranked at the top in popular causes were those that focused on improving healthcare and alleviating hunger and homelessness.

Strong growth trend for the pioneer in socially responsible business

Patagonia, an outdoor gear company, has been socially responsible from the start. Some of their innovative programs include encouraging their customers to pledge to repair their clothing and sell items they no longer want though the Common Threads Initiative. Since the beginning they have given 1% for the planet – a pledge that 1% of revenue goes to charity each year. And it seems like the efforts are paying off, as the past two years’ growth has approached 30% each year.  

Good PR for furniture brands giving back

Sleepy's Bedder Days program was established in 2011 to partner with organizations serving those in need, especially after a natural disaster. And in December, Sleepy's and Sealy partnered with the "Rachael Ray Show" to give audience members who were affected by Superstorm Sandy new Sealy Posturepedic mattresses and bedding as part of the show's biggest giveaway ever. All 133 audience members are able to select the mattress size and level of support they want.

"Proper sleep is fundamental, and it's tied to overall health and peace of mind," said Adam Blank, Sleepy's chief operating officer. "Sleepy's mission is to provide healthy sleep for everyone, but particularly for those affected by a disaster; the first steps to recovery and normalcy are often associated with sleeping in your own bed."

Blueport Commerce supports the efforts of retailers giving back and we’re encouraged to see such goodwill and generosity, especially from one of our clients (Sleepy’s). So the next time you’re considering running an online or in-store furniture promotion, think of how your company can pay it forward and give back to promote not only your brand, but goodwill.

Selling Furniture Online E-Commerce

 

 

Furniture Shopping: Major Differences Revealed Between Generations

Friday, January 18, 2013 by

Furniture Shopping Online GenerationalFor big-ticket furniture retailers, it’s important to know who is shopping, where, why and how selling furniture online is part of the equation. This week, we at Blueport Commerce are going to give you insights into all of this, drawing on data from a recent Furniture Today and Apartment Therapy study.

The unlikely pair partnered to complete a 1,600-respondent survey on where, why and how different generations shop for furniture. For this survey, Generation Y includes people age 18-36, Generation X includes ages 37-47 and Baby Boomers are 48-66 years old. While you can read the complete study in Furniture Today’s print publication, we provide some of the highlights and our expert insights.

Where People Are Shopping

It’s rare that in a survey, 100% of one group answers a question the same way, however 100% of Generation X and Y respondents answered that they “frequently shop” at lifestyle furniture stores. These stores are defined as retailers that carry furniture and home accents at full price, such as Ikea, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Restoration Hardware, and Crate & Barrel. Baby Boomers’ preferred furniture shopping source is also lifestyle furniture stores, with 69% saying they regularly shop for furniture there. Ikea is the most popular brand, with 44% of Generation Y and 36% of Generation X saying they regularly shop at Ikea.

Traditional furniture stores, where furniture is the store’s total business or single-largest category, were the next most popular shopping destination for many, but with significant generational differences. Half of Baby Boomers commonly shop at traditional furniture stores, but this number drops to 33% for Gen X and only 23% for Gen Y.

Lagging far behind was the  classic department store (defined as full-line operations carrying a variety of merchandise such as Macy’s, JC Penney and Sears), with less than 10% of any generation shopping there regularly.

Why People Shop at These Stores

We believe consumers of all ages respond well to lifestyle furniture stores because they promote a complete experience. Their showrooms and catalogs tend to focus on the feelings and emotions that the furniture and highly stylized rooms provoke, allowing less visual buyers to benefit from product placement and suggestions. They make the entire furniture decision and purchase process more enjoyable for their customers. Many lifestyle furniture stores also sell a wide range of affordable accessories – letting the aspirational shopper get a taste of the brand without committing to a big-ticket purchase.

Shoppers who liked traditional stores cited the quality product and variety as their reasons for shopping there, as well as being locally owned and having top-notch customer service. Comments such as "the store's customer service and free delivery are great" and "I like to support local, small businesses” are typical reasons as to why shoppers preferred to do business with a traditional store.

Blueport Commerce isn’t surprised by these findings, as the advantage of localized big-ticket retail e-commerce is being able to close the gap between brick-and-mortar showrooms and online shopping. Consumers enjoy the experience of the stores and being able to touch and feel the furniture, while reaping the benefits of easy browsing, knowledgeable furniture sales staff and streamlined checkout.

How Furniture E-Commerce Fits In

One of the biggest surprises in this survey is how “online” was a top choice for furniture shopping across all age groups: 39% of Generation Y, 36% of Generation X and 27% of Baby Boomers regularly shop for furniture on the Internet. Why? Because online shopping is “easy” and “a great resource with a wide range of choices.”

It’s encouraging that each generation is more and more comfortable with shopping online for furniture. The increased comfort level is resulting in a significant likelihood to purchase as well. When asked if they’d be comfortable buying a sofa without sitting on it first, 24% of Generation X, 18% of Generation Y and even 15% of Baby Boomers said they would.

As the only localized big-ticket e-commerce solution company, Blueport Commerce has embraced the trend of the growing number of people who are ready and willing to purchase big-ticket items online. By offering consumers more of a lifestyle furniture shopping experience online – for example, using more complete room images and suggesting accent pieces such as lighting and rugs when looking at larger items – retailers can benefit from increased browsing and conversions online.

Additionally, an e-commerce store can offer a targeted experience to consumers, increasing the likelihood of closing a sale. Targeting consumers by generation, for example, makes sense: members of Generation Y may live in smaller-sized apartments and condos, so furniture specifically selected for them, as opposed to Generation X or Baby Boomers in larger homes, can make all the difference. With 46% of respondents claiming they continuously shop for new furniture, providing an engaging online experience could be one of the best investments any furniture store could make.

Furniture E-Commerce

Three Reasons Your Website Must Have Reviews

Friday, December 14, 2012 by

Blueport Commerce e-commerce website reviews big-ticket retailFun fact: 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision according to Econsultancy, making them essential for e-commerce websites. Benefits include optimized SEO, increased conversion rates, improved customer trust, an uplift in sales and more engaged customers. Blueport Commerce, the only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, always encourages our clients to implement reviews on their websites in order to ultimately increase revenue. Here's a look at the benefits of customer reviews, and the numbers behind them.

1. UGC is Good for SEO

User generated content such as product reviews can act as a magnet to crawling search engines like Google and Bing. Because consumers are regularly writing reviews on their purchases, the content is fresh, relevant and updated – just what search engines love. Additionally, consumers often search for the name of the product plus the word "review" or "ratings", which helps with long tail keyword searches. When properly formatted reviews get pulled into search results –for example, with the star ratings or headlines, these rich snippets can produce a 10-20% increase in click-through rates.

2. Trust!

Not surprisingly, consumer reviews are trusted nearly 12 times more than descriptions that come from manufacturers, according to a survey of US internet users by online video review site EXPO. In a Reevoo study, 30% of potential consumers actually suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see any negative reviews on a retailer's website. Additionally, consumers who go out of their way to read bad reviews convert 67% more than the average consumer. So just by having reviews, even with a mixed amount of positive and negative, a big-ticket retail e-commerce website can cause consumers to place more trust in their products and customer service.

3. Sales!

Every big-ticket retailer's ultimate goal is to drive revenue. And reviews produce an average 18% uplift in sales according to Reevoo. Site visitors who interact with both reviews and customer questions and answers are 105% more likely to purchase while visiting, and spend 11% more than visitors who don’t interact with user-generated content, per Bazaarvoice. So by keeping your browsing shoppers engaged with the reviews on your site, you can increase your likelihood of getting them to convert to paying customers.

Blueport encourages all of our clients to implement product reviews on their e-commerce websites and to also actively encourage consumers to leave product reviews, both via emails sent a certain amount of time post-purchase, as well as on product pages. In the end, it can be the difference between a lost opportunity and a closed sale.

3 Holiday Socializing Tips for Retailers

Friday, November 9, 2012 by

Socializing Your Brand Big-Ticket Holiday RetailersAs all consumers know, 'tis the season to be thankful, merry and wise – especially when shopping! And from a big-ticket retailers' perspective, it's more crucial than ever that social media be part of any e-commerce marketing campaign. No longer just for individuals, social media actually affects consumer holiday spending – for example, in 2011, 66% of Black Friday purchases resulted from social media interactions (Fast Company). Here are three ways you can make your social marketing as seasonally appropriate as possible.

1. Be Responsive

Responding in a timely manner and encouraging social sharing are critical to retail chains' success. A recent survey by Fast Company found that brands only respond to half of the posts on their social media pages. This is problematic, as 80% of users who receive a response will end up purchasing. Additionally, when a brand actively communicates with its social media followers, 28% of them will pull the trigger on a purchase specifically because of that outreach. Prioritizing real-time engagement with social media fans, aka your potential consumers, can monetize your social media investment. While this is important to keep in mind every day of the year, with the heightened activity during the holiday, a fast response could make or break the sale.

2. Don't Be Too Sales-Centric

Consumers are consistently bombarded by holiday season retail advertisements, offers and promotions. YesMail's holiday marketing survey found that campaigns aimed strongly on getting consumers to buy showed below-average engagement, while messages about holiday spirit performed much better.

"Consumers are oversaturated with holiday messages this time of year,” said Michael Fisher, president of Yesmail. "Brands have to be especially careful about not being overly promotional during the holidays, even though customers are increasingly turning to social channels to find deals."

It's important that retailers are not viewed as too pushy. When in doubt, focus on what the holiday spirit means, not pushing big-ticket retail product. An example might be a big-ticket furniture retailer sending a regularly-scheduled promotional email about the in-laws visiting during the holidays and the importance of making them feel comfortable in your guest room, while featuring a relevant bedroom collection.

3. Encourage a Social Dialogue

Facebook's mission is to "give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." Likewise, Twitter's is to "instantly connect people everywhere to what's most important to them." Social media networks were initially concepted on the idea that people could be friends digitally, and share things that matter to them – including brands. Think of your organization as a "friend" in the sense that while obviously the bottom line ROI matters, it's key that your social media channels are seen as approachable, helpful and timely – especially at this time of year. How can you encourage a better social dialogue?

  • Enable content that's easily shareable: keep your tweets and Facebook statuses concise, so they can be easily retweeted and shared.
  • Similar to young children on Christmas Eve, holiday spirit never sleeps! Timing matters – schedule holiday posts for off-hours. A YesMail survey recently found almost 60% of consumers prefer to interact with brands on social media between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., but the majority of brands run social campaigns during office hours (Business News Daily).
  • For added holiday spirit, run a holiday-themed promotion, contest or offer on Facebook or Twitter via a third-party app to grow your fanbase and increase virality.

Since May 2012, consumer spending on durable goods, which includes big-ticket items such as cars, washing machines and televisions, climbed 3.6% (Benzinga). As the only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, Blueport Commerce wishes both retailers and consumers a joyful holiday retail season, spurred by a flurry of timely, helpful and friendly social media activity.

Augmented Reality in Furniture Retailing: The Future Is Here

Friday, October 19, 2012 by

A common problem for potential consumers of big-ticket retail items such as furniture and appliances is that it's almost impossible to know how a certain piece will look once it is in their home or office. Measurements can be taken, and photographs can be scrutinized, but it's more often than not a guessing game as to how everything will fit together on delivery day. In fact, one of the biggest e-commerce challenges is that the consumer is often uncomfortable pulling the trigger on big-ticket retail items that cannot be visualized in their own personal space.

At Blueport Commerce we combine the industry's only big-ticket retail e-commerce solution with dedicated e-commerce integration services and personalized service packages to build the right solution for your business. Part of providing all of the components required for a successful e-commerce site is ensuring retailers have the technology necessary to help consumers solve the age-old dilemma of how furniture or appliances will look in their rooms. Here are two hot new furniture retail technologies currently on the market that attempt to do just that.

Augmented Reality 3D


1. 3D Room Designer by Crate & Barrel

Crate & Barrel has introduced 3D Room Designer, an in-store tool which allows a customer to drop a digital photo of a room in their home or office into a 3D room model – without recreating a floor plan. The customer makes an appointment online and either emails or brings a photo on a USB stick to a nearby Crate & Barrel location. The height of the room is the only measurement the customer needs to know. From there, the customer can work with a store associate to transform their space with 3D models of Crate & Barrel merchandise, swapping out products, materials and colors. More than 2,000 Crate & Barrel products are incorporated into the 3D Room Designer, with all combinations of materials and fabrics together. Store associates are then able to print and email photos of the redesigned rooms to the customer, along with a list of all the items chosen.

While this technology certainly aims to solve the issue of visualization, the problem is that the final image can often look cartoonish and not realistic enough for the consumer to want to purchase. And while the goal of this 3D Room Designer is to drive traffic to brick-and-mortar stores, some customers will not want to make an in-store appointment and then go to the physical store. Additionally, by having the product only available in stores, it turns away those customers who may be in the research stage and want to simply “play around” with the tool online, and make a purchase decision weeks or months down the road.

By ignoring the needs of customers who live in rural areas, far from a store, as well as those who simply prefer to do all of their research and shopping online, Crate & Barrel is losing potential customers. In the spirit of true omnichannel retailing, Blueport Commerce recommends that Crate & Barrel creates a web version of 3D Room Designer that allows customers to do the manipulations themselves, as well as purchase the items online, rather than only going to the physical store.

Augmented Reality Big-Ticket Retail

2. Mydeco 3D

Mydeco.com, a UK-based online home store that sells furniture and home accessories from multiple retailers, boasts 3D, an online floor planner that lets customers visualize their home in 3D when buying new furniture. From the comfort of their home, a customer can upload up to 2 floor plans for free and move the walls and manipulate furniture from any of Mydeco’s retailers to their liking. After the customer is satisfied, they will receive back a 3D rendering in one business day. Additionally, the site has a community feel in that customers can connect with Mydeco’s collection of interior design enthusiasts, students, and professionals.

Mydeco.com also has another tool, Moodboard Creator, which is a Pinterest-like tool that lets consumers use furniture and home accessories from Mydeco.com (or any image they like) to get inspired to redecorate their homes. Pictures can be rotated and mixed, along with background and frames.

Blueport Commerce recognizes the value of Mydeco.com’s 3D tool, as the output is more realistic than Create & Barrel’s 3D Room Planner, and it allows users to get more creative, with furnishings from multiple retailers. Additionally, consumers can use the tool from their homes or offices, and not have to make an appointment or drive to a physical store location. The community and social feel of Mydeco’s 3D planner and Moodboard Creator allow for a greater viral reach, encouraging users to share their designs within the Mydeco community, as well as social sites such as Google+, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. The only negative is that it’s not as fully visually compelling as it could be yet – it has not achieved the next step of augmented reality.
 

Augmented Reality The Next Dimension

Imagine in the near future a customer being able to walk into a brick-and-mortar store and, with their mobile device or a device supplied by the store, scan and have elements of the display room pop out with information such as pricing, reviews, dimensions, availability and description. Or imagine being able to scan a room in your home or office you wish to redecorate with your mobile device, and have a retailer’s furniture placed into your home, in varying colors and at scale. Hidden Creative has a video depiction that suggests such a possibility here (at the 2:00 minute mark) through the next step of Augmented Reality, called Articulated Naturality Web. As the drive to capture the increasingly-connected consumer continues, retailers will need to stay attuned to technology advancements that can aid them in reaching and capturing tech-savvy consumers.

Blueport Commerce is currently developing exciting new technology that includes augmented reality. Our goal is to help solve the e-commerce challenge of allowing consumers to envision their desired big-ticket retail item in their own space. Let us know if we can help you develop technology to enhance your brick-and-mortar store or e-commerce website presence – we would welcome the opportunity to enrich the consumer experience and increase e-commerce transactions for your business.

Related posts:

E-Commerce Lengthens the Path to Purchase

Friday, August 31, 2012 by

Back in the early 2000s, the path to purchase for a jacket or dress probably went something like this: choose a store or cluster of stores, browse around, try a few items on, make your decision and buy. The entire process took about half a day. But now in 2012, the time to get from browsing to buying takes 3.4 days, according to this article from InternetRetailing.

The article cites data, focused on fashion, showing that digital retail channels are responsible for this shift. Between e-commerce websites, mobile apps and physical stores, shoppers have a number of outlets to complete the full purchasing cycle as compared to 10 years ago when they primarily relied on the physical store. Today, nearly 91% of consumers use at least two channels before making the purchase.

The purchase process is composed of four steps: “browsing, researching, purchasing and collection.” The data shows consumers are spending half an hour longer on the first step and less time on the last three (largely because online retailers make it all more efficient). Then what is responsible for the nearly three additional days dedicated to shopping? Much more time now exists between each phase. A shopper can look in a store on Saturday and then visit the retailer’s website on Monday at lunch to pick up where she left off.

This creates a new challenge for multichannel retailers that need to keep customers engaged with their brands over a longer time period. It also creates additional opportunities as retailers know more about their customers, being able to better target and personalize this longer shopping cycle through emails and advertising.

What About Big-Ticket, Highly Considered Goods?

Big-ticket items, like furniture and cars, already have a significantly longer purchase cycle, lasting months, so these retailers already have some valuable experience in maintaining relationships over a longer period of time. The challenge with big-ticket retailers is adapting offline strategies to work in this increasingly digital world.

Here at Blueport, we work with our furniture retail clients to leverage the best the digital channels have to offer in a way that complements their existing physical programs. This includes everything from integrating physical store customers into our targeted email streams and leveraging the data we have on online customers to create a more personalized experience on site and off.

The increased length of time it now takes consumers to make a purchase could be a winning proposition for retailers and their e-commerce websites. The big opportunity is that there is now more time to target and refine your messaging as well as build your brand to potential shoppers – those retailers that seize this opportunity will end up ahead!

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Email’s Not Dead for E-Commerce, But a Little Relevance Goes a Long Way

Friday, August 17, 2012 by

With stretched resources and even more marketing channels than ever, the upcoming Q4 is a looming proposition for many retailers. Now is a great time to take a hard look at your digital marketing tactics, and allocate your resources based on what really works. And many retailers will see that good, old email is still a winner.

But Why Email?

With social media this and Instagram that, how can old-fashioned email compete? Well, we’re not necessarily talking about old-fashioned email, but we’ll get into that later. First, take a look at these stats from ExactTarget’s 2012 Channel Preference Survey:

  • 77% of consumers prefer emails for their permission-based marketing.
  • 91% access their email daily, compared to 57% who access Facebook at that same frequency.
  • 66% have made a purchase as a result of an email message.
  • 63% use email to share content with friends and family.

So now the question of why email becomes how can you, as an e-commerce retailer, use email to get consumers to purchase? The answer is creating relevant touch points between you and your customers.

Send Targeted Emails

Email targeting is not just about including your customer’s name, although that sometimes is a nice touch. Better targeting is about sending the right emails to the correct customer base, leveraging data you have to make it a meaningful interaction, ranging from recent product views to recommendations and interests based on third parties. “This strategy is not only effective in short-term results, but my research has shown that it also greatly improves overall engagement of your subscribers. If someone is only receiving emails based on topics that they have proven to be interested in (and therefore not receiving emails that don't interest them), they will begin to trust your brand more and be more likely to open messages and interact further with your company on a long-term basis,” says a ClickZ piece titled “Breaking News: Email’s Not Dead!

And Trigger Emails

Trigger emails are those that get sent to a customer based on an action, like registering for the website, abandoning the shopping cart or even recently visiting the website. Often automated, these triggers tie right into the action your customer recently took. Triggers can be a powerful reminder and incite action. According to one MarketingSherpa case study, a motorcycle dealer receives an average 52% open rate and a 7% conversion rate. We’ve achieved similar results for our clients with trigger email programs.

Has this sparked some ideas for how you might optimize your own e-commerce email programs?

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This Summer, Give Your E-Commerce Biz Some Social Buzz

Friday, July 6, 2012 by

For online retailers, everywhere you turn is another way for you to be more social as a brand so you can reach your customers in new and more engaging ways. If only you could find the time to integrate social media into your overarching e-commerce strategy…

Here at Blueport Commerce, we think the summer is a fabulous time to boost your social presence on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and more. As consumers turn their focus to lighter fare and a virtual sense of bumming around, you can make sure your brand is there to meet them with whimsical blog posts, interactive contests and maybe even a viral video.

Here are some of our best posts on social branding for e-commerce businesses to inspire you for success:

Does Orbitz Use Data to Drive Up Sales Through Site Search?

Friday, June 29, 2012 by

One of the many benefits of e-commerce sites is the customer data. We’ve discussed its merits many times, including how it can shape your entire retail operation. But sometimes, online businesses go astray and use customer information in ways that come off, well, kind of odd.

The most recent offense is Orbitz. According to this Mashable piece, after finding that customers on Macs tend to spend 30% more on hotel rooms than other customers, Orbitz purposely serves up more expensive offers to users who access the site via Macs.

While users know that websites use some of their data in order to serve up better, more personalized experiences for customers (people no longer bat an eye at retargeted advertising), the issue here is the lack of transparency.  Search is sacred. Users expect search results to display based on date or most popular, and if a site were to use another option, it should be clearly identified as the default. Orbitz’s default is “Best Values,” which you’d expect to be the same regardless of the computer you are using.

A Smart, Effective Way E-Commerce Sites Can Boost Sales Using Customer Data

But this doesn’t mean Orbitz can’t use the behaviors they’ve tracked to increase their sales. At Blueport Commerce, we often work with our clients to develop campaigns based on user data. So we would suggest that Orbitz develop a campaign geared toward the Mac users that leaves the same search experience in tact for all. Additionally, Orbitz could incorporate other data points to include habits by location and page visits to create a customized experience for its customers.

Optimize Site Real Estate: Allocate space on the site to offer real-time offers based on customers’ site actions. This could include offering a special incentive to Mac users when they book at a more expensive hotel. For PC users, the threshold for the offer could be lower.

Targeted Emails: Similarly, Orbitz could send emails with special offers that consider a number of factors for each user.

Featured Offers: If Orbitz wants to play with its search, why doesn’t it play like the big boys and consider in-line featured offers, similar to Google’s sponsored listings? This would allow Orbitz to put specific offers based on user attributes at the top of the search results, but they could look slightly different, letting users know that they were chosen to display rather than just part of the natural search results.

Like Orbits, we at Blueport do believe customer data opens a world of opportunities for fine-tuning the online selling process. We, however, believe transparency is necessary for building the ever-important customer relationship.

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The Future of E-Commerce Will Go Beyond Transactions

Friday, June 15, 2012 by

A recent Forbes piece takes a look at the future of e-commerce and how curated retail sites, like AHAlife are just the beginning of what is to come.

To date, there is no doubt that e-commerce is a force for quick retail transactions. From toothpaste and books to diapers and concert tickers. You know what you want, go to the website and in a few clicks these goods are on their way to your door. But these are the items that don’t require tons of research and thought.

For big-ticket items, like furniture, consumers want a more intimate experience with what they are buying. They want an emotional connection with the sofa before they pay a larger sum and welcome the piece into their home. As Shauna Mei, AHAlife’s founder says, “the next 10 years [for e-commerce] will be about leveraging digital technology to enhance and create real, emotional experiences.” And we here at Blueport Commerce, with our solutions and services for big-ticket retailers, believe we are on the forefront of this movement.

For years, we have been working with our clients to help them use the best of the web and technology to bring their product catalog to life. Through detailed imagery and rich product descriptions that go far beyond manufacturers’ details, we help our clients create romance and a story behind each item. We create an emotional connection between shoppers and the items they browse, giving them reason to take action, whether it’s using their online research to go in-store or choosing to buy the big-ticket item right there online.

We at Blueport are excited about this next step in the evolution of e-commerce and know that we and our clients are poised for continued success.

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E-Commerce Gets Fabber -- and More Social!

Friday, May 18, 2012 by

Fab.com’s 3.5 million US members were alerted by email to new site enhancements released on Wednesday: “We just reinvented social shopping. Again,” the email proclaimed.

While the fruits of Fab.com’s labors are to be determined, the site released more than 100 enhancements, many with an eye to further integration with Facebook and Pinterest and the fun of social sharing. The e-commerce website’s goal is to “successfully almost replicate the experience people have when they go shopping with their friends in the physical world,” said CEO Jason Goldberg in a Betabeat article. “That’s hard to do online, but we think we’re coming a lot closer to that.”

Fab.com’s Social History

As you may recall, Fab.com originally launched as a social network itself. So it’s not surprising CEO Jason Goldberg would find value in social commerce. But he also has hard numbers to support it:

  • 50% of new customers come to Fab.com through social sharing.
  • 30% to 40% of an average day’s traffic comes from Facebook.
  • 2% of site visits come from Pinterest (and that’s pre-integration).

Additionally, right on its own site, Fab.com was finding that 15% of visits to the Fab live feed result in a purchase.

The New and Improved Fab.com Social Commerce Experience

While the many enhancements range in significance, here is a look at some of the more interesting site changes for Fab.com consumers:

A new Friends tab has been added to the live feed so customers can see specifically what their Facebook friends are buying.

  • On product pages, Fab.com has replaced its Google+ button with “Pin It” functionality.
  • Customers can Pin items directly from the live feed.
  • The live feed has additional sorting options, so customers can opt to see a specific category.
  • Consumers can buy directly from the feed without first going to an item’s product page.
  • Fab.com also introduced new navigation that brings attention to trending categories and products.
  • There are also new privacy settings, so users can control those actions that get shared.

What Can Your E-Commerce Website Learn from Fab.com?

Whether it’s an issue of resources or your own comfort level with social commerce, your e-commerce website may not be ready to integrate with social networking sites in the way Fab.com has done, but there are some easier, quicker social wins that could boost your e-commerce branding and sales.

Social Integration: Make it easy for your customers to share items with their social network pages. Encourage customers to pin your products to Pinterest or Like them on Facebook. Go to the appropriate social networking sites for integration information.

Social Presence: Creating brand pages on Facebook and Pinterest allows you to interact with your customers in new ways. Customers want to feel special, so involve them in a behind-the-scenes look at your company by asking them questions about the products you sell or future promotions you may run. And of course, exclusive deals and contests never hurt anyone and can be a viral way to expand your network.

Put Policies in Place: Whether you have a social presence or not, your customers do. If they have a really great experience or a really awful one, they will likely take it to the web. Be ready and have a process in place to handle any negative vibes out there. But also consider a policy for rewarding people who truly love your brand. This can run the gamut from special drawings for giveaways to enlisting these brand loyalists to help you create content by Pinning or blogging for you.

What is clear is that now is the time of social, and it’s up to e-commerce companies to forage their way into this new and exciting frontier.

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Putting the Local in SoLoMo E-Commerce

Friday, May 11, 2012 by

SoLoMo is not just one of the most entertaining buzzwords to say that has emerged in the last year, but it is also the topic of a recent blog post at Shop.org. The post discusses data and topics Forrester Research’s Melissa Parrish presented at a recent workshop. While there’s some interesting information about mobile for retailers, the conclusion it comes to on the local aspect of SoLoMo e-commerce is a little disheartening, and I would say that we can do better than that.

Findings on SoLoMo Consumers

First, let’s look at the good stuff retailers should know when working on their social, local, mobile commerce plan.

To date, most SoLoMo activities for retailers have focused on the “check-in.” While some brands have created geolocation-based apps, only about 5% of online US users with mobile phones use them. While that 5% is a very socially active group and is twice as likely to share product information, reviews and offers with friends, they are mostly male. So they are a small audience that might not fit in many retailers’ core demographic.

Additionally, Forrester has identified a new group of consumers: “the always addressable customer.” These consumers own and use at least three connected devices, and  go online several times a day from several different locations . Always addressable customers tend to be highly educated, high earners who are very social and use technology as a tool.

A Closer Look at Local E-Commerce

Based on these findings, the post questions what local means for selling goods online, and suggests focusing on giving consumers access to the brand rather than physical location. “So where does ‘local’ fit in to this data? For a retailer, the ‘Lo’ part of SoLoMo is simply that wherever your customer goes, you must be there. ‘Don’t think technology first – think about what your customer needs.’”

While I agree you need consumers to be able to reach your brand, product information and make a purchase wherever, whenever and however they want in a seamless and integrated manner, local content is an essential part of the equation that this blog post completely overlooks.

Similar to Forrester’s always addressable customer, eMarketer presents the smartphone class, and it describes its members as people who “snack” on their smartphones, consuming bits of content throughout the day. This gives retailers multiple potential touchpoints, but of course, there is a lot of noise retailers have to break through.

Offering localized content, like products the consumer can order with inexpensive delivery and shorter delivery times, creates a more engaging experience between your customers and your brand. And with big-ticket items, like furniture, tying into the closest store where the customer can go see and feel the item could be the difference in making or losing a sale.

Retailers that use mobile technology to be able to both engage consumers wherever they are and add a localized layer to drive customers in store will win. Sometimes even highly connected customers want to interact with real people. Being able to remind customers where you are (and how close that may be) when they feel they need you gives you the ultimate edge.

We at Blueport Commerce help our clients offer a local shopping experience for their customers regardless of the device. We tie right into our clients’ systems and have the same up to the minute inventory and product information the stores have, helping to create the omnichannel, seamless presence consumers now demand.

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Celebrity-Curated E-Commerce Hits Home Decor

Friday, April 20, 2012 by

These days, shopping online is like going to a post-Oscars party. You can grab a drink (in this case, one from your home bar) and settle in to see some of the hottest stars and the hottest fashion. Who’s the latest guest to join the party? Justin Timberlake.

This week, BeachMint announced Justin Timberlake will work with his interior designer, Estee Stanley, to select home goods and accessories to be sold on HomeMint.com, the company’s newest property to launch later this spring. JT will be in good company, lending his name and design sensibility alongside Kate Bosworth (JewelMint), Jessica Simpson (BeautyMint) and Rachel Bilson (ShoeMint). In similar news, LuxeYard.com, a luxury home furnishings and décor flash sale site, announced the addition of entertainment journalist/reality TV personality Giuliana Rancic to its list of curating trendsetters.

Why Celebrity Curators Equal Big Business for E-Commerce

According to this Practical Ecommerce article, when OpenSky first launched its e-commerce site, leveraging influential bloggers to sell merchandise, the model did not work. When the company relaunched in April 2011 using celebrity curators (Kristin Cavallari, Guy Fieri and Molly Sims, to name a few) who choose the products and accompanying recommendations and content, it was a model that worked.  Revenue and orders are growing 50% month to month, and the company hit $1 million in sales last October.

While celebrity endorsements are nothing new, why does celebrity curation have such a profound and positive effect on e-commerce sales?

Personalizing the Website: Celebrity-curated e-commerce sites  bring a personal feeling to the online shopping experience. Customers aren’t virtually strolling down Amazon.com’s endless array of aisles, but are instead being guided in their shopping experience to items that are already endorsed to have value.

Appeals to Women: Women do the majority of online shopping and tend to use the web socially much more than men do. Most of the categories that have so far seen success with celebrity curation – home goods, apparel,  cosmetics, cooking – are verticals where women buy, and much of the celebrity curation has been geared toward that demographic.

Brand-Building: By aligning with a celebrity, online retailers get the halo of that celebrity’s reputation. It’s a fairly quick way for a website to establish its expertise, style and reputation.

And, of course, it’s a bit of good, old-fashioned star power. After all, when it comes down to it, wouldn’t you like a little more Justin Timberlake in your home?

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How Will Facebook’s Acquisition of Instagram Impact the Social Network for Retail Brands?

Friday, April 13, 2012 by

You likely heard the news this week that Facebook is acquiring Instagram, a mobile photo-sharing app, for $1 billion.
 
According to DailyDealMedia, with Facebook’s IPO a month away, some were expecting the company to announce major news related to e-commerce capabilities on the social network. While an F-commerce announcement is still rumored to surface between now and the public offering, there’s much that might come out of the Instagram acquisition that could make Facebook a more robust platform for e-commerce marketing and potentially monetization. Take a look at what Instagram is bringing to the social network table:

Instagram’s Audience

The Instagram app is on 30 million iDevices. When it was recently made available for Android, 1 million people signed on within 12 hours. And when users share photos through Instagram, they use the filters and the app’s rich tagging system to share with family and friends. Which brings us to…

Data, Data and More Data

Embedded in these photos is a lot of information. Photographs put the consumer in a specific location at a specific time. Your images show your real interests and whether or not you have children or pets. They weave a richer story, and show the people you actually spend time with (as compared to your Facebook friends). These images and the data that comes with them can be a marketer’s dream. Marketing could be targeted to the content of your photographs.

Brand Engagement

Facebook’s current photo album functionality could be greatly improved by Instagram’s filtering and tagging abilities. If Instagram’s features are integrated into Facebook’s photos, then companies will be able to create a much more engaging visual presence for their brands.

Mobile Capabilities

To date, Facebook has been lacking in the mobile department – Instagram is all about mobile. It’s easier and quicker to share an image than a status post from a phone. With Instagram, that photo will be more compelling. And, Instagram’s 30 million+ users are already engaged in the mobile platform.

Social Commerce

So does Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram have a direct e-commerce of F-commerce play? I would venture, it sure does! So far, the one social networking platform to be the quickest to monetize its clicks? Pinterest, of course.

According to this blog post on VentureBeat, Pinterest has grown from driving 1.2% of social media revenue for  e-commerce websites in Q2 2011 to now being responsible for 17.4%. They’re projecting “Pinterest will be responsible for 40% of social media e-commerce transactions by end of Q2 2012, reducing Facebook’s share to slightly under 60% from 86% a year ago.” What’s even more interesting is that consumers are discovering new retail brands via Pinterest, in contrast to consumers following brands they already know on Facebook.

While we can’t be certain how Facebook will integrate with Facebook, we are definitely excited to see how it will all play out and the effects it will have on e-commerce, social commerce and multichannel retailing.

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Online Retailers Can Close Sales with Curated E-Commerce

Friday, March 23, 2012 by

When looking for anything on the web, people are faced with numerous possibilities. It’s like our lives have turned into an overwhelming list of search results listings with seemingly limitless possibilities. For some, this is an opportunity to explore and play, but for others this is just plain daunting. Here at Blueport, we believe thematically culling items is especially helpful for big-ticket retailers that sell larger items that aren’t easily shopped around like other commodities.

And shopping on an e-commerce website is the same. Many online retailers’ site links are merely returning keyword searches, giving shoppers choices, but sometimes the vast number of items returned is too large. As a recent eMarketer article about its new report, “Curated E-Commerce: How Less Can Be More for Shoppers,” says, “As the Internet matures and expands, the number of choices available to users grows exponentially…. Over time, though, human curation was all but replaced by algorithm-based searching.”

The report discusses the merits of retailers hand-picking items and grouping items together based on themes or other qualities beyond data points that might align with a specific user’s Facebook profile data points. It’s about bringing a genuine human quality back to the online shopping experience that can’t be replicated solely through metrics.

“Curated e-commerce is becoming recognized by both retailers and shoppers for its simplicity and ability to help fill an online void,” says Krista Garcia, the report’s author. “There will always be a place for comprehensive, multi-category retail sites, but fine-tuned collections enhanced by personal touches also perform a necessary function in the e-commerce ecosystem.”

How Curated E-Commerce Can Help Your Online Store

Here at Blueport, we believe thematically culling items is especially helpful for big-ticket retailers, like our clients, that sell larger items that aren’t easily cross-shopped like more commoditized items. Often, shoppers come to our clients’ websites knowing they want a sofa or a dining room set and little beyond that. They may have specific ideas related to material, color, size or price point, but often stores are not organized by these characteristics. But curated collections can be!

Curated galleries of merchandise allows retailers to guide their customers to product in different ways, often with a more brand-oriented, personal touch. Retailers can use these galleries to offer information related to what they sell so customers get advice as well as exposure to a specific slice of inventory. It helps to perpetuate the retailer’s voice and authority.

We have already developed curated offerings for our clients and have found that those shoppers who interact with category widgets or curated collections on the websites and via email have deeper interactions with the sites overall. And we think an even more aggressive curated approach will capture more consumers in an increasingly overwhelming online shopping landscape.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Why You Should Get on Board with Pinterest

Friday, February 24, 2012 by

It's hard to ignore the hype around Pinterest, the new social sharing platform, and you're forgiven if you are hesitating to invest hours into yet another new social tool. But if you take a close look at what it does and who is using it, we think you'll find Pinterest is worth spending some time on, especially if you're a home furnishings retailer.

What is Pinterest anyway?

It's a place where people can share things they like - such as products, recipes, or ideas - via a pin on a virtual board. Users can follow each other's boards, and can re-pin what they like. Given its similarity to how interior designers create boards to showcase decorating ideas, it's not surprising that many boards focus on home decor and design.

Who's using Pinterest?

Both the demographics and the usage patterns of a typical member are much of what's driving the hype.

  • The majority of Pinterest users are women between the ages of 25 and 54 (source: KISSMetrics)
  • The site received over 11 million users in January, more than double the number in November, and the average visitor spend 100 minutes on the site ( source: The Wall Street Journal)
  • Pinterest is now in the top 5 of referring social sites (source: Shareaholic)

Where should I start?

The best thing about Pinterest is that it's easy to get started and doesn't require round-the-clock care like Facebook or Twitter. You can easily set up multiple contributors to an account so different people can create and maintain boards for your brand. To keep in the spirit of the community, don't stop at pinning your own products, share design inspirations, tips and how-tos, even pictures of the employees who help create the products. And don't forget to update your web site to allow others to easily pin your products!

Do you have some great tips on using Pinterest as a retailer? Share them here!

 

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

 

E-Commerce Marketing Departments Must Embrace and Work with IT

Friday, February 10, 2012 by
Looking at last week’s post, it seems marketing and IT have switched personalities for this discussion, as marketing is usually the promoter of the bright and shiny future while IT proceeds with caution seeing dangers around every corner.

After years of working with in-house tools and best-in-class SaaS solutions, Blueport’s marketing department has a few words of caution for our kin who are working to gain control over their own technologies.

Know What the SaaS Will Really Offer Your E-Commerce Website

There is an ever-increasing number of technologies being pitched to marketing as being the key to higher conversions, with easy-to-use interfaces and “little IT involvement” required. But beware of false promises and flashy demos. For every app that really makes your life better (like social media posting apps), there are apps that will only add to your workflow, not your bottom line. Many seemingly promising apps turn out to be so limited and inflexible that in a month your ideas will have exceeded their capabilities.  Even worse are the apps that make website pages grind to a halt as they call numerous third parties to display data in a fancy new interface.

Technical Resources Required

One of the benefits of your internal development team is their ability to help identify your needs and find a real solution. While the solution may be found outside your company, marketing will still need business analysts and vendor managers to help evaluate and maintain these new services. These professionals, which typically sit in the IT part of the organization, will have insights and questions that are not evident to all in the organization. These same talents are needed to ensure these services are implemented correctly and doing what you expect them to do on the client side – many of these SaaS provides offer little handholding around the backend of things. I would caution marketing to be too willing to take over their own IT projects without first having these resources in place.

Tracking All Your Systems

Lastly, be aware that tying these systems together with other marketing efforts and internal systems to gain a complete view of your customer becomes more and more difficult with each new service. Each service will come with its own usage data, which may or may not conflict with other information you have. Make sure this new information really adds value, and not just inactionable data.

When IT and Marketing Collaborate, There’s Some Letting Go

For e-commerce companies and the like to truly advance and be competitive in a world where the latest technology consumers want to experience may come from anywhere, marketing and development leaders should sit down and set some ground rules as to who makes the calls – with input from the other – on what functionality. In other words, they should draw the lines between core (IT’s domain) and subject area (marketing) expertise. On an e-commerce site, the key shopping cart workflow would be ultimately owned by development but product reviews would be marketing’s domain. While it is necessary for each side to provide input and support on changes and technology, clear owners will help keep projects and advancements moving along.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Are Trigger Emails the Real One-to-One Communication for E-Commerce?

Friday, January 27, 2012 by
For years, the promise of one-to-one communications with customers has made online marketers giddy with the personalized messages they’d be able to deliver and the resounding results they’d get back. Sadly, reality isn’t always the same as what we can dream up.

In the case of one-to-one marketing, the tools technically exist. Companies have rich data on their customers and e-mail systems have the ability to target based on them, but the missing ingredient is the content that has to be generated to create this truly unique messaging. Is the content creation and its associated cost worth the return on investment, or is there a better way?

Here at Blueport, we’ve worked to achieve true one-to-one communication for our clients and have seen few returns. But trigger messages based on the customers’ lifecycle has been a completely different story. We’re able to segment users and send them relevant messages based on actions they’ve taken on the website. If marketers get too specific, the messaging becomes hard to maintain without becoming more useful .

Apparently we're not the only ones to come to this conclusion. According to a recent article on ClickZ, “Triggered communications are being widely adopted. This is messaging that, while not necessarily personalized in content, is triggered in response to specific behaviors or events, giving each recipient the feeling that the message was personal due to contextual relevance. Whether it's time, location, or behaviorally triggered, such messaging can feel extremely personal and engaging even though it may be being sent to thousands of recipients each day.”

This year, I have seen our retailers embrace the trigger/lifecycle message concept as a requirement to how they do business thanks to its positive ROI and high user engagement. It's just one way we're making ourselves relevant to our customers and not just another retailer in the crowd.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce