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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.

 

E-Commerce Holiday Shopping Is So Last Year…How to Sell During January's Retail Hangover

Friday, January 6, 2012 by
The immense e-commerce success of the holiday shopping season is so last year. Now online merchants need to navigate January’s retail hangover.

This year, with holiday spending significantly up from previous years, January and February spending is projected to drop more drastically in contrast. "Now that those credit card bills are hitting mailboxes, shoppers will cut back in a very significant way relative to [the] January and February of the last few years," says a DailyFinance article, quoting Britt Beemer, group chairman of America's Research Group, in a statement.

Add to that the overall state of the economy, regardless of any holiday binging, and consumer spending is expected to be tepid, says a New York Times article. “Consumer spending makes up 70 percent of the economy, so until it ignites, general growth is likely to be sluggish,” it reads.

So what can online retailers do to come out on top during a typically slow time of the year that might be slower than normal? We at Blueport suggest you try one or more of these ideas:

Sell More with Volume Discounts

Steep price cuts can be detrimental to your retail business, especially long-term. Instead, work to increase average sales by offering volume or tiered discounts.

Focus on Customer Service and Value


Don’t allow your e-commerce business, whether big-ticket or not, to become solely commodity-driven. Zappos.com, for example, may not always offer the cheapest price, but the value that comes from the e-retailer’s brand, policies and customer service make it a destination for consumers. What can you do or offer to make your e-commerce website more valuable than your competitors’?

Spend Time on Social Media

Building your social media presence can be time-consuming, but it can also be an invaluable investment. Take the time now to create your social media brand. Try out special offers for your Facebook fans and test new ideas in this realm. See if allowing fans to vote on deals and other social initiatives can incrementally boost sales.

Expand Your Email List


Reaching out to more consumers now will help your e-commerce brand be poised to sell when they are ready to buy. Are you doing everything you can to grow this list of names? Is there an incentive or contest you could offer? Also, consider the types of messaging you might be able to deliver during this shopping downtime. Mix in some informative content that would be worthy of sending to a friend to extend your efforts.

Don’t Forget Your Recent Customers


Reach out to customers who have bought from your e-commerce website to encourage them to write reviews of their purchases. Any incentive you offer will be worth it -- this user-generated content will help create a strong, interactive e-commerce website to convert future customers.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Rethink Shopping Cart Abandonment on Your E-Commerce Site

Friday, December 16, 2011 by
Cart abandoners are not the enemies of your online retail business, skewing your site metrics. In fact, they could be your best prospects.

So says research conducted by ClickZ’s Charles Nicholls to be compiled in an e-book this month. His analysis of the behavior of more than 600,000 online users and 250,000 e-commerce transactions show that shopping cart abandonment is now a natural part of the buying process. The key for e-commerce merchants is to recognize cart abandonment as such and then to create marketing programs to capitalize on the different situations in which customers abandon their carts.

Nicholls split customers who abandon their carts into three segments: one-time abandoners, serial abandoners and recent goal abandoners. Serial abandoners appear to be the sweet spot for conversions.

Serial Shopping Cart Abandoners

Serial shopping cart abandoners put items in their carts and then abandon their purchases multiple times within a one-month timeframe. Forty-eight percent of these customers will convert after being remarketed to – that’s more than twice the rate at which one-time abandoners who are remarketed to convert. An average of 18 percent of one-time abandoners will pull the trigger on purchasing after being remarketed to.

Recent goal abandoners are e-commerce customers who have already completed purchases with your website but then come back to your site and abandon their carts. These customers, who have already bought from your e-commerce website, are the most likely to abandon their carts again, but they are also the most likely to make another purchase from you.

How E-Commerce Retailers Can Capitalize on Shopping Cart Abandoners

E-commerce merchants need to recognize shopping cart abandonment as a natural step in the buying process and create plans that offer specific messaging and service to cart abandoners. Here at Blueport, we have helped many of our clients find success by creating marketing programs like these:

Remarketing Emails

Your e-commerce retail business should have an email plan in place to reach out to customers who abandon their shopping carts. The messaging can be fairly specific since you know a lot about these customers, including the specific items and categories they are shopping for.

And don’t forget to reach out to those who have bought from your website. Follow up with additional offers and related products based on their purchases. If you win a customer over with one purchase, you could have a customer for life.

Remarketing Advertising

Similar to an email strategy, you can use display advertising to remarket to your customers once they have left your site. While there is debate about how Big Brother remarketing and retargeting ads can feel to consumers, when implemented correctly, they can lead to increased conversions.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday -- How Did E-Commerce Do?

Friday, December 2, 2011 by
Combined together, Thanksgiving Day's couch commerce, Black Friday's mobile shopping on the go and Cyber Monday’s work surfing all made the official opening to this year’s holiday shopping season quite the event. Numbers across the board have been record-setting, and both brick-and-mortar and online retailers are excited as this is just the start of the holiday shopping season.

Here’s a roundup of articles and blogs reporting on these successful online shopping days and what might come next:

Thanksgiving & Black Friday

TechCrunch – Thanksgiving Day Online Holiday Sales Up 39%; Mobile Shopping on the Rise: “As we heard a few weeks ago, retailers were expecting Thanksgiving Day to be a major online shopping day as more and more consumers are hitting their laptops, tablets and more to get a head start on sales in between Turkey time. It looks like early results point to the day being a profitable one for retailers. According to IBM’s Coremetrics retail data, online Thanksgiving 2011 sales were up 39 percent over Thanksgiving 2010.”

E-Commerce Times – E-Commerce Rings Up Boffo Black Friday: "Though Black Friday is typically the day shoppers make a beeline for the big box stores and malls, there were plenty of sweet e-commerce deals to be had, and shoppers swarmed online to snap them up. On Black Friday alone, $800 million in online spending occurred."

Business2Community – Black Friday Saw Strong Increases in Online & Mobile Sales: “As many could have predicted, consumers continued to turn to online and mobile to make purchases on Black Friday. And as it turned out, brands with a strong, integrated retail marketing strategy in place took the cake. According to IBM Smarter Commerce CSO, brands [that] came out on top were those [that] ‘delivered a smarter commerce experience with compelling, relevant deals that people could easily access from their channel of choice.’”
 
Cyber Monday


New York Daily News – Cyber Monday Sales Break Records, Soaring 33% As More Shoppers Do Their Holiday Buying on the Go: “Cyber Monday turned out to be a monster hit for retailers. On the heels of a supersized Black Friday, Cyber Monday broke the record for the most e-commerce sales ever, with sales rising a whopping 33%, according to IBM Benchmark.”

Wired – Cyber Monday Pays Off Big Time: “Cyber Monday, until last year the often over-hyped alter-ego of Black Friday, has not only broken over $1 billion for the second year in a row, but has seen last year’s billion and raised some. There was a time when the busiest online shopping day of the year was generally sometime closer to Christmas, when people were getting last-minute gift-shopping done. But now the race is on hours after Thanksgiving, in both the bricks-and-mortar and virtual worlds.”

E-Commerce Times – Cyber Monday Racks Up Impressive Gains: “So far, so good for e-commerce this holiday season. Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw robust sales with surprising gains over last year's performance. Whether consumers will continue to spend beyond expectations, however, is questionable.”

Marketing Pilgrim – Cyber Monday Beats Black Friday: "Cyber Monday is over and the results are in. It’s a HIT! According to IBM Benchmark, Cyber Monday sales were up 33% over last year. The average order value also rose from $193.24 to $198.26. Unlike Black Friday, there were two peaks during the day, one at 11:05 PST and again late in the evening…. Except for the early morning hours, Cyber Monday beat the pants off online Black Friday buying to the tune of 29.3%."

Sign on San Diego – New Shopping Pattern Emerged on Cyber Monday: “The biggest surprise this Cyber Monday was that consumers didn't do most of their shopping at work, according to an IBM analysis of online activity. In the past, people would shop online mostly during the work day. But this year, they did a significant amount of shopping before and after normal commuting hours, using everything from PCs to laptops to iPads.”

Cyber Week & Beyond

ZippyCart – Cyber Week Off to a Successful Start: “Holiday shopping season 2011 got off to a great start with retailers reporting record-breaking Black Friday sales in both brick-and-mortar and online storefronts. According to research by comScore…online sales in the US surged on Black Friday and generated an estimated $816 million, up from $648 million last Black Friday…. The report released by comScore showed that ecommerce spending on Black Friday jumped 26% this year, even though researchers thought brick-and-mortar store deals would detract from the amount of consumers opting to shop online.”

Yahoo! Finance – Cyber Monday’s Unintended Consequences & Other Key Themes Emerging in Retail: “With Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, it's time to move past the retail euphoria and look ahead to the sustainability of strong retail sales through the key holiday shopping season. The effects of this season's earlier sales onset and increased doorbuster openings is a must-watch situation moving forward, according to Sucharita Mulpuru, e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research…. ‘All of the research that we've seen is that when there is a really, really strong Cyber Monday and free shipping offers, what we see in the days that follow is some softening,’ Mulpuru says.”

UPI.com – Retailers Extend Cyber Monday Throughout Week
: “Some U.S. online retailers extended Cyber Monday sales through the week as shoppers spent a projected $1.2 billion on the year's biggest online shopping day.”

Related posts:
Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

E-Commerce Shopping Sites vs. Social Sites

Friday, November 4, 2011 by
Last month, Performics, a global marketing performance company, conducted its Social Shopping Study, which examined how 1,000 people interact with social, shopping and deal websites. The study had some interesting findings:

  • Men are more likely to visit company/brand/product pages on social sites as part of their purchase decision-making process.
  • Women are more likely to interact with a company/brand/product page after purchasing.
  • When examining a range of shopping activities (including finding specials and deals, product reviews, product information, product comparisons), consumers choose e-commerce shopping sites as their go-to destination.
  • Only 46% of those who responded will look to social networking sites while in a store on a website, but 55% will go to a shopping site in that instance.
  • When consumers do consult social networks for advice before making a purchase, 60% wait no more than 10 minutes.
While the study indicates that consumers often opt for e-commerce shopping sites, the importance of social networks as a part of the purchasing process is on the rise. Retailers and brands need to consider their social networking presence and be sure they are cultivating an environment of brand ambassadors who can influence their peers in their decisions.

Related posts:Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Today’s E-Commerce Content

Friday, October 21, 2011 by
Content is king. Sure, this phrase is overused, but that’s because there’s a lot of truth behind it. While much has changed since Bill Gates first said those words in the early days of the Internet, people still want to consume information, and today’s shoppers want to be able to access it quickly and in a number of ways.

For e-commerce sites, content is about creating an engaging brand for consumers. The more you talk to your customers, the more they will interact with your brand and convert.

E-Commerce Content Trends

Here are just a few of the driving content trends for e-commerce today:

  • Over the past year, many e-commerce companies have hired editorial directors from the publishing world. They are being tasked with pulling all of the content together to create that single voice you might expect from a magazine. And in such cases, “voice” extends to visual aspects of the sites as well.
  • Thanks to Google Panda and e-commerce websites’ needs to distinguish themselves, it’s no longer enough to post manufacturers’ product descriptions and images.  By bringing unique information, engaging storytelling, informed search engine optimization and visual panache, one website can beat out another when it comes to closing the sale.
  • User-generated content and community continues to flourish both on e-commerce websites and their social media pages. From online reviews to contests where users post content, e-commerce sites are allowing consumers to help create website content and build the brand. Some e-commerce websites even allow customers to customize their products or choose what goes on sale. Content allows e-commerce shopping to become a participatory and social experience.
E-commerce websites are becoming destinations beyond a place to shop. Those websites that are able to use content to transform their websites into destinations for customers to browse and spend time will continue to thrive. Selling online is not just a numbers game. It’s about offering a service customers want, and content should be at the forefront of that strategy.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Big-Ticket E-Commerce Should Be Ready for the Holidays

Friday, October 14, 2011 by
There was a time when some big-ticket retailers didn’t think they could cash in on the holiday shopping season, let alone such e-commerce-fueled events as Cyber Monday. But then again, there was also a time when no one expected anyone to buy anything online and computers filled entire rooms.

Whether it’s a push from e-commerce or the trend that holiday shopping starts earlier and earlier, we’ve found that big-ticket merchants, like furniture stores, which had traditionally been slow over the holidays, have been able to share in some of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday cheer.

At first, we would ask our clients what their plans were for these major dates on retail calendars, and they would often tell us they had nothing special planned. But slowly, we helped them to turn these potentially down days into big sellers with special events. For example, one of our clients began with a special Thanksgiving Day offer. It wouldn’t compete with stores, so what would be the worst that could happen? And it worked!

From exclusive email offers to Black Friday doorbusters and Christmas Day specials, our retail clients have been able to boost their fourth quarter sales. One client now mirrors the types of deals you see in retailers across the country with 12 days of deals leading up to Christmas; the big difference is our retailer is selling bigger ticket items like furniture and appliances as well as some electronics – and all three categories perform well.

So whether your big-ticket business can benefit from consumers being poised to spend over the holidays or you can take advantage of shoppers looking for great deals and not just gifts, holiday-timed offers can be a gift to your bottom line.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Why E-Commerce Should Be Fired Up About Kindle Fire

Friday, October 7, 2011 by
On the first day of preorders, 95,000 units of the Kindle Fire were sold. With the product’s release set for November 15th, this all equals a lot of people sitting on the couch after a filling turkey dinner, thumbing through apps and browsing the web on their shiny new tablets.

The release of the new Kindle Fire just in time for some of the busiest e-commerce shopping days of the year (Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday), could mean some extra business for online retailers.

According to a survey from the Ponemon Institute, 12% of heavy web-using consumers plan to use their tablets for holiday shopping, and a third of them say their e-commerce purchases will exceed their purchases in stores. And retailers also report that purchases from tablets can be as much as 20% larger than average orders from other devices.

Tablets tend to be great for e-commerce for a number of reasons: the screen size, the presentation (much like an old-school catalog) and the portability. With the Kindle Fire comes affordability, relatively speaking, as well.

There are many who think it is the profile of the tablet owner, rather than the tablet itself, that is responsible for more e-commerce conversions. But with the Kindle Fire’s $199 price tag, the demographic of tablet users could shift. Whether their buying habits do remains to be seen.

Related posts:Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

SEO Won’t Go Away for E-Commerce, But It Will Evolve

Friday, September 23, 2011 by
The title of a recent E-Commerce Times article, “The Coming Irrelevance of SEO,” did its job and got me to click through. (Of course, I found it by searching Google.) The piece says that online retailers should begin preparing for the future and focus less on search engine optimization for driving sales and instead should harness the power of marketplaces. “Thanks to improvements in trust and safety, as well as predictability enhancements that brands like Amazon and eBay have brought to the space, consumers simply aren't turning to Google to purchase products,” writes the author Brian Horakh, who is also the founder of Zoovy, which is an integrated marketplace e-commerce solution, not that he’s biased. It’s unclear how this is an either/or scenario -- you can have a marketplace presence and promote your goods through SEO.

Not to hold onto the past, or even the present, I believe that SEO will continue to be a valuable tool for e-commerce websites. Purchasing is just the last step in the process. When customers research items, search engines are a premier starting point. We also don’t know what leads to that final visit where the purchase was made. Was the click from a friend’s review the first visit or the ninth? Perhaps the review helped close the sale, but the initial visit to the company’s e-commerce site may have come from a pay-per-click ad or from a link in organic search.

Good SEO Is Good Content

What even Internet experts tend to forget is that good SEO does not have to be a daunting task. Think about your business and your audience. What does your target audience want that you can provide? If you provide quality content that consumers want, then the SEO part falls into place. Sure, you can mix things up a bit and use different phrases to say the same thing, but that is also considered to be good writing. For example, if you are writing about a sofa, you might also refer to it as a couch or seating -- that reads better than using “couch” over and over again, and it’s good SEO.

Creating good content will also help you as social networks grow. Consumers want to share good content -- they’ll link to it from Facebook posts or reference it in their own blogs. And appropriately tagging user-generated content on your e-commerce sites, like reviews, for example, will help users and search engines find them.

Link farms and black hat tricks gave SEO a bad name earlier this year. But as the Google algorithm continues to evolve, so will SEO practices. And as long as you are focused on your audience, your e-commerce site will benefit.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Keep Your E-Commerce Site on Target and Avoid Outages

Friday, September 16, 2011 by

When a retailer launches a new line, media coverage is usually more than welcome. But in the case of Target’s new Missoni line, the more than 200 headlines found literally around the world could have had a better message. These reports all focused on how the large retailer’s e-commerce site, which recently switched from an Amazon back-end to one that’s proprietary, crashed under the heavy traffic.

Target was not prepared for the customer demand for this limited-edition designer line, and the e-commerce site was down for approximately 12 hours. The line’s launch – and the site’s crash – was preceded by amped up publicity for the line, leading to starlets discussing their interest in specific items on Twitter before the line was available. Of course, unhappy Target.com shoppers went to Twitter as well when they couldn’t access the website once these items were for sale.

While Target says this specific demand was unprecedented, dwarfing the traffic they get even on Black Friday, it is important for e-commerce websites to be prepared. Knowing the marketing push behind the Missoni line and the interest it was generating in social networks, Target should have taken steps to ensure the website would work as if it were any other day.

At Blueport, when we know one of our clients’ e-commerce sites will be getting extra traffic due to an incredible sale or promotion, we take steps in advance to be sure the websites can handle the onslaught of traffic. For example, when one of our clients ran a Living Social daily deal, our IT Operations department took action so the user experience was not affected in any way.

When your company plans a spectacular event, make sure that the event is as spectacular online as it is offline. And this becomes even more important as the holiday shopping season approaches. Online retailers should take the steps now to be sure their websites will be able to do what they need them to do this holiday season – and that’s selling merchandise.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce


Shopper Know-How and the Retail Renaissance

Friday, September 2, 2011 by
Last week, we posted about the retail trend of Online Expectations, Offline Experiences discussed in PSFK’s 2011 Future of Retail report. In this post, we will talk about another major trend they outline in the report: Shopper Know-How.

Shopper Know-How

The retail megatrend of Shopper Know-How stems from the emerging consumer trends related to how people now use mobile technology and social media, as well as how consumers crave/demand relevant location-based information specific to them.

  • On my block deals: This capitalizes on the success of Groupon, Living Social, etc. and combines combining deals with geolocation technology (something Groupon has already ventured into with Groupon Now). Consumers enjoy both the novelty of such alerts as well as the practicality of having time, location and need converge.
  • Social currency: There is value in consumers’ social influence. Some brands have already seen success by offering deals or special treatments based on social influence. Others have even offered discounts and products for Tweets.  In the social space, retailers will need to look beyond cultivating a stream of people to merely push deals out to and should work on creating a community of brand advocates, whose organic marketing voices are stronger than the retailers’ own. Pay with a Tweet – social media sharing as currency, too.
  • What’s in-store: Making real-time local inventory data available to consumers leads to local discovery. Consumers will be able to find the products they want nearby. By putting this information in the consumers hands, you will be able to attract new customers as people will go to new places to get what they want.
As you can see, technology is fueling a retail renaissance. Here at Blueport, we’re enjoying being a part of it!

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Online Expectations, Offline Experience

Friday, August 26, 2011 by
PSFK, the self-proclaimed “go-to resource for new ideas and inspiration for creative professionals,” recently released its 2011 Future of Retail report, which explores the new trends driving the industry. This year, the focus is on the use of technology and how it will revitalize retail stores, both on and offline.

The study outlines three emerging megatrends:
  1. Online Expectations, Offline Experience
  2. Shopper Know-How
  3. Refined Retail Cartography
Let’s take a look at the first one here:

Online Expectations, Offline Experience

For this megatrend, PSFK identified three smaller trends:

  • Digitally empowered staff: We’ve posted on this blog about the power of the iPad for retail. This trend is all about giving staff access to additional product information and real-time inventory – information we think are important components of an item’s product page on any e-commerce website. Having this information right at salespeople’s fingertips will allow them to spend more time selling and assisting customers by locating or ordering items.
  • In-stories: In-stories give customers access to additional product information in an entertaining manner. Including QR codes in your bricks-and-mortar store could allow customers to conduct the additional research on products that you want them to. Why not allow them to access your e-commerce site’s user reviews?
  • Scanned shoppers: This trend is all about interactive technology entering the store to help customers make purchasing decisions, such as what they should make for dinner or what size to get a specific shirt in. We’ve seen some of these types of tools exist on stores’ websites. Customers crave this interactivity everywhere.
  • Gesture-based browsing: Gesture-based browsing allows customers to interact with a display via non-contact movement (think Kinect). Such displays will pull customers into the store and the shopping experience. In addition to providing an entertaining experience, it also gives the store information on how the consumer navigates through the display and what the consumer ultimately chooses.
We find all of these trends very exciting. We already know that multichannel retailing allows customers to shop when and how they want to. This new melding of technology and retail will help retailers create a tighter branding experience between their bricks-and-mortar stores and their online e-commerce presence. Both online and offline will be able to more easily benefit from each other, and that gives the biggest benefits to the customer.

In a future blog post, we’ll take a closer look at more of the underlying trends from this report.

Related posts:Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

The Economy May Be Looking Down, But E-Commerce Sales Keep Looking Up

Friday, August 19, 2011 by
According to comScore’s State of the US Online Retail Economy in Q2 2011, despite an increased consumer perception that the economy is getting worse, Q2 e-commerce spending was up 14% YOY. Here are some interesting findings from the recent report:

Online Shopping

E-commerce sales growth is growing at double the rate of total retail sales growth, indicating that consumers are shifting from shopping in-store to buying online. The number of online shoppers increased 16% YOY for Q2 – there are now 170 million people shopping online.

Big-ticket items like furniture, appliances and equipment have shown moderate growth of 5% to 9% YOY for Q2.

Cutting Back on Spending


Because of their economic concerns, consumers are looking to save. They are now switching brands, shopping only when items are on sale, looking for deals online and going to different retailers in order to spend less.

Get Smart About Smartphones

The number of consumers using their smartphones to browse retail content in some form is now at 78 million. 22% of smartphone owners say they have made purchases via their smartphones, 50% have used their phones to find nearby stores and 40% have used their smartphones while in a store. The top reasons for using the smartphone in-store? To compare prices or to compare an item to other items not available in the store. 36% of consumers who abandon in-store purchases after using their smartphones end up buying online instead.

Social Media Matters

Overall, retailers not taking full advantage of the opportunity social media presents. For example, retail ads only make up 15.4% of the display ads on social networking sites.

If you are looking to expand your social media presence, comScore offers insight on Facebook: Once consumers like a page, they are very unlikely to return to that page. Facebook users spend the majority of their time on the newsfeed, so what and how you post will account for much of their interactions with your brand. Fans and their Facebook friends who are exposed to your brand on Facebook via advertising and status posts have a much higher brand engagement, which includes visiting your e-commerce website.

Related posts:Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

5 Ways for Online Retailers to Be a Little Fab

Friday, August 5, 2011 by
Fab.com is one of the latest fabulous e-commerce stories: Originally launched by entrepreneur Jason Goldberg as Fabulis, a social networking site for gay men, the company was then revamped and renamed to be the design flash sales site it is today. And by the time it reached its sixth week, the company was already turning a profit, had 400,000 users, and received $8M in Series A funding. Investors in Fab.com include Menlo Ventures, The Washington Post Company, SoftTech VC and Ashton Kutcher.

But with so many flash sales sites out there in the e-commerce game, why is Fab.com such a success? Here are five reasons why we’ve become fans of Fab.com.
 
Do What You Know and Are Passionate About


According to this piece from VentureBeat, Goldberg and cofounder/chief creative officer Bradford Shane Shellhammer settled on the formula that is now Fab.com because of their backgrounds in building websites and design, respectively. The result is a beautiful, well-built website that brings its customers a wide array of items all brought together because of their unique design sensibilities.

Products = Content

While we’ve been seeing many e-commerce sites bring an editorial spin to their product pages -- Gilt Groupe has been poaching a number of folks from the magazine world to work on its sites -- for example, you get a sense that Fab.com treats the items it sells like content to be consumed that way. And as members, we tend to look forward to their emails much like we’d look to a magazine to tell us about the newest trends and neatest gadgets. The difference is now, I can easily buy what they show me.

A Fostered Sense of Community

Since Fab.com’s origin was as a social networking site, you would expect some innovation here. But the way the initial phase of Fab.com has integrated social community has been in a very clean, modern way. Goldberg has the Betashop blog, where he gives an insider’s look at the company. There is also a Fab blog, which features products, and an Inspiration wall where members can post pictures. To close the loop, Fab.com includes quotes about the collection from members of the Fab.com or the designers, giving a little more context as to what the collection is and why it is for sale on the website. For customers, this gives real personality to the products.

Constantly New Inventory

Of course the inventory and products on a daily deals site will change more frequently than on a conventional e-commerce site. But the items on Fab.com aren’t just new to Fab – they are new to the consumers. The products are curated in such a way that there is a real sense of novel and innovation with each new sale on the site. This is also what keeps customers coming back – Goldberg has cited repeat buyers as a contributor to the success.

Consumer Love Is the Best Marketing

To date, Fab.com has not had a major marketing push. It appears that much of their resources have been spent on getting the right products presented in the right way. This stellar combination has made way for a strong word-of-mouth campaign as subscribers spread the Fab.com love. Are there ways you could improve your own products, customer experience and customer service to foster positive word-of-mouth from your existing customers?

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Can Groupon Work for Big-Ticket Items?

Friday, July 29, 2011 by
Earlier this month, when Groupon’s first big-ticket deal for $199 for $500 toward a new car at a Detroit area dealership failed, it didn’t only make for amusing headlines (“Groupon Hits the Skids,” for example). It also got people asking whether the daily deal model can work for big-ticket items.

As a company that provides the technology and services to help its clients localize big-ticket retail online, Blueport Commerce takes the stance that daily deals can work for big-ticket items if executed correctly. The Groupon car deal was not.

Why Conventional Daily Deals Work

Daily deals are so popular, because they are great deals. Groupon’s subscribers expect a significant discount on the goods or service being sold. Half off a dinner? Wonderful, and I’ve been meaning to try new places!

So far, successful daily deals have been somewhat simple and often for items subscribers were likely to spend money on anyway. Salon services at 70% off? Well, I do need a haircut anyway.

Lastly, the offer is usually concrete. I will pay X and get Y. Any variables in what I spend beyond what I paid for the Groupon are easily in my control.

So What Was Wrong with the Automotive Offer?

The offer was to buy $500 that could then be used toward a new car. A quick look at the dealer’s website has cars starting around $16,000. So someone who bought the deal is only getting at most a few percent off his final purchase. 

Among the things that makes daily deals so successful is the easy spontaneity of it all. You only have a short amount of time to choose this deal, and then it’s gone. But it takes people some time to research a purchase like a car.

A recent article from The Atlantic, points out that one issue with this deal is that car price is negotiable. The piece quotes Ben Edelman, an associate professor at Harvard Business School as telling Reuters: “This voucher is for a very small portion of the cost of a car or lease, so it’s basically an agreement to buy or lease a car from LaFontaine. That’s poor negotiating because the dealer could take advantage f that by offering the same car for more money. They (Groupon) need to fix that before this part of the model can take off.”

The Big-Ticket Daily Deal Challenge

Many folks are saying that daily deals won’t work for big-ticket items. Perhaps these are the same people who years ago told us that consumers would not buy furniture online. But people do buy furniture and other big-ticket items online, so eventually daily deals in this arena could take off.

Our client The RoomPlace actually did a successful daily deal with LivingSocial not too long ago. The offer was $150 worth of furniture for $75. This worked because even though the offer was for big-ticket items like furniture, consumers could choose from a large price range and could choose whether they purchase something solely for the face value of the deal or use it toward a larger purchase.

Big-ticket retailers can look to daily deal sites, or create their own, in order to drum up business. For great results, they need to turn their big-ticket deal into something that is concrete for users. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be sure that a consumer could leave your store or website with an item or service for the value of the deal.
  • Consider offering a specific item at a steep discount rather than following the voucher model.
  • Once the consumer cashes in on the deal, be sure you do what you can to keep in touch, such as offering an at-register email sign-up or customer survey.
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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

What Retailers Can Learn from Netflix’s Big Multichannel Mistake

Friday, July 22, 2011 by
Last week, Netflix announced a change in its subscription plans and their cost structure. The news was met by anger from many of its customers. In an Econsultancy blog post, Patricio Robles summed up the misstep: “At the end of the day, Netflix is making the same mistake many publishers are: It's hoping to charge consumers by the channel. Want to watch movies on DVD? You have to pay for that. Want to stream movies over the Internet? You have to pay for that separately.”

This forces customers to choose between the two methods, which, from the pricing, Netflix proposes are equal. But with the discrepancy in the number of titles available in the DVD library versus the streaming library, consumers disagree and are enraged.

This is another case, where the retailer is seeing the business differently than the consumers who ultimately foot the bill. And in this economy, consumers will not pay for something unless they see the value – no matter how loyal they have been to the company until now.

Your customers expect a consistent experience with your brand, no matter how they are accessing it, whether in person, on your e-commerce site, or even elsewhere on the Web, like your Facebook page or Twitter account. And your customers expect you to be available in these different venues so they can interact with your brand on their own terms. At Blueport, we work with our clients to be sure the messages customers see online are what they would see in-store, from consistent local pricing to real-time availability.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

When It Comes to the Newest Technology, Set Objectives First

Friday, July 15, 2011 by
Everyone wants to be involved with the newest technology, right? Retailers and consumers alike want to play on the newest playground with the newest equipment, along with the coolest, most influential kids, whether that means Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr today, Google+ tomorrow and who knows what next week. But before an e-commerce company jumps on the latest technology bandwagon, people need to stop and think about the website’s strategy and what is right for the overall business. That’s just what David Rogers, author of The Network Is Your Customer: 5 Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age, wrote in a BNET blog post.

It’s almost as if the technology itself becomes bigger than its function. Brands tend to jump in so quickly that Google was compelled to post a YouTube video asking businesses to hold off on creating Google+ profiles until the business version is released.

While we at Blueport understand that brands do need to get out there and dip their feet in new technologies, strategy should come into play first. We work with our clients to help them determine their objectives before taking action. We don’t just help them administer Facebook contests, but we ask them why they want to have a Facebook contest – what is the real goal for the company? Then, based on our clients’ objectives, we offer suggestions that make the most sense for their brands and that will deliver the best return on investment.

New technology presents a new frontier, even for companies that already have an e-commerce presence. It helps to create a digital strategy to guide you in this unmarked territory.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Consistency Is Key in This Multichannel Retail World

Friday, July 1, 2011 by
We’ve all read the news – most likely on a tablet or e-reader of choice – that brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing left and right as their electronic counterparts comparably flourish. But recently, I needed a book.

As do many shoppers, I began with online research. I went straight to a major book retailers’ website and located the title. I was disappointed that I could no longer order the book online for in-store pickup or even find out if my local store had the book in stock. But I could locate the closest store, which took some doing in light of the above-mentioned closings.

In-store, the item was priced 30% more than on the retailer’s website. The manager explained it was for the convenience of coming into the store, and no, it’s not confusing, because the company gets the money either way. I left unlikely to buy from the store or the e-commerce site again.

A Seamless Experience Between Online and In-Store

Of all the retail categories to know the right way to sell in a multichannel retail environment, you would expect books to have it mastered. After all, e-commerce began with bookselling.

Seeing where the book retailer got it wrong, while we here at Blueport are able to get it right as we help our retailers sell big-ticket items online, reminded me of just how new e-commerce and getting different retail channels to work together is.

But consumers are ready, and delivering a consistent experience between all of your retail channels is a must, particularly for considered purchases like furniture and appliances. This is why we tie into our retailers’ existing systems to show their customers consistent local pricing, real-time availability and a way to see the items in a store or to order online. We allow our retailers to give their customers control, so they can get the information they need, whenever and however they want it.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

New Insights on How Consumers Research Products and Shop Online

Friday, June 24, 2011 by
We’ve already written about today’s smarter consumers, but a new study from PowerReviews, a Blueport Commerce partner, and the e-tailing group takes a closer look at how today’s sophisticated online shoppers use a variety of tools to research items before buying.

Of the 1,000 consumers surveyed, 70% research their purchases for at least a day before taking action. A ZippyCart piece also covering this survey offers this insight: “one reason for this longer-term research…could be the fact that most online purchases are for bigger-ticket items (TVs, other consumer electronics, etc.).”

Unsurprisingly, most of those surveyed said they begin their online shopping either at a search engine or a major retailer’s website. And 90% said product reviews had the biggest impact on their decision to buy.

At this point, only a third of respondents use social media sites, like Facebook, for researching products and instead look to them to find deals. But consumers are using their mobile phones to search for product ratings and reviews from within physical stores.

How Does This Change Your E-Commerce Business?

While these insights may not change how you run your e-commerce store, it does give you a few things to continue to focus on or try out. Including:

  • Retargeting advertising: If consumers are spending more time online researching, retargeting allows you to keep your brand in front of them during their time online.
  • Search engine optimization: SEO comes down to content creation. Be sure you have unique, helpful content on your product pages and consider branching out and creating content to help users buy your products. These tactics will aid consumers in their research and you in your search engine rankings.
  • Product ratings and reviews: This is just another form of content, which will help with SEO and informing your customers. And even better, since ratings and reviews come from their peers, consumers trust them.
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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Get Your E-Commerce Website Ready for Daily Deals

Friday, June 17, 2011 by
Groupon has more than 83 million subscribers; LivingSocial more than 28 million. According to Bloomberg, 480 companies are competing in the daily deals space – including everyone from Google and Facebook, which have recently tossed their hats in the ring, to niche sites like the socially conscious Roozt.com or the kosher-inclined Jewpon.com.

With the potential traffic that could come from offering a daily deal, retailers that are considering teaming up with one of these sites need to be sure their own e-commerce websites can handle the load.

A Daily Deal Case Study

Our client The RoomPlace offered a daily deal through LivingSocial: $150 worth of furniture at 50% off. The site activity the day the deal ran was considerable:
  • 67% increase in website traffic
  • 65% increase in bandwidth used
  • 75% increase in calls for content.
Foreseeing the increase in site usage, we made sure all product and site changes that we usually update daily were completed before the daily deal email was sent. We worked with Akamai to increase the regular cache time to 48 hours. This ensured our regular customers would have a seamless site experience and that the influx of new traffic from the daily deal would be able to get to and see the site pages quickly. As a backup, our operations team set up additional hot standby servers.

Our operations team closely monitored live site usage throughout the day the deal went out – just in case. Thanks to the precautions taken, the additional traffic had no effect on site speed, nor was there any downtime.

“Planning ahead, both from a technical and a business perspective was essential,” says Kathryn Kerrigan, e-commerce manager for The RoomPlace. “Thanks to forethought and site stability, we were able to accommodate and convert numerous new customers.”

No matter what kind of business you run, a daily deal offer will drive a lot of new customers to your website. These new customers want to know what their getting whether or not they plan to use the deal online. Beyond the window dressing, be sure your website is technically ready so new customers will get a great first impression and come back for more.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Could Branded Social Games Increase Your E-Commerce Conversions?

Friday, June 10, 2011 by
Social gamers are a very attractive audience for e-commerce merchants. An eMarketer report projects that 68.7 million Internet users will play at least one social game per month by 2012. And according to GigaOM, 55% of social gamers in the US are women with an average age of 48 years old; 38% of those women play social games multiple times a day. Retailers selling big-ticket, highly considered products know that this profile aligns with the consumers who possess the income and decision-making power to buy.

Social Games and E-Commerce Conversion Today

As with many aspects of social media marketing, social gaming’s e-commerce conversions are not necessarily as high as merchants would hope. The accepted approach is to cast a very wide net to compensate for the low conversion rate. Often, consumers are much more interested in playing Bejeweled for free, and the advertising is just secondary noise on the screen.

Could Branded Games Perform Better for E-Commerce?

Some companies are looking to use branded social games to cash in on the medium. HSN, or Home Shopping Network, has added social games to its e-commerce site, allowing players to post and share scores on Facebook. Two of the games have direct product tie-ins, including a jigsaw puzzle of an item that’s only on sale for 24 hours. All HSN's games will show a steady stream of featured products playing alongside them.

Other companies have created their own games to create brand awareness, like Purina’s Purina Pet Resort on Facebook or VinTank’s multiplatform VinPass, which aims to help wineries connect with consumers. Marriott has gotten in the game with its own version of FarmVille – My Marriott Hotel – for recruiting purposes.

Is Social Gaming Marketing Is Right for You?

A recent iMedia Connection article suggests you ask 3 questions before marketing your brand in the social gaming space:
  1. Does your target audience already play social games?
  2. Will your brand be able to be relevant and integrated into the game, creating a good user experience for the gamer?
  3. Will you be able to entertain and reward players to create deeper engagement with your brand?
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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce