Not right now.

Three Ways To Bridge The Omnichannel Commerce Gap Between Consumers And Retailers

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 by

“To be omnichannel or not to be omnichannel?” Hate to say it, but that’s no longer the relevant question for retailers. (The answer, is "yes, of course" in case you were wondering.) The question is rather, “are you doing enough to allow for the (truly) omnichannel experience today’s consumers not only desire, but expect?” For most retailers, the answer is no. While making the transition to omnichannel can be difficult, it’s certainly a step most retailers have recognized as important.

So, how can you hop on the omnichannel bandwagon? Here are three tips for retailers to begin bridging the omnichannel gap.

The Consumer/Retailer “Omnichannel” Gap

While omnichannel is certainly a priority for the vast majority of retailers, only about a third of retailers have operationalized the basics consumers have come to expect (such as store pick-up, cross-channel inventory visibility, and store-based fulfillment). Why is that? Simply put, enabling an omnichannel experience is much easier said than done. The path to full synchronization of inventory across all channels requires a hefty investment of money, time, and resources. Technology upgrades, employee training, and even a change in organizational leadership remain barriers, preventing many companies from becoming fully omnichannel. As a result, only 6% of retailers surveyed for Forrester’s January 2014 report, Customer Desires Vs. Retailer Capabilities: Minding The Omni-Channel Commerce Gap*, report no significant barriers to becoming an integrated omnichannel company.

Three Tips To Bridge The Omnichannel Commerce Gap

1. If you have it, flaunt it. Don’t let the physical limits of your brick-and-mortar square footage limit your reach. 71% of consumers expect to view in-store inventory online. In fact, almost 40% of consumers are unlikely or very unlikely to visit a store if physical store inventory is not provided online. Blueport pushes the omnichannel envelope with Store-Sync, which mirrors inventory from anywhere on any device and shows you what’s available at a customer’s closest furniture store.

2. Enable store employees with mobile technology. Consumers have increasingly come to rely on mobile devices to aid their shopping experience, but 61% still value the assistance of an in-store sales associate. Furthermore, nearly 70% of consumers expect the sales associate to have a mobile device on them to – among other things – reference both in-store and online product information and view inventory across stores.

3. Allow consumers to “mix and match” purchase and delivery options. Buy online, pick up in-store. Buy in-store, ship to customer. Buy online, ship from local store. Browse, or shop from any device, anywhere. Just as today’s consumer is hopping back and forth across channels, they are expecting the same agility from retailers. One third of retailers currently utilize their stores as fulfillment and delivery hubs for online orders, and an additional 40% intend to do so within the next 1-2 years.

The shopping behavior of today’s consumer has hard-wired expectations for a seamless omnichannel experience, yet many retailers are falling short of delivering. Rather than playing a game of catch-up, retailers should be actively seizing the opportunity to ramp up channel integration.  

*Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Accenture and hybris software, November 2013


About Blueport Commerce

Blueport Commerce is the omnichannel solution for the $78B furniture industry. We marry retailers' bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology and unique marketing and sales solutions to create modern, efficient, easy shopping experiences. $6.3B in furniture retailers choose Blueport. For some retailers, Blueport's SaaS omnichannel platform powers their branded websites, driving sales online and in their stores. For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many retailers, we do both. Our technology is transforming furniture retail, for the 4% of sofas that sell online and the 96% that don't. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our available jobs on our careers page.

Free Shipping…The New Norm?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 by

In today’s world, free shipping is a right not a privilege. Well, that’s how it would be if it were up to the customer. Blueport Commerce takes a look at recent shipping trends and the unique challenges it presents to furniture retailers.

According to a recent Forrester Report, consumers are most likely to revisit e-tail sites that offer low delivery costs in addition to low prices. In another report by comScore, nearly half of respondents chose free shipping as the ‘most important’ service offered by online retailers.

Why? To put it simply - sticker shock. Customers on the cusp of a purchase will abandon a cart quicker than you can say ‘checkout’ when seeing the total skyrocket with added shipping charges. As a result, many retailers have begun appeasing consumer demands by incorporating free or reduced shipping.

Unfortunately for furniture retailers, simple mathematics show the benefits of closing a purchase do not outweigh the cost of shipping those big-ticket items cross country, particularly when offering low or reduced pricing on products. So while the rest of e-commerce is headed towards free shipping, furniture retailers find themselves yet again in a situation where they have to veer from the progressive norm.

Not being able to follow the e-commerce norm is the very reason why many people thought big-ticket items like furniture would never go online in the first place. But furniture has found a model online to be successful and once furniture shopping online catches up to the rest of e-commerce (which it will) we may have to face the facts that consumers will expect free shipping.

So what can furniture retailers do now to prevent shipping charges from impeding an online purchase?

First and Foremost, Location Is Key

Keep delivery costs down by only shipping products to locations within proximity to your stores and warehouses. This is why leading furniture retailers turn to us at Blueport Commerce, the e-commerce platform for the furniture industry, to localize furniture shopping online.

Second, Don’t Be Afraid To Over-Communicate

Small tweaks in communication may help mitigate the blow of sticker shock that leaves customers dubious of an online purchase:
  • Educate your customers on your shipping process and what goes into the expense. Knowing shipping charges are comparable to in-store purchase delivery may help ease them into a purchase.
  • Remind your customers throughout the process of these charges, such as a simple message telling them the product price does not include shipping and delivery charges.

Third, Get Creative About Your Promotions

If you do offer a promotion for free or reduced shipping, be sure to over-emphasize the offer. Because shipping is such an important part of the decision making process, plastering the offer throughout the purchase funnel, beyond the homepage, will help instill the value of the offer and urge customers to pull the trigger. Wayfair, for example, offers free front door delivery, but additional charges for in-house assembly.

While furniture may not be able to compete with the Amazon’s of the world when it comes to free shipping (yet), these simple tactics will help encourage buyers and ultimately help usher in the new era of shopping for furniture online. And, beyond free shipping, once consumers become even more accustomed to buying furniture online, the possibilities in this category are endless. 


About Blueport Commerce

Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture e-commerce opportunity.  We marry our clients’ bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology, and customized marketing services. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omni-channel websites, driving sales online and in their stores.  For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many, we do both. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

Preparing For Peak? Lessons From Forrester’s The State of Retailing Online 2013: Marketing and Merchandising

Saturday, September 21, 2013 by

Blueport E-Commerce Forrester Report Retail

Though it’s been almost a year since my tenure at Forrester, I am in no shortage of excitement upon release of each new e-commerce publication.  And recently, Forrester released one of my favorite reports of the year - its State of Online Retailing 2013: Marketing and Merchandising report.  We found the report useful in helping to identify strategies for the year ahead, but Forrester’s findings are not just relevant to annual planning, but also help us stay focused on the top priorities for the upcoming furniture Peak season (November through January).  Blueport discusses these findings and suggestions for furniture retailers.

Stay Focused On Top Marketing Revenue Drivers  

Paid search and email rank (#1, and #2, respectively) as the highest marketing drivers in 2013, in contrast to natural search in previous years. In fact, natural search now ranks #5 on marketing investment growth for retailers. Given Google’s search algorithm changes, natural search has proved to be no longer as cost effective for web marketers.

Our suggestions:

  • Review your paid search strategy and determine if you’re investing enough to drive more incremental traffic to your site. If you don’t have a paid search strategy, get one.  Natural search no longer stands up to Google’s algorithm.
  • Research Google’s Product Listing Ads platform.  While Google PLA has had initial success with major experienced web retailers (Google PLA commands an average of 6% of marketing budgets), its long-term success remains yet to be seen.   
  • Increase email optimization through segmentation and personalization. 

Invest In Traditional Interactive Marketing Tactics For Mobile

Mobile is giving retailers a reason to increase stock in email, and rightfully so.  Mobile traffic has doubled since 2012, and mobile email accounts for 40% of open rates.  Retailers should continue to invest in mobile through email and search, but should stay away from more risky tactics such as mobile specific promotions, QR/bar codes, and location-based advertising. 

Our suggestions:

  • Create a mobile strategy, but don’t buy into the hype.  Given the increase in mobile spend, ensure your email efforts are optimized for all channels, especially mobile. And, make sure your website is optimized for mobile to begin with, because chances are your customers are already going to your website at home and through their smartphones and tablets, even if you aren’t yet selling your furniture online. 
  • It goes without saying that the mobile space is ever-changing, so keep tabs on this space in order to ensure you continue to stay relevant to your customers.

Take Advantage Of Cross-Channel Marketing To Drive Customers To Their Channel Of Preference  

Not surprisingly, most omnichannel retailers will only be upping the ante when it comes to spend on omnichannel priorities. But, what does that mean for those of us that are just entering the web retail world, and how can we leverage this for Peak and beyond? 

Our suggestions:

  • Control the message.  Omnichannel is just another extension of how retailers want to engage with a brand.  Make omnichannel come to life with segmentation of and personalization for customers. Additionally, many retailers are optimizing campaigns by device.  The shopper who prefers Pinterest may be interested in a different offer than the shopper who relies on email. 
  • Create consistency across all channels.  As customers touch different channels, it’s important to create a consistent experience across all online and offline channels. The shopper who came into your store yesterday, may be the shopper who converts online tomorrow. 
  • Test new ways of merchandising.  Traditional catalog merchandising is still a relevant reality for many retailers, but optimizing product presentation can only enhance customer engagement. 

As we look forward to Peak season for furniture, Forrester’s The State of Retailing Online 2013: Marketing and Merchandising provides us with valuable insights, now and in the year to come.
I myself can’t wait for the next report.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture e-commerce opportunity.  We marry our clients’ bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology, and customized marketing services. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omni-channel websites, driving sales online and in their stores.  For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many, we do both. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

Ready, Set, Shop! E-Commerce Retailers Rev Their Engines for the Holiday Season

Saturday, September 7, 2013 by

Think prepping for the winter holidays in springtime is crazy? Think again. According to a Shop.org survey, half of the respondents admitted to having planned for the holidays since April or May. As e-commerce retailers well know, it’s not unusual to invest maximum effort into November and December, as just a few combined days of sales for those peak holidays, especially when stores are closed (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day), can often rival sales for an entire week in off-peak seasons. So what are the hot holiday trends for 2013? Blueport Commerce unwraps some of 2013’s hottest e-commerce trends, and how they can be applied to furniture retailers.
 

Mobile Is Calling. Are You Answering?

In the 2013 Shop.org Pre-Holiday Retailer Survey, over half of retailers surveyed said that a mobile-optimized website is one of their most important investments this year. As mobile phone and tablet usage for research and purchase start to rise, furniture retailers need to think about how to capture the mobile consumer (Blueport agrees! See why here and here). Mobile commerce over the 2012 holiday season grew exponentially, with visits to m-commerce websites up 109 percent year-over-year, page views up by 116 percent, conversions up 30 percent, and sales up by a crazy 171 percent. Blueport recommends that retailers ensure that their site renders well on mobile, offers up a store finder in order to drive traffic to brick and mortar locations, and recognizes that when consumers are in stores, mobile phones are used primarily for research – so accurate pricing and feature displays are key.

Product Pages Get a Facelift

How are e-commerce retailers prepping for the holiday on site? Well, according to Shop.org, 51 percent are cross-selling on product pages, displaying customer ratings and reviews (42 percent), and adding suggested items (34 percent). At Blueport Commerce, we encourage cross-selling and upselling as a natural extension of furniture shopping – consumers are most interested in style and are often willing to be led along a journey of exploration, envisioning how a particular piece of furniture will look in a room, but also enhanced by other pieces of furniture and home décor. Presenting product pages accordingly to optimize cross-selling and upselling is key to this journey.

Our clients have found success with customer ratings and reviews – in fact, online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information and messaging, with 70 percent of global consumers surveyed online indicating they trust messages on this platform, an increase of 15 percent in four years. Additionally, customer ratings and reviews allow furniture retailers to be made aware of potential issues with product quality and customer service, escalating this information to buyers, manufacturers and customer service supervisors, enabling them to respond directly to consumers.

Email, Email, Email

Some of the most successful furniture e-commerce retailers attribute a strong percentage of their revenue generation efforts directly to email. Some quick tips for the holidays from Practical Ecommerce include:

  • Ensure you haven’t left any email addresses behind: Go through past campaigns, lists, and databases to make sure you aren’t missing any subscribers that may have been segmented and forgotten.
  • Test your triggers: An abandoned cart email series that fails to trigger can destroy sales during the crucial holiday season.
  • Reward purchasers: Offer repeat buyers segmented offers and thank new customers with an offer for a subsequent purchase.
  • Put a promotional email calendar in place: Even if it has to change last-minute, at least there’s a structure in place to make adjustments.

As an e-commerce provider, Blueport understands the value of the holiday season as a revenue generating engine for our furniture retailers. Setting the foundation for holiday success involves preparation and planning to maximize holiday conversions. ‘Tis the season…even in September!

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture e-commerce opportunity.  We marry our clients’ bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology, and customized marketing services. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omni-channel websites, driving sales online and in their stores.  For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many, we do both. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

Furniture Retailers: Listen Up! If You’re Not Investing in Mobile, You’re Behind…Part I

Friday, May 17, 2013 by

 

Part I of Five Key Insights from MITX’s The Great Mobile Migration: Demystifying Mobile Marketing

Earlier in May, Blueport Commerce joined MITX and other members at their Summit, titled “The Great Mobile Migration: Demystifying Mobile Marketing.” One thing came through loud and clear – if companies aren’t dedicating efforts to mobile, they are already behind. In the words of keynote speaker Cameron Clayton, President of the Digital Division for The Weather Company, “I hate to say it but if you don’t step up [to mobile], the audience will change their brand preference in a second and you are already behind.” Being already behind on mobile can be daunting. Blueport Commerce breaks down five key opportunities for furniture retailers. Put down your phones and tablets and read our two-part series on what we found. 

In part one of our two-part series, we uncover what it means to invest in mobile and debunk the common concern that consumers just aren’t shopping on their smartphones and tablets.

1. Spend Money on Mobile

First and foremost, furniture retailers should be dedicating their budget to mobile. Clayton says, “If you aren’t spending 7% of your budgets on mobile, you’re doing it wrong.” For furniture retailers, it’s not just about throwing money at mobile, but doing it in an intelligent way. For Victor Milligan, Chief Marketing Officer of Nexage, traditionally mobile has been divided into channels and the future is really content that will cross channels, making the very idea of a mobile channel irrelevant. All activities should fall into a 100% mix, including mobile. For PayPal Chief Operating Officer, David Chang, it’s important to understand your audiences and how that fits into your business, mobile, and beyond, and align your efforts accordingly. For Chang, multichannel integration and offers are critical for PayPal’s business success, especially for mobile. Furniture retailers have a large opportunity to focus on mobile the right way, the first time; as a part of their overall pricing, marketing, and promotion strategies within their e-commerce technology. By planning and optimizing for mobile in advance, furniture retailers can ensure the shopping experience is optimal no matter the device.

2. Shopping Concerns Debunked

Newsflash: We all already shop on smartphones and tablets. In the words of Hilary Dionne, Senior Marketing Manager of Customer Insights and Analytics at Zmags, “Couch Commerce” is a common behavior for shoppers, especially on tablets. For furniture retailers, embracing the multichannel opportunities mobile can provide will open doors for shoppers to purchase. In addition, mapping the optimal path to purchase is critical on any device, especially on mobile. Isaac Mosquera, Director of Mobile for ShareThis, emphasizes the opportunity that the mobile experience plays in the purchasing, along with how easy it is to interact with your company. Location also plays a role in mobile for e-commerce as a key way to be innovative. Furniture retailers can take advantage of these tips and tricks to optimize their businesses for shopping in mobile, especially when it comes to selling furniture online.

Furniture retailers have a huge opportunity now and in the future to invest in mobile as part of their overall efforts, not just as a channel. And, the truth is, consumer behavior demands the ability to shop on multiple devices on smartphones and tablets alike. For more information on how furniture retailers can take advantage of mobile, look out for our part II of this series!

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Omni-Channel Retailing 2012: Marrying the Best of the Digital and Physical Channels

Friday, June 22, 2012 by

This month, Retail Systems Research (RSR), released its report “Omni-Channel 2012: Cross-Channel Comes of Age.” This benchmark report has a number of interesting findings, including:

  • Retailers now understand that consumers use multiple channels to complete a single purchase.
  • All the retailers surveyed believe a single brand identity across all channels is important.
  • Retailers believe consolidating customer data all channels is the most important requirement and biggest hurdle to creating a seamless customer experience.
  • RSR recommends retailers focus on understanding their customers, and then a singular cross-channel strategy will come out of that.

It’s Not Just E-Commerce, It’s Digital

At Blueport Commerce, we help our big-ticket retail clients not just with e-commerce, but with their entire digital channel, which has evolved to encompass social media and mobile commerce as well. And with these clients, our ultimate goal is to help them provide customers with the best of both the digital and physical shopping experiences (or the closest approximation of the physical experience online).

The RSR report credits physical stores’ biggest advantage as being able to provide instant fulfillment. But with big-ticket items like furniture, that is often not the case. For sofas, dinettes and similar items, consumers like to be able to see and feel their items. We work with our clients to offer rich, detailed information and spectacular imagery to make the customer feel as close as they can to shopping in the store. And this in-depth content is available to shoppers using their mobile devices in-store and even to salespeople, arming them with the information they need to close sales.

We also have solutions for our retail clients that struggle with legacy systems, allowing them to offer customers up-to-date inventory and delivery information – the same they would get in-store.  We plug right into their own inventory and pricing systems, so we can display real-time local information to customers for pricing, inventory and delivery.

The Future of Retail – Online and Offline

The RSR report addresses the current shift going on in retail today. Retailing today is not just about selling the right products at the right price, but it’s about selling solutions. This requires understanding customers and their paths to purchase so you can deliver the information and product when they need it, while also allowing customers to access the information and items when and where they would like to.

At Blueport, we believe the only way to meet customers’ expectations is to complete a seamless cross-channel experience that leverages the best of each channel.

Related posts:

Blueport Commerce to TJX: How to Bring Your Local Stores Online

Friday, March 9, 2012 by

In February, when TJX announced its plan to nearly double its annual sales, we here at Blueport took notice, especially since e-commerce is a crucial part of the plan to get there.

For the fiscal year ending January 28, 2012, TJX, parent company of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods in the US, had $23.3 billion in net sales. The goal is to reach $40 billion by investing in technology and e-commerce. While the company has a web presence with a combined 4 million visitors per month for all of its properties, they do not sell merchandise online in the US and have not since their last attempt at e-commerce in 2006.

“E-commerce is clearly in our future,” said TJX CEO Carol Meyrowitz in a recent conference call as reported by RIS News, Internet Retailer and others. “We believe e-commerce will open up a greater landscape for categories. Just think about the potential for us to carry categories online that we wouldn’t carry in our stores.”

At this point, TJX is building a team of e-commerce experts with a focus on developing the new initiative.
 
My Advice for TJX

Working at a company with more than 10 years of e-commerce experience, I have some thoughts on the possible tact TJX could take in growing its online retail business.

As I understand the retailer’s overall business, much of the merchandise it sells comes from opportunistic buys, like when a distributor liquidates 900 name-brand sweaters or 500 sofas in a discontinued upholstery pattern, or from program buys, when items are manufactured specifically to be sold by discount chains. Most, shall we say, Maxxinistas, go to the stores to land the opportunistic merchandise, which is harder to find because of the limited supply. So not every store carries the same merchandise, and much of the more sought-after stock moves very quickly. How does this translate to an online retail business?

Option 1: The Gilt Model

TJX and all of its properties could follow in the paths of Gilt Groupe, Fab.com and the like, selling the best stuff online, perhaps even following the invite-only model. Then, items could be shipped from a central location, which tends to work best for smaller items that can be packed in a Fed Ex box.

The challenge here is that their retail websites would directly compete with their stores rather than creating a beneficial and seamless multichannel retail experience for consumers. (Hint: Don’t do this.)

Option 2: Localized Cross-Channel Commerce

TJX could go for a truly localized e-commerce solution that ties into real-time inventory data would provide the best results for their overall bottom line. Customers would be able to get their purchases inexpensively and quickly or even see items in a nearby store. The web presence would continue to improve the overall bottom line without jeopardizing any individual location’s own fiscal health. (Hint: Do this!)

Based on the e-commerce solution we’ve created for our own clients, we think the second option and offering customers a localized cross-channel e-commerce experience would be the best for any retailers’ long-term growth. After all, we’ve already proven this model in the home furnishing industry for stores just like HomeGoods.

Related posts:

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Get to Know Tablet Shoppers to Drive Your E-Commerce Business

Friday, January 20, 2012 by
In a previous post, I talked about how tablet commerce will continue to be one of the top growing e-commerce trends this year. And there is good news for e-commerce businesses who want to drive additional business through this medium: You can now get to know tablet users a little better.
 
Internet Retailer recently wrote about the results of a Zmags survey conducted by Equation Research on who the people are who are making purchases via their tablets. Here are some of the results:
 
The Typical Tablet Owner
 
  • Age 40
  • Average annual household income: $63,000
  • 52% are women
  • 81% use Facebook
Tablet Shopping Habits
 
  • 14% of consumers who own tablets consider themselves to be spontaneous shoppers
  • 9% classify themselves as  “addicted to shopping”
  • 24% window-shop on their devices
  • 13% go shopping with a specific product in mind
  • 11% are moved to action based on advertisements
  • During the survey, on average spent $325 on their tablets
Why Tablet Commerce Makes Sense
 
  • 29% of tablet shoppers say it’s convenient since they are on the device so much
  • 14% like the ease of making a purchase on their tablets
  • 9% enjoy the simplicity of being able to share shopping-related information on their social networks
This is further evidence that tablet shoppers are poised to browse and shop e-commerce site via their devices. While you don’t want to miss the opportunity to get in front of these shoppers, their influence on social networks is also an alluring reason to capture this audience.

Related posts:

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.

Related posts:
Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Online Advertising: Now Delivering Local <br>Shoppers -- Is Your Website Ready for Them?

Friday, July 8, 2011 by
According to a recent eMarketer article, 90% of national ad agencies have clients asking for geographically targeted online ad campaigns.  Daily deal sites, like Groupon, and mobile check-in sites, like foursquare, are hot because they can deliver local shoppers.

Seventy-five percent of survey respondents said location was key in helping national brands reach their target audiences, and more than 50% said the ROI on geographically targeted ads is higher.  It makes sense -- if you’re looking to buy a new sofa in Chicago, would you be drawn to an ad about stylish sofas or one about stylish sofas in Chicago? 

Local advertising brings what the consumer is looking for that much closer.  Local means you can see it in a store; maybe get a local deal; and get it quickly and cheaply (and even get service if you have to).

But is your ecommerce platform ready for local shopping?  Very few are.

Local Commerce Makes Good on Local Advertising

Remember the early days of ecommerce, which promised to “Amazon” everything?  Stores were to become obsolete, and as a result, most ecommerce platforms were built as national channels, designed to bypass local stores entirely.

That’s a real problem for most bricks-and-mortar retailers.  The promise of a local ad falls flat when a customer clicks to a homogenized, national website.

To monetize local ads, you need to provide your customers a complete location-based experience that delivers on the ad’s local promise.  A landing page isn’t enough -- you need to deliver local online shopping.

At Blueport Commerce, we enable local online shopping experiences for our clients. Blueport’s clients present localized content to their shoppers based on location, including merchandise trends, selection and availability, in-store inventory and pick up, local pricing and deals, fast, cheap local delivery, and even “About Us” pages, managed by stores, and that can speak to a local store’s place in a community.

It’s seamless cross-channel shopping between online and a local store, and it dramatically improves the already impressive ROI of local online advertising.

Your customers are ready for a complete local commerce experience -- are you?

Related posts: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.

Related posts:

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Will You Make Back Your Online Advertising Spend in Store Sales? Yes!

Friday, June 3, 2011 by
All retailers want to know that the money they spend online is coming back to them some way, somehow.  It's become a mantra that the majority of consumers who buy in stores research online first, but in truth, it can be hard to follow customers from their keyboards to retailers’ registers.

We at Blueport see the value that local e-commerce and online marketing bring to our brick-and-mortar clients every day.  But, it certainly helps when a company like Google offers Online to Store research that quantifies cross-channel results.

Google set out to prove that online advertising leads to in-store sales.  For one national retailer, testing keyword advertising specific to one product category not only lifted in-store sales for that category by 3.6%, but the online advertising had a halo effect, lifting sales in all other categories by 1%.  And, the bigger the ticket, the better the results were.

HP Case Study Shows ROI Is Higher with Bigger-Ticket Items

The Google Retail Advertising Blog post about Hewlett-Packard and the study discusses the following findings:

  • Overall, HP’s online to store campaign had a 530% overall return on ad spend
  • The top 25% of markets in the test had a 1,090% return on ad spend
  • Higher-end models correlated with a higher increase in store sales.
How Can You See Your Own In-Store Return on Your Online Presence?

In an interview, analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik offers some ideas for getting quantitative information on how your online efforts contribute to in-store sales.

Some ideas you might be able to implement for your retail business:

  • Offer an online survey as consumers exit your website, asking where they plan to buy and how likely they are to buy based on the experience they’ve had online.
  • In-stores, include a call-to-action to take an online survey for a chance to be entered into a sweepstakes and ask questions about where their interactions with your brand began.
  • Use a store card program, where you have a number attached to customers when they interact with and buy from you online and in-store.
  • Allow customers to order online and pickup in-store, and then track additional in-store purchases as a result of the pickup.
We're just at the beginning of this trend.  As localized e-commerce gains traction and enables synchronized web to local store marketing, we'll start to see new sectors of retail get even more involved (and see even better results).  In the meantime, even this simple test shows how stores can -- and in today's world, must -- harness the power of online marketing.


Related posts:
 Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Square Register Lets Retailers Play with the iPad, Too

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 by
Yesterday, TechCrunch reported on the new Square Register, a replacement for cash registers that not only lets retailers accept credit card payments via iPads, but also allows the stores to communicate with customers more efficiently.

After a retailer processes a customer’s payment via Square Register, the retailer can invite the customer to download the Square Card Case, allowing the merchant to engage with customers in entirely new ways. Customers can add your “card” to this virtual wallet and access your location and contact information, their purchase history and receipts, a live menu of your daily offering and customized offers from you. Customers will also be able to use the Square Card Case to make purchases from your store within two physical blocks of the location. The customer can show up at the store, give the name to the cashier and then be charged on the back-end Square Register for the goods. It practically takes the whole payment process out of your relationship with customers.

Is iPad the Perfect Multichannel Retail Tool?

While we will certainly keep an eye on this application and how it works in real retail, we just need to say how amazed we are with the multifaceted iPad as a catalyst for retail both for merchants and consumers. The iPad is not only a tool for customers looking for great images of product and an ability to buy, share information on the fly and get feedback from their friends on all types of purchases from lunch to gadgets to big-ticket items and everything in between. It is also a tool for selling. Retailers can use iPads to show additional retail to customers, as a mobile option for checking retail and now as a replacement for cash registers and POS terminals with extraordinary customer engagement opportunities.

What can’t the iPad do? Or, more importantly, as a retailer, what else would you like the iPad to be able to do for your business?

Related posts: Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

E-Commerce Is About More Than Online Shopping: Think Digital Marketing

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 by
This week’s article from Multichannel Merchant “How to Drop the ‘E’ from E-Commerce,” talks about the evolution of folks who are now in charge of retailers’ e-commerce sites and how they likely worked their ways up through the retailers’ IT ranks and are now measured by online sales. But the article points out that e-commerce shouldn’t be about website sales as much as it should be about digital marketing for the entire retail organization.

Your e-commerce website is an influencer and should be designed to be a cross-channel powerhouse that drives sales and interactions with your business. You need to create a retail business that lets the consumer interact with you on the consumer's terms. And with the way people begin shopping using online search, your website could very well be the first touchpoint for new customers.

6 Ways to Turn Your E-Commerce Website into a Retail Digital Marketing Machine
  1. Offer real local inventory information with local pricing -- right down to the store.
  2. Provide a feature-rich store locator, allowing customers to search stores by location, hours and other customer-centric criteria.
  3. Allow customers to buy online and pick up at a store location.
  4. Be sure there is consistency between your e-commerce website and store when it comes to messaging, naming conventions and pricing.
  5. Boost your local store online, using Google Places and the like, and integrate with location-based services like FourSquare.
  6. Allow local stores to customize their information, and include store specific events, contacts and more.
  7. Work with your marketing and merchandising counterparts to ensure a consistent message that works both in-store and online.
Remember: E-commerce is simply an extension of your existing stores. Don’t overlook your website’s full ability to market your products by focusing solely on online sales.

Related posts:

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Retailers, Meet the XTreme Shopper

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 by
There have been numerous terms coined over the years to describe different consumer segments: Brand Aspirationals, Power Shoppers, Savvy Spenders -- the list goes on.  Today, we’d like to introduce you to the latest consumer segment: XTreme Shoppers, as coined by GfK Custom Research

Who Are These XTreme Shoppers? 

To start, XTreme Shoppers are motivated, aggressive and passionate. They can be found across all U.S. geographic regions and income levels. They use multiple resources and go to almost any length to seek out the best possible value. They value such factors as enjoyment, usefulness, simplicity and assurance.

What we found most interesting is that GfK’s research shows that XTreme Shoppers derive more emotional satisfaction from shopping online than in-store, indicating that your B2C e-commerce experience should be a priority if these are the consumers you're looking to attract. When comparing the two channels, more respondents considered online to be inviting (81% vs. 71% for in-store), uplifting (84% vs. 71%), customized (73% vs. 51%), energizing (74% vs. 48%) and calming (80% vs. 53%).

These shoppers consider themselves "in control" of retailers. They want you to be as passionate about them as they are about your brand. Or they will shop elsewhere.

Catering to XTreme Shoppers

Some retailers are excelling at addressing the needs of these multichannel, highly motivated consumers. Williams-Sonoma, for example, maintains consistency across all channels and experiences.  Whether attending an in-store cooking demonstration or browsing the retailer's online library of recipes, shoppers feel like they are being treated to something special when they interact with the brand. The same could be said for Apple, which offers consistent and enjoyable experiences both in-store and digitally.

The takeaway: Gone are the days when price, quality and quantity are the only true purchase drivers.  Is your retail brand meeting the XTreme Shopper's needs, or are you struggling with e-commerce barriers that prevent this cross-channel synchronization?  We’d love to hear from you about what you are doing to attract and please these passionate shoppers.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

E-commerce 2.0 – The Next Wave

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 by
Excerpts from Lazard Capital Markets  Tech and Media Conference
March, 13, 2011; Boston, MA

Blueport Commerce executives recently participated in a panel presentation titled “E-Commerce 2.0: The Next Wave” at Lazard Capital Markets Annual Technology & Media Conference. Held in Boston, on March 14 and 15. This conference brought together industry executives in a fireside chat format, with presentations from more than 50 leading technology, media and Internet companies. 

Drawing on his deep expertise developing online strategies for leading big-ticket retailers, President and Chief Executive Officer Carl Prindle, discussed the next e-commerce frontier and what brands need to do to capitalize on its growth.  Below are some key excerpts from his presentation:


Colin Sebastian – Lazard Capital Markets:  Carl, please take a minute to introduce Blueport.

Blueport is the only managed e-commerce provider focused on localized, big ticket commerce.

Think of us as GSI Commerce (GSIC) for players that need to involve local stores in their online efforts and whose products don’t fit in a UPS box.

Our clients range from a $250M furniture chain in Chicago, a $1B appliance, electronics and furniture superstore chain in Canada, a $4B flooring retailer with 1,100 independent dealers, to Sears (SHLD).

We provide each with a managed e-commerce solution – a localized, cross-channel commerce platform and the managed services to make their unique businesses work online.

CS: The pace of innovation in e-commerce is accelerating.  This is also driving another step forward in the shift of commerce and advertising from offline to online channels.  Given this overall trend, in your own businesses and markets, can you specify what are the 2 or 3 most important drivers of growth today?

Well, this session is definitely aptly named.  We’re at an inflection point – the start of a second wave of e-commerce.

The first wave of ecommerce was characterized by the Amazon model – online shopping for relatively simple, understood products shipped via UPS. 

There’s very little local store involvement in this model.  Customers buy things on their lunch break, and a guy in a brown shirt delivers it. 

A massive eco-system has grown supporting this model in last 15 years – advertising, merchandising, technology and so on. And, it works great – we see 45% penetration in some categories like PCs.

But, the e-com 1.0 model is bounded in a couple of ways.  One boundary is size – this model probably only works for less than half of all retail, less if you include services. 

The other boundary is profitability – e-com 1.0 was first because it’s easier.  Because it’s easy, it’s prone to commoditization, price pressure…it’s an efficient market, with all of the margin pressure that it entails.

What we’re seeing now is a second wave that pushes past these boundaries, engages the rest of the retail economy, and can be more profitable.

What’s driving it? Consumers looking to apply the habits learned via the Amazon model to new areas.  Companies that that have for a long time been on the sidelines because they DIDN’T fit that model – are now heading to the internet to meet them. 

The energy, the growth, is in the technology connecting the two – whether it is mobile, social, coupon sites, etc. – new technologies are giving new players access to new customers.

And Blueport is providing the multi-channel solutions for these new players to do something meaningful with that traffic.

CS:  You mention mobile. How big a factor is mobile becoming, for example as a percentage of your own transactions or volume, or as a lead generation tool?


Mobile is a huge factor, but different depending on whether you are an e-com 1 or e-com 2 player.

For e-com 1 players, mobile’s increased convenience is arguably driving new volume.  It’s also increasing price transparency, which accelerates the commoditization of some of these categories.

For an e-com 2 player, it’s a huge factor in a different way:  local.  Where e-com 1 was national, e-com 2 is local – local businesses, local services, huge retail chains were their offering is fundamentally local.

Take appliances as an example – I don’t think we’ll see refrigerators transacted via phone any time soon, but mobile can drive customers to local stores, critical for retailers trying to gain a slice of precious weekend “in-store” shopping minutes.

The game changer that starts to blend the two is the tablet…increased use of big screen browsing plus local is intriguing.

CS: There is a fairly rapid increase in merchant and enterprise use of Facebook, not only as a tool to reach out and communicate with consumers, but also to drive transactions.  Similar to the mobile question, how quickly is social becoming a meaningful part of real lead generation and driving online sales?

Well, Facebook, at its most powerful, is a personal network of friends.  A company interrupting that conversation can be pretty cringe worthy.  A company trying to be your friend doesn’t really work.

At the same time, along with apps, Facebook has become the “other” Internet, and retailers have to be there. 

We’ve seen it work in three ways:
  1. Brand Building: in high engagement categories, brands can interact with their customers on topics they are passionate about.
  2. Deals: Facebook can replace email as a way to distribute deals.
  3. As a Platform: we look at Facebook as an emerging platform/operating system that can host online stores with built in traffic.
CS:  Blueport appears to be in a sweet-spot helping merchants in challenging product categories figure out their e-commerce strategies.  Can you talk about the multi-channel environment, how the pace of that shift online may be changing?

It’s a phenomenal time to be where we are.  As we’ve talked about, there’s a seismic change from e-com 1 to e-com 2, and we’re in the middle of it.

You asked about the multi-channel environment.  The term multi-channel has been around a while, but its meaning is changing. 

In e-com 1, multichannel meant exactly/only that – more than one channel.  Retailers in categories that work well via direct ship built drop ship e-com systems, often entirely separate from their store business.

In e-com 2 today, we see true multi-channel, or cross-channel commerce (or just “commerce”).  Retailers are using the internet to drive their core business, not build a separate one.

Companies that were on the sidelines are now investing in solutions that reflect their businesses.  They look to online to drive customers to local stores, sell their local inventory and services, reflect their local pricing and local deals – to drive their core business.

A client, CarpetOne, is one of my favorite examples of this.  They are a $4B flooring retailer in 1,100 local markets.  They didn’t want to be Lumber Liquidators and drop-ship cheap boxes of hardwood.  They wanted to drive their core business – local installation of quality flooring. We enable that – their site reflects each market’s local product, pricing – pictures of owner’s dog, whatever makes that local market work.  It’s a seamless online experience that connects online to local store.

Sears (SHLD) – is a company taking another innovative approach.  They are reentering the furniture category via a unique cross-channel strategy.  They’re putting small footprint galleries in their stores, that drives traffic to a dedicated furniture website that we run for them, http://sears.furniture.com.  The site taps into local inventory, and Sears customers can get a sofa delivered tomorrow for $79.  Blueport powers the whole thing.

So, we’re seeing massive change in these categories, the evolution of true cross-channel categories, and it has accelerated dramatically in last 18 month. 

CS:  What are the key attributes that a bricks-and-mortar retailer or supplier of goods look for in an e-commerce vendor?

When looking at vendors, look at what experience they have in YOUR vertical.  Are you looking for an e-com 1 solution, or e-com 2?  Do you want a direct ship, separate enterprise, or do you want your local markets involved? 

Make sure the vendor has experience in your markets and your vision of what you want ecommerce to do for your core business. 

You can make some disastrous mistakes trying to sell appliances or furniture like you do shoes & apparel.

CS:  What would it cost a retailer or brand to build and maintain a state of the art e-commerce site from scratch, versus using a service provider such as Blueport?

Here again, it depends on what you’re selling. 

If you’re looking for an e-com 1 solution – you can put up a Yahoo! store up for next to nothing.  My 10 year old has one.

For e-com 2 – it’s more complex, requiring far more integration with your local stores’ existing systems and operations.  There’s no Yahoo! store or ready-made platform for that (but Blueport is close).

If you try to build an e-com 2 solution yourself, you have to look at three costs:  the cost to build it, the cost to run it, and the opportunity cost of screwing it up. 

We have a current client who first tried to build it themselves.  They spent $3M, and it never got off the ground.  It was two years of lost opportunity. 

With Blueport, they pay a monthly platform fee and a revenue share.  We’ve done major redesigns of their sites three times in the last two years, and added countless new features.  And they pay only their share of the overall platform and hosting costs.

We also help run the business for them from a marketing, merchandising and services perspective.  This is paid through the revenue share, so they get a turnkey, expert staff on a pay for performance basis.

This story has repeated itself a number of times – people trying it themselves, then deciding to work with us.  At the other end of our contracts, we’ve never lost a renewal, so people see the value of what we do (and would prefer not to have to do it themselves).

Part of the story is that the categories we’re in are a good fit for outsourcing.  They are challenging, don’t match the internal expertise of the players in them, and ultimately, they’re not like PC’s or software, where online is 45%-65% or more of volume. Stores are still key, so our clients get to focus on that part of their business, while we port and drive that business online.

CS:  Can you talk about the competitive nature of your business, who do you see as the most successful competitors and what are trends in pricing for these e-commerce services?

Sure, we segment the market on two dimensions. 

One dimension is e-com 1 versus e-com 2.  Is the customer in a market that will be a simple drop ship model, or do they need a cross-channel solution involving local stores?

The other dimension is platform versus managed solution.  Does the customer just want a technology solution, or are they looking for a partner to help them manage their online business?

On the e-com 1 side of the market, e-com 1 platforms are increasingly commoditized and under a lot of price pressure.  It’s a pure customer acquisition game.  Yahoo stores again.

For e-com 1 managed solutions, GSI Commerce (GSIC) is dominant with a huge lead in infrastructure and increasingly in services, where they’ve made some great strategic acquisitions.  While Amazon (AMZN) keeps looking at this space, GSI is the clear leader.

On the e-com 2 side of the market, e-com 2 platforms are mainly custom builds from players like IBM, and ATG (ORCL).  These are big dollar projects with two commas in the total cost, and they leave the customer to manage the solution - there’s no marketing, management, etc. And, they don’t have a ton of experience in these e-com 2 categories.

For e-com 2 managed solutions, where Blueport plays, we’ve yet to run up against a true competitor. 

I guess we really have two competitors: a customer doing nothing, which is less and less of a factor, and a customer trying to do it themselves, which with our case studies, is an easier and easier argument to overcome.  In a lot of cases, people are coming to us now who tried themselves, and now want out.

We expect competition to evolve, but we have a technology platform and service staff with a lot of specific functionality and experience in these markets, which makes it easy to talk to prospective clients, most of whom have been on the sidelines waiting for a provider that understands their business.

CS: That’s time – thanks to everyone for their participation.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Cross Channel Commerce: How The Home Depot 'Gets It'

Friday, February 18, 2011 by

Providing a seamless cross channel experience, with physical stores and ecommerce retail sites working towards a coordinated selling effort, has always been at the heart of our strategy at Blueport Commerce.  We get the importance of this approach in driving sales for big ticket items in particular, and so do our multichannel retail clients. 

The Home Depot is another retailer that ‘gets it’.

Hal Lawton, president of Home Depot Online, recently gave a presentation at the  Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference 2011, focusing on The Home Depot’s successful integration of online and offline stores. At the heart of this is the understanding that Home Depot customers want to shop, browse or do research through their channel of choice – and they want that experience to be consistent, whether it is online or in-store.

Since 45% of Home Depot customers visit the retailer’s site first, providing a localized e-commerce experience is essential to making sure customers get the most accurate pricing and inventory information for their area.  So the price and product selection customers see online is what they will see in store. This is a fundamental approach to the sites we build for clients like Carpet One and RoomStore.

One of the most interesting points of Home Depot’s cross-channel strategy is the fact that associates are responsible for sales in both channels.  For example, a store manager’s compensation is based partly on in-store sales and also on online deliveries to the local area. This represents a seismic shift in the siloed approach we still see many retailers take towards their e-commerce site and store network, but it’s a powerful motivator in making sure all your teams are truly working together towards an end goal: the sale.

What are your thoughts on Home Depot’s strategy?




Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce
 

RedPrairie Acquires Escalate Retail

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 by
We have seen a wave of retail and ecommerce acquisitions lately, and the latest comes from cross channel vendor Escalate Retail.  The company announced today that it has been acquired by Red Prairie, a vendor providing workforce, warehouse and transportation management software solutions.  The acquisition is touted by both companies as a move to provide retailers with collective functionality that enhances multi-channel retailing with order capture, POS, store kiosk, call center operations, and more.  In essence, it will give Red Prairie the opportunity to extend their supply chain capabilities into the retail space.  Read more about the deal here




Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce


The Growing Trend of Stores within Stores

Thursday, January 27, 2011 by
I read an interesting piece in Fortune this week about the revival of the store within a store concept.  Some of the country’s biggest multichannel retailers, including Sears, Target and Walmart have recently rolled out new marketplaces or boutiques within their existing retail stores.  

The benefits of these partnerships are easy to see. By partnering with specialized retailers and manufacturers, large retailers can fill holes in their product offering and capitalize on new retailing or product trends quicker.  They can also tap into a wealth of new crosschannel and cross-brand marketing opportunities.

A variation of the store within a store concept is also gaining steam for online retailers. Fortune notes that almost 80% of the products sold by Amazon come from outside sellers who handle their own products, set their own prices and provide their own customer service. Sears also recently launched  "Marketplace at Sears" following on this concept.

I think this is a trend that we will see much more of over the next year, as our traditional retail models continue to shift and retailers embrace new ways to engage their customers and drive sales across channels.

The key for retailers will be developing compelling store within a store environments (be it online or in-store) that excite customers and draw them in.  That sense of uniqueness and surprise will be essential to elevating the brand, capturing customers’ attention and capitalizing on sales opportunities.




Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce


Locating the Store Locator

Friday, January 7, 2011 by
If you are a multichannel retailer, chances are your website has a store locator.  But, according to a new report from Tempkin Group, online store locators are missing a key part of the shopping experience.  The report, issued in December, evaluated five retailers – The Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Walgreens and Walmart, as well as five banks.  Companies were rated across six criteria: start, locate, interact, complete, end and brand coherence.

Tempkin Group found that most of the sites' store locators were mediocre because they had poorly organized results pages, lacked important information and made it hard to find the store locator on the homepage.

While store locators are often a ‘checklist’ feature, is critical to get it right, or you risk losing traffic (and therefore sales) to your competitors.  There is no reason that the store locator should become one of your ecommerce challenges. Based on the Tempkin Group’s criteria, as well as our own experience with big-ticket retailers who rely heavily on cross channel commerce, we put together the following tips to ensure your store locator makes the grade:

1. Ensure your store locator is easy to…well, locate! The store locator should always be easy to find - not only on the homepage, but within search results and product pages.

2. Include all the information needed to find the store, not just the address.  Include local store hours, a phone number, a map and directions.

3. Keep everything “above the fold.”  Maps should never push important information to the bottom of the page.  Be sure to test your page within multiple browsers and on different size screens to ensure pertinent information is always above the fold.

4. Offer local inventory checks so a consumer can check whether a product is in stock before making a trip to the store.  If a product is not in stock, suggest the next closest store where the product can be found and/or offer to have the product shipped to the customer's home or closer store location.

5. Enable the shopper to text, email or click on a printer-friendly version of the store info and/or directions.

6. Finally, for mobile retail sites and applications, create a GPS-enabled store locator function to make it as easy as possible for the on-the-go shopper to find your store.

As Tempkin advises, think the entire customer process through when designing your store locator.



Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce