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Shopping for Furniture Online Is on the Rise: See How Shoppers Are Riding the Wave

Friday, May 3, 2013 by

While many of us avid shoppers can attest to the immense benefits of shopping online, it may be a surprise that shopping online for furniture is just climbing the crest of its opportunity for retail e-commerce. According to Google/Compete [note: link loads PDF], for shoppers, the path to purchase is all about the right method, products, price and selection that will influence how they buy furniture online. Here’s how furniture retailers can take advantage of the furniture shopper path to purchase.

Online Is a Tool for the Entire Furniture Shopping Pipeline

While furniture shopping is averaging just an increase of 5% unique visits year-over-year, shoppers are behaving all over the map. Furniture retailers have a huge opportunity to capture shoppers at all stages of conversion online. For example, only one in four furniture buyers purchase online but those that do purchase online tend to spend more than those who purchase offline – the average price paid by furniture purchasers who shopped online was $657 versus $600 for those who didn’t. Two-thirds of these buyers who purchase in-store access the internet for furniture information. That’s 66% of shoppers who are just trying to learn more to help their ultimate purchase, whether online or in a retail store!

Omnichannel Is Right On

Marketing to shoppers through omnichannel efforts is not just to satisfy e-commerce buzzwords – omnichannel is a true tenant of what makes furniture retailers reap the benefits of selling furniture online. In-store buyers rely heavily on retail sites while shopping – 76% of them on furniture store sites. These buyers also cast a wide net while shopping online, with 63% of purchasers visiting multiple furniture brand sites prior to purchase.

In addition, shoppers have specific requirements for furniture that influences purchase, among them style (82%), material (81%), durability (81%), and size (80%). With all of these considerations being made by shoppers both online and off, it’s critically important for furniture retailers to engage shoppers wherever they are in their purchase cycle and through multiple channels.

Mobile Continues to Catch Waves

Mobile and tablets are still increasingly important sources for online furniture shoppers. 13% use a tablet to access furniture information, while 12% use their mobile. While these numbers don’t yet represent the majority of those studied, trends still suggest that mobile and tablets are poised for growth in the coming years for e-commerce. In addition, Blueport’s brick and mortar retailers can count themselves as sites that furniture shoppers visit:

  • Furniture-only retail sites (39%)
  • Home furnishing sites (40%)
  • Online-only retail websites (41%)
  • Department store websites (44%)

Furniture retailers that can take full advantage of online commerce, while integrating with their brick and mortar stores and mobile, are poised to seize the billion dollar opportunity ahead of them. And Blueport Commerce is riding the wave right along with them, by helping furniture retailers implement a full-service solution that meets the unique, localized needs of selling furniture online.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Three Disruptive Payment Trends: Emerging Methods to Pay for Furniture Online

Friday, April 12, 2013 by

E-Commerce Digital WalletsAccording to a recent report from Forrester Research, 2013 will be a trendsetting year for consumer payments. Blueport Commerce examines how furniture retailers can take advantage and the implications of three key trends: innovative versus existing payment options, the digital wallet battle for supremacy, and alternative financial services for underserved customers.

Emerging Payment Models Will Disrupt Existing Payment Structures Among Merchants

Forrester predicts that emerging payment models are expected to disrupt traditional payment economics. For example, “merchants have a growing set of payment options that do not adhere to the traditional interchange or processing fee model.” A handful of these new options could come at a lower cost than old-school payment options and at a bigger ROI for both consumers and retailers. The new emerging payment technologies include mobile digital wallets and startups offering free or low cost payment processing. Furthermore, Forrester states that merchants will reset their expectations for lower costs and greater value from incumbent payment service providers.

Customers Require Differentiation Among Digital Wallets

Forrester’s second trend involves the need for digital wallet providers to stand out from the crowd. In January 2013, Juniper Research predicted that more than 1 billion mobile phone users will have used their mobile devices for banking purposes by the end of 2017, compared to just over 590 million this year. This forecast represents around 15 percent of the mobile subscriber base.

And as digital wallet wars continue (players include Square, PayPal, Google Wallet, Isis, and MasterPass, among others), the contenders who truly solve a user pain point, especially through mobile, will emerge on top. For example, MasterPass simply requires consumers to download an app, and scan the barcode, which adds their product to a shopping cart. At checkout, the consumer just taps the “BUY WITH MasterPass” button on the touchscreen. Soon enough, gone will be the days of waiting in line, carrying multiple credit cards, and consumers are in control of how and when they pay.

Emerging Alternative Financial Services Will Help the Underserved Consumers

The third trend Forrester sees is that emerging alternative financial services will appeal to a broad base of consumers. More plentiful payment options for e-commerce retailers start to become attractive to a set base of underserved consumers who might be “unbanked, underbanked and debanked.” Merchants who look to create fast and simple conversion of cash for digital payments will be able to appeal to other sectors of the population, and compete head-to-head with checking accounts and debit cards.

Advantages for Furniture Retailers: In Store & Online

Brick and mortar furniture retailers can take advantage of offering new payment methods to satisfy their customers’ needs for speed and ease – taking the pain out of “waiting in line” and paying automatically with the click of a button. The convenience of these new payment methods to the online channel is that they help integrate omnichannel store to online efforts and offer a competitive difference among other online retailers. The combination of providing easy and fast ways for customers to shop, whether in store or online, can positively impact conversion.

In addition, for e-commerce furniture retailers these emerging payment options offer an enhanced level of security. Sensitive information, like a MasterCard through MasterPass, is stored online through smartphones, tablets or desktops, eliminating concerns about physical card security, complete with fraud checking and other online security methods. By taking security concerns out of the equation, “We want to let consumers choose their own device, and we’ve built the platform to enable that,” says Ed Olebe, SVP & group head at MasterCard Worldwide.

So no matter what payment method is offered – emerging trends in consumer payments are here to stay and furniture merchants and consumers alike can take advantage of innovative payment methods.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

How to Turn Showrooming into a Retailer's Advantage

Friday, January 11, 2013 by

Furniture Showrooming E-CommerceE-commerce sales continue to steadily rise, with year-over-year sales growth for the period from October 29 to December 25, 2012 reaching 15.2% (Retail Info Systems News). If you're a big-ticket brick and mortar retailer looking to pick up on online best practices and integrate them into their physical stores, you should be taking note very closely. With the goal of engaging customers throughout the year, not just seasonally, you can recapture the potential sales lost through showrooming. And not all retailers need to adopt the Target defense of price-matching all sources – sometimes the best defense is a good (marketing) offense!

In an interesting interview from Multichannel Merchant, Randall Stone, senior partner and director of customer experience and retail design at Lippincott, has keyed in on a few retail strategies that are being used to enhance in-store shopping experiences. Here are the ones we at Blueport Commerce, the only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, felt most applicable to big-ticket retailers:

  1. Integrate Digital Tools Specific to the Showroom: Add digital kiosks and tablets throughout stores to allow customers to access online product information, reviews, as well as full e-commerce functionality to allow them to purchase online after getting to touch and feel the furniture. Provide customers with technology that allows them to visualize products in their everyday lives (read our coverage of augmented reality tools  here). Design a showcase experience that enables on-floor sales associates with tools (such as tablets) to see inventory levels, and allow consumers to customize any products they're interested in purchasing.
  2. Embrace Omnichannel: Retailers have a chance to better engage consumers with a browse anywhere/buy anywhere approach. Retailers should allow customers to shop whenever and wherever they please and then pick-up, or have the goods delivered – site to store, store to home, etc.  Retailers who provide an omnichannel experience will be brand leaders.
  3. Mobile Apps: Mobile apps allow consumers to shop in-store, pay painlessly with their smartphone and depart. These apps make shopping experiences quicker and easier. Oftentimes, coupons can be loaded onto the mobile app in order to incentivize shoppers to spend while in-store. In fact, in a recent survey, eMarketer found nearly two-thirds of 18- to 34-year-olds reported using their mobile phone for shopping this past holiday season, and almost half said this made their phone a faster resource for accessing information than asking a store associate.
  4. Focus on Your Consumer Year-Round: Shopping holidays are high-volume revenue days for retailers, but they don't always mean repeat business. Customer loyalty is dependent on the consistent experience consumers have in your store and online – retailers need to deliver their brand experience all year long. Retailers who concept clever ways to differentiate themselves, such as express frequent shoppers’ lines or loyalty programs, will find retail success year-round. Some stores are experimenting with pop-up stores, flash sales and/or tailored events to appeal to new prospects. Big-ticket retailers can benefit from in-store promotional events that offer a rich, multimedia and interactive experiential component to drive store traffic. Additionally, for big-ticket retailers, design services and email marketing tactics can play a key role in keeping your customers engaged year round.

With big-ticket retail, the focus is going to be inherently local, as consumers often want to touch and feel the big-ticket items they are going to purchase. By focusing on creating a cohesive brand experience from site to store, enhancing convenience and providing a superior customer experience, big-ticket retailers can turn showrooming prospects into satisfied, loyal customers.

What do you think? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Canadian E-Commerce: Consumers Are Ready to Buy, But Where Are the Retailers?

Friday, November 2, 2012 by

Canadian e-Commerce Canadians Shop Online

Did you know Canadians lead the world in online engagement, with users spending an average of 45 hours online a month? Consumers in Canada are heavily engaged in social media channels, as well as online search and banking. In 2010, 8 out of 10 Canadian households (79%) had access to the internet, and over one-half of connected households used more than one type of device to go online.

Yet in contrast, Canada's internet economy is expected to grow by 7.4% a year through 2016, better than the country's overall GDP, but still lagging many global peers. And shockingly, only 1% of retail expenditures in Canada are from online transactions, compared to 8% in the United States. Compared to similarly connected nations, eMarketer notes that product assortment, payment paths and the number of online operators still lag in Canada’s e-commerce ecosystem.

So with all of these connected Canadians, one would think the consumer demand for e-commerce is there, yet the retailers aren’t. Why the disconnect? Blueport Commerce, the only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, examines some of the reasons for e-commerce’s failure to thrive in Canada.

Lack of Government Support

The federal government could do a lot more to create incentives for the internet economy to take off, said Tawfik Hammoud, partner and managing director at BCG who worked with Google on a study on Canadian e-commerce. Hammoud points to the governments of South Korea and Australia as examples of countries that worked to get e-commerce up and running.

“Canada needs a bit of a shot in the arm to get its e-economy growing going forward and if we don't do that we'll probably lose even more in terms of the ranking,” said Hammoud.

Canadian businesses are investing 40% less in information and communications technologies, or about $2,400 less per worker, than American businesses, according to Canadian Business. This means potential vendors struggle to justify the expense of building out a channel and lack the tools to overcome the challenges.

Selection, Payment & Technology Options Lag Behind

Canada is currently lacking the large presence of small online retailers that the US has. Although 71% of small businesses purchase products online, only 18% actually sell products online. And in order for a consumer to get the selection they want, they are often forced to shop for products from other countries, such as the US or the UK. There are hefty import and tax fees involved for Canadians that choose to purchase from other countries online using a credit card. For example, a $30 shirt imported from the United States could cost as much as $58 after taxes and fees. The inflated price makes many Canadian consumers decide to visit their local brick-and-mortar retailer rather than order it online, even if they can locate the product for less online (before fees and taxes).

Even in-country Canadian credit card transaction costs are prohibitively high for Canadian merchants. Per CBC News, merchants pay two to four percent of the sale price in various transaction fees whenever they accept a credit card for payment. Money first goes to the credit card network (Visa or MasterCard in the vast majority of cases), the company that processes the payments and the merchant's bank. A Bank of Canada survey looked at the estimated cost of processing a $36.50 transaction, which was the median cash transaction in its survey. Costs broke down like this:

  • Debit card: 19 cents
  • Cash: 25 cents
  • Credit card: 82 cents

Additionally the provincial tax system has been cited as an obstacle – in Canada, different provinces have different retail taxes and it is an onerous compliance burden for businesses to attempt to follow all of the rules, leading to less interest in e-commerce. 

And finally, with Canada being a smaller country, there is a lack of capital for funding the necessary expenditures on new technologies needed to drive e-commerce. With telecommunications, for example, this problem is further exacerbated by foreign ownership restrictions. The cost of implementing an e-commerce platform is high and many retailers are unable to currently accept online payments.

Shipping Challenges

Canada’s low population density makes shipping difficult and highly expensive for retailers – and that gets passed down to the consumers. The result is Canadians tend to research products online, but not actually make purchases via the internet, unlike Americans. Additionally, the poor showing of e-commerce as only 1% of Canada’s annual retail expenditures may also be affected by Canadians who shop online but from US retailers who ship north of the border, thus their e-commerce spending is reflected in the US’s annual retail expenditures, rather than Canada’s.

A Brighter Future

However, there is hope on the horizon. Large Canada-based retailers have begun to compete with US-based Canadian operators such as Amazon, online offerings have begun to expand, and creative solutions to supply chain difficulties have been implemented. One of Blueport Commerce's success stories, Leon's Furniture, has worked for five years to bring their furniture, electronics and appliance sales online. Their e-commerce revenue now holds its own against their physical store locations. And Canadians’ noted preference for going to brick-and-mortar stores to shopping online could work to big-ticket retailers’ advantage. Because of the consumer’s need to oftentimes see the furniture in a physical showroom, Blueport Commerce is able to localize the big-ticket retailer experience, creating an integrated shopping experience. This also applies to shipping, with consumers entering their Canadian postal code to allow for their local supply and local delivery, cutting down on shipping costs. With eMarketer predicting $35 billion in e-commerce spending by Canadians in 2016, it’s in Canada’s best interest to incentivize Canadian retailers to get their big-ticket retail items online.

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Augmented Reality in Furniture Retailing: The Future Is Here

Friday, October 19, 2012 by

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

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

Augmented Reality 3D


1. 3D Room Designer by Crate & Barrel

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

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

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

Augmented Reality Big-Ticket Retail

2. Mydeco 3D

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

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

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

Augmented Reality The Next Dimension

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

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

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E-Commerce Lengthens the Path to Purchase

Friday, August 31, 2012 by

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

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

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

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

What About Big-Ticket, Highly Considered Goods?

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 6, 2012 by

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

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

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

Pinterest Leads to Purchases – But Not Only for Online Shopping

Friday, May 25, 2012 by

Last week, global e-commerce player Rakuten announced its involvement in the $100M investment in Pinterest. “While some may see e-commerce as a straightforward vending machine-like experience, we believe it is a living process where both retailers and consumers can communicate, discover and curate to make the experience more entertaining,” said Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani. And we agree.

While the verdict is still out as to if and when Pinterest may have on-site e-commerce functionality (see CllickZ’s “E-Commerce May Not Come Soon to Pinterest” and Fashionista’s “Pinterest Could Become an E-Commerce Site”), we can see many reasons why a company like Rakuten might want in on the investment as well as why a company like Blueport would work with our clients to help them have an engaging presence on Pinterest. When purchasing big-ticket items, like furniture, consumers require discovery and something more than the commoditized shopping sites like Amazon.com have built empires upon. But the number one reason is that pinning leads to purchases.

According to an infographic (see below) explaining research performed by Emily Carr University and Vision Critical, 12% of people who pin an item then buy it online. But, more interesting, 16% of users who pin an item then buy it offline at a physical store. Pinterest users who purchase are more than 2½ times more likely than non-purchasers to visit Pinterest and 3 times as more likely to pin items than non-purchasers. Fifty percent of all Pinterest users surveyed plan to research more on Pinterest.

Additional data from a Shopify study, reported on by Mediabistro’s AllTwitter, further points to the need for a Pinterest presence to engage potential shoppers:

  • Pinterest is now the third most popular social networking site.
  • Pinterest already refers the same amount of traffic to e-commerce sites as Twitter (and this number is growing).
  • Pins that include prices get 36% more likes than those that do not.
  • Buyers referred from Pinterest are 10% more likely to buy than those referred from another social networking site and 70% more likely than those referred by other websites.

While Pinterest is only likely to be further integrated into e-commerce, retailers of all sites will benefit from pinning now.

From Pinterest to Purchase

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E-Commerce Gets Fabber -- and More Social!

Friday, May 18, 2012 by

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

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

Fab.com’s Social History

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

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

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

The New and Improved Fab.com Social Commerce Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Putting the Local in SoLoMo E-Commerce

Friday, May 11, 2012 by

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

Findings on SoLoMo Consumers

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

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

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

A Closer Look at Local E-Commerce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 13, 2012 by

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

Instagram’s Audience

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

Data, Data and More Data

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

Brand Engagement

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

Mobile Capabilities

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

Social Commerce

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

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

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

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Retail CIOs Should Champion Collaboration Across Departments

Friday, February 3, 2012 by
Here at Blueport, we’ve been passing around last week’s StorefrontBackTalk blog post “Should CIOs Now Surrender to Marketing?,” and it has sparked some discourse between our own marketing and technology functions. As Director of Integration, do I think CIOs should surrender to marketing? They already have!

Some don’t know it yet and some have walled themselves up in time capsules, and for both those groups, the battle has passed them by. Those CIOs who don’t know it yet lead organizations that just can’t seem to make up lost ground chasing the most profitable new technologies. Those who have walled themselves off behind pretexts of the need for conformity and centralized control have done nothing but stifle and stratify the process of business evolution critical to ongoing competitiveness. IT organizations that encourage and support peer business unit management of specialized, cost effective, outsourced applications have won the day.

When CIOs Let Go, Bigger Opportunities Result

By foregoing complete control of all that has become the technology function, the CIO also realizes benefits and reveals opportunities. No IT organization has excess resources to spend making specialized applications that compete with today’s best-in-class cloud and SaaS solutions. Spinning off responsibility for tools that cater to subject area expertise allows CIOs to focus resources against core projects where their resources thrive as opposed to working a potentially complicated solution in an unfamiliar discipline.

A Real-Life E-Commerce Example

The real opportunities result when, through a collaborative approach to enabling specialized applications, a vision develops of the next generation corporate infrastructure, an infrastructure that enables and supports snap-in specialized solutions and opens the door to the same type of quick, cost-effective solutions for all business units. Collaboration between the company’s business functions leading to a common enabling infrastructure gives the CIO the benefit of steering decisions on critical issues central to modern IT, such as compliance and security. Finally, the specialized applications researched and implemented by business units act like a research and development IT skunk works, exposing the organization to the newest technologies and solution patterns.

A real world example of this is your typical big-ticket retail e-commerce website.  Assuming the CIO chooses to develop the e-commerce solution in house, the company first needs to decide on a technology for catalog, order tunnel, fulfillment, and reporting. Then the CIO must hire a development team or train existing staff. While the staff is either hiring or training, none of them are advancing the IT organization’s other core solutions. And, as the new e-commerce team is building the website against the initial technology chosen, they are already falling behind technically. When the in-house solution finally launches, it is already underwhelming to consumers and, more often than not, the effort needs to be set aside immediately to resume work against the ever-present backlog of requests for changes to core business solutions.

All the while, the CIO could have used one of the SaaS solutions that are evolving quickly and constantly setting new user experience paradigms.

Alternately, if the CIO chooses to embrace an SaaS e-commerce solution advanced by the marketing team, the CIO’s team would have input on integration and security, as well as an easy case with management for building enhancements to core infrastructure and systems. The enhancements to the core infrastructure, quickened and focused by working against the new SaaS e-commerce solution, open the door to additional SaaS or cloud solutions as well as new technology core solutions by the in-house team. And don’t forget the finished product: SaaS solutions evolve very quickly and constantly set new user experience paradigms – customers love the new website. The next SaaS integration is very cost-effective, and the CIO is the hero. Best of all, nothing of true importance was actually surrendered to marketing.  

Next week: Marketing responds!

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

3 Key E-Commerce Trends to Watch in 2012

Friday, December 30, 2011 by
As 2011 comes to a close, reporters, bloggers and now we at Blueport Commerce are talking about the hot e-commerce trends and predictions for the new year. After 2011, a year in which e-commerce sales grew year-over-year despite the floundering economy, we’re expecting to see some of the seedlings of trends blossom into their own in a new year where technology and consumers’ adoption of e-commerce will continue to explode.

Trend #1: Online or Offline, Customer Experience Counts

Customers expect to be able to shop wherever and whenever they want. To facilitate this, retailers need to create a seamless experience so that there is no difference for consumers, whether they are shopping online or in-store. IMediaConnection used the term “phygital” to refer to the engagement between brands and their customers and how the relationship needs to be consistent regardless of the medium. The consistency builds the relationships, the relevancy and sales.

In this regard, beyond marketing message, online retailers need to make their products as relevant online as they are in person. Consumers expect to have a rich online experience that will stand in for the offline experience they would otherwise have. Expect to see richer product descriptions and imagery, product videos and even user-generated content that is detailed and visual to give fellow consumers additional product information.

Trend #2 Mobile Commerce and Tablet Commerce Will Continue to Grow

If you didn’t believe it before, certainly the 2011 holiday shopping’s couch commerce tells you that consumers are buying via mobile devices, whether smartphones or tablets. Experts predict that mobile transactions will grow to make up 20 percent or more of all e-commerce transactions. Online retailers need to continue to brush up on their mobile presentation, as well as get ready to leverage the geo-location information provided by such devices to reach consumers when they are nearby and to close the gap on closing sales.

Trend #3: Increased Social Integrations with Increased Options for Customers and E-Retailers

While it is doubtful f-commerce will truly take off any time soon, Facebook and social networks are not going anywhere, and nearly half of consumers who are on e-commerce websites will simultaneously be on a social network. E-retailers will integrate more with Facebook, beyond the “like.” Perhaps following online content sites’ “recently read” features, e-commerce sites will adopt “recently bought” or “recently browsed” to encourage relevant social sharing.

Additionally, brands will further use social networks to develop those ever-important relationships with their consumers. Strong bonds through such networks will help online merchants close the sale and keep the customers coming back.

What do you think of our 2012 trends? Do you agree or have more of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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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.”

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Luxury Websites: If You Don’t Have E-Commerce, Why Not?

Friday, October 28, 2011 by
Many luxury brands have been slow to cultivate their online presence, and even slower to integrate e-commerce capabilities. They seemed to think that the mass appeal and convenience of online shopping would dilute the value and prestige of their brands or that consumers would not be willing to pay big-ticket prices via the Web. This has been proven wrong, as research shows that wealthy people shop online more frequently and spend more per transaction. As of late, many luxury retailers have come around to see the value of the Internet for driving sales, and, even more, the value in allowing customers to transact on an e-commerce site.

According to a recent study by PM Digital, 81% of the luxury websites surveyed now have e-commerce, and the sites with e-commerce get 98% of the traffic that goes to these luxury sites. About a third of this traffic comes from search engines, and there is very little cross traffic, since luxury shoppers are very loyal to their brands. Surprisingly, only a very small amount of luxury brands’ traffic (0.29%) comes from luxury daily deals sites, like Gilt Groupe, ideeli and RueLaLa.

What Makes Luxury E-Commerce Successful?

When selling big-ticket luxury items online, however, it’s not as simple as using a plug-and-play e-commerce solution. Luxury brand customers expect a high-end boutique experience whether in-person or online. Here are some aspects to consider when selling luxury via e-commerce:

  • You need to provide rich product descriptions. The more expensive an item is, the more information the consumer will want you to provide.
  • Offer exceptional customer service, getting as close to what you offer in-store with a personal shopper. On the Web, that translates to online chat.
  • The entire online shopping experience should be like going into one of your boutiques. Craft a strong welcome message on your home page. And then as customers drill down into products, allow them to zoom in on the images or even watch product videos – the goal is for them to handle the product, virtually.
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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

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

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

3 Reasons Why Quality Content Could Be Your Key to E-Commerce Success

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 by
Back in the early days of the web, when many of us pioneered this business, there was the notion of sticky content. Sticky content was all about putting content on your website to encourage visitors to linger and come back to your site. This was back when business plans were thin, eyeballs were all the rage and no one talked about conversions. But then the dotcom bubble burst, and content creation was deemed an unnecessary task as website teams trimmed down and struggled to keep their Internet businesses afloat.

Fast-forward to now: Content has made a comeback. Google, blogs and social sharing have made offering unique, quality content in some form to your customers a must for any website and a competitive advantage for e-commerce sites. Here are 3 of the top reasons why.

#1 Your Customers

Remember: E-commerce site content takes the place of welcoming sales associates at a brick-and-mortar store. From calls to action to your About Us page, what is the impression you want to make? Also, e-commerce retailers ask their customers to buy items with limited senses. Well-crafted product descriptions can fill the void for customers who wonder what an item really feels like in person. Buying guides and other advice can lead customers through the process of purchasing online and specifically via your website.

Tip: As an e-commerce website, you are a content publisher. Define your target audience and who you are as a retailer. Be sure your content’s voice and tone live up to and reinforce the promises you want to make. Style guides are not just for logos and fonts.

#2 Your Brand


The content you publish on your e-commerce site is an extension of your business. It allows you to give your company a voice and to set yourself up as an advocate, trendsetter, thought leader, or whatever best sets your specific e-commerce business apart. And thanks to social sites, if the web content you create is engaging, sharing it is easier than ever. Good, interesting content can spread like wildfire – are you creating any? If you deliver content that is truly helpful and unique, your customers will blog about it, share it on Facebook, Tweet it and more. Quality content allows others to be your brand ambassadors.

Tip: You can start getting the word out yourself! Share your site’s content via a corporate blog, Twitter account, StumbleUpon, etc.

#3 Search Engine Optimization


Anyone who knows their SEO stuff will tell you: When it comes to search engine optimization, nothing beats fresh, original content. While link baiting and creating directory pages on your own site will help with your organic search rankings, it should supplement your real content offering. Just look at how well blog posts rank on Google. By nature, well-written content is full of keywords, whether on a product page or in an article related to the types of product you sell online. A fresh content offering gives spiders something new to crawl, and nothing beats a quality offering to encourage people to read and link to what you’ve written. And with Google Panda, being sure your product descriptions are truly unique will only benefit your e-commerce store.

Tip: A corporate blog is a great way for an e-commerce site to get into the content arena. You don’t have to worry about integrating a content management system into your platform, and you can use a blog to introduce new products, offer tips and share relevant news about your online retail business.

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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.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce