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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, 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.

Is CSN Stores the Amazon of Home?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 by
I just read a great article on our friends at CSN Stores and their plans to continue to dominate the home goods segment of B2C e-commerce.

While they aspire to be the Amazon of home, co-founder Niraj Shah is 'careful to point out the differences between the companies—a key one being CSN’s focus on home products and its “specialized supply chain” for items like furniture. By shipping directly from manufacturers, CSN has managed to offer a large selection without having to stock its own warehouses (at least up to now).'

From our perspective as fellow big-ticket retailers, CSN is doing a few more things right that should help them leapfrog over Amazon in this space. 

First, CSN recognizes that buying items for your home, especially large pieces of furniture, can be quite different then buying a book. So in additional to providing more detailed product information, they have customer support available via chat and phone to assist potential customers .

Second, they also know that because they aren't always putting a package into the hands of UPS but rather with various freight companies, their centralized support is there during and after the delivery process to make sure every customer is happy.

We welcome companies like CSN Stores that continue to help break down the ecommerce barriers and show that there's more than one way to become one of the world's biggest retailers.

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

Multichannel Communication: A Marketer’s Dream or Nightmare?

Thursday, October 14, 2010 by

OK, so the headline is a little harsh. Personally, as a marketer, I love the emergence of multichannel communication. Why wouldn’t I want to be able to communicate with my customers (and customers-to-be) when, where and however works for them? Why wouldn’t I embrace social networking sites that give me insight into what the public thinks about my company or products? Why wouldn’t I thank the techies who created smartphones, making it possible for me to reach my target audience 24/7 without anyone having to be sitting at a computer or picking up their mail?

Of course, nothing this good is easy.

The Challenges of Multichannel Communication

In today’s marketplace, you see a lot of good examples of marketers communicating through multiple channels, but you also see a lot of bad ones. Some of the challenges of multichannel communication include keeping track of your own messages, monitoring what others are saying, determining which of the messages work, and consistency.

Consistency proves to be the big one. For example, if you’re like many of Blueport Commerce’s customers, you started out with a brick-and-mortar store and likely did direct mail and print advertising. Then you ventured online with an ecommerce site and perhaps an accompanying email program – somewhat similar, right? Now with social networking, you want to go viral and create community, and many companies think about what might be interesting without thinking about how it relates to their brand or the barrier to participate. Just because some college students think it’s OK to destroy their personal brands by uploading pictures of their Saturday night festivities, that doesn’t mean Facebook is an appropriate place to put your corporate brand through the same ringer.

So as you reach out to your customers using the multiple channels available to you – as you should – stay true to the brand you have created for yourself. Keep your multichannel communications consistent, so your customers can recognize you no matter how you reach them.

Ecommerce Software Packages: Which one is right for me?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 by
Any retailer setting up an ecommerce store or considering replatforming their current offering, knows the choices in ecommerce shopping software are endless.  The landscape is wide, with numerous vendors offering ecommerce software packages.

The big-ticket retailer often finds their ecommerce shopping software choices to be even more complex.   This is because their needs are inherently different.  They go beyond setting up a basic online shop, to require more sophisticated merchandising capabilities and fulfillment, and an ability to understand their unique business models. Performing an ecommerce software comparison seems an impossible task.

So where do you start in your decision making process? Here are two initial points to consider:

1. Start by evaluating your current ecommerce shopping software or the retail systems you use to run your business.  Many big-ticket retailers find their systems are not ecommerce ready, and that they may pose a barrier to going online.  Make sure the ecommerce software packages you are considering are able to seamlessly integrate with your current systems.  At its best, your online ecommerce solution should be able to extract the data found in your current systems, augment for e-commerce, then return completed ecommerce transactions to you that are indistinguishable from orders placed in your stores.

2. Make your ecommerce store an extension of your bricks and mortar store, not an island in itself.  Look for an ecommerce software package that treats your SKUs, prices and your product information exactly like store orders from a fulfillment and service perspective.  This is a fundamental difference between ecommerce shopping software for mass merchants, and that which is geared towards big-ticket retailers.  The result is less work, higher customer satisfaction and a reduced need to develop separate staff or procedures for online sales. E-commerce becomes another store, seamlessly integrated with your strategy, operations and reporting.

Finding an ecommerce service provider that meets these inital criteria is the first step in setting up your ecommerce store and capitalizing on the advantages of e-commerce.

Overcoming the Barriers to Big-Ticket Ecommerce

Monday, March 15, 2010 by
Big-ticket retailers face a whole different set of ecommerce challenges than do their mass merchant counterparts.  That's because big-ticket ecommerce is fundamentally different than traditional ecommerce, long typified by consumers purchasing inexpensive, simple products online and receiving shipment via parcel service.

Big-ticket retail presents unique ecommerce barriers. It involves more expensive, less well-understood products — furniture, appliances, TVs, flooring, construction materials. Prices are higher and consumer confidence is lower. Inventory is bulky, expensive to move around the country and more expensive to return.

Because of this, big-ticket commerce is fundamentally local. Stores play a critical role. Ecommerce becomes a powerful tool to help stores compete in their local markets rather than a national channel that bypasses them. Online efforts serve to drive store traffic, generate leads and consummate online transactions, cost effectively and measurably.

For these reasons and more, big-ticket retailers often find their foray into the ecommerce space a daunting challenge.  How do they successfully overcome these ecommerce barriers to manage the numerous components - merchandise, operations, and IT? Often, big-ticket retailers find that standard ecommerce platforms do not offer the tailored solutions that are required to successfully bring their products online. 

At Blueport, our technology is specifically designed to help big-ticket retailers overcome these ecommerce barriers and develop success full online storefront that drive their sales. 

We match our technology platform and services to address the unique business needs of big-ticket retailers, not squeeze them into a commodity-focused, inflexible platform that doesn't address the intricacies of your business. We focus on what makes these retailers' business unique, so they can focus on what matters most — growing their business online.

The Next "BIG" Wave of Ecommerce: Big-Ticket Retail

Thursday, March 4, 2010 by
The products that fueled first generation e-commerce—books, software and music to name a few—are all simple to understand items that can be easily shipped to consumers.   Today, we are at the tipping point of a second wave of online growth, as consumers push beyond these simple transactions to research and purchase more complex products online.  This second wave of growth will be driven by big ticket retail, and it represents a seismic opportunity for those big ticket retail chains that are prepared to catch it.

But, profiting from big ticket e-commerce growth presents a new set of challenges for retailers.  That these categories are some of the last to move online is not coincidental - big-ticket products like home furnishings and appliances are inherently challenging to sell online and many retailers in these markets have faced barriers to bringing their offerings online in the past.

Consumers must be made comfortable transacting “big-ticket” purchases.  Their decision process is much longer.  Shoppers may not know brand or model numbers for these items (know the manufacturer brand of the last sofa you bought?), making it imperative that product information presented online be compelling in its own right.  Shoppers are likely to want to see products in a store or consult with a sales representative, meaning store, online, phone, chat and email experiences must be seamless.   And, if all this is done perfectly and a consumer makes a purchase, these products often have complex shipping and installation requirements that can quickly become a nightmare for any retailer. 

Nonetheless, retail chains, with their local presence, trusted brands and quick, inexpensive delivery have significant advantages pursuing this new e-commerce opportunity.   While pure-play internet companies will likely continue to dominate small ticket markets online, retail chains can win in big ticket – which represents a whopping 45% of US retail.

Customers are looking for big ticket online – certainly to research products and, increasingly, to buy them.  Retailers can profit by meeting them there.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Going Beyond Your Standard Ecommerce Platform: A Big-Ticket Retailer's Wishlist

Thursday, February 25, 2010 by
Unlike most retailers looking to sell their products online, big-ticket retailers need an ecommerce platform that is specifically designed to address the "big-ticket" barriers that have prevented them from going online.

Unlike their mass merchandise counterparts, big-ticket retailers need a platform that will help them overcome challenges such as:

  • Merchandising products that are challenging to sell online because they are expensive, unbranded, not well understood or highly customizable
  • Managing shipping requirements and costs for products that have complex delivery requirements that can't be met by standard parcel services
  • Integrating franchise or co-op models where brand, product offering and distribution is controlled locally by independent dealers
  • Greater emphasis on cross-channel shopping

These retailers need a system that goes beyond just a standard ecommerce platform.  They need a business solution that integrates their ecommerce store into a seamless multi-channel strategy offering. 

Key ecommerce platform requirements for big-ticket retailers include:

  • Localization
  • Custom System Integration
  • Online Merchandising
  • Online Marketing
  • E-Commerce
  • Order Tracking
  • Franchise/Co-op Extranet
  • Store Intranet
  • CRM & Email Marketing
  • Inventory Management
The Blueport platform represents a decade of big-ticket learning in a specialize, comprehensive, hosted solution used by retailers representing billions in big-ticket sales. 

The Blueport Commerce Approach to E-Commerce Integration

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 by
At Blueport Commerce, we are committed to respecting and integrating WITH systems, not in creating a separate e-commerce solution for you to then maintain. We believe that to be effective, e-commerce integration is essential: your e-commerce must work seamlessly with the systems you use to run your current business.

We also understand that your systems are likely not e-commerce ready, and that you may consider them a barrier to going online. This is a challenge we've faced many times before.

Our e-commerce platform is designed to integrate with any system— to extract what data can be found in your systems, augment it for e-commerce, then return completed e-commerce transactions to you that are indistinguishable from orders placed in your stores.

Your SKUs, your prices, your product information, enhanced and then returned as an order in your system that can be treated exactly like store orders from a fulfillment and service perspective. The result is true e-commerce integration: less work, higher customer satisfaction and a reduced need to develop separate staff or procedures for online sales.

E-commerce becomes another store, seamlessly integrated with your strategy, operations and reporting.