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Lights, Camera, Action! - Why Video Marketing Should Be a Top Priority for Furniture Retailers

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by

If you are a furniture retailer, you know how important style and quality is to your consumer (in addition to price of course!) Highlighting style, quality and workmanship in your online catalog is important in gaining consumer trust in your products ensuring their peace of mind while avoiding surprises when your product arrives at their door. Unfortunately in today’s busy world, consumer attention span continues to decrease and using verbose text to describe a product is no longer a viable solution for retailers. Video has become a popular trend among marketers and online retailers to showcase products and services in an engaging way. 76% of marketers are making video a top priority. The team at Blueport has looked into the numbers and shares four tips to help you get started.

                        
The Data Behind Video

Why are marketers making video a top priority? Let us break down the numbers:

  • About 87% of the U.S. Internet audience viewed online videos in 2013
  • On average, consumers who watch product videos on a retail site are 64%-85% more likely to purchase than other visitors and are more likely to stay on the site longer 
  • 52% of consumers who watch product videos say videos make them more confident about purchasing a product online
  • Videos of products increased sales for Zappos by between 6% and 30% back in 2010 according to Econsultancy

The numbers clearly show that video sells. And if you’re a furniture retailer, you should probably start thinking about how to incorporate video into your online strategy (if you haven’t already). Here are four tips to help you get started.

Tip #4: Videos Should Be Simple, Short And Sweet

Remember when we said consumers have a short attention span? Well that attention span doesn’t just apply to reading text. The general rule of thumb is to not share a video that is over a few minutes as consumers are most engaged in the first 1-2 minutes. Therefore, the shorter the video the better. Start with outlining the objective of the video and make sure the content aligns with your objective. If you are showcasing a product, think about the questions a consumer would ask about it and key attributes to highlight.

Tip #3: Videos Should Appear Professionally Done

Producing videos has become extremely easy to do in-house. But if you go that route, make sure you put in the time and effort to make them appear professionally done so that you consumer is engaged, rather than distracted by production quality. It is important to make sure you have the right equipment for sound, lighting and location. A poorly produced video can impact not only a customer’s decision to buy, but also their perceptions of your brand.  It might be better to outsource video production until you have the necessary resources on hand to take over that responsibility.

Tip #2: Video Is Not Just for Showing off Products

Considering video as an overall part of your content marketing strategy is a great way to drive engagement and develop trust among your core group of consumers. For furniture, this is especially important given that consumers on average only shop for big-ticket items like appliances and furniture once every seven years. Videos can help bring consumers back to your website more frequently, even if the original intent is not always to buy. Consider posting educational videos in addition to product ones with this in mind. A blog or resource center, for example, are great vehicles for sharing educational videos, such as design tips.

Tip #1: Don’t Forget About Search Engine Optimization

Video tends to be SEO friendly. Google places emphasis on the amount of time people spend on your site and, when people watch videos they typically spend more time on a site compared to those who do not watch them. But there is still some work that needs to be done to make sure Google is tracking your video content. Be sure to stay up to date on SEO tips for video, such as posting a separate video sitemap, to ensure you get the added SEO benefit of video content on your site.

Now that you are armed with some information you need to get started with video, get out there and do it. Retailers who get on the trend first are sure to have an advantage over those who lag behind. Lights, Camera, Action!


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.

A Look Back At 2013. The Best Of The Blueport Big-Ticket Blog

Saturday, January 4, 2014 by

2013 has been a banner year for us Blueporters. As an ode to 2013, we’ve rounded up some of the best articles posted on the Blueport Big-Ticket blog over the past year. Enjoy!

At the beginning of 2013, I shared my out-of-the-box predictions in the January 4, 2013 post, Our Crazy Predictions for the Year Ahead. While these predictions didn’t exactly come true, they sure were innovative (and fun).

On January 18, 2013, Marketing Director Betsy Miller wrote about Furniture Shopping: Major Differences Revealed Between Generations. It remains one of our most popular posts for the year.

Following the annual MITX E-Commerce Summit held in February this past year, Account Manager Liz Ricklefs reported on the event in her February 8, 2013 post, 7 Things Blueport Learned at the MITX: What’s Next E-Commerce Summit. This year, Blueport joins other MITX members as a sponsor and President and Chief Executive Officer Carl Prindle will speak on how the rise of mobile has impacted furniture e-commerce. 

On March 8, 2013, Account Manager Bindi Tuli wrote about Forrester’s The State of Online Retailing 2013 where she shared findings on the importance of mobile, shipping and site speed. Check out her follow up post as well, published September 21, 2013 on peak planning

Payment trends were a big topic in 2013 and especially for e-commerce. I discussed these payment trends in his April 12, 2013 post, with a particular focus on digital wallets and alternative financial services.

Showrooming is a popular topic around the Blueport water cooler. We love it! It is definitely furniture’s “Friend, Not Foe,” as indicated in Betsy Miller’s April 26, 2013 post.

In June, Blueporters attended The Annual Internet Retailing Conference & Expo. Business Development Associate Kate Putnam covered topics from the conference, including content strategy by Craftsman, Kenmore and Diehard and the wonders of Petflow.com.

As we live and breathe furniture here at Blueport Commerce, Account Management Associate Sarah Metzger-Traber couldn’t resist writing about What Furniture Consumers Want Most (hint: it’s better quality) on July 27, 2013.

As most of us Blueporters know, pretty much anything authored by our President and Chief Executive Officer Carl Prindle is gold. And his August 3, 2013 post did not disappoint. Check it out here.

Not to be outdone, we loved Marketing Content Strategist Erica Blute’s post on Instagram for furniture retailers, as well as Kristina Hartjen’s post on the ideal customer service experience.

Holiday predictions and Cyber Monday/Black Friday results have already made a big splash on the Blueport blog this year, with more to come.

Last, but not least it wouldn’t be Blueport Big-Ticket Blog post without some shameless self-promotion. Learn more about us through our infographic on our May 9, 2013 post, the waves we’re making on Furniture.com in our November 30, 2013 post and if you missed it, don’t forget to watch our latest video on Store-Sync, which we posted on December 28, 2013.

Thanks for an amazing 2013. We hope you’ll like what we have in store for 2014. 


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.

Face Shopping Cart Abandonment Head-On (Part One)

Saturday, October 12, 2013 by
Since the dawn of internet retail, shopping cart abandonment has been a major challenge for merchants. Despite advancements made in the ease of shopping online, retailers are still seeing up to a 75% drop off shopping cart orders. We at Blueport Commerce assume that statistic becomes inflated with big-ticket purchases, due to the extended path to purchase customers take compared to that of less expensive items. But as consumers become accustomed to purchasing larger items online, it is increasingly important for furniture retailers to approach this problem head-on.

In part one of our two part series, we are going to discuss key tips to optimize your checkout process and decrease the chance of customers abandoning their shopping cart. (Be sure to tune in next week for tips on how to bring customers back post-abandonment.)
 
According to ConversionXL about 75% of abandoners do have some intent to purchase prior to abandonment. Which means that for a majority of these shoppers, something throughout the checkout process hinders them from following through. 
 
 
AVOID THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE 
 

According to Statista, the number one reason why customers abandon their shopping cart is unexpected costs. Imagine you are a first-time customer browsing for a new couch. You find a couch that meets your style, quality and functional needs. While the price is slightly over budget, you think its overall value is strong enough to move forward with the purchase. That is until you are about to check out and see the total jump from just outside your budget to way out of the ballpark with the inclusion of taxes and delivery fees. Not to mention, it is going to take up to six weeks to receive the couch you've now fallen in love with. And, unless you REALLY want to break the bank, you’ll likely decide to hold off on your purchase to shop around and see if the couch will be less expensive if purchased through another retailer or on sale at a later time. 

Reasons for consumers to drop out of an online purchase in 2012
You will find more statistics at Statista

While we can’t necessarily control the experience for all big-ticket e-commerce, and delivery presents its own unique challenges online, setting expectations and showing all fees up front is critically important to ease customers’ purchase decision.

  • Consider testing your pricing and promotional strategy to include delivery fees with discounted products or little or no delivery fees with an increased price. Remember, this pricing strategy needs to align with your retail store, unless you’re running an online-only promotion.  
  • Offer customers easy-to-read and thorough product descriptions. Avoid leaving them with lingering questions that might lead to hesitation.
  • Customer reviews are a proven way to increase consumer confidence in purchase decisions.
CHECKOUT SHOULD BE A SPRINT, NOT A MARATHON 
 

The checkout process should be the easiest part of your customer’s day. The longer it takes for your customer to check out, the more time you are giving them to change their mind on a purchase.

  • Decrease the amount of confusion and time it takes to check out and by providing clear and concise instructions throughout the process.
  • Consider including a progress bar that shows them each step they are at and how much longer they have to go.
  • Allow for auto-fill capabilities in forms to decrease the annoyance of pesky, invasive registration forms.
  • Minimize the amount of times a person needs to bounce in and out of the checkout process. For example, if you have a promotion going on, be sure the promotion code is highlighted clearly on the page so the customer does not have to leave the page to find the code.
Blueport Commerce clients can take advantage of our platform that provides a localized solution that integrates with store inventory so customers shopping online see products available at their local retail stores. This means that customers can get their products faster and at a more reasonable delivery price from their local store or warehouse, if speed is the number one priority.
 
Setting cost expectations and speeding up the checkout process can help avoid cart abandonment, but even with these actions, abandonment is inevitable. But don’t worry, we have some tactics next week to turn this negative into a positive. Don’t miss part two of this two-part series, where we will discuss some tactics to help turn cart abandonment into another step in the purchase funnel.
 

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.

 

The Next Level

Saturday, August 24, 2013 by

 

Flying back from a C-level client roundtable, I was struck by how far we’ve come. We’ve worked with this top retailer for eight years. The camaraderie, energy and enthusiasm around the table yesterday were as palpable as when we first dreamed of enabling e-commerce for their brand.  What’s different is the mutual feeling that we’re jointly taking it to the next level.

One of the luxuries afforded by a transaction like ours last summer is capacity. Not just the resources to grow, but the time and space to think about how we do so, and the ability to execute what we think up.  

When you’re bootstrapping, tactical decisions rule the day. In startup mode, most every decision is about an immediate next step. Strategy is an occasional luxury, at best*. But with resources, there’s time and a reason for strategy – you can implement it. 

Since our deal we’ve reexamined every aspect of our strategy, and made some meaningful changes to how and why we do business. We’re ready for the next level, and our clients are excited about the possibilities as the internet is finally beginning to transform their industry as it has every other.

The Opportunity Hasn’t Changed

Furniture online is still in its infancy, one of the last categories to go online in a meaningful way. It’s an $80B category that’s only 4% penetrated online as consumers await a “wow” experience that makes furniture shopping meaningfully easier and better. 

Unlike other categories, furniture retailers are uniquely able to deliver that wow experience, if they have the right technology. It’s one of the few categories where incumbent brick and mortar players can and do win.

Blueport’s role—to help furniture retailers win—hasn’t changed.  But, how we do so has been re-envisioned through the strategic lens of a decade of experience, newly honed and focused. 

The Blueport Roadmap – Beyond the Buzzword

Blueport powers the websites of leading furniture retailers. This isn’t new, but we have the increased clarity and capacity to make our clients’ websites the cohesive web-store journey that can transform a retailer’s shopping experience.  

Omnichannel has all the trappings of a retail buzzword, but to us, it means more. In furniture, showrooms and salespeople are a hugely valuable part of the shopping experience. Our technology platform is built to amplify that value, not bypass it and we see its potential across all categories where showrooms still matter.

As an example, on a Blueport omnichannel website like the new vcf.com, shoppers can visit a store and work with a salesperson to put aside merchandise in a portable shopping cart.  After they’ve shopped around or checked with their spouse, they can complete their order on their phone, tablet or desktop, without having to go back to the store. Conversely, a shopper can start an order online, send it to the store, then stop by the store to touch and feel only the merchandise they are interested in and quickly complete their sale.

It’s a revolutionary strategy and a patent pending system that’s unheard of in any category, much less in furniture. Moreover, it reaffirms that in furniture, showrooms and salespeople play a real role in the sales process while maintaining the same level of engagement and compensation. Not only do we amplify the value of the showroom, we make the store experience better, rather than trying to replace it. And, it’s already driving stunning results for our clients.

Killing it in the Category with Furniture.com

The Zappos moment in Furniture has yet to happen, but we now have the components to spark this moment through our long-dormant, category killer URL Furniture.com.

We’ve spent a great deal of time with online furniture shoppers recently, through market research and even more valuably, visiting them in their homes. We’ve developed a deep understanding on how they view furniture, the personal, aspirational nature of this purchase, and how stores and online play a role.

What’s striking is how ill-suited a typical e-commerce model is in meeting their needs. Said simply, furniture shoppers are looking for the exact opposite of the typical “endless aisle”, third-party delivery experience that typifies most e-commerce. 

We’ve assembled the best retailers in the business, marshaling their ability to source and deliver product. We’re reinventing every aspect of the Furniture.com shopping experience. Together, we’ll finally deliver the end to end “wow” that will create a meaningful online brand in this category. It won’t look like typical e-commerce, but will finally unlock what furniture e-commerce should be. 

It’s a lot of work to do, for sure, but we and our clients are as excited about this aspect of our business as we are our groundbreaking omnichannel platform strategy.  It's a powerful combination for seizing the enormous opportunity in furniture online.

*        *        *

A year after our deal, we’ve gotten a ton done – it’s been as frenetic a 12 months as I can remember. We and our clients have close to 300% sales growth to show for it. 

More importantly, we’ve had the space, capacity, reason and ability to think meaningfully about what’s next. Yesterday was a good reminder of how fortunate we are, and how powerful a combination likeminded, talented partners, a massive opportunity and time to think can be.

 

 

 

* One of my favorite startup CEO’s, in a none-too-subtle dig at my McKinsey background, said “Strategy, to me, is what I think about when I’m on the crapper.” Crass, yes, but she had a point.

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.

 

PetFlow.com: Making F-Commerce Real – Learnings from IRCE 2013 Part I

Friday, June 21, 2013 by

PetFlow.comCan my company really make money from Facebook? For one company, PetFlow.com, the answer is yes.

It must first be noted that Blueport Commerce was thrilled to attend the 2013 IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition), held at McCormick Place West in Chicago from June 5-6. With a focus on social, mobile and global changes that e-commerce players are bringing to the new retail economy, the sessions and show floor were packed with internet retailers. Boasting 9,600 conference attendees, 200+ e-commerce experts and with nearly 90% of the e-commerce solutions market attending IRCE, there was an abundance of e-commerce energy and knowledge to capture.

Standing out from the crowd this year at IRCE was Chief Executive Officer and founder of PetFlow.com, Alex Zhardanovsky. In part one of our two-part series, Blueport examines how a company specializing in pet food delivery took steps to conquer the seemingly impossible world of f-commerce – the practice of making money off of Facebook. Furniture retailers – take note – these worlds aren’t so different.

Origins and a Marketing Problem

Now ranked number one in social commerce by CBS MoneyWatch, PetFlow.com wasn’t founded until Alex Zhardanovsky, Manhattan native and owner of a dog who required a special pet food diet, was frustrated when his local pet food store was constantly out of stock. Zhardanovsky discovered that people only realize they need pet food when they’re out! Similar to furniture retailers and big-ticket appliance retailers – people only tend to purchase new furniture every few years – so how do you stay top of mind? In the $50 billion a year pet food industry, PetFlow needed to stand out – fast. Here are the steps PetFlow took to drive retail revenue through social media.

Step 1: Know Your Customer

Originally it cost PetFlow about $300-400 to acquire a customer via Facebook advertising – too much for a startup. So Zhardanovsky asked a simple but poignant question: who are my customers? Exit survey data showed PetFlow's customers were 85% female, all 35-40+ years old with high household incomes and were comfortable shopping online. With this data in hand, Zhardanovsky honed his strategy and now pays about $.35 per fan to get his target audience – women who meet the above criteria who also like Neiman Marcus, Amazon and Saks on Facebook – aka online shopping savvy. In just two months, PetFlow's Facebook page grew from 10,000 to 200,000 fans. A tip – analyze and merchandise your product according to your audience.

Step 2: Use Humor and Go Viral to Reap the Rewards of F-Commerce

PetFlow.com Facebook Sample Post

 

PetFlow's posts on Facebook are humorous and go viral – consisting mostly of photos of cute pets with “caption this” or memes (like the example above).

So why does humor work, and furthermore on Facebook over Google?

1. Advertising lives on longer on a Facebook news feed – even with posts that are old and if that Facebook user is not active.

2. Repurposing is easy – Google is one and done. Facebook allows companies to edit the post and redo the caption repeatedly.

3. Facebook stays top of mind – originally, no one knew who PetfFlow was. However if a user likes, shares, or comments via Facebook, it moves to the newsfeeds of people who may not know who they are. PetFlow also did a one-time Facebook page name change from “Pet Flow” to “PetFlow – Pet Food for Delivery” which grew traffic. Current PetFlow.com revenue is $28 million.

Can furniture retails use humor? We think so – babies and puppies look ever so cute on plush sofas, and people tend to share images they find humorous and relatable.

Step 3: Brand Ubiquity

A final touch? PetFlow employed physical retargeting, by putting a message on all delivery boxes and encouraging people to upload user generated content to PetFlow's Facebook page. Additionally, customers would email pictures of their cute pets in the delivery boxes – allowing the content to be re-used online. PetFlow staffs accordingly to do this – in fact, they post to Facebook 20 times a day on average and respond to every message or question on social media channels. Every opportunity to promote their brand counts.

Furniture retailers can take advantage of how PetFlow.com has taken f-commerce by storm through data-driven marketing, humor and linking physical retargeting with the digital. Now, get posting!

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

With Blueport Commerce, furniture retailers can build an integrated, branded e-commerce platform online, elevating their brands and creating an ultimate online superstore. Blueport Commerce is the e-commerce solution for the furniture industry. We serve the top furniture retail chains with billions in sales interested in selling furniture online. Blueport Commerce is a full-service solution that combines over a decade of experience, innovative technology and customized marketing services to meet the unique, localized needs of furniture retail chains. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

Buying Cars Online: Big-Ticket Retail Accelerates

Friday, October 26, 2012 by

Big-Ticket Retail Buy Cars Online E-CommerceIn the mid-1990s, it was inconceivable that people would want to buy shoes online. Yet in 1999, Zappos was born, became a giant in the e-commerce industry and now brings in a cool $1 billion in revenue just 13 years later. Blueport Commerce saw a similar opportunity in 2001 around selling big-ticket items online such as furniture and appliances, and launched the industry's only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online. With higher price points and slower buying cycles, big-ticket retail can take longer to reap rewards. However when a world-renowned company like BMW decides to sell cars online, it makes us feel like we're onto something big.

On June 13 in London, Ian Robertson, head of global sales at BMW, spoke with Bloomberg about online retailing and sales strategy for the new BMW i electric car. Two topics Robertson touched on are particularly relevant to big-ticket retail: pricing for big-ticket items and channel optimization.

Pricing for Big-Ticket Retail

Ian Robertson revealed that BMW will be selling the new electric icars over the internet, in addition to their traditional physical dealerships around the world. "It's clear in my mind that the actual experience that a customer has with a dealer, with a point of sale, is still the backbone of what we're going to do."

When asked if the price of the cars would be discounted online, Robertson responded, "Absolutely not. We have a very clear policy – our dealers ultimately will do the deals for vehicles. What we are not going to do is have different channels offering different price points. Our dealers are responsible for this around the world - this is not new, this is our normal business."

Although deep discounting has come to be associated with e-commerce, for example in the world of online marketplaces such as Amazon, BMW recognizes that price-slashing is not an effective technique for big-ticket retail. Or, in the words of Robertson, "This is not something that people are likely to just look on the internet...and say 'yes, that's for me....this is expensive product, and in many cases, is the most expensive product people buy. And that experience of the product, both in the physical sense and the driving sense, is a fundamental part of that actual decision."

With this insight, it is clear BMW agrees with Blueport's assessment that having two disparate buying channels, with physical stores and a branded e-commerce website competing with each other on price, is not a model for success. Blueport firmly believes that BMW is on the right track by keeping the dealers in control of setting the prices of the cars and the website being a connected and cohesive channel for optimized buying. Blueport frequently advises our big-ticket retail clients to think of their e-commerce website as a branded hub, while also being a tool to help their showrooms compete in local markets. By keeping prices consistent, bi-directional web and physical traffic allows for greater lead generation, as well as increased sales.

From Channel Conflict to Omnichannel Optimization

On the topic of potential channel conflict, between traditional dealers and online stores, Robertson stated, "It's no secret today that a very large percentage of all the customers that buy BMW have done research on the internet so when they arrive at a dealership they've almost made their decision. And we want to actually make sure that the customers have the option to do whatever they so desire."

"The worldwide dealer body remains the backbone of what we're doing with all the products for BMW....the actual availability to experience the car, to sit behind the wheel, to drive it, is a very important part. But we will have multichannel approaches which will be useable for the i products and, in time, other products as well."

Robertson mentioned the dealers in this equation as the equivalent of local heroes, with higher knowledge than any website could provide, able to interface in real time with the customer as needed and close the deal with their rapport and experience. This sets up the online and physical stores to combine for greater total sales, appealing to consumers who do internet research before arriving at a dealership, as well as those willing to pull the trigger without setting foot in a physical showroom.

Like BMW, Blueport recognizes the need for brick-and-mortar stores to work in harmony with an e-commerce presence. Blueport long ago realized that physical stores were the heart and soul of the big-ticket retail experience, with the online stores acting as an additional channel that allowed for both research, comparison shopping and added purchasing convenience. By coordinating both prices and discounting online and offline, the stores benefit from increased foot traffic of people who have researched online, but want to touch and feel the furniture or appliances in store. The web benefits from being available as a channel for people who are confident in their internet research and are ready to buy immediately, without needing to travel to a physical location or talk to a salesperson. And while it may be awhile before all cars are available online for immediate purchase, it's nice to see a world leader in the automotive industry like BMW taking that step into big-ticket e-commerce retail. 

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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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Olympic Gold: Why E-Commerce Companies Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Social Media Either

Friday, August 3, 2012 by

In some ways, the Olympics is just like any business, including your e-commerce website. This year for the 2012 London games, the Olympics and NBC, the network airing the event on TV and the Internet, have social media to navigate.

And the solution for both of them is the same: If you can’t beat them (which you can’t), join them. The reality today is that social media is a part of people’s lives, and the best a marketer of any breed can do is harness its word-of-mouth power.
 
Social Media & the Olympics

Unlike during previous Olympic games, the use of sites like Twitter and Facebook has grown significantly. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Social media usage has surged since the last summer games. In 2008, Twitter had about 300,000 tweets per day. Now it has 400 million. Facebook had about 100 million active users in the summer of 2008. As of April 2012, it had 900 million.” It’s so prevalent that visitors were asked to refrain from tweeting and texting during specific events after the data network was too clogged to send bike GPS data to broadcasters during a men’s cycling race, reports dailywireless.org.

And beyond the personal user, media outlets covering the Olympics are present on these social networks. Contrary to many people’s intuition, the real-time streaming of winners, losers and other Olympic news  as actually led to an increase in viewership at prime time. “In its first three nights of the London Olympics, an average of 35.8 million viewers have tuned in, the biggest first weekend for any summer games on record, according to NBC,” reports the WSJ article. “Average viewership has been 1.4 million more than the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and five million more viewers than the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which was mainly live.”

It appears these “spoilers” and all the buzz  may be getting people more excited to see the games.

Social Media & Your E-Commerce Business

E-commerce marketers can learn from NBC and the Olympics that while a true social media strategy includes relinquishing control, the payoff for that trust is an impassioned community that can powerfully extend your brand.

We know it’s hard to let go, but here are some strategies to help you get started:

  • With social media, it’s always best to start with the reigns the tightest you want them and then let them loose as you become more comfortable. Doing the reverse will upset your brand followers. For example, if you think you might want to approve comments on your blog at some point, launch it that way. But also consider letting this control go, especially once you see the nature of the comments. In most cases, you can easily delete a comment that goes against your terms.
  • You need to really invite the conversation and show your customers you want the back and forth. Ask them to post images and reviews of items they’ve purchased, or allow them to weigh in on merchandise you plan to sell in the future. Show your fans they are a priority by quickly responding and commenting on their posts about your brand. To really put this on hyperdrive, be sure you have a good listening process and reach out to those talking about you beyond your own social network pages. Keep an eye on blogs and review sites.
  • Allow critics to voice their negativity. I know it’s hard to believe, but there will always be haters out there. Don’t close them out. Allow them to say their piece, and openly help them if necessary. If you don’t let them interact in this way on your brand pages where you have the control to interact with them, they will find other public places online to do it. And you’ll be surprised: As you grow your social media brand, when someone posts something invalid, your other fans will come to your aid.

A great social media strategy can equal gold for an e-commerce company. Are you and your e-commerce company ready to embrace and champion this medium to move your business forward?

Related posts:

Newspaper Advertising Falls to 1950s Levels, While Online Skyrockets -- How Are You Spending Your Ad Dollars?

Friday, March 2, 2012 by

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Retailers must advertise online to compete in today’s market. We’ve showed you that customers are online, and we’ve shared data that proves the direct correlation between online advertising and increased in-store sales.

We continually talk to our clients and other big-ticket retailers about the merits of advertising online vs. sticking with what some still call a “tried-and-true” newspaper advertising strategy.

The times, they are a changing. This week, a little graphic has been making its way around the Web, showing the decline in print newspaper advertising revenue, adjusted for inflation.

Print newspaper advertising revenue adjusted for inflation, 1950-2011

The image was created by Dr. Mark J. Perry, a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan in Flint. One of his more striking observations? “It took 50 years to go from about $20 billion in annual newspaper ad revenue in 1950 (adjusted for inflation) to $63.5 billion in 2000, and then only 11 years to go from $63.5 billion back to about $20 billion in 2011.” Said another way, in the last decade, newspaper advertising has fallen back to 1950s levels.

As an article from The Atlantic explains, newspapers have been losing advertising revenue to websites, because the softer sections of the newspapers that actually sell the ads, like “the car section, the style section, the travel section and the classified” all have online counterparts. “Ad dollars started flowing to websites that gave people their car, style, travel, or classifieds directly. So did the readers. And down went print.”

What is it about print advertising that still has some retailers hooked? Print ads are expensive, can’t be personalized and the ROI is often hard to track. Meanwhile, online advertising has numerous capabilities for localization, personalized targeting and tracking. They reach shoppers not when they are reading a news article, but when they’re searching online for the goods that you can sell them.

As the print advertising industry has been collapsing, the folks at the Interactive Advertising Bureau have been tracking online advertising growth, and have a very different story to tell.

In the third quarter of last year, US online advertising revenue hit nearly $8 billion, reaching double digit increases despite the lagging economy. “The ongoing increases in internet advertising revenues points to a new paradigm within the advertising world -- one in which digital is taking a bigger seat at the table,” said David Silverman, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, in the IAB press release. “Moreover, even with a softened economy, digital advertising is making tremendous gains.”

Overlay these two trends since 2000, and the message becomes even clearer: Advertisers are fleeing newspaper advertising for the improved ROI of online.

Compare how you spend your advertising dollars to this trend. Are you spending like it’s 2012, 2000 or 1950?

Related posts:

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Today’s E-Commerce Content

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

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

E-Commerce Content Trends

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

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

Related posts:
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

Canadian Consumers are Waiting for You Online

Friday, March 18, 2011 by
Analytics firm comScore recently released their 2010 Canada Digital Year in Review report.  Consumers north of the border continue to be a growing market for multichannel retailers here in the U.S. and many Blueport Commerce clients, particularly as ecommerce retail gains in popularity in Canada. comScore’s report looks at digital trends among video, search and mobile users, and reveals what opportunities are available for marketers and retailers targeting Canadian consumers online.

Here are some of the highlights:

-    Canadians are a captive online audience: In 2010, Canada maintained its position as the most engaged online audience, ranking highest among the top markets in average hours and visits per visitor in Q4 2010.
-    Blogging and social networking is on the rise among Canadians, especially older consumers: According to comScore, Canadians spent 58% more time on blogs and social networks in Q4 2010 compared to that of Q4 2009. As this category continues to grow, older age segments are increasingly more engaged with social networking sites.
-    Video rules: Just like their U.S. counterparts, Canadians love video, especially those that are over the age of 35, who accounted for more than half of all viewers in Q4 2010.
-    Mobile is growing in Canada: Canadian consumers are updating their devices more frequently and will be able to access more and more online content in 2011. comScore believes mobile is the next marketing frontier in Canada.

The big ticket retail take away? Canadian consumers are a powerful, often untapped market for online retailers.  The ecommerce principles remain the same when targeting these digitally savvy shoppers.  Incorporating video, social media and mobile elements into an online retail strategy will be essential to engaging Canadians with your brand.



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
 

Will Consumers Purchase Eyeglasses Online?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 by
The New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller just wrote a great profile of Warby Parker, a New York startup that is seeing success by building an ecommerce market for prescription eyeglasses. This is the latest example of how traditional notions of what consumers will or will not buy online no longer apply.

Ecommerce Has Evolved

Up until recently most skeptics considered certain items off-limits in the ecommerce retail world -- items like furniture, fine jewelry, cars and appliances. All of these products were considered too complex, and as such, most retailers felt consumers would need to see them in person before committing to a purchase. 

At the heart of Warby Parker’s strategy is a focus on offering customers convenience and superb customer service to make them feel comfortable with purchasing online.  For example, the site allows shoppers to upload photos of themselves and virtually try on glasses.  All eyeglasses are completely returnable, but the company will also mail customers five loaner frames to try on at home, or they can even be directed to several of Warby Parker’s physical locations across the country. 

Ecommerce Works for Big-Ticket Retail


Here at Blueport Commerce, we recognized the ecommerce market for these big-ticket purchases over a decade ago and have been at the forefront of developing online retail strategies for retailers in these categories ever since. Warby Parker is another example of the immense opportunity online for businesses in all categories, and we are excited to see more companies take cues from these successes and make their foray online.



Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

The Power of Online Product Videos

Friday, November 5, 2010 by
The November issue of Internet Retailer has a terrific article about the benefits of online video at not only telling a better story about your products, but boosting conversion rates and natural search engine results as well. There is no doubt online video is booming. According to the piece, people watch 2 billion videos each day on YouTube, and 35% of the e-retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide include online video in their e-commerce stores. 

What's the Key to an Effective Online Video Strategy?

Unsurprisingly, an effective online video strategy starts with creating compelling content that your customers actually want to watch, and continue watching. This could be anything from behind-the-scenes footage of product development, a visual explanation of your product or even interviews with product designers or staff.

Understanding the technology required to deploy and maintain video is the next step. Quick and seamless streaming of video is essential. Slow loading videos quickly lose their appeal and lead to frustrated and dissatisfied customers.

Finally, by refining video content, retailers can quickly boost natural search engine results. Internet Retailer notes that search engines give more weight to pages with video, because they see video as an indicator of website quality. Forrester Research estimates a company is 50 times more likely to show up on the first page of search engine results if a page has video that is embedded in a search engine-friendly way.

I think online videos can prove to be an especially powerful force in the big-ticket category, where the product decision process is longer and more in-depth. When merchandising these products in your ecommerce catalogs, being able to offer your customer as much information as possible to help them feel comfortable with their purchase is essential.  For example, a quick product video (similar to the ones you may see when purchasing a pair of shoes on Zappos.com) can very quickly achieve a level of comfort for the customer that no amount of written product descriptions or images could to help drive a sale. Conversely, a behind-the-scenes look at how a sofa was made can help to create a deeper relationship with that customer, promoting brand loyalty.

I’m curious to hear what role online videos are or will be playing in your Internet retail strategy?

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Bringing Your Retail Strategy Online

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 by

Back around 2001, it was common for retailers with brick-and-mortar stores to bring their retail model online. The point was to have the website work just like the store. The whole endeavor was based on bringing in a new revenue stream for the retailer with little actual thought given to the medium and how consumers’ expectations and needs might be different. Very few thought about an online retail strategy.

Defining Your Retail Strategy Today

Now that it’s 2010, we can look back at those sites that have done ecommerce right (Amazon.com, of course) and remember those sites that did it wrong (may they rest in peace). But even with this knowledge, you still see new ecommerce sites popping up with little regard to ecommerce’s nuances and unique demands.

There is hope for companies that are interested in adding an online dimension to their businesses but do not have the ecommerce expertise in-house. Just take a look at Blueport Commerce’s solutions. We can help you with every facet of your retail strategy -- from online merchandising to email marketing and security considerations -- especially if you are working with the additional challenges of big-ticket, considered purchases.

Learn more about the advantages of partnering with Blueport Commerce to address your retail strategy needs today.

 

Forrester's Brian Walker Outlines the Fundamental Shifts Taking Place in E-Commerce Technology

Friday, September 10, 2010 by
Forrester’s Brian Walker recently coined the term Splinternet to describe how consumers are beginning to interact with e-commerce companies in numerous ways, including mobile phones, social networks and in-store displays. This e-commerce transformation naturally requires significant new technology investments and fundamental changes in how retailers approach e-commerce. Internet Retailer covered Walker’s new report, "What every exec needs to know about the future of e-commerce technology," which addresses the shifts taking place in the e-commerce space. 

Some key takeaways from the report:

  • As the influence of the online retail channel on consumers continues to grow, retailers will need to shift spending to this channel -- or risk losing sales.
  • Consumers' interactions with retailers will move beyond just the website to include mobile phones, iPads and other innovations. According to Walker, many of these innovations will be built on proprietary technology requiring that retailers "develop systems that can easily integrate and support these existingm -- and emerging -- customer experiences in order to compete and capitalize on changing customer expectations."
  • Consistency of information, policies and fulfillment across channels will be a must for retailers as they expand their touchpoints with consumers
Walker notes that most retailers today don’t have the systems in place to manage this new kind of multichannel retailing and fulfillment model. Thus, they will require a fundamental shift in how they approach e-commerce within their organizations and focus on investing in flexible e-commerce systems that can meet their cross-channel retail needs.

How is your e-commerce strategy changing in light of this shift?

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Social Media Still Needs Local Relevance

Friday, August 13, 2010 by
A recent DMNews article about the challenges multichannel marketers face in using social media to reach local customers caught my eye.  According to research from Harris Interactive, seventy-two percent of brand managers believe social media can be powerful in connecting with customers globally, but not necessarily at a local level.

Almost half (48%) of the brand managers surveyed by Harris find measuring ROI a challenge to connecting with local retail markets, while 45% cited managing and maintaining information as an obstacle. Additionally, 42% pointed to engaging audiences as a challenge for localized social media marketing.

In short, even across social media networks, your customers are still looking for a local message that is relevant to them.

While national or global campaigns are important for elevating a retailers' image, localized content helps consumers to relate to you and your products.  Localization is at the heart of our approach at Blueport and it drives the ecommerce strategies for all of our multichannel retail clients.

Social media is a natural extension of any multichannel retailer's online strategy and it's a no brainer that this too needs to have a localized flavor.  When used to connect with consumers at a local, regional level, your social media presence will become a true cross-channel sales driver integrated with your overall localized internet retail strategy.


Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce


Capturing Consumers On The Go

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 by
Most of today’s consumers use the Internet to plan the limited time they have for brick and mortar shopping expeditions - browsing from a home (or work) computer to optimize how they will spend the discretionary hour or two they’ve allocated for shopping.
 
To capture this shopper, a compelling “traditional” website is a must - ideally one that is synchronized with what’s happening in local stores.  With a localized website in place, retailers, especially those targeting smartphone-wielding demographics, should take the next step – capturing consumers who have already left the house.

Whether or not you believe that your products will ever sell over a phone, you can take advantage of location-based services and GPS-enabled phones to entice on the go consumers into stores.  Product information, prices and nearby locations to “touch and feel” products can be ‘pulled’ through local searches by consumers.  Coupons and promotions can be ‘pushed’ to a consumer’s phone based on their location.
 
How is your company integrating mobile into your cross-channel strategy?  For more information on how other retailers are successfully using mobile to capture consumers on the go, check out this article: How Mobile Commerce Can Capture In Store Sales.


Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce


E-Commerce Website Aquisitions

Friday, June 25, 2010 by
I am intrigued by Alibaba's purchase of Vendio, expanding the Chinese company's SMB B2C internet retail strategy - what a mouthful!
This marks the third time in little more than a month that a company has announced an allocation of $100 million fund to invest in U.S. ecommerce-related businesses. The Vendio investment represents a key market for a Alibaba - Vendio has over 80,000 small buiness users on line with its U.S.-based ecommerce platform.