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

Friday, May 17, 2013 by

 

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

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

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

1. Spend Money on Mobile

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

2. Shopping Concerns Debunked

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

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.

Joy to E-Commerce Retailers: Cyber Monday 2012 Breaks Records

Friday, December 7, 2012 by

Cyber Monday 2012 Big-Ticket Retail E-CommerceLast week, we examined the record-breaking success of e-commerce over US Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2012, and their worldwide impact. This week we examine the numbers and impact of Cyber Monday 2012. As the only e-commerce platform, technology, and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, Blueport Commerce breaks down the Cyber Monday 2012 holiday numbers to uncover trends and insights relevant to big-ticket retailers.

Numbers are courtesy of MultiChannel Merchant/IBM's Cyber Monday Report; ITProPortal’s Black Friday 2012 Results: $1bn Milestone Hit as Online Spending Soars, But Cyber Monday Nets Even More; Internet Retailer’s A Robust Weekend for E-Retail; The Retail Email Blog’s Alert: Record-Setting Cyber Monday Propels 5-Day Weekend Email Volume to All-Time High and MarketWatch’s Bari Furniture Reports 62% Increase for Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

 

Cyber Monday

Sure, the term "Cyber Monday" may feel antiquated, but the concept is current enough to be embraced by the millions of people who didn't feel like hitting the local malls or stores to wait in line for hours. Let's face it: shopping from the comfort of your desk, whether at work or at home in your pajamas, is a lot less stressful than braving the crowds and hitting local stores. And online shoppers in the United States agreed, to the tune of $1.465 billion spent on Cyber Monday, making the day the most lucrative ever for e-retailers per comScore Inc. (Internet Retailer). Some more intriguing overall statistics include:

Cyber Monday 2012 Vs. Cyber Monday 2011

  • Shopping Peaks at 11:25 am EST: Consumers flocked online, with shopping momentum hitting its highest peak at 11:25 am EST (IBM).
  • Mobile Shopping and Mobile Traffic Increase: On Cyber Monday more than 18 percent of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer's site, an increase of more than 70 percent over 2011. Mobile sales reached close to 13 percent, an increase of more than 96 percent over 2011 (IBM).
  • The iPad Factor: The iPad continued to generate more traffic than any other tablet or smartphone, driving more than 7 percent of online shopping. The iPad also continued to dominate tablet traffic reaching a holiday high of 90.5 percent (IBM).
  • Multiscreen Shopping: Consumers shopped in store, online and on mobile devices simultaneously to get the best bargains. Overall 58.1 percent of consumers who were in a store used smartphones compared to 41.9 percent who used tablets to surf for bargains on Cyber Monday (IBM).
  • Social Sales: Shoppers referred from Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube generated 0.41 percent of all online sales on Cyber Monday, a decrease of more than 26 percent from 2011 (IBM).

Blueport Cyber Monday tip: Save the best for last. Black Friday traffic was high for all websites across the world, with traffic from people scoping out deals. However, a big-ticket retailer’s best deals should be saved for Cyber Monday, which had the highest conversions, with people buying online at more than double the rate of Black Friday.

“Despite some news reports suggesting that Cyber Monday might be declining in importance, the day has once again set an online spending record at nearly $1.5 billion,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “However, it is also clear that the holiday promotional period has begun even earlier this year, with strong online sales occurring on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Now, we shall see the extent to which continuing and attractive retailer promotions are able to boost sales for the remainder of the week.”

Now what about furniture? In a trend that foreshadows the ROI potential of taking your big-ticket retail items online with e-commerce, home goods continued to grow, reporting a 26.8 percent increase in sales from Cyber Monday 2011 (IBM). Additionally, Bari Furniture, an online and brick and mortar retailer specializing in Leather Furniture, said that Black Friday and Cyber Monday produced record sales, with Black Friday sales up 59% over 2011 and Cyber Monday sales hitting an all-time record with a 64% increase (MarketWatch).

"As our selection broadens, reviews from our customers tell us that year over year growth will continue to expand for niche sites like ours that focus so closely on service, selection and value," President Tom Tilaro said.

Blueport experienced this phenomenon firsthand. One of our clients, TheRoomPlace, had their best-ever online sales day on Cyber Monday, lifting their revenue 14% from 2011. Another one of Blueport's clients, Leon's Furniture of Canada, experienced a 380% increase in revenue on Cyber Monday compared to their daily average sales. The best part of this? Leon's is actually a long-time Canadian retailer, where Thanksgiving is celebrated the month prior, meaning that Cyber Monday is truly becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

Between the success of big-ticket retail's predecessor of home goods and furniture over the holiday weekend, as well as the increased overall spending by consumers via e-commerce, Blueport Commerce remains committed to furniture as the next big category to go online.

As the 2012 Thanksgiving-Black Friday-Cyber Monday e-tailing season is behind us and we look to the December holiday season, big-ticket e-commerce retailers who sent early emails (early in both time of day sent and in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday) reaped the best rewards. Knowing that December is often the splashiest and most profitable holiday season, it’s a best practice to promote sales early and often to your loyal email subscribers and social media followers, as well as offer pre-holiday deals to your VIP customers.

Miss our Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday 2012 breakdown? Check it out here.

E-Commerce Retailers Rejoice: Thanksgiving Day & Black Friday 2012 Break Records

Friday, November 30, 2012 by

E-Commerce Retailers Black Friday Thanksgiving Day SalesEven if the Grinch was an e-commerce retailer, he'd be forced to smile after the close of a landmark 2012 Thanksgiving holiday weekend. By all accounts, from Thanksgiving Thursday to Black Friday to Cyber Monday and everything in between, 2012 was a wildly successful holiday e-retailing period. And retailers have a lot for which to be thankful.

As the only e-commerce platform, technology and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, Blueport Commerce breaks down the Thanksgiving 2012 holiday numbers to uncover trends and insights relevant to big-ticket retailers in a two-part series. Part one looks at Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday; Cyber Monday will be covered in part two.

Numbers are courtesy of IBM's Black Friday Report 2012; comScore’s Black Friday Billion: Kick-Off to Brick-and-Mortar Shopping Season Surges Past $1 Billion in E-Commerce Spending for the First Time; ITProPortal’s Black Friday 2012 Results: $1bn Milestone Hit as Online Spending Soars, But Cyber Monday Nets Even More; Internet Retailer’s E-Commerce Sales Rise 17.4% on Thanksgiving Day; SearchEngineWatch’s Black Friday E-Commerce Sales Set $1 Billion Record, 2012 Holiday Online Sales Strong; and The Retail Email Blog’s More Retailers Sent Email on Thanksgiving Than Black Friday.

Thanksgiving Day

  • Strong Gains Overall: Thanksgiving Day saw strong gains on the e-commerce front, with a 32 percent year-over-year increase in online spending bringing the total for that holiday to $633 million (SearchEngineWatch).
  • Promotional Email Frenzy: On Thanksgiving, more than 83% of major online retailers sent their subscribers at least one promotional email, setting an all-time record for the day. In 2011, 75% of retailers sent their subscribers email on Thanksgiving; in 2010, 60% did; and in 2009, just 45% did (Retail Email Blog).
  • Record-Shattering Web Traffic: Visits to retail web sites broke records, with Akamai Technologies Inc. reporting a peak of 7.63 million page views per minute from North American consumers to the websites of its retail clients at 8:55 p.m. Eastern Time on Thanksgiving Day (Internet Retailer).

Blueport's tip: It's never too early to start promoting discounts or special offers. Don't feel limited to just Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions. And don’t think furniture has no place in these sales – it’s about more than just gifts. Even if people are buying for themselves, early awareness of deep discounts is critical to drive big-ticket online purchases. And US Thanksgiving has started to be recognized (at least for e-commerce) in Canada, with Blueport client Leon’s of Canada experiencing a traffic surge, with a visitor increase of 360% from US Thanksgiving Day 2011.This proves that Thanksgiving is now recognized outside of the US as a major e-commerce event.

Black Friday

While Black Friday traditionally conjures up images of overly caffeinated shoppers bundled up in multiple layers of clothes, camping out overnight at their favorite retail stores the night before stores open, an increasing number of consumers prefer to do all of their Black Friday shopping online. According to comScore, Black Friday saw over $1 billion in e-commerce sales for the first time ever, and a 26 percent increase versus Black Friday 2011.

“Despite the frenzy of media coverage surrounding the importance of Black Friday in the brick-and-mortar world, we continue to see this shopping day become more and more prominent in the e-commerce channel – particularly among those who prefer to avoid crowds at the stores,” said comScore chairman, Gian Fulgoni. “With Black Friday online sales up 26 percent and surpassing $1 billion for the first time, coupled with early reports indicating that Black Friday sales in retail stores were down 1.8 percent, we can now confidently call it a multi-channel marketing phenomenon.”

  • Social Sales: Shoppers referred from Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube generated .34 percent of all online sales on Black Friday, a decrease of more than 35 percent from 2011 (IBM).
  • Mobile & Tablet Shopping: Mobile purchases (including tablet) soared with 24 percent of consumers using a mobile device to visit a retailer's site, up from 14.3 percent in 2011. Mobile sales exceeded 16 percent, up from 9.8 percent in 2011. The iPad not only dominated the tablet shoppers with 88.3% of share, it reached nearly 10 percent of all online shopping (IBM).
  • Multiscreen Shopping: Consumers shopped in store, online and on mobile devices simultaneously to get the best bargains. Of the people already in a physical store, 58 percent of these consumers used smartphones compared to 41 percent who used tablets to surf for bargains while in-store on Black Friday (IBM).
  • Brick-and-Mortar Sales Down: As the internet rises, in-store sales were down 1.8 per cent despite slightly improved year-on-year foot traffic amounting to 308 million visits to bricks-and-mortar retail outlets (ShopperTrak via ITProPortal).

Blueport Black Friday tip: The lack of influence of social media is surprising; particularly that it was down from 2011. While we encourage our retailers to keep an active social media presence, it's important to always link to either appropriate sale items or the homepage, allowing viewers to see upcoming promotions. And Black Friday certainly proves the importance of having a mobile-optimized website, if not a mobile app in addition, to encourage active shoppers to engage with your brand and, most importantly, transact.

Blueport client TheRoomPlace had its highest traffic of the year on Black Friday, doubling their traffic from four weeks prior. And Black Friday even hit Canada, with Leon’s increasing their visitors 33% from Black Friday 2011, proving that Black Friday is now recognized outside of the US.  

Blueport Commerce and our clients are thrilled with the increase in e-commerce purchases of the 2012 Thanksgiving holiday season. While Thanksgiving and Black Friday have traditionally been thought of as in-store retail events, this year’s online spending numbers prove that more and more consumers are moving to an e-commerce model for the convenience, discounts, and promotions.

Let us know – did you see improvements – or disappointments – during these two days?

Part two of this series next week will examine Cyber Monday 2012’s numbers and trends.

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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The Future of Inbound Marketing for Big-Ticket Retailers: SEO, Social and Content

Friday, October 5, 2012 by

e-commerce retailers content marketing social media marketing SEOThese days, companies that want to get noticed online can no longer pay for the attention – they actually need to be contributing to the online discussion. While display advertising is an opportunity big-ticket retailers cannot afford to miss, there is a lot to be gained in the value search engine optimization, social and content marketing offer both to their customers and brand.

According to a recent eMarketer article reporting on data from SEOmoz, more and more marketers are focusing on these three types of inbound marketing. And of these three, marketers spend the majority of their time on SEO (23.9% spent more than half their time on this), followed by social media marketing (7.8%) and then content marketing (6.3%).

What’s particularly interesting about this is that the three tactics can be set up to really feed each other. Content creation can boost SEO rankings as can links from social media sites, and the content can also feed your social media posts. The result? E-commerce growth like never before.

Content Creation and Inbound Marketing Are Evolving

Over two-thirds of online marketers globally are already creating short-form content, like blogs, social media posts, articles and guides. And now only a small percentage focus on the longer forms, like white papers and surveys, they used to depend on.

Why? The shorter, more social content is quicker to create and you can expect it will get in front of your intended audience on your website, on your Facebook and other social media pages, and in search.

For Content Marketing, Pictures Can Be Worth a Thousand Words

And this content can also be visual. Product photos and videos are an important part of any retailer’s content marketing efforts.

And we at Blueport Commerce find the marriage of rich images with detailed text to be essential to selling and marketing big-ticket items like furniture in the digital space for our clients. This is an important component of every product page, as we have to help consumers experience the items as they would in a store.

We also work the visual and text combination into our furniture buying guides, blog posts and social media updates. And each time we bring these types of content together, we find a profoundly larger response. Employing this multichannel strategy can pay off quickly as your audience does your marketing for you.

What’s Next for Content Marketing for Big-Ticket Retailers?

We believe the next step will involve further engaging customers in the content creation. With e-commerce website data and social media, retailers are in closer contact than ever before with what their consumers are thinking. And the next step is to harness what customers are saying, build the relationships and engage them in being your brand ambassadors and content creation. And we at Blueport have never been more excited.

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3 Ways to Leverage Social Media to Promote In-Store Events

Friday, September 28, 2012 by

e-commerce social media drives traffic to in-store eventsPart of being a smart retailer is recognizing the need to drive traffic, both online and to your physical stores. But to be a successful omnichannel retailer, you must use your digital presence to drive traffic to stores, and store traffic to digital, including your social media sites. According to comScore, users spend 1 in 7 minutes online on Facebook. And per State of Search, Twitter has over 100 million active users. So if you aren't promoting your in-store events online via your social media channels, you're not doing all you can to drive traffic to your event. At Blueport Commerce, we're an e-commerce platform and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, and we recommend a multichannel strategy for retailers that involves leveraging social media in the following ways to promote in-store events.

1. Use all social media channels available. In order to reach the largest audience possible, make sure you use all social media channels in which your audience participates. Some of these might include Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, as well as any niche social media groups of which you are a member. It's important to remember that not every consumer participates in every social media channel, so you may reach Bill only on Facebook, while Suzanne is on LinkedIn and Twitter. Additionally, remember to tailor your messaging to each channel's particular style: Facebook is a great place to use images and focus the content on sales, while Twitter will usually require a URL shortener to link to your event page, as well as a 140 character limit. Content on Twitter tends to be a short and brief call to action. If you're a part of a LinkedIn Group, you could write about your event if it has some sort of relevant charity tie-in that furthers your knowledge in your industry. Remember that social media is about engaging your audience in a discussion, versus talking at them. You could even post questions compelling them to answer, such as, "What are you most looking forward to at our Super Savings Sales Event on March 15?"

2. Regularly update your channels about your event and stay alert during and post-event. One of the sins of social media marketing is to "set it and forget it". Whenever you have news about your upcoming event (price markdowns, new inventory, special guests, contests, in-store raffles) you should update your social media channels. Just creating an event page on Facebook is not enough. You want to stay top of mind with your followers, so be sure to post a status update or tweet when you add a noteworthy element to your event. By creating a hashtag, you can stay on top of the conversations followers and others are having about your event. Another advantage is after the event, you can gather post-event feedback to help you make the next in-store event even better. You may think that once the event starts, all your social media work is done and you are home free. In fact, just the opposite - while you have successfully driven traffic to the store, it's crucial you stay on top of social media during the actual event. People may have questions while the event is happening - everything from directions to the store to what time the event ends. You want to be constantly encouraging dialogue and conversation with your followers, aligning your products with their needs. By answering questions quickly during the event, you can encourage even more traffic and add to the legitimacy of the event and your company.

3. Incentivize attendance. It's key not only to promote your event, but to make sure it's worthy of people's time to attend. The best way to get people to your event is to create special reasons for them to go, whether it's face painting or other entertainment for the kids, business card raffles or free furniture giveaways. You may also want to post teaser graphics on your Facebook wall, digital flyer links on Twitter or videos on YouTube leading up to the event, to give people a sneak peek of what to expect.

We recognize that the success of local ecommerce retailing for big-ticket items depends largely on the brick-and-mortar stores, and vice versa. As a result, we at Blueport encourage all our clients to use the free and effective social media channels available to them in order to drive attendance to in-store events and increase their in-store sales. One of our clients did just that - they had a very large in-store event and promoted it online months in advance leading up to the big day. They posted photos of the furniture and appliances that would be featured, asked engaging questions to their followers to encourage discussion, and had multiple free furniture giveaways leading up to the event, available only to their social media followers. Both during and after the event, they kept the buzz alive by posting photos of the event, people at the event and the contest winners with their new furniture. Because it was a multi-day event, it was important that they communicated during the event to get followers who may have been on the fence to attend. It led to them growing from 600 to 22,000 likes on Facebook and increasing their engagement and viral levels. Over the course of one week they reached 1.89 million people and had over 72,000 people engaged with them. And best of all, it was free and allowed them to find a whole new online fan base that translated into in-store traffic and sales.

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How You Can Capture the Mobile Consumer

Friday, September 21, 2012 by

Mobile Commerce


Mobile users spend 144 minutes a day — 26% of the nine hours they use various media — with their mobile devices. For the first time, television came in second with 141 minutes. This is according to this Business Insider article, where people were asked how much time they spend interacting with all forms of media.

In fact, a survey by InMobi, a mobile ad company, found that people now spend more time watching their phones than watching TV.

 

Interesting findings include:

  • 55% of those surveyed used their mobile device to shop.
  • 59% said mobile advertising impacts their purchasing decisions, compared to 57% who said television advertising did.
  • 24% of users said their mobile influenced their in-store purchase.
  • 69% of people used their mobile to find local resources.

Retail chains, take note.

It is clear mobile's popularity (both tablet and phones) is steadily increasing, and the influence of traditional channels like television, desktop, radio and newspapers is declining. But how can you reach your audience if your current multichannel marketing mix isn't working? What should omnichannel retailers do? The answer: Go where your audience is.

How Big-Ticket Retail Can Succeed with a Refined Mobile Strategy

Adapting to a world that embraces mobile can seem daunting even for those who have already taken their retail stores online. But via a multichannel analysis, there are some quick and easy steps that you can take so that your mobile viewers can convert into mobile purchasers. Following the best practices of SoLoMo (Social Local Mobile), you can ensure shopping experience that is optimized for anyone on the go. At Blueport Commerce, we help our big-ticket retail clients not only transition to e-commerce, but provide their customers with an optimized mobile shopping experience.

1. So (Social Media): Include social sharing buttons. Many mobile users spend hours on social media sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter. Often, if they are following their favorite e-commerce stores, this can be their first source of information about an upcoming sale or in-store event. By including these buttons, all it takes is one quick click by the consumer to share his favorite sectional on his Facebook wall for all of his Facebook friends to see in their newsfeeds. Congratulations, you've just advanced your multichannel marketing strategy, and better yet, have had others do it for you.

2. Lo (Local): Get found – both online and in person. Because 69% of people use their mobile devices to find local stores, having a store locator app (which automatically finds the user's current location with GPS or allows them to plug in a preferred zip or postal code) can be the difference between making or breaking an in-store sale. In many instances, buyers feel the desire to see, touch and feel big-ticket items in person. By leading them to your brick-and-mortar store, they feel more confident completing their big-ticket purchases. Additionally, offering localized content for big-ticket items, such as less expensive delivery or shorter wait times, can help close a sale.

3. Mo (Mobile): Make your e-commerce website mobile-friendly. Shoppers on mobile devices tend to be on the move and cannot wait for slow-loading, complicated graphics or a disorganized site that renders strangely on a portable device. You can either reevaluate the mobile version of your website or create a unique mobile experience.

The Big-Ticket Retail Takeaway

Big-ticket items, such as furniture and appliances, often have long purchase cycles and require more research before potential buyers will pull the trigger on purchasing. By including social sharing buttons, offering localized content and a store locator app, and optimizing your e-commerce site for mobile, you're leading your mobile customers to what they're really seeking: more information. And as you lead them further down the funnel, closer to purchase, you are creating engaged, informed online shoppers who are interacting with you through their chosen medium.

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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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Move Over Omni-Channel Retailing, It’s Time for a Little Soul

Friday, August 10, 2012 by

Right about now, retailers -- whether large or small; online, offline or every line -- are gearing up for their busiest quarter of the year. The quarter that, in itself, can define the health of the business. And in a year when Pinterest went full force and tablets became affordable, the sky will be the limit for social media and mobile promotions.

But hold it right there! Don’t miss out on the point of the season for retailers: Sales. And how do you get sales? Of course, pricing is a major component, but customer service and branding can be equally important.

A recent iMedia Connection article implores retailers and their marketers to breathe new life into omni-channel retailing by reigniting the one-on-one connections with customers. The author calls it soul retailing, “stirring an emotional response that gets people to talk, share and love your company or product.” He says every retailer can get there by:

  • Go back to basics: Worry more about letting your customers shop than driving them to one of your channels.
  • Bring back one-to-one engagement with targeted offers rather than batch sends you hope will sometimes stick.
  • Use all the technology out there to create well-aligned experiences that drive sales over playing games.
  • Keep it all simple – customers do not want to have to work to find and buy your merchandise.

The point is that all these different channels and technologies can only help you move your retail business forward if you use them correctly, and before you grab the most cutting edge technology, you need to figure out how it will improve the experience for your customers. For example, Neiman Marcus’s NM Service app lets customers use their mobile devices to create a uniquely personalized experience in-store by alerting sales associates to the individual’s presence in the store, shopping history and merchandise scanned for more information that day.

Of course, the goal is for the channel to match the message. In social media, a hard sell just won’t work. We work closely with our furniture retail clients to help them focus their brands and refine their messaging for online. Design information and even content on entertaining and recipes, for example, is a great alignment for a Facebook page. One of our clients, Leon’s Furniture in Canada, has a rich history that the company has documented. Part of their strategy is to resurface the information and old photos, building up interest and their timeline at once. And then on sites like Pinterest, where everything is so visual, announcing the newest items with great artwork is a great win.

To keep the buying process personal, we help our clients craft blogs that extend their thought leadership within their subject matter expertise. We also use the blog platform to connect with customers by answering their questions in this longer format. Additionally, we work hard to create targeted email campaigns to boost the bottom line in-store and online.

Are there other ways you use modern technology to create good, old-fashioned meaningful connections with your customers? We want to hear about them! Please share in the comments below.

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

Friday, June 22, 2012 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future of Retail – Online and Offline

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

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

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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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With E-Commerce, How Many Physical Stores Do Retailers Really Need?

Friday, April 6, 2012 by

The answer to that question depends on what you’re selling. For instance, if you sell electronics and video games or other commodities, like Best Buy does, then you need 50 less physical stores than you currently have.

Last week, a day after Best Buy’s e-commerce site was down for 17 hours’ worth of upgrades, the company announced it would close 50 big-box stores as a cost-reducing measure.  Similarly, big-box commodity seller Wal-Mart is losing ground to Amazon and is working to beef up its own e-commerce offering.

We’re seeing this trend, because commodities can be easily searched online and via mobile devices, and consumers can easily shop the lowest bidder. After all, a Canon Powershot is a Canon Powershot and has the same features and feel no matter where or how it is purchased. E-commerce operations with lower overhead can underprice physical stores and win the business away from them.

However, if you’re a retailer selling big-ticket or other non-commoditized items, your e-commerce presence can be a vital customer touch point that drives the overall business. When executed correctly, the e-commerce site becomes a full brand extension that drives in-store traffic and vice versa. This is what Blueport Commerce helps its clients do.

For the merchandise our clients sell, like furniture and flooring, the store behind the products matter.
Consumers often begin their searches online, researching selections and offers from various retailers, but for some, they will need to move on to the store to make their final decision. As a retailer, you want to give customers the choice so they can buy in the way that best suits their needs. Even if sofas from two different retailers look the same, they likely come from different manufacturers and may be constructed differently. Given that this is a larger, more expensive purchase, consumers are also looking for trusted retailers that can provide quick, inexpensive delivery, as well as service, if ever required.

Our clients are fortunate -- they can truly harness the power of multichannel retailing, because all channels play important roles in the buying cycle. And consumers win as well, because they’ll still have a place to go test drive a sofa.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

How Can You Get the Best Buy If the Retailer’s Website Is Down?

Friday, March 30, 2012 by

If you wanted to browse products or make a purchase at Best Buy’s website on Wednesday morning, you were out of luck. BestBuy.com was down, due to a planned outage, from 10 p.m. ET on Tuesday until 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, for site updates. But the inconveniences transcended the prospective online shopper.

Customers who already made online purchases could not track or receive updates on their orders, and access to the mobile site and in-store kiosks was also cut. In-store, salespeople rely on the website for checking inventory and other product information. So, if you went to a store and wanted to know if an out-of-stock item was available at another location, for example, a salesperson would not have been able to help you during that downtime.

While the full extent of the updates may not be apparent to the average consumer, the disruptions they caused for 17 hours must have been.

Blueport Commerce Minimizes Downtime for Online Retailers

Here at Blueport, we have set up our systems to keep downtime to a minimum during any release – our goal is to never make core functionality unavailable for more than five minutes.

Our global environment is composed of many small environments that all work together. For instance, we split the websites the public sees into two groups, A and B. When we’re doing a site release, we remove the A group from public view and update that group. Then we repeat with group B group. Releasing in this way allows for almost no downtime as one of these groups is always available to customers.

Such a process has allowed us to release significant site and platform redesigns without any adverse effects for our clients and their online retail customers.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

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

Friday, March 9, 2012 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

Option 1: The Gilt Model

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

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

Option 2: Localized Cross-Channel Commerce

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

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

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

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?

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Are Trigger Emails the Real One-to-One Communication for E-Commerce?

Friday, January 27, 2012 by
For years, the promise of one-to-one communications with customers has made online marketers giddy with the personalized messages they’d be able to deliver and the resounding results they’d get back. Sadly, reality isn’t always the same as what we can dream up.

In the case of one-to-one marketing, the tools technically exist. Companies have rich data on their customers and e-mail systems have the ability to target based on them, but the missing ingredient is the content that has to be generated to create this truly unique messaging. Is the content creation and its associated cost worth the return on investment, or is there a better way?

Here at Blueport, we’ve worked to achieve true one-to-one communication for our clients and have seen few returns. But trigger messages based on the customers’ lifecycle has been a completely different story. We’re able to segment users and send them relevant messages based on actions they’ve taken on the website. If marketers get too specific, the messaging becomes hard to maintain without becoming more useful .

Apparently we're not the only ones to come to this conclusion. According to a recent article on ClickZ, “Triggered communications are being widely adopted. This is messaging that, while not necessarily personalized in content, is triggered in response to specific behaviors or events, giving each recipient the feeling that the message was personal due to contextual relevance. Whether it's time, location, or behaviorally triggered, such messaging can feel extremely personal and engaging even though it may be being sent to thousands of recipients each day.”

This year, I have seen our retailers embrace the trigger/lifecycle message concept as a requirement to how they do business thanks to its positive ROI and high user engagement. It's just one way we're making ourselves relevant to our customers and not just another retailer in the crowd.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

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

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

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Amazon’s ‘$5 to Leave the Store’ Promotion: Reactions Mixed, But a Sign of Things to Come

Friday, December 9, 2011 by

This Saturday, Amazon is running a one-day promotion that gives consumers who use Amazon’s Price Check app while shopping in a store a 5% discount (up to $5) on select items. Consumers can redeem the offer up to three times.

This offer -- luring shoppers from local stores to instead buy online via Amazon’s e-commerce site -- has been met with a bit of consumer backlash. Even so, it feels like a harbinger of a future retail landscape that’s divided in two: retail in categories where stores still matter and retail where they don’t.

Consumer Reaction: ‘Kind of Sleazy’

The Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD blog was among the first to report on this story, and consumers were quick to react to what they saw as Amazon’s effort to intercept local shopping. Comments on the story included:

  • “This seems unethical at best. Amazon is encouraging people to go into a store with no intention to buy, incurring costs for the retailer in staffing and wear and tear on store premises…. Kind of a sleazy move by Amazon.”
  • “This is not about comparison shopping per se. Of course, I’m all for getting the best price. What I’m NOT a proponent of is giving my business to any retailer, online or brick-and-mortar, who blatantly scams to have their customers ‘spy’ for them, and try in the grander scheme of things to shut down the very business who contribute to the local economy.”
  • “As a supporter of local small businesses, I find this appalling. But, hey, if you want do Amazon’s market research for them for a measly 5 bucks, feel free. Me, I’ll take my 5 bucks and funnel it into MY local economy….”

The Future of Retail: What Do Stores Do?

I completely understand these sentiments, but at the same time, one starts to wonder: For lower ticket, commoditized items, what value does a store really bring to a shopper?

With a maximum value of $5 off, Amazon is clearly targeting items in the under $50 range. And, for price check to work, the items need to be commonly available. For these commodity-type items, does a store add much (other than cost) to your purchase?

There’s a segment of the retail economy we think will ultimately move largely online. In these commoditized categories, stores don’t bring enough to the table to justify the cost they add. Once Amazon can deliver same day, one of the last reasons for running to the store to buy a low cost, common product will be gone.

Honestly, this end of e-commerce isn’t one that excites us much. Like any commodity market, it will be dominated by players with the scale to cut costs and offer the cheapest price. In this regard, Amazon and Wal-Mart aren’t so different.

At Blueport, we think the other end of e-commerce -- using the Internet to engage, rather than replace, local stores -- is a far more interesting space.

In the categories we commerce-enable -- furniture, appliances, flooring -- stores add a tremendous amount to the consumer experience. They offer expertise, a place to “touch and feel,” local delivery and installation, and ongoing service for big-ticket purchases. We use the Internet to drive sales for these local businesses with walk-in traffic, leads, and yes, e-commerce.

It’s an exciting segment to be in right now. Retailers in these categories have been slow to adopt e-commerce, mainly because they couldn’t see how the Amazon model could work for them. Now, big-ticket retailers are jumping into multichannel e-commerce with both feet. And, I suspect, they may be around far longer than some of their more commoditized counterparts.

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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