Not right now.

Three Tips to Help Your Brand Stay Relevant With Your Consumer

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 by

The power of a brand experience can define a retailer’s growth. When a consumer visits an e-commerce website, his or her first impression is on the brand, and whether it and its products reflect the style they are seeking. If you do not engage consumers with your brand upfront, you risk losing them when it comes time for them to make a purchase. This is the very reason why our own in-house brand, Furniture.com, refreshed their website design late last year, including re-vamping the blog, Pursuit of Home. Another online retailer Wayfair operated under the brand name CSN Stores up until 2010 as relatively unknown brand in its space. The company was growing steadily but its re-branding was a risk that helped the company reach a broader consumer base. So what can retailers do to make sure their brand stays relevant with their consumer? Blueport shares these three tips:

 

1. Know Your Consumer

Keep tabs on how your brand is showing up on search results and how consumers are reaching your brand. You will not only want to look at how consumers get to your brand, but also how long they are engaged on your site. If a consumer can’t find what they are looking for quickly, they will drop out and you will see your rankings decrease on Google. Furniture.com did extensive consumer research, to help define both the site look and feel as well as how products are marketed to consumers. Consumer research also drove CSN Stores re-brand to Wayfair. They noticed that consumers were shopping more by brand rather than by product, and as a result their vertical-specific sites via CSN Stores were losing rank on Google and consumers could not find products as easily.

2. Don’t Worry About The Short-Term Consequences. Think Long-Term.

Initially it’s expected that websites take a hit in traffic or search rankings when something is changed, such as the brand or the overall experience that can surprise repeat visitors. But over time this dip tends to follow a bell curve for the retailers as theoretically the changes would enhance consumer relevance over the long-term. Wayfair, for example, was initially penalized by Google upfront for the redirects they had to use. If you do have to make a change, don’t be concerned about the short-term consequences of those changes. As long as you are confident the changes you are making are ultimately best for your core consumer, make the change and stick it out.

3. Don’t Forget About Your Stores

Many of our clients are fortunate in that they have built brand loyalty over time through their stores. While it is important to focus on your e-commerce efforts, don’t lose sight of your store experience. Your brand should be a cohesive experience from engagement to purchase. Your in-store sales efforts are key to making a lasting impression and driving consumers to your web presence when they ultimately decide to make a purchase.

Overall, don’t wait until it is too late to make changes to make your brand more relevant to your consumers. Most retailers don’t make changes until a drastic change is needed to turn sales around. Making small changes to enhance your brand along the way will help avoid this retail pitfall. And, if you find that your brand name or look and feel needs a change, don’t be afraid to take the plunge. Ultimately, it is all about staying relevant with your consumer. So find out who they are (if you haven’t already), drive them to your store or website by learning how they shop, and create an engaging and positive experience that will keep them coming back for years to come.


About Blueport Commerce

Leading furniture companies work with Blueport Commerce to capture the billion dollar furniture omnichannel 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 omnichannel websites, driving sales online and in their stores.  For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many, we do both. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our e-commerce jobs on our careers page.

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

Saturday, September 21, 2013 by

Blueport E-Commerce Forrester Report Retail

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

Stay Focused On Top Marketing Revenue Drivers  

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

Our suggestions:

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

Invest In Traditional Interactive Marketing Tactics For Mobile

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

Our suggestions:

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

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

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

Our suggestions:

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

About Blueport Commerce

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

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.

 

Data Analytics: Challenges and Opportunities in the Digital World

Saturday, August 10, 2013 by

 

News from MITX: How Care.com and Constant Contact Are Making It Work with Analytics

 

Last week, Blueport Commerce attended the MITX Summit The Science of Marketing: Using Data & Analytics for Winning. While there, we received some great insight on how to manage our data and analytics better. Here are some of the issues and solutions shared in a session by speakers from Care.com and Constant Contact, many of which are applicable to what furniture retailers can do to tackle analytics.

 

Challenges with Implementing Analytics

In the session Leveraging Data and Analytics for Your Marketing Strategy, Dave Krupinski, Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer from Care.com and Jesse Harriott, Ph.D., Chief Analytics Officer of Constant Contact and author of Win with Advanced Business Analytics, discussed the opportunities companies have with analytics and the challenges they face. Krupinski reported from Gartner that 70-80% of business intelligence projects are not successful. He believes that these challenges are organizational, specifically around:

  1. Weak executive sponsorship
  2. Failure to align analytics priorities with corporate priorities
  3. Analysts need to balance a combination of science and business – the best are those with consulting backgrounds
  4. Weak alignment from the technology support function
  5. Lack of formal data governance
  6. Weak alignment with existing analytical resources

Six challenges can seem like a mountain of issues to overcome before an analytics function can run like a well-oiled machine. However, to ignore them doesn’t achieve the full potential that insight and wisdom around analytics can bring.

Five Stages of Analytical Companies

In addition to recognizing and overcoming the above challenges, companies need to identify and understand where they sit among the following five analytical growth stages:

  1. Analytically Impaired
  2. Localized Analytics
  3. Analytical Aspirations – centralized analytic support
  4. Analytical Company – executive sponsorship
  5. Analytical Competitor – where everything is clockwork, you have full alignment and are using analytics to drive real value for the business

Krupinksi self-admittedly noted that Care.com was only in stage three, “Analytical Aspirations” and had a lot more work to do in the space of analytics, so the company hasn’t figured it all out just yet.

Where to Start? Key Best Practices

When it comes to analytics, Harriott shared five key tenants to avoid just reporting on data, and champion the insights gleaned from it in the following ways:

  1. Establish Meaning
  2. Develop Context
  3. Be Predictive
  4. Create a Bias Toward Action (generate revenue, save costs)
  5. Enable Communication

For furniture retailers, e-commerce analytics can seem daunting, but like most businesses there’s always a starting point. For furniture retailers looking to tackle analytics and take advantage of all the available data out there, they can start in the following ways:

  1. Recognize any operational challenges impeding analytical growth
  2. Understand what analytical stage the company is in
  3. Take steps to correct challenges
  4. Use the data that’s appropriate once it’s available to create meaning, context and action

There was so much covered in the MITX Summit The Science of Marketing: Using Data & Analytics for Winning we couldn’t imagine scratching the surface in this blog post. However, MITX will be posting videos on its YouTube channel soon. In the meantime, we’re going to get back to improving our own analytics…

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 only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes furniture retail online. 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 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.

Did You Know? Things Are Happening Here

Saturday, August 3, 2013 by


Recently, we issued a press release, also picked up by The Wall Street Journal, announcing how top furniture retailers are joining forces in the upcoming relaunch of our very own Furniture.com. Blueport Commerce helps our retailers sell furniture in two ways. For some retailers, the Blueport e-commerce platform powers their branded omnichannel 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. As our CEO Carl Prindle says, “Furniture has been called the last remaining $1 billion e-commerce opportunity online.” Check out the highlights from our news from the last two weeks.

Furniture.com Makes a Splash on FurnitureToday

In an article written by FurnitureToday, Cliff Engel reported on the recent news about Furniture.com. Specifically, it was formally announced that Schottenstein Stores and Rooms To Go have taken an ownership stake in Furniture.com, which will relaunch later this year. Other highlights include:

  • Schottenstein is the owner of Columbus, Ohio-based American Signature Inc., a current platform and Furniture.com client of Blueport Commerce.
  • The retail stakeholders in Furniture.com, along with other large players – Leon's in Canada, Salt Lake City-based R.C. Willey, and others that have yet to be named – will serve as "anchor tenants," on the revamped site launching in the fourth quarter.
  • The plan is to marry the scale and strengths of these major retailers – their buying power, product expertise and delivery and service capabilities – with the e-commerce technology strengths of Blueport and the power of Furniture.com's domain name.
  • Furniture.com is typically a number 1, 2 or 3 result when consumers search for "furniture" on Google and other search engines.
  • Furniture.com also will allow retailers to sell different merchandise that may not be a perfect fit in their stores, as well as expand into new geographical territories.
  • Jeff Seaman, CEO of 130-store Seffner, Florida-based Rooms To Go, said he was "thrilled to announce our investment," adding, "Furniture.com represents a unique opportunity in our industry for large furniture retailers to coexist and take advantage of national economies of scale in a new, quickly growing retail channel."
  • Once its current retailer lineup is included, Furniture.com will be able deliver to 65% to 70% of the US population, and that number will grow as the company adds more retailers.

Internet Retailer Defines the Enormous Furniture.com Opportunity

A separate article, written by Amy Dusto for Internet Retailer, announced how retailers Value City Furniture, American Signature Furniture, Rooms To Go Inc. and Leon’s Furniture Ltd. will each invest in Furniture.com’s website. Furniture.com is set to seize the massive opportunity ahead of it in the following ways:

  • Using backing from Mistral Equity Partners to reinvest in Furniture.com.
  • Only taking orders from consumers who live in areas served by retailers that work with it. Says CEO Carl Prindle, “Our retail partners handle all logistics and deliveries, leveraging their local inventory and furniture delivery expertise,” he says. “This leads to a far better shopping experience, as the shopper's furniture is nearby, will be delivered and set up by furniture experts and can be serviced easily if needed.
  • Selling to customers in the United States and Canada. Through the retailers, it can deliver up to 72% of the U.S. population and that percentage is growing each month, Prindle says. The site takes a share of revenue from each delivered order.
  • Penetrating the underserved markets. The 39 housewares/home furnishings retailers in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Top 500 Guide last year accounted for just 4.04% of all U.S. sales in the category, which totaled $138.9 billion. But that shows there’s plenty of potential growth because it “hasn't yet gone online in a meaningful way,” Prindle says.

Clients and Blueport employees alike are thrilled to formally announce how we’re capturing the opportunity for furniture online. Stay informed by visiting our news & press releases, following us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and liking us on Facebook.

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.

 

Achieving an Ideal Customer Experience Is Like the Stanley Cup of Retail

Saturday, July 6, 2013 by

Back in the day, retailers only had to focus on getting shoppers into their stores. Now, people are shopping online, in store, and everywhere in between. They demand (whether they know it or not) their own experience to convince them to buy retailers’ products. Retailers must innovate and optimize the customer experience in order to drive business growth. Some succeed and many others don’t quite get there. Here’s what we’ve found enables our furniture retailers to get close to the Stanley Cup of retail customer experience.

Customer Service Is the Ultimate Power Play

Customer service in the current retail age is not just about ensuring a call center is staffed 24/7 for phone inquiries. The combination of technology innovation in e-commerce and consumer behavior dictates that customer service be all about the ability for customers to call, email, chat, interact on social media and beyond, all at a moment’s notice. One slip in the supply chain of customer service can cause catastrophic results for a retailer and impact consumer brand loyalty. Social plays a large factor in customer reputation as well. It’s hard work, but the right strategies to turn a detractor to a promoter in social can make a big difference in the bottom line. UPS has their own Twitter handle, @UPShelp just to handle customer support, concerning questions on tracking numbers, delivery dates, lost packages and all things related to shipping. To avoid any privacy issues, UPS responds using the direct message feature and an email address just for Twitter users, twitter@ups.com. Furniture retailers can take advantage of the opportunities that technology and social media can provide when it comes to optimizing the customer experience.

 

A Team Approach to Outreach: The Absence of Channel

More than ever before, consumers are shopping across multiple channels: online, in store, social, and mobile. The Pew Research Center found that 46% of smartphone owners used their device to look up reviews while shopping in store. Retailers must ensure that their experience delivered to the customer is consistent and relevant. Therefore, activities and data should be integrated under one umbrella, rather than across multiple channels. Often, strategies are defined by a channel, i.e. “we need a mobile strategy” rather than a channel agnostic approach. To that end, store to online integration is a key part of this omnichannel approach, allowing shoppers to get what they need whether they are in your store or shopping online, such as pick-up centers or digital kiosks, or the ease of cart integration both online and off. We focus on the omnichannel frequently when it comes to our furniture retailers, allowing customers to shop easily online and in store.

Global Readiness

Because e-commerce has a much broader reach than any store, the potential for global sales can be realized in a matter of months.  Retailers must be prepared to do business in global markets and build their e-commerce systems to scale at a global level with simplicity and cost efficiency. This includes the areas of language, currency, tax and regional requirements like trade compliance. Furniture retailers take note: while store locations may only expand domestically, opportunities lie in the years ahead for furniture e-commerce abroad, particularly in Europe, so having a solid global readiness strategy is imperative to taking a slice of the GDP long term.

Implementing an ideal customer experience can be daunting, but with the right attention to strategy, service, and scalability, retailers can gain a competitive and financial edge. 

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.

Insights from the eTail 2013 Retail Technology Spending Report

Saturday, June 15, 2013 by

In an effort to uncover technology spending habits, eTail surveyed over 100 retailers in a number of verticals in apparel, sporting goods, consumer electronics, travel and hospitality, mass market retailers and specialty retailers. Among the key trends of interest to us are what retailers plan to spend the most and least on in the next year, and what primarily influences their purchasing decisions. Furniture retailers take note: efforts in the online channel win best in show.

Retail spending over the next year

It’s not surprising that retailers surveyed in the eTail Retail Technology spending report are taking advantage of online opportunities to spend their hard earned dollars.



Here are the numbers:

  • 58% of retailers are planning to spend on online video
  • 55% on content management/e-commerce platforms
  • 40% on merchandising and visualization

In addition, 60% of respondents are planning to spend more in the next year on SEO, SEM, personalization, mobile (site design) and social engagement (earned). Areas that didn’t make the cut and that retailers will certainly spend less on were CRM systems, display advertising and media (paid advertising).

For Blueport’s furniture retailers, enabling their e-commerce platforms is top of mind for business success, but merchandising and promotions in unique ways (like with online video) go hand in hand with the effort.

Influences on Purchasing Decisions

When it comes to deciding on what areas will most benefit retailers, there are several influences in purchasing decisions. The ones that are most paramount to us are:

  • 36% of overall spending decisions are based upon a management decision
  • 12% mobile site design decisions are made based upon time to market
  • 25% mobile apps are based on competitive pressures
  • 15% of content management solutions are based on ease of execution

So what does this information mean for furniture retailers? 36% of content management/e-commerce platform and global technology decisions are also based upon a management decision. Furniture retailers who are looking to take advantage of enabling their businesses for e-commerce not only have to compete with overall spending decisions at the management level, but also the decision to enable their platforms for e-commerce. And, as we’ve discussed time and again, mobile plays a large factor in retailer success. An overwhelming majority of retailers surveyed answered that mobile would see the most growth in the next year.

No matter where retailers are planning to spend on technology in the next year, the front runners are clearly in many aspects of the online channel. And, at Blueport Commerce, we’ve got our furniture retailers covered on their e-commerce platforms, merchandising, mobile and content management needs.

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 only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes furniture retail online. 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 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.

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

Friday, May 3, 2013 by

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

Online Is a Tool for the Entire Furniture Shopping Pipeline

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

Omnichannel Is Right On

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

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

Mobile Continues to Catch Waves

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

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

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

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Key Insights on E-Commerce from Forrester’s The State of Retailing Online 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013 by

Blueport E-Commerce Forrester Report RetailBuy something online last year? You weren’t alone. According to The State of Retailing Online 2013: Key Metrics and Initiatives by Sucharita Mulpuru of Forrester Research, overall growth for web retailers from 2011 to 2012 was 28%. We at Blueport Commerce are thrilled about the continuing trend of increasing e-commerce activity. Statistics from this report we found particularly salient include:

The Explosion of Mobile

Currently Forrester’s mobile forecast shows less than 5% of e-commerce sales coming from phones. However, of the retailers surveyed, smartphone year-on-year growth hit 129%, and tablet year-on-year growth hit 178%. And while the actual sales may not be there yet, as many consumers use their mobile devices to browse while in stores, mobile has a net positive impact on retailers’ conversion rates, as 36% reported that mobile sales and traffic aided their company’s overall web conversion rate.

Blueport’s takeaway: Retailers should be prepared to optimize for mobile and tablet traffic in order to improve conversion rates, both on the web and on mobile. 

The Need for Speed: Optimization

Retailers mentioned their top priorities in 2013 are improving their site’s conversion rates and redesigning their site experience, optimizing their site’s performance. The three top investment areas cited by retailers for long-term growth are site optimization (e.g. website redesign), mobile optimization and international growth (27%), with products and fulfillment to international markets, as well as localization and translation. Under the large category of site optimization, checkout and a responsive design framework were two sub-areas cited as needing improvement in 2013.

Blueport’s takeaway: Optimization boils down to a simple concept: what levers you can pull to make it as easy as possible for browsers to pull the trigger to become buyers. The need to reach consumers where they want and how they want is critical, and retailers should focus on ensuring all consumers’ browsing and buying needs are met with optimized site and mobile experiences.

The Exorbitant Cost of Marketing

Forrester previously found that web marketing usually consumes about 10% of a web retailer’s expenses. However, that figure is only increasing due to greater competition as email marketing continues to become harder to differentiate, SEO and SEM costs are skyrocketing, social media sites are now experimenting with paid models and there are additional costs associated with mobile marketing. Investment in the effort of organic SEO optimization is worthwhile given the ROI – it isn’t as exorbitantly expensive as Pay Per Click (PPC), and, done right, it can increase conversions. Additionally, the benefits of organic SEO last longer than PPC, whose impact goes away the second you cut off the funding.  

Retailers surveyed also noted that IT investments were the most critical for continued revenue in 2013. Adding to their IT resources and improving core site performance were listed as top priorities, at the expense of social media, whose monetization effects haven’t yet been proven.

Blueport’s takeaway: Focus on the levers that will truly push your margin. Since SEO can account for up to 40% of traffic, maximizing low-cost alternatives like organic search are high impact/low cost.

Shipping as an Opportunity, Not a Pain Point

Same-day delivery and broad reach of fulfillment like Amazon’s was all the hype of in 2012, but other than the big players, few retailers are focused on their fulfillment or post-transaction experiences. Forrester recommends retailers follow the path of companies who focus on fulfillment as a differentiator: tactics such as shopper loyalty programs, expedited delivery programs, shipping clubs and store fulfillment.  

Blueport’s takeaway: The key here for furniture retailers is not just focusing on the front end but also on the back end operations. In essence, while many retailers are focused on website redesign and optimization, the back end operational part of the site is virtually ignored. Furniture retailers have the opportunity to offer not only varying delivery options, but also the chance to rethink shipping pricing models overall. By implementing a truly localized omnichannel experience, furniture retailers who allow customers to choose between various delivery options are better set for success.

WHY AND HOW SHOULD I SELL FURNITURE ONLINE?

Charitable Brands: How Companies Benefit From Doing Good

Friday, February 15, 2013 by

Sleepy's E-Commerce Retailer CharityMaybe it’s time to take some of that Super Bowl ad money ($262.5 million in 2013 alone) and instead give it to charity. At least that’s what recent studies suggest as they look at how charitable companies can create loyal and profitable customers.  

A trend that’s growing

Perhaps it’s related to the rise of social media, or the increased backlash against the power a huge corporation can wield, but how a company acts is having an ever increasing effect on the general public.

A worldwide study by public relations company Edelman showed that 53% of internet users said that when quality and price were the same, brands that had a social purpose were more likely to trigger a purchase. That 2012 number is an 11% jump from the 42% that was consistent from 2008 to 2010.

An even bigger increase was seen in the frequency of purchases: the percentage of customers who bought at least once a month from cause-focused brands went from 32% in 2010 to 47% in 2012 – nearly a 50% increase.

Consumers favored most highly brands that donated to causes either directly or in-kind, and in the US, charities that ranked at the top in popular causes were those that focused on improving healthcare and alleviating hunger and homelessness.

Strong growth trend for the pioneer in socially responsible business

Patagonia, an outdoor gear company, has been socially responsible from the start. Some of their innovative programs include encouraging their customers to pledge to repair their clothing and sell items they no longer want though the Common Threads Initiative. Since the beginning they have given 1% for the planet – a pledge that 1% of revenue goes to charity each year. And it seems like the efforts are paying off, as the past two years’ growth has approached 30% each year.  

Good PR for furniture brands giving back

Sleepy's Bedder Days program was established in 2011 to partner with organizations serving those in need, especially after a natural disaster. And in December, Sleepy's and Sealy partnered with the "Rachael Ray Show" to give audience members who were affected by Superstorm Sandy new Sealy Posturepedic mattresses and bedding as part of the show's biggest giveaway ever. All 133 audience members are able to select the mattress size and level of support they want.

"Proper sleep is fundamental, and it's tied to overall health and peace of mind," said Adam Blank, Sleepy's chief operating officer. "Sleepy's mission is to provide healthy sleep for everyone, but particularly for those affected by a disaster; the first steps to recovery and normalcy are often associated with sleeping in your own bed."

Blueport Commerce supports the efforts of retailers giving back and we’re encouraged to see such goodwill and generosity, especially from one of our clients (Sleepy’s). So the next time you’re considering running an online or in-store furniture promotion, think of how your company can pay it forward and give back to promote not only your brand, but goodwill.

Selling Furniture Online E-Commerce

 

 

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.

Bringing E-Commerce Success to Big-Ticket

Friday, December 21, 2012 by

Blueport Commerce Bob Howland big-ticket retail e-commerceBlueport Commerce’s Bob Howland shares his retail e-commerce experience and why he thinks big-ticket retail is the next big thing.

What sparked your interest in e-commerce?

I think e-commerce is all about being customer-centric. In many ways, I felt pre-wired to e-commerce even before I was specifically engaged in e-commerce roles. All of my experiences in the past – whether driving customer segmentation at AMEX, competitive differentiation at GE, or brand management at J&J – were about engaging customers how they want, where they want, and when they want. The focus on end-to-end customer experience was the same across these roles and translated well to e-commerce. 

What led you to GSI?

At Vanguard in the late ‘90s, I led a charge to move the mutual fund giant from being an inbound call center to embracing the internet as a way to educate and engage retail investors. Vanguard became one of the first investment firms to enable transactions online, which was transformational for the business and the industry.  

I was enamored by how the internet transformed customer-centricity, as well as the huge branding implications for businesses. I wanted to find a company that was completely focused on the digital space with a branding and commerce focus. GSI Commerce was a natural fit as a high growth company that served as an end-to-end e-commerce provider for leading retailers. 

How did you help GSI grow to a $1B+ company? 

My expertise is centered on optimizing businesses and the customer experience. At GSI, I saw a significant opportunity to grow our current clients’ businesses as well as expand our offerings to become a more valuable partner to our clients. 

The initial successes were two-fold: 

  1. First, we developed our digital marketing services capabilities. Our retail partners were already strong in offline marketing, such as weekly flyers to drive in-store traffic. So, GSI focused on the areas they needed help – online marketing – to drive dramatic increases in site traffic and overall sales.
     
  2. Second, we focused on the omnichannel experience. A company’s website is often the hub for their brand. It’s always accessible and available whenever the consumer wants to touch the brand, and gets far more visibility than any other marketing vehicle (often more than ALL other marketing vehicles combined). Helping retailers fully maximize the web, not simply as their online store, but more broadly as an omnichannel tool brought huge dividends to our clients. 

Ultimately, companies such as GSI and Blueport live and breathe e-commerce every day, just as retailers do with their core store businesses. The value that we provide to our clients is the ability to bring the omnichannel opportunity to life and develop a roadmap for maximizing the opportunity. I’ve seen this approach succeed time and time again whether it is apparel, home décor, electronics, or food. Big-ticket retail has a huge opportunity to replicate this success.

Why Blueport and big-ticket?

I was looking for the right opportunity to engage with an organization, but had specific criteria for the business model fit and long-term vision. Furniture is the last $1B+ e-commerce opportunity left. And, for good reason. It’s hard to sell furniture online and drive the type of customer experience that has become standard to online retail shopping. Why? The biggest difference is the end-to-end experience and the many challenges around delivery of big-ticket items, such as sofas into homes. I think Blueport has the will, experience, and technology platform to work with our clients to create a positive and remarkable end-to-end customer experience for furniture, as Zappos did for shoes. This is the vision that Blueport and its client base share, and why I ultimately came on board.

What is it going to take for big-ticket to achieve success in e-commerce?

Consumer demand and technology proliferation leave no choice but for furniture retailers to adopt an omnichannel presence. But, that’s not all – we need to understand the need to provide an exceptional end-to-end customer experience. At Blueport, our mission is to help big-ticket retailers drive exceptional omnichannel experiences in order to optimize both online and offline sales. We want retail partners who believe in delivering these “wow” experiences and the incredible untapped growth opportunity embedded within them. 

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.

3 Ways Furniture Retailers Can Stave Off Amazon

Friday, November 16, 2012 by

Amazon Furniture Retailers Stave Off CompetitionIt is inevitable that any retailer in the e-commerce space will aspire to be the success story that is Amazon, no matter how unrealistic that dream may be. As an e-commerce site that was born in 1994 as a seller of used books, Amazon has morphed into a Goliath in the industry, becoming the dominant retailing marketplace for products ranging from books to electronics to food. With its low prices, rapid delivery and huge inventory, Amazon poses a threat to retailers in all industries.

“It is coming down to convenience, assortment and price,” said the operator of a Los Angeles area consumer electronics retailer to HFN. “And Amazon is beating us on all three fronts.”

However, there are steps furniture retailers can take to counteract Amazon.com before they find themselves floundering like former retail giant Best Buy. We at Blueport Commerce, the only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes furniture online, have our retailers place an emphasis on service, product knowledge and convenience to ensure customer loyalty and retention.

1. Service

While Amazon is known for their accommodating customer service, our clients can actually benefit from showrooming, which extends a personalized touch that Amazon itself can't offer. Shoppers in a brick-and-mortar store may be tempted to see, touch and feel a piece of furniture they like, and then immediately try to find it for less online on their mobile device. With the help of experienced, knowledgeable salespeople in the brick-and-mortar store, as well as an e-commerce website optimized for mobile, plus a mobile app, furniture retailers can turn showrooming from a lost opportunity into a closed sale by keeping the buyer on their brand's site. Additionally, offering iPad and touch tablets loaded with inventory information as well as allowing store consumers to experience online checkout while in their store, can reach more connected consumers. 

Kathee Tesija, Target’s executive vice president of merchandising and supply chain, said it best when she said, “Do we love being a showroom? Yes, when we can book the sale.”

And we at Blueport Commerce are confident that in this case, our clients can book the sale.

2. Product Knowledge

Currently, Bed, Bath & Beyond is one retailer most at risk of losing out to Amazon. “Our work suggests there is 89 percent direct product overlap with Amazon in kitchen electrics, 83 percent in cookware and 83 percent in cutlery, all key traffic-driving categories,” said Matt Nemer, retail analyst with Wells Fargo.

Bed, Bath & Beyond is responding by changing its merchandise mix toward more exclusive products, mirroring that of Williams-Sonoma, Crate & Barrel and Pier 1 Imports, who are less vulnerable to Amazon due to name cachet and exclusive products. Bed, Bath & Beyond now has its own specialty food, as well as home textiles. In a similar vein, by offering a strong range of one-of-a-kind, name-brand products, as well as having a plethora of information about each product available both online and in-store, furniture retailers can benefit from consumers who aren't just price shopping, but are looking for durable and stylish furniture and appliances that last. 

3. Convenience

Bed, Bath & Beyond, which currently receives only 3 percent of their total sales from e-commerce, has invested heavily in improving their website and opening an 800,000-square-foot e-commerce fulfillment center in Georgia. Convenience-based improvements they are exploring include in-store pickups and returns on e-commerce purchases, identical pricing on merchandise between stores and online, more exclusives and increased private label. Like Bed, Bath & Beyond, furniture retailers who can most successfully merge the in-store and online e-commerce experiences to result in the most seamless, customer-centric experience possible will succeed. 

“Having a unique product mix, backed by a strong knowledge of the products and consumer needs, will definitely help smaller brick and mortar retailers hold off Amazon,” said Alan Mendelson, a business reporter based in Los Angeles.

Our retailers who offer quality service, a deep product knowledge and convenient ways for customers to shift between digital and physical channels are the stores who will survive as Amazon continues its rapid growth. 

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.

Related posts:

5 Tips to Help Big-Ticket Retailers Do Holiday E-Commerce Retailing Right

Friday, October 12, 2012 by

Holiday e-Commerce retailing BlueportGrowing your e-commerce and digital presence is as essential for the holiday season as Rudolph's glowing nose is to Santa Claus on a cloudy December 24th eve. If executed correctly, your web presence can be a beacon to consumers, guiding them to checkout online and in store, depositing gifts to your bottom line.

Retailers know that November and December can make or break their annual sales. This year, a projected $54.5 billion in online holiday sales for November and December could account for 24.3% of the total $224.2 expected e-commerce sales, according to eMarketer – nearly 25% of an online retailer's sales could be closed in the last two months of the calendar year.

Retailers should already be preparing for the onslaught. Being prepared entails increasing inventory levels, adding warehousing resources and adjusting your product catalog.

In October, you'll want to start building holiday content into your e-commerce store. By November, you'll want to launch overall holiday marketing. For December, you'll need to focus on delivering a superior customer experience. The “Cyber 5,” the Thursday-through-Monday window that includes Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is a key stretch for businesses whose strategy includes hefty discounting and significant sales. From 2010 to 2011, online Black Friday sales leapt 24.3% from 2010, while Cyber Monday sales were up 33%, according to Forrester Research.

With all this in mind, we at Blueport Commerce, the only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, have several tips to get big-ticket retailers locked and loaded for a joyous 2012 holiday season. This is an essential time to make sure you’re doing everything right, beginning with the basics.

1. Review Your Transactional and Triggered Email Messages

Ensure all text, such as contact information and return policies, is up to date. Make sure the sending information, such as from name and from address, match your non-triggered messages. Send tests to be sure the message renders properly and all links are functional. Bronto Software recommends a general rule that 80% of the message must relate to the transaction and 20% can be used for marketing purposes. Per Forrester Research, marketing effectiveness in driving site visits is on the upswing. The percentage of site traffic driven by overall marketing—including email, paid search and display ads—reached a new high of 32% during the November/December 2011 holiday period, up from 29% about a year earlier. So get your holiday marketing set before Black Friday and Cyber Monday to ensure increased site traffic for the holidays.

2. Merchandise Your Products for the Holidays

Think about what big-ticket retail items become more in-demand according to the season. For example, dining tables become more popular around the late October and early November with the onset of Thanksgiving, followed by Hanukkah and Christmas in the US. The highly anticipated holiday season could bring sales and promotions on dining rooms and dinettes. Big-screen TVs remain popular gifts in November and December, so inventory and merchandising around these items should reflect this, as well as marketing and discounting. You may even want to pair a popular December item, such as a big-screen TV, with a year-round purchase such as a sofa, and offer a package deal in order to move more inventory.

3. Lure Customers Back with Holiday Marketing

Target your existing customers first. Per Amazon, existing customers can be up to 80% more likely to purchase from your business than new customers. A nicely targeted email campaign can make sure your most loyal fans are shopping with you again. Social networks, like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, are good places to reach them with holiday messaging, too. For big-ticket retailers, social media can be a great way to drive in-store traffic with holiday-themed events that allow followers to come into your brick-and-mortar store to touch and feel the furniture.

Remember to add a little joy into your brand image. Absorb this upbeat vibe in your e-commerce store's copy and promotional materials to enliven your brand and get site visitors in the mood to make holiday purchases. Additionally, make the shipping policy and details clear and prominent on your e-commerce site. How long will shipping take, and how much does it cost? And most critical to the holiday season: when is the last day a consumer can submit an order, and still be guaranteed to get their item by the holiday?

4. Narrow Your Marketing

Avoid broad messaging and targeting. The narrower you can focus on your target market, the better. For example, instead of creating a guide of the “best holiday dining room tables,” consider something as focused as the “best dining room tables for Thanksgiving.” The search volume for such niche-specific terms will be lower, but you can concentrate on driving better qualified (aka higher converting) traffic instead. Use this as a seasonal opportunity to target only your most ready-to-purchase leads for the holidays. Also tie this in with your historically best-selling products for each month.

5. Staff Up to Be Helpful

If you post a phone number or email address for customer questions, ensure you have the resources dedicated to it during the holiday season. Customers will require speedy answers to their questions, and it’s in your best business interest to answer them before they shop with your competitors.

Don't forget that January 2013 can yield valuable data and insights when retailers take stock of what worked best in the 2012 holiday season! This allows big-ticket retailers to spend the first half of the year putting together strategies for the 2013 holiday season.

Here at Blueport Commerce, we feel holiday retailing can never be done early enough. As our big-ticket retailers traditionally look to gain a significant boost in revenue from November and December, it is our goal to help our clients with their marketing efforts every step of the way to ensure they seize this opportunity for sales growth. By improving an online retailers' holiday marketing, staffing and merchandising for e-commerce, big-ticket retailers will drive qualified traffic to both the e-commerce site and in-store, thereby fueling growth.

Related posts:

Making Sense of Mobile Payments & More

Friday, May 4, 2012 by

As exciting a time this is for e-commerce, this is also an extraordinary time for the business of paying for goods. From Square, which converts smartphones into credit card-processors, to mobile payment regulations, there’s a lot going on in payments.

When it comes to mobile payments, do you have a pulse on customers’ needs, retailers’ goals and the big technology players? We’ve gathered a roundup of some of the hottest headlines to help you keep up with this fast-moving field:

NFCNews – Survey Shows 66% of Retailers Want Mobile POS

A new survey from Motorola Solutions shows there is increasing interest from retail, hospitality and field service industries for mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) solutions, such as NFC payments and mobile loyalty programs, as a core strategy for improving customer service. According to the survey, which was comprised of 541 retail, hospitality and field service employees from North America, UK, France and Germany, 66% of respondents are interested in mPOS, while 42% of respondents are currently piloting or starting trials within the next 36 months.

U.S. News & World Report – How Safe Are Mobile Payments?

For some consumers, paying at the checkout line becomes a lot simpler when they can forgo the plastic card and pay with their phone. Mobile payment applications like the Isis Mobile Wallet, Google Wallet, Square, and LevelUp turn your cell phone into a payment source: Just store your debit card or credit card information on the phone and scan the device at checkout. "Consumers like the convenience factor," says Sarah Jane Hughes, a commercial law professor at Indiana University. But is this new form of payment safe?

Mobile Payments Today – PayNearMe Gives Unbanked a New Mobile Payment Option

One of the problems for "cash-preferred" consumers is that some transactions, for instance, airline tickets or online purchases, require an electronic payment method. Now U.S. consumers who choose to use cash have another mobile option to make electronic payments. PayNearMe, a cash transaction network that markets to the under- and unbanked, announced its new mobile cash payment system, a product that lets those without credit or debit cards use their cash to make loan payments, pay bills or buy tickets.

Seeking Alpha – Apple: Sleeping Giant Within the Mobile Payment Industry

The mobile payment industry is still in its infancy. I believe the mobile payment industry is a multi-billion dollar, multi-year secular growth market which will have a huge impact to the bottom line of key mobile payment players. Aite Group states the volume of mobile payments will grow to over $200 billion by 2015. In 2010 mobile payment revenue was approximately $16 billion. That is an over 12-fold increase in just five years. Apple is a dominant leader in the smart phone market with over 35 million in smartphone sales last quarter alone. They have not entered the mobile payment market yet, but I expect them to arrive on the scene very soon and disrupt the current mobile payment landscape.

Wall Street Daily – Google Could “Wrapp” Up the Mobile Wallet Race for Good

Wall Street Daily readers know that point-of-sale Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology is one of my top trends to watch this year. And although a recent study by Pew Research found that the technology likely won’t be a dominant form of payment until at least 2020, that’s not stopping players from jockeying for position now. After all, whoever lays claim to the biggest share of the NFC market should have an easier go of dominating the industry as the technology gains popularity down the road.

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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

E-Commerce Holiday Shopping Is So Last Year…How to Sell During January's Retail Hangover

Friday, January 6, 2012 by
The immense e-commerce success of the holiday shopping season is so last year. Now online merchants need to navigate January’s retail hangover.

This year, with holiday spending significantly up from previous years, January and February spending is projected to drop more drastically in contrast. "Now that those credit card bills are hitting mailboxes, shoppers will cut back in a very significant way relative to [the] January and February of the last few years," says a DailyFinance article, quoting Britt Beemer, group chairman of America's Research Group, in a statement.

Add to that the overall state of the economy, regardless of any holiday binging, and consumer spending is expected to be tepid, says a New York Times article. “Consumer spending makes up 70 percent of the economy, so until it ignites, general growth is likely to be sluggish,” it reads.

So what can online retailers do to come out on top during a typically slow time of the year that might be slower than normal? We at Blueport suggest you try one or more of these ideas:

Sell More with Volume Discounts

Steep price cuts can be detrimental to your retail business, especially long-term. Instead, work to increase average sales by offering volume or tiered discounts.

Focus on Customer Service and Value


Don’t allow your e-commerce business, whether big-ticket or not, to become solely commodity-driven. Zappos.com, for example, may not always offer the cheapest price, but the value that comes from the e-retailer’s brand, policies and customer service make it a destination for consumers. What can you do or offer to make your e-commerce website more valuable than your competitors’?

Spend Time on Social Media

Building your social media presence can be time-consuming, but it can also be an invaluable investment. Take the time now to create your social media brand. Try out special offers for your Facebook fans and test new ideas in this realm. See if allowing fans to vote on deals and other social initiatives can incrementally boost sales.

Expand Your Email List


Reaching out to more consumers now will help your e-commerce brand be poised to sell when they are ready to buy. Are you doing everything you can to grow this list of names? Is there an incentive or contest you could offer? Also, consider the types of messaging you might be able to deliver during this shopping downtime. Mix in some informative content that would be worthy of sending to a friend to extend your efforts.

Don’t Forget Your Recent Customers


Reach out to customers who have bought from your e-commerce website to encourage them to write reviews of their purchases. Any incentive you offer will be worth it -- this user-generated content will help create a strong, interactive e-commerce website to convert future customers.

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Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce