Not right now.

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by

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

                        
The Data Behind Video

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #3: Videos Should Appear Professionally Done

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

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

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

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

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

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


About Blueport Commerce
Blueport Commerce is the omnichannel solution for the $78B furniture industry. We marry retailers' bricks-and-mortar infrastructure and expertise with our decade of online furniture experience, innovative technology and unique marketing and sales solutions to create modern, efficient, easy shopping experiences. $6.3B in furniture retailers choose Blueport. For some retailers, Blueport's SaaS omnichannel platform powers their branded websites, driving sales online and in their stores. For other retailers, we drive online sales through Furniture.com, our e-commerce website. For many retailers, we do both. Our technology is transforming furniture retail, for the 4% of sofas that sell online and the 96% that don't. Learn more here. And, if you’re interested in working for Blueport, check out our available jobs on our careers page.

Five Favorite Highlights from the MITX E-Commerce Summit: Part II

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 by

In part I of our MITX E-Commerce Summit wrap up, we discussed how redefining a customer experience can be huge for online retail, the importance omni-channel plays in e-commerce and how data-driven personalization requires attention, flexibility and speed. In today’s blog post, we highlight mobile and 2014 trends we learned from leaders in e-commerce. Read on to learn more.  

Highlight #4: Mobile Enables A Clearer Path In The Customer Journey

In the panel, “The Rise of Mobile,” e-commerce executives, including Blueport’s Carl Prindle, discussed how adoption of mobile has impacted the customer journey. CVS Caremark, for example, notes customers often open their branded app while shopping in-store. For PayPal, being everywhere for everyone differs among the many different sized businesses who use PayPal, and how their consumers behave, whether it’s through mobile check-ins, logins, app usage or other methods.  

At Blueport, we use mobile for three purposes:

  1. Real-time availability in stores and online through geo-location
  2. Mobile as a marketing platform to close the consideration funnel
  3. Camera functionality to be used in a unique way, such as augmented reality

Overall, the mobile path is different based on each business and its customers – those that choose a path best suited for their customers is a step in the right direction. There’s still a lot of unknowns in mobile, so businesses shouldn't be afraid to come up with a story, try it, test it quickly and if it doesn't work, move on and try something new.

Highlight #5: 2014 Trends In E-Commerce

E-Commerce is expected to grow from $260 billion to $370 billion by 2017. Just ride the wave, right? Not exactly. VP, Principal Analyst from Forrester Sucharita Mulpuru discussed some hard truths and myths to pay attention to in 2014:

Truths:

  1. The biggest threat to e-commerce is not Amazon; it’s the Postal Service. Postal Service debt is expected to reach $15 billion in 2014, and will likely increase the cost of shipping parcels, squeezing retailers trying to offer free shipping.
  2. Peak e-commerce volume can’t be sustained through other shipping methods. During the 17 peak holidays in 2013, daily package volume was 46 million packages. The problem? Shipping hubs couldn’t keep up with the demand and there isn’t enough ROI to sustain additional hubs throughout the rest of the year.
  3. The SECOND biggest threat is Amazon. Amazon has a break even business model even with offering Prime for free two-day shipping.
  4. Every Day Low Pricing (EDLP) dies. People showroom – 35% use phones to research prices in stores and 37% plan to research more in the future. On average, prices through Amazon for products were 30% cheaper. Unsustainable, yes, but proves the value of EDLP for other retailers

Myths:

  1. Everyone's investing in mobile. Digging into the numbers, just 27% invest more than $1 million in revenue to mobile today. In spite of this, web revenue by device is 21% (13% for tables, 8% for smartphones). Consumers are still spending more than retailers are investing, so a relatively conservative approach to mobile investment is not such a bad idea.
  2. Big data is your savior. Finding valuable insights isn’t easy when there’s 280+ exabytes of data in the cloud. Use existing solutions to drive value; there’s not many new unfounded solutions out there.
  3. Bitcoin is the bomb. Bitcoin’s value is not totally clear to customers yet. It’s disruptive, but not immune to competition. It is a form of anonymous payment, but customers have concerns about security.

While we could go on forever, we could only share our five favorite highlights from the summit from part I and part II. Videos from the whole event are expected to be posted on the MITX YouTube channel soon. 


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.

 

E-Commerce Hardware: Host vs. Managed

Friday, January 25, 2013 by

E-Commerce Hardware Data Center

Did you enjoy your New Year’s Eve holiday by spending time with your family? Our big-ticket retail clients did, because they weren’t worried about whether their websites would be live during their blowout New Year’s inventory clearance sales. One of the most critical decisions you’ll ever make as a big-ticket retailer looking to transition to e-commerce is whether to host your own website, or to use a managed solution. Blueport Commerce examines the pros and cons of hosting your e-commerce website yourself, or outsourcing it to a managed solution provider.

In-House Hosting Gives You Total Control – And Sole Responsibility

The benefits of an on-premise e-commerce hardware solution include increased control, budget flexibility, owning the source code and being able to make changes at any pace you desire. Because you are hosting the e-commerce hardware yourself, you are able to exert more control over your e-commerce website, and iterate at any time. And at first glance, hosting yourself will allow for lower initial costs.

That said the drawbacks of an on premise e-commerce solution are that as your business grows, the complexities and hidden costs start to multiply. Hosting your own e-commerce hardware means you need a fully trained technical staff to maintain it, servers to keep the website up and running, licenses for all of the hardware and software associated with the website, a budget to stay compliant with federal rules and regulations, and money to stay current with threat assessments. Inevitably, the maintenance, constant availability and security needs of hosting a first-class e-commerce site become something few companies can afford to handle internally, from a resource, bandwidth and cost perspective. You will spend more time, money and effort trying to manage all the disparate puzzle pieces than you would by working with a managed solution provider.

Managed Solution Means Manageable Cost

Blueport Commerce, the only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, embodies the benefits of a managed e-commerce solution. With a managed e-commerce hardware solution, you’re free to focus on what you do best: selling big-ticket items, instead of worrying about keeping a website running at optimal performance. And because you’re not staffing up when you use a managed solution, your overall costs are actually lower – and those savings can be used to grow the business. Additionally, managed solutions like Blueport Commerce have key partnerships and alliances with vendors that allow for enterprise-grade equipment to be purchased at a cost-savings that is then passed on to the client. Blueport’s business partnerships with established best-in-class technology partners like Cisco, Microsoft, Akamai, Dell and F5 include Tier 1/Priority Support, with dedicated local reps and faster response times when needed.

Because Blueport Commerce is an all-in-one managed e-commerce solution, our clients have all of the formerly disparate puzzle pieces already assembled for them – allowing Blueport and our clients to collaboratively focus on customizing their website for optimal return on investment. By figuring out the best way for each particular client to do business online, Blueport Commerce’s managed e-commerce solution sets each client up for success and allows for the one item you can’t really put a price on: peace of mind.

Selling Furniture Online E-Commerce

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.

Related posts:

When Charging Online Customers for Shipping, Localized E-Commerce Helps Make the Price Right

Friday, February 17, 2012 by

Would you spend $300 on shipping an item you’re buying online for $100? If you’re like many of today’s consumers, you might think that’s just not fair. But that is the type of shipping charge Ikea customers are facing.

According to this Stylelist Home blog post, Ikea has established a flat shipping rate for customers further from their store locations. This likely lowers the cost for customers buying roomfuls of furniture, but the customer who is buying a single item appears to lose out. Statistics show that people who purchase furniture on the web are, in fact, often buying single pieces -- it's the guy who’s jumping online at lunch to snag that $899 leather couch he has in his cart that is now on sale for $629 (you know, the one with the brushed stainless legs).  But what is the abandonment rate when a customer sees the shipping rate is higher than the money he’s saving?  I'll save you the thinking on this one: The abandonment rate is huge, and that's a problem for billion-dollar retailers like Ikea.

Shipping is an expensive part of the retail business, especially for big-ticket retailers. But not getting this part of the pricing right can be detrimental to the bottom line. Implementing a local e-commerce strategy can keep shipping costs down for your customers.

Our e-commerce solution here at Blueport takes the customer’s location into account. We tie into our retail clients’ real-time inventory data and display the merchandise that is available in the physical stores closest to the customer. This allows customers to get the merchandise they want as quickly and inexpensively as possible. After all, happy customers equal happy retailers!

Related posts:

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Retail CIOs Should Champion Collaboration Across Departments

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

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

When CIOs Let Go, Bigger Opportunities Result

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

A Real-Life E-Commerce Example

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

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

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

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

Next week: Marketing responds!

Related posts:

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

E-commerce 2.0 – The Next Wave

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 by
Excerpts from Lazard Capital Markets  Tech and Media Conference
March, 13, 2011; Boston, MA

Blueport Commerce executives recently participated in a panel presentation titled “E-Commerce 2.0: The Next Wave” at Lazard Capital Markets Annual Technology & Media Conference. Held in Boston, on March 14 and 15. This conference brought together industry executives in a fireside chat format, with presentations from more than 50 leading technology, media and Internet companies. 

Drawing on his deep expertise developing online strategies for leading big-ticket retailers, President and Chief Executive Officer Carl Prindle, discussed the next e-commerce frontier and what brands need to do to capitalize on its growth.  Below are some key excerpts from his presentation:


Colin Sebastian – Lazard Capital Markets:  Carl, please take a minute to introduce Blueport.

Blueport is the only managed e-commerce provider focused on localized, big ticket commerce.

Think of us as GSI Commerce (GSIC) for players that need to involve local stores in their online efforts and whose products don’t fit in a UPS box.

Our clients range from a $250M furniture chain in Chicago, a $1B appliance, electronics and furniture superstore chain in Canada, a $4B flooring retailer with 1,100 independent dealers, to Sears (SHLD).

We provide each with a managed e-commerce solution – a localized, cross-channel commerce platform and the managed services to make their unique businesses work online.

CS: The pace of innovation in e-commerce is accelerating.  This is also driving another step forward in the shift of commerce and advertising from offline to online channels.  Given this overall trend, in your own businesses and markets, can you specify what are the 2 or 3 most important drivers of growth today?

Well, this session is definitely aptly named.  We’re at an inflection point – the start of a second wave of e-commerce.

The first wave of ecommerce was characterized by the Amazon model – online shopping for relatively simple, understood products shipped via UPS. 

There’s very little local store involvement in this model.  Customers buy things on their lunch break, and a guy in a brown shirt delivers it. 

A massive eco-system has grown supporting this model in last 15 years – advertising, merchandising, technology and so on. And, it works great – we see 45% penetration in some categories like PCs.

But, the e-com 1.0 model is bounded in a couple of ways.  One boundary is size – this model probably only works for less than half of all retail, less if you include services. 

The other boundary is profitability – e-com 1.0 was first because it’s easier.  Because it’s easy, it’s prone to commoditization, price pressure…it’s an efficient market, with all of the margin pressure that it entails.

What we’re seeing now is a second wave that pushes past these boundaries, engages the rest of the retail economy, and can be more profitable.

What’s driving it? Consumers looking to apply the habits learned via the Amazon model to new areas.  Companies that that have for a long time been on the sidelines because they DIDN’T fit that model – are now heading to the internet to meet them. 

The energy, the growth, is in the technology connecting the two – whether it is mobile, social, coupon sites, etc. – new technologies are giving new players access to new customers.

And Blueport is providing the multi-channel solutions for these new players to do something meaningful with that traffic.

CS:  You mention mobile. How big a factor is mobile becoming, for example as a percentage of your own transactions or volume, or as a lead generation tool?


Mobile is a huge factor, but different depending on whether you are an e-com 1 or e-com 2 player.

For e-com 1 players, mobile’s increased convenience is arguably driving new volume.  It’s also increasing price transparency, which accelerates the commoditization of some of these categories.

For an e-com 2 player, it’s a huge factor in a different way:  local.  Where e-com 1 was national, e-com 2 is local – local businesses, local services, huge retail chains were their offering is fundamentally local.

Take appliances as an example – I don’t think we’ll see refrigerators transacted via phone any time soon, but mobile can drive customers to local stores, critical for retailers trying to gain a slice of precious weekend “in-store” shopping minutes.

The game changer that starts to blend the two is the tablet…increased use of big screen browsing plus local is intriguing.

CS: There is a fairly rapid increase in merchant and enterprise use of Facebook, not only as a tool to reach out and communicate with consumers, but also to drive transactions.  Similar to the mobile question, how quickly is social becoming a meaningful part of real lead generation and driving online sales?

Well, Facebook, at its most powerful, is a personal network of friends.  A company interrupting that conversation can be pretty cringe worthy.  A company trying to be your friend doesn’t really work.

At the same time, along with apps, Facebook has become the “other” Internet, and retailers have to be there. 

We’ve seen it work in three ways:
  1. Brand Building: in high engagement categories, brands can interact with their customers on topics they are passionate about.
  2. Deals: Facebook can replace email as a way to distribute deals.
  3. As a Platform: we look at Facebook as an emerging platform/operating system that can host online stores with built in traffic.
CS:  Blueport appears to be in a sweet-spot helping merchants in challenging product categories figure out their e-commerce strategies.  Can you talk about the multi-channel environment, how the pace of that shift online may be changing?

It’s a phenomenal time to be where we are.  As we’ve talked about, there’s a seismic change from e-com 1 to e-com 2, and we’re in the middle of it.

You asked about the multi-channel environment.  The term multi-channel has been around a while, but its meaning is changing. 

In e-com 1, multichannel meant exactly/only that – more than one channel.  Retailers in categories that work well via direct ship built drop ship e-com systems, often entirely separate from their store business.

In e-com 2 today, we see true multi-channel, or cross-channel commerce (or just “commerce”).  Retailers are using the internet to drive their core business, not build a separate one.

Companies that were on the sidelines are now investing in solutions that reflect their businesses.  They look to online to drive customers to local stores, sell their local inventory and services, reflect their local pricing and local deals – to drive their core business.

A client, CarpetOne, is one of my favorite examples of this.  They are a $4B flooring retailer in 1,100 local markets.  They didn’t want to be Lumber Liquidators and drop-ship cheap boxes of hardwood.  They wanted to drive their core business – local installation of quality flooring. We enable that – their site reflects each market’s local product, pricing – pictures of owner’s dog, whatever makes that local market work.  It’s a seamless online experience that connects online to local store.

Sears (SHLD) – is a company taking another innovative approach.  They are reentering the furniture category via a unique cross-channel strategy.  They’re putting small footprint galleries in their stores, that drives traffic to a dedicated furniture website that we run for them, http://sears.furniture.com.  The site taps into local inventory, and Sears customers can get a sofa delivered tomorrow for $79.  Blueport powers the whole thing.

So, we’re seeing massive change in these categories, the evolution of true cross-channel categories, and it has accelerated dramatically in last 18 month. 

CS:  What are the key attributes that a bricks-and-mortar retailer or supplier of goods look for in an e-commerce vendor?

When looking at vendors, look at what experience they have in YOUR vertical.  Are you looking for an e-com 1 solution, or e-com 2?  Do you want a direct ship, separate enterprise, or do you want your local markets involved? 

Make sure the vendor has experience in your markets and your vision of what you want ecommerce to do for your core business. 

You can make some disastrous mistakes trying to sell appliances or furniture like you do shoes & apparel.

CS:  What would it cost a retailer or brand to build and maintain a state of the art e-commerce site from scratch, versus using a service provider such as Blueport?

Here again, it depends on what you’re selling. 

If you’re looking for an e-com 1 solution – you can put up a Yahoo! store up for next to nothing.  My 10 year old has one.

For e-com 2 – it’s more complex, requiring far more integration with your local stores’ existing systems and operations.  There’s no Yahoo! store or ready-made platform for that (but Blueport is close).

If you try to build an e-com 2 solution yourself, you have to look at three costs:  the cost to build it, the cost to run it, and the opportunity cost of screwing it up. 

We have a current client who first tried to build it themselves.  They spent $3M, and it never got off the ground.  It was two years of lost opportunity. 

With Blueport, they pay a monthly platform fee and a revenue share.  We’ve done major redesigns of their sites three times in the last two years, and added countless new features.  And they pay only their share of the overall platform and hosting costs.

We also help run the business for them from a marketing, merchandising and services perspective.  This is paid through the revenue share, so they get a turnkey, expert staff on a pay for performance basis.

This story has repeated itself a number of times – people trying it themselves, then deciding to work with us.  At the other end of our contracts, we’ve never lost a renewal, so people see the value of what we do (and would prefer not to have to do it themselves).

Part of the story is that the categories we’re in are a good fit for outsourcing.  They are challenging, don’t match the internal expertise of the players in them, and ultimately, they’re not like PC’s or software, where online is 45%-65% or more of volume. Stores are still key, so our clients get to focus on that part of their business, while we port and drive that business online.

CS:  Can you talk about the competitive nature of your business, who do you see as the most successful competitors and what are trends in pricing for these e-commerce services?

Sure, we segment the market on two dimensions. 

One dimension is e-com 1 versus e-com 2.  Is the customer in a market that will be a simple drop ship model, or do they need a cross-channel solution involving local stores?

The other dimension is platform versus managed solution.  Does the customer just want a technology solution, or are they looking for a partner to help them manage their online business?

On the e-com 1 side of the market, e-com 1 platforms are increasingly commoditized and under a lot of price pressure.  It’s a pure customer acquisition game.  Yahoo stores again.

For e-com 1 managed solutions, GSI Commerce (GSIC) is dominant with a huge lead in infrastructure and increasingly in services, where they’ve made some great strategic acquisitions.  While Amazon (AMZN) keeps looking at this space, GSI is the clear leader.

On the e-com 2 side of the market, e-com 2 platforms are mainly custom builds from players like IBM, and ATG (ORCL).  These are big dollar projects with two commas in the total cost, and they leave the customer to manage the solution - there’s no marketing, management, etc. And, they don’t have a ton of experience in these e-com 2 categories.

For e-com 2 managed solutions, where Blueport plays, we’ve yet to run up against a true competitor. 

I guess we really have two competitors: a customer doing nothing, which is less and less of a factor, and a customer trying to do it themselves, which with our case studies, is an easier and easier argument to overcome.  In a lot of cases, people are coming to us now who tried themselves, and now want out.

We expect competition to evolve, but we have a technology platform and service staff with a lot of specific functionality and experience in these markets, which makes it easy to talk to prospective clients, most of whom have been on the sidelines waiting for a provider that understands their business.

CS: That’s time – thanks to everyone for their participation.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

Ecommerce Hardware: The Benefits of Ecommerce Outsourcing

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 by

Most retailers looking to make the foray into ecommerce are quickly hit with the high capital investment required for ecommerce hardware, network equipment and hosting.

In addition to price, there are security regulations to consider.  The impact of down time on your website and stores can be disastrous.
The entire process is complex, expensive and challenging to maintain. Its especially daunting to a retailer that is just stepping into the ecommerce arena and is already juggling with a multitude of factors to get their online store up and running.

Its easy to see the benefits of ecommerce outsourcing for ecommerce hardware and hosting.  Not only does outsourcing of ecommerce hardware help drive down the operating costs for the retailer, but the right hosting solution will help ensure minimal down time.

Blueport's ecommerce platform is hosted by us.  We buy everything that is required to keep your store live and make the process as easy for you as possible - the ecommerce hardware, operating systems, network equipment, bandwidth.  Our scale drives down prices while the retailer gets worry-free (and cap-ex free) ecommerce hardware.

In addition, we provide ecommerce hardware maintenance, expansion and upgrades as well as operating system upgrades. We also provide 24x7 support, meaning no late night or weekend headaches for the retailer. Leaving you to focus on running the online store from the business side, not the technical one.

That's just one of the ways Blueport Commerce makes ecommerce easy.



Big Ticket E-commerce Playbook, Rule One: Don’t be an E-commerce Island

Friday, April 2, 2010 by

The rules for big ticket e-commerce differ from first wave, ecommerce 1.0 practices.   More often than not, big-ticket ecommerce problems occur when retailers apply first wave e-commerce solutions to second wave challenges.

E-commerce 1.0 = E-commerce Island:  A common mistake occurs at the outset of many big ticket e-commerce efforts – big ticket retailers organize their e-commerce business as an ‘island’, isolated within a department or wholly outsourced.  A departmentalized approach, isolated from a company’s overall retail operations, is typical of (and may work for) simple ”first wave” e-commerce categories, but the local, multichannel complexity of big ticket e-commerce makes this structure at best ineffective, and more likely detrimental to the chain.

Big Ticket E-commerce = Embedded E-commerce Strategy:  Launch your e-commerce operation as a coordinated, multichannel commerce effort, ideally with the head of e-commerce having a seat at the management table.  This structure allows e-commerce to become what it should be in big ticket categories– a force multiplier for chain-wide initiatives – and optimizes e-commerce results.

Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce

A Multichannel Retailer's Review of Outsourced E-Commerce Solutions

Friday, March 5, 2010 by
We were recently in the final year of a five-year contract with one of our existing e-commerce clients. We assumed that (like any company that's smart about its technology), they were in discussions with  other major vendors in the multichannel retail software space - Oracle, Escalate, GSI Commerce, ATG and the like. But at Blueport we knew the client had one overarching need: to simply find the best B2C ecommerce platform for large order value (AoV) purchases. That's what we call Big Ticket retail - and it's our sweet spot. How does the story end? Yes, they re-upped the contract: http://www.blueport.com/news-events/.

We earned their renewal because we are confident that our e-commerce solution is the only one that meets the needs of big-ticket multichannel retailers. Blueport Commerce has the technology, knowledge and expertise to capture the strategic opportunity for your business online.

We know the complexities of big-ticket retail and we have the answers to make it work for you. We know how this transformation impacts each aspect of your business and we'll guide your team through the process step by step.

The number of B2C e-commerce applications starting to play in the big ticket retail category continues to grow. But, since your goods are larger dollar value purchases, they are typically more complex to move around the country and generally don't fit in the standard e-commerce package or platform built for commodity items. The Blueport Commerce solution was built for retailers like you, and that's why it works.

We've made other folks lives easy — let us do the same for you.


Copyright 2010, Official Blog of Blueport Commerce


Driving Big-Ticket Sales With Personalized Email Marketing Programs

Friday, February 19, 2010 by
For big-ticket retailers, email marketing programs can play a significant role in guiding customers along the path to purchase. To be successful, these email programs will require careful planning and robust data but the benefits are significant.

A robust ecommerce email marketing program enables retailers to track every registered user and leverage ecommerce CRM data for personalized marketing. Based on this information, retailers can create customized email marketing campaigns to help actively persuade customers during the big-ticket decision making process.

Use the items a customer left in their shopping cart, their number of visits to the site, the categories they shopped and the items they viewed to craft personalized, automated ecommerce email marketing programs that reach out to talk about new products, sales or promotions to match an individual customer's preferences. 

If you're outsourcing to an email services provider, look for an ecommerce email marketing system that supports segmentation of email content, offers, subject lines and timing to personalize campaigns and maximize results.