Tactics to Consider as you Prepare for Christmas 2021

You may be asking why we’re talking about Christmas in September but for a lot of businesses this may be a make or break moment for them and so far, the news has been packed with potential supply issues and price increases as a result.

What we’ve got for you in this post are some things you can do to get customers coming to the site, keep them there and make it as easy as possible for them to find the perfect gift, drop it in their cart and checkout without any worries.

 

Convenience is King

We’ve talked about this a lot, but it is super important. Customers are putting this so high on their list of reasons why they choose to shop with the stores they do, you can’t ignore it.

And when you think about Christmas it is even more important. People have several gifts that they need to buy and if the process is made too difficult for them, they go and look for an easier way somewhere else.

Some of the things we’ll talk about below will have long term benefits that will continue to pay back well after the Holiday period is over.

 

Offer Inspiration

We all know that one person who has everything and when it comes to finding them a gift, we’re left with no place to start.

Helping those customers is easy. Take the time to create curated lists of gifts that filter into different categories. It’s super easy to do and removes a step that the customer must take when looking around what you have to offer.

Think prices. Having options to see gifts under different pricing takes people right to a selection that meets budget restrictions. Create an option for Him and for Her. You could even break it down by activity. Gifts for those who love to cook or love to garden. The options are endless and will differ depending on what it is you sell but customers love it.

By creating these filter options you’re taking people straight to the stuff they’re looking for, removing things that aren’t relevant and offering a level of personalization. It removes frustration and reduces the chances of people bouncing off the website from a perception that you just don’t have what they’re looking for.

I can tell you I am one of these shoppers. There are websites that I will always go back to specifically because they have gift finders. If I don’t know where to start, they become the start. And I do this year-round, not just at Christmas. Birthdays, Easter, you name it. If I must buy a gift and I need a little help, these sites will get a visit and almost always a purchase from me.

 

Create Bundles and Make Related Buys Super Relevant

As a retailer, we’re always looking for ways to increase the average order value. Creating gifting bundles is a great way to do this.

Fashion retailers do some of this by highlighting ‘complete the look’ on a single product where the model is wearing other items. If you can do the same for your product range, do it. Make it easier by giving them the option to click a single button and add it all to the cart without the need for going to multiple pages.

This also works well with gift foods or interior décor. If you’ve gone through the hassle of creating beautiful images that create a lifestyle for people, make it easy to get everything they see in the picture.

And when it comes to related products as add-ons things like batteries, cables, and things that make the first product work are a must. Everybody hates buying something and then not being able to use it because they need to buy something else for that to happen.

Make it clear that they will need this extra item for it to function. However, be smart about this. Make sure that the original item does not have it included.

I was subject to this just after buying my new house. I had to do some renovation work in the cloakroom that required a toilet and taps. When I picked what I wanted I was given a ‘you’ll need this’ list, so I clicked them all and added them to the basket, but something got me to pause, and I went back and looked at the individual items like the taps and the basin.

I had been told you needed to buy the flex pipes for the tap and the waste for the basin, I assume because 99% of them don’t come with these extras, but the ones I had picked did include them so I would have ended up with two of everything if I had just gone with it and then I would have been left with the need to return things and a feeling of having been cheated.

You can’t always shortcut these things with a one size fits all in the back of your website. Triple check and make sure that what you’re telling people they need, they actually need.

 

Remove Doubt as Early as Possible

One of the biggest barriers to a person buying, especially over Christmas, is uncertainty around delivery and returns.

Customers want to make sure that what they’re buying is going to arrive on time and should there be an issue it can be returned or exchanged easily.

By putting this information front and centre on the website, so that it can be found easily, you’re removing this doubt. And if you keep the delivery information updated so that they are aware of the last time that they can order to guarantee delivery before a particular date, you will pick up last-minute shoppers and get those who might be on the fence to a decision point faster.

Put the messages in multiple places and if there are products that have special delivery restrictions or returns guidelines, put that info on the product pages. This kind of information can’t be over-communicated.

And if you’re offering extended return times, tell people. It might just get them to buy from you rather than another retailer.

Another thing that is important here is information about delays, should they arise. Being totally transparent about these kinds of things builds trust and should reduce the amount of inbound contact about these issues.

 

Make it Easy for People to Checkout

This is another frustration for people that are shopping across different sites whilst Christmas shopping. Having to go through a 400 step sign up process sends people in the other direction.

Having a guest checkout with the ability to turn it into an account after the purchase is a much easier way to get people through. The hook to create the account is to keep up to date with the delivery of the items but having to create an account before you can do things like see delivery costs will kill a sale.

As important as the guest checkout is the payment options you offer. Offering options such as Apple or Google Pay and PayPal Express essentially gives people a ‘one click’ checkout. It pulls all the information around delivery and billing details and sticks them right into the checkout.

I use this all the time. I never have to find my wallet to triple check numbers on cards and during the hunt for the wallet rethink my purchase.

If you don’t offer these yet, think about getting them on before Christmas shopping really kicks off. Those who shop via mobile will love you for it.

 

Create a Gifting Experience

If people are buying gifts and sending them directly to the people getting them, having the option to have something gift wrapped is brilliant. Also including the option to include a gift receipt and keep invoices out of the delivery is great too.

Gift wrapping creates a great impression not only for you as the retailer but for the person getting the parcel and for the person that bought it.

A few years back when I was still in New Zealand, I bought some gifts from Harvey Nichols and had them gifted wrapped and sent as Christmas gifts to my sisters. I was blown away by how easy it was and when I got a chance to see what had been delivered, I was amazed. My sisters loved it and whenever I need to send a gift to someone and want them to have an incredible opening experience, they’re my go-to.

Having this as an option can help you stand out in the crowd, and it is also a great upsell opportunity.

 

Together they Create an Exceptional Experience

Having all or some of these will help give your customers a great shopping experience. The easier it is for them to do what it is they want, the more likely they are to do it.

And if you’re not sure where to start with these things, reach out to us. We’re here to help and our Experience team have a bag full of tricks to give you the edge.


Want more people to see what you’ve got to sell? Google can help for free

So, it is almost an unavoidable fact that when people are on the hunt for something the first place they go is the internet. Whether it be on their mobile or via a desktop connection, they’re hitting a search engine to see if they can find what it is they’re looking for.

And in most cases, that search engine is Google.

The challenge for you as a retailer is to make sure that your product can be found when people start looking for it.

Well, we have some good news. Google is making it easier for you to do this and the even better news is that it is free.

 

Welcome to the Google Merchant Center

Google Merchant Center helps you get your shop and product info into Google and make it available to shoppers across Google. That means that everything about your shops and products is available to customers when they search on a Google property.

By adding your products to Google for free you’ll get it in front of shoppers who are using the Shopping tab, Google Search, and Google Image Search. And if you choose to, you’re also able to promote your products with ads later that can boost the traffic to your online store.

 

 

Getting Started is Easy

The team at Google have made it easy for you to get started with a full onboarding guide on the Merchant Center website and by creating this handy infographic that gives you the full breakdown in an easy-to-read format. Click the image below to open a full copy of the infographic that you can also save a copy of, so you've always got it handy.

 

You can also get to the infographic here

 

Making the Most of the Increased Traffic

Now that you’re set up and your products are featuring across Google, you want to make sure that you’re offering the best experience to those that visit your website.

Is it easy for people to find the information they need? Are they able to find answers to any questions they might have through FAQ’s or via live chat? Is the checkout seamless and does it offer all the payment options that people are looking for?

If the answer to those questions is maybe or we’re not sure, then the Experience team at Eclipse are here to help. This team of experts make sure that your website is offering the best possible experience to your customers so that you don’t miss out on any opportunity.

It’s as easy as just reaching out to us and having a chat. We can take a look at what you’re working with and see what can and should be done to enhance the experience for your customers.


Are You Ready to Meet the Needs of the Post-Pandemic Consumer?

The one thing I am sure we can all agree on is that the pandemic has changed a lot of things, in a lot of ways and by all accounts, a fair chunk of these changes are here to stay.

And we as consumers have been front and centre for most of them. Consumer habits have changed over the years and are always changing with the times, but the pandemic kind of put a rocket behind the shift and moved us all along at a rather rapid pace.

As a result, a whole bunch of us have realised the conveniences that came with some of them and we’ve decided, we’re not going back.

The challenge for retailers is to meet these new habits, which have become expectations, so they’re able to continue to create awesome experiences and grow their business with existing and new customers.

 

What are these new shopping habits?

The team at Shopify commissioned a study with over 1,000 UK shoppers to find out just how much has changed and they put them together in their new report ‘New Shopping Behaviours in Post-Pandemic UK

We’ve taken a look at the report and pulled together the key insights that will give you an idea of the kinds of things you need to take note of.

We’d encourage you to head over and download a copy for yourself. There are stacks of stats in it and it’ll be a great reference as you build your strategy for the rest of 2021 and into 2022.

 

The 3 key things you should know

At the top of the report, Shopify called out 3 key things that you need to really pay attention to. These are what we've put our focus on but the report has lost of information that sits behind them. Make sure you grab yourself a copy.

 

  1. Online shopping is here to stay, but shopping in physical retail locations will return.

It was almost inevitable that as shops started to open again, people would want to get back out and into them but their purpose in the overall buyers’ journey has changed.

For the most part, they’re being seen as ‘distribution hubs’. The concept of heading out and wandering around stores seems to be fading fast. The demand for hybrid fulfilment options like local pickup and delivery is increasing.

Another indicator of this is that consumers are doing more and more research before they visit a physical store. The research found that 47% of consumers plan to check the availability of inventory, at their local store, in advance.

Giving people the ability to do this, much like Ikea has on their site, is going to give you the edge over your competitors. The consumer wants to know that if they’re leaving their house, they’re going to get what they want. If they can’t, they’ll order it from someone who can get it to them with the least amount of effort on their part.

The consumer is willing to exchange an immediate collection of products for convenient, fast, friction-free delivery. This is why so many of us default to Amazon.

 

  1. Shopping local is top of mind for consumers.

This particular stat gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. I have personally been an advocate of the shop local and shop independent movement for years and the pandemic has given us all the same idea.

In the research, 51% of consumers indicated that they expect to shop locally more often post-pandemic than they did before with the top reasons for this change being convenience, supporting local business owners and proximity – which 68% of consumers said is an important factor when making a purchase decision.

If you’re able to combine this sentiment with the ability to check store stock online and offer a hybrid collect in-store and delivery model, you’ll be cooking with gas.

And this doesn’t mean that if you’re a larger retailer you’re going to miss out. For many, shop local means ‘within my area’ (in fact, 59% consider it to mean that) and if you happen to have a store that falls into that category, offering the same conveniences will stand you in good stead.

 

  1. Post-pandemic shopping habits and behaviours are set to change.

As we know, the one constant in life is change and things are set to continue to change beyond those habits mentioned above.

Cash is on the decline, after most places refusing to accept it during the pandemic, and demand for contactless payment options are increasing rapidly. 70% of consumers indicated that this was an important factor to them.

With this is the rise of the mobile wallet and having the ability to accept Apple and Google pay is so important, and not just in-store. People have adopted this way of paying because it is so easy for them. If your online store doesn’t offer it yet, it needs to be on your list of things to implement sooner rather than later.

Another thing that people indicated as high on their list as part of returning to stores was their need for health and safety measure to stay in place. 63% indicated that they’re still in favour of masks being worn and social distancing to remain in place.

 

Next Steps

The first thing we recommend you do is head over and download the report. There is a lot of detail that sits behind this information, and it is packed with nuggets of pure gold that’ll help you make changes where it matters.

Then it is time to start figuring out where and how these changes need to be made. This is where Eclipse comes in. We can help you develop it into a strategy that we can then help you implement. Our team are ready when you are to jump into the challenge. You just need to reach out to us and get the ball rolling.


Are you Confusing Customer Experience with Customer Service?

Customer service and customer experience are two terms that are constantly getting thrown around in business, but do you know exactly what they mean? The phrases are often used interchangeably and, in some cases, thought to be the same thing, but in reality, they are different.

To try and put it simply, customer service is one part of the overall customer experience.

Customer experience is the journey a customer takes with your brand, from gaining initial awareness to post-purchase care and support. Customer service, on the other hand, refers to a single instance when a customer reaches out for help and support during this journey.

What is important to understand is that both are equally as important when it comes to the success of your business. You can’t do one well without the other, which is why it’s so important to understand what they are and how they are different.

 

The Customer Experience

Like we said up above, the customer experience, often abbreviated to CX, is the entire journey a customer takes with your business. It is one of the things that allows you to stand out from your competitors and make you and your brand shine. And for a lot of customers, it can make or break their chances of buying from you again or referring you to their friends, family or extended networks on social media.

It’s so important that from a survey SuperOffice ran with business professionals they discovered that customers spend 140% more and remain loyal for up to 6 years when they rate a company highly for customer experience.

‍Customer experience always involves all the different customer interaction points you have on offer. It covers things like your website and your eCommerce store, your social media channels, any kind of live or video chatyou might offer, and even your in-store experience (if you have storefronts).

The key to creating an awesome customer experience, which is something we should all be trying to do, is to make sure all the different points where a customer interacts with your brand are linked up, easy to use and offer the same level of attentiveness and care. Making things seamless and convenient will pay for itself countless times over.

Offering the ability for customers to jump between channels like from your social media to your website to onto live chat, as part of an omnichannel customer experience is vital.

 

Customer Service

Where it might be hard to come up with an example of customer experience, we can all come up with an example of customer service, be that good or bad, pretty quickly.

Like we mentioned up above, customer service a single instance when a customer reaches out for help and support during their journey, be that at the beginning, middle, end or even post-purchase.

And because customer service makes up one part of the customer experience, providing good customer service is essential to providing a good overall customer experience.

Getting this wrong can be an expensive mistake. Consumers are 2 times more likely to share their bad customer service experiences than their good ones and 82% of customers have ceased business with a company because of poor customer service.

And if you think you have it right, it is always best to triple check that you have. In a survey undertaken by Bain & Company, they found that 80% of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service. When the same question is asked to customers, only 8% of people think these same companies are really delivering.

So, what can you do to get these two right?

Although they’re part of the same journey, the tactics are a little different. The biggest thing to note is that for the most part, customer experience is proactive and customer service is reactive.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared to deliver the best possible customer service at any given time by having processes in place and being timely with responses.

The one thing I can tell you from personal experience is that no communication is way worse than communication that sends the update that there is no update. People hate being left in the dark and letting them know that someone is thinking about or doing something to resolve their issue is worth its weight in that proverbial gold.

We’ve found a few tips that will help you not only develop a great customer experience but tie in customer service and make them both shine.

 

Develop a relationship mindset, not just a transactional one.

You want to be creating relationships with your customers and not look at things as a series of separate interactions that just happen to take place.

This means keeping track of what they’re doing with you and tools like Zendesk and Hootsuite can work well together and bring everything into a single place and when linked with customer purchasing and browsing history you can create a solid profile of who your customers are and the types of experiences that resonate with them.

 

Follow the data and the money will follow.

And following on nicely from that is another great tip. Customer experience is strategic, not tactical, you need to know where the value is coming from, and where you’re throwing good money after bad.

If you know what makes your existing customers both tick and run away, you can optimise to do more of what they like and less of what they hate without the need to just rely on instinct.

Invest in good data with things like user testing, A/B testing and keeping a record as we mentioned above and you’ll for sure get better and what you do.

 

Close the loop between customer service and customer experience and learn from it.

Customer service shouldn’t be a dead-end or an island unto itself. Develop feedback loops between customer service and other key departments. Every single customer service interaction is an opportunity to learn and improve and do better.

If you’re just sticking the information somewhere and patting yourself on the back for a job well done, you’re literally hiding gold. Don’t do that. Share it around and find ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

Need some help with either?

If you’ve read this and gone ‘that’s great but where do I start?’ you’re bound to not be the only one.

The answer is to come talk to us. We have a team of experts in our Experience team that do this stuff for a living, and they love nothing more than being able to share their wisdom with others.

When you reach out to us, we can have a chat about your goals or frustrations and make a plan to fix them, achieve them or absolutely smash them out of the park. Just know we’re here when you need us.


Tips for Creating Interview Videos for your Business

We’ve been somewhat limited with our ability to interview people in person during the pandemic resulting in many creating videos with Zoom or Microsoft teams which can limit production quality, but as we come out the other side, we’re going to be allowed to get a little more creative.

I’ve had a fair amount of experience doing this and although these tips are angled a little more toward setting up interviews with clients for testimonials or maybe with external thought leaders, they can just as easily be applied to videos you create for internal purposes.

What we’re talking about here is what is referred to as a ‘talking head’ video. These are interview-style videos that traditionally have a focus on the person speaking to the camera and will have a background that is either a plain colour or maybe an office setting that is blurred out a little.

To start with let’s take a look at the equipment you’ll want to get your hands on.

 

 The Tools to Get the Job Done.

 

 The Camera

Things have moved along a lot in this area and to be honest, anyone with a decent smartphone is now equipped with a camera that can produce a great video.

I’ve always been an advocate of the iPhone but what you really want to make sure of is that it has a great lens on it (or maybe a couple if you’re using a newer smartphone) and that it can record in HD. Ideally, it’ll also have a large memory capacity as recording in HD can take up a ton of space.

Alternatively, if you’ve got access to a DSLR, you’ll be able to capture footage with a little more control over the quality of the capture, primarily down to the fact that you can switch out the lenses on them.

The quality of the lens can have a massive change on the output and in most cases is more important than the camera is it being attached to. We could write an entire article just on lenses but what you need to remember is cheap glass could result in cheap results.

You want to try and achieve ‘Bokeh’ in the shot. This is the blurry background we talked about earlier in this piece. Our pick would be to go with a 50mm or an 85mm lens. Once you’re in front of the camera these lenses will bring you closer and push the background out. If you can’t get access to a prime lens, a lens that gives you the ability to move between them can achieve the same thing. Something like a 24-105mm is ideal.

This picture is a great example of bokeh. The background is blurred and you can see it is working by the light appearing a little orbs.

 

Lighting

More important than the camera is the lighting. You could have the best camera in the world but if it is in a poorly lit room, your result will look awful.

If you’re doing a quick shoot and can get into daylight, you can achieve a pretty good result, but you need to remember that natural daylight moves and changes. The longer the shoot takes, the more likely there are to be differences in the footage you shoot, giving you an editing nightmare.

If you can, get into an environment where you have total control of the lighting. This will help to maintain a constant look.

Now, when it comes to picking lights, you’ll want to make an investment in them. My personal setup includes 4 portable lights with tripods that give me the ability to move them around the subject and add light where it is needed.

I have two backlit LCD panels that give me control not only with being able to dim them but also adjust the colour temperature too. This can help add and remove warmth from the footage you shoot. This is what stops people either looking orange from too much warmth or dead from too much cool light.

The other two lights are RGB lights which can again, dim when needed and adjust warmth but they can also change to just about any colour you can think of. This is great for adding a touch of style to the background and can also be used as a fill light when needed.

Positioning the lights and getting the brightness and colour right will take a little time and you’ll want to have the camera set up the entire time you’re doing the setup so you can see what it’ll look like.

Starting with a 3-point light setup is a good way to go. This article gives you a little insight into what that looks like.

This is an example of the 3-point lighting setup

 

Sound

If you’ve got the lighting right and the camera capturing it well it should look awesome but just as important is how it sounds.

The camera and the phone will have a microphone in them, but it can pick up a lot of background noise and echo if the room is busy, big, filled with hard surfaces or is near an area of high traffic like a hallway or a window near a busy road.

Investing in a microphone that can be mounted to the camera is a good start. They tend to be directional and should minimise the sound bleed and instead focus on the person it is being pointed at.

Even better but less useful if you’re interviewing multiple people is a lapel mic. These are close position mics that will shut out background noise and only pick up the person speak. They make a huge difference. They are pretty cheap and worth investing in as it tends to be the one I go for when I am talking to only one person. I also have an on-camera mic for larger groups.

Essentially you need to get a mic. Without it, the sound is going to be pretty bad, and people are not going to stay tuned if the video is hard to listen to.

With these 3 things in place, you’re in a good position to get something put together. The next few tips are on capturing the footage and editing it to look great.

 

Putting the Pieces Together

 

Filming the Interview

You’ve got the camera, lighting and sound rocking, now it is time to film the interview. You’re either going to be doing this with a person behind the camera asking questions and the person in front answering them in a pretty natural way or the person in front of the camera has a script and they’re delivering it directly.

If it is the first one, the person answering the questions should try to not look directly down the camera. It can come off as an interrogation video if they do. Ideally, they should forget the camera is even there. The latter should be looking at the camera as essentially the conversation is direct with the person watching the video.

Keep the camera running. Having lead in and out footage is always handy when it comes to editing. You can always scrap the stuff you don’t use but you can’t get back the stuff you didn’t record.

You also want to try and keep the footage as clean as possible. What I mean by this is making sure that you have a long stretch of footage without mistakes. If they make a mistake, stop them and let them breathe and then go back to the start point and try again.

It is not easy to get this right the first time but make sure they at the very least go back to the start of a full sentence. Editing midway through a train of thought is impossible to hide. People move and blink and if you crop cut between two pieces of footage it will create a jump cut. This is where the footage obviously moves in front of the eye.

This style of editing has become more and more popular due to the rise of YouTubers but personally, when it comes to business videos, you want to try and keep them to a minimum.

 

Capture ‘B’ Roll

B roll is the technical term for all the supplementary footage you record. If you’ve spent time watching these styles of video, the B roll tends to be the shots of the office or people working. It could even be stock footage used to move the story forward.

You want to have this because it can be used to fill in space around the interview or could be used to switch out to and leave the voice footage from the interview playing. It comes in very handy when you have a jump cut, you’re trying to hide too.

The trick here is to just record as much as you can. Again, you can never have too much of this type of footage.

 

Editing it all together

This is the final step in the process and really is where it comes together and starts to form the final piece. Our advice here is to work toward some kind of story. If you can create an outline to edit toward it will make it easier.

Any story has a beginning, middle and end so having it laid out allows you to make sure that the video is following a logical path and is moving toward a structured outcome.

Start long-form and get everything you want rather than trying to fit a time limit. This creates your directors cut that can then be cut down into various other formats.

When it comes to editing tools there are a bunch out there but I use either Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere but if you’ve got access to a Mac it’ll have iMovie on it for free and it’ll do a grand job. iMovie also has apps for the iPad and the iPhone so there are plenty of ways to get a good edit done.

 

Final Thoughts

People love video content and there is no better time to give it a go. If this all sounds like a lot of work (and it can be) you could always hire a professional. If you do, this article should work well as a guide to making sure you’re asking the right questions and putting together a brief that gets you the video you want.

And if you do hire a professional take note of what they’re doing. Marketing teams need to be getting too grips with this type of content, it is going to be more and more important in the future.

If you've got any specific questions that you think I might be able to answer for you, you can always drop me a question using the contact form on the website. Just select other as the service and make sure you drop my name into the message and it'll get straight to me.


Building a Business People Trust

Trust is one of those things that often gets forgotten about. Businesses can get carried away with the brand, offer and messaging and just assume that as a result of their first impression or grandiose ambitions trust is implied and everyone just gets it.

The truth of the matter is that trust is something that needs to be built and worked on. It is no different to a relationship that two people have with each other when they’re dating. Trust is not given over lightly, and it can be very easily broken.

If you look back over the years, there are plenty of examples of businesses that have competed with each other and the reason one fell flat is partly down to trust. Leaving it to chance will almost always result in it not developing.

Marcos Aguiar, a Digital Trust Advisor, did a recent Ted Talk on this topic and through the years of his experience and research, he had been able to isolate the 7 things he sees as the tools that will help leaders design a foundation of trust into their business ecosystem to help achieve long term success.

Watch the Ted talk below and see how you stack up against the 7 tools Marcos and the team at BCG discovered. And if you’re looking for a little more insight into the research, you can check out their blog, ‘Building Trust In Business Ecosystems’.

 

7 Tools For Building a Business People Trust

 

 

If you need a little help with working on these elements of building trust into your business strategy, Eclipse is here to help. We have a team of business consultants and strategists that understand how to help you discover what makes your customers tick and can work with you to develop an experience that will help you build trust. Reach out to us and we can have a chat.


Convenience Is Key For Customer Satisfaction.

When it comes to shopping we’re all looking for the quickest, easiest way to get what we want when we want it, however, we want it. In other terms, we are looking for the most convenient way to get the stuff we need.

When it gets a little too hard or barriers are put in the way of what we’re trying to achieve, we go somewhere else.

To achieve this always-on, effortless mindset that consumers have, retailers need to adapt to and embrace Total Commerce. This means as you might have guessed from the opening gambit, meeting the customers wherever they want to shop and, on the terms, they want to purchase. This might sound like a huge task but you can go some way to offering this without ‘selling the farm’.

In some latest research by the team at Linnworks, they found how convenience is more important than ever to time-pushed consumers, and how those retailers that get the customer experience right, will win the sale every time.

During the last year and a bit, necessity has meant that consumers needed to switch to online shopping just to keep getting access to the things they needed, and they did this in droves. The pandemic accelerated the shift that was already happening, and some won’t now shift back, with three in four consumers saying they will be shopping online more after the pandemic than before, discovered in the research conducted by Linnworks.

It’s a big change and even though some retailers seem to have taken it in their stride better than others, they all need to understand both what’s caused the behaviour change and what they need to do to keep up with it.

For nearly three-quarters of consumers, the major factor that drives their desire to shop online more is convenience. Although it has been the only solution for a while now, online retail has always offered an easy solution for many consumers that juggle working from home or at the office and that have to deal with schooling and childcare. Customers have appreciated its benefits. Benefits that all consumers dealing with the pandemic discovered when they had their hand forced as a result of lockdown. And, as a result, that desire for convenience still reigns supreme today and will continue to be a key decision factor when it comes to deciding to make a purchase.

 

Convenience is King

Linnworks research, titled ‘The Effortless Economy: A New Age of Retail’, surveyed 1,000 consumers in the UK and US to understand the change in consumer behaviour. It overwhelmingly indicated that effortless experience was what people wanted, with convenience a top priority when choosing a retailer for more than three-quarters of consumers.

What’s important to take note of here is that it is beginning to outweigh other purchasing decision factors too. Nearly half of consumers say they are now more influenced by convenience than price and a similar amount will sacrifice cost savings for convenience. It’s not only appreciated but increasingly expected – it’s become a lever that can be used as a unique selling point.

And it’s been confirmed by other research too. The National Research Federation found that 97% of shoppers have abandoned a purchase over a lack of convenience and 83% say that convenience is more important to them when online shopping than five years ago.

 

That’s all great but what does convenience actually mean?

All the research indicates that consumers may be putting convenience at the top of the list but what does that mean for retailers, and what do they need to do? The research found a few key things, that almost all retailers can do something about, came out on top.

Firstly, the ability for a guest checkout and to shop across different channels and devices, with as little disruption to the customer journey as possible. Then came easy shipping, with the ability for shipping details to be remembered for future purchases.

This all goes back to what we talked about at the beginning. We all want fast, easy, totally seamless shopping experiences, wherever we are in the buyer’s journey. If we don’t get it, guess what. We will go elsewhere.

The Linnworks research uncovered that two in three consumers have abandoned purchases because they found sites too complicated, and more than half have walked away from retailers entirely. These are figures you need to take note of. If you ignore them, they will hit you right where it hurts most, your bank account.

 

Here’s what you need to do

 

  • Understand how customers shop and make it easier for them to do it in multiple ways

Your brand and shopping experience must be delivered on whatever channel the buyer is on. That means making it as easy and pain-free as possible. Different parts of a purchase journey will most likely be completed on different devices. Linnworks research showed that 81% of customers are looking for a frictionless, cross-device eCommerce experience and that more than half (51%) have abandoned a purchase because they were forced to start the process again when they switched devices.

And when it comes to shopping your social, if you get it right, you’re likely to pick up new customers. The research found that 35% of people have already purchased through social and that 27% more are open to the idea.

One of the key numbers in the research around social is that 71% of those who shop on social would rather complete the purchase on social than be sent to the retailers’ website. This fundamentally changes what most are doing when they choose to advertise on social. Integration with Facebook and Instagram shopping is becoming core to your social selling strategy.

 

  • Offer multiple payment options and make them easy to use

Convenience within payment is about seamless and flexible payment options, with nine out of ten shoppers saying it helps speed up their decision making and prompts them to spend more. This means going beyond just accepting credit cards and into options like PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay and as some businesses are starting to offer, accepting cryptocurrency.

A guest checkout option, wanted by 56% of people, allows an even speedier path to purchase. It’s the consumer’s biggest ask.

Consumers are also embracing new, more flexible, convenient payment options, such as buy now pay later. These services are growing 39% a year and nearly four in five shoppers expect brands to offer this as standard, especially on everyday items such as clothing, and around a quarter of consumers have already used it or plan to.

 

  • Offer delivery and return options that the consumer wants

The importance of delivery on customer loyalty can’t be overestimated. A massive 95% of consumers say that convenient delivery options are a major factor in their choice of an online retailer.

Offer next day delivery and click and collect options are rated highly for convenience. Customers want similar convenience when it comes to returns, with nearly nine in ten (89%) saying they don’t want customer services involved with returns, with 87% expecting a pre-paid return label and almost half (47%) saying they are more likely to shop with brands that offer self-service returns.

But this could be taken one step further. Offering the ability to arrange exchanges through your site whereupon new items are sent out when the originals are returned and processed removes the need to wait for refunds to be processed and keeps shoppers with you, rather than looking somewhere else.

 

  • Understand the role of the marketplace

Even though cross-device functionality, guest checkouts and easy shipping topped what consumers looked for when it came to convenience, there is a fourth thing retailers must consider as they strive to deliver convenience – that is the role of third-party solutions such as the marketplaces.

The convenience of online marketplaces, where consumers can shop a wide range of products from a variety of retailers on one platform means it’s a popular channel, with 91% starting their purchase journeys on marketplaces.

But it can be a double-edged sword for many. Yes, they’re convenient but they can also be overwhelming. Nearly half of consumers have abandoned marketplaces because there were too many options, and more than three-quarters (76%) say they would prefer to shop on a branded site or directly if such brands were able to match the convenience of online marketplaces.

This presents a huge opportunity for retailers to deliver a customer experience that keeps shoppers coming back to them directly, bringing the benefits of increased margins and customer shopping data.

 

Final Thoughts

Retailers today need to focus on and win at the idea of delivering an effortless experience by providing a seamless omnichannel journey and a second to none customer experience. We can’t afford for any part of our business to work in isolation and to not be easy and convenient for the consumer to shop.

You’ll find more on the research that Linnworks conducted by downloading their whitepaper on their site. It’s a great read and gives valuable insight that will drive your strategy for 2021 and into the future as you strive to offer the convenience that consumers are looking for.

And if you're looking for someone to help you work these ideas into your eCommerce strategy and enhance your customer experience, come talk to us. We have teams of experts that can help you in the the areas that Linnworks highlighted in their research.


Understanding the Ecommerce Life Cycle is Vital to Your Business Strategy

Businesses are not one-size-fits-all. The same cannot be said for the eCommerce strategy life cycle. To succeed, you must understand the importance of adapting your eCommerce strategy to each phase in its life cycle.

In the beginning phases of a business's life, their focus is usually on gaining traction and recognition. Once they have done this, their next goal will be reaching more customers by expanding into new markets or finding innovative ways to increase revenue.

But before we get too far into the life cycle itself, it is important to understand that your eCommerce strategy should evolve throughout its life cycle. The different phases of the life cycle are filled with ups and downs, trying times, and successes. Each phase may require drastic changes to stay afloat and make progress.

It's hard enough running a business but if you do not adapt as necessary during each phase of the eCommerce strategy life cycle, you will find yourself floundering or even worse - out of business altogether. Coming to terms with the fact that change is inevitable and required to continue to grow and adapt is a fundamental starting point and getting used to the idea of change will make the planning easier, allowing you to adapt the strategy to each phase of the eCommerce life cycle.

Now back to the life cycle itself. At Eclipse we've done a bunch of research and distilled it down to three phases, which are an adaption and amalgamation of the lifecycle growth phases for all businesses and align to what we’ve seen for eCommerce companies, as they move along their journeys. These are:

 

Phase 1 – Launch to market & rapid growth

Phase 2 – Slowing growth

Phase 3 – Renewed growth

 

Each phase may take vastly different amounts of time and within each phase, you may have multiple versions of your strategies to align to outward forces such as the economy shifting and unprecedented situations like the Covid-19 pandemic we've all been facing. The goal is to understand where you are and what you need to do to achieve the next phase.

 

Phase 1. Launch to market & rapid growth

Almost all new eCommerce businesses will be subject to an early period of rapid and in some cases unanticipated growth. This is usually due to the popularity of the product being sold or market demand rather than the implementation of their eCommerce platforms.

Many businesses will choose a platform from a group of the most popular for start-ups such as BigCommerce, Shopify or Adobe Magento Commerce. It’s important that your business stays agile and responds quickly to change but also think a little to the future and builds in the ability to grow with the chosen platform and not create a handbrake for yourself.

The phase is filled with experimentation and making adjustments to stay afloat. If you're in this phase, your company is most likely a start-up or experiencing fast growth. However, you may be a long-established 'traditional' business, but that experience won't always equate to eCommerce success. This venture should be treated as a start-up and with that mindset, you'll be prepared for the fluctuating environment and need to adapt quickly.

Often times it's necessary to pivot, completely change your product offering or adopt a new customer experience methodology to stay on top of trends within eCommerce. Sometimes these changes are drastic and take time, but they must be made if you want success later on down the line.

You don’t want to get too deep into creating overly complex processes. You and your business could take advantage of this quick impact in this early phase, before you start to see your growth slow, being restricted by an unseen force. This sees you moving into the second phase of the eCommerce lifecycle, slowing growth.

 

Your Strategy in Phase 1.

When it comes to developing the strategy in this phase it is about building brand profile, experimenting with the way you sell your product, working toward building a unique customer experience, working to build trust with customers developing them into brand ambassadors.

This is the time for experimentation. Mistakes can be easily forgiven at this phase and you need to use them to learn as much as you can.

 

Phase 2. Slowing growth

Many businesses reaching this second phase of the eCommerce lifecycle head straight for panic and look for quick-fix solutions to perceived issues. It's important to understand that it’s natural for there to be a levelling off of growth after the early spike.

All growth has to slow down eventually. You need to figure out how you’re going to stop it from turning into decline and have a conversation with your customers about what you plan on doing next.

Your business will have made inroads in your market space, people are starting to recognise your brand and are hopefully sharing it with others. It’s time to reflect on your progress. Now it is time to go through an evaluate your earned data and gather insights so that you can start to implement well thought out and deliberate enhancements to your eCommerce store and your marketing efforts. This may be through user research, implementation of conversion rate optimisation programmes for your eCommerce store and looking to use the loyalty you have developed from your customers through referral programmes.

It’s important for you as a business owner to assign plentiful time and resources to research. None of this time will be wasted and it is the best way to figure out what is required to reach the next level and start growing again.

 

Your Strategy in Phase 2.

You'll want to maintain the work great work you've done with your original strategy's that have gotten you to this point and it is now time to 'grow up’ and mature the operation.

As we've mentioned above it is about analysis and making measured movements but staying true to what got you to where you are in the first place. It's moving beyond just going by your gut and backing it up with real-world data that can be the difference between luck and deliberate success.

 

Phase 3. Renewed growth

Business owners think that the solution to the issue of slowing growth is a quick fix or a huge swing and change of direction, which could be a new eCommerce platform, the recruitment of an in-house specialist or throwing a huge budget at risky and potentially untested advertising paths. This is not necessarily thinking strategically.

A shift of platform might indeed be the answer – perhaps to a more advanced or modern eCommerce platform, but you need to make a clear business case before deciding to migrate platforms. It is never as quick, easy or perhaps as cheap as you might think it is.

The challenge is how to kick start the renewed growth and come out fighting, which means creating an action plan beforehand and implementing this carefully – considering both product range and marketing strategies, along with customer service or financial decisions.

In this third phase of the eCommerce lifecycle, it is so important that any and all attempts to reinvigorate your company’s momentum and growth should always be strategic.

 

Your Strategy in Phase 3.

A solution to slowing growth will most likely require realigning your business goals with changing customer trends, keeping up to date with new technology and channel strategies. It will need you to double down on the initiatives first started in phase 2.

Research and analysis are required to optimise processes and improve the customer experience. This will steer your strategy. This means more user testing on the customer experience, further optimisation of your conversion mechanics to make sure that you're taking advantage of every visitor and continuing to spread the message of what makes you different and what customers should pick you.

Research may reveal issues and you could find you need to re-platform, but there needs to be comprehensive analysis behind decisions to implement technology and tools.

 

Putting it into action

Getting to know these phases of the eCommerce lifecycle is key for your strategic planning and will help you visualise your brand’s growth as a recurring process, identify critical questions to ask at each phase and understand why an agile approach to eCommerce strategy is so vital to lasting success. This eCommerce process deters you from attempting to solve issues with quick fixes and quick wins, instead focusing on regularly revisiting and refreshing your eCommerce strategy for long-term success.


Conversational Commerce : The Next Big Thing?

Ecommerce is awesome. It is incredibly convenient and during the global pandemic we've been through and in most cases are still living in, it has been our lifeline to the outside world and allowed us to still get access to the products we needed in a safe and secure way. But shopping is about more than just what you buy: it's a treasure hunt to discover something new, a negotiation to get a great deal, a time to catch up with friends and family. This is the one thing that businesses are still trying to solve for ecommerce. It's the customer and 'in-store' experience we want to emulate.

Many see online shopping as an experience that can be impersonal and somewhat unsatisfactory as an event. Is there a way to bring back the magic?

In this Ted talk we found, Nimisha Jain introduces us to "conversational commerce," a new retail model that combines the convenience of a digital experience with the personalised touch of a real, human interaction. With exciting examples from companies in India, Thailand and China, there are lesson to be learnt that could change the face of ecommerce as we know it and introduce a new era to us all.

 


Influencer Marketing: You need to start thinking Nano.

Influencer marketing has been incredibly successful for a lot of brands and it is often added into the mix when thinking about putting together a marketing strategy.

However, the mistake in the planning comes when brands think too big. We’d all love for a huge Instagram star with millions and millions of followers to work with our brands but let’s get real. The cost can be anything from £10,000 + per post for smaller mega influencers and when it comes to celebrities, you could be looking at £100,000 + and it is not unheard of for it to be up to £1,000,000.

You should be considering the value of those with smaller, but more engaged, communities, who can also help connect you with the people who are increasingly more likely to buy from your brand.

These smaller-scale influencers, referred to as 'micro' & 'nano' influencers, can be highly valuable to your businesses, despite their smaller audience size.

 

Think Local

If you spend a little time looking for a local nano-influencer with give or take around 1,000 followers, but all of them are local business owners & shoppers, it can have a significantly larger impact on your promotion than a broader reaching campaign.

To provide a little context and offer some food for thought, the team from Planoly recently put together this infographic on nano-influencers and the potential benefits of this form of outreach. Give it a look and maybe the time to think small and local is right now.