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.

 


Looking for a little Inspiration? Here you go…

We all need a little inspiration at times, and it is amazing how reading a book or watching a video can spark a drive in us that we thought had either left for good or was on the verge of packing its boxes.

Stopping during the workweek for a moment of reflection or some time for self-development and to learn something new is vital. If we don’t stop and look up every so often, burn out is a real risk. And with working from home still firmly part of our routines, burn out is more common and on the rise.

To help you find that inspiration we’ve dug deep into our go-to webinars, podcasts, YouTube channels and books and pulled out a few of the favourites that we thought would be great to share. Take a look at them below and share them with others you think would benefit from them.

 

Events & Webinars

 Product School

Founded in 2014, Product School is the global leader in Product Management training with a community of over one million product professionals.

Their instructors are senior-level Product Managers working at top Silicon Valley companies including Google, Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, PayPal, Uber, and Amazon.

With live online courses starting every month, it’s easy to find an option that fits your schedule. Classes are held in the evenings or on weekends to ensure that both instructors and students can maintain their full-time jobs.

What we love is their collection of events advertised on their Eventbrite channel. They’re all free and cover a huge range of topics and have some excellent speakers joining them. The events range between webinars, live chats and fireside chats and there is something for everyone. Go check them out and register for the ones that pique your interest.

 

 Harvard Business Review

Little introduction is required for these guys. If you’ve ever done a Google search looking for something business-related there is a good chance that Harvard Business Review has popped up.

Harvard Business Publishing (HBP) was founded in 1994 as a not-for-profit, wholly-owned subsidiary of Harvard University, reporting to Harvard Business School. Their mission is to improve the practice of management in a changing world. This mission influences how they approach what they do there and what they believe is important.

Along with the great articles on their site they have a section for webinars both upcoming that you’ll be able to register for and a collection of past webinars that you can watch as and when you’d like.

They’ve got content that covers topics on Organisational Culture, Management, Leadership and People and even things like Supply Chains. As you’d expect from the publisher these are well put together and have insights from some of the best thought leaders out there. Head over and give it a look, you’ll never know what you’ll find that might spark that inspiration for you.

 

 

Podcasts

 Business Wars

Ever wondered why one company seems to smash it whilst their nearest rival just can’t make any headway? Well, wonder no more.

As Business Wars puts it “Netflix vs. HBO. Nike vs. Adidas. Business is war. Sometimes the prize is your wallet or your attention. Sometimes, it’s just the fun of beating the other guy. The outcome of these battles shapes what we buy and how we live.”

“Business Wars gives you the unauthorized, real story of what drives these companies and their leaders, inventors, investors and executives to new heights -- or to ruin. Hosted by David Brown, former anchor of Marketplace. From Wondery, the network behind Dirty John and American History Tellers.”

Available on several different channels including Spotify and Apple Podcasts finding it is easy. Subscribe so you never miss an episode and head into the back catalogue to find some episodes to start with.

 

 How I built this

Started all the way back in 2016, Guy Raz has turned How I built this into one of the most respected and listened to podcasts out there. He has spoken to some of the most influential people behind some of the biggest brands and continues to do so.

If you’d like to know what it took to build brands like Instagram, Patagonia, Warby Parker, Lyft, Toms and WeWork – this is the podcast for you.

As NPR puts it “Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world's best-known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.”

Again, you’ll find How I built this available on a bunch of different channels including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. Go give it a listen, it really is an excellent way to spend some time away from the job at hand.

 

 

YouTube Channels

 CreativeMorningsHQ

CreativeMornings is the world’s largest face-to-face creative community — a global breakfast lecture series serving local creative communities in over 200 cities.

Started in 2008 by Tina Roth Eisenberg, she wanted an easy way for her New York creative community to come together, regularly. CreativeMornings events are free of charge and always will be. Powered by the generosity of over 200 hosts and 1,500 volunteers, events happen monthly typically featuring an inspiring talk and breakfast. The CreativeMornings team is headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.

Accessed either via their YouTube Channel or on their website directly they have a collection of over 9000 CreativeMorning talks for you to dive into.

And whilst you’re on the site you can take a look at the upcoming virtual events you can attend too. This is one you’ll definitely want to check out. The topics are wide-reaching and you’ll no doubt find inspiration spread across them.

 

 Fast Company

Fast Company is the world's leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethonomics (ethical economics), leadership, and design.

Their YouTube channel is packed with Fast Break videos. Short snippets on a vast range of topics that get to the heart of the subject they’re covering. Similar to the types of videos you’ll see on the Vox YouTube channel, Fast Company has a more business slanted outlook to their content and by keeping them short you’re able to fit in some different topics whilst you’re taking a breather or grabbing a cup of coffee.

If you’re looking for more from Fast Company, you can head to their website and check out the video section or even their podcast section. You’ll find more long play content that created to the same high standard.

The one thing you can be assured of is a lot of content covering a ton of different topics in a variety of different formats. This is one you’ll want to add to your weekly catchup list.

 

 

Books

 Good to Great: Why some companies make the leap and others don’t by Jim Collins

Good to Great is one of the best management-related business books written, and it’s a timeless classic. While originally written by world-renowned author, Stanford researcher and consultant, Jim C. Collins back in 2001, his highly actionable advice and fascinating case studies still stand the test of time in this book.

In Good to Great, Collins describes how companies transition from being just good companies into truly great companies that shakeup entire industries for the better—and the reasons behind why most companies fail to ever make that transition happen.

This business book is a mega-bestseller, having sold over four million copies (so far) and goes to great length to break down the factors that are common to the world’s few companies that have been able to sustain remarkable success for a substantial period. Simply put, this is a must-read.

 

 Start with Why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action by Simon Sinek

Start with Why grew out of a TED talk delivered by the author, Simon Sinek, which has become the third most popular TED Talk ever.

It’s built around the question, “Why are some people and organisations more innovative, more influential and more profitable than others?” This business book’s basic premise is that the leaders who have had the greatest influence, act and communicate in the same way—which is the opposite of how most people function.

Sinek calls this idea, “The Golden Circle,” and it all begins with the question, “Why?” Interestingly, the reviews for this business book are very polarizing. Readers either love it or hate it. I love it. The harshest reactions and reviews seem to come from readers who have difficulty viewing themselves objectively, taking in critical feedback and translating it into positive changes in leadership. It’s much easier to blindly continue on down the same path.

I’ve worked with businesses around the world and in my experience, the most successful are those that understand ‘The Golden Circle’ and know what to do with it. One of the businesses I worked with literally lived and breathed the idea and it formed the core principle for why we did everything we did. Needless to say, we were the most successful provider of what we did not only in the cities we were located in but across the country too. Again, this is another must-read, in my opinion.

 

Hopefully, you’ll find some inspiration with one of these suggestions and it’ll help you stop, reflect, self-develop and reduce the risk of burnout.


Is the Future of Bricks and Mortar ‘Dark’?

I’ve started articles like this for what feels like a lifetime but at the time of writing, the UK is still in lockdown and life as we knew it is locked up behind closed doors.

For those in retail and more importantly those that have traditional storefronts things are for want of a better word unknown. Even when we get out the other side of this who really knows what will happen to bricks and mortar retail. Some analysts are predicting a bounce back and others are saying it is the beginning of the end of what we once knew.

If we take a look at what has been happening over the last couple of weeks this uncertainty is further concerned. Planning applications for new shops have plummeted by 22% across England over the last 12 months and in some areas, it is as much as 94%.

Further to that online retail businesses have been on a buying spree, snapping up big household high street names taking them online and leaving behind empty shops. For Arcadia the number is 500, for Debenhams, it will eventually be 124.

This is going to leave a big hole in the retail footprint, and it could drive a knock-on effect for those stores surrounding the closures. The big question, what do we do with all this space and what could retailers do with the space they currently have. One possibility could be to turn them ‘dark’.

 

What do we mean by ‘dark’ retail?

This might be a new term to many, but it could be one that we all become very familiar with. ‘Dark’ retail or stores are essentially locations in places where traditional retail may have existed, but they’re not open to the public in the usual way.

The reason they exist is to support the online operation of the business, becoming local distribution hubs. By using them in this way you’re putting the product closer to the customer meaning that you can get it to them faster, in a more economical way whilst allowing the customer to shop in the way they choose too, online.

It also means that you can utilise staff converting them from serving customers face to face and dropping them into the fulfilment process. It allows for localisation of service taking the personal touch that one step further than most and in times of lockdown you’re not restricted to the same rules that have plagued retailers.

 

I’m interested, but does it work?

There are numerous examples of this taking place already. Crosstown Doughnuts is trialling it right now. They’re setting up the trials in Cambridge and Walthamstow and if successful they have plans to expand the delivery hub model to other areas within reach of central London, such as Oxford, Brighton, Richmond, Croydon, Chalk Farm and Chiswick.

The business has seen direct-to-consumer (d2c) online ordering revenues increase by 600% compared to 2019 and by creating a network of ‘dark’ retail locations they’re able to expand their 1-hour delivery to a much wider net of customers.

Amazon has a history of using this type of distribution in the USA, having taken over an unused mall in Akron, Ohio turning it into a fulfilment centre and they’re continuing to look at ways of using this model in locations where anchor tenants of malls no longer exist leaving vast retail spaces empty.

The key to making it work is being able to deliver on the promise and that means creating an infrastructure that can support this method of doing business.

 

Getting it to work for your business.

As Cegid Marketing Director of Retail Tania Oakey puts it “rapid acceleration has exposed the retailers across all sectors that were late in terms of the digital adoption and omnichannel strategies.

Capabilities such as click and collect and ‘ship from store’ are key but require sophisticated POS (point of sale) and OMS (retail order management systems) solutions to act as an anchor. Having a unified commerce solution, with a single view of your stock across the whole of the organisation, is key. Having that visibility to decide where best to pull stock from for your consumer is decreasing logistics and sales costs. Retailers can improve margins from three to 10 per cent.”

If you’re going to have the locations closer to the customer, the system needs to be able to figure out which location is closer, send the order to that location and get it out the door quickly. Without this, you’re not using the idea of ‘dark’ retail to its full potential.

 

So, is the future of retail ‘dark’?

It is hard to argue against this. Adoption may take time, but it is easy to see how savvy retailers could take advantage of this idea.

Decreasing sales and logistics cost whilst improving customer service levels and dependability is all good news. The reason services like JustEat and Deliveroo have done so well is that it gets the product to the end customer quickly. This is building a habit for the consumer and if you can do the same with your products, you’ll become an invaluable asset to their lives.

If this is an idea you’d like to explore for your business, Eclipse can help. We’ve got teams of commerce experts that understand the end-to-end process and what it takes to put this type of process in place.

We can help you discover what it could mean for your business and help consult and develop the strategy that will get you there. Just reach out and talk to us. We’re always here to help.


Man sitting at laptop

What Does 2021 Have Instore For Retail

In an article released by IGD last week they highlighted key trends they thought would ‘shape global retail in 2021’ and having had a look through them, we tend to agree.

‘Driving online profitability, creating safe shopping spaces, and bringing the out-of-home experience in-home’ were among them and in this post, we’re going to take a closer look at some of them identified as ‘stand out’ for businesses to focus on this year.

 

System upgrade: digitally enhancing operations

The pandemic created an acceleration of the shift toward a digitally focused economy and 2021 is set to continue this shift. As Head of Innovation and Futures at IGD, Toby Pickard put it “The pandemic has accelerated retailers and shoppers’ digital awareness and capabilities. Numerous companies have been testing and learning from new digital initiatives, and in 2021 companies will need to move beyond this to improve and implement at scale. Digital transformation will require new leadership and a fresh cultural mindset as companies create flexible and agile ways of working.”

Embracing this change and adapting to it is what is required of businesses in 2021. IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • Introduction of digital technologies that have a low capital investment and are easy to update
  • Partnerships with third-party technology providers to speed up new tech introduction
  • More use of machine learning and artificial intelligence at store level to drive revenue and increase customer satisfaction

 

Escalating ecommerce: driving online and profitability

Every single person has been in the crosshairs of this during 2020 and now even into 2021. Lockdown followed by lockdown has left retailers and shoppers alike with very little option but to venture into the world of shopping online. Multiple reports have indicated that the shift towards shopping online has been brought forward by at least five years.

When looking at this trend specifically Toby Pickard said: “With many shoppers using the channel for their large weekly shop, we have seen retailers focus on enhancing the pickup, or click and collect, experience to help improve profitability. This has included adding more collection slots, expanding order staging areas and parking bays and ensuring a contactless experience. While the initial surge is receding, online penetration is expected to remain at a higher level, compared to pre-crisis.”

We see this happening across all of retail, not just the food industry. Having the capability to allow for click and collect my just be the thing that helps bricks and mortar stores survive. People will inevitably continue to lean on online first as a way to discover new products but having an option to either have it delivered or collected in a store may give you what you need to stand out amongst your competitors.

IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • Retailers seeking to reduce their overall operating costs to accommodate online, improving processes and automation
  • Encouraging shoppers towards click and collect
  • Retailers assessing the options for rapid delivery, for example the same day or in a few hours

 

Holistic health: supporting health and wellness

The pandemic has brought home the seriousness of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and it is easy to see why this is going to be a trend that grows in 2021.

Eco-concise retail was a big trend in 2020 and the desire to reduce your impact on the environment was a lifestyle that started to gain traction. 2021 sees this go one step further and consumers are looking inward at what they need to do for themselves, as well as keeping their carbon footprint at the forefront of their decisions.

As Toby Pickard puts it “Health and wellness naturally became more important to everyone in 2020. We saw a wide range of activities from retailers as they aimed to encourage healthier lifestyles. We will see more retailers educating, informing and rewarding shoppers for living healthier lives. Companies will look to champion both their health and sustainability credentials, as the two key trends merge, of their existing and new products. Personal health will increase in importance, but ultimately affordability may take precedence during economic downturns.”

Bringing these credentials to the front of what you do and creating content that talks to the consumers wants and needs will help you build relationships not only with existing customers but will open you up to a new audience.

IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • Greater focus from shoppers on hygiene and sanitation products for individuals and the home
  • Retailers and brands trying to differentiate themselves by helping shoppers and consumers live healthier lives
  • More tailored solutions in-store, either through assistants or using digital tools like apps

 

Recuperative retail: focusing on sustainability

Climate change has been on the radar for years and years and it continues to be at the top of a lot of peoples lists. When commenting on sustainability, Toby Pickard said: “Climate change will remain a top priority in 2021, as it is recognised as the most likely source of major future disruption. While there will be much focus on how sustainability supports the climate change and resilience agendas, we will also see initiatives to build trust and loyalty with shoppers.”

Showing customers how you’re doing your bit as a business to fight climate change will inevitably help you build trust and for customers that have this as a high priority as part of their purchase decision, you’re appealing directly to their core values.

IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • With climate change remaining a top priority, we expect retailers globally to push ahead with initiatives to support goals in this area
  • Continued implementation globally of initiatives to reduce plastic and food waste
  • Initiatives to build trust, loyalty and better relationships with shoppers, staff and communities

 

Knowing how and where you can use these trends as part of your strategy in 2021 will help define what your success may look like during the year.

At Eclipse we have teams of experts that work on Customer Experience and Strategy and we can help you shape these trends for your business. All it takes is for you to reach out to us and we can start looking at how we can help you ensure success in 2021.

If you want to take a closer look at the release from IGD, you can head over here to check it out.


Woman on laptop

Getting Online Will Benefit Your Business For Today And Into The Future.

As we find ourselves staring into another national lockdown, retailers are again throwing their hands in the air with frustration. No one can doubt the need for the lockdown but as a business owner whose livelihood is reliant on being able to open the front door of their store to the high street, it is not good news.

For some, there may on the surface appear to be no answer to the trouble they are facing but although the pandemic has caused disastrous changes to the world of retail, the changes have been a long time coming. Bricks and mortar retail has been facing decline for several years as people have slowly started the shift toward online shopping. The pandemic has brought this forward by about 5 years, leaving many ill-prepared for the change, but it was a change that has been coming for a while.

The good news is that there is still time to do something about it and prepare not only for now but for the coming future of retail that by all accounts is going to be fundamentally shifted toward being online. The benefits are wide-reaching and for many businesses, the sole reason they have been able to survive up till now is a direct result of their being able to continue to sell online and whilst able, to give customers the option to click and collect.

Here are some of the benefits as we see them and we’re sure, you’ll agree that building a digital home for your business will be an important step in securing the future of the business.

 

  1. Lower overall running costs that also won’t add huge dependencies to the bottom line

By comparison and in most cases, running an online store will cost far less to set up and operate than your traditional brick-and-mortar locations.

There are obviously still costs involved. Website hosting, website domain ownership, digital marketing, payment solutions and potential platform fees (if selling through a platform like Shopify, Etsy or Ebay). You’ll also want to outsource things like website development as well as potentially brand creation, marketing strategy, photography, and copywriting, depending on the maturity of your business.

If your product or business is completely new to the market or this is your first foray into retail, starting out online is a great way to do some test trading in a relatively low-pressure environment, but it could also work as a pop-up for an existing business. Nothing is saying that you need to load your entire product set to a website to get started. Look at things that are new to market or are best sellers or even fall into the category of being able to be packed and shipped quickly.

And if you’re thinking that’s great but I can’t sell my products online, we would ask that you rethink that. If you think back not that many years at all, the idea of a butcher selling meat online or even the idea of buying your glasses online was inconceivable but there are many examples of businesses doing that very successfully. Heck, you can even buy a car totally online!

 

  1. You’ll be removing any kind of geographical limitation

Traditional bricks and mortar store that doesn’t sell any products online is extremely limited geographically. Even if the products are highly desirable and have a large marketing budget, they’ll can still only realistically attract customers from within a certain radius to the location of the store itself. By offering the products online, companies will benefit from being able to reach as wide a geographical area as they like – be that nationally or even globally!

And with the changes that Brexit have brought into the fold, several businesses have stopped shipping into the UK from Europe as a result of changes to requirements for VAT. There are likely businesses in the UK that can fill in the gap left by those businesses, people just need to know that you exist and being in the phone book, even in its new digital form, is not good enough.

 

  1. You’ll be able to be open for business when you like and for however long you like

Almost all online stores will involve totally automated order and payment processing, this enables customers to shop when it suits them. This makes online shopping the ultimate in convenience for both sellers and buyers.

Your customers benefit from being able to browse and shop whenever they like, and you as the business owner don’t have to drop everything to process purchases immediately, just like you’d have to do with a customer physically present in your store. Neither you nor the customer are committed to – or more importantly restricted by – set opening hours.

 

  1. The ultimate flexibility for updates, offers and changes

An online store can be updated as and when you like, at little to no expense, in most cases. Things like adding new product lines, reorganising your catalogue, or setting up a flash sale can be implemented straight away. Social and search pay-per-click campaigns can also be switched on and off in real-time with relative ease.

If you compare this type of activity to a physical shop, you’re most likely going to have to plan in advance for new product releases and sales events; sourcing in-store printed materials, making room on the shop floor to present your new or discounted products, and then there is the advertising, possibly using local publications. There’s a lot of moving parts to manage with a bricks-and-mortar shop, but with a lean, online store, you’re totally in control.

When used together, you’re able to get the offers up and running on the site whilst you’re preparing things in-store and when in lockdown, as we currently are, you’re able to be incredibly agile and compete with what competitors might be doing or even react to demand locally or nationally and capture opportunities as they’re happening.

 

  1. You’re getting access to incredible sets of analytics you might not have been able to capture before

Online stores (and indeed most websites) enable you to access a wealth of useful information. Things such as:

  • What times of the day/week/month your website is most popular?
  • How long people are spending on your website and how many pages they're visiting during their visit
  • Where your visits are coming from (e.g, search, social media, paid advertising, etc.)
  • Geographically where your site is most popular
  • Which products and pages are the most popular?
  • What times of the day/week/month you receive the most enquiries/orders
  • The types of device that people are using to visit your site (desktop, mobile or tablet)

You can also setup goals that will give you an indication of how effective elements of the website might be. For instance, creating a goal to see whenever someone clicks on a phone number or completes a contact form lets you know people are getting in touch and where they're doing it from.

This information can be used to enhance your marketing strategy and gives you a real picture of who your customers are. It enables you to target individuals with similar tastes and habits more efficiently, building your customer base and furthering your reach and even gives you information about your product set and open potential gaps you may have. Using tools like Google Analytics are invaluable to any company with a website – e-commerce or otherwise!

 

  1. Like we said before, there are virtually no limitations to what you can sell online

Regardless of what you specialise in, there is almost always a way to offer what you sell online. Whether you sell a physical product, virtual products like ebooks or music, courses, services, or consultancy, chances are there’s a way you can process orders and payments electronically, even if you need to physically deliver the service being sold.

The digital web presence will take the place of the in-store point of sale software, during the transaction phase and can even integrate with it so that it shares the information and stock levels meaning it can be managed in a single location. The type of product you sell should not be a barrier to creating an eCommerce website.

And if you sell something that can be automatically and digitally delivered like an ebook or online course, the added bonus is that you can leave it to work in the background with minimal input. These types of products are great for creating a reoccurring revenue stream for the business.

Another added benefit is the ability to create a subscription service much as Amazon has done with its subscribe and save. There are hundreds of examples where this is their primary business model and others like Gillette and Grind who have offered convenience to their customers by dropping products through their customer's letterboxes regularly and created a stream of revenue which has for all intense and purposes has been sold once via a concerted marketing effort and now continues to deliver revenue into the business, supplementing their other business activity.

In almost all cases, it is more cost-effective to sell to an existing customer than it is to try and acquire new ones. The website makes it easier for customers to manage their subscriptions and you can get on with working on your business.

 

  1. Do you sell a niche product? You should already be online.

If your product is in any way unconventional or niche, selling online may be the most effective way to do business and it will definitely support your existing bricks and mortar business. When people are looking for something unusual or specific, and to be perfectly honest nowadays almost anything at all, they look online first rather than by walking up and down a high street.

There is a strong possibility that certain niche products could overlap well with the needs of specialist communities which are already highly active online. Engaging with these groups in the place they ‘hang out’, pointing them in the right direction toward your digital shopfront, may prove beneficial when done correctly.

Hopefully, you can now see the overwhelming benefits that taking your business online can bring for you. It won’t be a silver bullet with a guarantee for success but ignoring it and choosing to ‘bury your head in the sand’ may just be a death nail.

 

We’re here to help

We’ve been building digital experiences for a long time and we pride ourselves on making them beautifully simple.

We unlock your trading potential, creating and supporting beautifully simple sites that are functionally rich and continually perform way above expectations.

Our clients enjoy seamless access to the best analysts, experts and technical resources in the sector. We’re proud of what we do and we’re incredibly good at it (and it’s not just us saying that).

Our Experience team works with clients every day to test their sites and work to create a better conversion rate for them.

We’ve got specialist teams that advise and then action Design, UX & UI for your digital storefront. We’ve also got geniuses to work with you on how to drive brand engagement, solicit positive sentiment, strengthen your content marketing, SEO & PPC.

Reach out to us and we can discuss how we can help you move with the shift change, maximise the opportunity and support you and help make sure that your business lives long into the future. No matter your size or specific industry vertical, our mission is to see you succeed.


2020 cutout numbers

2020 eCommerce Trends and Statistics

As we draw closer toward the end of 2020, I think we can all agree it was a year that could not be predicated and although it’s changed how we live, there is no doubt that we’d all like it to be left in the past as we move forward into 2021.

Without a doubt, eCommerce has been the winner of 2020 and has seen a massive rise in and according to some estimates, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated our shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by around five years.

For the last few years, we’ve been seeing more and more people shopping online anyway, but for a lot of businesses they saw a fundamental shift as a far-off future, something that didn’t necessarily need to be factored in right away. Now however, they're being forced to re-assess, and analyse their own approach to the eCommerce shift.

We’ve seen in the news what can happen when you underestimate or underdeliver in this space and the collapse of retail empires that were once the envy of everyone in retail is a startling reminder that the only constant is change, and that not heeding to the warning signs early is tantamount to signing your own death warrant.

The trick is learning from the past, looking into the future and ensuring that you’re as prepared as you can be. Another lesson is to never take success for granted.

In that vein, we’ve found this fantastic infographic put together by WebsiteBuilderExpert that looks at eCommerce trends and statistics from across 2020. Give it a read and use what you’ve read as a marker for your 2021 planning. The infographic has the highlights but they've also put together a full detail Ecommerce Guide that has even more awesome and incredibly useful information in it. If you're looking for a little more, head over and give it a read.

And if you need any help with your eCommerce strategy for 2021, Eclipse is here to help. We unlock your trading potential, creating and supporting beautifully simple sites that are functionally rich and continually perform way above expectations.

Our clients enjoy seamless access to the best analysts, experts and technical resources in the sector. We’re proud of what we do and we’re incredibly good at it (and it’s not just us saying that).

We’re here to support you and help make sure that your business lives long into the future. No matter your size or specific industry vertical, our mission is to see you succeed.


Man at desk with 3 screens

Testing in Testing Times

For many of us, these are “testing times” indeed. In the run-up to 2020, there was a sense of optimism about the future. Businesses were working harder to achieve a good balance between in-store and online, with a lot of focus being put on harmonising the two. There were big projects on the horizon. Investment in technology was ever-increasing. And Coronavirus or COVID-19 was creeping into the headlines…

Digital IT is an ever-changing world. Often described to me as “the place to be” in terms of my career, the last 8 months have shown that IT, Digital and Ecommerce really have paved the way for a step-change in how we shop and interact with businesses. Many companies have had to rapidly accelerate their shift towards digital and digital strategies, as physical stores were impacted by closures, social distancing, and restrictions since the first lockdown in March. As we at Eclipse recognise, shopping trends are changing, and technology is essential. Ensuring we are delivering rapidly, but maintaining high levels of quality is as important as ever to maintain customer satisfaction, and to lure perhaps hesitant customers into this new digital era.

In these testing times, we talk now more than ever about needing to deliver quality solutions, but as we know quality is often sacrificed when time and cost are a greater factor. So how can we adapt our software testing practices and align with the changing world of digital? Here are some top tips for making Testing work harder within your organisation in the right ways.

 

Test Early!

There is a lot written about testing early and a lot to be said for the benefits of it. “Static analysis” or “testing a work product without the work product code being executed” is a useful testing phase that is often neglected. The word static itself implies that nothing is moving or changing and when there is an urgency to deliver, the focus is often to get cracking with the development and ask questions later. But taking the time to fully understand a requirement, by thinking and talking scenarios through, can result in less rework at later stages in the development lifecycle (after testers have found the coded defects). As testers in Eclipse applying Agile methodologies, we utilise our static testing skills during product backlog refinement sessions, collaborative discussions with developers and analysts, asking the right questions (my personal favourite is “what if?”) and detecting defects early before they have been coded!

 

Try “Trifecta”

The Trifecta also referred to as the Three Amigos, is a name given to the 3 roles of an agile team who will discuss, refine, groom, enrich and identify the best solution approach for every Product Backlog Item (PBI) taken into a sprint – Analysts, Developers and Testers. By involving the right individuals from multiple disciples in discussions about solutions and keeping the communication channels open throughout makes a HUGE difference. Having Trifecta sessions including analysts or owners of the requirements prompts discussions on differences in understanding, fuelling our test early principle and saving time and cost throughout.

 

Prioritise!

Everyone wants to have the most beautiful fully functioning website. As software testers, it is in our nature to strive for the best, but we know that this takes time. At Eclipse, we know that prioritising our effort based on factors agreed with our product owners and teams can make all the difference – the age-old debate of breadth vs depth of coverage. We ask about the MVP, we calculate risk and we focus our efforts where it matters. This allows us to be confident in quality levels whilst supporting building the backlog of improvements to be tackled over time.

 

Test!

This might sound strange in a blog about testing, but don’t neglect or underestimate the benefit of any form of testing. Done in the right way, testing can save time and effort in the future, and ultimately could be what protects your reputation. I have seen first-hand how neglecting testing effort can then go onto have the butterfly effect – it can take one customer or end-user to find something that affects their experience, and damage limitation has to come into play. At Eclipse, testing and quality assurance is a default part of our services. We give it the attention it requires and deserves (whilst prioritising our efforts of course!)

 

Automate!

Look for ways to complement your manual test cases, reap the benefits of reducing the repeatability and allow your testers to focus on testing more complex cases; those which often require more thought and are perhaps exploratory in nature. At Eclipse, by automating those repeatable but critical tests based on factors such as those with high business value or functionality where the level of regression and defect rates are high, we have helped our customers to move from irregular large releases to regular iterative releases. A little investment goes a long way; the investment in the short term pays dividends in the long term by increasing manual testers efficiency and effectiveness.

 

If testing is something that you feel needs a little more attention, speak to us about how Eclipse can help you with your Testing approach to ensure you are getting the most out of your processes, tools and teams.


Shopping bags

The Nightmare Before Christmas for Retail?

On Saturday the PM announced that England would be going back into another national lockdown from this Thursday. Everyone across England will be asked again to "stay at home", with us all only being allowed to leave our homes for a series of specified reasons, including "essential" shopping.

When looking at the latest government guidance, the list of those having to close their doors is extensive. Published on the 1st November the guidance reads as follows:

“To reduce social contact, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close. These include:

  • all non-essential retail, including, but not limited to clothing and electronics stores, vehicle showrooms, travel agents, betting shops, auction houses, tailors, car washes, tobacco and vape shops.
  • indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres and gyms, sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks,
  • entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, adult gaming centres and arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, concert halls, zoos and other animal attractions, botanical gardens;
  • personal care facilities such as hair, beauty and nail salons, tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services, non-medical acupuncture, and tanning salons.

Food shops, supermarkets, garden centres and certain other retailers providing essential goods and services can remain open. Essential retail should follow COVID-secure guidelines to protect customers, visitors and workers.

Non-essential retail can remain open for delivery to customers and click-and-collect.

Playgrounds can remain open.

Hospitality venues like restaurants, bars and pubs must close, but can still provide takeaway and delivery services. However, takeaway of alcohol will not be allowed.

Hotels, hostels and other accommodation should only open for those who have to travel for work purposes and for a limited number of other exemptions which will be set out in law.

A full list of the business closures will be published and set out in law.”

Looking through the guidance you can see the level of interruptions these changes are going to have to retail through November.

 

The Busiest Time of The Year

Shoppers usually spend around £50bn on goods other than food in the weeks leading up to Christmas as they gift clothes, toys and the latest technology to friends and family.

Not only does November signal the beginning of the Christmas shopping season but for those who love a bargain, the last week of November brings with it Black Friday.

For many retailers, they had built up their plans and hopes that November and December would boost the recent recovery that retail has seen but this new challenge will force many to have to rethink plans.

A much stronger reliance is going to be put onto your online operations, pushing it to its limits. We had been expecting that Black Friday was going to create have a huge increase in online demand but with the newest restrictions, there is no overflow into stores themselves.

 

So Now What?

For those of you who have an online store, you are going to need to make sure it is going to stand up to the renewed increase in traffic. Making sure your hosting is up to scratch at that you’re going to be able to scale to demand is vital.

If you’re on a cloud hosting service like Magento Cloud or SAP Commerce Cloud this, for the most part, is going to be taken care of. For those still using On-Premise, you may want to start planning a migration. It may not give you a direct benefit as you may not be able to implement it in time, but it’ll prepare you for the next unplanned situation we might find ourselves in.

Another thing you may have seen in the guidance that might be an opportunity is this little line “Non-essential retail can remain open for delivery to customers and click-and-collect.”

Both of these things are very real options that will allow you and your business to remain active locally, outside of just offering your standard delivery options. Forming a partnership with or offering a restricted delivery service to your local area will help keep you front of mind with your customers.

Click and collect has become an ever more popular option when people are shopping and being able to offer it, even for a few select products could help you stay competitive with the bigger businesses. Depending on the platform you are using for your website, the possibility of a plugin that can unlock these features may exist and a business like us at Eclipse could help you implement it and get it going in a short time.

Beyond just implementing features and adding new services there is going to be a need to look at your offers. Free delivery, discounts and gifts with purchase can all help you stand out in the crowd.

 

Experience is What People Want

Another lever that is available for you is the experience your customers are having on your website. Making it as easy to shop as possible is important. Having a range of payment options and optimising the checkout experience can have a huge effect on your conversion rate.

Our team of experts in our experience team work with businesses every day to help them continually optimise their offering. There is almost no end to the list of things that can be done to make an online store more shoppable and better at converting. Little changes to layout and colour, product order and recommendations are all tangible things that can be implemented in a short time and could result in an uplift for your business.

 

So, Is It Really A Nightmare?

There is little doubt that this lockdown is going to have an effect on retail through to Christmas and that the damage it will cause will be noticeable but for those businesses eager to try and keep things going, not all needs to be lost.

Sure, it is going to be difficult but getting a store running, optimising an existing store or adding more services to take advantage of the limits of the restrictions are all options that exist. You just need to be willing to take them.

 

We’re Here to Help However We Can

We’ve been building digital experiences for a long time and we pride ourselves on making them beautifully simple. We unlock your trading potential, creating and supporting beautifully simple sites that are functionally rich and continually perform way above expectations.

Our clients enjoy seamless access to the best analysts, experts and technical resources in the sector. We’re proud of what we do and we’re incredibly good at it (and it’s not just us saying that).

Our Experience team works with clients every day to test their sites and work to create a better conversion rate for them.

We’ve got specialist teams that advise and then action Design, UX & UI for your digital storefront. We’ve also got geniuses to work with you on how to drive brand engagement, solicit positive sentiment, strengthen your content marketing, SEO & PPC.

And when it comes to Augmented Reality, Our Augmented Reality E-commerce Solution, Ares, changes the game and is all about enhancing the online shopping experience for the end-user. It is about lifting product images from standard 2D into something experiential and visually impactful, that truly brings product shopping online to life.

Ares is dedicated to leveraging the power of AR and 3D for so much more than entertainment – it exists as your next step for achieving peak eCommerce performance.

And the reason it is changing the game is that it works straight from the web browser or mobile device, no apps or downloads required. It can be plugged into any website or e-commerce platform and Ares works on the latest Android and iOS devices.

Ares is a full end-to-end AR service for retailers. You don’t need to be an AR expert to get the best out of Ares.

Reach out to us and we can discuss how we can help you in these trying times, let us help you maximise the opportunity, support you and help make sure that your business lives long into the future. No matter your size or specific industry vertical, our mission is to see you succeed.


Man with painted face at laptop

The Time for Staying on Magento 1 Has Expired

This last weekend the largest hack campaign to date on Magento 1 stores took place. Nearly 2000 stores were targeted in a Magecart attack: injected malicious code would intercept the payment information of unsuspected store customers. Stores inspected by Sansec were found running Magento version 1, which was announced End-Of-Life in June of this year.

The Sansec early breach detection system, which monitors the global eCommerce space for security threats, detected 1904 distinct Magento stores with a unique keylogger (skimmer) on the checkout page. On Friday, 10 stores got infected, then 1058 on Saturday, 603 on Sunday and 233 on Monday.

Sansec has been monitoring this type of activity since 2015 and they’ve described it as the largest they’ve ever seen. The previous record was 962 hacked stores in a single day which happened in July last year.

This weekend’s incident highlights an increased sophistication and profitability of web skimming. Sansec has found that criminals have been increasingly automating their hacking operations to run web skimming schemes on as many stores as possible.

They’ve estimated that tens of thousands of customers had their private information stolen over the weekend via one of the compromised stores.

 

Magento Exploit Sold

Whilst their investigation is still ongoing, it appears that many victimised stores have no prior history of security incidents. It suggests that a new attack method was used to gain server (write) access to all these stores.

They believe this campaign might be related to a recent Magento 1 0day (exploit) that was put up for sale a few weeks ago.

 

What They Found

User z3r0day announced on a hacking forum the sale of a Magento 1 “remote code execution” exploit method, including an instruction video, for $5000.

It was alleged that no prior Magento admin account is required. Seller z3r0day stressed that - because Magento 1 is End-Of-Life - no official patches will be provided by Adobe to fix this bug, which renders this exploit extra damaging to store owners using the legacy platform.

In what was described as a deal sweetener, z3r0day pledged to only sell 10 copies of the dangerous exploit. Translated from Russian.

According to live Sansec data, some 95,000 Magento 1 stores are still operating as of today.

 

What to do now?

Some things can be done to mitigate the risk like using a malware and vulnerability scanner or finding third-party patch support, but there is really only one answer – you need to move to a platform that is ‘living’ and continues to provide security support.

For Magento 1 users, the obvious step is to migrate to Magento 2 Commerce or Magento 2 Open Source. This allows you to continue to work with a platform that feels familiar but benefit from the enhanced features and continued platform support from Adobe.

 

Eclipse is here to help

The good news is that we’re here to help you get secure and protect yourself from potential exploitations like the one that happened over the weekend, through taking advantage of gaps created by being end of life.

We’ve tailored a Magento solution for everyone, no matter where your start point in the market. It’s just about us getting together, discussing the options that will work best for your business and then working to get you accelerated toward success.

We have a history of both developing from new and re-platforming businesses with Magento. By working with us, you’re getting access to this experience and expertise.

Reach out to us and let’s start talking about how we can get your site moved and more secure.