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.


Here’s What Customers Want From Direct To Consumer UX

If you hadn’t noticed eCommerce is on the rise and has been for a while now but alongside traditional retailers finding a way to get their store online, there has been another shift taking place. It is gaining momentum and there are more and more examples of it becoming a defining point of success for businesses.

What we’re talking about here is Direct to Consumer. More and more manufacturing brands are taking advantage of the benefits of taking total control of a sales channel and selling directly to the people that are using their products.

However, along with all the benefits and just like everything in life, there are a few challenges. One of which is the expectations of your customers. You might expect that they would be the same as what they would be for multi-brand and traditional retailers. And to be fair, that is not a bad assumption to make but new research from Baymard is letting us know that this isn’t the case.

The Baymard research team spent 1,440 hours usability testing and researching Small Catalog, Direct to Consumer website features, layouts, content, and designs leading to their latest research study on Direct to Consumer UX.

The research is based on more than 217 qualitative user/site usability test sessions following the “Think Aloud” protocol (1:1 remote moderated testing).

The test sites covered smaller Direct to Consumer brands with smaller product catalogues including beauty, apparel and accessories, cookware and fitness. Some of the brands included Allbirds, MVMT & Daniel Wellington.

What they found even with testing a broad variety of smaller Direct to Consumer sites, was that users would repeatedly abandon Direct to Consumer sites due to issues with the layout, content types, or features. In fact, the users encountered 1,370+ medium-to-severe usability issues on the smaller Direct to Consumer sites.

For the report, they analysed and distilled the results into 413 guidelines found within their research study. These cover most aspects of the Direct to Consumer experience, at both a high level of general user behaviour as well as at a more granular level of specific issues users are likely to encounter.

What you'll find here is some key highlights that’ll help when you’re working toward getting a Direct to Consumer offer into the market.

 

Things To Consider When Making Direct To Consumer A Success

 

• Customers Want to Get to Know You First

One of the things that Baymard discovered during the research is that where customers of traditional B2C businesses are likely to be looking at the product price, variations and returns policy, for example, when making buying decisions, consumers are rarely making buying decisions based solely on what they think of the brand itself.

In stark contrast, users on Direct to Consumer sites typically want to “get to know” the brand and products at a deeper level before they make a purchase decision. In fact, many users want to feel like the site shares their tastes, values, and goals.

And this is supported by research from Diffusion. They found that perception is driving purchasing with 44% of consumers believing Direct to Consumer brands produce a higher quality product at a lower price point than traditional competitors and nearly a quarter (23%) perceive Direct to Consumer brands to be an authority of what’s cool and on-trend.

All this dictates the type of information you need to provide on your Direct to Consumer site beyond just “the basics”. That being what is expected by users on almost all e-commerce sites. Things like product titles & images of the products. But it also changes where and how the information is presented.

 

• The Homepage is More Important Than You Might Think

What Baymard found during the research is that when consumers are visiting Direct to Consumer sites, a first step for them was to spend more time exploring the homepage than what’s typically observed or expected of users during general B2C testing.

As an example, consumers on more traditional B2C sites like John Lewis or ASOS, will often start by going directly to the search bar or the main navigation, to quickly drill down into the site to begin finding products of interest.

But, during their Direct to Consumer testing, consumers tended to first scroll through the homepage, considering the highlighted content, to determine if they should spend any more time on the site.

 

• They’ll Dig Deeper to Find Information Before Buying

Another thing that came out during the research was that consumers spent more time digging deeper for particular pieces of information. This included heading to About Us pages and for lists of faqs so that they could answer not only basic questions but also more specific ones.

Our tip here is to 1, make sure the information is on the site and 2, it’s easily accessible. This should help entice consumers to stay around longer. If they’re able to answer a question with a piece of information either about your brand or products it could pique their interest and engage a buying motivation.

 

• How the Site Looks is Just as Important as What is on it

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder and the devil may be in the detail but there is one thing that the research found that, for me, has always been a suspicion.

When it comes to big retailer websites, the ‘industry experts’ can point out the differences all day but to the standard end-user, they’re much the same. While some aspects of design differ, for most users the design aesthetics of larger e-commerce sites rarely have much impact on their decision whether or not to purchase from the site. For them, usability is much more of a driver.

However, when it comes to the smaller Direct to Consumer sites, users tend to want to feel like a site is representative of their own individual taste, or at the very least that the site’s design aesthetics aren’t offensive to them.

And take note of this little insight. The research found that some users during testing were observed to abandon sites solely due to their dislike of the design aesthetics — not even venturing off the homepage to support their decision.

Now, what nobody would ever advocate is trying to cater to every individual user’s personal design-aesthetic preference because frankly, that is an impossible task. But pulling in some of the more eccentric design decisions and going for a simpler but still, bespoke approach was observed to perform well for most users.

 

Final Thoughts

Direct to Consumer sites have many challenging tasks facing them when it comes to perfecting the user experience.

There is no one size fits all approach, and each brand is going to face a slightly different set of challenges, but the good news is that the research is out there to help and even more importantly, there are experts out there that have made this their business and passion.

One of those businesses is us. At Eclipse we’ve got a team of experts in the Customer Experience team that can design, implement, test, optimise and further develop the customer experience for your business and drive continued growth through conversion rate optimisation and a long-term optimisation strategy.

Through user testing and experience testing, directly with the types of people that buy your products, the research and data help remove emotion and gets to the core of creating a great customer experience.

All you need to do is reach out to us and have a chat. We’re here to help you build, test, develop and optimise your Direct to Consumer channel.

And if you’d like a copy of the research, you can get access to all 413 DTC UX guidelines, available today via Baymard Premium access.


Is This the Future of Returns for eCommerce?

Shopping is one of the great British past-times and we love it, but sometimes we buy things that just don’t fit the bill and we’re put into what can feel like an arduous task, returning them.

As much as the eCommerce experience has increased hugely and it has become easier to get the stuff we want, the thing that to me feels like it has been forgotten about is the other end of the process. We ultimately don’t set out to buy stuff to have to return it, but it can be unavoidable.

If you’ll allow me a moment to get onto my soapbox, I’ll share a recent experience of mine.

 

The Returns and Exchange Process Right Now

Having recently returned to the UK it now just happens to be the case that my mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day fall in the same month, literally days apart. As I always do, I headed online to buy up some gifts to make sure she would see how much I appreciate her.

The Mother’s Day gift was an easy pick, I knew what I was getting would be perfect and would do the job nicely. When it came to her birthday gift, I wanted to push the boat out and bought something that was size reliant.

It arrived and the big day came and although I had picked her size, the item came up a little small. ‘No worries, I’ll get them changed for you’ I tell her. She decides that she would prefer a different style and maybe we should go up a size ‘just in case’.

Thankfully the sale came with a returns label in the box, and I was to tick a box and drop the paperwork back in with the product and get it sent back. Of course, before we had completed this we had been online looking for the new items we wanted to exchange the product for.

I kept thinking to myself ‘Why can’t I pick the item I want so that when they get it back and declare it fit for return, they can just send me the new ones?’ This wasn’t an option, so I followed the process, sent it back and waited for the refund, before buying the replacement.

Whilst we waited, I thought to myself ‘Maybe there might be a better deal out there or something else she might like instead?’ which of course left me browsing the internet on several different retailer’s websites looking at other things. I ultimately decided not to buy something else and to go back and get the original chosen replacement, but I wondered how many other people in the same position just would not bother, resulting in a lost sale for the retailer.

For those of you who are wondering, the replacements did arrive but being a different style meant the size up was a bad idea so we had to go through an exchange process again but with the stores opening up again decided to go in-store in the hope that we could simply change the size.

The lockdown meant that most of the stock you’d expect in the store was not there due to older stock having been left to float around but we were able to change them and get new ones sent to the house without having to do the refund/repurchase dance.

 

There Has Got to be a Better Way

This wasn’t the first time I had dealt with this type of thing and it always plays on my mind when I buy something from a new store or a new brand. The risk of having to wade into the process of returning things can sometimes overwhelm the excitement of buying them in the first place.

I couldn’t get the idea of being able to pick the item I wanted in exchange before sending it back out of my mind. Surely this wasn’t radical thinking? Someone must have thought of this before and surely, I wasn’t the only one wanting it as an option when shopping.

The answer to those questions came to me during a google news search. I spotted an article on Adweek ‘Affirm to Buy Returnly for $300 Million as Ecommerce Returns Spike During the Pandemic’ and it caught my attention.

I hadn’t heard of Returnly before but another quick google search got me to their home page and I’ve got to say what I found, brought absolute pleasure to my heart.

 

The Better Way

Self-described as ‘a return experience like no other’, they give customers the ability to pick the right item before sending back the wrong one. This is exactly what I had talked about when I was going through the returns process. Putting control of the experience in the hands of the customer is what good customer experience is all about.

I should point out that we’re not affiliated with Returnly but after having discovered them, I felt it was worth letting retailers know that they should be taking a serious look at what they’re offering.

Allowing customers to exchange for size, style or a completely different product directly from the return’s portal is brilliant customer experience. Returnly pays for the order on behalf of your customers, so they can get the right item before returning the wrong one.

And if the customer is not in the market for an exchange you can give customers a smooth return experience that automates the return and refund process altogether, so your team can focus on more valuable work.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Returnly can offer both you and your customers and as a customer myself, if I was to purchase from a retailer that offered this level of refund and exchange it would almost certainly become a driving factor in whether I chose to make a purchase from other retailers I came across in the future.

Retailers work so hard to get people onto their stores and to get them shopping with them, so why would you put any level of risk around them not coming back because of an old or broken return and exchange process.

Working to retain relationships with existing customers should be as important, if not more so, and it appears that sometimes businesses can forget that. Paying attention to the entire lifecycle and making sure the customer experience is seamless and well-designed can only be a good thing for everyone.

Go take a look at what Returnly has to offer and see if it could work as part of your offering to your customers. I’m sure both you and them would benefit from an enhanced post-purchase journey.

And if you'd like help enhancing your customer experience across your entire site, we can help with that. Our Experience team are experts at enhancing and creating design, UI, UX experiences and developing and implementing conversion rate optimisation strategies across eCommerce. Come talk to us about your site and let's make a plan together.


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.


Poor Product Discovery is Losing You Business. A Lot of Business.

We all know how frustrating it can be when we can’t find what we’re looking for. It doesn’t matter whether it is something you’ve lost at home or something you want to buy in-store or from an online retailer it doesn’t take long before you’re at the end of your tether, and ready to give up. And the research tells us this is exactly what people are doing.

And as much as you’re able to send in support for in-store visitors, it is much harder to do online and once they’re gone, they’re gone. The key is to make it easy for people to find what it is they’re looking for.

New research from AI-powered discovery technology, Klevu, found that a majority of eCommerce websites fail to deliver results when processing complex search queries, which account for 17% of all searches, causing £8m of lost revenue.

 

Complex Search Queries or Just How People Shop?

The research by Klevu into product discovery methods on retailers’ websites reveals that there are usability and accessibility issues with the search experience on 80% of UK eCommerce websites. And yes, you read that right. 80%!

The main issues are around the ability for these sites to process complex or natural language phrases such as those involving price range or product attributes, or even to handle misspellings.

In the most critical cases, 26% of eCommerce websites couldn’t process simple misspellings and were unable to return relevant results and 30% showed zero results when faced with a query such as ‘mens jacket under £100’. This signifies that a vast majority of retailers are unprepared for the future of product discovery, including voice search, bots, and other zero interface interactions.

The eCommerce Discovery Report by Klevu also showed that 17% of all searches are considered complex, using three or more words costing retailers with poor UX £8m per year.

The data is based on an average number of sessions per month, average order value online in the UK, typical search-led sessions are around 20% of all web traffic, and conversion rate from search is often 5%, bringing potential lost revenue per month to £671k and £8m annually.

It highlights a lack of understanding of how people are looking for products and information. Long-tail search or ‘complex queries’ have become the standard way people use Google. And in most cases, Google is presenting related search results to users in the long tail format and as a result, people expect all websites to be able to do the same.

 

The eCommerce Discovery Report

These results are from the Klevu Ecommerce Discovery Index which includes a comprehensive review of 50 major UK retailers over 40 criteria including mobile search, voice search and natural language processing, personalisation, product recommendations and more.

Retailers covered in the research include a selection across sectors and using a variety of enterprise eCommerce technologies including Oracle, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, IBM, SAP Hybris and more.

You can head over to here and download a copy of the report if you want to dig a little deeper into the results.

 

Next steps

The first thing to do is to identify if the issue exists for you. It isn’t hard to perform a couple of searches on your site to discover if it is leading people straight to the exit.

If you think there might be a problem, come talk to us. We have experts in UX who can help you assess the extent of the challenge and if we think it needs some fixing, we can help you connect to Klevu and enhance the search experience for your customers.


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.

 


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.


Here’s Why (and how) You Should be Using Shopping on Instagram

Unless you’ve been living in a cabin in the woods for the last 15 years you’ve probably heard of social media and you’ve almost certainly heard of Facebook and Instagram.

They’ve become part of our everyday lives and many have debated the virtues and sins of social media but ultimately people have adopted them and there is little doubt that they’re going anywhere in a hurry.

Instagram has more than 1 billion monthly active users and is now one of the most popular social networks worldwide. They along with the other social networks do everything they can to keep people on the platform and when they do leave, they do what they can to bring them back.

They’re also working harder to innovate all the time by introducing new features and enhancing the ones they have. The one we’re going to be talking about here is Instagram shopping.

 

Why are we talking about Instagram Shopping?

Instagram shopping was built specifically for eCommerce businesses and brands. Currently available to 44 countries across the world, it allows businesses to tag their products in the images they share significantly enhancing a user’s ability to discover new products through the platform.

It is incredibly easy to set up and simply requires the business to push their inventory to Facebook. After doing that it’ll take about 2 weeks for you to be able to toggle on Instagram shopping during the usual post creation and sharing process.

Some of the early adopters of the feature are reporting increased traffic and sales from Instagram as a result of the tagging capability. In fact, more than 800,000 shoppers use Instagram every month, and brands around the world are using the platform to share their stories and products with consumers in a visually engaging way.

 

What else you need to know about Instagram Shopping

Instagram is arguably the King of platforms when it comes to visual storytelling and it has held the crown for years.

For some brands, it has replaced what would have been full-page ads in those glossy fashion magazines of old. And now with the addition of Instagram shopping, they have taken it one step further allowing end-users to click straight through to the product on the website and buy it, on the platform.

With shoppable posts, customers have even greater opportunity to connect with the brands they love through the ability to quickly see relevant information — like product descriptions and pricing — with a single click without ever having to leave the Instagram app.

 

Image Credit: Instagram Business

The key to making that experience effortless is by having an eCommerce store that works seamlessly on mobile devices.

 

Mobile First Commerce

The shoppers habits are changing and more people are accessing the internet via a mobile device. Applications like Instagram are helping drive this change. In our webinar The Evolving Customer and their need for Mobile First Commerce we talked about this shift. In the clip below one of our Experience team, Lucy Aitken discusses the shift and offers real world examples that highlight the success possible when a conscious move in design thinking is made and websites start to think about Mobile First Commerce. This is vital to the success of Instagram Shopping. The shift from application to store needs to feel seamless and having a clunky site that struggles in mobile is going to discourage users and send them back in no time at all.

 

Not convinced yet?

When it comes to Instagram, eCommerce businesses for the most part always recommend the platform. Whether you are advertising, building an audience or both – Instagram has fuelled hundreds of thousands in sales.

Just check out some of these numbers that BigCommerce put together.

800M — Number of monthly active Instagram users.

500M — Number of daily active users

Increased from 400M to 500M since March 2017

5X — Instagram growth rate compared to overall social network usage in the U.S. (Source: Inc.)

25 — Percent more likely it is that Instagram users are in the top income quartile than average Internet users. (Source: GlobalWebIndex)

5M —  Number of active Instagram business profiles (Source: Facebook)

60 — Percent of people who say they discover new products on Instagram (Source: Instagram)

70 — Percent of users who follow a business on Instagram (Source: Instagram)

75 — Percent of users who take an action after seeing a business-post (i.e. visit a website, search, shop or tell a friend) (Source: Instagram)

500,000 — Instagram advertisers (Source: Facebook)

150M— Number of daily active Instagram Stories users just 5 months after launch (Source: Instagram)

33 — Percent of the most-viewed Instagram Stories that come from business accounts (Source: Instagram)

36 — Percent of B2C brands that consider Instagram to be “very important” or “critical” to their social media marketing, compared to 13% of B2B brands (Source: Inc.)

 

Ready to take advantage of this incredible feature?

There are a couple of things that you need to do to make sure that you can get the most out of Instagram shopping.

The first thing you need to do is make sure that your website is set up to give the best possible experience on mobile. Eclipse can help with that. Our Experience team are perfectly placed to tell you what will work and what needs fixing, and our development team can step in and help fix what needs to be fixed.

Once you’ve got that right, the next step is to head to this Instagram business page and follow the setup guide, take a look at the tips and then start promoting your products on Instagram. You’ll be glad you did.

And if you need to convince someone in your business this is the right thing to do, take a look at these results and case studies that BigCommerce put together. It should be everything you need to convince key stakeholders it is the right thing to do.


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Ecommerce Statistics You Need To Know In 2021

Last year changed the role of eCommerce in our lives forever and as we move into the second month of 2021, we’re still living in a world where for many, eCommerce is the only way to get what they need for their day to day lives.

Even after things start to return back to ‘normal’ there is little doubt that the role of eCommerce in our every day will be vital and for those who operate in the retail space, in any way, are going to become more dependent on it to remain successful.

We only have to look at the most recent acquisitions of both Debenhams and the hero brands of Arcadia including Top Shop, Top Man and Miss Selfridge by online-only businesses BooHoo and ASOS to see that the future for many is online.

But with most things, there is a need to stay at the leading edge of innovation and eCommerce is no different. Peoples buying habits are changing and the shifts mean that what was once a great digital storefront my start to develop ‘issues’ for shoppers and it is the job of the retailer to know the market and innovate to keep its customers coming back.

Some of these changes might be minor and other might need a little more work but to be able to know which are the areas you should be looking it first you need to know how the habits are shifting.

In that vein, we’ve pulled together some of the insights we’ve discovered that we think you need to know in 2021. These will help you in planning your strategy for this year and once you’ve got a good idea of what you need to do, we’re here to help. Just reach out to us and we can work together to drive continued success for your business.

Click on the image of the eBook below and give it a read.


Are you putting ‘Digital Excellence’ high on your list of priorities?

Are you putting ‘Digital Excellence’ high on your list of priorities?

Just so we’re clear, you absolutely should be. Among many things that retailers need to put at the top if their list, digital excellence has very quickly become one of the highest and is certainly non-negotiable.

In an article written by Noel Wurst and published on Total Retail, he says that Digital Excellence “enables your online visitors to be delighted by how easily they were able to accomplish a task or complete a transaction on your website and/or application.” He goes on to explain that “The term is highly subjective due to the endless number of tasks that your customers or potential customers may come to your website expecting to be able to accomplish. Maybe they’re just looking for pricing or sizing information. Maybe they need to track an existing order or chat with support. Maybe you need to make sure they know about a new promotional discount, rewards program, or payment options. Today’s successful retailers are making sure their online properties leave their customers impressed enough to return, and to encourage others in their personal and social networks to do the same.”

At Eclipse we could not agree more. We’ve been talking about this for years and have built a team of experts whose very job it is to make this happen for our clients. It is so important to us that we believe any change, adaption or optimisation made to your website or strategy should be considered from the point of view of the customer first and foremost. If it doesn’t make it an easier and more enjoyable experience for them, why are you doing it?

The importance of getting this stuff right just can’t be overestimated. As we find ourselves still in a national lockdown with retail shuttered and little choice but to head online, customers are doing just that. And as you would imagine, the world is their oyster and the options they have when it comes to spending money are seemingly endless. What makes them spend the money, return to purchase again and even head to social to refer the business, is their experience.

 

Understanding the customer expectation.

We’re a fickle bunch whose patience has gotten shorter and expectations have gotten bigger. Whether we’re retailers or just straight up customers we all buy things and we all have the same standards when it comes down to it.

As Wurst puts it “Every time we interact with a website or application, we expect the world. No matter what browser we’re using, or what tablet or mobile device is in our hands, we expect to be able to find exactly what we’re looking for, that images will render beautifully, that pages will load, payments will process quickly, and that we can quickly get on our way. And, thanks to plenty of companies that are currently delivering digital excellence, we expect every company to do the same.”

And if you think you’re somehow excluded from this requirement, you’re not. “Whether we’re online to purchase nails and screws, adorable cupcakes, or a high-end sports car, our expectations are the same. No retailer is spared from this requirement to delight us, as consumers, in every interaction.” Wurst points out. “The retailers achieving the most success today understand the importance of not just meeting these expectations but exceeding them.”

 

What is the risk of ignoring Digital Excellence?

As you’d probably imagine low conversion rates, lack of return visits, low revenue generation from the website are just as few, but Wurst has an interesting take on the ultimate risk and we tend to agree with his assessment.

“I would argue that it’s the threat of a loss of trust that best summarizes the importance of what we’re talking about here. We don’t tend to befriend, recommend, share our personal data with, or conduct business with organizations we don’t trust.”

He adds “And as much as it might seem like slow-loading pages, crashed websites, missing images, and broken buttons are everyday occurrences, there are innovative technologies out there that eliminate these threats — and the threat of lost market share that comes with them.”

 

Here’s how to mitigate the risk

As we mentioned before, this is an area that Eclipse is an expert in. We’ve been doing it a long time and we’ve worked with some very big names in the world of retail and continue to do so.

We’re using the technologies that Wurst talked about and combining it with our years of experience to offer our clients an unparalleled level of insight, support and optimisation in this space. All you need to do is decide how important it is to you and the future of your business and if you think we’ll be able to help.

Come talk to us, it costs nothing, and we can talk you through what we’ve done for businesses like yours. Together we can develop a plan to get you delivering Digital Excellence every time and then you can decide if you would like some help putting it into action.