Month: February 2019

25 Feb 2019

Must Have Digital Features for LifeStyle Brands

Fashion, Apparel and Footwear Industries in the United States are scaling steadily from $323B in 2013 to an anticipated $353B in 2018 (source: Statista). Interestingly, the US market witnessed a 13% increase in the number of stores closed in the year 2017, as compared to the previous recession back in 2008, despite the current rise of overall industry revenue (source: Fung Global Retail & Technology).

The increased use of mobile and web channels are pushing lifestyle brands to revisit their customer engagement and conversion strategies. Some of the must have features that lifestyle brand manufacturers and retailers should consider in their digital commerce strategy are:

  • Today: Personalization
  • Near Future: Conversational Commerce
  • Not So Far Future: Augmented Reality

Today: Personalization

Personalization in the eCommerce context means tailoring the user’s experience on the website based on the previous interactions and transactions. Research shows that offering personalized content can help increase the average order size by more than 20 percent (source: SAP hybris).

It is vital to collect personal and clickstream data and more importantly, to use the collected data properly for enhancing the customer’s experience by showing them personalized offers and content.

Customer demands are changing – the ability to search for products via different means (like text search, barcode search, image search, voice search), demanding competitive pricing, fast checkout & delivery and personalized shopping experience that meets their mobile first approach. These are some of the basics eCommerce offerings now.

Few types of personalized experiences that can be offered on the website are as follows:

  • Recommendations based on a customer’s previously purchased items
  • Recommendations based on browsing history, reminding customers of products they’ve shown interest in
  • Displaying recommendations/offers related to a previously browsed product or category

In addition to personalization on the web, there is another area that needs to be personalized too – Emails. Listed below are examples of topics that can be used to engage with the customer via personalized emails.

  • Sending them offers on recently viewed products and categories
  • Reminding visitor about items in their abandoned carts
  • Newly launched products
  • Targeted Promotions

Near Future: Conversational Commerce

Evolution of Shopping:

From: In store purchases – physically experiencing the touch and feel of the product

To: Online Orders – virtually experiencing the product

And now: Voice Orders – just asking to buy the product

Out of the thousands of things you can do through a voice assistant, shopping is one of them. Voice Shopping revenue is expected to increase to $40 billion by 2022, up from $2 billion today (Source: PR Newswire).  The three most commonly shopped categories through voice are: grocery (20%), entertainment (19%) and electronics (17%). Clothing is fourth at 8% (Source: PR Newswire).

There is a tremendous potential to tap into this market for the lifestyle brands too. Just like other sales channels, it is vital to get the strategy right – from identifying the right opportunity, to providing the right messaging, to offering appropriate calls to action. Companies can start by enabling voice search on their existing mobile apps and websites, that will allow customers to search for specific products by just talking to their mobile phone. Outdoor gear and apparel retailer The North Face, saw an increase of 35% in their search conversion rate and a 24% increase in revenue from search, after implementing natural language and voice-enabled search on their European sites (Source: Retail Dive).

Not So Far Future: Augmented Reality

As lifestyle brands gear their digital strategy, it is crucial to address their customer’s pain points both from their brick & mortar stores and their online channels. One of them is being able to try on products to determine the best fit and look. In  Brick &  Mortar stores, it is frustrating when there is a line for the dressing room at anytime  and it even more so during the holiday rush. As a result many customers  just  give up and don’t purchase or end up buying online,  only to find the clothes don’t fit and  now they have to return the products. In either case, companies are providing poor customer experience and losing sales.

Thanks to Augmented Reality (the technology that enables superimposing objects like clothing on a person via the mobile phone’s camera), this problem can now be solved with the use of Apple’s ARkit and Google’s ARcore, development platforms for augmented reality. Many apparel and sunglasses companies have virtual try-ons or are working on introducing virtual try-ons for their websites and mobile apps. Introducing features like this will help increase the conversion rates on their websites, increase average order values, increase sales and significantly reduce returns.

Companies that have pioneered this technology fall into categories like beauty products (L’Oreal & Sephora), sunglasses (Smith Optics & Ray-Ban), furniture (Pottery Bran, Wayfair, Houzz & IKEA), footwear (Lacoste and Converse)  and last, but not the least, Amazon. In addition, Gap,  an iconic lifestyle brand, has also announced its plans to introduce virtual dressing rooms.

11 Feb 2019

When Brick meets Click

To frame it as a battle between brick-and-mortar and eCommerce is to miss the point.

The rise of online shopping, tech experiments and financial struggles are the dominant narratives of today’s retail industry. Just because people are less likely to walk through the doors of certain stores nowadays does not mean they’re not interested in stores in general.
The problem is that certain retailers have a harder time determining what those customers want in the first place. Big stores try to be something for everyone and they end up being nothing for anyone. Amid these shifts, smaller players can’t simply look the other way. They should be watching and learning from big retail’s shortcomings and viewing this moment as one filled with opportunity.

The shadow of eCommerce is overblown.

It’s an oversimplification to suggest that the reason retailers are closing is because people are shopping online. The truth is more complicated. When we think of eCommerce sales replacing brick-and-mortar sales, we don’t often think of it happening within a company. Retailers who pursue omnichannel strategies may just be taking business away from themselves. Macy’s online business represents 15 percent of their total sales, and yet they’re now closing 13 percent of their stores. That number’s too close to be coincidental.”

Purchasing behavior also varies too much from industry to industry. For example, 30 percent of transactions for technology products or services happen online, compared with only 16 percent of apparel sales. Instead, Off-price retailers (think T.J. Maxx and Nordstrom Rack) have been thriving by comparison, competing on price and convenience even though they don’t have much of an online presence.

The landscape is fragmented

Online sales aren’t the only tech development shaking up retail. Today, you can sell nationally without a chain of stores and without owning any of your inventory or assets. You can outsource your call center and marketing campaigns. You can reach a large audience via social media. Or you can manufacture and sell your own products rather than selling through a third party. One category of retailers that are performing well today is made up of those that are competing on what’s cheaper, faster or easier. At the other end of the spectrum, there are retailers who have differentiated themselves by offering an exclusive product or experience.

“The way you win is you find opportunity, you find where there’s an unmet need, where you perceive scarcity, and you go after it in an unapologetic, very focused way. So being nimble, means being able to find those, take advantage of them, move out of them and move on to new ones, fast.”

Get to know your customers.

Knowing what your customers want is the first step to making them happy. A successful retailer is someone who can go in, scour the market and pick the best products to fit the personality of their store that openly matches the personality of the consumer who wants to shop in that store. The ability to drive your business based on the pulse of the consumer drives all the difference.

Stores are reaping years of poor customer service. Generally, people want someone to greet them and they want the store to be clean. But serving them beyond those bare minimum requirements is a prime opportunity to gain insights into what they want and seal the deal if they’re on the fence about a purchase.

Yes, there are going to be some customers who don’t want help but at the end of the day, if you’re not curious about everyone who you have coming in the door, you’re settling for crumbs when you could have the whole feast.

Customers shop for experiences

Personalization is key, but that goes beyond offering a combination of products that customers want. There is a desire for uniqueness is especially true of younger customers.

Every retailer should work to curate a one-of-a-kind experience, rather than a one-size-fits-all. Experience, in and of itself, is what today’s customers desire more than material possessions. If you want your customers to buy stuff from you, one strategy might be to frame it around an experience a customer might be gearing up for.

“A specialty retailer has the ability to say, ‘If you’re going on a trip, here are all these things together in one place. This all works together.’ A holistic attempt at creating this full package.”

Add value to Customers

Today, technology presents several options such as In-store beacons, Self-serve kiosks, Smart mirrors that enable virtual try-ons etc. Retailers should be wary of being lured by these superficial objects and ask themselves: “What value is this really adding for the customer? “If you know your customers, you’ll be less likely to experiment with irrelevant gimmicks that many customers will find pathetic, such as a DJ in the middle of a men’s department.
The internet is what has led customers to expect hyper-personalization, and as a niche retailer, you might benefit more from targeting tools than someone who sells to the masses. To build a solid foundation for your business, you must first identify your typical customer and tailor your marketing pitch accordingly. It’s better off being a leader than a follower, or doing something others aren’t.


04 Feb 2019
Replenish your Digital Play – Supply Industries Digital Trends

Replenish your Digital Play – Supply Industries Digital Trends

Ecommerce Musings for Suppliers and Wholesalers:

According to the IBISWorld report, equipment supplier industry sales –which include Industrial Supplies Wholesaling, Farm Supplies Wholesaling and School Supplies Wholesaling –total about $200B. Traditionally these industries cater to businesses, organizations and enterprises, and have done business via catalogs, distribution centers, stores and customer support centers to drive the business. Long term client relationships are typical to these businesses, and are based on relationships, where in many cases, dedicated Sales Representatives help provide value to clients. For E.g. facilitating urgent shipping requests for certain items in an order or by providing alternative suggestions to out of stock or discontinued items; or providing insights into what the competitors are using.

By early 2000, customers became more empowered with increasing web connectivity enabling them to research any product as well as buy it online from their place of choice. Along with the online trend,  increased costs to maintain huge stores with inventory and staff, reduced margins and industry consolidation forced them to realize they needed to change the business model.

Recognizing the need to embrace the online channel, significant investments were made to bring the businesses online. These early sites typically were minimalistic home-grown solutions which simply exposed catalogs and allowed basic ordering of products. However, this quickly became a catch-up game of trying to stay on top of the competition by developing new features which led to a huge increase in infrastructure cost.

As a result of the cost increase in maintaining a homegrown solution, a steady movement started towards using specialized platforms and products optimized for this line of business which were further customized to suit their own specific needs. Taking it a step further, specialized external partners were called upon to maintain, manage and upgrade the platforms as well as to provide robust infrastructures to host the eCommerce channels

Changing Customer Expectations

Over the years changing customer expectations and new developments in technology has transformed the online business in the B2B space. Today’s business buyers expect same level of experience as when they buy stuff online at a personal level. They want to be empowered to make business decisions about something they want to buy and want multiple means to procure it.

  • Compelling UX
    Exposure to B2C facing sites has conditioned our brains to expect an efficient, intuitive, easy to use website which provides detailed and useful product information. A great personalized experience needs to be complemented by a customizable catalog, promotions and pricing.
  • Full eCommerce Experience
    This includes going beyond the essential B2B eCommerce features and providing capabilities like live chat, reviews, intelligent recommendations, real time access to inventory and  great customer support features to help with shipping, tracking and returns.

  • Omni Channel Support
    Today’s customers expect multiple ways to research and buy products and seek a similar experience be it via a store, online, mobile or catalog. The experience involves how fast they can access the site pages, the level of personalization, how helpful is the information they can get and how easy it is for them to process and place the order. The ability to shop and access the cart from any channel is important, this includes the website, mobile devices or a store where often times customers choose to click and pick up.
  • Great Search Capability
    Enhanced search with categorization, faceted navigation, and filtering along with auto complete features has become the minimal standard of expectation. With advancement in AI and Machine Learning, the search accuracy has improved and helps companies to provide accurate results that include relevant and dynamic recommendations for cross-sells and up-sells. In addition to having a robust site search, it is essential for companies to have an effective SEO strategy and implementation, so that the search engines display your products on the first page of the results.

Changing Customer Expectations
Some of the cutting-edge features beyond the current standard ones to look out for in a next generation B2B eCommerce site are given below

  • Capable Product Information Management Platform (PIM)
    PIM systems are a must-have for modern digital B2B businesses and must be tightly integrated with backend ERP systems and support a large number of products with various artifacts with the capability to configure, organize, manage and publish products. Also, support for product consolidation from multiple sources as well as the ability to syndicate products across other systems is essential. Additionally, support for mass updates, imports or exports based on filtering criteria also helps.
  • Creative Ways to Customize Carts
    Modern digital commerce cart should empower the customers and make it easier to place orders with features like bulk ordering, reordering and subscriptions/auto ordering features. Additionally, enabling customers to save pre-configured bundles or the ability to create and save dynamic bundles using configurators in the cart allows them to share it with peers and managers for collaboration and approvals.
  • Support Virtual Groups or Cohorts
    Education is one great example where this feature can be effectively used. In these cases, teachers first create a list of their students and then assign their class materials enabling their students to buy as kits. The students can log in independently and buy configured kits at their convenience.


  • Punch Out
    Punchout enables companies to control product assortments as well as streamline purchase order approvals and processing. This also provides the ability for the buyer to view the product catalogs and buy from the buyer’s website or e-procurement system. From the procurement system, the buyer can single sign on to the eCommerce site, search and add items to the cart and return the cart as a pending purchase order back to the procurement system.
  • Flexible Shipping and Returns
    Inventory visibility is critical to provide an excellent shopping experience. The ability to view inventory from multiple warehouses provides the buyer with the information needed to determine the most convenient method of delivery or returns which lowers the overhead of stocking the products early or getting the products late.
  • Tap into Internet of Things (IoT)
    Be ready to support IoT machines connected to business’s systems when they are ready to order. E.g., a printer or a copier ordering supplies when they reach a low threshold. The IoT enabled printer can order supplies and track its delivery and contact the installer when the supplies are available.