Must-have features for Amazon Webstore merchants facing replatforming

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The end is nigh for Amazon’s Webstore hosting solution, which is closing down in July. Merchants currently on the platform are either underway with site migration already — or looking for a quick solution that will make the transition seamless on a short timeframe.

In previous posts, we’ve articulated the need for a deliberate process by which to scope needs, evaluate vendors, and begin migration. But as the timeframe shortens, merchants still seeking

To make the switch as easy as possible, we’ve summarized the key features of Amazon Webstore that merchants should ensure their new platform provides — and the areas where they should seek to expand their capabilities to satisfy shoppers’ needs in 2016 and beyond.

checklist

The basics

Amazon Webstore offered merchants a potent combination — a solid eCommerce platform that took care of the headaches of hosting the Web site, while also integrating tightly with Amazon’s pioneering online merchant services. In their quest to find a replacement, merchants should seek out:

A stable, tested platform. By piggybacking on Amazon’s massive ecommerce infrastructure, Webstore merchants could rest assured that their offerings were on a solid platform with proven tools and features. In searching for a replacement, merchants should quiz vendors about core ecommerce functionality, including:

  • how product information is handled, including import routines from other systems
  • rich imaging capabilities, including video
  • how customer reviews and other user-generated content is integrated
  • on-site search functionality, including whether faceted search is available
  • categorization and navigation flexibility
  • promotions and discounting capabilities
  • personalization tools
  • shopper account features, such as registries, wish lists, and order histories

Intrinsic mobile support. By now, most merchants acknowledge the central importance of mobile in the shopping experience. Fully 59% of time spent with brands now occurs on mobile devices, according to measurement firm comScore; and initial holiday results from the MarketLive Performance Index reveal that mobile is accounting for 55% of traffic and 34% of revenues.

Amazon Webstore merchants who have enjoyed the platform’s built-in mobile functionality will need to consider whether potential new vendors are up to snuff — and whether mobile offerings are intrinsic to the platform or offered through a third party provider. They should especially investigate whether technology provider are fluent with responsive design, which is increasingly used to deliver consistent experiences across touchpoints. While using a single base of code deliver device-appropriate experience on the fly streamlines updates and maintenance and delivers SEO benefits, responsive design can also cause performance drag by upping page weight, and failure to properly size images can further bloat load times. To avoid these pitfalls, merchants should closely examine responsive design claims from potential vendors and ask for references from clients with responsive design implementations.

Security and anti-fraud features. Merchants who relied on Amazon’s payment gateway will need to familiarize themselves with the alternatives and ensure that the technology provider they select will interface seamlessly with them, as well as with any third-party fraud detection services they select. In addition, merchants should quiz potential vendors on PCI DSS level 1 security certification and threat monitoring capabilities.

Hosting capacity. Just as Amazon Webstore merchants relied on the ecommerce giant’s proven features and functionality, so did they enjoy the advantages that came with hosting sites on Amazon’s massive server network. Merchants should quiz vendors offering a hosted solution about how their solutions can scale — both during temporary traffic spikes and for long-term growth. Multiple physical instances of servers in different regions, 24/7/365 performance monitoring, an explicit capacity management plan for shared server resources, disaster recovery plans, and solid partnerships with content delivery networks are all signifiers of a serious commitment to delivering optimal performance. Kibo offers merchants hosting through AWS, Amazon’s own hosting platform — thereby guaranteeing the same level of hosting service Webstore merchants have previously experienced.

Amazon (and other) integrations. To replicate Webstore services, merchants migrating off the platform should seek out vendors with a proven history of integrating with Amazon’s myriad merchant services: marketplace selling with or without fulfillment services, Amazon Payments, and Amazon’s pay-per-click advertising solution. Depending on how important these services are for merchants, they should seek referrals from prospective vendors for clients with a successful track record of selling via Amazon.

Going beyond one-for-one replication of Amazon Webstore’s offerings, merchants should also explore further alternative payment integrations, such as inclusion in mobile digital wallet solutions and loyalty club points and rewards redemptions as well as services such as Paypal. Such services are becoming increasingly crucial as shoppers seek to transact seamlessly across touchpoints, and should be part of merchants’ strategy for growth.

Poised for takeoff: core features for growth

It’s not just in the area of payment integrations that merchants should consider how their needs may soon eclipse what Amazon’s offering provided. As shoppers increasingly seek relevant, unified brand experiences that cater to their individual needs, merchants must respond with technology solutions that bridge touchpoints and deliver a compelling combination of products, content, and offers. Among the emerging must-have criteria for merchants to consider:

Rich data. It seems obvious that any eCommerce platform investment should include the means to track its success – but nowadays, capturing a comprehensive picture of online ROI is both trickier and more crucial than ever. For merchants whose goal is unified commerce, data is the essential connective tissue that enables shoppers to move effortlessly among touchpoints and to receive relevant messaging as they go.

Merchants acknowledge the importance of integrating systems to achieve a holistic view of shoppers’ activities across the brand: fully 83% of merchants somewhat or fully agree that a single view of the customer is crucial to long-term success, according to eConsultancy.  As part of the vendor selection process, merchants should ensure that the new technology will help create that unified view, as opposed to creating disparate data points that defy integration. Platform-generated reporting should be available to enable tracking performance across devices, and the vendor should support integrations with widely-used solutions such as Google Analytics. Further, merchants should seek out the ability to import data into and export data out of the platform in order to build comprehensive customer profiles.

Content. Content is experiencing a resurgence as a brand priority, and for a host of good reasons, from supporting SEO to providing stellar customer service. As a result, the eCommerce platform must increasingly provide toolsets formerly more commonly seen in Web content management systems – including the ability to add value-added article content not directly related to product information, content in rich media formats, and submission and review tools for user-submitted content. And merchants must have the ability to seed this content throughout the shopping experience, whether in stand-alone tutorial or community sections, as part of the product page offerings, or on category or index pages. Merchants should further ascertain how easily product and lifestyle content can be syndicated elsewhere, whether by the staff via social media or by consumers who want to pin, tweet and otherwise forward information to friends.

Online/offline support. Increasingly, shoppers expect brands to present a unified experience regardless of where they shop. More than half of shoppers said it was important for brands to recognize them across devices and screens, and 45% said they expected brands to take into account their behavior and purchases from every touchpoint to deliver the best possible shopping experience, according to research from the E-Tailing Group. That means call center and live chat reps, social media customer service specialists and store associates are expected to pick up the conversation where shoppers left off on the eCommerce site and to recognize past online buyers as the potentially loyal customers they are.

The ability to integrate with inventory and fulfillment systems across the organization should therefore be paramount for an eCommerce solution. Merchants should quiz potential vendors about what integrations already exist – and shouldn’t just settle for a check-box answer, but rather fact-check by speaking with the integration partners themselves, shopping the eCommerce provider’s merchant sites, and even asking for merchant references specifically related to inventory and fulfillment operations. To support store associates and service reps, merchants should ascertain whether vendors offer specific apps or features to enable savvy one-to-one interactions and transactions.

This post is produced in conjunction with the Plumtree Group, part of Kibo’s Implement program. Through Kibo and the Plumtree Group, omni-channel retailers can quickly deploy and customize e-commerce features and functionality in order to meet market demands, increase revenue and loyalty.  The Kibo/Plumtree partnership provides the emerging merchant who will need to transition off of Amazon Webstore in the coming months with the tools they need to succeed today and grow with unlimited scale tomorrow.

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Why relevance is paramount in 2016 – webinar preview

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Our last post enumerated ways merchants can keep the momentum of a successful holiday season going. But to see lasting success in 2016 and beyond, merchants must undertake a fundamental shift that goes beyond individual strategies: they must find ways to prove relevance, or risk being left behind with the laggards who must rely on scattershot results from generic shopping experiences.

Increasingly, shoppers seek a highly individualized relationship with brands they follow. More than half of consumers say it’s important for brands to recognize them personally, whether they choose to shop on screens or in stores. Brands that successfully deliver relevant experiences are rewarded with increased sales and loyalty: 53% of shoppers say they buy more from brands that tailor recommendations based on past purchases and browsing behavior. Similarly, failure to move beyond one-size-fits-all offerings results in diminished interest, with close to 40% of consumers reporting irritation when brands fail to take into account past interactions when sending marketing messages.

Given the heightened competition for consumer dollars online and the continual price pressure exerted by leading mass merchants such as Amazon, merchants can’t afford to risk alienating their audience. Indeed, delivering relevance is so crucial to commerce that technology research firm Gartner predicts that brands offering a fully-personalized experience will outsell those that don’t by 20% by 2018.

In an exclusive webinar set for this Thursday, Jan. 28, at 10 a.m. PST,  Ken Burke, founder of MarketLive (now Kibo), will examine the ramifications of the increasingly critical need for relevance, and identify the five trends for 2016 that will shape merchant priorities for optimizing touchpoints to deliver a unified and relevant experience.  They include:

  • “Buy anywhere” capabilities. Shoppers increasingly expect to transact anywhere that’s most convenient to them, and merchants should meet that expectation with swift, smooth, and secure transactions across touchpoints.
  • Universal inventory access. By making the brand’s entire inventory available to shoppers across touchpoints, merchants can make “out of stock” disappointment a rarity, and instead offer an array of order fulfillment options to suit their budget and timing needs.
  • Digital store experiences. Stores play a crucial role in connecting buyers with physical goods as well as live brand experts, and merchants should do their utmost to bring brand assets from outside the store walls into the experience.
  • Predictive insights. Using cutting-edge technologies, merchants can now marry big-data trend indicators with data from individual shoppers’ profiles to anticipate their next clicks and deliver ultra-relevant products and content.
  • Algorithmic merchandising. To meet shoppers’ expectations, merchants must optimize the on-site experience to the utmost using dynamic, data-rich merchandising – not a static hierarchy of rules.

In an experiment launched over the holidays, The North Face employed IBM’s Watson intelligence engine to match shoppers with jackets right for their needs after a brief Q-and-A to solicit input.

watson

Register for the webinar now to learn about the research behind the trends and the related strategies that will help merchants make relevance a reality — leading to heightened engagement, increased sales, and long-lasting loyalty.

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4 ways to use social media and content to re-engage holiday shoppers

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As January rolls along, merchants are working hard to beat the winter blahs following a successful holiday season. A key part of that effort should be luring back the gift buyers they earned and converting them into long-time customers.

The data is incontrovertible: loyal customers are a valuable asset. Returning customers’ average order value is 12% higher than that for online buyers overall, and although they comprise just 40% of the customer base, they account for 61% of online revenues. Furthermore, with paid acquisition efforts such as Google Product Listing Ads and social networking advertising becoming more expensive, retention efforts can achieve a higher ROI and require less spending.

So merchants would do well to capitalize on the surge of new gift givers who purchased on their sites during the holidays, and increasingly, they’re implementing well-known best practices such as post-purchase email series that go beyond mere transactional details to include engaging new offers. Additionally, seasonal messaging is now in full force to entice shoppers back to indulge in items for themselves now that the season of giving is over, from gift-card redemption invitations to early-spring sneak peaks to advice and products to help stick to resolutions.

Additionally, merchants should bring their social media networks and lifestyle content into play, emphasizing brand expertise in subject areas that matter to their target audience and inviting engagement in ways that deepen connections. Among the options:

Start by cross-promoting ways to stay in touch. Merchants should invite engagement on social networks, via email subscriptions, and on mobile devices, with an emphasis on how the brand stands by to help followers start the year right. Kibo merchant Eastland Shoe announced the debut of its Instagram account early in the New Year,  giving subscribers who joined the email list during the holidays a new way to learn about the brand, engage in visual content — and show off their new shoes with a hashtag campaign.

Instagram promotion from Eastland Shoe

Invite product input. The outset of the year is an ideal time to solicit substantive feedback about product offerings — an invitation that merchants can follow up on later in the year by featuring products or promotions driven by followers’ suggestions. Kibo merchant Berkshire Blanket asked email subscribers and social followers to take a survey about their products, offering entry in a prize drawing as an incentive.

Product survey from Berkshire Blanket

Promote deep expert content. Merchants should give shoppers cause to revisit brand sites even when they’re not explicitly researching purchases. Content that demonstrates brand credibility and authenticity can both help consumers address their immediate needs and suggest serendipitous items to help them fulfill their goals. Outdoor outfitter REI is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the national parks with a new content app that includes user-contributed content. The promotional email not only shines the spotlight on REI’s knowledge of the outdoors, but promotes mobile tools and its charity work with the parks service all in one fell swoop.

Content example from REI

Offer social as a step-down option for email-weary subscribers. The holidays brought an onslaught of promotional messaging, with volume jumping some 25% year over year. Understandably, some consumers are now seeking to trim their inbox contents by unsubscribing, especially if they signed up to receive a discount in the first place. Merchants are required by law to accommodate this desire with a direct “unsubscribe” link in email messages — but that doesn’t mean they should punt and remove subscribers from their lists without at least one further attempt to keep them engaged. Savvy merchants offer an array of “step-down” options, from receiving emails at a lower frequency to selecting only emails pertaining to particular product categories or subjects. Social media links should also be prominent on the unsubscribe page, giving former subscribers a way to stay in touch with the brand without crowding their inbox whatsoever. Kibo merchant Griot’s Garage does so with a message in keeping with its automotive product focus, promising “there’s always a space open for you” and inviting former subscribers to stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

griots_emailstepdown

How are you keeping holiday shoppers engaged in the New Year?

 

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Shopatron and MarketLive Merge and Become Kibo

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In December, distributed order management developer, Shopatron, and digital commerce software and services provider, MarketLive, were acquired and merged by Vista Equity Partners. Yesterday, Vista Equity Partners announced the acquisition of Fiverun, a leading innovator in the mobile point of sale (mPOS) arena.

Together, MarketLive, Shopatron and Fiverun create a new unified omnichannel commerce company called Kibo.

Kibo is the only company to offer a Cloud-based, end-to-end commerce solution for retailers and branded manufacturers, allowing them to unify the consumer experience and meet shopper demands anywhere, any time and on any device.

Kibo provides everything retailers need to run an omnichannel commerce business: from in-store offerings like point-of-sale, dynamic payment processing and store optimization; to online applications like web-based merchandising, website content management and design; to distributed order management for omnichannel fulfillment. Kibo will also provide integrated search functions and back-end support for warehouse management, shipping, reporting, analytics and customer loyalty programs.

The newly formed company will be lead by Kenneth (Kenny) Frank, who recently served as COO of the Vista portfolio company Aptean software. Kenny brings more than 20 years of global experience in the software industry, with a particular focus on operations, product development and strategic growth.

If you have any questions about the Kibo omnichannel commerce platform, please visit www.kibocommerce.com, call 877-350-3866.  You can also stop by our booths at NRF (MarketLive Booth #2443, Shopatron Booth #3981)

Watch the video to learn more!

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Use holiday mobile success to justify further investment – here’s why — holiday flash report

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The final numbers are in for the holiday season, and merchants have reason to be optimistic as they head into the New Year — especially when it comes to mobile sales, which showed vast improvement compared with 2015.

For the period starting December 28 and ending January 3, overall online revenues rose 9% year over year on traffic gains of 24%.  Those gains closely tracked results for the season as a whole (from the Monday before Thanksgiving through Sunday, January 3), which saw online sales improve 8% on a traffic increase of 21%.

Both in the post-holiday period and during the season overall, smartphone growth dominated the results. While traffic to eCommerce sites from smartphones rose only incrementally year over year, smartphone revenues shot up 45% in the post-season and 50% overall. The increased smartphone revenue was due in part to strong gains in smartphone average order value, which rose by 9% to over $140 — just $10 behind desktop AOV.

Holiday data from the marketLive Performance Index

The results speak to marked improvement in mobile shopping experiences compared with last year, when a significant number of brand sites still hadn’t been optimized for mobile users. Now, with solid gains to show for their 2015 last year’s mobile initiatives, merchants should feel confident going back to the table to fight for further investment.

The budget battle is worth having, because further improvements to the smartphone experience will be crucial in 2016. The functional but workmanlike mobile sites we encountered in our holiday surveys are by and large ill-equipped to meet rising consumer expectations for cross-screen relevance. In particular, merchants need to invest in:

Smartphone-targeted presentation, even with responsive design. While we’re strong advocates of responsive design for the access to optimized checkout and deep product content it has the potential to bring, that benefit has a corresponding potential drawback — the tendency to remove any specialized consideration for smartphone users’ needs beyond fitting content and offers to their screens. Designing truly differentiated experiences within a responsive framework — for example, by moving functions such as the store locator and click-to-call customer service front and center — requires significant coding prowess, it’s a necessary investment if merchants are to prove their brand’s relevance to smartphone shoppers.

Video-first content. With a third of video views occurring on mobile devices and with video an increasingly popular format for social networking, which is primarily conducted on mobile devices, merchants who provide ample video content are priming themselves for relevance to smartphone users. MarketLive merchant Group Publishing, a seller of ministry materials for churches, featured video prominently on its mobile home page on Dec. 26 with a “Watch” button for the featured product.

Mobile video example from Group Publishing

In-store optimization. Smartphones play a crucial role as connectors between online research and offline browsing and buying. Merchants should do more to support connections to online content in stores and to tailor those online views according to shoppers’ preferences and past brand interactions. Empowering store associates to access online content and customer records is a fundamental first step, with cutting-edge technologies such as beacons promising to help merchants deliver ever-more-nuanced smartphone services as shoppers move through the store.

How are holiday results impacting your 2016 priority list?

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Mobile surges in peak buying period – holiday flash report

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As delivery cutoff dates loom, merchants continue to achieve solid holiday gains, thanks in part to improvements in mobile performance. With mobile poised to play an even larger role as a connector to last-minute gifts in the final days of the season, merchants stand to end the year on a high note.

Data from the MarketLive Performance Index shows that for the season to date, merchants are realizing revenue gains of 7.3% on traffic growth of 19.9%. Average order value continues its growth pattern, with order totals up 6.6% for the season to date.

MarketLive Performance Index holiday data

The week leading up to Green Monday saw a surge in traffic compared with the prior year, with visits increasing close to 24% as shoppers researched heavily for gifts; revenue gains for the week were more modest, at 3.2%. The week also saw an uptick in mobile purchasing, with smartphone conversion increasing 18.4% year over year to 1.4% and mobile AOV growing 7.3% — the highest growth rate among screen types.

This strong mobile showing is in keeping with the season overall, which has seen steady gains in mobile purchasing. While smartphone conversion rates continue to lag desktop and laptop conversion, the consistent double-digit improvements signal that merchants are better capitalizing on the sizable audience using mobile sites for research and convincing them to buy. Furthermore, in the two weeks starting with Cyber Monday, smartphones’ share of total online revenue has increased by more than 50% to more than 15% of all orders. Combined with tablets’ share of revenue, the share of revenue attributable directly to mobile devices now tops 30%.

Mobile holiday performance data from the MarketLive Performance Index

As shoppers move from ordering online to looking for instantly-available last-minute options, mobile is poised to play still a greater role as a connector to in-store purchasing. To capitalize on the increased activity, merchants should:

Message expedited delivery and store options for mobile users. As on the flagship eCommerce site, merchants should ensure that customer service content related to shipping options and in-store pickup are prominently highlighted on small screens. Furthermore, access to store inventory should be promoted as a key feature for last-minute shoppers, whether by flagging items that can still be delivered on-time as a distinct product category, boosting visibility of fulfillment options on product pages, or both.

As the holiday clock ticked down in 2014, MarketLive merchant Francesca’s highlighted remaining delivery options on the mobile home page, giving shoppers comprehensive information within the small-screen format.

2014 holiday example from Francesca's

Position gift card options as prominently on mobile sites as on other screens. With gift card sales set to top $124 billion, promoting these popular last-minute options is crucial as the clock ticks down. Merchants should ensure that mobile gift card content clearly delineates online and postal mail delivery options, and gives shoppers an easy way to select and purchase gift cards in the format that suits their needs.

Look for a wrapup of season results after the New Year. Happy holidays!

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Relevance differentiates brands as shopping peaks – holiday flash report

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As the 2015 holiday season chugs along, merchants are holding on to year over year gains, even as the season’s peak period of research and comparison has brought a slowdown compared with the highs of Black Friday weekend. As shoppers come to a decision point about gift purchases, a steady focus on serving relevant products and offers can win merchants sales and widen gains for the season overall.

Merchants in the MarketLive Performance Index saw revenues for the week starting with Black Friday inch upward by 2.4% on a visit increase of 22.4%, suggesting that shoppers are intensively researching and winnowing down the list of potential finds during this peak phase of the season. The week’s gains put season-to-date revenue growth at 8.3% on an increase in visits of 19.4%. Happily, total order amounts remained high, with AOV for the week up 4.1%, bringing the season-to-date growth to 7.4%.

holiday data from the MarketLive Performance Index

As merchants move into the season’s final week before delivery cutoff dates begin to take effect, they should continue to put the focus on value and variety with relevant offers that reflect shoppers’ past interactions with the brand. Among the top options:

Up the abandoned cart ante. We’ve discussed before how abandoned carts are now a normal detour on the path to purchase, not a dead end — and that’s truer than ever during the holiday season, when shoppers are avidly comparing their options, considering and re-considering their gift lists, and consolidating orders to qualify for free shipping. Merchants should revisit and fine-tune their triggered email messaging to cart abandoners to ensure holiday relevance. Free shipping offers, cutoff dates for on-time delivery, and services such as gift-wrapping should be in the mix along with a SKU-specific list of items left in the cart.

Make the most of social messaging. Social media continues to play a relatively small role as a last-click source of visits and revenue. But in the week starting on Cyber Monday, social sites began engaging shoppers at a higher rate than in 2014, with social revenue up 114.5% and revenue as a share of the online total up by more than two thirds. Similarly, social visits for the week rose by nearly 50%, bringing the share of total traffic up by 66%.

Holiday data from the MarketLive Performance Index

The data suggests that as shoppers intensify their research, they are engaging with brands via social media and exploring the content and offers merchants showcase. Merchants should take advantage of this pattern by showcasing the breadth and uniqueness of of their offering and proactively addressing customer service questions in the social environment.

MarketLive merchant Helzberg Diamonds is engaging shoppers on Facebook with frequent posts that showcase the breadth of the brand’s selection in innovative ways. A recent trio of posts included a “regram” of a user-submitted photo with a link to the featured product, notice of exclusive “friends and family” discounts for the weekend, and a timely post connected to the announcement of Pantone’s “colors of the year” with relevant products on display.  The content is varied and engaging while maintaining the focus on selling.

Holiday social example from Helzberg Diamonds

Watch for more holiday results next week, and meantime visit MarketLive’s holiday resource center for a collection of best practices and research data.

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Mobile growth, sane discounts power sustainable holiday gains

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With the first week of the holiday season under their belts, merchants have cause to celebrate. Amidst reports of tepid retail sales overall, online commerce was a standout, and all signs point to continued success throughout the season.

Holiday season data from the MarketLive Performance Index

For the five days culminating in Cyber Monday, merchants in the MarketLive Performance Index saw revenue jump 13% on a 16.2% increase in traffic. Two key signs suggest that such growth rates are sustainable throughout the season:

Slow and steady discounting and growing AOV. Average order value increased 11.1%, suggesting that the gains were based on a solid foundation of growth as opposed to steep temporary price cuts. Rather, with shoppers on the hunt for bargains throughout the season, “Black Friday preview” and “Cyber Week” promotions extended the opening weekend into a fortnight-long marathon where steady but sustainable discounting was the rule. Many Performance Index merchants played their hands early, posting Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving or even the day before and then largely holding the line on further price cuts. Shoppers responded with a surge of purchasing that tapered off through the weekend: After the double-digit gains on Thanksgiving and Black Friday reported previously, Performance Index merchants saw growth drop to an average of 6.13% for the remainder of the weekend and Cyber Monday.

MarketLive merchant Design Within Reach maintained a 15% discount on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, while changing its home page lineup to focus on gifting. As merchants move through the rest of the season, adopting a similarly level-headed approach to discounting while promoting the brand’s overall value can help win sales from shoppers with the potential to become long-term customers.

Black Friday example from DWR

Cyber Monday example from DWRSolid mobile gains. Shoppers began turning to their phones as a shopping tool in earnest last year — but even as they browsed and researched extensively, mobile sales lagged due to poor experiences on smartphones and tablets. Happily, the 2015 results so far suggest that the tide is turning, particularly on smartphones, which saw average revenue gains of 46% for Black Friday and Cyber Monday on an increase in visits of 8.5%.

Mobile commerce holiday data from the MarketLive Performance Index

Similarly, while the combined share of traffic for smartphones and tablets for the opening holiday weekend was just under 50% — an 11% increase over the fourth quarter total for 2014 — the share of revenue approached 30%, a jump of 17% compared with the fourth quarter last year. The data suggests that merchants are well-positioned to take care of increased mobile activity as the season progresses and shoppers research products and compare offers more avidly.

Mobile commerce holiday data from the marketLive Performance Index

Merchants are also capitalizing on the  potential for smartphones to serve as bridges between online and offline experiences, offering tailored discounts for store shoppers and incentivizing “long tail” purchasing. In addition to promoting Black Friday discounts, MarketLive merchant Party City offered smartphone shoppers the opportunity to get free shipping on any order placed while in stores.

Party City mobile site

Stay tuned to the blog for updates throughout the season. Meantime, check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for best practices and data.

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Thanksgiving, Black Friday results show strong gains – holiday flash report

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Initial results from MarketLive Performance Index merchants for the first part of the holiday season’s big opening weekend show across-the-board double-digit increases in traffic, conversion and revenues.

Millions of consumer purchases were tracked via MarketLive’s e-commerce transaction platform during Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and the following Saturday and Sunday. Among the data highlights:

OVERALL RESULTS:

  • Total revenue YOY increase (4 days from Thanksgiving through Sunday): + 20%

THANKSGIVING & BLACK FRIDAY RESULTS:

  • Thanksgiving Day revenue increase: +36%
  • Average Order Value (AOV) for Thanksgiving Day rose +27.8% to $202.47
  • Black Friday revenue increase: +24%

MarketLive Performance Index data from 2015 holidays

 

SOCIAL COMMERCE:

  • Social referral traffic: +58%
  • Social conversion rate: +62%
  • Social revenue increase: +240%

MOBILE COMMERCE:

  • Smartphone traffic: +11%
  • Smartphone Conversion Rate: +21%
  • Smartphone revenue: +56%

Watch the blog for Cyber Monday results and further analysis coming later this week, and stay tuned for updates throughout the season. Meantime, check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for best practices and data.

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Holiday Tip #12 – Checklist: Prepare now for post-season sales success

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With Black Friday just days away, merchants should look ahead to capitalizing on the season’s highs with after-Christmas sales that provide new reasons for shoppers to engage.

The facts

As discussed in our previous post, revenues in January tend to slip dramatically from holiday-season highs, heralding in a first-quarter lull. But while the early months of the year may not break records, they still hold the potential for growth; online revenues in the first quarter of 2015, for example, grew at a rate of 9.1% year over year, according to the MarketLive Performance Index.

Furthermore, post-season shopping starts promptly on December 26, or for some, even on the holiday itself; last year, Christmas Day online sales jumped 8% year over year, according to IBM Digital Analytics. This year, close to 1 in 4 shoppers — 24% — say they plan to take advantage of post-Christmas sales, according to the MarketLive/E-Tailing Group 2015 Consumer Shopping Survey.

The action item

In addition to seeding opportunities for post-season re-engagement into the shopping experience during the peak buying period, as discussed in our prior post, merchants should also design purpose-built campaigns that address the needs of shoppers in the immediate post-Christmas period. Among the tactics:

  • Think mobile. IBM found that mobile devices accounted for a whopping 57.1% of eCommerce traffic and 34.8% of sales on Christmas Day — signaling that consumers were content to check out sales via smartphones and tablets during breaks in their festivities, but less apt to mosey over to the computer and log on. Merchants should cater to this behavior by ensuring that they translate post-season campaigns and promotions for their mobile audiences. Social media should play a significant role in spreading the word, given that fully 61% of social visits originate on mobile devices, according to Merkle/RKG.
  • Position New Year’s as a shoppable event in its own right. From party supplies and outfits to organization tools and fitness equipment to help shoppers keep their resolutins, there are plenty of New Year’s needs merchants can address in the week immediately following Christmas.

MarketLive merchant Honey Baked Ham rolled out New Year’s recipe ideas and product suggestions promptly on December 26 last year to serve shoppers gearing up for the next celebration.

new year's promotion example from Honey Baked

  • Switch the focus from gifts to self-rewards. More than half of consumers plan to buy non-gift items for themselves during the holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation — and the post-Christmas period, when gift cards have been newly received, is a prime opportunity to promote gifts and services that reward shoppers. Merchants should highlight best-sellers and group picks by gift card amount. Gift card redemption policies should be front and center.

MarketLive merchant Peruvian Connection put the focus on escaping the stresses of the holiday season on Dec. 26 with its Facebook post inviting shoppers to consider sleepwear for relaxing now that “everyone has gone from your house”.

Peruvian Facebook

Stay tuned to the blog throughout the holiday season for up-to-the-minute results and check out MarketLive’s holiday resource center for further best practices.

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