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If you think about someone who was there when ecommerce started, who would you picture? Jeff Bezos? You may be wrong because Bezos started Amazon in 1995, a full 17 years after ecommerce was born, in the UK.
Back in 1979 a 38 year old innovator put together an online shopping system called Videotex. It was one of the first end-user technologies that displayed interactive information on a TV screen. Unlike most other connectivity breakthroughs of that age, the Videotex was more of a TV than a computer.
It was basically a domestic TV connected through a phone line to a central transaction processor. It might sound simple now but at the time things like e-commerce, online orders, online banking and others were pretty close to science-fiction.
One day, early 1979, Michael Aldrich received in his office a 26” TV, capable of teletext. The TV was able to display news and weather information, broadcasted by the BBC. It had several components that allowed it to do that. Among them – a modem and an auto-dialer.
Those two components proved to be really useful to Aldrich. Later that year, after superficially examining the device, Aldrich was out with his wife, walking their dog, Tessa.
They chatted about the kids and such. At some point the subject of weekly supermarket expedition came up. Aldrich was thinking of how could he make that boring trip easier – and that’s when it hit him: He could connect the modem enabled TV to a central server and help companies process transactions and sell things. Things such as groceries.
He worked with his colleagues, set up a basic system and demo-ed it to major companies. As he had sales and marketing jobs before, he was able to convince executives of the system’s competitive advantage.
It as a hit and his team received some heavy requests for the system. He spent most of the ’80s designing and implementing online shopping systems. Remember – this was an era predating even the most basic forms of computer technology – such as MS DOS, the IBM PC , internet and yes, the World Wide Web.
It wasn’t until 1990 that another great brit, Tim Berners Lee would write the World Wide Web and unlock the Internet’s potential.
Truth be told, Videotex never really caught up with end consumers. It was mainly used as a B2B shopping / ordering technology. But people did use it to place the world’s first online shopping orders.
It was May 1984 and Jane Snowball, 72 years old, was pinned in hair chair after she broke her hip. She needed groceries and the local Tesco supermarket had joined a Gateshead Council initiative to help the elder receive groceries at home.
She needed only 15 minutes to learn how to use the remote. After that she was able to choose from the 1000 products available on Videotex. Her order was payed on delivery as no card processing was available at that time. But she did order and the order did arrive.
She, among other senior shoppers, were the first to shop online. What was then a local experiment with little success is now a $1 trillion industry and growing fast.
Aldrich, now a grandfather of 8 grandchildren, may not have been the Jeff Bezos of its time but he is the man that invented online shopping, among others. There was no B2C market for him to work on, but there was a B2B market. His innovations started what we now call the IT industry and revolutionized the way people thought of media (from few-to-many to many-to-many).
This is a man that innovated his way to ecommerce, the IT industry, and basic Social Media notions we apply today. Pretty great, right?
When it comes to ecommerce most of the information you’ll be able to find online is marketing related. Because marketing is the easy part. That’s why almost everybody assumes that all it takes to build an ecommerce operation is good marketing, a technological sound shopping catalogue solution and a lot of luck.
Marketing and frontend ecommerce solutions are just the tip of the iceberg and in this post I’ll walk you through the most important areas you need to focus on (and you probably don’t) when building an online commerce business. Not site, not catalogue, business.
First of all – it is really easy to set up a store. Shopify, for example, offers all the features you need for as little as $9/month. You can start a store in a couple of minutes and start selling to your customers.
However, no successful store was ever built on software, luck and marketing alone. Top online retailers got where they are selling great products at great prices, delivering fast and making sure that customers are well rewarded for their choice. That takes a lot of work in areas most of us never notice, areas such as:
You are or plan to be a retailer in an increasingly competitive market. It means a lot to come up with a great idea, drive good traffic and convert it to sales but you can’t do that without the right products, delivered at the right time, with a price the market is willing to pay.
Suppliers meant a whole lot when ecommerce was not around. Now – even more so. When it comes to ecommerce, suppliers can provide you with the right merchandise but they can also take the stocks burden off your shoulders. Amazon, for example, relies heavily on its marketplace partners to increase listed products number, without buying stocks for those products.
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This new case study challenges students to identify the optimal pricing strategy to maximize profitability for both a soda manufacturer and its exclusive distributor: a price strategy that will resolve excess capacity and inventory problems caused by higher-than-necessary retail prices. Crystallizing realistic pricing challenges faced by companies in many industries and markets, this case study offers exceptional value to both students and practitioners
Key take away: before starting an ecommerce operation make sure:
Post brick-and-mortar retail relies on electronic communication and product display. But when a product is bought it has to come from somewhere, right? Seal the deal with the suppliers and it’s off to the Warehouse, that magical place where online retailers pick products from the shelf, pack them neatly and prepare those products to be delivered.
Sounds simple? Well, usually, it is not. A decent store with its own warehouse operations has thousands of products at any time on its inventory, employs at least a couple of dozens of people to store products, pick and pack, and prepare for delivery. That’s why so many large companies choose to outsource their fulfillment operations to “third party logistics” suppliers such as Anchor 3PL or the ever-growing Fulfillment by Amazon so they can focus on what they do best (usually purchase the best assortment of merchandise, service customers and marketing).
Key Take Aways: A much larger post regarding 3PL/YPL (third party logistics) will soon be available on Netonomy.NET but until then, let’s have a look at things to consider when developing your own warehouse operations:
How is everything so far? A bit different than what you expected? Great. Keep reading and than start a new store with these ideas in mind.
Just as mentioned above your merchandise may be displayed and marketed online but it has to be packed and reach its destination in the real world. That’s why you need a good warehouse management and that’s why you need a great shipping service.
Shipping is usually an outsourced service. The best thing to do, unless you’re swimming in cash and you want to start competing the likes of FedEx and DHL, is employ one of the shipping providers and negotiate your way to a marketable shipping cost. Such a cost is likely to be, in the future, one you will be paying yourself – so pay attention.
Once you’ve contracted these shipping providers integrate their system with yours so you can streamline packaging and delivery.
Once in a while customers do not like what they’ve bought. You will need to handle the returns and reimburse customers for their purchase. Here you can team up with the shipping provider but your store has to handle all the communication.
Book details: In Shopper Intimacy, two world-renowned retail experts draw on unprecedented in-store research to illuminate how shoppers actually think, feel, and act in retail environments.
Key take aways:
Before we skip to the next component I just wanted to make sure you’ve noticed I haven’t yet mentioned anything you would expect would be ecommerce related or innovative. So far – it’s just plain ol’ supply chain management and logistics. Got it? Great. Let’s move on to …
Before even considering selling – you need to think about how are you going to treat your customer and keep him coming back. That’s where CRM comes in. While the term is usually used to describe a type of software, it is actually the term describing the whole policy on how are you going to handle interactions between you and your customer.
CRM needs to be “customer-centric”. Big words – but what do they mean? It just means that everything you do needs to be done “for the customer, by the retailer”. You need to understand the customer purchase patterns so you can recommend the most suited products. You need to record purchases, interests, preferred channels and basically all there is to it when it comes to understanding your customer.
Then act on that – after you’ve analyzed data make sure customer care, warehouse operations, shipping providers and even your purchase operations – all know who the customer is and what it wants.
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Key Take Aways:
Here’s one you surely expected, maybe not so down the list: your online store catalogue. Of course – this one is important. Without one we would be back to mail orders and inventing the wheel. However, as you’ve probably seen so far – it is just a small part of the whole ecommerce store business.
When it comes to it some things you really should be taking into account:
I know, i know – one includes the other. But for the sake of the argument let’s just assume that maybe loyalty programs online are so important that they should be a separate item to marketing. Because they are.
Loyalty is really hard to acquire these days. Especially when it comes to ecommerce. Most users will be searching for the lowest price and buy from whomever the seller is. But you can fight the trend with loyalty programs such as:
Good info on such subjects is hard to find but here is a book I recommend: Facebook Marketing: Leveraging Facebook’s Features for Your Marketing Campaigns.
As for marketing at large – there is an increasing number of marketing solutions you an use to market your products and store but not all are alike. Not all are as efficient. Focus on:
They may not look like much but together the “incredible four of ecommerce” can mean the difference between a failed startup and the next Amazon.
Last but not least …
What – you thought that brick and mortar is all gone? Of course not. Online retail is still at just 7% of total retail but growing fast. One of the things that’s helping it grow is showrooming. That is the practice of checking a product in-store and buying it (usually cheaper) – online.
Don’t think about ecommerce as online-vs-offline. Think in terms of customer. The customer wants to feel the product before it makes the purchase. So you’ll need to show it to him. Even a small offline showroom can work miracles for your online store.
So now you have it – online retail is a rather big iceberg. Most of it unseen. Check where others don’t look because that’s where you’ll find success in ecommerce.
Ecommerce is a complicated and highly competitive business. That’s why you need great tech. Shopify is one of the best companies out there in the market of ecommerce solutions for small to midsized online retailers. I suggest you give it a try.
Google checkout is soon to be dead. Recent changes to Google’s strategy made the product obsolete. The change will affect mostly physical goods merchants as Google offers options for digital goods and app sellers.
While PayPal can surely be happy about it, customers will not be. However, the company has partnered with companies providing payment processing options (Braintree), online store solutions (Shopify) and online invoicing (FreshBooks).
The recent changes and Google Checkout’s “Sunset” (definitely a great spin) will not change the interest Google has for ecommerce services. The company is looking for places it can grab a larger market share, places with a faster growth rate. Here are some:
Google is still interested in ecommerce. It just figured out Google Checkout was not going to happen.
So – if you are a Google Checkout customer – remember, remember, the 20th of November.
The second biggest online retailer in the world, Staples.com, made $24.4 billion last year. Apparently the office supplies online market is growing steadily and attracting unwanted attention from Amazon, while its brick-and-mortar counterpart is struggling with recession. Below we’ll have a look at the market overview, main sales drivers, top retailers and marketing.
Let’s start with:
The US market, as well as the global market for office supplies is heading to a small rebound, mostly due to a small decrease in demand and a larger decrease in physical store space.
For example, leader Staples.com, is planning on closing 40 underperforming stores this year (out of a total of 1886 stores in the US and Canada), 10 more than previously announced. Challengers Office Max and Office Depot, some of those late at the ecommerce party, have been blown even harder by reduced sales, as well as online retailers increased competition. The two companies are planning on closing 175 and 150 stores, respectively.
On the other hand online and multichannel stores are doing great and Staples announced a new type of smaller stores that engage visitors with interactive kiosks and staff aimed at driving more sales to staples.com.
Staples.com is embracing showrooming and engaging customers offline to drive them to buy online. This means that the company is expecting a decrease in offline buying interest. It also means that the age of the behemoth stores is over and now customers will be expecting offline experience that leads them to buy online.
Office Depot also shifted focus towards a multichannel approach. Monica Luechtefeld, who’s been with Office Depot for the past 17 years restructured marketing teams into a single department, to offer a 360 degrees approach, focused on the customer.
“Instead of looking at you as an online shopper, it’s an attempt to think of you as the customer of Office Depot. The more we look at you horizontally and look at the multiple ways you engage us and the multiple tools that you use to buy − one day a store, one day online, one day a call center − the better we’ll be able to serve you.” said Luechtefeld.
In order to counterbalance Staples’ and Amazon’s competition, Office Depot is also moving into a merger with Office Max, as WSJ reports. The two companies worth $1.3 billion (Office Depot) and $933 million (Office Max) will probably be trading stocks. With almost 60 000 employees and $17.5 billion in combined sales, the two companies will decrease costs and increase market share, if the deal pulls through. Office Depot also tried a merger with Staples in 1997, but the deal was shut down by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Until the merger goes through the US market is shared by Staples (39% market share, also the largest office supplies company in the world), Office Depot (22%), Office Max (13.5%). These companies control 74.5% of the market so they are really setting the trends, and the trends are:
Office supplies are some of the most sought products online, up there with computer hardware and consumer electronics. The online market for office supplies totals $22.8 in US alone but not all office supplies are created equal. When purchasing online customers spend their money on:
Among the office supplies the ones that stand out are the ink and toner cartridge supplies. For office supplies retailers the fact that these product sales decreased in the past year meant a hard blow to the market cap.
Cartridge supplies make up for a large part of office supplies retailers’ margin. In 2011 the ink market alone was worth $14 billion globally so it’s safe to say that the market is here to stay, although growth has suffered due to global recession. New developments in ink manufacturing, online retailing and customer acquisition have changed the landscape but printer ink is still one of the most needed and expensive products on the planet.
As for the vendors, a recent study by Research and Markets shows top vendors as Brother Industries Ltd., Cannon Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., and Seiko Epson Corp.
The study also shows that among the key growth drivers there is an increase in demand for cheap, high-speed continuous-feed inkjet printers. Recent changes in technology are making possible for buyers to expect reasonably priced color printing.
Although the overall cartridge supplies market is not doing great, thus affecting leaders like Staples, Office Depot and Office Max, a few trends have really picked up:
As such – companies looking into expanding ink and toner sales need to seriously look into:
When it comes to customers, the main targets a office supply retailer has are, according to IBIS World:
When it comes to marketing and customer care, it seems that most office supplies retailers are moving towards a multichannel approach as to leverage the existing stores and maximize profit. Customer care and retention, location based marketing, mobile marketing, direct marketing and social media also seem to be playing a big role when it comes to customer acquisition and retention.
A very important part in Staples.com customer care is their Staples Rewards program. Every purchase offers customers 5% back in online/offline purchases as well as free shipping. Customers can redeem rewards when buying from a physical store, online or on their mobile device, thus ensuring a multichannel experience.
As a very large chunk of the market are households, usually families with one or more children, Staples.com now offers a program targeted at parents and teachers. Parents can offer a teacher of their choice a chance to earn as much as $2000 a year, in reward points.
Office Max also offers a loyalty program – MaxPerks – that allows customers to receive 5% off every purchase in rewards, rewards on cartridge recycling, and other bonus rewards.
Office supplies retailers use mobile to leverage increased mobile commerce traffic, drive foot traffic in store, helping customers find product information and help them check rewards quickly.
When it comes to mobile the largest player on the market, Staples.com is using both a scaled-down mobile version of the site, as well as native apps on iOS and Android.
The mobile experience is extremely easy to use and focuses on:
Office Depot also offers a mobile version, as well as iOS / Android native app but it features more information regarding products and a clearly visible “ink finder” section.
It is clear that both companies are really working on providing their customers with a great mobile experience and help them find the best deals and the right products quickly.
Staples.com has really set a target at providing the best mobile approach it can and Brian Tilzer, VP of Global Ecommerce declared:
“More and more shoppers are turning to their mobile devices as a way to research and shop whenever and wherever they want. Staples is thinking ahead and anticipating customers’ needs, providing an offering that not only serves as an m-commerce tool but listens to, and solves, customers’ pain points.”
When it comes to social media there is no really big winner and tactics and strategies are really similar. Some overall trends seem to be more prevalent though:
Traditionally direct marketing has been one of the best marketing and sales channels before ecommerce started getting traction. Now companies need to face a world where the customer expects real-time, personalized offers.
Amazon is closing in with its beta Amazon Supply, an online store targeting office and home supplies. As such, Staples needed to find a way to fight fire with fire and acquired Runa, a California-based software company that specializes in personalized shopping. The company analyzes browsing history, previous purchases to create a virtual profile for the customer and predict what products would he be interested in.
Profiling is clearly the key to direct marketing as customers are looking into personalized offers and expect companies to provide them with it.
If you’ve read so far, let’s just assume you’ve probably missed a couple of ideas along the way so let’s just wrap this report with the most important take aways:
When it comes to ecommerce most of us live in a “Fog of War”. What, never heard about it?
In military strategy the term shows the uncertainty one has to deal with when it comes to battle area, enemy forces, enemy positioning and others. The “Fog of War” can easily be described as a lack of visibility or understanding of engagement conditions. The less you know, the thicker the fog.
In a given “Fog of War” situation, you have to maximize intel by diplomatic, open-source or secret intelligence so as to prepare as best as possible to engage the enemy or prepare for any incoming attack. What is definitely not an option is just sit around and expect the enemy to attack.
The basic thing you need to take away is that when in dark, you have to shine some light by exploring nearby terrain and options.
All in all – mistakes or failures are pretty useless. I mean – of course, Thomas Edison is famous for saying “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” when referring to his inability to find a decent light bulb.
Unfortunately for most of us trying to innovate our way to success, what this quote fails to mention is that by that moment Edison was successful enough to fund those 10,000 failures.
The fact is failure is still failure. Mistakes are mistakes. There is nothing great or noble in making mistakes. If possible – don’t make them. But if you do – mark them as not to be repeated and than leave them behind.
No one remembers Columbus for his 17 years trying to get a couple of lousy boats to cross over the ocean while NOT discovering America. No one remembers Einstein for his brilliant carrier as a patent clerk while NOT improving his Theory of Relativity. Everybody gets credit for the things that are NOT mistakes or failures.
However, along the way to success, while discovering and gathering informations to see through the Fog of War, we will make mistakes. Actually most of the things we will be doing will be mistakes. That means we are trying. That means we are searching and while searching, at some point we will come across our objective and then, just then, we will be ready to learn from our mistakes. Not before, because …
You must have heard the phrase “we learn from your mistakes” so much by now that you consider it a fact. Well – it’s not. When it comes to learning and discovering somewhat complex tasks we are really better at learning from successful actions rather than mistakes.
Apparently our brain remembers short term memories that lead to correct actions and forgets useless details that just don’t work. According to Earl Miller, professor of neuroscience at MIT, “it is reward, rather than its absence, that is driving learning.”
So while trying to find out how to outsell your competitor remember what really counts: the times you got something right. That’s when you and your team will be learning the most important things. And you need to learn and discover new things because …
Netonomy.NET being an ecommerce blog, I wrote this post to encourage you to try new things, to innovate and allow yourself the right to make mistakes. However – don’t settle for anything but success.
Watching Amazon, Ebay, Asos.com and all other big online retailers is not enough. Do your own thing. Try, fail, succeed. The next big thing is just around the corner, if you’re willing to go through some Fog of War.
The holidays are coming and for most online retailers ’tis the season to be jolly. With shoppers starting their Christmas purchases as early as september, the holidays season starts earlier for those that really want to take advantage of this opportunity.
Most retailers expect 20-40% of their yearly sales to happen during holidays. Here are some things you should keep in check to insure optimum online store performance and increased sales:
It would be quite unfortunate if your sales would increase tenfold and yet you could not ship in time for everyone to get their presents. Say Little Timmy was due to receive a brand new toy but you can only deliver on the 27th of December. Too late.
Even worse – say you have one bestseller your pushing out there on the market and demand is so big that you’re left with no stocks after Black Friday?
These things and many others can happen and can leave a big impression on your sales, profits and customer retention so make sure you check your supply chain for any problems. Here is a brief list you should have in mind when preparing for the holidays:
Have a look at last year’s analytics and see what products were most likely to convert users into buyers. Round up the total sales per product and increase that figure so you make sure you’ll be ready to supply the demand.
After you’ve optimized your inventory – make sure the supplier won’t bail out on you if you’ll still run out of stock. You never know when you’ll get your big hit.
Everyone will expect their purchases delivered by the 25th of December. If you can’t fulfill that – you’re likely to lose a lot of customers. As such – make sure your shipping supplier is ready to deliver on time. Push for shorter delivery terms. After you’re done with that you should also…
Remember – the objective is fast delivery. The fact that the shipping supplier delivers the next day may be useless if it takes you 5 days to pick (or order) and pack an order.
The Holidays will likely increase activity in the warehouse so make sure your fulfillment team is ready to handle a lot more work than it’s used to. If not, scale up temporarily. Can’t scale up? You can outsource your fulfillment operations to a third party logistics (TPL) supplier such as Fulfillment by Amazon.
Of course – that doesn’t mean you have to post Santa Claus pictures, snowflakes and Christmas Carols on your Facebook page but being prepared long before your competition can work out miracles. Here are some things you should get ready for, things that usually take quite a lot of time to prepare:
Great products need less marketing and bundles are great ways to insure your customer feels he’s getting more for the buck. Your best-selling products are usually bought with other smaller accessories. You can find out which are these by having a look at last year’s purchases and analytics.
Have a look at what people bought and how they bought it. Try to look for patterns in these purchases but don’t stop there. If you see that customers bought an Xbox, two extra controllers (one to play with and one to replace the one they’ve previously smashed against the wall) and the latest GTA – make it a bundle. Go beyond that and bundle up for a Playstation gift.
Remember that ” ’tis the season to be happy ” part at the beginning? Well – turns out that’s kind of a lie. People feel depressed and anxious during holidays. Among the reasons – media overload, crowded places and a pressure to find appropriate gifts for those they hold dear.
Of course you can’t shut down the media overload but an online store is a great place to avoid the crowd and a gift card can be the perfect gift for anyone. Have a look at what customers are preparing to buy as Christmas gifts:
• Gift Cards: 59%
• Electronics (ex: TV, Computer, iPad/Apple products): 38%
• Apparel: 35%
Gift cards are not a maybe – they’re a must.
How will you get customers to your site? Of course – they are buying, but are they buying from YOU? If you’ve planned to increase your sales during the Holidays you can be sure you’re not the only one. However – you can improve your results by:
Your Black Friday program will likely increase traffic by more than 800% . Most online retailers have an larger increase and the trend just gets better by the year. That means that in order to have your store open during the surge in traffic you should:
This short guide covers some of the most important basics. If these areas are fully covered – you should do fine during the holidays but make sure you come back to Netonomy.NET for more information.
Pinterest has been growing steadily for the past year and some think of it as a possible competitor to Facebook’s social media turf. That means they do very well in the growth department.
Money isn’t a problem either (at least not for now), as Pinterest is slowly digging through $200 million in funding, but it still has to come up with a monetizing plan.
Last year’s try with Skimlinks probably looked great in a board meeting pitch but it caused quite a stir when word got out that Pinterest was changing it’s users’ links into Skimlinks affiliate leads. The company was accused of making money of its user generated content (which everyone understood, as … you know … servers cost money), without their consent or an explicit disclosure (which seemed to be not so easy to understand).
That was definitely a failed attempt at monetizing Pinterest’s growing userbase and they seemed to have learnt a lot from that. In the post announcing the new feature CEO Ben Silbermann promises ads will be:
- “Tasteful. No flashy banners or pop-up ads.
- Transparent. We’ll always let you know if someone paid for what you see, or where you see it.
- Relevant. These pins should be about stuff you’re actually interested in, like a delicious recipe, or a jacket that’s your style.
- Improved based on your feedback. Keep letting us know what you think, and we’ll keep working to make things better.”
Pinterest is first of all popular. Not just in the US. All over the world. Users devote time into building, curating and browsing through handpicked photos of products, dreamy locations, fashion photos and many many others. Most things people collect and see pinned onto their boards do have one thing in common – they can be bought. And boy does it show:
All in all – Pinterest is the biggest social player when it comes driving relevant (and by that I mean paying) traffic to online stores.Yet not all industries are equal – some will benefit more than others when using Pinterest Ads.
You are probably guessing the leading industry but first here are the runners-up:
Travel pins account for only 2.5% off all pins but don’t let that small percent fool you. Pins get shared and in an industry where everything is judged by the numbers it helps improving your margin with a little thing called emotion.
Pinterest is great at instilling positive emotions and shifting purchase options towards recommended / shared locations. While it it was hardly worth the trouble to orchestrate a social media campaign that gets some kind of traffic rolling now everything will get easier with sponsored pins.
Home is the most popular category on Pinterest, with 17.2% of all pins categorized as home items. Not surprisingly either: 80% of all Pinterest users are women, more inclined to look into home lifestyle items and 50% of them have kids.
With an annual household income of over $100 000 or more for 28.1 % of Pinterest users, you can be sure that this is the place where you can market home related items. Brands such as Crane & Canopy actively engage Pinterest users and draw new products inspiration from the things they see trending on the social network.
The big winner is of course Fashion, for both men and women. When it comes to style, beauty and clothing, 11.7% of all pins are pinned under Fashion and those pins usually come from popular users, influencers and fashion media outlets and bloggers.
Think the previous numbers are pinteresting? Well get this – Sephora’s Pinterest users spend 15 times more than their Facebook counterparts.
Sephora’s Julie Bernstein is unforgiving when it comes to Pinterest vs Facebook:
“The reality is that when you’re in the Pinterest mindset, you’re actually interested in acquiring items, which is not what people go to Facebook for,” Bornstein said. “Facebook continues to be just a great customer interaction tool that gives us the real-time ability to dialog with our customer; it’s a big customer-service venue for us.”
There’s no denying that Pinterest is here to stay when it comes to online retail. It probably helps to be pinning even if you’re not dealing into Fashion, Home or Travel as pinners are buyers. But if you are selling these products then Pinterest Ads, a great addition to your Pinterest marketing policy, will probably bring a great deal of new customers to your business.
People may not be (yet) buying new cars online but they sure spend a lot of time and energy researching their future purchases online. Remember the old cars salesman stereotype? Forget it. The new cars salesmen is the guy with the most positive online reviews, a stellar social media presence, hired by the friendliest dealership in town and quick to respond to his customers’ questions.
Speaking of customers – those looking into buying a new car are in the market for roughly 5.3 months, as shown in this Cars.com research. During these months they check out:
Now when it comes to dealerships – you can be sure that by the time a customer sets foot in one he has probably read everything available online on:
Sometimes potential customers don’t even bother visiting their local dealerships if online reviews are not good enough. A curated online presence can do miracles for dealers as long as their service matches their marketing. Good service and reliability are still the most important factors when deciding what and where to buy. Recent online developments just make it easy for customers to find out the good and the bad about dealers and cars.
We all know how important photos are when buying cars. 63% of potential car buyers make their first steps towards a purchasing decision based on photos and other media. However, no dealer is going to make them pay unless esthetics are backed up by great reviews on reliability (52% new car buyers showed interest), features/colors (51%) and safety information (49%).
As mobile is quickly revolutionizing every aspect of our lives we were bound to use them on the spot, in dealerships, when making our final decisions. If you’ve used your smartphone in the dealership you can rest assured you are not alone – 43% of customers visiting dealers use their mobile device. Most frequent uses during dealership visits are targeted at:
So price checking really matters when visiting the dealer. It’s not a secret that any dealership will try to maximize its margin but that seems to be harder and harder with everconnected consumers.
Much more than this – customers will also check for user generated content on the spot. 79% of new car buyers value user generated reviews , as this CapGemini report shows.
The same report outlines some of the media channels buyers will scan to form an opinion. The big take away from the info below is that social media outlets (for both manufacturers and dealers) really matter when forming an opinion. Make sure that they are well set up and properly maintained.
There is a growing need for connected cars. I wrote about it a couple of months ago and now, with the new iOS 7 and recent developments in smartphone manufacturing customers seem to be getting what they want, when it comes to in-car smartphone support:
A big shift in car buying, especially when it comes to online-related purchases is the fact that women seem to be more and more engaged.
What has been looked at as a traditionally male influenced industry is shifting by the day and internet plays a large part in this shift. Women are big spenders when it comes to auto: they spend more than $200 billion yearly on new cars and car – care. They also influence over 80% of all new car purchases and account for almost 65% of all car service work done on dealerships.
These are some really, really big numbers and they just keep on increasing as women feel empowered to negotiate their prices behind a computer screen. Once a somewhat biased industry, the auto dealerships are leveled fields for both men and women and purchasing can now be fun and engaging for women. Feel like reading a little more about it? Check out Libby Copeland’s experience with buying a car online here.
In the end remember that:
Brick-and-Mortar retailers are in trouble with online retail becoming mainstream. A signifiant part of that trouble are customers testing or trying on the merchandise and than buying it online, cheaper. It may not be the end of brick store but showrooming is a sign that we are witnessing a new chapter in the bricks vs clicks story. Possibly – even more.
Simply put Showrooming is the practice of checking merchandise in store and than purchasing it online, usually cheaper. Although the practice has been around ever since online stores became competitive in terms of prices (past decade), things started moving a little faster now that smartphones allow in-store price checking. Customers can go to the closest store, try the product they want to purchase and than research prices online. Amazon even has a special app for that.
That’s obviously frustrating for store owners. They setup the shop, pay invoices for rent, pay checks only to find customers passing through the store, checking out the merchandise and than buying it elsewhere. Shoppers, on the other hand, don’t really care if the store makes any money or not. They want to try the product (check!) and than purchasing it at the lowest price (check!).
When it comes to it, companies such as Amazon, Net-A-Porter or eBay, mostly online operations, are of course benefiting and even encouraging the trend. On the other hand traditionally offline retailers frown upon, helplessly, and look for ways to counteract Showrooming.
There is great reason to do so as 69% shoppers look online for better prices and 47% look for free shipping, when checking products in-store.
There are ways for brick and mortar retailers to fight these trends at least in the short run, by:
If you’re a classic retailer you should note that these are only temporary solutions because…
On the long run physical stores will probably become obsolete. A recent study by Paris-based Capgemini shows that:
Retailers tend to focus on the practice of showrooming, but there’s a larger picture of a rapidly changing reality. It’s not this practice they should be focusing on but rather the changing landscape of multichannel shopping. There is nothing mystic about online retail’s rise: it’s just that customers get more products for less money.
Expensive operations as brick and mortar stores, hardly manageable teams that usually harm retailers’ brands and many, many other overheads all add up to a tectonic shift in traditional commerce. Offline-only retailers are a thing of the past. They can ignore the trends, they can fight them but sooner or later they too will be transformed, just like the traditional media juggernaut.
As far as historical records go, commerce has been a traditionally multi-level industry. There were those that produced the goods, the big buyers, the carriers, the retailers, the marketers, all adding up to the costs. When globalization came into effect that became even more so.
Say you wanted to develop and sell a computer. You had those handling raw materials, processing them, the assembly line, the shipping company, transport, distributers, retailers. Not to mention everyone in R&D, accounting and all those other XXI century white collar jobs. Just a glance shows a very, very long line between development and actually delivering the product to its end user.
All along this line, everyone adds costs. In the end the one that pays for these costs is the consumer.
No some companies thought they can do more with customers paying less and such was the case when Dell decided they will be shipping their customized products to those ordering online, when Apple decided they will just go ahead and open their own Flagship store and also let users purchase online, when Amazon built a bridge between writers and book-buyers – they were all just cutting out the middle man.
You think that’s just a timely thing? Here’s a list of startups that are slashing merciless through middle men with the power of ecommerce:
These are rather small startups but if you remember no more than 30 years ago – there was no Apple. 15 years ago – there was no Amazon. 10 years ago we had no Facebook. Personal computing and music, books, communication an media – all industries that had been radically and irreversibly been changed by these rather young companies, driven by the amazing change the Internet is.
We now know retail is changing. With it – our whole society. The outcome is hard to predict but the signs are here. Small and mundane as it might seem, showrooming is one of those signs.
In a recent tweet (how else?) Twitter made public its plans to go public:
We’ve confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO. This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale.
— Twitter (@twitter) September 12, 2013
The IPO will probably be lead by Goldman Sachs and as the company has already received offers between $26 and $28 a share which puts the company valuation somewhere above $15 billion.
Now that Twitter has made public its plans, it will need to add some figures to its revenue. The fact that they were able to submit a S-1 form confidentially means that Twitter’s revenue is still under 1 billion (their recent moves show that they are trying to reach that target by end 2014).
Soon enough we will probably know more about what’s under the hood but we should be expecting some changes in the company and in the market: