Competitive Repricing Software: The best for your business

Competitive repricing software has become an essential tool for all retailers, manufacturers and marketing execs when it comes to excelling in the eCommerce business. However, as the market has grown, so has the standard required from the service providers.

The number of online retail businesses has surged in the past decade, to the point where it has become almost impossible to search out competitors manually. To accurately and comprehensively keep track off your competitors; you need to apply automation. Otherwise, you will spend more money on people to manually search than you can save by competitive repricing strategies.

CHOOSING THE BEST REPRICING SOFTWARE PROVIDER FOR YOUR BUSINESS.

Your choice of repricing software will depend significantly on your business, the type of business, the extent of your product ranges, and what you expect to get from your competitive price monitoring analysis.

It will also depend on the service they provide and how intricately you want their comparison to delve, in the search for your competitors and their pricing strategies.

Data Accuracy

Primarily, you have to be sure that your repricing software is accurate and precise in the data it returns. A high percentage accuracy rate is vital to ensure that the suggested repricing strategy will be useful.

Most repricing software providers offer an initial trial or freemium version of their platform; it is a good place to test the accuracy of their returned data in respect to your business.

To provide an example if you have 15,000 SKUs to compare with the competitors in your market, and the returned data is only 75% accurate, that allows for 3,750  products that could be erroneously repriced from poor data accuracy. Potentially, allowing for significant losses in your revenue stream.

Effective and sophisticated data collection techniques

Creating secure environments for shoppers has meant that internet security has become second nature to website creation and maintenance. That same website security is being used to protect competitor data from the simpler web crawlers and bots that want to parse that information.

Sophisticated algorithmic searching can closely mimic the interaction that a human person displays when searching a website for information; allowing for a more accurate and more sensitive approach to altered data, such as allowing for price discounts, stock numbers and flash sales.

These intelligent machine learning engines tend to be more expensive than simple price comparison bots. However, they do return more accurate data on which to base your repricing strategy.

The competition monitor that you eventually choose should be able to search the market for other potential competitors, as well as the ones you already know. The last thing you want is for a hitherto unknown retailer to catch you unawares because you didn’t know they existed.

Multifaceted search parameters

Price isn’t everything, and if you expect to improve your profit margin by merely reducing prices below anyone else, you are on the fast track to bankruptcy. A race to zero helps no one and damages brand image, trust, and perceived value.

To accurately pinpoint the competitors with whom you should be competing, as opposed to those with who you shouldn’t bother, you need a more holistic repricing software approach to competitor monitoring. Rather than only focusing on the price for which they offer the same product, you should also take into account their proposed shipping times, their stock levels – and then going deeper how much they charge for expedited shipping and the countries to which they provide their products or services.

Another necessity should be the ability of the software to track attributes and additional information. The rise in private production labels with no universal identifier leads to a vast number of unmatched and potentially competitive products evading your detection. If there is no UPC for an item, and the available information doesn’t exist to compare it with your product they can undercut you and provide a similar or virtually identical product without you even knowing that they are stealing away your clients. The ability of your chosen repricing software to search attributes is important.

Interactive repricing strategies

Its all very well for a repricing program to suggest prices below all of your competitors, but that doesn’t help you if that will send you into the realms of bankruptcy, violate your MAP, or mean you have to lay-off staff to maintain it.

You need a repricing software platform that will take into account your lowest minimum prices, across your product ranges, and identify the specific competitors with whom you should compete.

Even in the dynamic and cutthroat realms of online retail, there are still some competitors with whom it can be damaging to try. Amazon, that massive retail empire that has dominated the eCommerce landscape, Overstock.com, and several others have the profit margin to swallow a few losses when it comes to undercutting smaller businesses. There is a compelling reason why high street retailers refuse to price match with the big eCommerce names; it’s just not worth the headache that competing with a giant that can change prices every ten minutes. Amazon has built its success on the very basis of dynamic pricing that is only now being used to increase profitability by the rest of the retail sector.

Making life easier, not harder

If you are paying a repricing software provider to assist in improving your bottom line through price adjustment, you don’t want it to create more effort and increased staff hours so that it can work.

You probably have business and product management tools at your disposal already, and can generate all of the required information from a single data export, finding a repricing software platform that can import your data will save you time and money.

Do your (own) research!

Not that ranking sites and reviews aren’t a great place to start, but only if the people reviewing have the same priorities and businesses as you, and even then there is no guarantee that you want the same things from competitor monitoring and pricing software. Competitor monitoring is becoming as fluid and dynamic as the retail industry, and some software providers perform better than others where different variables apply.


eCommerce Trends in 2019 to Watch

Across the whole spectrum of retail sales, the percentage that is eCommerce has increased steadily every year over the past decade, consistently reaching a peak at the end of the year in November and December. Keeping track of emerging eCommerce trends for the coming year is vital to maintaining your position in the market. With that in mind, here are a few eCommerce trends that we recommend watching or developing in 2019.

WATCHING ECOMMERCE TRENDS IN 2019

The continued growth and sustainability of your business demand that you keep in touch with and ahead of predicted trends for the future, potentially planning up to two or three years in advance. However, emerging technologies, trends and patterns need careful monitoring when they break away from the path that you have predicted.

# Omni-channel Shopping

One of the biggest eCommerce trends in 2019 will be a continuation of what has already started. Allowing the consumer to choose the best shopping option for them, letting them change their preferences according to their circumstances. Social media shopping is on the rise, application shopping, mobile, desktop, even in-store.

Covering as many of the retail options as possible to attract the widest audience is going to be taking great strides in 2019.

#Personalised Marketing and Shopping Experiences

Personalised shopping experiences are the upcoming eCommerce trend that harks back to the times when almost all shopping experiences were characterised by the personal touch offered in small physical stores. Tailoring offers and rewards towards the needs of the individual make for a far clearer marketing message then generic sales pitch.

Loyalty schemes have been one of the biggest incentives for allowing your details to be held for offers and marketing purposes. These loyalty schemes are encouraging users to share their particulars and their shopping habits in return for vouchers, points, and early access to offers.

#Payment Alternatives

Traditional payment options like credit and debit cards are not losing favour, but online shoppers are searching for alternatives. Shoppers are becoming more conscious of the potential dangers of personal details becoming available through transaction records, the double-blind safety of payment from a distance, or the guarantee of a safe refund from unscrupulous online retailers.

Paypal is one of the biggest suppliers of proxy payments. However, a massive change in eCommerce trends has stemmed from the cryptocurrency boom that took 2018 by storm. Digital currency has begun the transition from speculative investment to mode of exchange.  eCommerce agents and online shoppers alike have begun to clamour for an alternative payment option that allows for the use of cryptocurrencies in everyday transactions.

This development has already started, payment service providers have already begun to create payment channels that can slide into a payment options page as simply as PayPal and Neteller.

#Predictive Pricing

In the spirit of predicting eCommerce trends for the coming year, predictive pricing models are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Modelling market trends and creating pricing strategies for implementation in advance of market necessity.

Predictive pricing in retail allows online businesses to make pricing changes that benefit their bottom line. Predicting market movements by following shopping habits of target demographics, market analysis over seasonal periods, spotting patterns in spending trends all combine to give the eCommerce business a pricing strategy best equipt to accurately position a company in the correct position for optimum returns.

#Delivery Developments

Delivery speed is vital when attempting to acquire market share from ‘brick and mortar’ (BnM) stores. An eCommerce trend that has already been started by the giant of online retail, Amazon, is delivery immediacy, first with guaranteed next day delivery and then further with same-day delivery options becoming available in some areas.

While the distribution network that Amazon boasts is not available to most online retailers, operators in small geographical areas or with a distribution network incorporating both storage depots and physical stores, same-day delivery is attainable and a welcome addition to the service side of online retail.

#Direct to customer manufacturer sales or ”D2C.”

This eCommerce trend could change the face of retail for everyone, from customers all the way back to the manufacturers and brands.

Direct to customer brand sales will see new relationships forming with brands, manufacturers,  and retailers. Rather than suppliers selling stock to an authorised retailer, renting “space” and hiring sales staff to sell directly to the customer. Much like the concessions within a larger department store.

This trend could see a significant shift in traditional retail as manufacturers and brands will dictate prices rather than the perpetual price war between retailers.

#Which eCommerce trends will you be utilising in 2019

The above are just some of the significant trends that we can see making an impact on the eCommerce market in the next year. Incorporating some of them into your business strategy for the coming year may be the key to growing your market share in your retail field.


“Direct-to-Customer” – Manufacturers taking control of their prices

Manufacturers have been facing a running battle with resellers taking branded products to platforms such as Amazon and eBay, and flouting Minimum Advertised Price policies. The onus to stomp out these attempts at undermining the brand value and undercut other retailers has always been on the manufacturer. However, now the manufacturer is moving to block the shady reseller by entering the realm of direct to customer sales.

“Direct to Customer” is leading away from the traditional Retailer-Brand relationship

Manufacturers aren’t looking to replace the traditional retailer; brands and authorised retailers have enjoyed a fruitful and long-standing partnership bringing their wares to the public’s attention. The move is not a surgical removal of the middle-man, merely changing the relationship.

Brands manufacturers and suppliers have been walking a fine line to maintain their profitability, while also making the product affordable for the end customer and allowing the man in the middle his cut.

Some brands already cover both bases of production and sales, by having branded storefronts. Apple has taken this model and created a supremely well-crafted store-front experience. For most brands, this approach only works with a broad range of products, examples such as Nike with sporting clothing and equipment across numerous sports and activities.

MSRPs and MAPS Aren’t Enough

In the past, brands have relied on authorised retailers, which sell a broad range of brands and related goods, to buy their products at a specific price, and then resell at a price that reflects the brand value and quality (and to allow the retailer to make a profit).

This relationship has worked wonderfully well in decades gone by, but with the proliferation of resale sites such as Amazon, and eBay, brands have been losing their control over their Manufacturer Suggested Sale Price (MSRP) and Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policies. The increased usage of online resale has also increased the combative nature of price wars.

The Benefits of D2C Sales – For Everyone

Manufacturers and brands can seize back control from the middleman retailers,

# Price Control – MSRPs and MAP policies can only go so far, as unilateral policies arranged by the manufacturers alone, MSRPs and MAPs can only stand as a guideline for the retailer. Price competition between retailers both on and offline ensures that there is always another retailer aiming to acquire a larger share of the market by undercutting the competition.

# Consumer Relationship – Direct sales to customers help brands, and manufacturers get closer to their target audience.  The benefits of the direct to customer relationship between brands and their target demographics is that there is far better communication of consumer needs to the manufacturer and in the other direction, better distribution of developments and updates from brands to their loyal customers.

# Brand maintenance – With the direct to customer approach, brands are in a far better position to maintain a pricing structure that reflects the value and quality of their product, without being subject to the price competition that is so rife in the retail market.

#Speed to Market – Bringing new products to market requires that manufacturers not only convince the end customer to buy their new product, but they also have to convince the retailers to stock the product. Removing the retail element brings the product to the market quicker and consequently cheaper.

Not Cutting Out the Retailer, just changing the dynamic

The direct to customer sales technique that has begun is not going to eliminate or usurp the retail middleman, but there will be a change in the way that brands and retail resellers.

In the realms of online retail, brands can trade on their names alone and just cut out the online reseller. However, there is still the showroom effect that is required in brick and mortar stores, which has always been covered by the display of purchased stock for sale.

Instead of cutting out the retailer the brands will “rent” space from the retailers to display their goods. The retailer retains a certain amount of profit margin without having to undertake the price comparison and competition with other retailers.

An End To Price Wars?

There will still be competition. However, the brands will be in control of their prices, and they will compete with other brands selling direct to customer, and it will be on them to create a pricing structure that maintains their brand value in the field and keeps them competitive against other brands.

The onus will be on the brands and manufacturers to create the best product at the best price, while retailers still get the financial benefits of hosting the product.


Website: A Valuable Asset for Any Business

Intro

No one can disagree that in today’s web-oriented world, having a website is a ‘must’ for every business regardless of its size. This statement is underpinned by multiple surveys about users’ purchasing behaviours, statistics concerning the evolution of online shopping, marketing and sales researches. In 2017, a survey conducted by the E-commerce Foundation showed that 88% of US consumers were doing internet exploration before buying in the store. Also, 75% of Internet users used devices with different screen sizes for their online purchases. These insights are showing that consumers have already adopted a robust omnichannel approach to their purchasing habits and websites are at the heart of these changes.

Although there is strong evidence of the vital importance of owning a website, the research conducted by the Clutch research firm in 2018 has produced some surprising evidence, shown in the infographic below.

 

Websites statistics by Clutch.Co

The rest of the article will look at the multi-level contribution and the positive impact that website can offer to any company.

Why Is the Ownership of a Website Vital?

Through the following paragraphs, we will try to show you some of the beneficial effects, that a website can produce in different areas and departments of a business.

1. Marketing

The website is the point of reference for the online presence of any business. It serves every aspect of a marketing initiative or campaign. The corporate site is the place that marketers want to lead and finally convert users, driving them through any marketing channel from social media and blogging to PPC and SEO. It is the point that eventually everything will be done, business awareness, lead nurturing and conversions. The overall purpose/goal of the site is to become the place that the entire content of a business lives and users who reach it, should be able to find any kind of information or possible help they want from a business.

 

Key marketing activities in which a website has crucial importance.

2. Sales

The primary objective of each business is the continuous increase in revenue and profits. A website can undoubtedly play a key role in this. Having a site is a good way for any company to reach out to a broader audience, but this is not a guarantee for better profits. Maximising profits requires – qualified leads. However, it is not impossible, as the company can support the lead generation process of the site by applying the right search engine optimisation and developing the right content.

Except for increasing sales opportunities through a more extensive targeting, a website can also enhance the selling abilities of a company in two ways:

  • – Availability: The site enables the company to engage and inform users about its unique value proposition on a 24/7 basis, offering ongoing and uninterrupted interaction.
  • – Convenience: The customer always appreciates the companies/vendors who make their lives easy. Creating a site through which users can quickly and easily complete their work can maximise conversions and profits.
  • – Expansion Abroad: In the unified marketspace, a company under the right conditions has the opportunity to expand beyond the boundaries of its physic market and a site is the vehicle for this expansion.

3. Credibility

Not following the market’s norm of a website’s ownership, a company transmits a sense of mistrust to consumers. Through this absence, it is possible for customers to form the belief that the products or services offered are not worth enough. Also, the company loses potential leads and customers, as it is absent from the first stage (awareness) of the buyers’ journey.

Also, an intuitive and helpful website that explains the mission, values and proposition of the brand’s products/services strengthens consumer confidence. On site placement of reviews and testimonials, is also a very effective way to increase confidence levels and conversion rates.  Finally, a website on its own is useless. Content is always the king and creating unique, useful and personalised content for visitors is the ultimate way for a company to increase the overall loyalty and credibility and therefore retention rates and profits.

4. Data Collection Tool

One of the essential elements, making websites valuable assets for businesses, is the opportunity to collect vast amounts of data either from unique visitors or from loyal customers. The information derived from this data can be used in any potential area, from web design improvement and marketing/sales campaigns to NPD (new product development process). Data collection is the most valuable service a site has to offer to a company, as acquired intelligence allows the company to maximise the effectiveness of its actions and gain a competitive advantage.

Key Components for Creating & Maintaining an Effective Site

Now that we have analysed the positive impact a site may have on an enterprise, we will shortly describe the key areas that can guarantee its effectiveness and success in the following areas. So of course, we promise to look at these areas in more detail in later articles.

  • – UX DesignA website has to offer an uninterrupted and useful experience to the users. UX is the key element that defines a site’s success.
  • – UX ResearchIt is crucial for a company to know the expectations, needs and demands of its audience to proceed with an effective UX design.
  • – Content: A website without the right content is useless. Each company has to create useful and unique content that will meet the needs of its targeted audience. It is essential to be consistent with the selected tone and voice of the brand.
  • – Storytelling: It belongs to the broader content marketing domain. Using multiple channels and tools like videos, images and so on, it is vital for brands to communicate their stories, values and missions to their audience. Of course, storytelling is not constrained on the website, but as we said before the site is the referencing point of every marketing/advertising effort.
  • – Data: Running a site is a continuous process. Measuring and analysing its effectiveness and how users interact with it and with a brand as a whole is vital. Businesses can use a plethora of plugin, online and offline analytical tools for these purposes. Google Analytics and Google’s Search Console are two of the most important.

Conclusion

Through this article, we saw how a website can help different parts of a business and how it can help a business grow. We also presented the key requirements for its success. Each company must make its decisions about ownership of a website, but in our minds, there is no doubt that running a site is a must.


The Value of UX Design in E-Commerce

Intro

The term user experience is over-used in our days, but the truth is that UX is contained in everything. From the natural products and the first tools and goods that humankind has produced to the e-commerce websites of our days. An example that is often used to describe the framework and effectiveness of UX is based on bananas. In our case, we will compare the UX of banana and that of a coconut, to understand how user experience offers better image and competitive edge to any product.

Banana is a representative example of UX design excellence. Initially, the colour indicates whether the fruit is ripe or not and whether it is rotten. It is also the ideal snack, as it comes in a sufficient quantity, it is gobbled and has a perfect size so that can be transferred and stored anywhere. Also, banana is easily combined with other foods and has a high nutritional value. On the other hand, coconut is precisely the opposite. Of course, it is a natural product of high nutritional value, but its design does not make it attractive at all. It has a brown colour that is not visually friendly and has a harsh texture. Also, if someone is not an expert, it is impossible to understand if the fruit is ready for consumption or if it is rotten. The most important of all, to get someone to open it must have served at least five years in the special forces.

What is Website User Experience?

The user experience about an e-commerce site/application refers to trying to increase visitors’ satisfaction levels, maximising critical points such as accessibility, usability, and effectiveness across the interaction with your service. UX is a scientific method based on research. To create a business, the desired positive experience for the users, it needs to understand deeply what initially attract those visitors to the site, what they need and above all what they want to succeed. After answering those questions, the company can proceed with the UX design, that will create a positive experience for visitors and will produce mutually beneficial results for users and the business.

Distinction between UX & UI

UX/UI paper note

There is often confusion about user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). These two terms represent different parts of the functionality of a site, but these should be combined to create a useful and attractive online environment for users.

As we have already said, UX addresses every aspect of users’ interactions with the products or services, to ensure that companies meet the needs of these users. UI is the process that ensures that all elements that will allow users to interact with these products or services are in place and aligned with each other. More directly, it is acceptable to highlight the distinction of those terms with the following sentence. ‘UX is user-centric, as it following the user’s journey to address his problem and UI is product-centric, as its initial mission is to design a product’s appearance and functionality’.

However, a successful website depends on the collaboration between the UX and the UI. Initially, the UX department will respond to the fundamental questions about users- products interactions through research, and then UI designers following the UX research-based guideline will create the final layout of the site, ensuring that users can understand the products of the company and are satisfied with their presentation.

Why Is UX Important?

The development of e-commerce continues to change and enhance users’ expectations around their online journey. Online giants such as Amazon and Walmart are increasingly investing in providing excellent customer service and customer experience. As these giants carry out this exhaustive war, on who will be able to attract and convert more users to their websites? – The whole market is bound to follow. This is a loop process that continually produces better levels of customer experience – user experience, but also steadily increases user expectations to new heights.

Card Abandonment Study

To better understand how important is UX design for successful e-commerce, will show you a research conducted by Baymard Institute, which summarises the results from 40 studies upon card abandonment from 2006 to 2018. The average card abandonment rate which arose as the average of these surveys was 69.89%.

Card abandonment is crucial for businesses, as indicates the loss revenue potentials. Of course, card abandonment is a metric that is not only affected by UX determinants. The last research of the Institute conducted back in 2017 saw that 58.6% of US adults would drop their cards anyway, as they were not ready or willing to make purchases. With the primary purpose of the study remained to understand better card abandonment for those were willing to buy, Baymard constrained the results to the remaining reasons besides the ‘not ready/willing to buy’ segment. The results revealed that poor UX had a negative impact on businesses operating online, as they lost big, through potential customers that finally they were not converted due to user experience’s difficulties or barriers.

Card abandonment survey conducted by Baymard Institute in 2017
Top 5 UX mistakes generating card abandonment according to Baymard survey of 2017.

As you can see above, the respondents defined several issues relevant to UX that led them to abandon their cards. One out of four quit his card due to the complicated or time-consuming checkout process. Also, the lack of ‚buying as a visitor‘ option and restrictions on payment methods contributed to the high cart abandonment rates. In addition, confidence/security issues have played their role in abandoning decisions.

Those results have shown that however that is commonly known that UX is valuable in the e-commerce environment and even the online giants like Amazon invest huge on it; the market still struggling to adapt and evaluate the worth of UX on critical fields, losing significant amounts of potential revenues, in areas that are easy to correct/improve.

Meeting Users Expectations

Through this study, it is obvious that users have some expectations about the experience of the site they visit, and it is not positive, they will turn to the next available alternative. So, a successful UX design should meet these requirements in the most efficient way.

In today’s demanding and competitive e-commerce environment, users are looking for websites that meet their needs and expectations in some important fields:

  • – Convenience: Users want to shop in their own way, easily and without much cognitive effort. Examples that can be included in this field are the ability to purchase from any device they like or the capacity of quick checkout for products or lists of products that have been purchased repeatedly.
  • – Speed: Time is everything!! Speed is not only limited to fast shipping times. It includes all aspects of the interaction between a web page and users, from fast loading times and checkout to real-time responses to every possible query.
  • – Security/Trustworthiness: Creating a safe environment for users who want to spend their money online and share their personal information is fundamental. Websites that make people feel secure about transactions and build trust in the way they use their personal data, enjoying better levels of trust and retention.
  • – Accuracy: Connects to all of the above. Providing accurate information at the right time for everything that can be included in a transaction is vital. Shipping, products and costs information, user reviews and clarifications about data management are all fall into this category.
  • – Options: Users are always compelled for more options. In addition to offering multiple choices for tasks such as payments, checkout, customer support and so on, websites should think about options that will make the interaction with users unique.
  • – Experience: Sites must go beyond the primary goal they want to achieve by interacting with the users, such as conversions or sign in, etc. UX designers have to think outside of the box to keep delighting their users, from the website content up to the personalised packaging and so on.

Naturally, user expectations are not limited to these categories, and the list above is not representative of each type of site. As we have already mentioned many times, UX is a research-based scientific process and every business must go with its own UX research, which is essential to deliver the desired interaction to its targeted audience.

Conclusion

UX is a user-based process, as its overall goal is to provide positive interactions between a service/product and users. It is a scientific method that must be based on research to be successfully implemented. Through this article we have tried to provide a complete picture of the impact that UX can have on online businesses and the importance that needs to be given to it.


Omni-Channel Shopping for Optimal Audience Targeting.

The world of retail is and has always been a dynamic environment. In decades gone by stores were single entities selling a specific product type, with improved communication and easier travel arrived the expansion into multi-store chains. With computers and the internet came the diversification into online retail, the advent of the smartphone brought mobile and app-based retail. Now, with Smart HomeHubs we have seen the deviation into ‘voice-shopping’. The adoption of most or all of these options to engage a client is the key to keeping and growing your customer base. Omni-channel shopping has become a marketing centre-piece in driving increased sales.

MULTI-CHANNEL, YES, BUT OMNI-CHANNEL SHOPPING MEANS MORE

As technology has developed so has the ability to shop in several different ways; it’s only a generation ago that making a telephone order was considered advanced. The vast increase in shopping options has brought ease, simplicity and convenience to getting what the consumer wants.

Multi-channel is not necessarily Omni-channel shopping.

There are two distinct channels for shopping, physical stores and online retail. While physical stores will always have a place in the retail market, eCommerce has expanded at an alarming rate in the past twenty years.

Physical “Showroom” Stores

Whether it’s on the high street or in large shopping malls, the physical store will have a place in the retail sphere for many years to come. Until technology advance to the point where we can either instantly “teleport” goods to our homes or every home has a 3d printer that can print our every retail requirement, there will still be a need for the physical retail store.

Even with the increasing percentage of retail sales that occur online, they still only account for a maximum of around 21% of retail sales in total.

Not only does the retail store serve the purpose of facilitating the instant need for a product, but it also allows people to see, feel and possibly even test the product they are seeking. Even with the advances in computer technology, 360-degree views and documented measurements, sometimes there is no real substitute for checking the feel of a mattress, trying on an outfit, or trialling a new scent.

Retail channels that facilitate the immediate availability need and the need to try out a product will succeed, at least in the short-term. Even online retailers must exhibit their wares occasionally to provide a genuinely omni-channel shopping experience.

There are a few different types of physical stores that appeal to the need for physical examination of a product before purchase.

#Showrooms – These are not common, but they carry minimal amounts of stock in-store to “display” their products and take orders for later delivery. They are not necessarily physical stores; they can be a part of the growing party business that has been used by Avon, Ann Summers, and even Usborne children’s books.

#High Street/Mall Stores – These are the ones with which we are most familiar. They have large numbers of stores, carry large amounts of stock in-store and appeal to the immediate need.

#Pop-up Shops – These are gaining ground for retailers that are primarily online businesses. Short term rents in high traffic areas, even market stalls, fit the criteria.

Online Retail

Online shopping has become huge, and now there are so many ways that shoppers can access online retail. There are several different ways to access online retail, and they frequently appeal to different subsets of demographics.

#Website stores – The most common method of ordering online and generally the best way of getting the best and most information about the products available.

#Mobile Websites –  As mobile technology developed, the need to optimise websites for use on small handheld devices such as mobile phones and tablets became important — small devices which didn’t have the processing power to display full web pages. It is still vital to optimise websites for mobile use, even though most smartphones now have more memory and processing power than early internet computers. The mobile version of a site is generally adaptable for smaller screens and to improve the display quality.

#App shopping – Apple iOS, along with Android and then Windows Smartphones brought the age of the app, and app shopping has created a more natural way for their clients to keep their shopping preferences and integrate the shopping into a custom-designed application that correctly fits the shopping experience for the business.

#Voice shopping – The most recent development in online retail has been the voice shopping option afforded by smart home hubs. Leave it to Amazon to bring the Echo and Alexa to the retail arena. Telling Alexa to purchase something while walking around your house and noticing that something is running low or a household item needs replacing.

# Social Shopping – If a shopper finds your business via social media, it may not be convenient for them to download the app or transfer to a website to order from you. Social shopping has allowed some smaller businesses to expand their reach through social retail.

What Omni-Channel Shopping has Over Multi-Channel Shopping

While the multitude of shopping options adds convenience and ease to the shopping experience, omni-channel shopping has a crucial difference that makes it better; it is comprehensive.

Omni-channel shopping is interconnected and compatible, it allows customer flexibility. An example may be the woman who receives an email voucher from her favourite clothing brand for a one day only offer.

She checks the app or website for items of interest.

The voucher is also applicable in-store.

There are two stores nearby, in opposite directions, which should she visit?

The app lists local store stock levels – one store has the items available, the other doesn’t.

The example goes much further when the customer expects to be able to contact and continue discourse about a subject (complaint?) across multiple contact channels. If a call has been made to discuss a problem or question, will they then have to repeat everything to another person when using a different contact medium like chat functions, email,  or facebook messenger?

Centrally, storing and sharing information for the specific method of resolving an issue that a customer has, creates a better conflict resolution platform and creates a space to which the customer is far more inclined to return.  An omni-channel shopping platform links all channels to form the most integrated shopping experience. Multi-channel shopping treats each channel as a separate entity without crossover or collaboration.

Choosing appropriate channels for your business.

Many businesses don’t believe they need omni-channel shopping to appeal to their demographics. However, they do not realise that as technology progresses and advances, so do their clientele. Today’s voice shopper may not be the demographic which you wish to target, but tomorrow they may be. Today’s Millenial becomes tomorrow’s new parent, and so on it goes.

It may be that you don’t need to cover all of the bases, not all target groups want omni-channel shopping options, but you do need to future-proof your offerings. While your current target market might be professionals in the 24-39 age bracket, your future audience is the 18-24 age range that is still in education, who will demand omni-channel shopping.


Personalised Marketing Strategy for Customer Retention

Online shoppers have become significantly more discerning than they used to be. The vast number of retailers choosing to sell online has made the competition harsh, and the online buyer has tools to compare them all at the touch of a smartphone screen. Personalised marketing and bringing the personal touch back to the shopping experience have taken the online shopper back to the tailored shopping experience of yesteryear, when an experienced sales person would assist with product choices, all from the comfort of their home or the privacy of an app.

“I don’t want to be sold to when I enter a store. I want to be welcomed”


Angela Ahrendts, Apple Inc.

PERSONALISED MARKETING BRINGS TAILORED SERVICE BACK TO THE CLIENT

Once upon a time the local clothing store would know many of their clients by name and possibly even remember their size, preferred fit, and favourite styles. That personal approach made the customer feel welcomed and their business appreciated; it also made their shopping trip more manageable. Rather than looking through rails and rails of unnecessary items that either don’t fit or don’t suit the individual, the sales staff in the shops were experienced in the field (or at least learning) and had a good understanding of their customers needs and the correlation with the store inventory. Personalised marketing and shopping experience in one well-trained staff-member.

It is not the case now. Many physical stores don’t invest in customer relationships anymore because it isn’t cost-effective. Their sales targets judge retail sales staff. You could argue that excellent personal customer service and increased sales are connected, but they are not directly proportional. However, almost the same level of personalised marketing can be provided by a computer by asking a few specific questions. By asking these few questions before a client begins shopping, they can direct you to the styles and lines that will fit and will comply with your fitting requirements.

What’s in a name?

While addressing a customer by name when they return and log into a website would have seemed like a win in the past, now it’s not enough. It’s all very well remembering the name of a customer, but if you can’t remember any more than that you are failing in your personalised marketing strategy.

GDPR may have put a crimp in the continual search for customer data, but companies are still managing to gain customer approval for keeping their details by incentivising the data collection. Whether that is for the improved shopping experience, loyalty points, or access to premium vouchers and offer codes.

Starting with a name is good practice, but it should not be classed as a win in the personalised marketing stakes. The best customer shopping experience needs to start with a name and improve.

Personalisation requires data

Welcoming a customer back to the retail store is a good start, but remembering some essential details of their preferences is better. It is tough for this to happen in brick and mortar stores now, sales staff compete for targets, and the chances are that people won’t speak to the same staff member twice. However, online retail has the upper hand because the shopping preferences can be saved, the computer only needs to apply buying history and browsing habits to a specific account – an easy task for a computer.

People like tasks being made easier. Given a choice between absolute anonymity and a simpler, more streamlined experience, people with generally choose the simplified experience. Sometimes, just making the shopping experience simpler is enough to make people share their shopping habits, however, creating personalised marketing and pricing structures that reflect the buying habits of your clients, gives customers an even greater incentive to share their data.

While audience segmentation is important when targeting new clients; you don’t have the data for personalisation, it is not the route to take when attempting to reengage existing customers

Personalised marketing feeds personalised pricing strategies

When your data collection has reached a point where you can offer personalised marketing to your returning customers, you should also have a significant amount of buying habit data for each of your demographics and their subsets. Armed with the shopping habit data for your customers you can begin to create a customised pricing strategy for your target demographics.

You can target your marketing in several ways to increase customer loyalty, gather more buying habit data, and reward your returning customers with better prices or improved offers. It is a recognised fact in business that it is significantly more cost-intensive to entice a new shopper than it is to keep an old one, approximately five times more. As a consequence, it is probably better to offer your loyal returning customers a better deal than elsewhere if you want to increase your profit margin.

Once you have the buying habits of your audiences, you can create a pricing structure that rewards loyal and returning customers as well as enticing new additions to your customer base.

Dangers of personalised marketing and pricing

While personalised marketing and the creation of personalised pricing structures are looking to make a significant appearance throughout 2019, it is essential to create these structures with serious consideration. Some dangers present themselves when using particular metrics for segmenting your audience.

One company faced a negative response when they used postcode data to segment their audience and create a more personalised pricing structure. A specific price strategy was applied to a postcode area that had a primarily Asian population. The response was that the pricing structure was considered “racist”. It was not a deliberate attempt at covert racism, merely applying a single metric without considering the broader implications; this can happen when personalisation is confused with audience segmentation.

Another danger of personalised marketing is the filter of information and how the data is used. You may have a spectacular data analysis platform that can filter the customer shopping habits to predict their future needs, but you don’t want to appear stalker-like and creepy. Target, in the US, learned the hard way why being too accurate can be more than ‘unsettling’ to the customer.

The personalisation of the eCommerce landscape via marketing, pricing and shopping experience, is set to be a defining development in 2019. As everyday technology has developed, our expectations have progressed beyond the point of sacrificing personal service in favour of convenience and speed; now we expect both. Retail businesses that can offer personalised marketing, pricing and experience, in real-time, will be the winners in the retail game.


Alternative Payment Channels for eCommerce Business

While credit and debit cards still dominate the payments channel for online retail, with increased consciousness of payment security, both merchants and customers have begun seeking alternative payment channels. For merchants, this may make them more attractive to new customers, and it may also assist them in streamlining their receivable payments. For customers, the search for alternative payment channels could mean the security afforded by a proxy payment system, anonymity, or even the safety net offered.

Why have alternative payment channels?

Credit and debit cards are likely to be around for a long time in the future, but it is a good idea to diversify the options. The desire for alternative payment channels is not solely the province of the customer; retailers are also looking at different methods for collection of revenue.

It is a fact that credit cards dominate the eCommerce payment sphere, but there are dangers inherent in putting personal bank details online, even with all of the industry standard security measures required for web-based payment processing.

However, different communities, geolocations, demographics and markets attract the use of different payment channels. In locations where credit cards never took hold, like China, mobile payments and eWallets have become the primary method of making retail purchases. In North America and Europe, credit and debit cards are the preferred method of payment. However, in Australia and Apac countries, other than China and Japan, eWallets and “proxy” payment channels like Paypal are considered the preferred method for making online purchases.

Similar differences appear between age demographics, younger retail buyers utilise a higher number of payment channels, whereas older demographics, >45 years, prefer to stick with the tried and tested channels they know.

If you want to increase your reach across borders and demographics, appealing to your target’s preferences is a must.

What are the primary methods of online payment?

While there may be a multitude of different payment processing providers available to the person willing to search for them, there are four or five major method s of making online payments.

# Credit/Debit Cards – Credit and debit cards are attached to a bank account or a credit account and facilitate pseudo-immediate transfer for payments. Also included in this section are the pre-paid cards available for minors and people who don’t want to use a payment method that has direct access to their bank account.

# Mobile Payments – In regions where credit cards are uncommon, and people are underrepresented in banks, the penetration of the smartphone is a functional and convenient alternative method of making instant payments.

# Cryptocurrency – I have to cover this putative development in eCommerce because it is happening. Irrespective of the disastrous downturn in Bitcoin values, people still own Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, and the cryptocurrency enthusiasts still see digital currency on a blockchain as the future of money. Maybe they are right, and if bitcoin, ether, and the rest are currency, the customer needs to be able to make purchases with that medium of exchange.

# Bank Transfers – One of the most secure methods of transferring funds for payment because of the verification protocols in place for direct bank transfer. Banks are far more stringent with their checks and measures because they have to be to comply with myriad different rules and regulations across different countries, associations and partnerships.

# eWallets –

What makes customers choose alternative payment channels?

What makes a customer make any decision? There are different levels of online security awareness, different perceptions of convenience, and different personal circumstances that affect the way we choose to make our payments.

Some people have not had any adverse circumstances surrounding their use of credit cards and so have never had any reason to question the security measures. Others have had fraudulent card usage. Some people find it safer to use a third party like PayPal, which combines the convenience of only submitting information once, the security of only allowing one company access to their payment details, and the safety net of Buyer and Seller protection policies.

Some users want to keep strict control of their spending, so they use pre-paid cards or eWallets without any access to additional funds.

Some people want to make large purchases and prefer to make bank transfers that have superior security protocols.

Customers exist across a full spectrum of needs and wants.

Why do Retailers choose to offer multiple alternative payment channels?

This question is either complicated or incredibly simple. The simple answer is that retailers choose to offer multiple alternative payment channels to appeal to a broader spectrum of customers. On the other hand, accepting payments from a range of sources is more difficult for retailers to process, especially if that includes a variety of foreign currencies, and possibly even cryptocurrency.

While accepting multi-channel payments makes life more difficult for retailers it does increase engagement with a broader audience; it also gives alternative options when other channels experience problems (it happens).

For many retailers offering multi-channel payment options, there are platforms available to streamline them all into a single income stream, for a small fee, so the difficulty factor becomes moot.

Multi-channel payment options are a “yes.”

While accepting payments from a multitude of different sources may be a bit of a headache for some retailers, offering that option is worth it regarding attracting new customers. Not only does the multi-channel option appeal to a broader audience, but it also decreases the possibilities of abandoned carts if a particular payment option is unavailable at any time.

We have to accept that online retail businesses have the potential to be global, irrespective of size (especially in niche markets), and providing different payment options that deal better with currency conversion or privacy issues is better than losing business


(UX)User Experience Research

Intro

As we have already pointed out in a previous article, well-implemented user experience design can have a positive impact on the success of websites/apps and revenues of e-commerce businesses. It has also repeatedly stressed that UX is a scientific process based on thorough research. In the rest of the article, we’ll go to examine this specific topic, which is commonly known as user experience research.

What Is UX Research?

UX research is the systematic exploration of users and their requirements, needs and objectives, in order to add context and intelligence into the process of a website’s or app’s UX design. It deploys various methodologies and techniques to reach conclusions, identify problems, and uncover patterns that assist the UX design process. UX research does not attempt to understand broad frameworks or to create/improve any theories, but to investigate real-life phenomena to provide reliable evidence to UX design team, which is why it can be described as applied research.

Why Is So Important?

Explaining this part is a piece of cake. In the era of e-commerce, websites and applications are perhaps two of the most valuable assets for any business. It can be devastating for any business to create a site or app that users will not find appealing and understandable. In addition to the wasted money and time, a company will most likely face major losses in customers’ trust, branding and total revenues. As far as concerns the work of UX designers, research removes assumptions from the design process. Furthermore, as it will be based on intelligence about customer needs, requirements and objectives, it will eliminate drawbacks and expensive redesign processes.

Methodologies & Techniques for UX Research

The user experience research process adopts multiple methods and a combination of techniques to answer fundamental questions around users, in order to move forward with UX design of sites and applications. Some of the most critical questions that need to be answered by any company that wants to thrive through its website or app are:

  • – Who are our users?
  • – What are their needs?
  • – What do they want to succeed?
  • – How and where(device) do they prefer to do things?

Methodologies

UX researchers investigate users and their demands with techniques embedded in the following research methods:

  • – Observation: Monitoring interactions between a website/application and users can lead the researchers to useful conclusions about the usability and the broadest UX of the site/application examined. Also, through observational methods, UX researchers can capture critical points about the level of sentiments generated through these interactions by analysing user behaviour, body language and expressions while the interaction is taking place. Before performing the observation, it is essential that UX researchers determine whether the research will be structured or unstructured and also if it will be controlled or not.
  • – Understanding: During the entire research process, one of the primary goals is to gain an in-depth knowledge of users’ mental models. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, the mental model is what a user believes about the system at hand. The identification of a user’s mental model is crucial, as the user shapes his future actions relative to the system (website/app) based on these beliefs and not real facts.
  • – Analysis: When the above steps have been completed, UX researchers will analyse the exported data to track trends and patterns related to users‘ expectations, requirements and actions. Then, they can share this knowledge with UX designers to make well-educated decisions.

UX Research Techniques & Tools

The methodologies described above incorporate numerous tools and techniques. Below are some of the most effective, and broadly used, qualitative and quantitative techniques.

CARD SORTING

This technique provides valuable information for UX designers when designing or re-evaluating the information architecture or website/app. During a card sorting session, the participants or a group of participants are invited to organise the topics into categories and even more, to tag or label these categories. By taking into account the users‘ perception of the information hierarchy, designers can structure every aspect of the site, from what a homepage should include to workflows and navigation menu, in the most intuitive and useful way for their users.

USABILITY TESTING

During a usability test, the researchers assigned to a sample of users to complete tasks on the site or an application under review, and through observation, they can discover problems and gaps that lead to misinterpretations of experience. This method is an excellent way for UX researchers to understand how intuitive and functional a website is, and if it is easy for users to accomplish their goals on it.

A/B TESTING

A/B testing representation

A / B tests or split tests fall under the usability testing techniques. It’s a great way to compare the performance of two or more versions of a site or app. Execution is straightforward. UX researchers create two or multiple site/app designs and then analyse how the distinct variables of these versions are performing by randomly assigning users to these versions. Through A/B testing UX researchers and designers can extract useful conclusions about the performance of minor or more significant elements of a site or app, i.e. call to actions, navigation menu, information structure and layouts.

USER SURVEYS

As in every other research process, surveys have a prominent role also in UX research. UX researchers typically deploy online user surveys in two ways. Firstly, it is common practice to interrupt consumers during their visit on the site under investigation using a questionnaire in banner format. The second method is to invite targeted users to participate in a survey, usually by offering incentives such as discounts or membership cards.

WEB ANALYTICS

In addition to classical techniques, UX researchers can use web analytics tools. Two of the most well-known and valuable are Google Analytics and the Google Search Console (Webmaster Tool). Using these, researchers acquire in-depth knowledge about their users‘ behaviour, such as device preferences, location and other demographic understanding. Also, users can get instant feedback on site performance through metrics such as total visits, bounce rate, pages per visit, average time per page, and so on.

HEATMAPS

UX researchers can adopt these tools, especially when they re-evaluate/redesign a site to determine which sections/elements of a website are more relevant to users and what’s not. In this way, they can think of ways to improve the structural information of a site and, consequently, improve the overall user experience based on the perception of users. Crazyegg.com provides a brilliant online tool.

Conclusion

In the same way as any other business decision, the UX design process can only be based on research. UX research ensures that a site or app will serve its primary goal of fulfilling user expectations, and assisting them to achieve their aims. By achieving this role, an appropriately optimized UX website will also help the company achieve its own business goals.

 


Predictive Pricing and Market Analysis Strategy

Using predictive pricing analytics to calculate and design a future pricing strategy is becoming more popular, especially in big-ticket items, and necessities. Even luxury brands are getting in on the game to optimise their pricing strategies. How does it work and how can you accurately predict the price that people will willingly pay when predictions are far from definitive?

Predictive Pricing Strategy: the basics

What is it? – A strategy used to make informed assumptions about how your competitors will price comparable products in the future. If you can make accurate predictions about the pricing strategy of your competitors, you can implement them first.

How to do it? – Predictive pricing utilises the information from price optimisation software and historical data analysis. By tracking the current and past data of your competitors, you can create a simulation of future pricing activities, based on the repetition of patterns and strategy cycles.

Why do it? – It is a method of competitor monitoring that works in advance. It is a planned and proactive approach to making competitive repricing decisions. Automation of data collection from your competitor monitoring software makes the collation of information quick, and easy to analyse. Maintaining comprehensive pricing data from your competitors gives you a better understanding of the patterns that influence repricing strategy and how to beat them to benefit your business.

It is a reasonably straightforward process when you have the data, but data is the vital component. With more sound data comes a more accurate predictive pricing model.

„You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been“

The  English proverb above isn’t always accurate, but in this case, knowing your demographic buying habits and trends is to know your audience. It is highly improbable that a precise price prediction can be made without knowing something of the spending patterns of the buyers in question. Historical data is good at spotting trends and fluctuations over time.

At the same time, if you don’t know what your past and current metrics are, you can’t judge any success or failure in your repricing strategy. With predictive pricing, you are attempting to predict how much your customers are willing to pay, when they are likely to buy, and how to schedule your repricing strategy to exploit that information best.

“Know Your Onions” (or your customers)

How do you define your target audience? Do you aim at specified age ranges, incomes, occupations or education levels? If you don’t outline your target audience along the correct demographic lines, then it is likely you are missing out on profit, by not knowing your customers well enough to target them accurately.

It can be quite simple to segment your audience along appropriate demographic lines by analysing historical data. Creating an accurate predictive pricing strategy will require a deeper understanding of your target customers buying habits over time.

“Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance”

Accurate customer profiling and analysis of their buying habits, as well as correct audience segmentation, set a sound basis of information for planned repricing activity. However, poor preparation and a “last minute” approach will not keep your business ahead of the competition.

The very function of predictive pricing is to be just that little bit ahead of your competitors. By making beneficial discounts just before a rival, you can achieve increased revenue and ‘poaching’ of your rival’s customer-base. Using predictive pricing models to schedule your pricing alteration according to your data, will ensure that you are pricing optimally for your season, demographics and profit margin.

The predictive models for pricing aren’t only about monitoring the buying habits of your customers but also perceived value and periods of high demand. Increased demand and perceived value for a product type, usually supports an increased price tag that the customer is willing to pay.

“Opportunity Knocks”

Identifying good pricing opportunities doesn’t have to be difficult, but you do have to grasp them when they apply. While planning and preparation are crucial components of predictive pricing, it is also vitally important that you are prepared to seize a fleeting opportunity when it presents itself, to maximise revenue from opportune events.

While easy wins are, by definition, simple fixes to increase revenue, it can take skill to identify them from the data you have and implement them quickly enough to take advantage. While seizing the opportunity when it knocks is a spontaneous act, it requires planning and preparation to be in a position to enact it.

Using predictive pricing analysis to create a repricing strategy

It is impossible to predict the future. However, making educated assumptions based on empirical data and historical market analysis is reasonably possible and can make a significant impact on the way that businesses target their audience segments.

It doesn’t take artificial intelligence and machine learning to make generic assumptions about festive season shopping and demand surrounding toys and “gift” items, but for intricate information about the projected demand for specific product types, or walking a price: value tightrope to appeal to both older and younger buyers, requires vast amounts of research data.

To make predictive pricing strategies work for your business you need superior data only available through web crawling and competitor monitoring software.