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eCommerce and Marketplaces

Tis the eCommerce Season: Prepare Now for the 2022 Holidays

By eCommerce and Marketplaces, Social Commerce, Uncategorized No Comments

Holiday season and social climate:

The last few years have been atypical to say the least and eCommerce/shopping was greatly affected by the social climate. During the pandemic-driven hibernation in 2020, eCommerce was thriving because there was less opportunity for travel and subsequently more funds for purchases; particularly in demand for at-home use (candles, athleisure, office supplies) and digital education/fitness apps.

Starting in 2020, COVID was the catalyst for the change in consumer behavior. We began to see some relaxed restrictions with a slow return to offices, and more customer demand for Airbnb/staycation/travel experiences as well as general in-person activities with family/friends. Still, the landscape was not quite identical to pre-pandemic behaviors, and in tandem with this shift, modeled META data, the looming threat of cookie deprecation, shipping/demand issues and rising CPMS, there are additional layers of changes bringing a new transformative time in the industry.  

With all these social changes, platform nuances and industry transformations, how do we use the data we have to better inform our holiday strategy and prepare for 2022?

Evaluating 2021

To look ahead to this year, we need to evaluate 2021. The prior holiday season had the “strongest retail growth in more than 20 years” due to increasing customer spending. The expectation is for this metric to grow to 1.262 trillion in 2022, with 15.5% coming from e-commerce, while brick-and-mortar is expecting 1.026 trillion.

The 2021 Review

  • Fewer users shopped Cyber Monday/Black Friday overall and most shopped earlier to avoid inventory/supply chain issues and subsequent shipping delays.
  • Spending increased, particularly at brick-and-mortar retail stores, as there was a large appetite for in-person shopping/consumers were in a better place financially than the prior year. This included in-store shopping for apparel for in-person events/office usage.

Key stats (eMarketer 2022 Preview Report)

  • Retail spends grew 16% YoY to 1.221 trillion.
  • Mobile e-commerce accounted for 45.9% of sales, and 61% of digital visits and is projected to be almost 50% in 2022.
  • Brick & mortal sales increased 17.3% to 1.017 trillion.
  • Cyber Monday had the highest spending day online.
  • Black Friday inched up to .3% while Thanksgiving grew 2.3%.

What should you do with this data?

  1. Ensure your holiday planning/creative is approved assets to be ready for an earlier time in market and to be seen among the clutter as many brands will be present earlier.
  2. Invest in video assets because these have higher costs, but they see great LTV/revenue and work well with static.
  3. 2022 will have a longer holiday cycle, with less spend during the typical post-Thanksgiving period. So, you’ll want to ensure you have a strong evergreen presence. You should release seasonal/holiday messaging earlier to align with consumer demand. No longer do you need to save funds for the holiday spending all in late Q4.
  4. Consider starting early and implementing flat spending if it aligns with your business. Last year there were Black Friday promotions as early as October, and in general, holiday discounting was only 9% in 2021, vs. 14% in 2020, so monitor competitors/trends to see if this continues into 2022.
  5. Because brick-and-mortar sales increased, you should consider setting up store locator ads and ways to track your in-store or online ads. “Click to collect” drove 1 in 4 online transactions, so, if possible, you will want to set this up, and run CTV ad campaign tests.
  6. Cyber Monday should still be priority and if you have an offer; be sure to showcase/be present as this is still an instrumental day.
  7. As there are significant mobile visits and share of revenue, you will need to ensure your ads and user experience is mobile friendly. Invest in app/shops, in preparation for this influx.
  8. To drive purchases and rise above the clutter, ensure each receives a specific user journey and relevant messaging for where they are in funnel (new user vs. returning) and start soft vs. heavy copy to drive user to convert.
  9. Invest in your CRM data and learn from it as well as promote to repeat customers from these list with special offers to drive loyalty and continued purchases. Consider establishing a program/reward for these users.
  10. Test influencer marketing, that way your product is top of mind and when they are ready to purchase, you aren’t as affected by audience modeling.
  11. Ensure you utilize the shop features and continuing to monitor new features (i.e.: FB/IG shop, and enabling checkout within platforms, dynamic ads for hyper targeting ads to users that have seen specific products etc.) of the platforms and ensure you have an integration with a tool like Shopify, so you’re accurately tracking performance.
  12. Consider using a listening tool, to continue to meet consumer expectations and change messaging/strategy based on feedback, with a tool like Sprout Social.

With eCommerce growth back to mid-teens, rising 15.5% to 235.86 billion, the channel is back to pre-pandemic levels. However, we still anticipate earlier holiday shopping to stick as demand will occur earlier in the holiday season, and these habits were established for several years now. Profitero’s Black hypothesized:

“October will be the permanent new kick-off for the holidays, because it feels normal now after two years and it gives retailers three months to make their number versus two. ”

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be in market during the big three (Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and Thanksgiving) but the strategy should start earlier while we monitor trends/industry changes.

Of course, it’s early and there are several factors to look out for, as we move toward the early holiday season, that will impact projections/spend.

  • Inflation/Labor Market Changes and General Economy health (i.e.: if gas prices go up, users will have less discretionary income).
  • If stores close, during Black Friday for social climate changes, this will impact spending.
  • If Prime Day (Apple) or large brands (Amazon, Walmart etc.) change their holiday calendar, it is likely to have a trickledown effect.
  • COVID/Social Landscape.

There is no one-stop solution. So, it’s important to speak with experts like us so you consider historical performance, creative and the audience targeting that out-performed. With previous insights/data and the above, you are set up for another successful holiday season.

POV by: Gellena Lukats, Director, Paid Social

Navigating the Modern Retail Landscape

By Brand Engagement, eCommerce and Marketplaces, Insights & News, Paid Media No Comments

Since the pandemic began, we have seen an accelerated convergence of brand and performance media where now all brand outcomes are measured.

While millions quarantined and conducted business from their homes, we witnessed a massive expansion in the retail world as retail-built networks (e.g. Amazon, Walmart, Target, Kroger) and retailer partner networks (e.g. Criteo, Ad Citrus, Promote Iq, etc.) began to monetize their first party data.

In the past, a shopper marketing strategy focused on traditional tactics such as in-store promos, circulars, and co-op tv spots. However, over the last decade these strategies evolved to include co-op digital media such as search, display videos and social media that – for the most part – was run by the retailer on behalf of the brand.

During the pandemic, this changed as retail leaders such as Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, Kroger, Target, etc. allowed brands and agencies to combine their first-party data and leverage the retailer first-party rich audiences to buy media within their own media platforms, and in return receive a wealth of measurement metrics such as sales data. This ability to analyze the shopper at a more intimate level allowed both shoppers and brands to develop better marketing mixes that target the retailers’ consumer with more precision and develop more persuasive marketing strategies to target the general category consumer as well.  

This is important as we move to an uncertain world without a cookie identifier, brands are seeking ways to leverage their first-party data. Moving forward, brands are focused on spending retailer dollars with a maximum use of data that allows them to make smarter decisions with their investment choices. This can help mitigate wasteful spend and provide a self-serve space that allows retail media performance to be directly tied to brand outcomes.

Brands know about their category and retailers understand the consumers who are buying in that category. The combination of this intelligence through a omni-retail media mix can result in precision targeting with persuasive messaging in the upper funnel and creates the ability to capture demand from onsite search.

While these brands will always need a traditional national branding strategy, they now can focus less on national branding and more time, budget, and attention on supporting retailers with connections to the outcome. This can be particularly advantageous when retailer contractual commitments continue to grow, reducing brand media dollars.

What has caused brands to gravitate to retail media?

  • The ability to understand media’s correlation to SKU outcome and to access a retailers’ first-party data..
  • Using co-op dollars on self-serve media platforms for measurable outcomes
  • Retailers built their own on-site search platforms. Kroger, Amazon and WMT (O&O only) have also built their own programmatic platforms for offsite media.
  • DSPs like Tradedesk and Data Onboarding tools are fighting to help these retailers and brands partner together to build full self-serve models that allow the combination of first-party retail and brand audiences to be targeted across a funnel approach including ad exchanges and media types (OTT, Display, Remarketing, etc.).         
  • Brands can understand a shopper at an individual level and through retail media strategies, they can better understand what drives a consumer to purchase.

Why do shoppers lean into this?

  • Having a media mix that is both tied to Media Mix Models and digital measurable outcomes enables shoppers to build a better omni-channel mix using data.
  • Almost everything is measurable; they no longer need to rely just on in-store promotions and coupon clipping.
  • By combining a Performance Media and Shopper Strategy, brands are better able to understand the consumer more intimately. This allows them to drive a better omni-channel mix.
  • Omni-channel support that is targetable and trackable not only drives in-store and online sales, but media that is also married with in-store makes the insights more useful than just what we have mined from digital. This can also help inform future creative testing ideas.            
  • Understanding consumer behavior better than they can with their own first-party, brands have the precision of targeting that allows for more effective persuasive messaging.

POV By Gregg Manias, SVP, Performance Media

COVID-19 Turbo-Charged the eCommerce Transition

By eCommerce and Marketplaces, Insights & News No Comments

The average items per order in e-Commerce increased by 60% at the height of COVID. What can eCommerce brands do to keep this trend going as COVID restrictions are pulled back? 

Online shopping was my answer to just about everything for over a decade. The delivery guys have me on speed dial and we’re pretty much on a first name basis. In March 2020, when the UK went into lockdown, I took for granted that my ten years of online shopping experience and established vendor relationships would mean I get priority. It wasn’t long before I realized that my next day delivery slot for essentials was no longer available and my other “comfort” shopping options were facing their own challenges with supply management and logistics.  

This all happened because, without much choice, even those who were anti-online shopping had changed their tune. The pandemic has pushed us into an era of extreme convenience. Curbside pickup, eCommerce, and virtual options have become the new norm. Furthermore, for seasoned online shoppers, why settle for next day delivery when there is a same day priority option available.  

Beyond retail, the services sector also had to recalibrate.  Virtual classes and experiences emerged as the “new norm”.  From orchestras and West End musicals (Indeed, we spent Christmas with “Mary Poppins” at our doorstep thanks to Doorstep Productions) to yoga centers and 24-hour medical services, companies in the entertainment, education and wellness business scrambled to get online when lockdowns began. Overnight, Zoom became a household name.   

While delivery speed is certainly important, there are other areas of the convenience journey that retailers and service providers need to sharpen up to ensure a great customer experience.  

Convenience and ease are key reasons why consumers will continue to engage and transact online. Here’s how you can stay ahead of the game. 

Plan an eCommerce experience beyond desktop. 

Mobile dominates online sales. By the end of 2021, global mobile eCommerce sales will hit $3.56 trillion. Consumers not only use their mobile devices to research products and services, but also to make transactions. To succeed at eCommerce, having a website accessible through mobile devices isn’t enough. It is important to ensure your mobile site is developed in a commerce friendly way by including simple features such as:  

  • Image zooming by Pinching and Double-tap gestures. 
  •  Video content demonstrating product or services benefits.
  • Save feature for shopping carts. 
  • Mobile transaction security which conveys a feeling of safe & secure mobile eCommerce.  
  • Provide an auto-detect, address lookup feature on check-out forms.  
  • Smooth, easy and speedy checkout.  

Focus on navigation

Navigation is one of the most critical components of any website. Good navigation improves users experience on site and creates an environment that is conducive for transactions. Conversely, poor navigation often results in a high bounce rate as frustrated consumers exit the website due to not being able to find the items that they are looking for.  

By working with your web analytics team and studying your consumers onsite behavior you would be able to create a user experience optimal for eCommerce by putting yourself in the shoes of your consumers and building out a highly eCommerce focused, easy-to-navigate, website.  

Optimize Site Search

Investing in good site search technology provides consumers with an easy and streamlined way of locating desired products and services. In addition, displaying search suggestions on the search results page can provide consumers with more ideas on what they are searching for and offer upselling opportunities.  

This is also a ‘goldmine’ for companies as it provides valuable insights such as: 

  •  Forecasting trends in consumer behavior & increased demand for specific product categories. 
  •  Identifying inventory & content gaps. 
  •  Discovering search words / terms used by your consumers to describe your products and services. 
  •  What do your consumers find interesting? If this content already exists on your site, then how can you make this content easier to find. 
  • What is the search origin page (Where did they get lost on your site)? By combining the search origin page data with top destination page, you can add call to action triggers that can improve content delivery and guide consumers further along the conversion path.  

You can work with your marketing team to leverage these insights to develop optimized content on trending topics. 

Ideally, by combining web analytics and site search analytics, you can identify trending keywords and align your website, social, pay per click (PPC) and email content around a discrete set of terms that you already know is trending upward. Incorporate these search terms into your digital and offline marketing collateral to cultivate intent and guide your prospective customers to transact. 

Invest in great visual representation, video and augmented reality (AR) technology. 

Great visual representation will give your customers the same feeling as if they were picking something up in a store. Fashion brands have utilized real-life photography and videos to offer customers a simulated selection of views based on different body types and skin tones. 

In fact, product videos are an essential when it comes to eCommerce as it helps demonstrate how the product functions, answers frequently asked questions as well as positively influences customer experience.   

Beyond video, retailers are increasingly using AR to provide consumers with a more immersive experience and allowing them to have real time interaction with products while remaining in their own environment. Through AR, L’Oréal have been able to offer virtual makeup and hair color try-on experiences to their customers. For furniture retailers, AR has presented an opportunity for consumers to not only visualize furniture in their homes, but also make sure it fits in the space and style of their room.  

Include eCommerce recommendation algorithms to personalize the shopping experience. 

Sheer curiosity on the of variety of items available and what’s new in-store is one of the reasons why consumers shop offline. This experience can very easily be replicated in an online store environment by analyzing user browsing habits and investing in technology to sharpen eCommerce recommendation algorithms.  

When a consumer visits your site and starts browsing through your product inventory, the recommendation engine starts analyzing customer preferences based off search history, preferences, and shopping filters. Once the recommendation algorithms have established a pattern of preferences, it starts displaying a set of recommendation frames entitled “Selected for you”, “You might also like” or “Frequently bought together”.  This delivers a highly personalized experience and an opportunity to upsell and increase overall shopping cart value. 

Engage in conversational commerce through “Chatbots”. 

Many companies are using chatbots to instantly communicate with customers by providing real time customer service, addressing product related questions, and creating opportunities to upsell consumers through offering product suggestions based on requests, past orders and browsing history. In addition, chatbots are also a great way to guide consumers to complete their purchase through chat.  

Check out my earlier POV on How eCommerce is growing via Chatbots

Embrace social commerce. 

While Amazon has been the default go-to for everything throughout the pandemic, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and beyond already have cultivated a significant social commerce and alternative marketplace presence for many retailers.  

Essentially, social platforms like Facebook & Instagram Shop offer the opportunity to create an extension of your digital “Flagship Shop” and allows your customers to shop either directly from their social news feeds or from your Facebook Page, Instagram profile, Instagram Shopping ads, shoppable stories and beyond. 

It empowers you to engage with your followers (and potentially their network of friends) and create an interest based social commerce experience with the added flexibility of leveraging your social assets and user generated content available on your social environment. 

In addition, you are now in the position to shorten the buying cycle and improve your conversion rates because customers have got the option to checkout on the social app, or through messenger chat (enter chatbot and upsell opportunities) or get redirected to your website. 

Clearly, the shift to eCommerce is here to stay and presents an opportunity to exponentially expand your digital marketplace and online retail revenue. If you would like to explore how you can enhance your eCommerce experience and drive revenue growth, our subject matter experts will be happy to assist.  Please contact us today.   

POV by Farah Sadiq, EVP, GM, International

What You Should Know About Snapchat Brand Profiles

By eCommerce and Marketplaces, Social Media, Uncategorized No Comments

Public profiles for Businesses on Snapchat are now available for non-verified accounts. This is the perfect place for businesses to create and share their organic content.

What are Brand Profiles?

Brand Profiles offer a permanent home to companies on Snapchat and give businesses the ability to display and showcase all their unique engagements in one place. This includes created AR Lenses, native commerce stores, and content highlights. Think of Brand Profiles as your own website and storefront inside the Snapchat app.

Snapchat launched public profiles in mid-2020, but until recently, only verified creators could access this feature. Now, all Snapchatters can create public profiles and leverage the many promotional opportunities they offer.

Essentially, a public profile is your business’s home on Snapchat. Snapchatters can find it through search, on the Discovery tab, via lenses, or through a paid ad. They can also access it directly from a snapcode or shareable URL.

Why this is important:

Snapchat is a great social media platform where brands can share stories, publish AR lenses, share highlights with your public snaps & stories permanently (like with Instagram’s similar highlight features.) Once your profile is public, it become discoverable via Snapchat search.

Businesses can link their eCommerce store to their public profile and Snapchatters will see your Shopify store when visiting your profile, making it seamless for them to navigate around the shopping experience. Public profile also allows Snapchat users to share your profile with their peers.

If you need assistance in setting up your Business profile on Snapchat, please contact us. Our social media experts will be happy to assist you.

keyboard shopping button

The Key Factors Influencing Online Purchases

By eCommerce and Marketplaces, Insights & News, Social Commerce, Social Media No Comments

Facebook published a new report, using research derived from Hong Kong and Taiwan, that shows how digital media has reshaped the modern shopping process.

Among other trends, the report found that convenience continues to be the #1 purchase driver, underscoring the need for hyper-seamless checkout.

While the downside of online shopping is the lack of tangibility (which formats like live shopping and AR aim to address), the upside is the ability to compare prices and options, something that may be associated with declining brand loyalty.

The report explains that brand loyalty as we used to know it is under threat. According to Nielsen’s Global Consumer Loyalty study, only 8% of consumers consider themselves committed loyalist to their favorite brands. With the variety of choices presented in consumers’ lives today, coupled with rising spending powers relative to product costs, brand switching becomes effortless and less risky.

Why is this important? 

While the report is based on data from the APAC region, the findings have worldwide implications. Boosted by the pandemic, more consumers than ever are shopping online, and “have high expectations [that they] are not willing to lower when online shopping.”

Acronym’s EVP, International GM, Farah Sadiq explains:

“According to an Epsilon study, 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized service. Personalization in a messenger environment isn’t new to Facebook (the Facebook messenger bot has been around since 2018).

The key to success is for brands to build out a conversational eCommerce strategy that places prospects in a low pressure environment where they are comfortable sharing their budget and preferences and receptive to product recommendations in a highly visual (image or video based), engaging and personalized manner. In other words, access to your very own personal shopper at your finger tips.” 

What is the impact on brands?

Acronym’s VP of Asia Operations, Pearlyn Kua takes it a step further when it comes to the opportunities this report presents for brands.

“The disruption caused by the pandemic has evolved consumers’ buying behaviour due to shops being closed as the city goes into lockdown. Consumers’ usual go to products / brands may often become unavailable. This presents opportunity for businesses to capitalise as consumers establish new brand loyalties and patterns of purchasing behaviour.

In Asia, we have seen businesses revised their business models to remain agile through removing cumbersome processes & increased communication across teams. This allows them to continue business while remaining competitive and operational under stringent measures.”

Shopping of all types, not just physical products, is subject to rising consumer expectations.

While companies that sell consumer goods need to use creative new tools to help online shoppers get a sense for how products look and feel, companies selling services also need to up their game in providing engaging shopping experiences.

A fuss-free checkout process is equally important for every brand selling online.

In fact, the average shopping cart abandonment rate is 70%. But, it doesn’t have to be that high if brands pay attention to the customer’s experience and initial intent. Acronym’s Director of Paid Social Media, Gellena Lukats explains:

“We have found our dynamic product ads on Facebook drive some of the most efficient ROAS and revenue. Tapping into the audience that shows intent helps scale our campaigns and drive performance.”

In fact, the study goes on to show that continued engagement with consumers keeps them loyal. Per the study, an overwhelming majority of Hong Kong and Taiwan shoppers want brands to stay in touch with them and have indicated an interest to receive brand communications from brands.

We recommend optimizing your brand’s online shopping experience, including experimenting with new creative formats, like live-stream shopping, brand stores, or shoppable posts.

If you’d like more information, including a deep-dive competitive and customer analysis of these purchase opportunities for your brand, contact us today.