Annex Cloud Shines at Shop.org’s 2018 Digital Summit

by Sean Ogino |

Annex Cloud Shines at Shop.org’s 2018 Digital Summit

Annex Cloud Shop.org

Last week, Annex Cloud attended the annual Shop.org Digital Summit held at the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Thought leaders and retail experts from all over convened to see what’s happening in the industry. Our very own Ariel Bubb gave an intriguing lecture entitled Artificial Intelligence & How it Works with Loyalty, diving into how we can use AI to retain customers. Meanwhile, the Annex Cloud Events Team was holding down the booth answering questions and giving consultations.

“The show was amazing, we were bombarded by retailers asking for advice on their strategy,” said Derek Watkins, Sales Development Consultant for Annex Cloud. “The conversations were fantastic, I love hearing first-hand what customers need help with and what we can do to support their goals.”

Shop.org is looking to change the face of retail by bringing innovative brands and startups together. Retailers like Nike, Wayfair, & Nordstrom’s were all present while celebrity personalities Serena Williams and DJ Pauly D made guest appearances. Many workshops, exhibitions, and lectures took place on retail topics ranging from blockchain technology to mobile innovation.

shop.org
Leaders in retail discuss future trends at Shop.org

During Thursday’s rounds of retail workshops, Annex Cloud’s Senior Marketing Consultant Ariel Bubb gave a speech on how Annex Cloud uses artificial intelligence to project future markets in retail. She went specifically into how we accrue customer data to teach AI systems to deliver advanced audience segments. “We have the technology to use AI to target cohorts of customers, automate incentives, and break through the noise to keep customer attention,” said Ariel Bubb. “It’s amazing to see the future unfold in front of us and we’re doing everything we can to ensure Annex Cloud is on the forefront of innovation.”

Annex Cloud is excited to lead the charge and be a thought leader for change in retail. We are honored that Shop.org asked us to speak on artificial intelligence and how it affects customer loyalty. We are making major strides in market projections and AI and will continue to innovate to help our customers grow. By using AI, our customers see greater ROI, higher average order value, and longer customer longevity overall. If you have any questions about artificial intelligence or just need help with your upcoming marketing strategy, contact us for a consultation and we can help you build a solution that’s right for you.

Annex Cloud’s Ariel Bubb to Speak on Artificial Intelligence in Retail at Shop.org

artificial intelligence

We are proud to announce that our very own Ariel Bubb will be presenting on September 13th at the Shop.org retail conference in Las Vegas! During her lecture “Artificial Intelligence & How it Works with Loyalty,” she will take a deep dive into trends in ecommerce, how artificial intelligence is playing a role, and how best to strategize your loyalty program around AI.

“I am so very excited to have the opportunity to speak at Shop.org,” said Ariel Bubb, Senior Marketing Specialist at Annex Cloud. “We are making major strides in how artificial intelligence affects loyalty, so to be able to educate the industry on the subject is a true honor.”

According to a survey by BrightEdge, the next big marketing trends are consumer personalization (29%) and artificial intelligence (26%). This is where our efforts overlap, as Annex Cloud uses personalization and AI to create a segmented marketing strategy for loyalty. And since 77% of ROI already comes from segmented campaigns, we believe the use of artificial intelligence will raise that number even higher.

In addition to Ariel’s presentation on AI, the Annex Cloud team will be answering questions and consulting retail professionals over at Booth 501. By partnering directly with organizers, publishing informative content, and being an active part of the retail community, we set ourselves apart as thought leaders in the industry. If you have any questions about artificial intelligence or have questions about your marketing strategy, please contact us for a consultation!

Case Study: How to Build a Successful B2B Loyalty Program

B2B Loyalty Case Study

B2B Loyalty Overview:

It is very true that there is no one-size-fits-all loyalty program. Especially not in the business-to-business industry. The B2B space is such a specific market with a narrower audience, so it must be treated as such. That means audience segmentation and personalized incentives are that much more important. This study will review how Annex Cloud helped two industry-leading companies build out their B2B loyalty programs and what impact it had on those brands.

Goals of B2B Loyalty:

Though the strategies may differ, there are several common goals of a B2B loyalty programs. These businesses both needed to increase customer spend and increase customer lifetime value. This can be challenging in B2B because the market is not only competitive but niche as well. They wanted to build brand advocacy and basically create a community of ambassadors. They also needed to reduce discounts on items. We live in an economy so deeply entrenched by discounting that retailers and B2B companies alike have the challenge of migrating away from it as to maximize product return.

Our Solution:

Every loyalty solution has its challenges but B2B requires another level of personalization. Both of these companies opted for Annex Cloud not only because we have a unified marketing platform with customer loyalty, user-generated content, and referral marketing capability, but also because we work with businesses to create a custom implementation strategy.

Annex Cloud also helps companies nurture their relationships with existing customers through personalized incentives, which in turn increases customer spend and average customer lifetime value. These incentives inspire customers to become brand advocates where they’re more likely to take actions like referring a friend or reviewing an item. It’s about following the customer journey from beginning to end and building a true community around their B2B brand.

B2B Rewards:

The key to rewarding in the business-to-business space is allowing your customers to sample your products risk-free. If you offer an impressive product catalog with a great loyalty offering, they are more likely to purchase. It’s a low risk scenario if built surrounding high-margin products. This B2B model implemented by Annex Cloud has proven to help support sales and drive revenue.

Consumer Electronics

Client A: Consumer Electronics

Objective:

Our client, a leading consumer electronics company, built a very successful model around selling office electronics like computers, monitors, copiers, and printers to small businesses around the world. They wanted to implement a B2B loyalty program that would sign up more users and build a community of brand advocates.

They had so many questions about best practices for strategy and segmentation. How do we best incentivize with the B2B model? How do we grow our customer base while creating meaningful relationships with our existing customer base? They chose Annex Cloud for its experience in creating very personalized incentives specific to the B2B industry.

Results:

Soon after launch, we saw major wins for the program. By designing a solution specific to our client’s B2B sales goals, we positioned them as a leader in SMB loyalty. Since initiating this campaign, we have already signed up over 100,000 businesses for the program. We also saw a 7% increase in repeat purchase rate and a 9% increase in customer lifetime value. However, probably the largest takeaway from the program has been building a community of 10,000 brand advocates. By building a custom solution with Annex Cloud and by leveraging their user-generated content, our client is seeing a huge increase in partnering businesses and overall brand awareness.

b2b loyalty

Client B: Physician Loyalty

Objective:

Our other client is a large specialty healthcare company with an array of products like over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals. Their primary objective was to build a loyalty program targeting physicians, which of course brought a lot of challenges. How do we keep a physician’s attention when there’s so much competition in healthcare? How do we reduce discounting and still keep them engaged? Luckily, Annex Cloud specializes in using long-term incentives to keep attention and to help reduce discounting.

Results:

By implementing a tiered program where discounts depend on the physicians’ spend, we have been able to see major benchmarks in performance. We have now signed up 70% of our client’s current customer base since the launch of the campaign. We also saw a 6% increase in customer spend and an 8% increase in customer lifetime value. But what we’re most impressed by is the 25% decrease in discounting. For a healthcare company of that scale, to reduce discounts by a quarter is a huge plus. By working with Annex Cloud to award returning customers and by personalizing incentives, our client was able to surpass its goals in customer acquisition and discounts.

To learn more about how Annex Cloud can help your business grow, contact us or schedule a demo today.

Why Your Ecommerce Sales Strategy is Incomplete Without a Customer Loyalty Solution

Customer Loyalty

Once upon a time, an ecommerce company could get away with just a simple website that sold products. Then one day the industry progressed to the point that we all needed to incorporate an email service provider. And now, we have Amazon, Walmart.com, and the other retail powerhouses creating new standards for ecommerce fulfillment, price, and service. According to TechCrunch, Amazon accounts for 49% of all ecommerce sales. The closest competitor is eBay with 5% of total ecommerce transactions. This chaotic battle for market share has forced other retailers to get creative with how they use customer loyalty to incentivize their customers.

Ecommerce SalesThe Amazon Effect:

In 2017, Amazon saw $177 billion in sales revenue. This year, they’re projected to clear $258 billion. Features like Q&A, item comparison, and peer reviews have forced smaller retailers to get creative with their own user experience.

They also built one of the most unique customer loyalty programs in retail history. With its innovative paid loyalty model, Amazon Prime has changed the way millions of us shop each year. It’s also very diverse in scope, as Prime subscription benefits can range from free two-day shipping to streaming thousands of movies. And now that Amazon has acquired Whole Foods, it’s become that much more convenient for the customer. And to think it all started with books…

The Issues:

With the dominance of the third party aggregators like Amazon, Google Shop, and Walmart.com, it’s becoming harder and harder to keep a consumer’s attention. So many factors come into play on why this is such a problem.

Distractions:

When your products are being advertised on third party sites, they’re being compared apples-to-apples against hundreds of similar products. Google Shop’s comparison tool places the most relevant goods with the best price right next to your products. Not only that, but customers are channel-hopping across various ecommerce sites, social media, and other sources to get as much information as possible about your product. According to a study done by CommerceHub, 86% of purchasers change channels when buying online. So if your reviews, Q&A, and product descriptions don’t check out, your potential customer has a lot of other options to choose from.

Trust:

customer loyaltyThe cost of acquisition is currently higher than the cost of inflation, a detrimental stat for marketers and ecommerce professionals. This is attributed to lack of trust in retailers and institutions in general. “The trust that consumers have in brands is going down tremendously,” stated Al Lalani, Chief Strategist of Annex Cloud. “Customers are researching more and looking for peer reviews across many channels, thus increasing the acquisition cost of that customer.”

The Solutions:

Though there is no one simple solution to this problem, there are a few strategies that can help your brand better position itself against the competition.

Omni-channel:

It’s so vital for a brand to have a strong presence across all industry-related platforms. That includes a great ecommerce store, third party aggregators, mobile devices, and social media. Once a customer is acquired through a good omni-channel campaign, it’s important to incentivize them to return for future purchases. This is done with omni-channel loyalty. Say you’re a shoe manufacturer and a customer just purchased your shoes on Amazon. Because advertising on Amazon means more cost to you and more distraction to your customer, it’s in your best interest to convince the customer to purchase from you directly in the future. This can be done by incentivizing the consumer with offers like $10 off their next shoe purchase or offering free socks with each purchase.

Retention Through Customer Loyalty:

No matter how you acquire a customer, it’s important to make them want to buy from you again. The cost of acquiring a customer is greater than the cost of retaining a customer, so incentivizing right after the initial point of purchase is your best chance of nurturing that relationship. According to Ciceron, a satisfied customer will contribute on average 14x more revenue to a business compared to a dissatisfied customer. It’s about not only rewarding after a purchase, but incentivizing them when they take actions like posting photos with your products. It’s about breaking out of the points-for-purchase model and building a real community around your brand. When you cater to your customers, they gain a sense of inclusion and are more likely to purchase in the future.

Annex Cloud helps bridge the gap between retailer and consumer. By working with the retailer and creating a custom loyalty solution, we generally see an increased average order value and decreased cost of retention. The old days of getting by on an ecommerce site alone are behind us. It’s an absolute necessity for retailers to incentivize their customers with customer loyalty. If you either don’t have a loyalty program or you just want to get more out of your program, contact us and we’ll be sure to help you out!

Annex Cloud Educates Industry at eTail East in Boston

Etail East

This week, Annex Cloud hit the open road to set up shop at eTail East in Boston! We wanted to see what the industry has to say about the current climate of ecommerce and profitability. Our fearless leader Al Lalani gave a presentation on Retention in the Age of Distraction, which explained how the use of innovative rewards boosts customer engagement and longevity. Meanwhile, the rest of our team gave demos and answered customer questions over at the Annex Cloud Booth.

“Of the many summits and events we attend, eTail East brought us the most meaningful conversations about the industry’s needs,” stated Ariel Bubb, Head of Events at Annex Cloud. “I learned that no matter how big your brand is, there’s always room for growth. It’s also great to know that because we provide such a suite of tools, we truly have something for everybody at eTail East.”

eTailThe annual eTail East Conference is dedicated to innovating and disrupting the current ecommerce model. Executives and thought leaders from major brands like Ethan Allen, Jet.com, and Wayfair come from around the world to discuss future trends in the industry. Various educational workshops were held, ranging from the scalability of retail to the use of artificial intelligence in ecommerce.

During the Chairperson’s Opening Remarks, our Chief Strategist Al Lalani gave a speech about the challenges the retail industry faces regarding customer retention. He also went into the solutions to combat these issues, such as designing a more engaging loyalty program and using audience segmentation to customize incentives.

“Personalization has significantly evolved when it comes to our customers,” said Lalani. “Consumers today are becoming more and more demanding of us and our only response is to listen and become more knowledgeable of our customers.”

Annex Cloud is making strides in setting itself apart as a thought leader in customer loyalty. We are continuously asked to lecture and get involved in ecommerce and retail conferences in effort to educate the industry on consumer behavior. We are very fortunate because with every summit we attend, we are able to gain more knowledge to better serve our clients. eTail East had another amazing show and we’re so thankful to be included! Our next stop is Shop.org’s 2018 Digital Summit in Las Vegas so stay tuned for more from the Annex Cloud events team!

Why There is No “One Size Fits All” Customer Loyalty Solution

loyalty program

A loyalty program can truly run the gamut when it comes to features and functionality. However, some loyalty programs limit ecommerce and retail brands to plug-and-play, one-size-fits-all models. The problem with that is every business has different products, which means different goals and sales strategies. So how can a clothing brand and an electronics startup … Read more

Year-End Countdown: The Best Loyalty Programs 2016

loyalty1

As the end of the year approaches, people can’t help but reflect on the year that has just gone by and think about the upcoming new year filled with possibilities. That’s especially true for marketers. At the end of every year, they can see what progress they have made, on which metrics they have thrived, where they have failed, and what they can do better in the new year. While doing so, marketers should also take a look at others. Especially at things that embody quality and creativity, whether it’s a marketing campaign, digital outreach, a contest or a press release. Naturally, the best customer loyalty programs of 2016 wouldn’t be out of this list; especially considering the fact that they’re the most powerful, efficient and measurable tool to achieve customer retention. With that said, let’s take a look at the best loyalty programs that have outperformed others during 2016:

Best Loyalty Programs 2016 #1: GameStop Power-Up Rewards

Even though it’s relatively unknown in the retail industry, GameStop’s loyalty program has been hitting new benchmarks of success. Members just have to sign up for a free or paid membership and they can earn points based on purchases in GameStop stores and the US website. Then, they can simply redeem those points for discounts or merchandise. GameStop Power-Up Rewards   The most luminous part of the program is that members of the paid version have the chance to get their hands on the Game Informer magazine. Game Informer magazine is the fourth largest consumer publication in the US and it’s also the largest subscribed digital magazine in the world. Unsurprisingly, it became the USP of the program. GameStop is also thinking about converting it into an outlet to generate extra revenue from advertising. The program became even more solid after it became mobile friendly–the GameStop mobile app has been installed over 5 million times. It is safe to say that due to all the right things that this program put in place, it generated more than satisfactory results. In fact, according to Forrester Research Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, 75% of the GameStop store revenues are coming from those memberships. Moreover, 50% of transactions are reported to have a PowerUp Rewards card attached to them.

Best E-commerce Loyalty Platforms 2016 #2: Costco

Costco, the largest membership-only warehouse club in the United States, came up with a tiered loyalty program with three segments–gold star, business and executive–in which members are rewarded with super discounted groceries and household goods in bulk. Of course, the rewards keep customers coming back because who doesn’t like to buy extra discounted products? But what gives the program an extra push is its ease of use. All customers have to do is swipe their membership card during checkout. Despite having three structures, the program is extremely simple and easy to understand. Any loyalty program needs an easy-to-see value proposition and it needs to have simplicity. Costco’s loyalty program has both in abundance, so it’s no coincidence that 90% of sales are generated from existing customers, even though the company is charging its customers to be members of the loyalty program. People have to pay $55 per year to be in the gold star and business level, and the joining fee rises to $110 to be in the executive bracket. It’s impressive that while Walmart and Target struggle amidst competition from Amazon, Costco has 81 million paying members and it’s still growing.

Best Loyalty Programs 2016 #3: British Food Depot

British Food Depot, the online provider of quality English and British foods, really redefined the definition of simplicity in the context of best loyalty programs. The program has only one tier with rewards of store credit for every purchase. Moreover, to make it as user friendly as possible, the program doesn’t even bother its customers for enrollment or point redemption. The points are redeemed automatically as soon as they spend a minimum of $50. British Food Depot   Now, not requiring any efforts from customers is a very unique feature for a loyalty program. They don’t need to think about how much they should spend to earn a specific number of points, or how many points they have in their accounts. The automatic redemption mechanism converts points into rewards as soon as the minimum amount is collected. Obviously, the ease of earning rewards along with the ease of using those rewards became the hallmark of this super effective program.

Best Loyalty Programs 2016 #4: Amazon Prime

While critics are whining about Amazon’s loyalty program’s lack of true value to customers, Amazon Prime keeps winning customers by pleasing its loyal members in all possible ways. Apart from its range of exclusive offers, like thousands of free movies and music and free 2-day shipping, they came up with an online supermarket for its UK loyal members. And as expected from Amazon, that’s spot on as far as value offering is concerned. For an extra £6.99 monthly fee, Prime members have access to AmazonFresh, which allows them to:

  • Order fresh fruit, vegetables and other grocery products online
  • Get quicker delivery for 130,000 products at a relatively cheaper rate
  • Get specialty foods from local suppliers

Amazon has always been a master of understanding its customers’ needs, and by bringing Amazon Fresh to UK, the company transformed the boringness of weekly shopping into easy and few clicks. And to further the ease of shopping, Amazon has joined hands with large supermarket chains like Morrisons. grocery products online

Best Loyalty Programs 2016 #5: Hyatt Gold Passport:

Hyatt, the highly respected luxury hotel brand, really knows how to reward its loyal guests. The company is aware that the experiential and not the monetary benefits are going to touch people considering the hospitable nature of its business. With that in mind, it launched Hyatt Gold Passport guest loyalty program to ensure that its guests stay will be as pleasant as possible by offering “right” rewards. Hyatt Gold Passport   Members of this program can avail benefits, such as earning five points per dollar spent to redeem towards free nights with no blackout dates, room upgrades, and airline miles. Besides, the highest tier members get 4 suite upgrades yearly and upon qualifying for the first time. This privilege can be enjoyed by the members for 7 nights without the need of any sort of booking. Besides, members can earn and exchange rewards across Hyatt’s 12 hotel brands. If you look at all the best loyalty programs 2016 examples, it’s easy to believe that if you are offering good rewards, your program will sail through your customer’s preference. But there are many programs that have eaten dust despite lucrative rewards. Simplicity needs to accompany rewards to ensure easy collection and redemption of earned points. The lesson that marketers can learn from all the aforementioned examples is that a convenient program will always further enhance one that has excellent rewards, after all “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

The Luxury Industry in the eCommerce World

Luxury Industry

Online shoppers won’t find a price list or an “add to cart” button when they visit the website of iconic watchmaker Patek Philippe.  The homepage is not dominated by limited edition timepieces. Instead, there is a commercial featuring a father congratulating his young son for winning a cricket match. A tradition where customers can look but not purchase, is certainly typical of luxury goods websites. Clearly, failure to make a full-fledged leap to eCommerce is the biggest problem that the luxury industry has been wrestling with for a long time. This problem was born in the digital age and it’s a manifolded one.

Besides the craft and elegance of its products, a big selling point for the luxury goods industry is the deeply satisfying and emotion-evoking in-store experience that brands can provide customers with. Indeed, the feeling of going to a showroom and taking a test drive on a luxury car or trying on a piece of jewelry with the help of a super dedicated salesperson in front of a shiny mirror, is something hard to replicate in online shopping. Luxury manufacturers and marketers believe that if the unparalleled experience of the store is gone, customers’ footfall will be gone too.

There is this conception, even among luxury marketers, that luxury and internet are like an oil and water combination: unrealizable. They believe that luxury is about scarcity and exclusivity, and that the internet is about mass. Thus, to juxtapose their opposite natures is the real pain point. And the problem is worsened by millennials, who expect brands to be available online but become apprehensive with just one sub-par experience with those brands. According to Hearst’s New Language of Luxury study, 54% of millennials feel that when luxury brands become easily accessible, they cease to feel luxury.This really puts forth a dichotomous nature on this particular issue and explains the luxury industry’s impulse to avoid ecommerce and digitalization in general. Despite the rising tide of online shopping, luxury retailers are only dipping a toe in the water, as only 10% of sales in that market happen online.

But in the era where digitalization has invaded each and every life and has become a great class equalizer, the luxury buyer can be anywhere on any digital platform. Hence, luxury marketers have realized that there’s an online world and many understand the need to be part of that world.Thus targeting social media and allowing people to shop from their homes is a must. Of course, this will have to be done by trying to replicate the in-store experience as much as possible by keeping uniqueness and exclusivity intact.

There are definitely certain luxury brands who have been walking on that path and they have understood the value of content in doing so. They have also realized how that online content must complement the in-store experience, and that the product range must complement what is sold through stores. Net-A-Porter, the UK luxury cloth designer, is creating high-fashion, magazine-style spreads that showcase products as part of editorial pieces. It has integrated that content with its ecommerce portion of the site to allow a smooth transition between brand experience and online purchasing.

Mr. Porter, Net-A-Porter’s sister brand, has further fostered this spray of digitalization. This October, Mr Porter came up with its first shoppable application for Apple TV in which users can connect their digital shopping experience with rich video content.

luxury1

 

The completion of the total omni-channel and digitalized experience happens as soon as the mobile phones gets in the picture. Tiffany & Co, an American luxury jewelry and specialty retailer, has guessed it and has worked accordingly. It launched its Tiffany’s Ring Finder app in August/September 2015, which was neither a makeshift eCommerce platform nor a miniature of its brand’s website. It had a proper incorporation of the unique features of a mobile device to engage and educate the consumer.

luxury2

 

The app enabled customers to narrow down their search efforts by providing various styles and materials. By allowing them to use touchscreen to find their ring size using any ring they already have, Tiffany’s app eased the shopping complexities that many online shoppers face. Thus, with this app, people can know more about new styles and designs, figure out what sort of ring they want, can make a personal in-store appointment and discuss about their new purchases and opinions of others about new arrivals.

Continue reading this article… 

In the above examples, the most important point is how the luxury industry has been able to understand the luxury consumers’ need of having a meaningful relationship with luxury brands. And also that this need goes beyond a cold and plain buying and selling activity. That need is met by making the brand available at all the touchpoints, which resonates with buyers even in luxury categories where eCommerce might seem counterintuitive, like automotive. Maserati, the Italian luxury car manufacturer, sold 100 of its newly launched SUV model in China through Tmall, a Chinese-language website for business-to-customers, in just 18 seconds!

The crux of the matter is, the luxury industry cannot afford to let the vast pool of customers, which is there on various digital media platforms and devices, off the hook. The demographics are changing. It’s not like the good old days where very few had the financial muscles to buy luxury goods. We have more millionaires and billionaires now than any other time in the history. McKinsey & Co is assuming that by 2025, the online share of total luxury sales is expected to triple to 18%, worth a massive €70 billion annually. Naturally, luxury brands will have to cast their net much deeper to catch new buyers, and it would be next to impossible to achieve that without eCommerce and digitalized omni-channel experience.

Note: We have always given a deep and comprehensive thought to the luxury industry. This is the blog where we have discussed how visual commerce can be used for the benefit of the luxury industry. Get your eyes on this blog to know which things a luxury marketer should keep in mind while implementing a loyalty program.   

5 Vital Tactics for Wayfair’s Marketing Success

wayfair's marketing

Wayfair isn’t yet a household name like Walmart or Amazon, but it looks like this scenario is rapidly changing. As per Internet Retailer, the web-only furniture store saw 770,000 new customers last quarter—the most in any quarter to date. Sales on Wayfair’s websites increased 85.5% to $2.04 billion, up from $1.10 billion. Not just that- for the five-day holiday period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, its gross revenue from online orders increased 130% year over year. Wayfair’s marketing strategy has five actionable steps that can be implemented by any business. Apart from Wayfair’s marketing strategy, it includes logistics, business model, and more.

To reap such awe-inspiring results, it’s quite obvious that Wayfair must have planned and executed many things with the precision of a surgeon. Then be it quality products, supply chain, good and robust business model, or a technical decision like merging their over 200 websites into one…the list can be long. But despite all, this success story was impossible without the support of marketing. Let’s take a look at how exactly Wayfair’s marketing strategy has helped them achieve such tremendous growth.

Wayfair Marketing Strategy Uses Various Social Media Platforms

Pinterest Prowess
Wayfair currently sells more than 7 million items from over 12,000 brands. How can one make all these products easily discoverable? Well, Pinterest–which has become the de facto social channel for home decor–helps a lot.

wayfair's marketing

Wayfair’s marketing team is using Pinterest to enable people to share and comment on the content, which obviously raises engagement and brand visibility. Though it’s very common nowadays to see the “Pin It” button on many retailers’ pages, Wayfair was one of the first retailers to use this feature on its site. Each pin includes a direct link to the product on Wayfair.com.

Since its inception, Wayfair has always been overly visual and image-driven. That means it was a snap to promote its wares on Pinterest. Today it is the most active company on the social site, with the highest number of boards. What is noticeable in Wayfair’s marketing on Pinterest is their sound understanding of target customers. Most of their sales come from middle-aged women…and Wayfair is pitch-perfect with related boards. Boards about after school snack and other recipes may not directly relate to their products, but they are unavoidable in generating engagement of this category of women buyers. Wayfair is wise enough to figure out that sales will not be in sight without this sort of engagement!

Similarly, Wayfair devised a Thanksgiving contest for their Pinterest followers. They asked their followers to create a Thanksgiving table board and repin at least 5 pins from Wayfair. The winner was rewarded with a $100 Wayfair gift card.

wayfair-2

The results of these efforts were more than satisfactory.

  • Wayfair found that Pinterest referrals are 10% more likely to make a purchase and they also spend 10% more on average.
  • The Thanksgiving contest resulted in a 5x increase in sales, a 60% increase in web traffic, and an 89% page view increase.

Excellent SEO optimization
The massive reach and monopoly of Google have made one thing clear: If people can’t see your website, you are out of their sight. Just recently Wayfair announced the launch of a proprietary search engine marketing platform in Europe. Known as Athena, it has been the axis around which Wayfair’s search engine marketing success in America revolved. Needless to say, it has brought significant revenue growth for the business.

Ed Macri, Chief Product & Marketing Officer, Wayfair, commented, “With the development and deployment of Athena in the U.S., Wayfair has dramatically improved its ability to reach customers across a long tail of search terms, bring those customers to the products they are searching for, and, as a result, drive greater revenue and profitability”.

The gist is, with more than 7 million products, Wayfair was in a dire need of a customized approach that could have enabled them to connect effectively with people to achieve the long-term goal of customer acquisition. As Athena is built on Wayfair’s big data expertise, it allows Wayfair to increase return on ad spend, streamline workflows and improve overall marketing campaign performance. And this is exactly what is needed to create, manage, and monitor marketing campaigns.

Add More Advertisements
Wayfair’s marketing team has always relied heavily on display, retargeting, and search ads. As of June 2015 they were spending at least 50% of their monthly display budget on programmatic ads. They’ve also seen great results with Google’s In-Market Audiences. Not long after the launch of Athena this year, the furniture giant leveraged its in-house engineering, data science, and marketing teams to launch Magellan, a proprietary display ad platform. According to Marketing Dive, “Magellan will deliver highly relevant product recommendations across Wayfair.com and within advertisements, leveraging consumer data insights to enhance the personalization.”

On-Site User Generated Content
Wayfair’s on-site marketing is highly dependent on several forms of user-generated content (UGC), including idea boards, questions and answers, and ratings and reviews. These tactics make use of customer curiosity and passion to inform and inspire other shoppers. UGC can increase site revenue by up to 20%, and Wayfair’s idea boards drive 31% of mobile app revenue.

Superstars as Brand Ambassadors
Wayfair really exhibited its spark of innovative marketing skills when it collaborated with both Ashley  Monroe, country singer-songwriter and interior designer, Brad Ramsey, to redesign her Nashville-based writer’s room—the place where she gets her creative vibes. The idea was to redesign it with a variety of Wayfair products. The choice of celebrity was just right for Wayfair’s target audience, and it was a slightly more subtle promotion than many types of ads and endorsements. Plus, to add the element of attraction and exclusivity, Wayfair.com was the only place where fans could have listened to Monroe’s new track, for an exclusive 24-hour period before the song was officially released elsewhere.  Wayfair’s marketing team has worked with other celebrities, too, like HGTV stars Joanna and Chip Gaines.   Indeed, not the marketing plan, but innovative and interesting marketing plan is going to save you. The tried and tested methods will be as successful as your competitors’. Because they are implementing the same methods and you will lose the essential element- brand differentiation.

Design Your Own Marketing Strategy Just Like Wayfair

Wayfair has certainly infused new and exciting blood in the veins of marketing and its superiority is proven by the overwhelming results. No wonder that Wayfair was ranked as North America’s Best E-Retail Marketer this year by Internet Retailer.

Maybe that’s what has boosted the confidence of Niraj Shah, co-founder of Wayfair to say, “You can’t build a consumer brand overnight. But in a year or two, if you ask people where the best place to shop online for home goods is, can we get them to say, ‘Wayfair’? We think that’s very possible.”

Design Your Own Marketing Strategy Just Like Wayfair

Since every business is different, Wayfair marketing strategy must be optimized for every business. If you are looking to implement Wayfair marketing strategy to your own business with precision, or just want to know more about the marketing strategies to grow your business, contact our experts at Annex Cloud now!

The Biggest Holiday 2016 Retail Trends

Biggest Holiday

We are heading towards the holiday season slowly but steadily, and markets are buzzing with the excitement. To really win this upcoming holiday season, it’s a must to know how and what customers are buying, what their preferences are, what sort of personalization and messaging they like, and more. Without further ado, here are our picks for the biggest holiday 2016 retail trends.

A) Arrival Of Single’s Day In America:

Single’s Day is an entertaining festival widespread among young Chinese people, to celebrate the fact that they are proud of being single. This day already been considered as one of the largest online shopping days in the world, with sales in Alibaba’s sites Tmall and Taobao at US $5.8 billion in 2013, US $9.3 billion in 2014, and over US $14.3 billion in 2015. Considering the total number of Chinese people living in America, more retailers will focus on Single’s Day, which falls on 11th November. Besides, it also opens up new opportunities for retailers to target a diverse market along with the expansion of international sales and Single’s Day is a perfect platform to do that.

Alibaba's Single's Day 2015 sales counter, courtesy of Forbes
Alibaba’s Single’s Day 2015 sales counter, courtesy of Forbes

B) Shopping Starts Earlier:

Though Black Friday and Cyber Monday have long been considered as the crowns of holiday sales, there are signs of a shift in holiday 2016 retail trends.  As per a Google/Ipsos Media CT study, shoppers are starting earlier. In 2014, 61% began gift research before Halloween and 48% completed shopping by Cyber Monday. It’s a reflection of a fragmented shopping behavior which is the outcome of digitalization. Now, people can browse the product categories and decide on a whim what to buy…but when to buy depends on multiple factors like needs, store vicinity, waiting for more discounts and sales. We can say that, in 2016, retailers will have to think about year-long strategies to capture more of those shopping moments.

Selfridges opened their Christmas 2016 shop on August 1. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Selfridges opened their Christmas 2016 shop on August 1. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

C) Social Commerce May Flourish:

Brands and well as social media platforms are under the pressure to find new ways of monetization. Though 2015 saw a push in social commerce efforts as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest promoted their respective “buy buttons” and some brands did experiments with social media buying activity, they didn’t yield a massive response which could have been noticed. This holiday season may change it. But its success will depend lot on how easily users in a social mindset can be converted to buyers, but brands (and the platforms that support them) are motivated to monetize these critical channels.

D) Mobile Mania:

4 in 5 smartphone holiday shoppers used their phone during spare moments or while doing other activities last year, and 43% of mobile shoppers in consumer electronics have purchased products on their phones while looking at those products in-store. Given stats like these, it’s not even a question whether mobile will hold a key in holiday 2016 retail trends. The question is how much impact it will exert on holiday shopping. Of course, we’re not just talking in terms of plain buying and selling activity. Mobile plays an important role in promoting your products and deals, and the “anywhere, anytime” shopping access that mobile guarantees affects the buying decision of customers in different ways. The following chart shows a relationship between phone-viewing and shopping decisions during the holiday season. statistics   With enhancements in mobile use due to apps, beacon technology, SMS, mPOS, and click-and-collect, an unprecedented rise in m-commerce will be one of the key holiday 2016 retail trends.

E) Omni-Channel Shopping Experiences:

The success of retailers during this holiday season will be tied up with the mechanism that focuses less on the transaction and more on the interaction.  Nearly 7 in 10 holiday shoppers say it’s important that a retailer offers multiple ways for customers to interact with it. Again, it is not just related to the core and cold buying experience across all the channel. It deals with uniform and unique brand promotion, communication and transaction experience across your website, social media page, emails and print material.

The wholeness of this approach goes beyond seasonal holiday shopping. It serves as an important raw material in building brand loyalty and great rapport with your customers, which ensures that your holiday shoppers will stick with you after the season is over. This is primarily because stores aren’t just places that sell products. They sell a customer experience too!

F) Technology Upsurge:

Many online businesses have grappled with a weak link of being not able to give customers a full view and feel of products that they sell. This holiday season may see technology doing its best to overcome this hurdle through experimentation with VR, which will move beyond gaming and into other territories such as virtual social gatherings, data visualizations and even entirely new ways to experience ecommerce, as stated by Brent Shroyer.

Wrapping It Up:

What customers want for this holiday season is very clear. They need seamless, simple, super-interactive ways to purchase what they want. But there is not one or a perfect way to do it. The answer lies in the customized combination of the above-mentioned trends that suit your business, product segments, and target customers such as customized referral programs or contests for Instagram just to name a few. Regardless of whatever strategies you devise, the common denominator will always be there–mobile.  It lets marketers be everywhere at every moment. It can become your lucky charm this holiday season!

3 Best Practices For Visual Commerce

Visual Commerce

Internet users are known to have nearly instantaneous reactions to what they see on their screens. In less than 50 milliseconds, users experience an initial “gut feeling” that help them decide whether they’ll stay or leave. This first impression depends on many factors including structure, colors, spacing, symmetry, and amount of text, fonts, and more. … Read more

Facebook Is Dabbling in Online Shops…Again

Facebook shops

Everyone is joining the ecommerce game. Facebook is following suit behind Pinterest by testing new Facebook stores, which let companies set up ecommerce shops within their current Facebook pages. Facebook made previous attempts to enter the ecommerce space but has seen relatively little success. Last year they introduced a Buy button similar to Pinterest’s Buyable Pins. … Read more

Push Your eCommerce Company Into Rapid Growth

Whether you’re a mid size retailer or manufacturer just starting out in the world of eCommerce, your goal is to grow your business rapidly and get new customers before your competitors do.  Traditional marketing is no longer effective with today’s social and mobile customer base. Augmenting your eCommerce business with Social Commerce is the surefire way to acquire new customers, engage and convert them quickly, and keep them coming back. Online commerce empowers owners of mids

ecommerceize and startup companies in ways that simply wasn’t possible in the foot traffic days of brick-n-mortar business. As Internet virtually eliminated the constraints of location, the physical foot traffic gave way to the digital foot traffic. One such powerful source of digital foot traffic is Social Media.

Following are some ways Social Commerce can push your eCommerce business into rapid growth.

Level the Competitive Playing Field

As your company grows you are competing with enterprise companies for customer’s attention and only half the advertising budget. Social Commerce helps level this playing field when it comes to traffic, engagement, compelling content, and loyalty. In the digital and social media space, midsize and new businesses can compete on a more equal basis with well-crafted Social Media campaigns, contests, and other social marketing programs. Creating a national television commercial is incredibly expensive, but creating a compelling, visually stunning social media campaign is well within the means of even a small ad budget. And should a social post go viral, your company gets the opportunity to experience the same level of attention their enterprise competitors receive at a much lower cost.

Expand Your Business Faster

Sure, the people in your region love your clothing boutique. The people in other states and countries probably would too, if they knew about it and had a convenient way to shop. When you add eCommerce to your bricks and mortar business, you open the door to a potentially worldwide audience. Setting up an online storefront is remarkably easy these days, including setting up “shopping cart” technology and secure online checkout. You’ll need to invest in high quality images of the products you sell, but these can be used as part of your local traditional advertising strategy as well. Augmenting that with a solid set of social commerce tools opens the door to a vast wealth of User Generated Content including ratings and reviews, image galleries and social conversations. You can utilize this to improve your customer service, expand your marketing content, and reach a wider range of customers.

Mobility Empowers More Customers

In the last quarter of 2014, more traffic arrived at online stores from mobile devices than desktop computers. The lines between mobile and social started blurring when over 80% of off-line shopping experiences began on a mobile device.

eCommerce capitalizes on this mobile revolution, particularly when businesses make the mobile shopping experience  as simple, aesthetically pleasing, and frictionless as possible. If you are just starting your business’s eCommerce strategy, then “mobile first” should be your guiding principle. Website architecture needs to be suited to the mobile experience, and fortunately, more web developers than ever are cognizant of this and are making it a priority to create websites that are visually appealing, responsive, and functional for both desktops views and mobile use.

Another promising trend in mobile eCommerce is the convergence of people who use mobile to strictly browse and people who actually complete purchases on their mobile devices. People are  becoming more and more comfortable shopping from mobile devices, and technology is allowing businesses to make the mobile checkout process fast, seamless, and intuitive.

This quickly developing shift towards mobile shopping offers new companies an opportunity to disrupt the space and get ahead of their enterprise counterparts. As they are just beginning their eCommerce efforts they can build mobile functionality and friendliness into their strategy for seamless marketing and customer experience right from the get go.

Social Media Can Build Your Brand Faster and more Efficiently

Social media and eCommerce can work together terrifically, and the investment in social media is more of a time investment rather than a capital investment. The social media landscape includes giant corporations that use social platforms to burnish their reputations as well as smaller businesses that use the platforms to build their brand. The great thing about social media is that when it’s done well, a small or mid size company can appear just as impressive and dynamic as their larger enterprise competitors. One especially effective technique is to employ user-generated content, especially photos and videos. A picture taken by a real customer with the product in real life situation can be remarkably inspiring and helps consumers make better purchasing decisions.

Successful social media strategies revolve around engaging with customers and providing them with information that is entertaining, fresh, original, and relevant to their interests and preferences. Companies can run contests on social media websites, and can, on occasion, use these platforms to announce new products, offer promotions, and even collect feedback. You have to be careful, however, to avoid using social media simply to pitch products. People are quick to unfollow brands that they believe are constantly trying to sell to them. Social media should be mostly informative, entertaining, and engaging.

A huge range of businesses can add eCommerce to their operations at a relatively low cost, and expand to serve consumers in a much broader geographic territory – worldwide in some instances. Social Commerce gives businesses the ability to capture user profile information with a click of a button, take and fulfil online orders easily and boost revenues significantly without a huge capital investment.

Mobility is revolutionizing people’s browsing and shopping habits, and with a mobile first strategy, businesses can reach people around the world, around the clock. Social media platforms give new companies a worldwide stage on which they can educate, entertain, and inform their customers, and ultimately monetize their social media following.

 

SPAM is a Four Letter Word: How to Avoid It

Can of Spam circled and crossed out in red. Photo manipulation by hegarty_david at Flickr. Attribution-NonCommercial license. Spam meat product registered by Hormel.

Email is a bread and butter marketing tactic for many ecommerce companies, however it comes with its own set of risks. Primarily, the possibility of being labeled a spammer. Misleading, deceptive, and spammy email can come with negative sides effects for both your reputation and your legal department.
In the United States, the  CAN-SPAM Act, prohibits misleading or deceptive commercial email. Noncompliance with the law  can bring serious civil and criminal penalties, including fines of up to $6 million and prison terms of up to 5 years for willful violations.

Spam laws are not only a concern for U.S. domestic marketing operations, if your ecommerce company operates internationally you need to learn the ins and outs of spam laws in the other countries you operate. For example, if you do business in Europe, you should understand the European Communications Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive.

Here are some best email practices for avoiding the dreaded spam label, staying on the goods side of the law and most importantly maintaining your reputation with your customers.

Company-Wide Email Policy

Smart ecommerce companies develop a “best practices” policy across all divisions, departments, and marketing groups to help ensure compliance with anti-spam laws and ensure consistency throughout the organization. It is important to include vendors and other third parties you work with in this group.  Under certain circumstances, your company could be held liable for anti-spam law violations by vendors who send email on your behalf.
One of the most important aspects of your company policy should be the maintenance and compliance with an opt-out database. CAN-SPAM requires companies to stop sending emails to people who opt out of receiving them, so it’s important that you take all necessary steps to ensure that your customers have the option to opt-out and if they take advantage of it, they do not receive any future emails from you.

Use Due Diligence Before Purchasing or Renting Mailing Lists

Under CAN-SPAM you’re still allowed to buy or rent email lists from third parties. However, the Act still applies to the commercial emails sent based on these lists. Therefore, it is important to thoroughly vet suppliers and obtain sufficient assurance that the list was created in compliance with CAN-SPAM, that people on the lists have been given notification that their email address could be shared, and that people on the lists has not opted out of receiving marketing email. While these assurances don’t release you from liability under CAN-SPAM, they offer recourse if something goes wrong. In short, make sure your social commerce strategy includes working with quality email list vendors.

Avoid Common “Red Flags” That Activate Spam Filters

Once you’re sure your social commerce strategy takes sufficient care to avoid violating anti-spam laws, you still need to ensure your emails won’t trip spam filters. Common “red flags” that trigger these filters include the use of all caps, excessive punctuation and substituting numbers for letters in subject lines.
Vague subject lines, such as “FREE Information!!!”, spelling mistakes, or the addition of “Re:” in a subject line to trick recipients into thinking you’ve corresponded before can also trip a spam filter. MailChimp says the words “help,” “percent off,” and “reminder” generally won’t trip spam filters, but are perceived as spammy and have low open rates. Mequoda offers an extensive list of “trigger words” you should avoid in your marketing emails. These steps not only help reduce the likelihood your email will land in a spam folder, they are also good practices to ensure your emails are perceived as professional and will hopefully increase your open rates.

Links, Images, and Reply-To Addresses

Spammers often send emails with long lists of links and minimal text. If they get past spam filters, they’re often discarded upon being opened. Having links in email content is fine, as long as they make sense in context and don’t make up the bulk of the text. Spammers sometimes use images in special offer emails because spam filters have a harder time reading information in images. Emails containing a large image and minimal text are often flagged as spam, so be sure to try for a balanced text-to-image ratio.
Using a human (or human-sounding) reply address makes a connection with the recipient more likely. eCommerce emails with [email protected] or similar addresses in the “From” box appear detached and uninterested, and turn recipients off. You’re better off using a real company email address that goes to an actual person with whom subscribers can communicate.
Of course, the best way to avoid violating spam laws and alienating customers is by not writing spam. When your emails focus on informing or entertaining your audience, you bolster your social commerce strategy without giving up opportunities for selling. Just because you can craft emails that technically skirt anti-spam laws doesn’t mean you should. This will only annoy recipients and damage your brand’s reputation. Be familiar with both the letter and the spirit of applicable anti-spam laws to ensure your ecommerce marketing efforts stay on the good side of the law and your customers.

What to Look for in eCommerce Analytics

eCommerce Analytics

Analytics and eCommerce go together naturally. Before the advent of convenient eCommerce tools for analytics, simple site analytics could be informative for eCommerce site owners. But analytics have come a long way just over the past few years, and the more advanced analytics can help enterprise-level businesses make the most of their online stores regardless of size.

Standard eCommerce analytics include things like information on where your traffic comes from, page interaction and navigation, conversion rate measurements, and “fall-offs,” which detail how and why people leave your website. But you need more, like information on shopping behavior during sales, check out analysis, how site content affects sales, and which activities lead to more conversions.

Differences Between Site Analytics and eCommerce Analytics

Where site analytics tell you, for example, the sources of page traffic, eCommerce analytics tell you the origins of sales traffic. Furthermore, they can not only tell you about page interactions but about shopping cart interactions. In other words, you can ask, “Where do my visitors convert, and where do they not convert?”

Three important things you can track through eCommerce analytics include

• Multi-channel funnel reports showing which traffic sources convert best
• Shopping behavior analysis to determine why shoppers abandon carts
• Product performance reports to show where revenues are generated

As an example, multi-channel funnel reports help you identify first and last channels before conversions and your best channel combinations. This allows you to focus more on productive channels in terms of page optimization, content creation, or advertising.

Identifying and Addressing Problems Using eCommerce Analytics

eCommerce Analytics

eCommerce analytics also help you uncover and address problems before they can negatively affect sales numbers. Shopping behavior reports can identify phenomena like:

• Visits with no shopping activity
• Products that are viewed, but not added to carts
• Products added to carts but not purchased
• Ratio of sessions that check out to abandoned sessions

These indicators often point to simple problems that can be fixed easily, such as by content-to-product linking, better shopping cart visibility, or increased clarity of pricing or shipping information. Other actions taken may include increasing stock of best-sellers, investing more in promoting highly profitable products, analyzing pricing to ensure it’s on-target, and creation / timing of promotions.

User Behavior and eCommerce Success

Advanced eCommerce analytics help you understand user behaviour better so you can tailor your site more to customer needs. User behavior analytics can lead you to take actions like

• Using targeted display ads for specific products
• Focusing social commerce efforts on visitors coming to your site from top converting traffic sources
• Retargeting people who showed interest in specific products by offering special promotions on those products
• Identifying poorly performing products and adjusting marketing and social commerce efforts toward improving their sales performance

Segmenting Users for Better eCommerce Success

eCommerce Success

One-size-fits all marketing and social commerce strategies are not ideal. Your visitors are probably quite diverse, and your site analytics can let you know for certain. Advanced analytics can help you customize pages to maximize conversions based on traffic characteristics. Additionally, you can use segmentation as a framework for creating intentional, well-planned A/B experiments on your site to help you provide a more engaging shopping experience.

One example of segmentation that could be valuable to your eCommerce strategy is differentiating mobile from non-mobile users. You can even get tools that let you segment by device type so you can run experiments and be confident that a single device type isn’t skewing results. You can also segment based on things like repeat shoppers versus first-time site visitors, users who have purchased recently versus users who made purchases a long time ago, and high “cart value” purchasers versus casual buyers.

Predictive Analytics and eCommerce

Predictive analytics combines techniques including statistical analyses, data mining, and operations research to help you understand data in the proper context. Combined with forecasting models, you can use predictive analytics to make more accurate predictions about future buying trends. Predictive analytics used to be reserved for bigger enterprises, but today tools are available to enterprise level eCommerce organizations of all types and sizes, along with the great insights they can reveal through processing and analysis of big data. Predictive analytics solutions customized for eCommerce allow eCommerce managers to make smarter strategic and operational decisions. Predictive analytics combined with customer engagement is expected to ultimately lead to a world of “hyper-individualized experiences,” according to research firm Forrester.

Conclusion

Analytics are critical for your eCommerce and social commerce strategy. eCommerce analytics go beyond traditional site analytics, and today include exciting techniques like predictive analytics that can help your organization maximize sales numbers while wasting less time on techniques that are less beneficial.

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