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AIAIO: Our Blog

AIAIO: Our Blog

The pulse and reviews of Alexander Interactive

Archive for the ‘Ecommerce’ Category

Brick and Click: The Importance of a Total Customer Experience for Luxury Brands

Certain brands are deemed luxurious for a reason. It could be their dramatic designs, the top of the line materials with which they are created, or the company’s compelling history… or maybe it’s the pricing. Whatever the case, luxury brands have made their mark in the brick and mortar market and are increasingly looking to do the same in the digital realm. According to the latest McKinsey report, “Over the past five years, online sales of luxury goods in the global market have grown four times faster than offline sales- an annual growth rate of 27 percent.” Although an impressive feat, many luxury brands are now asking themselves how they can keep people coming through the door, while simultaneously driving online traffic.

“The pervasive belief was that luxury shoppers, with their discriminating taste and preference for high-priced goods, wouldn’t buy expensive things online,” says a 2014 McKinsey report. But with the increasing amount of consumers at all price points finding online shopping to be easier, how can luxury brands utilize both brick and click stores?

Here’s how we think they can do it:

  1. Take Advantage of Being ‘Offline’ – While dramatically overstated in customer relations, the phrase ‘people value unique experiences’ rings especially true when it comes to luxury fashion stores. Brands should use concrete retail stores as an additional marketing tool and capitalize on the ability to create physical, interactive experiences. Many consumers want to touch, feel, use and try on luxury products before reaching the final purchasing stage. These touch points (literally) are often what drive consumers to stores in the first place. Recognize these desires and take advantage.
  1. Construct a Compelling Digital Experience – These days, it’s almost too easy to create a responsive website. For luxury brands to truly stand out digitally, their website not only needs to fulfill expectations, it needs to surpass them. Executing the basic functions while immersing the consumer in a compelling digital experience is key to succeeding online.
  1. Engage with Consumers on a Social Level – No, we’re not talking about a dinner date. Interacting with consumers through social media can propel brand awareness and draw new consumers to the luxury lifestyle. “Each brand needs to strike a balance between exclusivity and inclusiveness,” said Brandwatch analyst James Lovejoy for the New York Times. Once luxury brands find a way to relate to their consumers through social, they’ll notice a upward shift in awareness, response, and loyalty. These positive outcomes result in none other than increased traffic in stores and online.
  1. Remain Seamless – This tip should come as no surprise to successful e-commerce companies. Seamless retailing requires integrated operations. From social, to digital, in store, and beyond, luxury brands must remain universal in all aspects of the business. “Consumers have heightened shopping expectations,” says Forbes. “71 percent expect to view in-store inventory online, and 50 percent expect the ability to buy online and pick up in store.” Synching operations to one unique harmony will leave luxury brands at the top of brick and mortar and online markets.

As strictly online retailers emerge and middle grade brands succumb to the pressure of the digital age, it’s imperative for luxury brands to stay on top of their consumers needs and wants both online and in store. With endless possibilities offline, a unique digital experience online, and an open pathway for communication between the brand and consumer at all times, brands cant afford anything but a fully seamless experience for their customers.

Ecommerce

Is Your Site Encouraging Shoppers to Finish Purchases or Abandon Ship? 

Since the dawn of the internet, shopping has gone viral. Literally. Whether it’s the never-ending stream of coupons arriving in our email inboxes, pop up ads taking starring roles in our social media timelines, or phrases like “flash sale” and “discount code” coming up first in search results, online shopping has become part of our daily routine. The act of online shopping, more accurately deemed e-tail, has transformed the way eCommerce websites are created, run, and measured. From design, customer service, messaging, and overall feel (whatever that means), shoppers evaluate these sites like ferocious lions waiting for the next kill, AKA sale. For sites to truly escape the rough seas and win over shoppers, they need to follow a few simple steps. Here are some do’s and don’ts for keeping your website afloat in a sea of options.

Do Research, Research, and More Research: Learning everything and anything there is to know about your shopper may seem a little extreme but it’s essential to running your site effectively and efficiently. Shoppers value the complete experience; pinpointing exactly what it is that experience entails allows for more flexibility when it comes to design, messaging, and positioning. McKinsey even goes as far to say that, “customer experience is becoming a key source of competitive advantage.”Research in all aspects of a website makes for a well-rounded experience and a happy consumer.

Don’t Neglect the Essentials: According to KoMarketing, the three most important things first time visitors want to see on a homepage are contact information, products/services, and an “about us” section. 44% of website visitors will leave the page if there’s no contact information or phone number. And after reaching a company’s website via a referral site, 36% of visitors will click on the company’s logo to return to the homepage. These statistics seem obvious, but hundreds of sites fail to succeed everyday because they’re missing these vital bits of information. Remember the basics and you’ll be smooth sailing.

Do Design for THEM: Today, good design, leads to good business. We’re in the ultimate era of technology and with that comes the ultimate stage for design. According to a 2015 study by Adobe, when given a 15 minute window to browse content, 66% of people would rather read something beautifully designed then something plain. Pictures aren’t loading? Goodbye. The website itself isn’t loading? See ya. Sloppy layout? You’re outta here. Design-driven companies recognize that while data is important to success, people really just like pretty pictures. Simple as that. So be sure to execute your design to perfection or you’ll see your shoppers leave with nothing but an empty cart.

Don’t Go Overboard: These days, websites don’t require flashy pop ups, outrageous graphics or over the top messaging. As long as you stay on point with your brand and keep the focus on making the shopper happy, you’ll forget all about the days of automatic homepage music and animated cursors.

Do Focus on Data: “Organizations need to move to a cycle of continuous delivery and improvement, adopting methods such as agile development and “live beta,” supported by big data analytics, to increase the pace of innovation,” says consulting firm McKinsey. In short, change is good. Companies constantly need to evaluate their sites to make sure they’re meeting the needs of their consumers. If the data reveals an issue, fix it and move on. Evolving with the times means utilizing data to propel your business in the right direction. But innovation can only happen if there is a willingness to make changes.

Don’t Forget the Cell Phone: In a recent study published by comScore, mobile devices now account for nearly 2 of every 3 minutes spent online. This means more shoppers browse websites in the palm of their hand then on their desktop. To make sure your shoppers understand the goal of your site as well as what  products and services are offered, it all comes down to messaging. Communicate value in your messaging and shoppers will spend less time looking for details and more time purchasing the goods. And the same design tip applies to mobile: make it simple, make it sleek, and make it responsive.

In conclusion, Ai’s UX designer Francia Sandoval stresses the importance of entry points and expectations. “Sites need to provide clear journeys for their consumers. If someone can’t find the item they’re looking for in the first place then there’s a big issue with navigation and site structure,” says Sandoval. Additionally, users need to know what’s going to happen next, especially in the shopping cart. “Nothing is worse than filling out your information and then discovering you have 7 more steps to go through to accomplish your goal.”

Ecommerce

When a Great eCommerce Experience + Unique Business Model Led to Magic

In an attempt to change the entire eyeglass industry, Warby Parker has achieved what few companies have ever attempted, let alone succeeded to do: give the power to the people. Driven by a completely consumer-based business model, the minds behind Warby (Neil Blumenthal, Dave Gilboa, Andrew Hunt, Jeffrey Raiderand) were dedicated to perfecting their users’ experience from start to finish. This idea that the user comes first is is one that drives the entire Ai team, and what makes us particularly drawn to the brand. Well, that and the fact that they make stylish, inexpensive, and downright fun (to buy and wear) eye wear.

Escalating to the top of a $28 billion industry less than a decade after its establishment in 2010, Warby demonstrates it’s focus on catering to customers from the first touch point by sending customers five pairs of glasses to try on for free. Recognized by Fast Company as 2015’s most innovative company, Warby’s business approach backs up its winning title. From designing their glasses in-house, embracing nontraditional marketing channels, addressing customers directly, and selling their products for the strikingly reasonable prices, Warby far exceeds the normal e-commerce transaction, especially within their industry.

As Wired author Marcus Wohlsen puts it, “[Warby Parker’s] customer service seems to be conducted by real people, not robots or, even worse, people trained to act like robots,” in the 2014 post “Is Warby Parker Too Good To Last?” Powered by giving customers exactly what they want, the company ultimately sacrifices their own money, time, and control to fulfill such a unique business model. But the strange reality is that it actually works. Just last year investors valued the company at $1.2 billion. Yeah, it’s working alright. 

With such a unique foundation, Warby has seen a huge backing from millennials. This is due in large part to what many companies lack according to Accenture: a connected shopping experience. In a recent study put out by the consulting group, delivering a seamless shopping experience requires a presence at every stage of the process, meaning retailers must integrate their operations. Luckily for Warby, they’ve been doing this since the beginning. In an interview with Slate, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby David Gilboa stated, “We’ve taken a very hands-on approach, to ensure that we’re getting the best quality, and that we’re working with partners whose values are aligned with ours. That requires a lot of hand-holding, a lot of flying all over the world, but we think that that’s worth it.”

Another thing that sets Warby apart from its competitors is the company’s global awareness about the lack of adequate vision care. According to the company site, 703 million people currently live without access to eyewear. Working by the buy one/give one approach, Warby makes a monthly donation to their nonprofit partners (primarily VisionSpring) which in turn covers the cost of thousands of glasses. So far, that number is well over 1 million. Fun fact: people love companies that give back (We’re looking at you, Toms). According to a 2013 study by Nielsen, 46% of global consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that have ‘giving back’ programs.

So blame it on the free delivery and returns, blame it on the one-for-one style giving, or maybe blame it on the fact that Warby Parker stands as the first ever e-commerce site for eye wear, whatever the decision may be, you can’t deny the magic of this incredible company. Come close to this unique business approach, and you just might find yourself at the head of a skyrocketing start up, leaving companies in the dust unable to look the other way.

Ecommerce

Millennial Consumers Vs Gen Z: Should Brands Plan Now?

For brands and marketers everywhere, earning the Millennial consumer is without a doubt a key goal. Millennials, or anyone born between 1980 and the late 1990’s, are over 80 million strong and, according to a study put out by Accenture, spend over $600 billion each year. Millennials were the first digital generation and engaging with them was truly a unique experience from any of the previous cohorts before them. Earning their consumer dollar has been a test of adaptability and willingness to go digital.

As brands have adapted to appeal to these Millennials, is it time to start concerning themselves with Generation Z? It absolutely is. Despite their youth (the eldest members of this generation are just arriving to college and the youngest are still in grammar school), Gen Z is enormous. They make up 25% of the population and appealing to them effectively is and will continue to be a completely different ball game.

What worked for Millennials: Reaching them on mobile. Millennials are EXTREMELY attached to their mobile devices. In fact, Forbes found that a whopping 79% of Millennials were introduced to new brands via digital advertising and 71% of those surveyed felt that these mobile ads provided better options than they previously knew. Those numbers are huge!

How Gen Z is different: Gen Z’ers are don’t spend as much time on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter so mobile ads in these sorts of verticals will fall flat with this group. According to an AdWeek survey, this generation is much more likely to spend time on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and other visually led social platforms than Millennials were. In addition, they are drawn to one thing: video, video and MORE video. Simply being in the digital space will no longer work as well as it had, unless content has video components.

What worked for Millennials: Brand Advocacy leading to loyalty. According to Nielsen, 85% of Millennials trust recommendations from people they know and 70% trust consumer opinions online (Hello, outlets like Yelp and Glassdoor). As brands turned to new means of advertising like influencer and experiential marketing as well as sponsored blog content, they found a way to reach their targets.

How Gen Z is different: Gen Z doesn’t feel this same loyalty. They were truly born into the connected era; a majority don’t remember a time before smartphones existed. According to research put out by Ernst & Young, that ease of connectivity and instant gratification has created an environment in which Gen Z expects to be catered to as they expect brands to know that they can price and comparison shop. They expect to be engaged immediately or they are gone.

What worked for Millennials: Many Millennials were born into peaceful and prosperous times. While they were budget conscious, especially as they entered the workforce through the recession, security has made them much more comfortable with spending on non-necessities.

How Gen Z is different: Gen Z was born into a very different and tumultuous set of circumstances starting from the 9/11 terror attacks through the recession that began in 2008. Due to these sorts of massive experiences during formative years, Gen Z tends to be much more risk averse. This trickles into their spending: according to Accenture, Gen Z is much more likely to only make purchases for items that fulfill needs.

Clearly there are some similarities with the two generations (looking at you, technology!) but they also have very distinct differences. The two force brands to move further into the digital space. As more members of Gen Z ascend into college and the group enters the workforce, brands will have to continue the path Millennials led them to: get creative online and in the social space or get left behind.

Ecommerce

Please, Alexa, I want some more (or “How do I compete with Amazon?”)

Ecommerce Voice Ordering

And…boom. There it is.  About an hour ago Mothership Amazon sent me an email announcing they had activated voice ordering for my Amazon Echo. It’s here, and perhaps a bit faster than I even imagined in my blog post from 2012 on the future of ecommerce. Back then the story went:

Alex: Siri, my wife said we need diapers.
Siri: You probably mean the Size 3 Swaddlers for Nina.  Lesters.com can have them to you tomorrow for $20.  Shall I order them?
Alex: Yes, and have them send a gift for my wife.
Siri: They recommend this bracelet to go along with the earrings you bought her last year for your anniversary.  Shall I add them to the order?
Alex: Yes, thanks.
Siri: Forever in your service, Alex.

 

It appears Amazon’s offering will be just that easy: “Alexa, re-order laundry detergent” and it shows up on your doorstep 2 days later.

Why does this matter to the rest of us in the ecommerce industry? Because hidden in this experience is the answer to the question, “How do I beat Amazon?” Your retail business only survives and only wins if you make the experience of ordering from you dead easy, dead simple, AND AN ABSOLUTE DELIGHT.  If you don’t, you won’t be here in 3 years.

I’m not saying you need the latest voice recognition technology (though it certainly couldn’t hurt).  But you do absolutely need an online ordering experience that is tailored specifically to your customers, that requires zero training, and is fun to use.

Amazon competes in a completely un-level playing field for most parts of its business. You’re probably not going to match their purchasing power, their distribution network, the number of Prime users, and a whole host of other things they do better than the rest. However, the user experience design of your retail website can be specially designed for your products and customers, and that’s how you can compete with one-size-fits-all Amazon.

For the moment, I’m going to ask Alexa for that present I promised my wife back in 2012.

 

Ecommerce

Apple Pay and Magento

The Business of Apple Pay (Alec Simonson)

On the outset, Apple Pay is very cool and could very well be the wave of the future. A lot of this hinges on “what’s under the hood” in terms of Apple’s contract with the leading credit card companies who helped with the development. If everything is open, and companies like Samsung can let their customers pay with NFC technology as well, I could see this as something that will be successful, adopted, and an example of Apple leading the way. However, if Apple goes all proprietary (as they love to do) and contractually forces these major credit cards to only use their devices, or charges other companies like Samsung to license their payment platform, or otherwise mandate that all touch-to-pay via smartphone methods are hereby known as “Apple Pay,” I could see adoption problems happening. Open standards have frequently been key to paving the way to adoption, and this has never really been Apple’s model in the past. For example, AirPlay is really cool and loved but does not work outside the environs of iOS, and can therefore never reach greater than 14.8% penetration as of this writing. So Chromecast was born, and while not nearly as simple or feature rich, it’s open to both Android and iOS and therefore has a much higher potential of adoption. Feature expansion will follow.

One of the aspects of Apple Pay that I think is great is that merchants aren’t really troubled with much of everything, since most of this is really on the backend. A new reader with NFC capabilities, and they’re off and running. Low cost or no cost adoption. Or is it? Nobody has mentioned what Apple’s commission is on this latest development. An article on Forbes suggested it may be around 0.2%, giving Apple $0.20 for every $100 spent. That’s not much, but when you consider what percentage that is of the credit card companies’ net (perhaps around 14%), it starts to look more substantial. Credit card companies like their investors, so it’s hard to imagine them not wanting to pass that extra cost onto merchants, who will be all-too-willing to share that with consumers.

All of that aside, it’s very smart and forward thinking, and early adopters will likely be looked upon with jealousy by others. From an implementation perspective, adding Apple Pay will likely be as easy as it was to add Google+, and merchants will do it. But the long-term prospects will rely highly on what sort of deal Apple made….the devil is always in the details.

The Technology of Apple Pay (Tim Broder)

Out of the gate, Pay is native app only. This leaves Magento sites at a disadvantage. In the future I’d like to see Apple open up this functionality to Safari on both mobile and desktop. Pay already has one-time number generation. This could be implemented in the browser similar to how 1Password can inject a credit card number into a form. Until something like this happens, only sites with a native app siting in front of Magento’s API will be able to take advantage.  If you are looking to investigate this space, meets.io, an unofficial Magento SDK, is a great starting point.

I’ll be curious if a developer comes up with a browser dedicated to this functionality. Tap into the Pay API and generate credit card numbers ad hoc, and bridge between Pay and e-commerce sites. Or, take it a step further and develop a custom keyboard for iOS 8. If allowed, it would be more seamless than a whole seperate browser. I say “if allowed” because there are some restrictions on what 3rd party keyboard can do. For example, they cannot touch passwords. The stock keyboard reasserts itself when tapping on a password field.

Ecommerce

B2B Ecommerce: Design Principles and Best Practices to Boost Sales

Alex Schmelkin, Co-Founder and CEO at Ai, and Girisha Chandraraj, VP, E-Commerce at United Stationers, presented “Smart B2B Design: Strategy & Experience Principles that Boost Sales” at last week’s IRCE in Chicago, IL.

The session focused on how to help companies understand how to incorporate self-service into their B2B site and what investments are necessary. It highlighted the steps a company should follow to prepare for a B2B site design and fundamental principles to the B2B experience.

You can also check out the presentation in full below or download the presentation.

Ai

Lean UX and Ecommerce Design

Alex Schmelkin, Co-Founder and CEO at Ai, and Sharon Rodriguez, VP, Strategy at MetLife, presented “Lean UX and Ecommerce Design: How Ai is transforming the insurance industry with MetLife” at the IRCE Focus Design and Mobile conference in Orlando, FL.

The session highlights how MetLife is re-inventing the way that people buy insurance, and focuses on how MetLife’s global applications development team are building out sites and apps for maximum utility and continuity across all consumer-facing channels. Allowing them to work rapidly and gain insights across all of their cross-channel initiatives.

Watch the full presentation of  “Lean UX and Ecommerce Design: How Ai is transforming the insurance industry with MetLife.”

Check out Alex’s presentation below or download the full presentation.

Ai

The 8 Principles of Design — How to Leverage the Power of Design and Turn Consumers Into Customers

Color, typography, placement, organization—even white space—are the visuals that can help attract shoppers’ attention, keep them engaged with the site and intrigued with the brand, and turn them into buyers—or they can turn off or confuse site visitors, detracting from the shopping experience and the brand.

Ai’s Chief Experience Officer and Co-Founder, Josh Levine along with David Workman, Manager, E-Commerce Operations at Delta Apparel presented this week at the IRCE Focus Design and Mobile conference in Orlando, FL. In their session, attendees learned how to master powerful design elements into a site design that works to their advantage.

If you’re interested in creating a unique shopping experience that converts, check out Josh’s presentation below or download the full presentation.

Design

Come see us at IR Focus Design+Mobile!

What’s the most exciting thing to do in Orlando? Duh! Visiting Ai’s booth at the IR Focus Design + Mobile Conference!

We are at booth #300 — stop by, say hi, and talk about all things digital, Disney, or whatever else is on your mind.

Booth#300

While you’re at it, check out our founders Josh Levine and Alex Schmelkin and attend their talks on Monday. Josh gives you the rundown on the good, the bad, and the ugly in Ecommerce design and Alex teams up with Sharon Rodriguez, VP, Strategy at MetLife, to discuss the central role mobile plays in the now and future of MetLife’s consumer offerings.

Have fun, be safe, and always use the buddy system.

Ai