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E-commerce News & Analysis

The Internet of Things Could Empower People with Disabilities

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Ubiquitous sensors are one of the driving ideas behind the Internet of Things.

The ideas is that we will put on and wear more and more sensors until they become pervasive — enabling everything we interact with on a daily basis to have the potential to offer us greater insight or context for our activities.

It's not hard to see how many of the devices already available are impacting our lives, even in small ways. There are thermostats that can learn from our habits and even be controlled remotely through our phones, window shutters that adjust automatically, depending on how much sunlight is coming through and objects fitted with RFID devices, which let us know when they pass through checkpoints.

All of these devices make life a little easier. But one segment of the population could potentially benefit even more than the rest from IoT technologies: People with disabilities — not just at home, but at the office and everywhere in-between.

Don't Close Your Brick-and-Mortar Stores Yet

Thumbnail image for 2014-14-august-cracking-nuts.jpgCracking the e-commerce nut isn't as easy as people who actually crack nuts for a living clearly understand.

In fact, two new studies demonstrate that brands and marketers still face significant obstacles to adoption, especially on mobile. But the biggest challenge may be behavioral. As we recently explained, more than 90 percent of retail sales still occur in physical stores.

Why are so many consumers reluctant to buy online, despite the rapid growth of e-commerce? Ripen eCommerce, a Princeton, N.J.-based agency providing marketing, creative, development and technology services to e-commerce clients, thinks understanding consumers' path to purchase is the first step online retailers should take to capture a greater portion of the $3.2 trillion US retail industry.

How the Internet of Things Drives Customer Engagement

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Now that we've accepted the idea of the Internet of Things (IoT), researchers are starting to look at when, where, how, why and who will use it. They're also looking into potential risks.

Recent research from IDC, for example, shows that retailers are leading the charge to the IoT in the quest for better customer experiences.

According to IDC, retailers see the IoT as a way to improve customer experiences. Specifically, they are using it to pull consumers into one of their channels, where they will entice them with products that have been contextualized and personalized for the customers’ gratification.

Brick and Mortar Fights Back Against the E-Commerce Tsunami

customer experience, 2014-05-August-Boxer.jpgTraditional brick and mortar retailers have been mired in a slump for most of the last year. To change their fortunes, they need to strengthen their core asset -- their stores. The majority aren't equipped to compete against pure play e-tailers on their own terms -- they don't have e-commerce in their DNA like the Amazons or eBays, they lack the technical skillsets required, and with $260B+ in online sales in the US alone in 2013, it’s too late to put the lid back on Pandora’s Box.

While many view traditional brick and mortar stores as more of an anchor than an advantage, more than 90 percent of retail sales still occur in store. Retailers need to use them to their advantage to push back against e-commerce competition.

Reimagine Retail Inventory to Remove Customer Hurdles

2014-28-July-Vintage-Sneakers.jpgThe retail industry is at a crossroad. We've discussed omnichannel behavior for some time now -- both from a consumer and organizational perspective -- but we need to turn that discussion into strategy and action. Retailers are now challenged to use insight from data created across these channels to drive better business performance and meet customer expectations. Technology is they key to enabling this.

Nowhere has the explosion of omnichannel been felt more deeply than retail inventory. Monitoring, moving and replenishing stock was relatively simple when the only end point was the physical store network. But consumers now discover, browse and buy from retailers through a variety of channels -- physical, mobile, online -- through marketplaces and from Drop Ship Vendors (DSVs), which is creating more range, storage and fulfillment options than ever before.

3 Things You Probably Forgot in Your Mobile Strategy

2014-25-July-Water-Test.jpgMobile has moved beyond a “channel” and become a behavior. A verb. A necessity. It’s safe to say that if you haven’t moved to mobile in some form -- advertising, app, responsive name, you name it -- you've fallen way behind. So I’m going to assume we’re all on the same page and have at least dipped our toe in the mobile waters.

Mobile is now the dominant channel in online advertising. And while many companies at least have a mobile site, most are missing that clear strategy for mobile customer acquisition.

Dealing with the Reality and Myths of Omnichannel

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If you sell stuff in your and your partners’ stores and via e-commerce, you have probably heard today’s buzzword -- “omnichannel” -- meaning that your customers should be able to use any part of your commerce chain as if it were a single entity: find and buy anywhere, pick up anywhere, return anywhere, all of this working seamlessly for the customer and integrated so that transactions anywhere are recorded and available everywhere.

You’re being told that your customers want and will soon demand this kind of transparency, and that if you aren't there now, you had better get cracking. You’re also hearing that getting there will take time, a lot of it -- Macy’s started in 2008 and is just now beginning to reap the benefits -- and will be a complex, expensive and “significant technology integration challenge.” By this time, you may be feeling that rush of panic as you contemplate how you can possibly keep up with this brave new world of real and virtual commerce.

You’re not alone.

Retailers Face Challenges, But With Effort Comes Rewards

2014-24-July-Pittsburgh-Bicycle-Challenge.jpgThe term “channel” in a retail context has as many meanings as the disparate paths between merchant and consumer. As the variety of channels continues to grow -- online, offline, mobile, kiosk, call center, website, store -- retailers are challenged with meeting the expectations of consumers who pick and choose channels as their needs demand. Retailers want to provide these consumers with a consistent and seamless experience -- many explicitly claiming strategies to enable an "omnichannel experience" -- but converting the intention into crisp execution has significant challenges.

Understand Your Customers with A/B Testing

2014-23-July-Choices.jpgImagine changing a flight or booking a hotel, comparing mortgage rates or researching healthcare providers. You’re probably thinking about specific websites that can help accomplish these tasks -- or maybe a search that could start the process.

Now imagine doing any of these things on a smartphone. Chances are it would take several false starts and -- if you were dedicated to the goal -- a lot of struggle before the job was done. It has little if anything to do with the screen size. Instead, it’s a reflection of design and content that doesn't match the contextual needs of the user. And it doesn't take an extreme example to illustrate this point.

Information Architecture: The Engine that Drives Retail

2014-22-July-Steam-Locomotive.jpgUnder pressure from pure play e-Tailers such as Amazon and eBay, brick and mortar retailers are scrambling to defend their businesses. To stay competitive, most have now added an e-Commerce channel. The challenge for many legacy retailers is that e-Commerce has involved a long learning curve and now mobile and web channels have become part of core functionality rather than a cutting edge addition to the brand.  Add to this that many traditional retailers still lack a core competency in the technical nuances necessary to compete effectively with the Amazons and eBays.

CX: It's Not Rocket Science But it's Still Hard

2014-22-July-Kennedy-Space-Center-Rocket.jpgThink customer service is a synonym for customer experience? Think again, suggests Alpharetta, Ga.-based customer experience (CX) consultant Jim Bass. "Customer service happens after the sale. Customer experience starts before the sale," he explained.

Bass stirred a lot of interest on LinkedIn recently with a post that explored the importance of pre-sale processes. The story got more than 15,000 views and 1,674 shares on LinkedIn.

This week, Bass talked with CMSWire to share more insights on CX — including the things companies tend to get wrong and the reasons why so many customer interactions are still so bad.

Nope, CX isn't rocket science. But it's not easy to get right, either.

Master Customer Experience in the New Age of Retail

2014-21-July-Sales.jpgProviding a high quality customer experience is critical for retailers, no matter the sector or audience. Delivering on this goal means more success in sales and more repeat business.

But our ideas around what constitutes a high level customer experience have changed in recent years. In the pre-internet days, it generally meant attentive sales people available to help with in store requests. But in today’s connected world, it’s more often associated with quick page loads, easily navigable sites and rich media.

3 Barriers to Delivering Omnichannel Experiences

2014-17-July-Caught-a-Fish.jpgI was recently searching for fishing rods for my 5-year old son and his friends to use at our neighborhood pond. I know nothing about fishing, so I needed to get educated. First up, a Google search on my laptop at home. Then, I jostled between my phone, tablet and laptop visiting websites, reading descriptions, looking at photos and reading reviews. Offline, I talked to friends and visited local stores.

The product descriptions weren’t very helpful. What is a “practice casting plug”? Turns out, this was a great feature! Instead of a hook, the rod had a rubber fish to practice casting safely. What a missed opportunity for the retailers who didn’t share this information. I bought the fishing rods from the retailer that educated me with valuable product information and offered free three to five day shipping.

What does this mean for companies who sell products across multiple channels? 

Customers Don't Care About Your Processes

2014-15-July-Milk-Processing.jpgIn January of last year, Macy's became the first major retailer to name a Chief Omnichannel Officer. In May of this year, Target announced the formation of a new Digital Advisory Committee to focus specifically on brainstorming omnichannel strategies.

Clearly the need to deliver true omnichannel experiences is something that retailers and their marketing teams are taking very, very seriously.

There's More to E-Commerce than Mobile and Social

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Mobile and social. Invest in them now, right?

Well, if it's not those two surging platforms that are doing the trick for your organization, why put so much stock in them?

EPiServer’s third annual 2014 e-Commerce Survey of e-commerce practitioners, conducted at the 10th annual Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition, the world’s largest e-commerce event, revealed that mobile and social may not be as "surging" as they seem.

For instance, 64 percent of those surveyed claimed less than 20 percent of their business sales came through mobile transactions. But mobile ranked as the top priority in regards to future investments for those surveyed. 

Similarly, 93 percent of those surveyed said transactions are made through their website rather than their social site. However, social ranked third in terms of future investment areas for those surveyed.

EPiServer's message? Put your money in what's working now.

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