Balancing Content and Product Investments for Retail Brands

Though an obvious goal of a business is to sell, the customer experience (CX) expectations that consumers have are not as obvious. Particularly in a landscape that is defined by digital innovation, it can be hard to keep up with shifting CX expectations. Customers place a high amount of interest in value — whether it’s the value of convenience, economy or sustainability — and that’s often on top of the product itself.

A retail brand’s challenge in the digital space hinges on balancing content investments versus product and merchandising decisions. While any marketer can argue in favor of the value of content, businesses are often concerned with the evaluation of its ROI.

When a brand invests in content and pushes a large message, it is not always with a strict “purchase” agenda. The message could be emphasizing a directional change, new mission or in some cases, an explanation to customers. What is difficult to measure is if this content has a positive, long-term halo effect on conversion.

So what is the real value of content & how do you stay find the right balance to drive sales and repeat purchasing?

Three Methods for Approaching Content

Retail brands exhibit three major forms of tackling content:

Approach 1: heavy content with few, but staple, products
Approach 2: very little content, but a vast product inventory and customer reviews
Approach 3: balancing content and product within the same site page to drive engagement

Smaller click-and-mortar, or digitally native brands, are able to master the challenge of approach one, prioritizing content over product. With less inventory to showcase, a strong focus on (often inspirational) content allows a brand to distinguish itself and create a loyal customer base. These brands are able to capitalize off of the staple products they’ve created, and create deep connections with a targeted audience.

For example, Away, a digital luggage company, uses a content heavy approach. This brand positions itself by highlighting lifestyle, with content around everything one might need for traveling and nothing unnecessary. Their content identifies with a variety of travel personas, while also considering travel standards. Their content directly states their product solves real travel pains. By the time a user navigates to the product page, they’ve learned enough about Away to ensure this purchase will improve their travel experience. The sleek and modern designs do not hurt, either.

The second approach, product-first with very little content, is present in larger retailers, those with a seemingly endless inventory. These businesses reap large revenue. Amazon, the world’s largest online marketplace (and seller) caters to a variety of retail sub-verticals without much content, but rather, a reliance on customer reviews.

 

Adob Stock, via kathayut

 

Balancing Product Prioritizations and Content Creation

There are plenty of brands, including our own customers that take the third, middle-of the-road approach. To find the right balance between content and product, there’s a solution; measure the performance of your content. Once you measure content and segment audiences properly, you’ll have a better understanding of what content is driving purchasing across which customer profile.

If you can draw the lines between customer engagement, conversion and revenue, and answer how to measure the ROI of specific content elements, it removes the guesswork and fear of making content investments.

This safety net allows you to go bold when you measure the success of each content element, with the agility to test different versions or remove the content altogether. You will also answer the looming question of yes or no: whether content has a correlation with product sales.

Adobe Stock, via beeboys

 

The Verdict

When making investment decisions for content against product, you need to determine whether your content — or any proposed content — is complementing or detracting from your product. Unfortunately, there’s no single best practice for every brand.

Content is a longer term engagement than promotions, because a sale may lead customers to come to your site once or intermittently. The goal of content is different, with the intention to drive repeat visits, purchases, and ultimate loyalty.

Content can be engaging, but without substantial or trusted product behind it, there are no sales. And yet product is not always standalone — it may involve storytelling, materials, or qualifications to encourage a customer to add-to-cart. In either case, analytics is the connection between content performance and revenue objectives.

How bold can you go to allow your brand to shine? That’s something only granular behavior analytics can answer.

 

Hero image: Adobe Stock, va jeler

Phygital CX: The Changing Face of Omnichannel Retail

Not to be outdone by the wordsmiths of this world, the retail industry recently came up with its own neologism, coining the term “phygital” to describe a new form of commerce — one that blends the best of offline and online experiences for an elevated customer experience (CX). 

It may be early days in the world of “phygital” CX, but brands are experimenting away, and coming up with innovative solutions to fit the needs of today’s omnichannel customer.

But how do you build links between a digital platform and physical store? What experience transfers are already proving successful in terms of engagement and conversions? And how do you make digital features work in the physical world, and vice versa?

What’s certain is that the line between eCommerce and brick-and-mortar is more blurry than ever. The reality is that digital has transformed everyday life. Many of our daily activities — work, communication and of course, consumption — play out in the digital realm. 

In fact, we have fully become phygital beings, and retailers are racing to adapt the customer experience to reflect our evolving needs and expectations. 

THE CUSTOMER IS KING

Consumers today expect seamless omnichannel journeys. But that’s not all they are looking for — they also want choice, and they want to feel special. And VIPs love nothing more than customized product or services!  

Digital has unlocked new opportunities for retailers, but has also made things slightly more complicated. Consumers are no longer looking for the cheapest product or best customer assistance — they seek excellence throughout the customer experience.

“Today we’re seeing a real convergence between online and offline, with many advantages for consumers,” explains Jérôme Malzac, Innovation Officer at Wide Agency. 

“On the eCommerce front: easy search, time-saving, the ability to order wherever, whenever… When it comes to local shopping, the human and physical dimensions are incredibly important, as well as contact between the retailer and the customer — advice, service, getting more info on a product and how quickly it can be purchased.”

LEVERAGING CUSTOMER INTELLIGENCE FOR A SUPERIOR CX

One of the main challenges for brands today is delivering intelligent customer journeys that are adapted to every customer. Collecting and aggregating customer behavior data can help brands identify pain points along the customer journey (both online and offline). But it doesn’t stop there, as a granular data collection allows brands to effectively personalize the experience and services. 

“Thanks to data, we can follow our customers along their journey both on and offline, and suggest relevant products to them. For example, a woman who has just purchased newborn clothes will get suggestions for baby shoes,” explains Vanessa Guignoux, head of digital and eCommerce at Gémo.

Integrating mobile app localization can also help brands deliver useful information to customers at the right time, and make their store visit more efficient. Brands can optimize a store visit based on a digital shopping list, for example. And understanding app behavior allows teams to maximize the role of smartphones in facilitating a great CX at every touchpoint.

“Digital makes omnichannel possible, and allows access to things that were only possible in the physical world, removing obstacles to purchase, understanding, sharing and knowledge. In the other direction, from digital to physical, we see gains on the human, emotional front,” explains Yann Carré, head of the marketing communication cycle for Decathlon. 

“But you need to maximize this potential. The most important thing is to have a completely responsive website, one that can be browsed and visited from any device, be it desktop, tablet or smartphone. To illustrate this, for over a year now, more people visit the Decathlon site on a smartphone than a desktop. All of our content (image, text, video, comparison tools, 3D) are conceived to be accessible digitally and to complete the offline and in-store experience.”

With consumer needs and expectations evolving fast, agility and continuous monitoring of customer behavior have never been more important. Digital teams need to analyze the way customers interact with their digital properties as part of their daily workflow. And adopting a design thinking approach and test & learn strategy allows teams to react quickly and keep up with customer expectations.

THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Armed with a better understanding of their customers, digital retailers and brick-and-mortar stores have started to adopt a phygital CX strategy. Drive-throughs, in-store lockers, click & collect and online reservation are just some of the ways brands have integrated offline and online to improve omnichannel CX. 

Brands have also been exploring the benefits of expanding the reliance on digital in-store, removing typical customer frustrations prevalent in physical stores such as: low inventory, or a certain size not being available. Sales assistants now use tablets to help customers complete an in-store purchase online. Some brands even mix in-store help with added online services to offer product personalization, for example.

“Our sales assistants and department managers have access to the same information as our customers via smartphone, tablet or interactive in-store touch-screens. But they’re also able to analyze buyer behavior from a mobile number or email address. By checking their information system, they can view the purchase history and searches, and engage Mr. D with advice, product suggestions, etc,” said Yann Carré. 

“And each department manager also has all the information that will allow them to make pricing, inventory and merchandising decisions. For example, if a competitor is offering a more competitive price on a particular item, they are empowered to change the price of this particular model to match or to offer a more competitive price. They can predict how this will impact sales either positively or negatively. They have all the intelligence they need to make important decisions completely autonomously.” 

Phygital logic also drives a store’s merchandising strategy. For example, if an item gets anything less than a 3 out of 5 customer score, it is removed from both the online and offline store in order to be improved.

There are many other innovations on the horizon. Monoprix, for example, is hoping to speed up in-store checkout with its Monop’Easy solution. It’s simple: customers scan their items via the mobile app, pay, and receive their receipt by email. 

Sephora also offers a mobile app that blends digital and physical realities, allowing users to test out makeup thanks to AR, and delivering info and advice to in-store customers as they are browsing the physical aisles. And beauty brand Passion Beauté has been inviting social media influencers into their stores.

Pure players have also been playing the phygital game, coming up with concept stores that allow them to get closer to their customers. In New York, you can rent pajamas and a book a bed for a 45-minute nap at Casper’s Dreamery. 

Sezane, which started off as a pure player, has opened showrooms it calls “apartments,” where shoppers can browse exclusive designs and new releases in a cozy, trendy setting. 

Brands are constantly coming up with unique ways to explore the transitions between digital and physical, and elevate the click-and-mortar experience. “We want to be (to sports) what Airbnb is to accommodation and travel,” says Yann Carré. “We want to offer more than just the value of the product and create value around sports, too. 

The more people do sports, the more opportunities there will be for us to connect with them, and sometimes, even if not always, that will transform into a purchase.”

 

What Not to Do on the Homepage: UX Advice for Fashion Retail 

The homepage is often a key webpage for direct and organic search channels for players in the retail fashion industry. In addition to being a crucial step in the browsing process for users, it’s also an opportunity for businesses to introduce and showcase their brand identity through editorials and fashion trends.

However, according to the data we collected in Q1 of 2019, fashion retail homepage bounce rates were as high as 40% across all devices. Users also still spend an average session time of 7min on desktop and 3min 41s on mobile. (Remember, Contentsquare measures bounce rate as having only seen the single page and leaving the site). 

It can be difficult to know what kinds of design iterations will help prevent users from exiting without having viewed at least a few product pages. It’s also impossible to create the perfect homepage, but we have some great tips to follow if you’re looking to improve the design of your fashion eCommerce homepage. 

Don’t place text on cluttered areas of images

Although images and photography are crucial for communicating brand identity and editorial content, make sure you choose images that are text-friendly. Place text over emptier areas of the image, change the image, or place text on an overlay. Always use white text unless brand guidelines say otherwise. Users tend to skip over text that is too long, too small, or just difficult to read. Keep in mind: any information must be easy to digest at a fast pace, especially for mobile users.

Don’t make the hero image the full length of the page

If you’re showcasing your Fall/Winter looks, consider using a static banner —a prominent, single banner on the page that does not have rotating content, one that allows other content to be seen above the fold. We often find the exposure rate — how far down the page visitors scroll — drops drastically below the fold line. 

A hero image that spans the full length of the page could mislead users into thinking there is no other content. Because the average length of mobile pages is around 3,400px, we need to encourage users as much as possible to scroll past the fold line.

Don’t automate carousels

If you’re showcasing new collections or promoting sitewide discounts, avoid automatically rotating slides within the carousel. Instead, use static carousels that do not include more than three slides to allow users an opportunity to digest both the image and information in each slide. Users should be able to use arrows to easily move from one slide to another. 

Although there is a big debate in the design world over whether carousels are effective, we see much less exposure and engagement on the second and third slides. Automating carousels can rob users of control over the experience and as a result, they are more likely to ignore it if the slide moves too quickly for them to read.

Don’t hide primary CTAs or category links below the fold

Instead, make sure they are clearly above the fold line; try placing them on an uncluttered area of the image. You want to encourage users to immediately begin browsing, whether it leads them to a category page or list page for product catalogs that are currently being prioritized. 

Try placing a horizontal category slider at the top of the page and evaluate whether that improves your users’ browsing process. 

 

 

Showcase editorial content that is space-conscious and easy to interact with

Make sure that any editorial images on the homepage lead the users to specific categories, seasonal collections, or product pages. Giving them a purpose beyond aesthetics encourages users to explore beyond just the homepage and can help increase session time.

Here is a great example from Ralph Lauren:

 

 

The above image on the left showcases the bag as both aesthetic and functional, enticing users with beautiful photography, while leading them to the product page. The text is succinct, easy-to-read, and placed on an uncluttered area of the image. 

The carousel placed on the right provides even more options for the user to view additional products for the upcoming season. Both the image and carousel do not extend past the screen, making it easy to view. Part of the content of the next section is viewable, avoiding the false bottom and encouraging users to scroll further.

Making design iterations to your site never ends. As user behaviors continue to evolve faster than ever, it’s important to continuously evaluate and reassess the performance of individual elements on your pages. It’s important to make design changes based on the needs of your user base, not the general users of the industry. 

Don’t forget to regularly check on other players in your industry for inspiration, as there is much to learn from the digital experiences and websites you enjoy. But remember, just because a competitor does it, doesn’t mean they are improving the experience of their users. So be inspired, yes, but consult your own customer data before implementing changes.

 

Hero Image Via: Rawpixel.com, Adobe Stock

Fall/Winter Fashion Campaigns: How Brands Are Capitalizing On High Interest in New Collections

With fashion month in full bloom in the world’s four most glamorous cities, retailers and luxury brands are capitalizing on the collective excitement for all things sartorial to showcase their new Fall/Winter looks online. And judging by our findings, consumers are more than ready to give their wardrobes a makeover and explore new styles…

In this article, we examine the effects of Fall/Winter apparel campaigns on digital customer behavior, as well as their impact on revenue. 

Methodology 

To paint a clear picture of how US consumers respond to Fall/Winter collections campaigns, we analyzed data from 24 global fashion brands (including luxury and mainstream brands), focusing on their US sites. Our analysis runs through a month and a half worth of data, representing 98 million user sessions, spread out over 510 pages.

As part of our analysis, we compared the performance of Fall/Winter campaigns (or “new collections”) with that of the end-of-Summer 2019 campaigns (or “old collections”). 

Let’s learn more.

Fall/Winter 2019 Launches Increase Overall Revenue

The happy news for retailers is that the recently-launched Fall/Winter collections reaped larger average carts across all 3 devices. In fact, overall revenue was up 6.74% from the end of the summer campaigns, with the most impressive leap observed on tablet (+6.56%).

Conversion rates, however, did not follow the same upward trend — not on two device types, that is. . Desktop conversions on new fall collections stagnated at 2.19%, signaling no change in the conversion rate between the old and new collections. Tablet conversions lessened by 3%, further handing the victory torch to the end-of-summer collection in terms of conversion rates.

On the contrary, new collections on mobile outperformed old ones, with a 4.43% rise in conversions.

While the mobile conversion rate increase is slight, it nonetheless signals a significant opportunity for retailers, and a clear indication that consumers are willing to shop for new looks on their smartphone. Brands should thus not neglect capitalizing on their mobile UX

In fact, they should design with a mobile-first approach to digital. Aside from holding stock in revenue, mobile continued its high traffic trend. It was the most-trafficked device in BOTH old and new collections, hovering at around 72%, dwarfing desktop and tablet usage, which came in at 22.5% and 6%, respectively. 

Increased Acquisition Spend Leads to Higher Traffic

Now that we shined light on what is arguably the most important impact of Fashion Week, let’s veer into the beginning of the user journey: how visitors entered the websites we surveyed. 

According to our data, paid acquisition campaigns around the new collections paid off (pun intended). Brands primarily relied on paid sources to draw more users into Fall/Winter looks, including paid search campaigns (display ads) and paid social campaigns.

These paid acquisition campaigns resulted in traffic increases across all devices, with a whopping 289% growth in traffic from display ads and a sturdy 178% growth from paid social ads. It seems that if a brand is willing to put money behind ads for Winter/Fall fashions, customers are more than willing to click. 

Visitors Seek Fall/Winter Inspiration On The Homepage 

A high-level view of the digital customer behavior on the homepage reveals that, by the time the new collections roll in, visitors are eager to discover new trends and styles. 

The new styles drive a peak in customer interactions, with a higher click rate on the homepage slideshow (64% up from clicks on Summer items) and on the product tiles right below (+17%). 

There are fewer clicks on the search bar, which figures, as most consumers appear to be in a discovery/inspiration phase, accessing the new styles through the more visual, inspirational elements of the homepage. The click rate on the cart also goes down around the new season launch, corroborating the idea that consumers are primarily window-shopping.

It’s a good time for brands to make sure they’re getting the most ROI from the inspirational elements on the homepage, since the excitement for new season looks translates to heavier engagement with these areas of the site. Optimizing product pages to capitalize on this heightened interest is also key: if visitors are clicking on your Fall sweaters tile, make sure you follow through with a relevant selection of items and an easy path to conversion.

Inspirational Content Shouldn’t Slow Down The UX 

But with all this inspirational and visual content showcasing the season’s must-have items, some brands are running into speed issues.

On desktop, for example, homepage loading times were up 50% after the launch of the Fall/Winter collection — from 2.09 to 3.14 seconds. With a 4% increase on mobile, it seems brands have overall made some effort to keep load times down on smartphones.

It’s a delicate balance to achieve— on the one hand, you want to give consumers all the inspiration they are willing to consume, but not at the cost of stalling the customer journey. Analyzing customer interactions around each element of the page will help teams determine which content is truly driving conversions and which underperforming elements can be optimized, or altogether removed.

Fashion Week Campaigns Don’t Stimulate Store Locator Use 

Customers shopping for Fall looks seem less inclined to continue their journey offline than those looking for end-of-summer bargains. On mobile, the reach rate on the store locator was down -6% for consumers browsing the Fall/Winter collection. Desktop was hit the hardest with a -14% dip in the store locator reach rate.

It could be that with back-to-school, back-to-work, and general September busy-ness, many shoppers don’t have time to go to the stores. Then again, conversions are down too, so it could be that this is a time for window shopping and eyeing up what’s on offer for the months to come.

Optimizing New Collections Campaigns

The unveiling of Fall/Winter collections is a potent engagement driver, and consumers are not shy about clicking on ads and images to be educated about the new season’s looks. With higher engagement and revenue, these campaigns have plenty of potential. 

From post-click optimization to ongoing analysis of your key homepage areas, a granular read of your customers’ experience will uncover any areas of opportunity and help you refine underperforming content.

Remember to reduce your page loading times (long loading times are a major UX offense) and create seamless mobile experiences to reel in the most profit from this short-lived yet critical shopping season.

 

How The North Face Optimized Its Gift Guide By Leveraging Customer Experience Intelligence

Although we’re slightly past mid-summer and have got quite a way to go before the mercury significantly drops, it’s never too early to start thinking about the holiday shopping season. Aside from which products you want to highlight and which promotions to push for the season of gift-giving, you’re keenly going to need to fine-tune your digital strategy. Otherwise, a UX left unoptimized for the holidays won’t reap the sweet bump in holiday conversions.

Optimizing the customer experience (CX) for the holiday shopping season begins with… you guessed it, your customers. There is much you can learn from the data on your visitors’ behaviors during the holiday shopping season — make sure these insights don’t go to waste! Our case study with one of our top clients, The North Face, shows that the proof is indeed in the pudding, as our granular insights informed key CX changes for the 2018 holiday shopping season.

The North Face & Its Primary Holiday Shopping Challenge: The Gift Guide

The North Face is a top-name brand that offers outdoor gear, particularly activewear and equipment to athletes, the athletically-inclined and anyone who wants to go on adventures and look stylish doing so.

Originating as a San Franciscan storefront, the brand has been investing heavily in its online customer experience to better serve the digital community of North Face aficionados. We worked with the gear company to help the team optimize a key digital asset for its 2018 holiday shopping season: its online holiday gift guide.

This gift guide is an annual online experience that helps customers find the right gifts through a wide index of products designated for the holidays. This content serves a critical purpose in aiding Q4 sales and maximizing the mighty potential of the season.

The gift guide was strategically set to go live in October, right before the high tide in holiday traffic, which granted the digital team ample time to analyze the digital engagement of early-bird shoppers. Through a granular analysis of digital interactions, The North Face was able to continue its strategic approach to its holiday shopping campaign, as it directed its UX findings to adjust the experience prior to initiating its gifting-centered marketing campaign.

The North Face is well-known for its outdoor and sporting gear.


Putting UX Analytics to Use

As part of its analysis of the Gift Guide, the digital team surveyed customer interactions on a per-page basis, to reel in a comprehensive understanding of the guide’s performance. The team specifically was on the lookout for frustration and friction points in the customer journey

The team looked at exposure rate, which takes into account how far down a page a user is scrolling and considers a zone seen when over half of it was viewed by a user. 

The North Face continued the UX analysis by studying the click recurrence (which measures engagement and frustration), the click-through rate (calculation of pageviews and clicks) and attractiveness rate (attractiveness of an element, dealing with clicks after exposure). What they found allowed them to make UX decisions rooted in data, which lead to several improvements.

The digital team at The North Face used heat maps and a variety of unique metrics for measuring the user experience of its Gift Guide.


Findings & Actions Taken to Yield an Improved User Experience

The digital team at The North Face analyzed the exposure rate of various elements of the guide, which sets forth how far down a user scrolls. It also dictates that a zone is seen once over half of it was viewed by a user. 

This analysis displayed a low exposure rate of the category CTAs, pointing to a need of adjusting the CTAs above the fold to improve their exposure. This UX change proved to be an improvement, as it brought the exposure rate of the CTAs up by 50%. This resulted in an increased visibility of each gifting category.

Heeding the click recurrence, the team unearthed a frustration stemming from multiple clicks on the hero image. This pointed to the fact that the hero wasn’t entirely clickable, so the team made it so, not just the product. This brought down the click recurrence of the hero to a satisfactory rate, with far fewer clicks since all of it was clickable.

The click recurrence metric also informed the team that there were multiple clicks on links to head to the Women’s Gift Guide page — even though users were already there. Through this insight, the team placed a header title to the page to make visitors aware of their presence on this destination within the site. Consequently, this action also reduced the click recurrence. 

As far as merchandising optimizations go, the digital team observed the click-through rate and attractiveness rate of each gift category. Through these, they were able to discern which categories were the most popular, as well as the importance of the position of these categories on the page. As such, the team moved the most popular ones further above the page to access the most popular items quicker.

The gift guide left users unbeknown that they were already on the Women’s Gift Guide page, unlike this clear-cut section on the website.


Optimizing Holiday Shopping Campaigns

Holiday shopping campaigns, much like many other retail campaigns, require a keen understanding of customer intent and engagement. Customer journeys are never stagnant, so you’ll notice that they alter — even among some common trends from season to season. That’s why you have to constantly monitor them, otherwise, you’re not getting the full picture of how customers and potential customers navigate your website, their frustrations and conversion opportunities.

Looking to granular analytics, the kind that can provide on-page behavior and interactions per element is a cure to the UX ignorance of your site. That’s because this kind of digital analysis doesn’t only show, it tells, particularly the correct implementations to your digital experience. This will assure you don’t remain in the dark on your UX during for the holiday shopping season for 2019, which is fast approaching.

 

Retailers with Effective Back-to-School Campaigns: A College Student’s Review

Class is in Session

As the school year approaches you’ll notice a new back-to-school campaign with each day — emails, ads, pop-ups, there has never been more encouragement to stock up for September. If back-to-school shopping is on your to-do list, you probably have a favorite spot you go to for all those needs, but have you ever considered what other options you have? 

I was actually asked to write this article because I am the most recent employee in the New York office to go back to school shopping, and it’s crazy to see all the new changes and additions that have been made lately. When I was going back to school shopping for high school, my school would send a general list to everyone and something would always be missing from that list. Growing up in New York City, my go-to spot was always Staples because it was closest to my school, and it was really my only option in the area I was living in. 

Something I noticed this year is that Staples has teacher lists so that you can find your specific school supply list without wondering if you’re missing something; this is a great offer considering that me and my classmates would always find ourselves back at Staples a few days after school began in order to pick up that extra binder that we didn’t know we needed.

Back-to-School Sales

Staples also offers 20% off school supplies when you purchase a backpack, which I wish they offered when I was a student, especially considering the combined cost of backpacks and supplies. One thing I really like about Dollar General is that it provides discounts to teachers on stationery items because educators never stop school shopping. In fact, I remember teachers offering extra credit to students who would bring in reams of paper. The costs of all these supplies add up just that one time a year when families go back-to-school shopping… now imagine facing those costs year-round. 

As a current college student, I will take any opportunity to shop, especially if a sale is involved. As the fashion and, mainly, sneaker-obsessed member of my family, I am always looking for cheaper options so that I can continue to fund my shoe habit without breaking the bank. On that note, Rack Room Shoes offers $10 off purchases of $75 and above, and to top it off they are offering a BOGO 50% off the second pair of shoes you buy. 

Another great shoe store that I frequent is DSW, and I love that DSW has afterpay so that you can make smaller payments over time and still get your product right away. It’s this kind of feature that is pre-set with the number of payments you make; for example, you’ll see the retail price online and directly below it’ll suggest four smaller payments over time while giving you the product after the first payment. As a college student with a limited budget for shopping, it is a tool that myself and my friends at school all use. The feature really makes a difference for me because it means I can make my payments in smaller amounts rather than going in completely and breaking the bank. This also helps me because while I enjoy products for the value I think they have, I love when a sale or promotion comes around because it’ll make me more inclined to shop for the things that I need and at a lower price. 

Cool Features from Retailers

I’ve already mentioned that a great place for back-to-school shopping is Dollar General — they also have a similar system to Staples’ teacher lists, and you can search for your supplies list by entering your school’s zip code. But everyone knows back-to-school shopping is not just about notebooks and pens, and many students (myself included) will spend a good part of their budget on clothing. 

One problem for me as a student was that although my school had a dress code, it was not clear-cut. This was great for me and other students, as it allowed us an outlet to be expressive… however, it was not so great when the principal roamed the halls shaming people for not following the unwritten guidelines for attire. DSW offers a good solution with its Uniform Shop, which allows you to browse for the coolest shoes in school without breaking the dress code. 

Back-to-School Campaigns Set on Giving Back

Aside from offering great deals on back to school shopping, another thing that attracts me to one store over another is when the brand partners with nonprofit organizations. Something that I’ve noticed in myself and my peers as shoppers is that they’re more likely to shop more within a brand if there is a way to give back involved. For example, Burlington has partnered with AdoptAClassroom.org so that customers can nominate schools for a chance to win 1 of 10 $10,000 grants for school supplies. 

I think this is a great way to bring attention to the fact that not all schools are created equally, and when schools are underfunded, it’s ultimately the students that pay the cost. DSW has partnered with Be Strong with the goal of raising $150,000. Be Strong is a student-led movement that empowers students to rise up against bullying. This is a great cause for DSW to be paired up with because bullying is an ever-present problem within schools, so much so that it has come to be considered normal. 

Lastly, Rack Room Shoes has partnered with Shoes That Fit, and is matching each donation up to $300,000. Shoes that Fit is an organization that provides new shoes for children in need. In my opinion, if you can afford to go buy new shoes, why not go to a store that is raising funds to provide shoes to others? 

CLASS DISMISSED

As I finish writing this post, I ask myself if this was written with enough lead time to the start of the back-to-school shopping season. If you’ve already started shopping, I’m impressed by how far ahead you plan… now let’s see if you can plan further — you can! 

We spent some time understanding the mindset of the early-bird back-to-school shopper by analyzing the digital journeys of shoppers stocking up on stationery supplies and backpacks. Take a look at our Back-to-School Report for a holistic view on how shoppers maneuver through websites for common back-to-school purchases. 

If you haven’t started back to school shopping, don’t fret, you’re not the only one! I haven’t looked at what textbooks I need to buy or even thought about how many notebooks and folders I’m going to need.

Are Mother’s Day Campaigns Worth It? What 53 Million Sessions Reveal About Digital Gifting For Moms

Mother’s Day is right around the corner (May 12th, 2019) and many brands are making the most of the gift-giving occasion, giving special campaigns pride of place on their homepage and across their website.

But how do Mother’s Day campaigns impact conversions? Are visitors clicking on these special promotions? In short, is producing all this Mother’s Day-related content really worth it?

We analyzed 53 million visitor sessions on fashion, luxury, beauty, technology and jewelry sites to see how digital consumers browse for gifts during the Mother’s Day shopping season.

We paid particular consideration to elements like homepage carousels and category pages to paint a clear picture of how Mother’s Day campaigns contribute to traffic, conversions and other KPIs.

Mother’s Day Campaigns Defined

What exactly constitutes a Mother’s Day campaign? We’re glad you asked. For the purpose of our research, it is defined as a specific site element (think slideshows, sliders, etc.) or landing pages that highlight Mother’s Day and lead visitors to a product list page with specialized gifts for the holiday.

Here are 4 findings we’ve culled from our arsenal of original data in the retail space during the Mother’s Day shopping season.

An example of a Mother’s Day campaign from Avon, wherein clicking on the slideshow leads visitors to a product list page.

Websites with Mother’s Day Campaigns Convert Better

Conversions. The raison dêtre of any brand, digital or otherwise. Our data shows that brands that implement Mother’s Day campaigns yield higher conversion rates and generate more revenue than brands that don’t.

In the lead-up to the special day, brands advertising Mother’s Day gifts saw a 211% boost to conversions. This increase in sales also hiked up the revenue for these brands by 22%. Meanwhile, the average visitor shopping cart was 1.28% higher for those browsing sites that made a special effort for Mother’s Day.

So far, so good. So how do you get visitors to consume and act on all this specially-created content?

Mother’s Day Campaign Carousel: Higher Click Rates, Lower Conversions Per Click

We looked at how visitors were interacting with homepage carousels to see whether giving this prime website real estate a Mother’s Day makeover was a winning strategy for brands. With a 3.02% click rate, Mother’s Day banner images drive higher interaction than other carousel images at a 1.94% click rate — that’s 54.87% more clicks for Mother’s Day content.

While Mother’s Day carousel images may reel in interest and curiosity among site visitors, they do not always drive more sales. With a 10.4% conversion rate per click, non-Mother’s Day banner images have a bigger impact on conversions than Mother’s Day banners, which carry an 8.3% conversion rate per click.

So with visitors clicking on Mother’s Day carousels, but not necessarily converting, what kind of data do you need to look at next?

Mother’s Day Product Category Pages Get Less Traffic But Driver Higher Carts

Next, we peered at the pages where conversions occur: product list pages. A comparison of Mother’s Day product list pages with regular category pages reveals that consumers are more likely to reach the latter. Regular product list pages get 7 times the traffic of Mother’s Day product list pages on desktop and 10 times the traffic on mobile.

But while Mother’s Day list pages may get fewer views, visitors who browse these pages have deeper pockets than regular shoppers, resulting in higher than average carts for these pages.  Average carts for shoppers who reached the Mother’s Day category page on desktop were 84.28% higher than those who didn’t, while average carts on mobile increased by 63.82%.

Additionally, higher carts have reached higher conversions — on mobile at least. Mobile visitors who reach the Mother’s Day product list pages are 4.2% more likely to convert than those who reach the regular category pages. However, desktop conversions on other list pages beat out Mother’s Day list page conversions by over 20%.

Gift recommendations and products in packages generally make for a good strategy to increase average cart increases for Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day Campaigns Have Higher Page Attractiveness

Overall, visitors displayed higher engagement with Mother’s Day content than with non-holiday content, and were more likely to click, hover and scroll on these pages. The scroll rate alone was 6% higher on mobile and 4% higher on desktop.

In fact, the overall activity rate for Mother’s Day category pages was 12% higher than on regular category pages, showing that inspirational content does have the ability to captivate visitors’ attention.

The only KPI these pages did not outperform their non-holiday counterparts on was the average time spent on page on desktop, with visitors spending 6% less time on them. Mobile visitors, however, were willing to spend 9% more time browsing gifts for their mothers than other items.

Pro Tip: Make The Most of Higher-Than-Average Carts With Gift Sets

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s leading retail association, which hosted its Big Show in 2019 that Contentsquare took part in, US customers are predicted to spend $25 billion on Mother’s Day in 2019. In short, Mother’s Day campaigns are not to be missed.

Per our research, brands featuring dedicated Mother’s Day campaigns fared better than those without them in several regards: increasing conversions, driving more revenue and recording higher-than-average carts. Revenue alone was 1.95% higher in April for sites with Mother’s Day promotions, presenting a retail opportunity to uplift conversions through new campaigns.

An increase in scroll and activity rates shows that consumers are willing to engage with Mother’s Day campaigns, and brands should see the holiday as an opportunity to highlight unknown products and push inspirational content.

Mother’s Day shoppers have twice the average cart of those browsing regular category pages and are clearly willing to spend money on their moms. This audience will gladly splurge on a gift set so make sure you have those options available.

3 Things Revealed at Adobe Summit 2019

Adobe Summit was bigger and better than ever with over 17,000 attendees, including the Magento crowd. Adobe treats its partners right and we’ve long valued being a part of their community. Throughout the show, we were energized by Adobe’s customers: they are some of the savviest, most engaged, and down-to-earth people we know.  

We also got to reconnect with some of our best customers at the best restaurants (SW Steakhouse, I’m calling you out here) and concerts (yep, the Killers killed it) in town.

It is impossible for one person — or even one team — to experience everything a large event has to offer. So it is always good to compare notes. In that spirit, here are 3 of the big ideas that stuck with me. Here’s to happier digital experiences for all.  

Omni-Channel Isn’t a Retail Strategy

Our research has shown that pure player e-commerce companies are overperforming on conversion rates in comparison to click and mortar brands. Pure players yield a conversion rate of 3.5%, while their click and mortar counterparts draw in the conversion rate of 2.8% on desktop and 2.6% and 1.9% on mobile, respectively.

However, click and mortar brands perform better in their page views on both desktop and mobile, beating out pure players by 2 views on mobile and 3 views on desktop. So there are things to be learned across the aisle for sure. But beware of copycatting best practices without a holistic strategy. At Adobe Summit 2019, we brought three different retailers on stage to share how they are breaking down the silos and increasing sales based on holistic strategies tailored to each of their brands.

We quickly learned that a true omni-channel strategy is not a one-size-fits-all approach. While some brands use their websites as a kind of showroom to get customers into their brick-and-mortar stores, others are moving in the other direction. Sam Edelman for example, is helping its sales associates in stores stay in touch with customers once they are home, increasing follow-on sales online and providing an overall experience that fosters customer loyalty.

On the flip side, Ralph Lauren live-streamed its Fashion Week runway show as a stimulus to bring people into its highly-curated flagship stores. MatchesFashion, a luxury retailer, is turning its website homepage into the digital version of a flagship store with lifestyle content while its app is your “personal shopper,” helping you complete purchases on the go.

Our own Chief Strategy and Partnership Officer
Jean-Marc Bellaiche cheerily posing with our employees near our booth at the 2019 Adobe Summit.

Break Down Silos

Nicolas Pickaerts, the E-commerce Director at MatchesFashion, shared that the retailer’s culture is to talk about the company’s different digital platforms – from the app to the website to its Instagram feed – as “touchpoints” rather than “channels.” It sounds simple but I keep thinking about how genius this is. “Channels” has the historical baggage of being separate and even competing businesses.

“Touchpoints” makes it clear there is one customer interacting with your company in multiple ways and sets up your teams to understand the best way to use those touchpoints to collectively improve revenue and loyalty. This takes you from a zero-sum game to a scenario where you increase your total pie — and your market share.  

Implement a System of Insight to Drive Up Your Analytics

James McCormick, the Principal Analyst at Forrester Research highlighted the need for businesses to use data and insights as a strategic foundation for growth, which is supported by the fact that insight-driven businesses are annually growing at 27- 40%, which significantly outpaces the total market. Despite this obvious advantage, less than 1 in 10 businesses are advanced with insights.

The Forrester Research, customer speakers and other discussions made it clear that gaining significant value from analytics means making it available across the company in a common and consumable way. A unified approach to your digital strategy and a way to measure how it is progressing is what gives your digital journey scale and impact.

See You Soon

Everyone here at Contentsquare loves exploring these insights and putting them to work for our customers so if you missed us at Adobe Summit, we’ll be at different events every month. Talk to you soon!

Contentsquare team members speak with Adobe Summit attendees.

What Contentsquare Learned at Shoptalk 2019

Contentsquare promised to show you the money at Shoptalk 2019 and we did. We held an interactive booth that put Shoptalk attendees to work on our wall, in search of hidden insights. Our guests went sleuthing for the code to our secret room, while our robot hung out with some of the visitors. Our team of UX-perts were on hand to demo our fabulous suite of digital experience analytics. And we also reaped a lot of knowledge regarding the intersection of retail and digital. Here are a few things we learned at Shoptalk 2019.

Influencer Marketing is Ramping Up

Influencer marketing, the practice of using influential people for brand awareness, is huge right now, and many brands are capitalizing on this magic formula of endorsement and audience rolled into one. What’s more is that it has the potential to not only raise brand awareness but to up revenues as well. Andrea Fasulo, the head of Consumer Products Marketing at Nickelodeon, divulged that Nick’s partnership with JoJo Siwa, a 15-year-old YouTuber, has increased their revenues as JoJo’s star rose. (The kid’s network added JoJo to their shows, apparel and toy lines). She now is worth about $1 billion and has a YouTube viewership of millions.

The success of this influencer partnership comes from her alignment with Nick’s brand. To infuse the influencer partnership with a feeling of validity, brands are pairing up with public figures who are passionate, or at least interested in their niche and products. In other words, with the right influencers, a business’s brand messaging looks less like an ad and more like genuine interest/usage of their offering.

But brands don’t necessarily need to reach out to big-name influencers; influencers with a relatively moderate to even a small following can go a long way for e-retailers. Cathey Curtis, the VP of Global Marketing for the surf and snowboard gear company Billabong, has revealed that the company’s Instagram posts that feature micro-influencers get 3 times more engagement than those that feature regular models.

Big Data Has Spawned the Rise of Artificial Intelligence

Data proliferation is no longer unusual, with most businesses pumping out onslaughts of data by the minute. The reliance of data is only increasing and when there’s an excess of data, it loses its digestibility — at least to human eyes and minds. That’s where artificial intelligence and machine learning come in. AI is at the fore of both data processing and how data is delivered to us.

Russell Scherwin, the CMO of Watson Commerce at IBM, spoke about AI at one of the sessions. “If you aren’t addressing AI, you’re behind,” he said. AI technology can help you discover the goings on of your website, without having to scout through a tiresome load of data. With AI technology at hand, brands can easily parse through their data and analytics to optimize their UX, personalize the customer journey and understand the most pressing issues regarding their sites.

Personalization is a Winning Strategy

E-commerce consumers are becoming more and more in want of a shopping experience tailored just towards them, or one built closely around their needs. With the constant bombardment of advertisements and brand messaging, usually with personal elements, consumers are looking to get the same kind of experience while perusing websites that are selling to them.

Personalization comes as a specialized strategy for UX optimization, as it will be different based on the different types of customers in the market. While many retailers have relied on creating emails that tap into their customers’ unique shopping tastes and experiences (ie, abandoned carts, product recommendations), there are far many other routes to take on the front of personalizing the customer journey.

Some of these methods include digital shelves, custom products, endless aisles, geo-targeting, personalized upsells, style finders and more.

Bouqs Co., an e-commerce flower seller based out of California has added special features to its site to increase the personalization factor.

These new features include giving customers the option of watching mini documentaries on the site. The documentaries exhibit the details of the farms which produce the bouquets before shoppers buy one. “We’re adding value beyond just the purchase and I think that’s a big part of the future of e-commerce,” said Bouqs founder John Tavis.

Implementing New Service Delivery Models to Meet Your Customers’ Needs

As part of a strategy to continue product subscriptions as well as to gain customers for single purchase goods, retailers are creating new delivery models. The revamping of delivery methods is part and parcel of the CX, or customer experience.

In this way, CX is an amalgamation of digital with physical experiences. The receipt of a delivery occurs in the physical world, while ordering it comes from digital.

Although customers may spend long periods of time scouring e-commerce sites, they may not always convert, not least where a delivery is involved.

Executives from Madison Reed, a hair care company, and Brandless, a food, beauty and personal care supplier, held a discussion on the fusion of digital and physical experiences. A major area of concern for this merger is the implementation of new service delivery models.

These new models include white label options, subscription boxes and various delivery methods to give brands the edge in a competitive retail market.

Shoptalk 2019

Signing off, we want to say that one of the best shows at the junction of e-commerce and retail certainly lived up to its name. Shoptalk 2019 was an outstanding and enlightening experience for us at Contentsquare and the visitors alike. We’ll definitely be back and we look forward to what the future of digital holds.

Contentsquare Will Show You the Money at Shoptalk 2019

Contentsquare is heading to Shoptalk and we’re bringing with us our AI expertise, an unmissable interactive booth experience and an art duo performance you won’t forget any time soon.

This will be our second consecutive year attending the conference — an annual 4-day event that brings together over 8,000 individuals working in retail, startups, tech companies, media and more.

We’ve been chosen as one of the few tech companies to speak at the event, and our very own Founder and CEO Jonathan Cherki will be discussing the integration of artificial intelligence with retail as part of the Technologies Transforming Retail: Artificial Intelligence program.

Aside from AI, the conference will feature other presentations aimed at fostering trends, technologies and business models for the future of retail.

We’re bringing our own big ideas to life at Shoptalk this year at our booth, not least our belief in the power of experience.

We Do Business Conferences Differently

Last year we threw a huge party at Shoptalk to celebrate our then $42 million in Series B funding. Dovetailing off of last year’s theme, this year’s booth will be just as celebratory. (If you haven’t heard by now, we’ve raised $60 million in Series C funding).

But we’re not just celebrating our successful funding procurement. In a nod to our software’s revenue attribution feature, this year we’re going to show you the money. At least for our interactive space at the conference this year.

Given that we position ourselves as leaders when it comes to user experience, we don’t just talk the talk. Our booth and interactive experience will prove that we also walk the walk.

Contentsquare at Shoptalk 2018.

Show Me the Money

With Contentsquare, don’t expect a mundane exhibition of a table and placard at our booth. Since we’ve set the bar high last year with the party booth, this year we’re coming back with something even more exciting and interactive.

Show me the Money is a hands-on experience, very much in tune with our raison d’être of creating profitable experiences that engage and give way to conversions.

If you pay us a visit at booth #4526, you’ll be invited to interact with our wall of hidden insights, which holds the key to unlocking our secret chamber. We’ve hidden 20 user experience (UX) insights gleaned by our data experts, and your job is to hunt for them.

This experience mimics what Contentsquare does to a website. This will allow visitors to literally reveal what’s obscure in a playful, participatory way.

Concealed among the insights is the secret code that will grant visitors entry to our secret chamber, which contains a surprise you’ve got to see to believe. It will make for an excellent opportunity to basque in the (confidential) brilliance of the room and snap a fabulous selfie.

What Else to Expect at Shoptalk 2019

Shoptalk is slated to run from March 3rd to March 6th at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. Contentsquare’s session on AI takes place on March 4th at 8:30 am.

But there is plenty more to experience at Shoptalk this year besides the sessions and meetings.

Back by popular demand is the performance art duo the Bumbys, masked performers who will take one benevolent look at you and create your own, customized personality appraisal. They don’t talk, rather they type out their assessment the old-fashioned way: on a typewriter.

The Bumbys have been around since 2008, performed nationally and have gotten the attention of major publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post — you don’t want to miss them!

We’re also bringing out our robot — a life-size figure you can interact (and pose) with.

We hope to see you there!

Our life-size robot

NRF 2019: What We Learned at Retail’s Biggest Trade Show

We recently wrapped up an amazing few days at the NRF (National Retail Federation) trade show, where we took part in panels and shared best practices with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the realm of UX and retail.

Hobnobbing along with Business France, its accompanying 19 French startups and the thousands of retailers, exhibitors and attendees at the conference, our team walked away with fascinating insights about the future of retail, and the intersection of technology and customer experience.

Trusting Data Over Intuition

A major trend for 2019 that has descended upon retailers — both the digital and brick-and-mortar kinds — is the incorporation of data as part of the customer acquisition strategy. In fact, telecommunications giant Comcast Business and its subsidiary Xfinity are partnering to implement data-based best practices into physical stores.

These best practices will aim to offer immersive customer experiences to brick-and-mortar customers, similar to how effective digital customer journeys work in UX. Comcast Business and its subsidiary posited that in order to lure in more customers to physical stores, they will need to design captivating experiences.

That’s where behavioral data comes into the strategy, as it would be impossible to construct these experiences without the relevant data to back them up. Additionally, this data can include consumer insights and employee engagement. All in all, this trend asserts that in order for businesses to survive in an omni-channel marketplace, gathering and leveraging data must be put at the forefront.

Streamlining the Buying Process

With shoppers less and less forgiving when it comes to digital convenience, brands are continuing to invest effort and resources in streamlining the buying process. This too can be applied online and in a brick-and-mortar store. Efficiency and speed are at the core of streamlining, so it is no surprise that retailers have taken notice of its importance to customers, instead of merely to its internal operations.

A streamlined purchase can be achieved by creating simpler cart actions, ones that require fewer steps to the checkout. Improving the overall UX so the customer journey can be easy and hurdle-free from start to finish also contributes to streamlining the buying process online. This translates to forming landing pages with easier paths to checkouts and clearer CTAs.

In a nutshell, identifying visitors’ goals and helping them achieve these goals pain-free is the cornerstone of a successful UX.

International Connectivity Via Payment/ Currency Optimizations

We also took note of the rise of the Latin American market as a key retail target for both brick-and-mortar and pure player businesses. As the Latin American market waxes, it brings with it the international market into the retail playing arena. This begs the question of how to make it internationally, especially when one of your business goals involved breaking into countries aside from the one in which your business is headquartered.

This will prompt businesses to cater to the international community with currency optimization, accept a wider range of cards and expand payment methods (think cryptocurrency or proprietary loyalty points as ways to pay).

In one of the panels, the worldwide fintech company Fexco proposed optimizing currency handling at checkouts. This way, retail offerings can be made easily accessible to users of different currencies.

Fexco provides financial services solutions such as currency conversions, multi-currency pricing, retail foreign exchanges among others. It primarily features merchant products and is seeking to provide data about payments. Thus, even the financial aspect of retail dutifully relies on data.

 

Contentsquare’s Lessons on the Rise of Experiential Retail

Our own Chief Strategy and Partnership Officer, Jean-Marc Bellaiche, led a speech on emerging trends within retail at NRF, as part of a panel called “The Rise of Experiential Retail.” The discussion identified 3 key trends in retail and what brands can do to stay ahead of the curve.

3 Key Trends in Retail:

1. The acceleration of the convergence between online and offline marketplaces. A digital platform and physical store are not separate entities anymore. Generation Z, which is now in the workforce and has entered the market to buy, are very much the target market within this convergence. Buying online is second nature to them and yet they still value the experience of going to a physical store.

Digitally native pure play brands like the makeup brand Glossier have understood this double-need, opening physical stores to enhance the interactive shopping experience and to give consumers a more first-hand experience with the products and services they seek out.

2. Consumers are demanding more from their in-store shopping experiences. They are looking for more sophisticated, tailored experiences, similar to the kind of personalized experience an online experience can provide. An ordinary, uninspired brick-and-mortar shopping experience will not be enough to draw customers into physical stores. Thus, businesses will have to get more creative in their selling approach at such stores.

3. There is a growing awareness on user data privacy, going beyond GDPR (General Data Protection), an EU regulation which stipulates data protection and privacy for its citizens and data subjects. While this is persistent in Europe, it is has entered the picture in the U.S., and there is increasing demand for data privacy to essentially make user data anonymous, e.g. in the case of major US-based social media brands like Facebook and Twitter.

2 Requirements for Retailers

1. Enrich your online experience to emulate that of a store’s. Stores are equipped with the space and personnel to provide good experiences for potential customers. A store assistant can respond to customer behavior in real time. Additionally, a store can provide personalized events — yoga, an actual breakfast at Tiffany’s, etc.

Create memorable experiences online requires the same observation and analysis of consumer behavior. Analytics help retailers understand what consumers are experiencing and this knowledge can be leveraged by teams to augment the site, and deliver satisfying, converting experiences. Furthermore, since consumers are communicating with a brand through every digital interaction, it’s a sound strategy to incorporate analytics to ease personalization.

Another way to enrich the experience is to apply “retailtainment” to both brick-and-mortar and digital, which author George Ritzer defines as the “use of ambience, emotion, sound and activity to get customers interested in the merchandise and in a mood to buy.”

2. Personalize without personal information. Using aggregated behavioral data instead of the data from a single individual maintains your customers’ privacy while helping brands achieve customization.

In Contentsquare for example, you can tap into the emotions and frustrations of site visitors from the standpoint of population segments, while remaining GDPR-compliant through encryptions. That way, you have the data on your visitors en masse, or at least in portions. You won’t be able to see what they enter in sensitive form fields due to the anonymization of certain information that they provide. With this data, you can then customize your content to appeal to different segments.

Closing Off

The panel closed of with some statistics that got jocular. When attendees were asked what percentage of them have personalized websites, their answers tallied to roughly 25%.

When asked how many of them have what might be defined as the ultimate personalization, a tattoo, the answer was rounded out to 36%.

Personalizing a website is clearly not as second nature to brands and their marketers as tattoos have become to a wide swath of the American population. Clearly, there’s work to be done on the website personalization front.

We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation and collecting even more insights at future conferences like the Adobe Summit and Shoptalk.