Introducing: Steven Alan

"From the very instant that we began working with them, the BestRetail team took on our migration from our former eCommerce platform onto theirs with the intense personal urgency, talent and professionalism experienced as commonly as unicorns and lottery wins. They’ve held our hand, been perpetually available and found a way to actually make this stuff…fun." - Steven Alan

BestRetail is proud to introduce our newest eCommerce partner, Steven Alan. Established in 1994 as a multi-brand store in New York, Steven Alan has grown into 25+ physical stores across the United States and Japan, a wholesale distributor for a number of partners, and most importantly, a brand of its own. 

From a design perspective, one of our favorite parts about building Steven Alan's new site was the content on the product details page. Steven Alan wanted to utilize large product photos, without a slider or photo widget of any kind. The images would simply be stacked on top of each other on the left side of the page. On the right side of the page, we created a sticky content panel that would stay with the visitor as they scrolled up and down the page. It's a unique way to ensure that your action items (add to cart, choosing a color, choosing a size, etc.) always stay in the view panel. 

From a technical perspective, this launch with Steven Alan encouraged us to build a more robust omnichannel experience that combines inventory tracking for Steven Alan's web inventory with products that are in the actual store locations. When a member of Steven Alan's eCommerce staff is reviewing an order, they receive immediate notification if the purchased product is available to be shipped from multiple locations. The staff member will then choose the shipping location makes the most sense from an inventory and shipping cost perspective. 

We look forward to watching Steven Alan's eCommerce business grow.

Don't Leave! Cart Abandonment Rates are Higher than You Think

In a recent Yahoo Small Business study of 5 million visitors on consumer websites, 83-percent of visitors that put an item in their shopping cart did not finish the checkout process. That number is alarmingly high. In previous blog posts, we covered two of the biggest reasons for cart abandonment: Lack of payment options and questions about security. Those are two scenarios where the customer likely gets to the checkout page on the website, then backs out of the purchase for whatever reason. But in this Yahoo! study, 17-percent attempted to complete the checkout process, but were denied because of an error message. Here are the top-5 causes for those errors, and ways that you may be able to prevent them on your website...

1) Phone number and/or email fields were empty - Do you absolutely need this information from the customer? If you don’t, consider making these fields optional. Customers are afraid of a) Cyber security concerns; b) Selling that personal information to other vendors. If you do absolutely need that information, consider adding a small note near those fields on WHY you need that information, and assume them that their information is secure.
2) Payment declined - The most common reason for this is a mis-typed credit card number. Make sure that you have as many helpful tools and error messages in place to assist the customer, not simply a "payment declined" message. Tell the customer if there too many/too few characters in the number. If you have the user select their card type in a drop-down or selection, make sure that the "default" is the most popular card that's used on your website. Don't make "American Express" the default just because it comes first in alphabetical order, if only a small percentage of orders are paid for by AmEx. 
3) Invalid or expired coupon applied - A consumer's eyes are always going to be drawn to the juicy part of a discount, but don't go out-of-your-way to hide the expiration date or usage restrictions. Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead from Small Business Trends says, "Amend the design and content written on the coupon so that it informs the consumer with greater visibility of when the coupon is going to expire."
4) Payment fields were empty - Make sure that the customer knows that the expiration date and CVV are required fields (assuming they are required for payment acceptance).
5) Shipping method not available - If you ship internationally or to Alaska/Hawaii, consumers likely shouldn't see "Ground" as a shipping option. If you advertise FREE SHIPPING on your website, but there are location and time restrictions, make sure those restrictions are widely known. Don't let the customer get all the way to the shipping confirmation, only to be surprised by the cost or options available to them.

When in Doubt, Borrow from the Pros

If you stroll through the BestRetail offices, a phrase that you'll hear from time-to-time is: "How does Amazon do it?"

There is no shame whatsoever in using an eCommerce giant like Amazon or Best Buy for design and functionality inspiration when you hit a roadblock on your website. Liraz Margalit from CMS Wire recently wrote a great piece called, "The Golden Rule of eCommerce Website Design: Don't Confuse Your Customers". If you are over the age of 30, there's a pretty decent chance that you've had some form of familiarity with the Internet for almost 20 years. Twenty years of experience on just about anything will breed a lot of habits. We've become wired over time to know where the "Add to Cart" button should be and how to speed through an online checkout. Unless you've got monumental technology up your sleeve that's going to buck 20 years' worth of habit-building, follow the giants on the industry.

"Killer aesthetics are wonderful. Surprising and disorienting your customers is not," Margalit says, "If you want to go funky and fresh on your website design, feel free, but make sure that no matter how wild your creative urge, you keep the standards — like Call to Action buttons and the placement of crucial tabs – simple."

When developing predictive text searches, BestRetail studied how Nike.com ran theirs. When developing filters on our category details pages, we looked at how BestBuy.com separates its television brands and sizes. These brands have been doing it for a long time and have invested a lot of money into analytics, consumer intelligence, and eCommerce conversion rates. Next time you hit a roadblock when working on your web site, there's no shame in borrowing some inspiration from the pros.

Simple Steps to Promote Your Website's Security

It seems like eCommerce is growing at an exponential rate, right? Technology is constantly evolving and online shopping has never been easier. But a recent CIGI-Ipsos global survey on Internet security and trust suggests that not everyone is on board, yet. Cyber security is still a major concern across the globe. Some highlights from the survey include...

- For people who responded that they don't partake in online shopping, the overwhelming reason why was because of cyber security fears. Forty-nine percent of internet users responded that they do not trust online shopping.

- Eighty-two percent of responders expressed a degree of fear for cyber criminals, with 56-percent of them saying they have a "great deal of fear."

- American shoppers fall below the global average in willingness to use their phones for mobile payments. Out of 24 countries surveyed, the US ranked 17th with only 44-percent of people willing to make mobile payments (global average 57-percent).

Conner Forrest from Tech Republic says, "Organizations doing business online should take note of these insights and react accordingly. For starters, companies should be investing in cybersecurity solutions, and should be clearly explaining to customers how they are protecting their data from hackers. Because personal data is such a valuable commodity online, firms should also be transparent about how they are using (or not using) customer data, and whether or not they are making it available to government agencies."

So what can you do to promote that your website is secure? 1) Make sure all of your certifications are prominently displayed. From your SSL certification, to your payment processor's badge, to your Google Shopping verification - If you've got it, flaunt it. 2) Like I said in an earlier post, the more payment options you offer, the safer the visitor will feel. They might not feel totally comfortable using your checkout, but they may feel safe with PayPal, Apple Pay, or another payment gateway. 3) Monitor what people are saying about your business. All it takes is one bad customer experience, something that may not have even been your fault (i.e. payment processor error), for your online reputation to snowball. Keep an eye on reviews written about your website and respond accordingly, if necessary. 

Live Chat vs. Chatbots - What's Best for Your Site?

Think about the last time that you interacted with a Live Chat or customer service module on a website. Were you speaking with a living, breathing person? Are you sure about that? Artificial Intelligence chatbots have become so sophisticated that they are barely distinguishable from human customer service representatives. The good news for retailers is that you now have several avenues for handling live customer service on your eCommerce website.

For years, the most common form of online customer service was handled through a Live Chat provider that matched up a customer with a representative on the other side. We at BestRetail have worked with LivePerson in the past and would certainly recommend them as a third-party partner. The customer initiates a conversation on the website, the representative gets notified that someone wants to chat, and the two of them connect for a live conversation. As technology evolves, the live person (no pun intended) on the other side is being replaced by chatbots. In a survey done by VentureBeat.com, 49.4 percent of customers would rather contact a business through a 24/7 messaging service than through the phone (Courtesy Entrepreneur.com). For a lot of businesses, it's not practical to have a customer service representative (or team) available 24/7. That's where a chatbot comes into play.

Chatbots can range from very simple - Asking yes/no questions and serving as a glorified receptionist that takes down a message - through very sophisticated. 1-800-Flowers' GWYN (Gifts When You Need) is an AI-powered gift concierge that can interact with online customers using natural language to interpret customers’ questions and then ask questions about the occasion, sentiment, and who the gift is for to provide accurate product recommendations. Did you know...By using chatbot technology, you can order an Uber though the Facebook Messenger app and order Taco Bell through Slack?!

Are those features necessary for your website? Probably not. But the technology is out there and might be worth exploring. Don't let your website go "dark" after traditional business hours. There are plenty of live chat and chatbot solutions to keep your customers engaged at all hours of the day.

Your Search Bar: Don't Hide It...Showcase It!

There are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of modules on your eCommerce site that you can customize, personalize, and beautify. But the one thing that we at BestRetail will encourage you NOT to get too cute with is your search bar. There are plenty of modern, attractive themes that feature hidden search bars and unique search features, but consumers and UX professionals have spoken - If they can't find it, then they're not staying.

The search bar is the quickest route from your site's homepage, to the product that the consumer is looking for. Causing the user to click a link to open the search or using an unfamiliar icon to designate the search is only adding an unnecessary roadblock between the potential customer and a sale. Nick Babich from UXPlanet.org says, "When users encounter a relatively complex site, they will immediately look for a search box to get to their final destination quickly and painlessly. (...) It’s important to display a fully-open text field, because a search hidden behind an icon makes the search feature less noticeable and increases the cost of interaction."

The search visibility is just as, if not more, important on mobile than it is on desktop. In a post from MultiChannel Merchant: "Make sure that your search bar is prominent. Some online stores make the mistake of losing the search somewhere in the navigation bar. Feature it prominently at the top part of your mobile site’s home page."

At BestRetail, we feel confident that we have one of the best eCommerce search tools on the market - From a built-in Thesaurus, to keyword distance analysis, to search alias tools, to search sensitivity settings. But a search is only as good as the ability to find and use it. Don't get caught up in modern UI trends that encourage "less is more." Your website's search tool should be front-and-center.

When It Comes to Payment Options, The More the Merrier

The world of mobile payment options is moving at a lightning pace. Have you been keeping up? According to Juniper Research, the number of Apple Pay users has nearly doubled in the last year, from 45 million users to 86 million. In 2015, Samsung Pay and Android Pay had a combined five million users. That number is up to 58 million in 2017. And as impressive as all of those numbers are, they pale in comparison to PayPal, which has 200 million active accounts worldwide. Last but not least, you have Amazon Cash, which is just scratching the surface of possibilities for the online retail giant.

But the number of retailers that are integrated with these platforms, hasn't matched the enthusiasm of consumers. At the end of 2016, only 35-percent of American retailers offered Apple Pay as a payment option. Why is it important for online retailers to offer these mobile payment gateways? It offers the customer a sense of familiarity and security. Lowering your bounce rate at checkout on mobile devices should be a top-of-the-list goal for just about every eCommerce website. According to ROI research, more online searches were done through phones and tablets than on desktop devices in 2016, yet eCommerce conversions remained significantly higher on desktop. So more people are finding the product and/or information that they are looking for on their mobile devices, but won't pull the trigger on a purchase until they are at a desktop.

You can have the safest, most-secure website and mobile experience that technology can offer. But if a customer doesn't feel it, you're going to lose that sale. Seeing the silhouette of the apple with the bite taken out of it or the logo with the two blue P's at the checkout offers the customer a sense of security. They are names and brands they have familiarity with and trust. At minimum, your website should be offering PayPal as an alternative option to credit card payments, simply based on its popularity (an estimated 100 million American users). After that, do your homework on Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, and Amazon Cash to see what makes the most sense for your business. From a consumer's eye...The more, the merrier.

Schedule Your Product and Sale Updates Anytime, Anywhere

Got a big sale that you want to go live at 12:01am on Black Friday? Or what about a new product launch that's supposed to get pushed on a Sunday? With BestRetail's advanced scheduling for feeds, you can update your product catalog on nights, weekends, and holidays without ever getting out of bed.

1) Your staging site is your best friend. Before your email blast goes out, your holiday promo gets launched, or your weekend getaway with no internet access - Test everything on your staging site ahead of time. Did all of the new season's products populate in their proper categories? Are the discount prices being calculated properly? Use your staging site to iron out all of those details so that you know what to expect when the spotlight is on your production site.

2) Once you've verified that everything looks good on your staging site, take that product feed over to your live site. In two clicks - One for a date, and one for a time - your product feed is scheduled to launch. Rest easy knowing that BestRetail will handle everything from that point forward. 

2 Factors Beyond Price and Features For Choosing an eCommerce Platform

Retail eCommerce platforms are difficult to compare accurately. There are just too many features and factors to consider, and a platform's ultimate value to an organization is typically not realized until after implementation and several months of usage. Too often, companies make this decision based on price and features. After all, this is how a lot of other types of software is purchased. It's even how many other things in life are purchased, so it's natural to assume that choosing your eCommerce platform should be done this way. How many features does product A have vs product B, and what is the cost of A vs B? But the biggest problem with doing it this way is that it ignores 2 other extremely important factors: the size/scope of the implementation and the quality/skill of your partner.

The implementation of an eCommerce platform is different for every company and partner. Even if 2 different partners are implementing the same platform with the same company, chances are that the 2 implementations would be done very differently. The devil is truly in the details. The partner must take a look at the companies backend systems and help make decisions on how data will flow back and forth between those systems and the eCommerce site. There may be different software middleware components that need to be purchased and implemented, there may be additional development that needs to take place either on the company side or on the platform side. Once all of these decisions are made, it all needs to be implemented, tested, scheduled, and monitored. There are lots of moving parts that all need to be made to work together in order for a successful implementation. The time frame for implementation can last anywhere from 2 to 6 months.

The second important factor is the quality and skill of your selected partner. With many eCommerce platforms, the partner is not in a position to make changes to the core system. They almost always need to make their changes in the way of an override to the way things work in the base platform. These types of customizations frequently result in careful considerations that need to be made whenever a new version of the platform is released and the company wants to upgrade. Also, you should determine how involved your partner will be in the ongoing phase of your online store. Will they be engaged and make suggestions to you as new technologies come out? Will they help you with your annual PCI certifications? Will they research articles and provide you with valuable insight to increasing conversion and new methods of marketing your products? Many partners simply get your site launched and then it's a "call me if you need me" type of relationship.

If you are choosing BestRetail as the platform for your eCommerce store, you will get great value for price and features. But for the other 2 more important factors, here are the facts. Our implementations average about 6 weeks from contract signed to the launch of your store. It's an all-hands-on-deck type of approach, and we want to get you up and running as soon as possible. And as far as partnering goes, we are always releasing new versions of the platform which you get automatically, Additionally, we are heavily focused on your success. We keep an eye on your traffic patterns, conversion rates, Google index status, and make suggestions to you as we come up with them. Running an eCommerce store is not a once-and-done kind of project. It's an ongoing, continuous improvement kind of involvement, and whether you partner with us or one of our hand selected System Integrators, you can be sure we will always be looking out for you.

 

Why I (re)platformed my career

Jobs are fleeting. 

Careers can last a lifetime. 

An opportunity to disrupt an industry can be life changing. 

I really enjoyed being a director of eCommerce for a Swedish apparel company. I had succeeded beyond my wildest expectations in growing a business ripe for expansion, but I saw that my experience and success was transferable. I knew there was something greater for me to accomplish.  I was on the front lines seeing that technology can propel a business and I wanted to spread the word.  A successful eComm business didn’t have to be painful, overly complicated or expensive.

In the Spring of 2015, while spearheading eCommerce for the apparel company, I was tasked with bringing a completely outsourced business in-house to drive profitability. I was introduced to a potential provider called BestRetail from a trusted advisor.  While the company was in its infancy, I knew right away that this was a special product, technology & team. I resigned myself to the significance of the moment and what this relationship could do for our business. Brand recognition and a loyal fan base certainly aided some of the early successes, but the true growth came from the amazing technology BestRetail had offered. While be exceedingly user friendly and reliable, the platform also gave me total control of my business.  The days of waiting for updates or added functionality were over.  And that was a huge relief – I could now focus on driving sales and increasing profitability.

The platform or re-platform experience can be daunting and certainly overwhelming with over complexities, layers of moving pieces and high fees, but what BestRetail proved then and what I am here now to share is that it doesn’t have to be that way.  BestRetail was built to relieve companies of many of the unnecessary stresses that come with selling direct to consumer.  The technology succeeds in enhancing the brand experience by providing substantial day to day control and actionable visibility over the entire business, especially around financials.

So I made the leap and joined the BestRetail team in my first ever business development role. I now sit on the other side of the table as a technology provider, identifying brands/opportunities to join the BestRetail community.  And I get a thrill out of sharing my story.

Yes, I know, the eCommerce platform market has many competitive options, but we at BestRetail refuse to abide by how it’s traditionally worked (long, drawn-out implementations and hefty up-front costs) and choose to offer affordable software and fast to market timelines.  Where others license software and wish you well, we choose to be business partners and stick around to watch and support you grow.  While this journey has just begun, I could not be more excited with the progress thus far and the relationships I continue to make.  I get to see the relief and pleasure of offering up efficient, reliable and streamlined solutions to companies who have been burned in the past.

I get to be a part of the success story of setting a new tone for the industry.