The Path To Unified Commerce


The Path To Unified Commerce

While the business pages buzz with glowing reports of climbing revenue driven by a unified consumer experience – now even seamlessly integrated with the customer’s daily life, many retailers just need to know where to start.

Behind the single brand your customers see there can still be a big divide between store and digital, constrained by legacy infrastructure and a cultural resistance to embracing change.

Here in Australia, we read about omnichannel success stories in the US - like Macy’s revelation last year that its customers who shop across channels are eight times more valuable than single channel shoppers.

These rewards don’t come easily:

Macy’s underwent a major journey of organisational change to become deeply customer-centric and support this new world of ‘micro-moment’ shopping.

There are local heroes too. Myer’s latest results show its online business delivering revenue increases of 70%. The rise in profitability, outstripping sales growth, was attributed by CEO and MD Richard Umbers to Myer’s recent omnichannel efforts, in particular expanding instore iPad services and investing in click and collect capabilities.

In 2015, more than two-thirds of retailers from over 45 countries surveyed by the global National Retail Federation expected to increase revenue, margins and brand value thanks to omnichannel.

Yet it is no surprise at all that the road to customer centricity has twists, turns and potholes. According to a November 2015 article in the Wall Street Journal, half of all consumers picking up in store had problems collecting.

And the logistics only get more interesting when you venture into more ambitious omnichannel territory like real-time inventory checks and cross-channel returns and promotions.

So how best to avoid costly pitfalls, and the corresponding negative business fallout? Australian retailers of all sizes are examining their organisational structures and working to establish internal commitment to improving the consumer experience – and ultimately, to place the customer at the heart of operations

Becoming truly customer-centric often starts with the purchase. Technology is a key enabler, allowing Sportscraft, Saba and JAG customers to click and collect, browsing and purchasing online at leisure but still taking home must-have new releases the same day.

Mecca and Michael Hill first established accurate real-time inventory visibility (so consumers can find items in stock at nearby stores). Over time, they added technology to make social content shoppable.

Linking to photos shared by consumers on social media builds customer engagement, and embedding product data and purchase capabilities into social content opens up a brand new channel for purchase .

The best advice is to move at your own pace. Useful things to consider at the start are:

  • Map the ideal customer journey and interaction points for your brand – make the ideal state your roadmap.

  • Execute incremental changes: start small, use pilot trials, measure success and engage with stakeholders across the business to deliver real results.

  • Start by providing real-time inventory visibility to enable your customers to buy across different channels.

  • Investigate click and collect and shipping from store to add flexibility in purchase and fulfillment.

It takes commitment to build the cultural change required, but the rewards justify the effort.

L2Inc data published in 2015 contrasted net sales for ecommerce pureplays (77 cents on the dollar) with omnichannel players offering online purchase and in-store return: 95 cents on the dollar, replacing lost revenue with incremental in-store spend during the return process.

Offering both in-store pick-up and in-store returns delivered even greater value as shoppers exchange and add to their purchase.

The omnichannel buzz isn’t dying down, but it is changing, with talk about moving beyond channel concepts altogether into an uber-unified customer-centric world of ‘digical’ or ‘phygital.

There are plentiful opportunities for Australian retailers to leverage emerging technology to serve the customer better, faster and more efficiently.

Originally posted at


Google App Search Indexing


Google App Search Indexing

Google has recently overcome one of the big challenges for search engines - the ability to see and index content contained only within apps which have no web counterpart. 

Google started indexing the content from apps two years ago and now have over 100 billion deep links into apps in their index, including popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb and Pinterest. Google report that 40% of searches that people complete on Android devices surface app content.

The ability to present mobile app specific content becomes increasingly important for retailers like Indian based Flipkart who recently announced plans to remove the capability to purchase from their website and moved to an app only model. In line with the new functionality, Google provided an example of finding accommodation options in search results from the HotelTonight app.

To provide the ability to search app content, Google creates a virtual instance of the app, completes a real time search and returns relevant results to the user. In addition, users will also have the option to stream some apps that they don't have installed. For example, by clicking ‘Stream’ next to the HotelTonight app result, you’ll get a web based version of the app, so that you can quickly and easily find what you need and complete a booking, in just the same way as if you were in the app itself. The option to install the app is also prevalently featured.

Strategically, this is important for Google to continue to build their relevance as the mobile web evolves and ultimately benefits users by linking them to the most relevant information. It will be interesting to see how they continue to expand the list of supported apps including retail apps.

See the app results in action: 


Reducing Return Rates - Perfecting Sizing Online


Reducing Return Rates - Perfecting Sizing Online

Improving product return rates can have a big impact to a retailer’s bottom line. ASOS has previously quantified that a 1% drop in customer returns would translate into an additional $16million to the company’s bottom line.

So how do you improve return rates? Fundamentally, one of the biggest conversion hurdles and a predictor for apparel returns is product sizing and fit. There are significant cost impacts for retailers due to the labour, shipping and inventory expenses involved., a London-based developer of sizing software, estimates that around 80 percent of all clothes bought instore pass through a fitting room, so it’s not surprising that online purchases made without a fitting room interaction need to be returned. The company (used by brands including Adidas, Hugo Boss and T.M. Lewin) interviewed German shoppers and identified that 35 percent aborted potential purchases because of concerns about fit.

Globally, businesses lose an estimated $8.4 billion each year because of incorrect sizing for online purchases, according to a retail research firm IHL Group.

Providing a better fit will see a big reduction in return rates, saving money for retailers and ultimately providing happier customers. Some improvement opportunities include:

  • Improved product photography - leading retailers provide product imagery of their products on model, as well as detailing the model’s height, weight and size worn, such as this example from ASOS. This level of detail allows customers to better approximate product fit. 
  • Body scanning - emerging technologies such as Bodymetrics and Styku that use sensors developed by Microsoft for its Kintect platform to create 3D avatars will help determine the correct size. A customer simply gets scanned instore and the software compares their measurements with the exact dimensions of garments to recommend the perfect fit. Bodymetric’s scanners are already in use in select Bloomingdales and Selfridge’s locations. 
  • Product comparison tools - True Fit provides software to retailers that predicts how other garments will fit based on brands and products that a customer already owns. Their tools have had good success by reducing the return rate for a premium denim retailer from 50% to 20% for 400,000 customers. See it in use at House Of Fraser.

Whilst not directly reducing return rates, providing instore returns presents a convenient option for customers and facilitates another opportunity for brands to interact by allowing  for complimentary or alternate products to be presented. One critical aspect is to ensure that the process is seamless from a customer perspective, particularly ensuring that stores aren’t disincentivised from facilitating customer returns.

Ultimately, allowing customers to better identify sizes and brand preferences will result in a better customer experience and bottom line.


Micro Mobile Moments


Micro Mobile Moments

Consumers no longer go online, they live online... People are spending significantly longer online, however, that time is no longer made up of a few long sessions, it's now driven by short bursts of online activity. Previously idle moments like waiting for the bus, standing in line or sitting through TV commercials are now filled with digital engagements. The customer journey has changed into hundreds of what Google defines as 'intent-driven micro-moments' with each one an opportunity for brands to shape customer decisions.

Google recently quantified this through their Consumers in the Micro-Moment research, which identified:

  • 80% of Australians say they now access the Internet more often, but in shorter bursts
  • 81% of Australians say their smartphone searches are more focused on the information that they need immediately (like finding store locations, choosing where to eat or finding directions), compared to their desktop searches
  • 95% of users will turn to their smartphone for immediate information, ideas or advice
  • 71% of people who used their smartphone to search whilst instore trust online reviews more than the word of the sales person

Digital commerce provider Demandware recently highlighted a similar trend in their shopping index which measures digital commerce growth and is based on analysis of the shopping activity of over 200 million shoppers across 1,300 websites worldwide generating billions of dollars in revenue. They identified that phones are the driving force of digital commerce growth and shoppers are doing more than just browsing via their mobile - phones accounted for 94% of the year-over-year increase in traffic, 74% of the growth in items added to an online shopping bag and 47% of order growth.

They also identified the trend towards consumers engaging in short bursts of activity - the index shows that duration of shopping visits on mobile devices decreased 37%, whilst cross device shopping increased 10% between Q2 2014 and Q2 2105. 

This presents a number of opportunities for marketers:

  • Create a connected strategy for cross device shopping and allow shoppers to pick up where their previous ‘micro-moment’ left off
  • Tailor your customer journey to meet consumer’s 'I want to know', 'I want to do' and 'I want to buy' moments - either via products of services that provide customer utility or via content that answers their questions
  • Use personalisation on key customer touchpoints such as email or websites to accelerate the customer journey deep into their shopping experience

In short, mobile devices are changing the way we do things and where we do them.

Learn more via Demandware’s Shopping Index or Google’s Micro Moments research.

Consumers no longer go online, they live online...


Digital Distruption For Retail Stores


Digital Distruption For Retail Stores

Digital tools and communications continue to influence instore shopping experiences. Deloitte's latest report Navigating the New Digital Divide indicates that digital interactions influenced 40% of instore retail visits in Australia during 2014.

Whilst the level of influence may not be surprising for many retailers, it highlights how digital is rapidly changing the way customers shop and make purchase decisions. Digital and traditional channels are blending and complementing each other along the whole retail customer journey.

Australian shoppers have a similar level of digital influence to those in the US and Canada and are ahead of most European countries. Deloitte's survey ranked digitally influenced retail sales as follows - US (49%), Canada (41%), Australia (40%), Germany (30%), The Netherlands (30%) and the UK (27%).

Digital tools will continue to be crucial to the future of the store, not simply contributing to its demise as some have predicted. Of Australians that are digitally engaged, 65% use digital tools before heading into store or making a purchase decision, with an additional 31% using digital tools during their shopping trip. The top activities that Australian shoppers complete during their shopping trip are comparing products, accessing product information and checking product availability.

The trend is clear - customers are completing substantial research and have a desire to know significant product details before making their purchase decision. All of this research acts as a significant opportunity to drive customers to the store.

The upside for retailers is clear, customers using digital tools and devices before and during their shopping trip convert at a 25% higher rate and have a higher average order value than those that don't.

My key takeaways to succeed in the digital-physical fusion:

  • Measure digital engagement along all customer journey touchpoints – simply measuring online channel sales misses the bigger picture as digital has a significantly broader influence on retailers' success.
  • Incorporate digital into your instore experience - over thirty percent of customers use digital tools whilst instore to compare products, prices, reviews or participate in experiential activities. How can you leverage this interest to assist in their purchase and after sales experience?
  • Base your strategy on the buying habits within in your retail segment - the level of customer research, interactivity and expected after sales relationship will differ dramatically depending on your category or product.
  • Align organisational incentives - it's imperative that there is no conflict between stores and digital sales or servicing channels. Be guided by how your customers choose to interact with your brand.

Fundamentally, retailers must understand their customers’ path to purchase (across time, devices, channels and technologies) to build a series of digital touch points to meet their needs along the way.

View a summary of findings from Deloitte's research below, or read the full research here.


Moving Pictures - Unlock the ROI Of Online Video


Moving Pictures - Unlock the ROI Of Online Video

Usage of online video continues to grow at a significant rate and has now become a key pillar in many marketing strategies.

  • Video accounted for 64 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2014
  • Videos on Facebook now receive over four billion views per day - helped significantly by Facebook’s auto-play settings!
  • PwC anticipates that video will be the fastest growing area of Internet advertising in Australia, tripling in value in the next 4 years
  • Nearly 1 in 3 millennials confirmed they have purchased a product as a direct result of watching a tutorial or how-to video about it

Organisations are investing a great deal in their video content strategies and are using the medium as a powerful and engaging tool to communicate brand and product concepts.

One key aspect that has historically been overlooked is driving action from video content. A number of brands are leveraging shoppable videos that highlight design trends via a brand ambassador or stylist to discuss what’s hot. Shoppable video then makes it easy for customers to find the full product details and purchase online. The critical factor is to deliver engaging content that showcases products whilst intertwining a story that compliments the viewing experience.

Leading examples of mixing video content and action include Burberry’s runway video which is an elegant example of melding new fashion looks with shopping abilty; Kate Spade with their beautifully executed campaign featuring Anna Kendrick - The Waiting Game and Joyus who use this technique for nearly all of their products online.

Video can be a very effective medium to communicate difficult concepts online such as size and scale of products, demonstrate features and benefits for complex products, address issues that may arise post sale and provide product tutorials.

Ultimately, video content is great at communicating engaging and emotive concepts and should be used to bring your brand alive.

Keen to learn more? Come along to my Online Retailer Conference session - Moving Pictures: Unlock the ROI Gold in Online Video on 22 July where I’ll cover video trends, making content actionable and provide insights on creating effective video content.