A Timely Pivot to E-Commerce

There is a graphic circling social media that demands we all come out on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic with a skill or side hustle, or else we’ve wasted the time given to us through quarantine and shelter-in-place orders.

I tend to take viral posts like this with a grain of salt; what productivity looks like to someone who is an entrepreneur versus someone with a job that is deemed essential or to someone who is childfree versus a person who is balancing homeschooling and full-time work expectations will be vastly different right now. However, in every bombastic and boastful post, there remains a grain of truth. Now is a good time to make purposeful changes about your company and expand into new and strategic offerings.

As a previous article mentioned, restaurants and retailers are shifting in their delivery to maintain contactless or organize as few touches as possible between packaging and the customer. Let’s zoom out a bit about pivoting to the online and digital space in a meaningful, long-term way.

I recently had a conversation with a successful retailer in New York who has three stores in the city. They’d done well offering boutique services through their brick and mortar storefronts up until the pandemic. When they looked at online sales, they lagged in-person numbers. Now with the shut down in the largest city in the nation, they realize that they’d missed a prime opportunity to have their online store primed for the pivot to online buying. Working from the back foot makes it harder to earn dollars that established boutiques that give equal, if not more, attention to e-commerce have already taken.

Revamp Site Content

If your site and app is already up, you’re one step in the right direction. Say you’ve put that decision off; now is the best time to create your e-commerce solution. Not only are people looking to support small business, you can also link with an independent site or app developer looking to continue building their portfolio.

If you have experience in building online and digital, you may be able take what you would spend with a developer and find a self-service product or platform to help you build.

For existing sites that haven’t been touched since launching, invest in updating your content, from product photos and descriptions to your brand story. It might be that the logo you chose years ago no longer fits with the business you run today. Work with a graphic designer to drop a new logo and hire a content specialist to give your company description the update it needs.

Apply SEO Best Practice

You are familiar with the concept of SEO, right? It (search engine optimization) is what brings your brand up to the top in Google, Bing and other search engines when people search for key words and phrases related to your products and services. If you can’t go viral, you definitely want to be on the first page of the top search results for the words and phrases that matter to you.

Data from Pinterest Survey

One of the more interesting ways that SEO is changing is directly related to the way we engage with search engines. Rarely do we go in search of “blue t-shirts” when shopping. Instead, we ask our browsers “what’s the t-shirt [insert Celebrity X] wore on Jimmy Kimmel?” The specificity of our searches means that alt-text and descriptive content has to be on point.

Notice also I said “we ask” our browsers, meaning we are using voice over typing to search. Voice search, as compared to text search, tends to have longer, more descriptive phrases. Voice search is also tied to heavy spending; by 2022, voice-based shopping will be at $40 billion.

While you may not learn how to DJ or crochet during this shift, it doesn’t mean you should be okay with idleness. Enhancing your online and digital platforms is a no-brainer that will help you maintain your brand’s presence and earn new customers while satisfying your current customers desire to buy online.


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There will never be a perfect time, don’t wait to engage with your customers!

During the pandemic, the latest way to connect with your customers…is to not contact them. Physically, that is. Many businesses are still providing top-notch service, even as we are physically distancing ourselves to lower the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19.

Restaurants and bars, along with clothing and goods storefronts, are instituting new methods of getting their food and products to their customers through inventive and creative methods. Rather than allowing new rules to diminish the experience, owners and operators are thinking of ways to provide a positive buying experience and increase long-term loyalty. What does that mean for you and your company as you face the same challenges?

Bundle goods and services in new ways

Across the United States, most restaurants are being labeled as essential service companies but with the rules limiting the number of people allowed to gather in one building, dine-in service is out of the question. I’ve been impressed to see how thoughtful the dining teams have been about packaging whole meals, along with beverages, to still give their customers the appetizer-entrée-desert components in takeaway.

Here in Texas, where I’m based, the governor has relaxed the rules about alcohol delivery and take-way and many places are selling their signature drinks as an add-on. If you sell products, what combinations can you offer customers to help them imagine the experience they can have from a line of haircare or facial goods they may not have imagined? Curating their purchase not only gives them more exposure to your lineup, it helps you understand what combinations can sell in the future.

Invest in packaging

Unboxing videos are a popular way that customers have been sharing their purchases for some years. We use our eyes as part of our enjoyment and investing in new and unique packaging is a low-cost way to surprise your customers.

If you can make the packaging sustainable, that adds a valuable element to why they should be buying from you. Upgrade the bags, boxes and enclosures as well as small touch-points like tags, packaging materials like tissue paper and thank you notes.

Make use of social media to share customer stories

What good is a customer purchase if no one knows they bought it, right? Make a wave by asking your audience to share what they’re buying with their own followers along with their review. You can request this through email marketing or in-app messaging and incentivize it by offering future credit or discounts.

There is a risk that you may have an unhappy customer who isn’t pleased by the change in the buying and delivery process and they decide to share that. However, I’ve found that most people, especially your most loyal customers, are understanding of the ways that commerce is changing and want to support you staying in business.

Keep updated inventory to ensure expectations are met

Almost all of us have experienced that moment of intense disappointment when we’ve added a purchase to cart and are set to check out only to find out that the site had an error and what we want isn’t in stock. You don’t want to be the brand that is letting people down because your inventory wasn’t correct.

Make it a priority to ensure your numbers are correct and updated regularly as customers check out to avoid not being able to fulfill someone’s need for the best work-from-home outfit or self-care product.

Surprise and delight

The brands that go above and beyond in bringing an unexpected smile to their customers’ faces will be rewarded when the travel and gathering restrictions are lifted. The surprise and delight tip doesn’t have to equal a massive spend on your part.

What small ways can you provide an unexpected but welcome moment in the lives of others? The note included in their order thanking them for supporting an independent business, the email that shares a picture of your work from home set up, complete with dogs, cats and kids, or a video dropped on your social media channel that authentically talks about your gratitude. If you can afford, include a freebie that elevates their experience in their orders as well. Be the kindness you wish to see, and it multiplies.


What ways have you seen businesses uniquely providing delivery and carry-out wins from online or in-app purchases?

How can brands increase engagement in the age of social distancing

The unexpected impact of COVID-19 pandemic and the required social distancing for public safety is hitting brick and mortar stores right in the heart of their business: in-person sales and engagement. With fewer people coming through their doors, sales are declining, and many owners are having to make hard decisions. How do you determine trends and provide necessary touchpoints with buyers when they can’t leave their homes?

The current realities facing many companies is a sobering look at the realities of 21st century life. Unexpected and disruptive events are part of the business landscape and planning is crucial to make sure that interruptions have as little impact as possible. The ways stores usually do business – face-to-face – can’t stand alone as strategy for growth and retention of customers, and diversifying into a digital solution can be daunting.

With the advent of faster Internet connectivity, WiFi networks through most public places and the rollout of 5G, people are engaged with their mobile tools throughout the day. They are searching for content that meets their needs for entertainment and education on social media and downloading apps and tools to do the same.

Influencer Marketing

Celebrity isn’t limited to movie stars anymore. Influencers are taking over, and their impact can move numbers when it comes to products from clothing and shoes to books and movies.

Connecting with an influencer gives you access to their platform on social media and through email and it lends your brand cache as the must-have product of a customer’s favorite person.

I would recommend that you have your goals clearly outlined before engaging with an influencer to ensure you get the return on your investment. If you are sending your brand’s clothing to a person, where do you want them to wear it? Do they post to social media once and include in their weekly newsletter as well? The more you want them to promote your brand, the costlier the relationship can become, so be intentional about the elements of your contract.

And yes, you will need a contract. After all, influencers are a business themselves and they need to protect their brand as much as you want to protect yours.

Once they do post, share pictures and videos far and wide so your audience sees and engages with the content. It’s a smart move that exposes you to the influencer’s loyal followers and shows that you know what’s happening to your audience.

Social Selling

The social media platforms Instagram and Pinterest have emerged as powerhouses of e-commerce. We all know that scrolling, pinning and double-tapping takes up hours of people’s time across demographics. Why not make social selling of your latest line a priority when your customers aren’t able to make it into the stores?

To give some perspective: 37 percent of Americans use Instagram and 89 percent of Instagram’s users are from outside of the United States. 73 percent of teens say the platform is the best way for brands to reach them about new products or promotions and 130 million Instagram users tap on a shopping product to learn more every month. And that’s just Instagram.

When Pinterest surveyed their users, the results were just as supportive of why you need to be moving toward social selling: 72 percent said the social site inspires them to shop even when they aren’t actually looking for anything. You can’t buy results like this: 90 percent said Pinterest helps them decide what to buy and 66 percent buy something after seeing a brand’s Pins.

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It’s an easy win to set up your shoppable Instagram or Pinterest account; you already know the purchase power is there and with limited in-person engagement, social media is the new storefront.

Mobile Tools

Most businesses have a mobile version of their site where customers can also purchase; after all, it is 2020. The user experience for apps differs from online stores. An online store is standard but the reality is that only 12 percent of consumers find shopping on mobile sites convenient. Having an app allows for personalization that buying in-store or via website isn’t built to deliver.

Customers are looking for a shopping experience that speaks to their specific needs, be it based on their location, previous purchases, web history or other data, without it being obvious that the brand has this information at their fingertips. Apps natively capture this information and deliver content personalized to individuals, leading to increased sales.

The time it takes to build an app is fairly short, thanks to drag and drop technology. The best no code app builders allow you to make your app in a day. In your brand’s app, make sure you prioritize offering a full range of inventory, add captivating descriptions and photos, and categorize it all in a way that makes sense to your customer.

From there, you can consider what your marketing will look like through push notifications and other ways to engage with app users. Finally, you can get the big picture view by regularly studying your analytics that show who is using the app, their demographics and buying habits and a sales report.

The New Normal: Sell from Everywhere and Leverage Networks

As the manager of your brand, you likely didn’t anticipate that you would be facing this challenging period. Grow stronger from the current challenge and come out smarter by connecting with new audiences through influencers, leveraging social media purchasing and developing an app as the digital solutions your audience needs to stay connected with you. When customers see your brand throughout their day, it becomes more likely they will make purchases, their loyalty increases, and you gain a brand advocate.

App-Based Mobile Commerce Explained: Why Retailers Should Embrace No-code

3 Benefits of App-Based mobile commerce and why coding shouldn’t keep you from considering it…

E-commerce is evolving. Shoppers #1 medium for product discovery and acquisition is their phone, and basic responsive mobile websites provided by platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, etc often feel dated and are sluggish on Google Chrome and Safari browsers. App-based mobile commerce allows businesses to create specialized customer-winning experiences that combine a frictionless journey to checkout with unique workflows that add value to consumers on the go.

As app-based mobile commerce has become more accessible and affordable due to no-code platforms like Sandbox Commerce. No-code platforms will transfer the power dynamic away from traditional software development shops to platforms that allow marketing directors, sales managers, and non-technical personnel to simply drag and drop their way to growth and efficiency for their organizations without writing a line of code.

How do you determine if launching an iPhone and Android app for your brand makes sense? and what can you expect to gain if you decide to add an app to your omni-channel strategy in the new year?

This guide will cover 3 rules to help you find success using an app-based mobile commerce strategy.

But first: What is no-code?

More and more software applications like Airtable, Trello and Salesforce have built software platforms based on no-code principles. Each of these businesses focus on solving traditional problems businesses encounter like project planning, data manipulation, and business development. In each of these use cases, no-code platforms usually excel in the following areas:

1. Allow drag-and-drop “blocks” of functionality that can be visually customized to build apps or create complex workflows.
2. Visual query datasources that allow blocks to display dynamic information instantly.
3. Utilize APIs to integrate data from existing enterprise applications or web services.
4. Broaden appeal to less technical users instead of leaving the creation of complex solutions up to traditional developers.
5. Expedite go-to-market of complex applications, usually at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional software deployments.

What are the advantages of a mobile app?

Better engagement:  According to Comscore, mobile websites see more visitors than mobile apps, but visitors spend 27 percent more time in apps. The data is clear. Retailers who provide shoppers with a native mobile user experience benefit from an increase in engagement over responsive websites.

Reduced cart abandonment: 70 percent of shoppers who add items to their cart within responsive websites leave without purchasing anything. In comparison, native mobile shopping carts that leverage Apple Pay and Google Pay at checkout and allow 1-click purchasing. reduce cart abandonment by 25 percent.

Increased discovery with push notifications:  Unique to native mobile apps are push notifications. According to Localytics, 52 percent of smartphone users have enabled these notifications on their smartphones. Marketers use push notifications to catch users’ attention by promoting products and reminding shoppers about their abandoned carts. Using data collected within their mobile app, retailers segment users to provide personalized recommendations that are both relevant and valuable to shoppers on the go.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot of buzz around no-code and mobile apps for retailers in e-commerce. By staying informed, you can determine if a mobile app will add value to your brand and proceed accordingly.

Want to learn more about the intersection between no-code and app-based mobile commerce? Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to Sandbox Commerce’s blog for more around these growing trends.

Who Needs a Retail App?

Who Needs a Retail App_

E-Commerce Evolution

The internet has changed the way we work, the way we socialize, and the explosion of eCommerce has most definitely changed the way we shop.

Over the past decade, the evolution of both tech hardware and data networks has had a direct correlation with eCommerce. 

Powered by tech giants like Amazon, who joined the space in 1995, and later Google and Paypal who launched their eCommerce initiatives in 1998, the overall journey of online shopping is far from finished, and is undoubtably accelerating. 

Mobile Madness

If you’ve gone…well…anywhere, you’ve seen people’s eyeballs glued to their mobile devices. We have a mind-blowing amount of functionality, literally at our fingertips. You can stream digital content, order just about anything, navigate to places near and far, and of course, take selfies. 

The point is, humans are seemingly as connected physically to their devices, as the devices themselves are connected to data. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, is certainly debatable. 

Data-driven E-commerce

In 2019, e-commerce sales are expected to account for 13.7 percent of retail sales worldwide.

Digital commerce is rich with customer data that provides valuable insight into the successes and shortcomings of your e-commerce business. Capturing and analyzing this data is key to your ability to be strategically agile. Even a minor change in your tactics can sometimes yield significant positive results. 

Here are just a few of numerous key metrics that e-commerce professionals should track:

  • Revenue by traffic source
  • Average order value
  • Shopping cart abandonment rate
  • Sales conversion rate
  • Percentage of mobile visits
  • Social media engagement metrics

Analyzing such key data points empowers you to create buyer personas, understand where to increase/decrease marketing spend, identify which campaigns are impactful, and much more.

Engagement-driven E-commerce

The number one reason people shop online is that they’re able to shop at all hours of the day. (KPMG report)

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As customers, We’re more likely to spend our money on something we want, but most of us will also pay more if better service comes with it.

This isn’t a small distinction, either. You ignore it at your business’ risk.

86% of consumers will spend more if it involves a better customer experience. By 2020, customer experience is expected to become a bigger brand differentiator than price and even the products themselves.

If you want better retention and more conversions, you want to invest in engaging your customers.

  • Enable Customer Feedback and Allow for Reviews

One easy way to improve your customer engagement in e-commerce is to let your customers give feedback. Provide them with a comments section or let them leave your company ratings.

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  • Provide Easy Access to Information

Across every industry, 81% of consumers will try to help themselves before asking a live representative to do so. 90% of them will go to your site first.

You can use these facts to improve your customer engagement in e-commerce by providing your visitors with a self-service portal that offers as many resources as possible. This could include everything from buyer’s guides to an FAQ.

  • Immediately Engage Unhappy Customers

Customer churn is a serious problem. Lowering this number for your company could increase your profitability by as much as 125%.

Unfortunately, unhappy customers don’t always let you know before deciding to take their business elsewhere. For every 1 customer that complains to you, 26 don’t say a thing.

  • Increase Account Creations

Most people would rather make purchases without opening accounts. So while they give you profits, they don’t help you improve your customer engagement on your e-commerce platform.

The key here is not to look for that account creation right away.

Wait until they make that initial purchase and then offer them the opportunity to start that account. At that point, you’ve earned a bit of trust, and they’ve proven they like what you have to offer.

  • Leverage Technology 

Ikea is using augmented reality to let customers preview how furniture looks on their smartphones before they buy. 

In Ikea Place, customers can view 3-D renderings from different angles of over 2,000 products before reserving the ones they want in the app, which directs to the Ikea site to complete purchases. Currently, large furniture for living rooms such as sofas, armchairs and storage units are available to preview in the app, with more products in the pipeline.

Aside from the ‘cool factor’, empowering customers with the latest retail technology is an impactful way to engage and most importantly, retain them. 

Whether data, engagement, or both, are your focus for leveraging e-commerce and mobile commerce, you need the tools to do it

Take Shoppable Instagram Outside of Instagram

Take Shoppable Instagram Outside of Instagram

What on Earth is Shoppable Instagram?

Before I talk about taking shoppable Instagram outside of Instagram, let’s take a step back to talk about what shoppable Instagram IS, to establish a foundation.

If you’ve never heard of shoppable Instagram, there is enough of a context clue in the name itself that you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it enables your customers to shop directly from your Instagram feed. 

Why is This Important? 

Omni-channel shopping is an increasingly-important strategy for retailers and brands.

Omni-channel is built on multiple methods of promoting and distributing products, such as physical stores, websites and mobile apps, and allowing customers to reach out with problems or concerns by phone, email, web chat and social media, for example.

With mobile commerce overtaking e-commerce, it makes sense to be able to put your products in front of your customers in the easiest way possible.

Shopping on Instagram enables you to tag up to five products per image or up to twenty products per carousel and allow your followers with a simple tap to buy these products from your online shop.

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Taking it a Step Further

The NEW Sandbox Commerce Social tier empowers you take your shoppable Instagram posts and use them on your e-commerce page, in a blog, or wherever you create content. The look and feel of shopping direct from your Instagram page, will be extended to more customers, which ultimately leads to, more revenue

Social Selling Tips

Social Selling Tips

What is Social Selling?

Social selling is the art of using social media to find, connect with, understand, and nurture sales prospects. It’s the modern way to develop meaningful relationships with potential customers so you’re the first person or brand a prospect thinks of when they’re ready to buy.

Social selling is not just about gaining access to contacts but about building relationships and listening for the right moment to join the conversation so you can present yourself as a solution to a problem. 

Who is Using Social Selling?

These days? Just about everyone, INCLUDING YOUR COMPETITORS.

You would be mistaken to think of social selling as a ‘trend’ that’s likely to disappear anytime soon. It won’t. In fact, given that it’s largely free to use, and extremely simple to reach far and wide, it’s arguable that social selling could be THE best way to reach potential customers.

A Few Social Selling Tips

Helpful Tips
  • BE PERSONABLE – Just because social selling is done online, does not mean there’s no personal touch. Don’t just ‘like’, but also reply to your customer’s comments, Do so, with language that reflects you actually hear them. Avoid using cookie-cutter responses or chat bots. 
  • LISTEN TO WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING – Pay attention to what gets posted and what people are conversing about on your social media pages. This is a valuable opportunity to learn not only about likes/dislikes, but gain an understanding about customer needs/wants, as well as potential problems you may be able to solve with your goods/services.
  • PROVIDE VALUE – As tempting as it may be, Social Selling is not about pitching product. This doesn’t mean you can never mention your goods/services, but if you come across too “sales-y’, it can be a quick way to run people off. Your goal should be to contribute valuable information that can help establish you as an expert in your field. Write posts that share important knowledge, but don’t be afraid to share relevant posts from others as well. 

As a final tip, use multiple social media platforms. You may find that a large segment of your customers gravitates towards a particular platform, but don’t get too narrowly-focused that you miss out on potential new customers. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram (to name a few) can and should be leveraged to engage your customers.

Sandbox Commerce One-on-one Launch Support

Launch Support

We view our customers as strategic partners. We’re mutually connected to your success. This is why we want to make sure you hit the ground running, so to speak, when you’re ready to launch your awesome new app!

Although our drag-and-drop functionality is designed to be very user-friendly, we’re aware that some guidance may be necessary. This is why you have a dedicated Customer Success Manager aligned with you.

Your CSM will build the first version of your app for review, and provide continuous support and guidance along the way. 

  • App Design Assistance
  • App Marketing Strategies
    • Social Media Campaign Ideas
    • Newsletters
    • Promotions and Special Offers
  • Rapid Issue Resolution
  • Dedicated Point of Contact
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Whether you’re a small business, or large enterprise, we offer solutions to fit your mobile commerce business strategy. Let us show you what we can do for you! 

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                                               Schedule a Demo

NEW Sandbox Commerce Social Tier!

NEW Sandbox Commerce Social Tier! (1)

Sandbox Commerce empowers you to leverage omni-channel shopping thru shoppable Instagram content.

Turn your Instagram and user-generated content (UGC) into shoppable galleries for your online store and other channels

Integrate fully customized shoppable Instagram & UGC galleries into any location within you online store. Choose between different gallery styles that can live on your homepage, as dedicated content pages, within product pages, on collections pages, or anywhere else you’d like.

Why use UGC?

Consumers trust online content created by their peers above all other forms of advertising. Your most loyal customers routinely post photos and videos that feature your products. Our platform will help you put that content at the forefront of their shopping experience.

Rest assured, this is not a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ trend. This is an integral part of the future of digital commerce. By leveraging this powerful form of social shopping, you create a powerful new revenue stream with minimal effort. 

*** Sandbox Social is currently only available for users of Shopify ***

REGISTER TO WIN ‘SANDBOX SOCIAL’ FREE FOR SIX MONTHS!

Simple But Effective Ways to Promote Your Retail App

Simple But Effective Ways to Promote Your Retail App

You’ve launched a cool new app, and now the money starts rolling in! Right?

Not if no one knows about it!

Here are 6 things you can do to let people know about your app:

  • Host a giveaway. With a service like Rafflecopter.com you can create special prizes and raffle them away to those who download your app, and share a post about the raffle on social media.
  • Promote in all your communications. Include links to your app website, blog, and social media channels in your email signature. 
  • Link in your business cards. Add a short code or a scanable code to your business cards so that people can download your app faster.
  • Delivery Inserts. You could include a small card or slip of paper with a customer’s order that gives a discount code for their next purchase if they use the app. 
  • Offer Exclusive Content. Make certain items available ‘In App Only’. 
  • Run an ad campaign on Facebook. Get installs off of people’s newsfeeds.

Remember, an app isn’t a ‘magic wand’ to create new business. It’s merely a value-added extension of your business. The most likely people to download your app will be your most loyal customers. With that in mind, focus on delivering great products, at a fair price, with great customer service, and you’ll build an army of evangelists.

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