How Specialty Grocers Can Increase Customer Engagement with Branded App

For local neighborhood stores, the current economic outlook is driving a desire to increase customer engagement. 

As diners shift their restaurant habits to curbside pickup or forgo eating out altogether and we continue to spend more time in our houses, grocery store spending habits have shifted. Consumers who initially stockpiled dry goods and toilet paper are now buying food they cook at home and spending at the store is up since the beginning of the pandemic. At the same time, prices up and down the aisles are increasing and demand is up as well. Large national grocers are built to handle a level of instability in supply and demand, but for local neighborhood stores, the current economic outlook is driving a desire to increase customer engagement.

Safe In-Store & Online Shopping + Delivery

In addition to providing essentials, neighborhood grocers present a more intimate shopping experience for customers. For anyone concerned about crowds and wanting to decrease their exposure to the coronavirus, being able to shop at a smaller store can help eliminate anxiety. In addition, the owners can provide specialized shopping and delivery service within a radius.

Real-Time Inventory Alerts via Push Notifications

Inventory, especially fresh items or specialty ingredients, can prove a challenge to move. Getting word to customers about availability of items and limited-time specials can drive a sense of urgency that leads to orders or increase the likelihood that someone will make a trip to the store.  Push notifications, a key feature of apps, provide an option for immediate distribution of inventory updates. Plus, push notifications can be used to send updates about orders and delivery in real-time to manage customer experience.

How Grocers Are Using Sandbox Commerce App Builder

Sandbox Commerce has helped RydeOn Groceries and SuperFast NYC deliver a variety of groceries and other items to their customers. These entrepreneurial businesses are using ecommerce platform partners like Shopify or Big Commerce to manage what they have to offer. Sandbox Commerce integrates seamlessly and customers get their on-time delivery with no interruption is experience. SuperFast even has a promise to get orders to their destination in 45 minutes!

We welcome the opportunity to work with local grocers who recognize the need to meet shoppers in this moment through contactless commerce, no-friction shopping and delivery options and providing beyond expectations by keeping the customer informed about opportunities to get what they need when they need it.

For your demo and to discuss options for your store, contact Sandbox Commerce or jump right in and start your free 7-day trial.

Founder Notes – August 2020

In the hottest part of the year, it’s more than just the mercury rising. Online sales across platforms are at their highest numbers yet: Amazon online sales jumped 40% in the second quarter year-over-year and Shopify second quarter revenue grew 97% from a year earlier. As uncertainty lingers, and consumers continue to adjust their shopping habits to include more e-commerce, I’m having more conversations with retailers wanting to meet customers where they’re at: online.

Running Sandbox Commerce is more than providing a no-code solution for building loyalty; the platform itself has to create an engaging experience for both the retailer and their customers. This creates a desire to return to the app, buy additional products and interact with the brand. The design team and I spent the last two months upgrading the back-end of Sandbox Commerce to expedite the process from a retailer signing on to build their app to actually launching the product in the app store. It’s now more intuitive and self-guided, reducing the friction of design and development and providing the seamlessness that makes no-code, low-tech the best way to launch an app.

We are proud of the updates, and if you’re in the process of developing a no-code app and want to see for yourself how it works, now with improved experience, hit me up.

What I’m reading: the new-ish Retail Brew newsletter, No Code is Eating the World by Frederik Bussler at Hacker Noon; subscribed to Catalin Pit’s newsletter

What I’m watching: Beyonce “Black is King” (wasn’t a huge fan, don’t send The Hive after me), basketball from the Bubble

That’s all for now, glad to be “catching up” with everyone. What’s on your list – reading, watching, happening in your world? Tweet it to me: @sterlingssmith on Twitter.

Service from a Distance: Contactless Experiences Are The Future of Retail

Life and business are moving fast, and with uncertainty high due to the ongoing pandemic, it’s safe to say that providing options like curbside commerce and contactless pickup is a wise choice for business owners.

As mentioned in the July Founder Notes, the way we purchase everything, from our groceries and daily goods to shopping, is shifting as states continue to urge residents to follow stay-at-home procedures and wearing masks is mandated or strongly suggested. Limiting exposure to only the necessary trips and keeping distance are among the ways we can keep each other safe and flatten the curve. In the place of in-person shopping, contactless experiences and curbside commerce have taken over as best practice.

The news podcast Marketplace called it the “low-touch” economy, noting that this shift will be changing many industries. AdAge stated that curbside pickup and delivery, alongside e-commerce, will define retail’s next chapter [subscriber content]. Sandbox Commerce has a dedicated section explaining how the platform can be used to facilitate curbside pickup, and our customers have become innovators in solving for the need to safely deliver products and services.

League of Rebels, a menswear boutique based in Austin, Texas, was mentioned as a Sandbox Commerce customer who adopted curbside pickup. As a retailer, when the initial shutdown happened, the store felt the impact immediately. Customers who would typically come in to browse, buy and be measured for the bespoke jackets, shirts, pants and other clothing were absent, and the hands-on experience that set League of Rebels apart couldn’t be delivered virtually. The store’s owner, Muso Alto, had to make an immediate shift to how he and the rest of the team worked in order to maintain relationships and survive during COVID-19.

Building a digital solution can take months of planning, from the search for a coding team to the design and finally launching and iterating based on customer feedback. Unfortunately, Muso didn’t have months, or even weeks, to go this route. When he engaged with Sandbox Commerce, we knew an immediate solution was needed to save his business. Fortunately, he was able to go from initial contact to launch in just a few weeks. Once the app was launched, customers were able to peruse the latest products, purchase what they need and schedule a contactless experience for curbside pickup. All without leaving the League of Rebels app.

Life and business are moving fast, and with uncertainty high due to the ongoing pandemic, it’s safe to say that providing options like curbside commerce and contactless pickup is a wise choice for business owners. No-code development means you don’t have to be a programming genius or spend tens of thousands of dollars to make it happen. If you’re ready to increase loyalty with your customers and provide the safest engagement, contact the Sandbox Commerce team for your demo.

Rise of No-Code and Low-Code Solutions for Work-From-Anywhere Life

As the business world continues to deal with the fallout of a global pandemic and millions of workers are either adjusting to work from home or are being laid off or furloughed, we are proving to be as scrappy as founders of years past with one distinct advantage: coding is no longer required to quickly put together the solutions we need.

Scrappy is a word used most often to describe founders of previous eras, whose empires were built in basements and garages, based on coding and programming written from years of education and practice.

Today, as the business world continues to deal with the fallout of a global pandemic and millions of workers are either adjusting to work from home or are being laid off or furloughed, we are proving to be as scrappy as founders of years past with one distinct advantage: coding is no longer required to quickly put together the solutions we need. As entrepreneurs or as leaders within an established company, we are solving for the issues at hand with the help of low-code or no-code platforms that allow us to address employee, client and/or contractor needs easily without the on-ramp of writing original programming.

Examples of Low-Code and No-Code Solutions

Articles in Wired and The Wall Street Journal illustrate beautifully how the get-it-done spirit is being buoyed by online tools.

In Wired, a copywriter-turned-marketing startup founder with no background in coding took it upon herself to automate systems and create tools for both herself and her team as well as potential clients through a handful of programs like Webflow, Airtable, Zapier and Slack. Dani, the startup founder, admits that the system isn’t perfect but it’s working for her as she scales her services.

The Journal article explores how larger businesses are helping their employees function as they continue to work separately from the central office, especially as some industries codify their work-from-anywhere policies to keep employees safe and help them manage households. Whereas meetings, business trips and other in-person activities typically made workflow smooth, companies are having to solve for the mishmash of regulations as some states continue stay-at-home orders and others begin to “reopen for business.”

One supply chain company was able to launch a system to track their company equipment for out-of-office workers within two days; a biotech firm is using a rapidly developed app to track employees’ location and health status since many of the company’s research and development department was still coming into the office and the leadership was concerned with tracing any illness should it occur. Both companies cited the need to get their solutions launched as the reason why they chose to go with low-code and no-code solutions as opposed to outsourcing to developers or purchasing more advanced, pre-coded options.

#NoCode Solutions Here to Stay

I’m excited to read these articles and others as the  corporate world embraces the simplicity and ease of low-code and no-code tools. When I launched Sandbox Commerce, it was precisely for the reasons that many of these companies are creating solutions: working to make the complicated simple, be it providing ease of use for a retailer or helping keep employees and customers safe by tracing the health of workers.

I’ll wrap up with a quote from the Wired story:

The success of no-code startups may thus be a useful corrective to the cult of the Brilliant Tech Dude. If nearly anyone can do this, some of the magic dies. And some new magic, possibly, is born.

 

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.