Streamlined No-Code App Building: Sandbox Commerce Updates

No-code app and low-code app development, as a revolution in coding, have given rise to a number of digital solutions that changed the world because you no longer have to be a developer to build your own branded solution. Ease of use is part of what excites Sandbox Commerce users, and as a development team, we want to make sure that we’re always thinking through what “ease” means. 

This spring, we came up with multiple ways to make the user end of the platform even better. Below, Head of Operations Alec Boyd takes Sandbox Commerce app builders through the changes that shift their experience by reducing the number of clicks and drags needed to launch and update their app. 

Sandbox Commerce Back-End Updates

“The biggest, and also the most subtle, change is eliminating ‘menu diving,’ or the number of touches needed to find the functionality you want,” Boyd explained. 

When users log in, the interface layout is organized into left and right modals, which will shift based on what’s being edited.

Branding

Sandbox Commerce no-code app platform branding

In the branding section, you’ll find the details you can change in the left modal (store name and branding elements) and the theme settings (colors, typography) on the right. Up top, you can toggle to make changes to your splash page. 

Builder

Sandbox Commerce no-code app platform Builder

When you shift the Builder function, you’ll see the current version of your app in the middle as it looks with the edits you’re making. On the left modal, you’ll see various widgets and to the right options within that widget. You can also shift from home page view to category view and make adjustments in how your merchandise appears within the app and add and remove pieces, all from the same screen as opposed to moving between multiple pages. Sandbox Commerce designers also updated the way users get a real-time look at the app as they make changes. 

“We made it work sharper and faster,” Boyd noted. Any user edits are auto-saved as they move within the app builder, but not pushed to their customers until they log out. 

Push Notifications

Sandbox Commerce no-code app platform push notifications

Creating and personalizing app push notifications is now easier, which allows you to be more creative in engaging with your customers. You can set up a queue of notifications around triggers like sales and track how well they did within analytics. 

Analytics

Sandbox Commerce no-code app  platform analytics

Analytics, a key differentiator that helps Sandbox Commerce users make connections between their customers and how they’re engaging with the brand, can be segmented more easily from within the platform. Track your downloads, revenue, daily sessions and see what’s trending in search and products and then easily use these categories to build a target list of users for email and notifications. 


Much like our customers, the team at Sandbox Commerce is providing a solution that users can make their own. The thoughtfulness of the latest UI changes is part of our work in never being satisfied with the standard and always searching for better. 

“We wanted a superior user experience, to make all of the configurations of customizing a mobile app as accessible as possible,” Boyd added.

If you’re in the market for the best no-code app solution that can help you create more loyalty with your followers and customers, we’re ready to help. Start your 7-day free trail, or contact us for additional information. 

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.

Founder Notes – July 2020

What an interesting time to be in the business of customer service. It appears as though our increased physical distancing as we shelter at home won’t be changing anytime soon, as reflected by restrictions and recommendations are being re-engaged in various states.

As I’m advising Sandbox Commerce users on trying to find a new normal while still attracting traffic to their business, states are adjusting to rising case numbers by encouraging essential travel only. Curbside pickup has risen in both popularity and necessity to keep buyers and sellers safe. There are still learning curves but I’m happy to see Sandbox Commerce customers use the platform in innovative ways.


You may not know this but my background is in coding. In order to keep the wheels greased and turning, I find new projects regularly. Most recently, I created a personal site: sterling.ooo. The creativity of building this micro-site gives me inspiration for new features on Sandbox Commerce.


Between March and April 2020, ecommerce sales rose 25 percent – and the numbers continue to rise. Shopify increased their year-over-year first quarter revenue in 2020 by 47 percent. Americans may be cautious about going outdoors but they’re still shopping for essentials and some nice-to-have items, especially to support small and medium businesses.

I enjoy having conversations about the state of ecommerce, and I shared some thoughts on ecommerce and native apps in recent interviews with Commerce Tea and Silicon Hills News. Hard work pays off, and I appreciate Forbes for including me in “Rising Startups to Watch with Diverse Founders.”

In July, I’ll be focused connecting with the companies who are implementing strategic solutions like curbside pick up and creatively driving loyalty for their brands. If you are one of those business owners, be sure to drop me a line or connect on social media: Twitter or LinkedIn.

Two Strategies to Reach Shoppers Online

Considering the options that exist for retailers, I think it’s best to approach the digital landscape as if you’re selecting the sharpest ax and most reliable power tool.

This is a big deal for retailers as Shopify, the ecommerce platform that enabled $135 billion in sales in 2019, just launched a new consumer app, Shop. Shop is a digital marketplace for customers to discover local businesses powered by Shopify through recommendations and location filters. 

Digital Marketplace vs. Native Mobile App

The benefits of a marketplace like Shop and the Shopify platform include alignment with a large, well-known brand with access to data points it has gathered from retailers like you, who give data in exchange for exposure. The challenge lies in your brand’s inability to fully control the user experience, and getting swamped in competition with the number of  retailers listed in the marketplace. 

The value of having a branded, native e-commerce app, is being able to  design the experience you want to deliver — the kind that builds loyalty and increases the lifetime value of your customers. Owning your mobile storefront means you get to control what products you want to sell, how you want to display them, the frequency of outreach to customers and what the messages say. And of course, your data is owned by you, accessible at any moment. 

A Well-Balanced E-commerce Strategy

My recommendation is that you think about a well-balanced e-commerce strategy. One the one hand, how can you maximize the features that come with a digital marketplace? What products can you offer there that will make the most of discovery and recommendation engines?

On the other hand, how can a native mobile app help you deliver a digital-first customer experience that uniquely yours? You will want to ensure that your offers there are designed for your most loyal customers. Also, keep in mind that you’ll need to wrap an engagement strategy around each purchase that reflects who you are and keeps customers coming back for more. 

The digital landscape is varied, and no one single tool will get the job done for every goal you as a retailer will have to grow your business and thrive in the way we do business now. Personally, I’m excited to see how businesses will make use of insights from Shop to strengthen their presence on web, social media and apps. The digital toolbox is only getting stronger, and that’s the only way growing retail will continue to thrive. 

Start Planning Now: How to Reopen Your Retail Business

Opinions may vary about how and when, but I, like most Americans, am thinking about what life and business looks like when stay-at-home restrictions are removed. In Texas, where I live, the governor has a task force that is working on the logistics of opening schools, places of worship and, for the benefit of the economy, businesses. The President also weighed in with a three-phase approach called Opening America Up Again.

Safety is the main concern for all when considering how to get commerce energized and people out of their houses and purchasing goods. How your business returns to operations impacts not only your customers but also your employees and your reputation. Planning will be essential to a smooth roll-out.

What Remains: Online and Digital Ordering

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To offset the months of lower foot traffic, continue to maintain a robust, streamlined process for purchase on your website or through an app. Give buyers the option for delivery or scheduling curbside pickup at your physical location. Many of your customers will appreciate the opportunity to see a friendly face and to rebuild their routines.

What Changes: Notifications and Email Alerts

If your business requires you to get up close and personal, like stylist or cosmetologist. Typical waiting areas are not an ideal place for customers who are concerned about their health. You can help people get past the worry with clear communication about what the experience will look like.

Enhancement: Gift Cards, Mobile Apps and Credit Toward Services

Even if you don’t have a hard timeline in place yet for reopening, encouraging customers to order gift cards for themselves or as gifts to others not only brings cash flow into your business but it also builds anticipation for redeeming the credit. Along with re-investing in your companies website, invest time and money in building a mobile app for your brand that allows your to notify them via push notifications and incorporate augmented reality (AR).

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Bottom Line: Start Small, Be Cautious

As we navigate the reopening of public life together, I want to give you a reminder to lead with empathy. Uncertainty makes it hard to anticipate customers’ reception to in-person experiences, so be sure you’re exceeding expectations with your digital presence. Allow the brick and mortar game plan to follow the guidelines and messaging of the online experience, a reversal of the way things used to be.

Fold in the opportunities for clients to connect with you face-to-face, ensure their and your safety by following guidelines from elected officials and healthcare professionals, and nurture your relationships by treating every engagement with kindness and a view on the long-term outcomes. We’re in this together.

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.


Follow me on Twitter or on the Sandbox Commerce blog, for more topical content!

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.