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.

Black-Owned Tech Companies to Help You Scale

Retailers have a range of tools at their disposal to ensure their growth, from suppliers to plug-ins and backend solutions to partners like Sandbox Commerce that help them grow their audience and strengthen relationships and loyalty. A recent example of how partners can help elevates small and medium businesses came last month when Shopify highlighted Black-owned businesses on Shop. The amplification of these Shopify partners gave them exposure to additional customers and showed Shopify’s commitment to diversity and inclusion for its customers.

We at Sandbox Commerce believe that Black-owned businesses deserve to be lifted up on both the B2C and B2B side. Over the years, I’ve connected with dozens of amazing tech leaders (who happen to be Black) who are building products that extend the reach of small and medium businesses. As they continue to help their customers find success, we want to highlight them, similarly to how Shopify did for their partners.

Saltbox

Saltbox provides highly functional and private micro-warehousing units ranging in size from 500 to 2,000 square feet complemented by traditional coworking areas featuring private offices, conference rooms, community spaces.

This company describes its customers as the Concrete Class – importers and exporters, distributors, makers and e-commerce operators. By combining the traditional office with warehousing needs of multiple sizes, Saltbox offers entrepreneurs ease of use and reduces friction between owners and team members operating in different functions within a commerce business. Founders Tyler Scriven and Maxwell Bonnie closed their $3.2 million seed round in September 2019 and continue to grow from their homebase of Atlanta, GA.

Upsie

Upsie is confronting the $40-billion extended warranty industry by challenging marketplace conventions and empowering consumers with information, access and convenience.Upsie’s website and mobile app provide users with dependable, transparent coverage and pricing options that can be easily navigated through our user friendly interface.

Though Upsie is B2C rather than B2C like Sandbox Commerce, the company’s founder Clarence Bethea has a similar story to Sterling Smith, Sandbox Commerce CEO. In a 2017 Fast Company story, Bethea talks about the challenges of venture capital funding. Though his numbers are strong, and he is offering a product that takes advantage of the gaps in an industry that has not modernized its practices, Bethea had only raised $1.5 in angel funding at that point.

Bandwagon FanClub Inc.

Bandwagon FanClub tracks qualitative customer data for ticketed events through a proprietary blockchain database that monitors each ticket transaction. Event owners can track the economics of each ticket and stay informed of the end user who ultimately attends the event.

Founder Harold Hughes acquired IdealSeat even as in-person events were being cancelled due to the pandemic. The company’s ability to shift quickly to virtual events and strategize for the way that organizations and companies needed to use events platforms shows that Bandwagon FanClub Inc. plans to be a partner for the long-term.

Resilia

Resilia is a fast-growing venture backed, mission-driven SaaS business based in New York and New Orleans. Resilia’s mission is to harness the power of generosity, technology, and human connection to make nonprofit leadership available for everyone. Resilia’s subscription-based platform helps existing non-profit organizations (SMB’s) increase capacity and enables Enterprises (cities, private foundations and corporations) scale impact. Resilia’s Formation product helps nonprofits by “turbo taxing” the process of incorporating and applying for tax exemption.

Resilia founder and CEO, Sevetri Wilson, is a serial entrepreneur whose work has been recognized by various publications and the Mayor of New Orleans and the U.S. Senate. Wilson describes her work as building “communities, brands, technology and people.” During the economic downturn caused by the pandemic and because of the generosity of people who want to support the causes they care about, donating to nonprofit organizations can be a lifeline for individuals and groups keeping people financially and physically healthy. Wilson and Resilia are providing the structure for nonprofits to meet their missions.

The New Economy: How Sandbox Commerce Helps Customers Provide Unique Solutions

Over the last 90 days our team has seen innovative brands and retail entrepreneurs leverage our no-code platform in ways that we would have never imagined. Here are a few examples.

You may know that Sandbox Commerce is the smartest way for brands and retailers to launch mobile apps that both increase engagement and increase long-term value with their best customers. This relationship has served retailers well, deepening the loyalty between brand and shoppers (and vice versa).

Two companies caught our attention for the ways they’re using Sandbox Commerce: Go360 (Northern California) and League of Rebels (Austin, Texas).

League of Rebels is a purveyor of fine tailoring, a boutique that offers a full line of tailored men’s clothing, with ready to wear, made-to-measure and bespoke tailoring. With such a hands-on experience, from measurements to fit, the coronavirus could have derailed the personalized touch the team at League of Rebels provides. Instead, League of Rebels pivoted to include curbside commerce as an option for receiving wares. It not only allowed team members to continue to engage with shoppers but it kept shoppers safe and physically distanced without having to give up their style.

On the west coast, Go360 offers contactless grocery delivery and first/last mile transportation for daily commuters (think Instacart). The company realized that not only did they need an interface that met the needs of shoppers, they had to be able to use the same platform to hire and deploy drivers. A solution from a larger provider would cost over $100K, require a much longer timeline to go-to-market, and struggle to break even on cost of development. Using Sandbox Commerce, it took only a few weeks to build and roll out the solution, and the investment was reasonable for the startup as they scale and grow.

These are only two examples, and we know the possibilities are endless with entrepreneurs who are determined to make things happen in new ways. If you’re ready to explore curbside commerce or figure out how to make a native mobile app shock and delight your audience, let’s talk.

LISTEN: Sandbox Commerce Founder Talks E-Commerce Mobile Apps with Commerce Tea

Sterling Smith, Sandbox Commerce founder and CEO, spoke with the hosts of Commerce Tea about how a native mobile app can help Shopify sellers create a deeper relationship with existing customers.

Commerce Tea hosts Kelly Vaughn and Rhian Beutler are Shopify Partners: one Plus partner, and one app developer join forces and share the tea every week on what they know best: how to succeed selling online.

LISTEN NOW: Mobile Apps for Shopify Stores

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.