Mobile Experiential Shopping (Not the Gimmicky Kind)

Creating a mobile app that nearly clones the mobile-browser shopping experience offers little value to consumers and business owners. E-commerce platforms like Shopify and Big Commerce have gotten so good at mobile-browser shopping, that the need to purchase items in-app is nearly non-existent.

Brands and retailers that are hoping to offer more to their loyalist have been forced to refocus on creating mobile apps that offer value through experiences, rather than seamless shopping experiences. Here are a few trends that are taking off to create amazing user shopping experiences:

  • AR (that actually gives customers value)

Furniture retailers are dominating this area and solving one of their oldest and most daunting issues…. the question of ‘how will it look in my house?’. These apps just require you to point your camera at an area of the house and like magic, you can see exactly how it looks. Check out this great demo from Magnolia and Ikea’s app.

  • User-Specific Personalization 

Brands are beginning to use big data to create better and more meaningful products for customers. Combine a slick interface with on-demand manufacturing and you have great companies like Son of a Tailor. They’ll make high-quality t-shirts to your exact specs. It’s easy to imagine how a customer becomes an evangelist of a great fitting shirt with their initials on it.

Going beyond the standard mobile shopping app is inevitable. What that feature looks like for each brand and industry is still a bit of a mystery, but it’s an exciting time at the least. Making the barrier of entry lower for turning a Shopify store into an iOS app is just the first step. We’re excited to keep working with ambitious brands and create immersive ways to engage customers.

The Rise of The Social Seller

The ticket for entry in becoming an online retailer has never been more accessible. One after another, companies like WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, and Instagram have brought the brilliant operations of Big Box Retailers to makers, side hustlers and early stage founders alike.

Starting at $99 per month, you’ll be able to use the classic Sandbox Commerce platform to design and launch your app within a week.

This variety of great vendors and their abilities to meet any sized business’ goals has ushered in a golden age of e-commerce. It’s hard to talk to anyone in your social circle who doesn’t have some kind of e-commerce side-hustle that they juggle between their 9-to-5 day job. These hustlers have grown incredibly talented at growing organic social media campaigns and leveraging social networks to accelerate their business to a point were their day job isn’t looking so tempting anymore.

As the Head of Growth at Sandbox Commerce, I spend 80% of my day communicating with online brands and retailers. Traditionally I focused on ‘medium to large’ folks, but the social seller kept showing up on my radar in a more frequent occurrence each day. After collecting swaths of customer feedback, Sandbox Commerce is excited to announce  SandBox Commerce for Social Sellers tier of our platform.

Starting at $99 per month, you’ll be able to use the classic Sandbox Commerce platform to design and launch your app within a week. You’ll have the option to launch on either iOS or the Android marketplace and have access to key features like of push notifications to let your entire audience to engage your audience with in stock notifications and and exclusive sales that increase your ROI.

We’re excited to add another tool to the toolbox for the social seller and get them one step closer to competing with the big shots. We’ll be launching the all new Social Seller tier on May 15th, but you can sign up for early access here.

Introducing SandBox Commerce Engage

Actionable data” is one of those phrases that you’ve likely seen being tossed around in online digital marketing forums but haven’t had the time to really understand what it means to you and your business. From Google Analytics to Facebook for Business to Intercom;  a ton of tools promise to provide insights that help brands and retailers better understand who their customers are, but few actually provide the tools that a small/midsize business needs to deliver the ROI without hiring a third-party consultant. One proven tool that online retailers and digital agencies seem to underutilize today is the power of push notifications.

Take a moment to envision a sleek mobile app for your store that properly represents your brand, more than pays for itself and is custom built to increase engagement with your most loyal customers  – extending their relationship with your brand and encouraging them to shop more on the go.

Sandbox Commerce is tailor-made for mid-size retailers and digital marketing teams who have limited time and even smaller budgets to leverage actionable data from multiple touch-points to increase engagement with their most loyal shoppers.

Global brands and retailers in nearly every vertical have been leveraging the power of push notifications for years, employing actionable data to send more personalized advertisement, invitations, and calls to action to their shoppers on the go. Until recently a midsize retailer would need to pony up more than $250K to build an app that would allow them to experiment with push notifications which for many was frankly a non-starter.

These global brands and retailers have proven that engaging their shoppers in an effective and succinct way is critical to long-term success. Using push notifications, online retailers can instantly fill their most loyal customers in on newly restocked inventory or promotions that they’re running for a limited time. In addition, retailers may segment users by region and then notify local shoppers about pop-up shops that they’re activating. The possibilities become endless when you pair the power of push notifications with a sound communications strategy.

Sandbox Commerce is tailor-made for mid-size retailers and digital marketing teams who have limited time and even smaller budgets to leverage actionable data from multiple touch-points to increase engagement with their most loyal shoppers. We recently worked with over 3 dozen brands and retailers to launch our one of a kind Engagement Dashboard – A tool that’s laser-like focused on helping founders and marketing teams increase revenue using actionable data that larger brands and retailers have been leveraging for years! We’re currently offering free trials for a limited time. Reach out to me if you’d like an invitation.

What I’m Asked Series: What is the Difference Between Responsive Web and Native Apps?

In this aptly titled recurring series, ‘What I’m Asked’ I try to give a high-level understanding of some of e-commerce more complicated questions.

My name is Alec Boyd and I’m the Head of Growth at Sandbox Commerce. Most of my day is spent chatting with e-commerce business from a variety of sizes. Whether I’m chatting with a Chief Marketing Officer or a business owner who is trying to quit their 9-5, the question of ‘What’s the difference between responsive web and native apps?’ always comes up.

Native Apps

Native apps are the easier of the two to grasp. We all have apps on our phones and understand that they live on our phone, have their own icons. They also have their own OS and are designed to work on a specific device – this usually results in a safer transaction and better user UI. We’ll dive into more of the pros and cons momentarily.

Responsive Web

To get started, let’s get a table stakes understanding of what ‘reactive web’ is. Responsive websites are designed to automatically adapt to any screen size. Whether a user pulls up your site on a 27″ monitor or their phone, the website will adapt and scale to display your website.

As e-commerce began to shift towards mobile, it didn’t take long for retailers to realize that they had to adapt. Those who weren’t willing to would be left behind as their competitors grabbed a larger market share.

The Good

Responsive web became a very popular option for a single reason…. price. Retailers found making a great responsive website justifiable in comparison to the hefty cost of native app development. Traditionally native app development starts around $150k and 6 months of development.

The Bad

Lagging: Responsive websites tend to have poor performance. Images and animations are too heavy. Connection speeds and phone performances can really exacerbate the issue too.

Navigation: Responsive web also lacks natural navigation. iOS and Android users have different navigations and UI’s. Responsive web can get close, but it will never feel completely natural for shoppers.

The Ugly

Push Notifications: Responsive web will never have the ability to send push notifications. Some of our greatest success stories have been from savvy marketers making push notifications a powerful call the action. Responsive web will never be able to interact with users outside of their browser – when everyone is fighting for engagement, it’s hard to not see the advantage

Security: When a shopper connects to a responsive webpage through a browser, they’re exposed to trackers and other liabilities associated with public connections. Native apps offer a much more secure shopping experience. The user connects directly to the business without intervention from 3rd parties.

Conclusion

At a quick glance, responsive web and native apps don’t seem like they have many differences, but once you dive into functionalities – native apps are the clear winner.

It was understandable when medium-sized retailers couldn’t justify such a hefty cost to build out their own app. Sandbox Commerce has created an easy way for all sizes of retailers to design and launch their own app and avoid the hefty upfront cost. The list of reasons to ignore native apps is shrinking…

The Times Are a Changin’ – Why Your Store Needs a Mobile App

To successfully run an e-commerce website in 2018, you need to create an amazing mobile experience. The numbers don’t lie – early statistics for 2018 indicate that more than half of your potential customers are shopping while mobile. By not catering to this segments needs, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

In a scramble for retailers of all shapes and sizes to adapt to the mobile world, they’re focusing on getting their product out the door and forgetting their reputation of quality that they spent so long crafting. An alarming 85% of mobile users have experienced difficulty executing a mobile transaction. To make the problem even worse – studies show that 45% of users will shop with a competitor after a sub-optimal mobile experience.

E-commerce stores are turning to is responsive web apps. Responsive web apps require the mobile shopping experience to be reliant on the website as the foundation of its technology. The issue quickly becomes out of hand as issues compound from scaling an entire website down to a phone screen and alterations to the website can have unknown issues on your mobile app.

After weighing all of the cons of a responsive website, it becomes clear the native mobile apps are essential. Now we’re going to expand upon and explore the benefits of a native app.

Early statistics for 2018 indicate that more than half of your potential customers are shopping while mobile.

The Power of Push Notifications

Mobile apps allow you to cut through the static and send push notifications to your entire audience or segment a specific cohort. It doesn’t take much imagination to quickly realize how cart abandonment can be improved after sending a push notification offering a discount for the item they left abandoned in their cart.

Push notifications are also for extending engagement beyond social media and in-store interactions. Reward your most loyal shoppers! Make sure they’re the first to know when a popular item is restocked.

Expanding Brand Loyalty

Going beyond our previous example in push notifications, features like location-based notifications, augmented reality (AR) to let users snap a photo of themselves and know exactly how that product will look on them.

Sandbox Commerce’s Engagement Dashboard allows marketers to export mobile users to Klaviyo and Mailchimp. Quickly create campaigns that match user segments and shopping behaviors.

Knowing Your User

Experienced digital marketers knows that rich user data is worth its weight in gold. As more e-commerce stores begin to sell across different channels like traditional big-box retailers and web giants like Amazon, they’re losing an understanding of who their customers are.

Start to recapture user data and learn who your customers are. For every unique download, a plethora of rich user data comes along with it. From there it’s easy to create look-alike campaigns and optimize other campaigns.

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Tips for Retailers, P2 – Promoting and Extending Your Referral Program

In our first segment on encouraging and gathering customer reviews, we talked about ways to ask your most loyal customers for referrals. In this second part, we’ll dive into making that program a success and the best ways to promote it.

Promoting Your Program

It happens more often than you would think, but shops will go through all the work of creating a program, and never put any weight behind promoting it. Even businesses that have monstrously successful referral programs, like Airbnb, have fallen victim to this pitfall – the referral program will fail if none of your customers (or even employees) knows it exists.

  • Know Which Referral is Best for Your Business – The two main incentives are either a cash discount or percentage off discount. For industries that have a less frequent purchase rate (i.e. mattresses), a cash discount incentive is known to work best. Percentage off of promos are fantastic for recurring businesses. This allows your evangelist to collect a promo they can actually use, instead of multiple cash discounts on a mattress
  • Email Your Current Customers – Clearly, you have to have an established customer base to execute this, but the store that has been idly waiting to implement a referral program – this is the best place to start.
  • Go Beyond Email – Your program can extend far beyond the email world. Implementing your program in social media channels calls to action on your website and targeted push notifications are effective ways to get the word out. Treat this like a marketing campaign – albeit a little different from your traditional campaigns, it’s marketing nonetheless.

Getting to Your Next Customer

It takes a lot of hard work to maintain and keep an omni-channel referral program running, but you’ll soon see how effective they are. Most retail books, written 50 years ago or 5 months ago, will typically include an entire chapter on ‘referral programs’. They’ve proven their worth over the years and now it’s time for you to implement it in the modern age.

3 Tips to Increase ROI using Content Marketing

There are a lot of myths and black magic surrounding return on investment (ROI) in regards to content marketing. Most store owners have heard the old adages like, “play the long game and it’ll pay off someday” or “becoming a knowledgeable voice and the buyers will seek you out”. Shop owners have a lot of fish to fry and it’s hard to justify such a cumbersome task that has an intangible ROI.

More importantly, a LOT of money and resources is spent promoting and creating this content. Finding a more actionable and optimized method for ROI with your content marketing can lead to impressive revenue jumps.

Drew Sanocki is often given credit for creating this golden rule of Content Marketing Growth Multipliers. He breaks down content marketing into three categories.

Number of Leads x Purchase Frequency x Average Order Value (AOV)

Drew is often keen to point out that very few people think about the money earned from content marketing and their main goal is just to increase the number of leads (or impressions) from each post. We’ll dive into the three multipliers and learn which is the most important to optimize, and which aren’t as important as you’d think.

Number of Leads

This is the multiplier that most folks get wrong. Increasing this number without putting thought into Purchase Frequency or AOV won’t yield you favorable results. When the other multipliers are a secondary thought, marketers are then eager to load the page with obnoxious calls to action i.e. pop-up information, flashing adds, scroll through ad- content and the list goes on…
The biggest concern in this multiplier is providing your reader value and information. Well written content will create a call to action for the reader. Their mind will naturally start to follow your lead – chances are if they’re reading your persona specific content, they’re in need of what you’re offering.

Get creative and subtly with your calls to action. Hyperlinks embedded in the content and quotes from a professional in the domain will do wonders with this multiplier.

Purchase Frequency

Now that we’ve collected our list of leads from the value-driven content – it’s time to get them to open their wallets.

Chances are you spent some coin to acquire that lead, so we want to do everything in our power to convince them to purchase. A single purchase is fantastic, but once you snag a repeat customer – margins decrease because of your lower acquisition cost. That’s why the last two multipliers are crucial.

“Tripwire” products are a common practice to incentivize first time buyers. Tripwire products are discounted goods sold with the hope that they will lead to repeat business down the road. A/B testing different products to optimize your promotion is also encouraged.

After any new customers convert, use targeted campaigns to show them other best selling product from your store in hopes recurring purchases. Sandbox Commerce’s Engagement Hub offers marketers rich and actionable data to help segment user behavior. 

Increasing Average Order Value

Customers are now purchasing from us at a more frequent rate, the last piece of the equation is to increase how much they spend on each transaction.

Bundling products that complement each other is an age-old way to increase AOV. Offering two items that pair well with each other, at a discount, creates urgency with the buyer. Don’t let the discount freak you out – you’re still boosting the AOV.

Conclusion

It’s easy to think that increasing your number of leads is the key, but in reality, it’s much more difficult to scale. By focusing and optimizing on purchase frequency and increasing average order value, you can increase (and finally calculate) ROI from content marketing. 

Tips for Retailers, P1 – Encouraging and Gathering Customer Referrals

Word of mouth – especially customer reviews – are one of the strongest tools an ecommerce entrepreneur has at their disposal. It is easy to let frustration set in after your customers are happily consuming your product and not sharing rave review, here are a few steps to encourage your customers to submit reviews.

Knowing Where to Start

It’s important to not take the blanket approach. It’s in your best interest to identify your most loyal users and the users who consistently have great experiences with your organization – you can expect to see a lot of overlap in these segments. Once you identify these cohorts, you’ve identified the customers most likely to write a review.

Signifiers of a loyal user: Have they bought more than one product or even multiples from you? Another key metric to consider is order value. Filter out the users who consistently spend larger average cart values in your store. These are like loyal and happy customers who have a high likelihood of sharing some rave reviews. Sandbox Commerce’s Engage dashboard give shop owners incredibly insights into who their loyal users are for mobile app usage.

Asking for customer reviews

We now have a persona in mind and know exactly which users are likely to write a review for us. Now it’s time to start asking. It’s essential to leverage the power of email to create a scalable and personal point of contact between your users. 

It’s important to make these feel like intimate and personal – here are a few tips:

  • Address them by their first name
  • Use plain text – avoid images or any flash – it should feel like a letter of direct correspondence
  • Reference products they have purchased from your shop
  • Give a reminder of how much you appreciate their business

Make sure you mix it up and experiment which formats yield the best results. Once you’ve found a template with a good open rate and acceptable response rate, automate and send it to the masses.

After you’ve done some testing to deduce which templates work best for certain types of purchases, putting automatic triggers in place is the next step — an easy best practice is to set a trigger for any customers that are placing a second order with your shop.

Automating personalized emails that encourage referrals and guarantee customer satisfaction is essential to scale your online business. Remember, word of mouth and customer reviews is one of the most valuable marketing tools you have.

Optimizing Promotions for Your Store

There are thousands of different promotions a store can use to attract and boost business. Whether it’s 20% or $5 off your next purchase, many managers check a few cost figures and then arbitrarily throw their favorite promotion into action. By tracking and testing your different promotions, you can optimize and run the most effective sale

The Nuts and Bolts

One great metric to give you a high-level understanding of promotion effectiveness is MROI (Marketing Return on Investment)

MROI = [Gross Profit – Marketing Investment] / Marketing Investment.

A Few Things to Know About MROI

  • ‘Marketing Investment’ includes the cumulative cost of the sale discounts and the total cost of running the promotion.
  • Gross Profit = # of Units Sold x [ Average Selling Price – Average Cost of Unit ]
  • If you don’t know the Gross Profit or Cost of Goods Sold, Gross Sales from the promotion will work in a pinch. Just be sure to be consistent when comparing your MROI figures.

Putting This into Practice:

Your store just finished a promotion for 15% off all jeans in the store before heading into summer. Before you ran the promotion, the Average Selling Price of the jeans were $100, and your Average Cost of per pair was $40. You also spent $2,000 promoting the sale on Facebook and Adwords Campaigns. The Average Discount per pair of jeans was $15.00 [$100.00 x 15%]. After the dust settled and the promotion was completed, your store sold 150 pairs of jeans.

Gross Profit = # of Units Sold x [ Average Selling Price – Average Cost of Unit ]

Gross Profit = 150 x [$100 – $40] = $9,000.00

Remember, Marketing Investment includes both the price of the discounted items AND advertising. In this case, the Average Discount was $15 and we sold 150 pairs of jeans. Marketing Investment = $2,000 + [$15 x 150] = $4,250.00

Now let’s plug in all of our figures.

MROI = [Gross Profit – Marketing Investment] / Marketing Investment.

MROI = [$9,000.00 – $4,250.00] / $4,250.00 = 111.76%

Testing, Comparing and Optimizing Your Promotions

All of this basic data is helpful to understanding the success of an individual promotion, but by keeping track of a few other factors – we can start building a powerful tool.

  1. When did the sale take place? Was it around a seasonal change, holiday or something else?
  2. Was there a specific the promotion was for? Sometimes there are storewide sales, but it’s important to note if its specific to things like accessories or shirts.
  3. Lastly, note what kind of promotion it was. Did you offer a percentage off or was it a dollar amount the purchase?

Storing each promotion into Excel or Google Sheets is a best practice. Keeping this historical data and promotion performance makes it easy to see which types of campaigns perform best at any given time – comparing apples to apples.

It’s important to know your channels and which are the most effective for getting the word out for a given promotion. Sandbox Commerce’s push notification tool is a great way to engage and keep customers up to date.

Keep experimenting and build off your historical data – you’ll soon be maximizing the profits of every promotion you run.

Why Did Walmart Change It’s Name?

On February 1st, after 47 years being known as Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer will officially change it’s name to Walmart Inc.

Big deal, right? Most people (myself included) probably didn’t even realize the official name was Wal-Mart Stores until they announced the name change in December. So why does it matter? While the new name won’t inherently change anything about how Walmart does business, it represents a greater shift to embrace a more omnichannel future.

In the words of Doug McMillon, Walmart president and CEO “Our customers know us as Walmart and today they shop with us not only in our stores but online and with our app as well.” He continues to explain that “While our legal name is used in a limited number of places, we felt it was best to have a name that was consistent with the idea that you can shop us however you like as a customer.”

As companies like Amazon.com Inc continue to challenge Walmart’s position as top retailer, the company is putting in place a very effective strategy for staying ahead. The focus is being put on e-commerce, and the seamless integration of the Walmart online store and app with the in-store experience. Walmart has begun making these strides by acquiring Jet.com and Bonobos, offering two-day free delivery, further integrating stores and e-commerce, and improving its mobile shopping app. These changes have already led to a 50% increase in online sales in the U.S. over the past three quarters, which is more than triple the pace of the broader e-commerce sector, and this is only the beginning.

Walmart and Google have recently teamed up to tap into the voice-shopping market, which was previously dominated by Amazon’s AI virtual assistant Alexa. While Alexa lets U.S. consumers shop directly from Amazon, people are now able to buy Walmart products in a similar way—using the voice-activated Google Assistant platform on their phones and home devices.

These changes being made by the biggest retailers like Walmart and Amazon are important indicators of the future of retail. For smaller companies, looking at the things that the large retailers focus on can be a key way of staying ahead of your competitors. After all, Walmart has been at the top of the retail game for years, and it looks like they are staying there, or at least putting up a good fight. Though it may seem like a small change, Walmart’s new name shows the importance that this company puts on providing a seamless, omnichannel retail experience to their customers. Do you provide this? How integrated are your app, website and store? Walmart and Amazon seem to think that voice shopping is the next big thing, so maybe it’s time to start looking into this technology for your own retail business.

Need help updating your retail app or website? Thats what we’re here for! Start your 30 day free trial of Sandbox Commerce now!