3 Ways Retailers Can Prepare For The Rise Of Voice Search

3 Ways Retailers Can Prepare For The Rise Of Voice Search

3 MIN READ
20% of searches in the Google App are now by voice.

– Google Data

The past couple of years have seen a huge increase in the number of searches completed using voice assistants. So much easier than typing out a query, voice search is the perfect fit for today’s busy lifestyle – allowing users to quickly ask questions at the same time as performing other tasks.

At the moment the majority of voice searches are being completed on a mobile, with most people in the UK owning a smartphone with a digital assistant pre-installed. However ownership of smart speakers, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, has doubled in the past 6 months, with 1 in 10 UK households now owning one (YouGov).

Back in September 2014, Andrew Ng, Chief Scientist at Baidu, predicted that by 2020 half of all searches would either be completed with images or speech. Could Christmas 2019 see his prediction come true?

With such a rapid increase in home-assistant sales, and a high percentage of mobile searches already being performed with voice, what can retailers do to ensure their web content is optimised?

Ensure Your NAP Is Consistent Across Third Party Sites

 

As previously mentioned, at the moment the majority of voice searches are completed on a mobile. This means that lots of searches have local intent, e.g. searches for directions, local services, store details and opening hours.

 

46% of voice search users look for a local business on a daily basis

– Bright Local

So that voice-assistants can easily find your company’s information, make sure that all of your locations are claimed across third-party websites such as Google Places and Yelp. Also, check that your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) is correct and consistent across the web.

Write Content In A Natural Way

 

Data shows that the majority of voice queries use natural language and are longer than text-based searches. Users speak to voice-assistants as they would to another person rather than a search engine. This means that your product descriptions, buying guides and customer service information should be written in a conversational way – as if you were talking to a customer.

Although assistants aim to provide short, concise answers, research shows that articles with a higher word count actually tend to perform better in voice-search results as they provide more context to match a snippet to the user’s query. For this reason, aim to provide long-form content on topics but include definition statements to answer common queries.

When returning results for queries, voice-assistants take into consideration the snippet’s grammar and ease of pronunciation. Make sure that all content is reviewed for grammar and typos ahead of publishing and use simple everyday words that are easy to read out loud.

Speak to your customer-service team and sales assistants to identify the most frequently asked questions about your key products and ranges. You can then use this knowledge to update product descriptions, create buying guides or add FAQ pages to your site. Answerthepublic.com is another good way of finding out what potential customers might be searching for.

Implement Structured Data MarkUp

 

Help search engines to better understand the context of your content by implementing structured data markup. This markup highlights important parts of your content so that it’s easier to find. It’s also used to display rich and featured snippets in the search results. These featured snippets are often used as the top source for voice answers.

For eCommerce sites, Google recommend implementing all relevant markup below:

Google are also currently trialling a new form of schema called Speakable – this allows you to mark up which parts of your articles or webpages are suitable for voice search results. This is currently only available in the US, but Google plans to roll it out to other countries soon.

So What Should Retailers Be Doing Now?

 

1. Claim and update all business profiles and locations on third-party websites including social accounts.

2. Prioritising best-selling ranges, optimise and create content to answer common customer queries. Ideally plan and create all the content you think your customers will need for the Christmas shopping period.

3. Implement all relevant structured data markup so that voice assistants can easily make sense of your information.

Stephanie Fenton
17th April 2019

Tips To Make Your eCommerce Store More Sustainable

Tips To Make Your eCommerce Store More Sustainable

8 MIN READ
Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue.
– Edelman 

Over the past few years the issue of climate change and the impact our daily lives have on the environment have become big news in the UK. Thanks to the likes of documentaries such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, and the Government’s war on single-use plastic, shoppers are now more aware than ever of their carbon footprint.

This has resulted in more environmentally-conscious customers and a huge uplift in sales of eco-friendly products. Shoppers want to purchase from responsible retailers – half of the consumers who took part in a study carried out by GlobalWebIndex said they consider the environment when they make a purchase decision.

Not only are customers more attracted to retailers that share their values but they also avoid retailers with negative reputations.

Consumers are using their spending power to effect the change they want to see.

– Nielsen

On the flip side, customers are demanding a seamless and convenient shopping experience which is having a detrimental effect on our environment. So what steps can retailers take to make their eCommerce operation more eco-friendly while still protecting their profits and increasing customer satisfaction?

Energy Efficient Web Hosting & Design

 

Web hosting is energy intensive – data centres require a huge amount of electricity to process and store data. In fact, research carried out by Huawei predicts that data centres will consume a fifth of the world’s energy by 2025.

Luckily you can choose from a growing number of eco-friendly hosting providers, such as Google Cloud, that are committed to becoming 100% carbon neutral. For every unit of electricity Google use to power their operations they purchase the same amount of renewable wind or solar energy and pump it back into the grid. This means that any emissions generated by your data requests and storage will be zero.

The amount of energy required to load one of your web pages will depend on the complexity of its design and functionality. Many of the factors that influence this energy usage are the same as the factors that influence how quickly your pages load.

Ways to reduce the level of resource required to load your pages include:

In addition, simplifying web design with more white space can both improve navigation and make your website more eco-friendly since monitors use more energy to display darker colours.

Green Shipping

 

The subject of free delivery and returns has many retailers feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place. Many feel as though these offerings are no longer a USP but an expensive necessity to remain competitive in a busy market. What’s more, the lack of commitment required to order online is encouraging high product returns and having a damaging effect on the environment. So what can retailers do to protect their profits and offset their carbon footprint when it comes to shipping?

 

Packaging

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs reported that 11.5 million tonnes of packaging waste were generated in the UK in 2017. With eCommerce sales continuing to grow year-on-year it’s important that retailers do their part to reduce waste.

It goes without saying that retailers should cut down on as much packaging as possible, however it’s essential that any fragile goods are sufficiently packaged to prevent damage. If they arrive damaged, returning and replacing the goods will have a bigger footprint than the packaging.

If you offer free gift wrapping around the holiday season, make sure that you add the option to select/deselect this at the checkout. Many shoppers like to see the gifts they’ve purchased themselves before passing them on to the recipient.

Always use recyclable and biodegradable packaging materials that can be recycled locally by your customers such as cardboard boxes and paper fillers. If you are shipping fragile goods, choose biodegradable Eco Flo chips over harmful styrofoam.

Use responsibly sourced or Forestry Stewardship Council certified packaging. Better still, if you can, use packaging that has already been recycled.

Always encourage your customers to reuse or recycle your packaging and include all packaging with any items that they return.

Retailers don’t need to sacrifice on design for eco-friendly packaging – branded packaging is important for awareness, image and shareability. Well-designed packaging is in fact likely to be smarter and often means less waste.

Invoices can be provided electronically and returns information can be printed on the inside of boxes so that a separate piece of paper doesn’t need to be provided inside the box.

Your customers will notice if you’re sending out half-empty boxes – make sure that you have multiple sizes of box available for the products you stock. Review your most popular order combinations and source boxes to fit.

By only using the size of box required, retailers will save on both courier costs, where costs are calculated with dimensions, and reduce the number of trucks required to transport their orders.

 

 Fulfilment

When picking goods, warehouse staff should be encouraged to use handheld scanners over paper printouts. Handheld scanners not only reduce waste but they increase efficiency by sending pickers to follow the most efficient route around the warehouse. As they’re online and linked up to your eCommerce platform, they’ll be able to add items to the picking list as they’re ordered in real-time – allowing your pickers to work more efficiently.

Choose shipping partners that offer delivery windows and collection points. These options prevent missed deliveries and wasted journeys from multiple delivery attempts. DPD Pick Up allows customers to collect and return items to over 2500 shops throughout the UK.

If you have a bricks-and-mortar store, you can also offer a click-and-collect service.

Don’t be scared to educate your customers on the impact of their choices. On your checkout, highlight that longer shipping times are better for the environment as it means that their orders can be transported with other orders heading to their region. Customers who don’t urgently need their order might only be selecting next day delivery because it’s free.

 

Returns

Product returns are a big issue for retailers and for the environment. Although some returns are inevitable due to the remote nature of eCommerce, there are lots of ways in which retailers can reduce returns. For some ideas on how you can reduce your product returns, take a look at our blog post – How To Reduce Your Customer Returns In 8 Steps.

When items are returned to you, make sure that you reuse as much of the packaging as possible and recycle anything that can’t be used. If items are returned because they are damaged or broken, get them fixed or refurbished so that they can be sold on rather than going to landfill.

An Eco-Friendly Working Environment

 

As your eCommerce business grows, so will the number of staff it takes to run your business. Over time small changes to the working environment you create will have a big impact on your carbon footprint.

Paper: Reduce paper usage as much as possible with the aim of eventually going paperless. Only buy recycled paper and notebooks, and encourage staff to only print documents when absolutely necessary.

Plastic: Encourage staff to avoid single-use plastic bottles by providing a water cooler, real glasses and reusable water bottles for warehouse staff.

Recycling: Provide your staff with additional bins for recyclable waste such as paper, cardboard, plastic, cans and glass. Arrange for a charity or private waste disposal company to collect and recycle old ink cartridges and computing equipment.

Energy Usage: Make sure that you are only using the energy you need – this will both help the environment and reduce your electricity bill.

  • When not in use, turn off monitors, computers and tv screens completely rather than leaving them on stand by.
  • Unplug phone and laptop chargers when not in use to prevent them from consuming wasted energy.
  • Make sure that lights are turned off in empty or sunny rooms and use LED light bulbs rather than fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. At Venditan we use motion sensor lighting so that empty rooms are never unnecessarily lit.
  • Set a timer on your thermostat so that heating/ air-conditioning is only switched on during office hours. In summer open windows rather than using air conditioning.
  • Use energy efficient equipment where possible – not all staff will need the most powerful equipment.

Office Plants: Not only are office plants said to reduce stress and increase productivity but they will also improve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.

Travel: Encourage staff to cycle to work or take public transport to reduce the pollution caused by commuting to and from work. If you’re based in a remote location, encourage carpooling and offer work from home days if their role allows.

Increase Loyalty & Attract New Customers

 

In a competitive market, being eco-friendly can be seen as a big USP. The move towards becoming more sustainable doesn’t need to be expensive. In fact it’s likely to save you money and be highly beneficial for you brand image.

88% will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues.

– Forbes

The growth in environmental concern isn’t going anywhere. Becoming a green business won’t happen overnight but by adopting small changes and sharing them with your customers you will be helping to future proof your business.

If your eCommerce business has made any recent changes to become more sustainable, we would love to hear what they are and how your customers have reacted in the comments below.

Stephanie Fenton
11th April 2019

How To Create A Great Online Shopping Experience In 2019

How To Create A Great Online Shopping Experience In 2019

5 MIN READ

There’s no question that customer demands and expectations are higher than ever when it comes to buying online. We are finding that this is persuading retailers to get back to basics and focus on creating better websites and more convenient buying journeys.

So how can you create a more memorable experience for your customers and keep them coming back for more?

Personalisation & Customer Engagement

Creating a personalised experience will be key to increasing engagement and remaining competitive this year. To better meet the needs of their customers, retailers should try to replicate certain elements of the in-store experience online:

Product Imagery: Due to the remote nature of eCommerce, it’s often hard for customers to fully visualise what they’re buying. 360 degree product imagery and demonstration videos help to give customers a more comprehensive overview of a product’s features and benefits. This will either give the customer more confidence that they are buying the right product, increasing conversion rate, or confirm that it’s the wrong product, reducing product returns.

Product Recommendations: Personalised product recommendations based on search queries, page visits and previous purchase history help guide users towards the products that are most relevant to them in the same way as an in-store sales assistance might try to help a customer find what they are looking for. A previously-viewed-products area will allow users to easily navigate back once they’ve considered their choices.

Single Customer View: So that retailers are able to engage with customers in a more meaningful way, it’s crucial that customer data from all sales channels is shared across the entire business. For example, if a customer has viewed a product on your website but then gone on to purchase it in-store, they don’t want bombarding with emails and remarketing banners asking them to buy the product that they’ve already bought. Similarly, if marketing teams are made aware of the in-store purchase, email and remarketing could be used to upsell complementary products.

Chatbots: Online shoppers have previously missed out on the ability to get instant answers to their questions from sales staff. Most eCommerce sites now offer a live chat option, however this is usually only available during office hours meaning that the majority of customers are left waiting for a reply to their email. In 2019 we’ll see chatbots, with friendly brand mascots, becoming more and more commonplace. Available 24/7/365 chatbots are becoming more sophisticated and can already help assist with product information, recommendations, customer service information and helping users to checkout.

Web Design

For the past couple of years web developers have been thinking more about how page layouts and elements can impact the customer buying journey.

Cutting out the clutter to create minimal designs will not only speed up the loading of web pages but will prevent distractions and help customers to navigate your website more easily. With more white space on your eCommerce site, colours can be used to evoke emotion and increase confidence in your brand and products.

Using micro-interactions such a hover triggers and feedback animations will help to differentiate your brand and delight your customers, creating a memorable shopping experience. Today’s customers are easily frustrated and have little patience – if they’re waiting for a page to load, make it clear that the page is being loaded. If they’re filling out a form, show them progress bars and highlight any population issues before they press submit.

Mobile visits have surpassed desktop for the past few years now so don’t forget to create a thumb-friendly navigation. Think about how to make it easier for users to complete the buying journey with their thumb. Main menus, product filters and “add to basket” buttons are all increasingly being added to the “thumb zone” so that they are easier to reach on mobile devices.

 

Delivery Choice & Flexibility

Key to remaining competitive this year, you need to be providing your customers with choice and flexibility when it comes to delivery.

Better delivery options are now the second biggest factor why consumers choose one online retailer over their competitors

– KPMG

Make sure that you’re negotiating with your delivery partners on a regular basis. Free delivery thresholds and next day delivery have become the norm, with many competitive retailers now offering delivery slot choices and same-day delivery. The more orders you’re shipping, the better rates you’ll be able to get so make sure you’re reviewing courier options as you grow. A courier that might have been too expensive in the past might be the perfect fit for your business this year or next.

Offering annual delivery subscriptions can often help to offset the cost of offering free delivery. Rather than paying the delivery charge for their order, customers are encouraged to pay a larger amount with the guarantee of free delivery for a whole year. And as the customer has already paid upfront and wants to get their money’s worth, you’re more likely to be their first choice when ordering products throughout the year. It’s a win-win for both retailers and their customers. This is working particularly well for luxury retailers like Selfridges who have a big international following – their Selfridges+ global delivery charge of £40 per year seems far better value than £25 per order.

Once you’ve offered your customers choice and flexibility, you need to make sure that you’re following through on your promises. Make sure you have the right internal processes in place to make the dispatch process more efficient and make sure you’re utilising new technology like RFID which will help to quickly identify lost products in large warehouses and prevent overselling.

Alternative Payment Methods

Providing customers with as much choice as possible at the checkout can help give retailers the edge over their competitors. Digital payment methods such as PayPal, Amazon Pay and Apple Pay, give customers a quick and convenient way to checkout in just a few clicks without having to fill out lengthy forms – something particularly useful when shopping on the go.

For customers who don’t want to wait until payday to place their order with you, offering “buy now, pay later” options such as Klarna and V12 can help secure the sale and prevent them heading over to one of your competitors sites.

In 2019, 55% of all online transactions are predicted to be made using alternative payment methods. 

– Klarna

If you’re selling to international customers, make sure that you’re providing them with their favourite payment methods. Rather than paying with debit or credit cards, German customers prefer to use payment systems like GiroPay and SoFort. And if you’re selling to customers in China, where credit cards have never gained popularity, you need to be providing AliPay and WeChat as options.

Mobile payments have become so common in China that paying with cash is practically unheard-of, even with street performers and taxi drivers.

– Business Insider

For more tips on creating a great shopping experience for your customers, download our latest e-book – Four Fundamentals For Sustainable eCommerce Growth.

Stephanie Fenton
3rd April 2019

Top Signs That You Should Replatform Your eCommerce Store

Top Signs That You Should Replatform Your eCommerce Store

4 MIN READ

If you are still using your business’s first eCommerce platform, it can be tricky to recognise the tipping point when your current solution begins to hinder your growth.

Online retail markets are competitive, so in 2019 it’s essential that you provide your customers with the best possible shopping experience. If your current solution hasn’t been able to adapt to your evolving needs then it could be time for a change.

The idea of migrating all your customer and product data to a new platform may seem like a daunting task, but with detailed planning and preparation the process can be stress-free and simple. Although there will be some upfront costs involved with the redesign and build of the new website, if it’s time for you to upgrade the migration should pay for itself in terms of new efficiencies.

If any of the below sound like familiar pain points, get in touch with one of our eCommerce experts today to see if Venditan Commerce could be the right fit for your business.

You Are Spending More On Maintenance Than New Features

All software requires regular upgrades to maintain security and quality. Without these, existing features stop working and your site runs the risk of being vulnerable to hackers. When these upgrades are deployed they then require thorough testing. The amount of preparation work that’s involved will depend on your platform and integrations.

Maintenance costs become an issue when you find that you are spending more of your overall development budget on maintaining existing features rather than developing new functionality to push your business forward.

For Venditan Commerce, there are no on-going maintenance or support costs – we deploy software upgrades and bug fixes our platform twice weekly. This means that all our clients benefit from new features, improvements and bug fixes.

You Are Unable To Provide A Better Shopping Experience Than Your Competitors

To remain competitive, you need to be able to personalise the experience you are providing and optimise the eCommerce journey end to end. You need a comprehensive platform that includes key functionality out of the box so that your development budget can be spent on future-proofing your business and outshining your rivals.

If you are paying additional costs for any of the features below (or their maintenance), it may be a sign that it’s time to move to a new platform that’s capable of managing your entire operation through a single, integrated application.

 

Features that your eCommerce website can’t live without in 2019

  • Responsive design
  • Fast loading pages
  • A quick, accurate search function and filtering system
  • Simple website navigation
  • Automated product recommendations
  • A simple, optimised checkout
  • Loyalty schemes and tiered pricing
  • Advanced promotions and pricing management
  • SEO management tools

You Are Spending Time & Resources Lining Up Data From Multiple Systems

Your eCommerce solution should provide a single view of all stock and customers across your entire business. If you are selling across multiple channels such as bricks-and-mortar stores, Amazon and eBay, then having a real-time view of stock levels is critical to prevent overselling and disappointed customers.

If you are finding that the stock levels on your website don’t match the reality of what’s in your warehouse then that’s a clear signal that your current solution isn’t working for your business.

Similarly you should have real-time visibility of customer and sales data so that you can make informed business decisions to accelerate growth and protect profits.

You Are Wasting Time On Manual Processes & Workarounds

You may find that what were once small tasks when you were only receiving a few orders per day are now a huge drain on time and resources.

As your operation scales up, you should be able to take advantage of automated features that will help you streamline your processes. Courier integration, scheduled printing of picking slips and optimised warehouse layouts are all things that can help improve efficiency and boost productivity.

If you have found internal processes and concepts that work for you, your eCommerce platform should be flexible enough to adapt and incorporate these. If you’re finding that you are having to work around rigid procedures outlined by your provider then it may be time to switch to a more bespoke solution.

You Feel Like You Are In It Alone

Unlike bricks-and-mortar stores, many of the issues that occur with your webstore often need technical expertise to resolve. Even if customers are unable to checkout for a small amount of time, this could have a huge impact on your revenue and brand image.

Your website is live 24/7/365 so you need a trusted provider that you can get in touch with any time of the day or night. If this isn’t the case then you should find out if you are able to pay for additional support or consider moving to another, more reliable provider.

As well as giving you peace of mind, your provider should also be using their technical and industry experience to help you to continually attract, convert and retain customers. They should regularly be talking to you about new technologies and trends such as voice commerce, subscription models and alternative payment methods that will help you to future-proof your business.

What To Do Next

Don’t let your current eCommerce platform hold you back. If any of the above pain points sound familiar, it could be time for a change.

Enter your email below so that one of our eCommerce experts can get in touch to discuss your current issues and how to take your business to the next level.

Stephanie Fenton
28th March 2019

eCommerce Replatforming: 3 Crucial Considerations

eCommerce Replatforming: 3 Crucial Considerations

3 MIN READ

Replatforming is sometimes essential to enable an eCommerce business to grow.

As customer expectations increase, retailers must keep up with trends in website functionality and the experience they provide. The prospect of replatforming can be daunting but with detailed planning and preparation the majority of issues can be avoided – there is no reason why retailers who’ve outgrown their current platform shouldn’t go ahead and make the move.

Here are three considerations for retailers who are looking to take the next step and replatform.

1. Data Migration

Failure to migrate the correct customer data can have a huge impact on an existing customer’s experience.

As a minimum, customer account details should be migrated to the new system with the exception of passwords, which should be updated for security. Retailers should alert their customers about any changes to their website functionality, highlighting any enhanced features or customer-facing benefits such as faster, cheaper delivery services. You also need to make sure that customers are provided with a seamless way to update their passwords.

Ideally customer order histories should be migrated so that the new platform has knowledge of previous purchases. Often this is not the case and so refunds and exchanges are manually managed within the old system for a period of time. If customer order history is being used for any marketing or loyalty programs then the migration of this data should be specified as a requirement.

2. SEO

The revenue generated from organic sessions often accounts for a huge portion of a retailer’s overall online income. This means that SEO should be one of the key considerations when deciding to replatform. The last thing you want is to spend thousands of pounds replatforming if you then see your sales drop off a cliff. You will hear many vendors saying that their platform is “SEO friendly”, however this means nothing without some manual considerations and a certain amount of custom work.

If, like most retailers, your organic revenue is critical to your business, make sure that you or your new provider makes a full list of SEO considerations and that these are all being addressed. If your URLs are going to be changing with the migration it’s important that you have a thorough redirect strategy in place. This should include the migration of any existing redirects stored in your live database.

A migration to a new platform is also a good time to review your meta content and make sure that it’s optimised for the new/migrated content. Often the data used to build product page meta content is pulled from product data within your installation so make sure you know which fields need to be optimised for search engines.

3. A Single Ecosystem

Customers interact with your business across multiple touch points, so integration is key. Your eCommerce platform should give you a single view of all the data your retail business owns. It should be the master of all customer, inventory and order information. Only by having a full understanding of how users are interacting with your business will you be able to make the data-driven decisions required to grow revenue. When replatforming, make sure that you map out your business’s eco-system to ensure all data is flowing back into your eCommerce platform. This will allow you to provide a frictionless shopping experience whether your customers are shopping with you in-store, on your website or on a third-party marketplace.

Replatforming is a complex process that requires agility and strong project management. Core business processes and requirements need carefully mapping out to ensure the new platform meets your business goals.

If you’ve outgrown the capabilities of your current platform and would like to find out if Venditan Commerce is the right eCommerce platform for you, get in touch.

Stephanie Fenton
20th March 2019