apple ios cloud
Apple’s iOS 15 Could Improve Email Marketing

When it’s released this fall, Apple’s iOS 15 could make capturing some email marketing metrics more difficult, which might improve performance.

On June 7, 2021, Apple described some of the new privacy features it would offer in its forthcoming operating systems for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac computers — specifically iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey. The changes to the iPhone might be the most impactful given the number of individuals who read emails on that device.

New Email Privacy

The Apple operating system privacy updates will impact email tracking — and by association email marketing — in three ways, according to Val Geisler, a customer evangelist at email service provider Klaviyo.

  • More Apple users will know they can hide their email addresses.
  • Apple will hide IP addresses.
  • Apple users can opt out of email tracking.

Hidden email address. The first of these features, according to Geisler, has been available to Apple customers for some time, but Apple will promote it more prominently to users and make access easier.

An Apple support article from December 2020 described the process of hiding an email address as “a unique, random email address is created, so your personal email address isn’t shared with the app or website developer during the account setup and sign-in process.”

Hiding an email address may make it relatively more difficult for list consolidators or even individual businesses to build customer profiles and track behavior across websites or apps.

No IP address. Apple’s Mail app will not share a user’s Internet Protocol (IP) address, making it difficult to identify a user’s location and thus build a profile of that person.

No email tracking. For more than 20 years, email marketing platforms have placed invisible tracking pixels on outgoing email marketing messages, allowing these companies to track unique and gross open rates.

But not everyone likes being tracked. So Apple will allow folks reading email on iOS 15 the chance to opt out of tracking, meaning marketers won’t see open rates from those recipients.

Better Marketing

Email marketing professionals can view Apple’s privacy updates as a hurdle or obstacle to doing their jobs. But the changes might make email marketing better and more effective. Better privacy for consumers could require marketers to do a better job of understanding and segmenting subscribers.

Consider the email open rate, which is, perhaps, the most notable casualty of Apple’s proposed privacy improvements.

List health. What does an open actually measure?

“While opens can be an indicator of the awareness you’ve generated around a particular message,” wrote Chad S. White, head of research at Oracle Marketing Consulting, “they don’t necessarily correlate to bottom-of-the-funnel business metrics like conversions and revenue. They don’t do a great job telling you if your subscribers are getting value out of your emails. Clicks and conversions do a much better job of measuring that.”

While some suggest that open rates may help with subject line optimization, White disagreed.

“The goal of subject lines isn’t to generate opens. It’s to generate openers who are likely to convert,” he wrote, adding that A/B testing subject lines to optimize for clicks was a better strategy.

Opens, according to White, are primarily a measurement of list health and subscriber activity.

But do you need it? Instead of relying on open rates, what if you relied on clicks as a measurement of engagement? It might work better.

Accuracy. What’s more, open rates may or may not be accurate.

Apple’s Mail app will prevent tracking simply by not loading the spy pixel. Effectively, anyone can already do this in just about any email client by not automatically loading images. Here are five articles describing just how to do it.

Many factors come into play here, but, in at least some cases, it may be difficult to identify the percentage of subscribers in a list or a segment whose email client is not loading images. So, again, it might be better to measure clicks instead.

Clicks and Conversions

In short:

  • Clicks and conversions are better at measuring subscriber value,
  • Clicks are better for subject line optimization,
  • And clicks are more accurate than opens.

Thus, email marketers might better understand their subscribers and customers when they stop using open rates.

This post was originally published on this site

amazon prime day changes
A Subdued Prime Day 2021 Despite Competitors

Every year since 2017 I’ve written an analysis of Amazon’s Prime Day — 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017. This year’s review includes the online sales of certain competitors rather than Amazon alone. Amazon itself does not share complete Prime Day revenue figures.

Amazon started its promotions before Prime Day — which ran June 21 through 22 — offering customers who spent $10 with small businesses during the two weeks before then a $10 Amazon credit to be used during the 48-hour event. The promotion led to Prime members spending over $1.9 billion across 70 million small businesses during that two-week period, according to Amazon.

Target offered its Deal Days from June 20 through June 22, and Walmart ran its Deals for Days sale from June 21 through June 23. Both companies’ online U.S. results, along with those of Best Buy and Kohl’s, are included in Adobe’s Digital Economy Index of Prime Day 2021, which is based on Adobe Analytics data of 1 trillion visits to retail sites and over 100 million SKUs in the U.S., U.K., and Japan.

Prime Day Sales

According to the Adobe Index, total online spend (not just Amazon) for June 21 and 22 exceeded $11.0 billion — $5.6 billion on day 1 and $5.4 billion on day 2 — a modest 6% growth from last year.

Discounts were greatest for toys at 12% and appliances at 5%, with electronics at just 2%.

Salesforce Shopping Index reported that Prime Day global and U.S.-only online sales growth for non-Amazon retailers were flat compared to the 2020 event in October.

Amazon Results

Adobe’s Index reported that Amazon’s overall sales growth was modest compared with past Prime Days. Prime Day in 2020 was held in October, and perhaps having only eight months between the two events dampened results. Sales from marketplace sellers increased more than Amazon’s own products compared with Prime Day 2020, according to Amazon. This occurred despite many sellers not offering Prime Day discounts because of increases in supply chain costs as well as inventory and warehousing problems. Amazon had imposed inventory limits on sellers using Fulfillment by Amazon.

Nevertheless, global sales of marketplace products grew 12%, according to Digital Commerce 360. That compares to 5% growth for Amazon’s own products. Digital Commerce 360 estimates Amazon’s global sales were $11.2 billion over the two-day period, an increase of 7.6% over the October 2020 event when sales reached $10.4 billion.

According to Amazon, over 250 million items were sold globally on its platform this year. The main Prime Day U.S. deals page featured live-stream promotions hosted by various celebrities and shopping influencers. This year Amazon transitioned from promoting mainly electronic goods and emphasized its private label consumer brands, most prominently kitchen and household goods as well as pet products. On its deal page, Amazon separated its electronics categories from its other private label brands, distinguishing between “Amazon Brands” and “Amazon Devices.”

Top-selling products worldwide for Prime Day 2021 included iRobot Roomba 692 Robot Vacuum and the Keurig K-Slim Coffee Maker. Top sellers for select countries are:

  • China: L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Zell Renaissance Face Care Set for Women, Olay Regenerist Luminous Skin Tone Perfecting Serum;
  • France: Philips OneBlade replacement blades, Pampers Nappies;
  • Italy: Borbone Represso Coffee Capsules, “Omino Bianco” Liquid Sanitizing Washing Machine Detergent;
  • Japan: Yakan-no-Mugicha (barley tea), ICY SPARK from CANADA DRY;
  • United Kingdom: Shark Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner, CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser;
  • United States: Waterpik Electric Water Flosser, Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Powder.

Other Amazon Statistics

Market research firm Numerator conducted a survey of 3,132 Amazon Prime Day shoppers in the U.S. According to those results:

  • The average Prime Day 2021 order was $44.75 — a decrease from $54.64 on Prime Day 2020 and $58.91 on Prime Day 2019. About 45% of orders were placed for $20 or less. Fifty-five percent of purchasers placed two or more separate orders.
  • The typical Prime Day shopper was a high-income, suburban female aged 35 to 44.
  • Sixty-four percent of Prime Day shoppers purchased only at Amazon, but 20% bought from another merchant. Twenty-five percent of Amazon shoppers considered Walmart.com, and 20% considered Target.com.
  • The top categories consumers said they purchased were health and beauty
    (28%), consumer electronics (28%), household essentials (27%), and apparel and shoes (27%).
  • Consumer electronics was the fourth most purchased category at 25% of Prime Day shoppers, down from its number one position during last year’s Prime Day with 32% of purchases.

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write better product descriptions
Need Better Product Descriptions? Address Emotion, Logic

Product descriptions drive conversions. Neuroscience confirms that people buy with emotion and justify the purchase with logic. So shoppers need to know the benefits to make an emotional decision and the features for a logical one. There are many ways to accomplish both goals.

Let’s look at examples.

Sensory Words

Sensory words describe how we experience the world: taste, touch, scent, and sound.

Consider Milk Bar, a dessert delivery shop. It uses loads of sensory words to describe its cakes. The screenshot below shows “silky,” “sweet,” “thick,” “tangy,” and “buttery.” All increase the emotion of wanting to eat!

Most all product descriptions, beyond food, could benefit from sensory words.

Screenshot of strawberry shortcake product page

Milk Bar uses sensory words to describe its cakes. This example shows “silky,” “sweet,” “thick,” “tangy,” and “buttery.”

Social Proof

Testimonials, ratings, and other methods of social proof can enliven a product page. Consumers value the opinions of other shoppers. Reading about someone else enjoying a product can be the deciding factor in clicking the “Add to Cart” button.

Bullet Points

The description below of The Weekend Tee Dress at Everlane starts with features. But features are typically less exciting than benefits. Placing features as bullet points facilitates scanning. Everlane follows the bulleted feature list with a benefit-focused paragraph.

Product page screenshot for The Weekend Tee Dress

The description for The Weekend Tee Dress places features as bullet points followed by a benefit-focused paragraph.

Real World

Let shoppers envision when, where, or how to use your product in their everyday life. Descriptions can help.

In the example below, The Botanical Candle Co describes a “greenhouse-scented” candle as “a bright and uplifting choice for kitchens….” This can help users envision the candle in their kitchen, perhaps filling the room with joy as they prepare a meal.

Screenshot of product page for Greenhouse-Scented Candle

The Botanical Candle Co describes a Greenhouse-Scented Candle as “a bright and uplifting choice for kitchens….”

We can also see an example of this with The Weekend Tee Dress at Everlane, above. The dress is “an easy pick for warm-weather days. Trust us — your weekend won’t know what hit it.” This can help the shopper imagine throwing it on during a warm summer Saturday before rushing out for coffee-to-go and some errands.

Images

Image thumbnails convey what the product looks like and are extremely useful for scanning the page. Including text overlays in images is a common practice to reinforce the main benefits and features from the description.

The example below is for an under-eye cream by ISDIN. The first thumbnail features two text icons: “Same formula” and “Cooling ceramic applicator.” I wrote the copy. I knew that the product was recently redesigned, which is why I included the new feature (“cooling ceramic applicator”) but reminded the audience that it’s the “Same formula.”

Product page screenshot for ISDIN eye cream

Text overlays in images are a common practice to reinforce the main benefits and features from the description. This example highlights “Same formula” and “Cooling ceramic applicator.”

The second thumbnail highlights the main benefits of the under-eye cream. Keep this inviting by using the present tense (“reduces”) rather than the future tense (“will reduce”). Also, keep it concise.

Product page screenshot for ISDIN eye cream

Emphasize the main benefits using the present tense (“reduces”) rather than the future tense (“will reduce”).

Thumbnail three includes social proof: user statistics that support the claims being made. If you don’t have statistics, try a user review or customer testimonial.

Product page screenshot for ISDIN eye cream

This text overlay is user statistics that support the claims being made. If you don’t have statistics, try a user review or customer testimonial.

Thumbnail four highlights a new feature.

Product page screenshot for ISDIN eye cream

Highlighting a new feature (“New cooling effect applicator”) is a helpful text overlay.

The final thumbnail includes a simple list of key ingredients found in the product’s formulation, similar to “what’s included” or “how it works.”

Product page screenshot for ISDIN eye cream

The final image thumbnail contains a list of key ingredients, similar to “what’s included” or “how it works.”

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final mile delivery
10 Autonomous Robots for Last-mile Deliveries

The future is here, sort of. Companies have staked out urban landscapes to test autonomous last-mile delivery systems on the streets and mobile food delivery robots on campus sidewalks. Ultimately for ecommerce merchants, the results could mean faster deliveries with more options for their customers.

Here is a list of companies developing autonomous delivery robots and systems. Nearly all of these companies currently have live beta programs.

Starship Technologies

Home page of Starship Technologies

Starship Technologies

Starship Technologies offers autonomous robots for stores, restaurants, and campuses. Starship robots can carry items within a 4-mile radius. Starship’s robots weigh no more than 100 pounds, move at pedestrian speed, and navigate around objects and people. The cargo bay is mechanically locked throughout the journey and can be opened only by the recipient with their smartphone app. The location of the robots is tracked, so customers know exactly the location of an order and receive a notification at the time of arrival. Services have been launched for Arizona State University, University of Wisconsin, Modesto (California), and Northampton (U.K.).

Nuro

Home page of Nuro

Nuro

Nuro produces custom autonomous delivery vehicles for neighborhoods. Its main vehicle, the R2, features 360° cameras, Lidar, short and long-range radar, and ultrasonic sensors. Nuro has formed several partnerships in Houston: Domino’s for pizza deliveries, CVS for prescription deliveries, and Walmart for grocery deliveries. Recently, FedEx has made a long-term commitment to use Nuro’s autonomous bots for last-mile delivery at scale. Testing has already begun with FedEx in Houston.

Udelv

Home page of Udelv

Udelv

Udelv completed its first autonomous delivery on public roads in January 2018. Since then, it’s been developing automated delivery vehicles for retailers and shippers. The automated vehicles can drive on highways, carry over 800 pounds of payload, and gather operational data to improve logistics. Udelv recently partnered with Intel’s Mobileye, incorporating Mobileye Drive into the next-generation Udelv autonomous delivery vehicles called “Transporters.” The companies plan to produce more than 35,000 Mobileye-driven Transporters by 2028, with commercial operations beginning in 2023.

Kiwibot

Home page of Kiwibot

Kiwibot

Kiwibot produces automated robots for a food delivery urban infrastructure. Initially, the startup provided food deliveries for the University of California, Berkeley. Now, the company also delivers to parts of the city of Berkeley, on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, and in San Jose. Since its start in 2017, Kiwibot has made over 150,000 deliveries. Its goal is to bring the cost of delivery down as low as possible and ensure that any product purchased can be delivered within an hour or less.

Eliport

Home page of Eliport

Eliport

Eliport is a Barcelona-based start-up tackling last-mile logistics by providing fleets of small ground-based, robotic delivery machines for urban areas. These robots are autonomous, and they travel on pavements and in pedestrian zones at walking speed. Eliport robots can load and unload without human interaction.

TeleRetail

Home page of TeleRetail

TeleRetail

TeleRetail is a Swiss start-up developing Aito autopilot software and delivery vehicles, such as its Pulse 1, for automated urban, suburban, and rural logistics. The small Pulse 1 minimizes the energy and space requirements of local logistics while avoiding harmful emissions. The solar-powered Range+ version covers almost unlimited distances. TeleRetail’s main objective is to help main street shops and small businesses offer the same level of convenience as ecommerce giants such as Amazon. TeleRetail has been financed, in part, by grants, including $2 million from the European Space Agency.

Postmates Serve

Home page of Postmates Serve

Postmates Serve

Postmates is a food delivery app and service owned by Uber. Its Serve robot is designed for safe, autonomous navigation on urban sidewalks. Serve navigates using Lidar and communicates with customers through an interactive touchscreen. Serve bots are all-electric with a 50-pound capacity. Serve’s initial launch has been in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Robby Technologies

Home page of Robby Technologies

Robby Technologies

Robby Technologies was founded by two PhDs, each with 15-plus years of experience in computer vision and robotics, and selected by accelerator Y Combinator in 2016. In 2019, Robby Technologies partnered with PepsiCo to deliver snacks and beverages via a fleet of self-driving Robby robots on the University of the Pacific campus in Stockton, California.

BoxBot

Home page of BoxBot

BoxBot

BoxBot, founded by ex-Uber and Tesla engineers and backed by Toyota AI Ventures, is developing a last-mile delivery system for ecommerce packages and deliveries. BoxBot’s system includes self-driving delivery vans and automatic loading systems. Recipients can schedule their delivery at a time of their choosing (including evenings), giving ecommerce customers an option that helps them better plan their day and keep their purchases safe. When BoxBot’s autonomous vehicle arrives, customers receive a text message alert with a unique code they can use to retrieve packages from its parcel lockers. BoxBot currently has a partnership with logistics operator OnTrac.

Amazon Scout

Photo of an Amazon Scout vehicle

Amazon Scout

Amazon Scout is an electric delivery system designed to get packages to customers safely using autonomous delivery devices. Scout bots are the size of a small cooler and roll along sidewalks at a walking pace. Scout initially launched testing to a neighborhood in Snohomish County, Washington. The autonomous delivery system has since expanded to Atlanta, Georgia, and Franklin, Tennessee.

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shopify
Shopify Announces New Online Stores

Shopify announced significant changes to its ecommerce platform aimed at performance, ease of use, and empowering developers. The company also announced a new revenue-sharing model, giving app and theme creators 100% of revenue up to $1 million each year.

During a live event on June 29, 2021, called Shopify Unite, aimed at entrepreneurs and the Shopify development community, the ecommerce platform demonstrated several updates and changes, including what it termed “Online Store 2.0.”

The complete presentation, which ran for about 75 minutes, is available on YouTube.

Online Store 2.0

For small business owners and managers, the most significant announcement may have been the aforementioned Online Store 2.0 or at least a portion of it.

“Today I am going to show you the biggest and boldest upgrade we have ever shipped to the online store,” said Vanessa Lee, Shopify’s online store product director. “Our goal is to give more power to developers while making it even easier for merchants to leverage that power and build their storefront.”

Shopify has rebuilt three areas of its online store, according to Lee:

  • Themes and the online editor,
  • Store content,
  • Developer tools.

Unless you are a developer, the new online editor and the forthcoming content management system will likely be the most impactful.

Shopify updated its templating language, called Liquid, which now includes an editor similar in performance to WordPress’s Gutenberg, released in 2018, or to the page editors in Squarespace and Wix.

This upgraded editor may replace some popular Shopify apps, including the Shogun page builder.

If the demonstrations Shopify shared are indicative, the new online editor will make it possible for small and midsized businesses to easily create new page templates and populate them with data without writing code — assuming the theme employed makes use of Shopify’s sections and blocks.

Netflix’s recently-announced merchandise store uses the new theming approach, for example. And Shopify has released a new theme called Dawn that is an “open-source reference theme, built for performance, flexibility, and ease of use. It uses Online Store 2.0 features, including JSON templates, which support app blocks and sections on all pages,” according to Shopify.

Screenshot of Netflix's merchandise store home page

Netflix’s merchandise store uses Shopify’s new upgrades.

In addition to the new editor, Lee shared a “sneak peek” of Shopify’s soon-to-be-released content management system.

“We know that content is super important when it comes to expressing a shop’s brand, and soon you will be able to create entirely new custom [content] types…you will be able to create content once and publish it to all of your channels, including the online store,” Lee said, adding that Shopify planned to work with existing content management platforms in some way.

Screenshot of Shopify's content management interface

Shopify plans to give store managers more options for content.

Zero Percent Revenue Share

Perhaps the second most interesting announcement at Shopify Unite was the company’s new app and theme revenue sharing model.

“We have always said we want to create more opportunities for our developers and our partners than we take for ourselves,” said Shopify President Harley Finkelstein about 57 minutes into the live event.

“The opportunities keep getting bigger. Last year our partner ecosystem generated $12.5 billion in revenue. And that number is up more than 84% from 2019,” said Finkelstein, adding, “that is four times more than Shopify made, and that is the way it should be. We only succeed when you do.”

Finkelstein went on to say that effective August 1, 2021, Shopify would no longer take any share of the revenue from apps or themes up to $1 million per year sales. After $1 million in sales, Shopify will take 15%, reducing its previous revenue share of 20%.

Although the company also introduced a registration fee for apps after August 1, 2021, the new revenue-sharing model encourages developers to create apps and themes for Shopify. It may also seek to avoid some of the app-store strife seen in mobile, such as the recent lawsuit between Epic Games and Apple.

Developers

App and theme developers heard plenty of good news, beyond the new revenue model, during the live event.

Improvements. Shopify improved its documentation and command-line interface, added GitHub support, and created a new developer console for performance testing.

Checkout API. Shopify introduced checkout extensions, a set of extension points, APIs, and user interface components — all could be used to build apps for checkout.

Storefront API. Shopify added to its Storefront API, allowing for new cart capabilities, including the ability to pass relevant buyer context (such as country or state) with the GraphQL API and a new option to query physical store inventory to power buy-online-pick-up-in-store solutions.

Hydrogen. Shopify has a new React-powered “developer toolkit that includes scaffolding to help get you up and running with only a few clicks, and a set of React components to help you build the foundation of your commerce website, so you can focus on styling and designing the features that make a merchant’s brand unique.”

Resources

Shopify also released articles and resources related to the Unite announcements.

This post was originally published on this site

new Ecommerce product releases
New Ecommerce Product Releases

Here is a list of product releases and updates for late June from companies that offer services to online merchants. There are updates on social commerce, subscription newsletters, payment solutions, email marketing, live-video shopping, last-mile deliveries, and drop shipping.

Got an ecommerce product release? Email releases@practicalecommerce.com.

Ecommerce Product Releases

Shopify updates Checkout and Storefronts. At its Unite 2021, Shopify announced a new Online Store 2.0, developments for custom storefronts, enhancements to checkout, and more. The Online Store 2.0 upgrade includes a new set of developer features, including sections on all pages to personalize multiple aspects of a store, a new editor experience, and theme app extensions. The Shopify Theme Store will be open for developer submissions on July 15, and Shopify is launching a new default theme, Dawn. Shopify is releasing Hydrogen, a new React framework for developers to build custom storefronts (launching soon), as well as Oxygen, a future hosting platform for custom storefronts on Shopify. And Checkout is introducing Checkout Extensions, allowing developers to securely build apps into Shopify Checkout and Shop Pay. Checkout is also introducing Payments Platform, a way to integrate third-party payment gateways into Shopify Checkout.

Screenshot of Shopify Unite 2021

Shopify Unite 2021

Facebook expands Shops. Facebook is making it easier for people to discover and buy from Shops. Soon, it will give businesses in select countries the option to showcase their Shop in WhatsApp. In the U.S., Facebook will enable businesses to bring Shops’ products into Marketplace, helping them reach more than 1 billion people globally who visit each month. Facebook is also expanding ratings and reviews to products in Shops on Instagram, including photos and videos from the community. And Facebook is introducing Shops’ ads that provide unique creative based on people’s shopping preferences.

Introducing GoDaddy Payments for small businesses. GoDaddy has announced the launch of GoDaddy Payments, a new payment service that enables GoDaddy customers, including managed WooCommerce customers, to handle all commerce transactions directly through GoDaddy. GoDaddy Payments is built using the technology and teams acquired from Poynt in December 2020. GoDaddy Payments is part of GoDaddy’s expanding commerce platform that will include in-person payment capabilities for online and offline shopping.

Facebook introduces Bulletin newsletter app. Facebook has launched Bulletin, a standalone newsletter platform for free and paid articles and podcasts. Announcing the platform, Mark Zuckerburg introduced some of the writers that the company has recruited, including Malcolm Gladwell, Erin Andrews, and Mitch Albom. The push into the fast-growing email newsletter field follows self-publishing platform Substack, luring journalists with cash advances, and Twitter’s acquisition of newsletter platform Revue.

Home page of Facebook Bulletin

Facebook Bulletin

PayPal launches Zettle in the U.S. PayPal has announced the launch of PayPal Zettle in the U.S., a point-of-sale service that enables small businesses to sell across in-person and online channels. Zettle can enable small businesses to (i) accept a range of payments with the Zettle card reader, (ii) start selling online, and (iii) manage sales, inventory, reporting, and payments across channels, all in one place. PayPal Zettle will also enable businesses to leverage PayPal’s suite of payment and commerce solutions, from invoicing to PayPal’s Business Debit Mastercard.

Bambuser launches Shopify app for live video shopping. Bambuser has announced the launch of a live-shopping app for Shopify. Developed and launched by Woolman, the largest Shopify Plus agency in Europe, the app can be downloaded directly from the app store. Merchants installing the Live Video Shopping with Bambuser app benefit from automated installation, an embeddable live video player, a user-friendly interface for managing calls-to-action, in-stream purchasing via integration with inventory and Shopify’s native shopping cart, and advanced metrics and reporting on audience engagement, add-to-cart rates, and conversions made through live shopping events.

LambdaTest launches Microsoft Teams app for testing. As remote working proliferates around the world, browser-testing platform LambdaTest has launched a Microsoft Teams app. Anyone using Teams can run live tests to see what their company website looks like across 2,000 desktop browsers and mobile configurations. Once a meeting begins, Teams’ participants can pull LambdaTest into the live call and work collaboratively to initiate quick real-time tests and screenshot tests at a click of a button from inside a conversation.

Home page of LambdaTest

LambdaTest

Loadchief and Velo Payments partner for last-mile deliveries. Velo Payments and Loadchief have announced a partnership to modernize driver payments in the final-mile delivery marketplace. The agreement will offer a flexible and easy-to-use platform for delivery companies to compensate independent drivers. Loadchief connects delivery companies with professional, independent drivers to provide contract delivery services. Velo provides a payments orchestration platform that automates payouts from businesses to their vendors and independent workforces. Working with Velo, Loadchief customers can utilize a range of payment options that meet their needs and the needs of the drivers.

Venmo monetizes platform for merchants. As of July 20, Venmo, the payments app owned by PayPal, will allow users to sell products and services on their personal accounts for a fee. Under the app’s previous rules, users were prohibited from receiving money for business transactions through personal Venmo profiles. Users suspected of violating the policy could have their accounts suspended. With the latest changes, merchants using personal profiles for commercial transactions will be charged the same 1.9% plus 10-cent fee as those with business profiles.

BigCommerce and PayPal release report on consumer spending habits post-Covid. How and where people buy products evolved significantly during the pandemic, creating new opportunities for retailers to use new channels, fulfillment strategies, and payment options, according to the results of a new survey out from BigCommerce and PayPal. While most of the 3,000 consumers surveyed said they still prefer in-person shopping, 62.5% of respondents reported doing most of their purchasing online. Close to half said they’re discovering new products on social media at least once a month, and 66.7% of respondents said they made a purchase directly through their phone at least once in the past month.

Web page of "2021 Consumer Spending Trends: An Omnichannel Report"

2021 Consumer Spending Trends: An Omnichannel Report

Litmus launches Integrated Insights Report. Litmus, an email-marketing verification and analytics service, has announced the Litmus Integrated Insights Report. The new email analytics feature provides a single, holistic view of email campaign performance and engagement. Through direct email service provider integrations, Litmus combines core email metrics, such as open rate, with Litmus engagement data to provide valuable context and actionable insights. The service protects consumer privacy, blocking personally identifiable information, removing IP addresses, and making geo-tracking optional.

Shop Pay available for businesses selling on Facebook and Google. Starting with Facebook and Instagram later this summer and followed by Google in late 2021, Shopify’s Shop Pay will be available to merchants across both platforms, even if they don’t use Shopify’s online store.

Wix acquires Modalyst for supplier marketplace and drop shipping. Wix, a SaaS website-builder, has announced the acquisition of Modalyst, a marketplace and drop-shipping platform. The acquisition will connect Wix merchants to a supplier marketplace where they can create scalable relationships and source millions of products synced directly to their store to sell and fulfill online.

Home page of Modalyst

Modalyst

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Headless ecommerce
11 Platforms for Headless Commerce

Headless commerce separates the frontend from the backend of a brand’s web presence in an API-first architecture. Headless technology can provide significant advantages in design and performance, particularly for an evolving omnichannel sales environment. Moreover, brands can save time and money integrating existing content with new ecommerce sites and otherwise tailor content for each customer.

Here is a list of platforms that facilitate a headless approach for ecommerce merchants. There are options for both frontend and backend.

Vue Storefront

Home page of Vue Storefront

Vue Storefront

Vue Storefront is a frontend platform for headless commerce. Connect to any backend and merge with third-party tools. Vue Storefront provides a single app to provide a unified, mobile-first experience. The open-source version of Vue Storefront is the core product in an entire ecosystem of solutions, including Vue Storefront 2, Shopware PWA, and Storefront UI.

Commercetools

Home page of Commercetools

Commercetools

Commercetools offers a cloud-native, headless commerce platform that separates frontend and backend functionality. Its API approach helps retailers design unique and engaging digital commerce across all touchpoints. Access a catalog of 300-plus API endpoints to use á la carte. Engage with your customers via websites, mobile apps, voice assistants, augmented- and virtual-reality applications, social networks, and others.

Contentful

Home page of Contentful

Contentful

Contentful is a platform for unified content in a single hub to publish everywhere, with open APIs that sync with other tools. Write faster and publish on more channels with a built-in Markdown editor and embedded media library. Integrate with in-house applications or third-party cloud software directly in the web app.

Contentstack

Home page of Contentstack

Contentstack

Contentstack is a headless CMS with an API-first approach. It is designed for editors to update content without needing a developer. Features include real-time collaboration, asset and workflow management, and versioning. Contentstack provides a useful library of step-by-step tutorials to build a wide variety of designs, such as an ecommerce site using Contentstack and Commercetools.

Chord

Home page of Chord

Chord

Chord is a headless API-first ecommerce platform designed for smaller direct-to-consumer ecommerce companies. Chord’s backend empowers teams to build deeper and richer custom commerce experiences that evolve with the business. Get a holistic understanding of each customer from across every function of your business to enable the right conversations with the customer at the right time. Learn more about Chord from co-founders Henry Davis and Bryan Mahoney in a recent interview with our podcast host, Eric Bandholz.

Amplience

Home page of Amplience

Amplience

Amplience is an API-first, headless content management platform for enterprise B2C and B2B commerce companies. Create dynamic content and experience at scale. Build sophisticated experiences without developer input. Schedule, create, and deliver from one place and preview across multiple contexts and channels. Amplience serves more than 350 of the world’s leading brands, including Crate & Barrel, Tumi, Traeger Grills, Argos, OTTO Group, Primark, and Very Group.

Sanity

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Sanity

Sanity is an open-source headless CMS built on JavaScript and React.js. Sanity features real-time collaboration and multi-user real-time editing. Sanity integrates with Shopify, BigCommerce, Snipcart, and other leading ecommerce vendors. Use Sanity’s localization capabilities to tailor content to specific market segments for a more relevant and compelling shopping experience. Sanity has a sample commerce frontend built with Vue that integrates with Snipcart via APIs to provide shopping cart functionality.

Strapi

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Strapi

Strapi is a Node.js-based open-source headless CMS. Strapi lets you create APIs from a user-friendly admin panel. Access API files at any time and edit them manually. Design the “content type” structure according to your needs with dozens of available fields and mix-and-match possibilities. Includes advanced filtering, sorting and pagination, and policies for managing authentication.

Snipcart

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Snipcart

Snipcart is a low-footprint ecommerce platform for developers. It provides the cart and checkout. The rest of the frontend is up to you. Using RESTful API, JavaScript API, and webhooks, users can supercharge their ecommerce platform integration. Connect with inventory management systems, drop-shipping sservices, email marketing platforms, point-of-sale providers, CRMs, and more.

BigCommerce

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BigCommerce

BigCommerce provides headless implementation with its commerce engine decoupled from its presentation layer, giving merchants the ability to simultaneously run multiple stores across multiple frontend providers, all from a single BigCommerce account. Deliver API-driven experiences through your CMS, application, device, or custom frontend. Access integrations and APIs for WordPress, Drupal, Bloomreach, Deity Falcon, and Adobe Experience Manager.

Shopify Plus

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Shopify Plus

Shopify Plus provides the backend infrastructure for your frontend customer touchpoints to sell on all the digital mediums your customers use while managing it all from a single backend. Plug in the tools and systems your business counts on, such as an ERP, PIM, CRM, and CMS. Design fast, engaging storefronts for web, mobile, video games, and beyond with the GraphQL Storefront API. Let your developers build with the languages and frameworks they already know.

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privacy policy pages
Policy Pages, Done Well, Enhance Your Brand

Shoppers search an online store’s policy pages for details on shipping, returns, and more. Rarely are these vital pages engaging. But they should be.

The need to brand shouldn’t stop at shoppable content. Incorporating the company’s voice into supporting content keeps people engaged and gives them more reasons to shop with you. This includes simplifying legalese and navigation and using graphics to illustrate the message.

Let’s look at five common policy pages and how you can breathe life into them.

5 Common Policy Pages

Shipping information. Ideally, shipping costs and transit times should appear before the checkout process. However, shipping information pages provide preliminary details, along with information the shopping cart might not display. A map that points out expected days to delivery helps shoppers plan. The example below is from Adagio Teas.

US Map with shipping estimations

Adagio provides transit times with a color-coded map.

The shipping page should also include:

  • How quickly orders are processed, packed, and shipped.
  • The packing materials used (for environmentally-conscious companies).
  • The carrier(s) and method(s) used.
  • How to track shipments.

Returns and exchanges. Forget lengthy instructions. Today’s shoppers want simplicity. The best returns process is self-managed, meaning the shopper can look up the order and click a button to generate an RMA and shipping label. An easy returns process is one of Amazon’s prized features. Customers can opt to have the package picked up by a carrier or drop it off at a returns counter in their area.

Don’t confuse consumers upfront. Be clear about what can and cannot be returned and when.

Ikea focuses on the customer experience from start to finish. Whether shopping in one of its 430-plus physical locations or online, loyal consumers (primarily millennials) are hooked from the moment they walk in or log on. The Swedish company focuses on value, and that includes a 365-day return policy.

Ikea’s online customer service section is simple. The returns and claims page relies on visuals and elementary text to guide shoppers to returns, replacement parts, and warranties. When clicking through to the “no-nonsense returns policy,” you’re faced with four paragraphs of easy-to-read text.

IKEA's easy to understand returns and exchanges page

Ikea’s easy-to-understand returns and exchanges page.

Warranties. What happens if something goes wrong? That’s a pressing question on higher-cost items, such as fitness equipment and electronics.

U.S.-based drinkware manufacturer Tervis stands by its thermal tumblers with a lifetime warranty. If it cracks, swells, or otherwise doesn’t perform under normal use, the company will replace it. Figuring out what may be covered can be tricky, so the website presents illustrative examples.

Illustration of damaged Tervis drinkware

Illustration of damaged Tervis drinkware

Ditch the jargon. Use bulleted lists, illustrations, and photos to show shoppers exactly what’s covered.

About us. Plenty of businesses misunderstand the purpose of the “about” page. This is the place to tell shoppers why the store exists, the company’s values, and how it operates. Personalizing the experience is key, so be sure to include photos and details about the brand, including the people behind the scenes.

The about page should make customers feel welcome and good about supporting the company. If you focus, say, on quality, value, or sustainability, talk about it. Use section headings or bullet points to call attention to each segment.

Little Seed Farm takes shoppers on a mini-tour of its goat farm and demonstrates how its handmade soap is produced. This helps connect consumers with the brand, including the staff.

Little Seen Farm About Us page with video and images of staff

Get personal with shoppers by introducing the staff. Source: Little Seed Farm.

When amping up the about page, consider including the following components:

  • The company’s mission statement.
  • How the company started and why it exists.
  • Video walkthrough of the facilities.
  • Video walkthrough of how something is made, packed, and shipped.
  • Photos of essential staff, especially those in lower tiers.
  • Highlights of important causes the company supports.
  • How the company keeps customers safe.

Privacy. Most people don’t read privacy policies, yet they’re essential to any website. The privacy policy explains how your company collects and manages visitors’ data. Google is known for collecting a wealth of data across its own and partner sites. Its privacy policy page is lengthy but easy to digest in logical chunks. Using explainer images and videos is an excellent way to educate visitors and help them feel comfortable sharing information.

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content marketing ideas
5 Content Marketing Ideas for August 2021

In August 2021, ecommerce and omnichannel retailers have many topics to choose from for content marketing, including back-to-school shopping guides, informative ebooks, MTV’s 40th birthday, presidential jokes, and items with an international flavor.

Content market is the process of creating content, publishing it, and promoting it to attract, engage, and retain an audience of customers. Content marketing can help with search engine optimization and pay-per-click ads.

Sometimes, however, it can be challenging to know what topics to address. What follows are five content marketing ideas you can use for your business in August 2021.

1. Back-to-school Shopping Guides

In June 2021, the National Retail Federation surveyed back-to-school and off-to-college shoppers about the forthcoming academic year. More than two-thirds (64%) believed that school would be primarily in-person this fall. What’s more, about 26% of surveyed shoppers had already started to look online as they plan purchases.

Screenshot of NRF survey results.

An NRF survey found that most back-to-school shoppers expect in-person classes this fall.

These results may indicate a robust back-to-school retail season.

While your online shop will almost certainly want to deploy ads and email, don’t leave out content. For August 2021, create back-to-school shopping guides for every age group — elementary school through college, as well as parents.

The guides should be specific to the industry your online store serves. For example, a store that sells household cleaning supplies could publish the “Definitive Guide to Back-to-school Stains and How to Remove Them.”

This guide would feature cleaning supplies and, perhaps, cleaning supply bundles or kits aimed at common back-to-school stains. One section of the guide could address how to remove grass stains from a soccer or football uniform. Another article might focus on removing mud from carpets.

2. The 10-times Ebook

Let August 2021 be the month you do something extraordinary with your content marketing. Create an ebook related to the products your business sells that are 10-times better than anything else available.

And then use that ebook to generate site traffic, leads, and sales. This approach is tried and true. Consider BigCommerce, for example. The company creates excellent ebooks and guides. It uses these for lead capture, but a B2C seller could easily use the concept to build an email list.

Screenshot of a BigCommerce's guide page.

B2B SaaS companies such as BigCommerce have been using ebooks to encourage traffic, capture leads, and make sales for years.

Next, BigCommerce creates lots of blog posts around the topic of the guide. The posts often draw content from the ebook.

Screenshot of BigCommerce's DTC opportunity web page

The ebook you create can also be repurposed into several articles, such as this direct-to-consumer example from BigCommerce.

Take this idea and apply it to your products. For example, an online store selling house plants could create a 30-page ebook titled “The Ultimate Guide to Growing Plants in an Apartment.”

3. August 1: MTV Turns 40

Music Television — MTV — was revolutionary when it launched on August 1, 1981. Anyone old enough to remember early MTV probably remembers watching hours of music videos played back-to-back with little interruption. The channel changed how a generation related to music. This explains the first video played on MTV: The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star.”

For your company’s August 2021 content marketing, use MTV’s 40th as a springboard to focus on 1980’s nostalgia as it might relate to your store’s products. You could do this in a few ways.

If your business is music-related, treat the anniversary as history or analyze how MTV impacted the industry. If your products are not music-specific, use MTV as a landmark and compare its launch to your company or the popularity of your products.

Here is an example. Say that you have a direct-to-consumer brand selling beard oils and beard grooming supplies. You could publish an article with a headline of “Did MTV Give Rise to the Modern Beardsman?”

Screenshot from MTV of a performer with a beard

In the example, a store selling beard grooming products could create a humorous article about how MTV may have encouraged beard growth.

This article could analyze the first 100 music videos played on MTV in 1981, counting the number of men shown in the videos and calculating the percentage with facial hair. This percentage, which is near zero, would be compared to the percentage now appearing on MTV. The article could be funny.

If there is a way to connect MTV’s 40th anniversary to beard grooming products, there is likely also a way to connect your products to the milestone, too.

4. August 11: Presidential Joke Day

If your company’s brand is casual, consider creating content for Presidential Joke Day on August 11, 2021.

Photo of Joe Biden and Barack Obama laughing.

President Ronald Reagan started presidential joke day, but any president can get in on the laughs. Shown here are presidents Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

As an example, you might produce a video. Ask 10 of your company’s employees to tell a favorite presidential joke and release the combined video on social media or promote it with email.

If you need some inspiration, read Andy Simmons’s article from Reader’s Digest, “17 Sick Presidential Burns to Steal on ‘National Presidential Joke Day,’” or Julia Davis’ Mental Floss article, “9 Presidential Jokes for Presidential Joke Day.”

You will find jokes about presidents and from presidents. Here is a one-liner from President Eisenhower: “An atheist is a guy who watches a Notre Dame-Southern Methodist football game and doesn’t care who wins.”

Finally, as you contemplate National Joke Day, take a moment to remember its origin. During a microphone check before giving a speech on August 11, 1984, President Ronald Reagan said, “My fellow Americans. I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

The “joke” was not broadcast live, but a recording was later leaked.

5. International Content

Ecommerce has made retail international. And content knows few borders, too. So a blog post hosted on an ecommerce site in China, Germany, or the United States can reach customers worldwide.

In August 2021, aim at least some of your company’s content at an international audience. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to make significant changes; rather, think of ways to include readers or viewers from outside of your region.

For example, look at men’s apparel retailer Mr. Porter. A recent post, “The Best-Dressed Men Of June 2021,” featured males photographed at events around the world.

Image from Mr. Porter showing well-dressed men worldwide

Mr. Porter’s article has an international feel.

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ai powering distribution
How AI Powers Distribution, Logistics

Artificial intelligence is a list of instructions and rules that a computer needs to complete a task. Ecommerce examples include site search, product recommendations, and chatbots — all increasingly rely on AI.

But the distribution and logistics industries use AI, too.

AI in Distribution, Logistics

Procurement. AI is being used in procurement to lower costs. Large companies need to understand who spent what and with whom. AI algorithms are used in historical spend analysis to review, cleanse, and classify overall expenditures for improved sourcing decisions. Benefits include obtaining company-wide volume discounts, better supplier selection, and efficient timing of purchase orders.

Fulfillment. In distribution centers, AI-enabled inventory management aids decision-making on optimum stockholdings based on:

  • Sales trends over the previous years,
  • Projected or anticipated changes in product demand,
  • Seasonal fluctuations,
  • Potential supply-related constraints.

AI algorithms can forecast when orders will arrive, which means pallets can be placed in readiness in the most efficient positions.

  • Problem: Too much inventory.
  • Solution: Use AI to predict market demand and optimize stock levels.
  • Result: Lower holding costs, fewer disposals, more on-time deliveries.

Shipping. Leading distributors and transporters UPS, FedEx, and DHL use AI-powered tools to determine the most efficient routes for their fleets based on historical data. The tools forecast loads and streamline route planning and vehicle scheduling for faster deliveries. The result is faster deliveries, lower fuel costs, and fewer vehicles on the road.

  • Problem: Inefficient transport processes mean wasted time and money.
  • Solution: Optimize delivery routes for more on-time deliveries.
  • Result: Lower cost of fuel, reduced CO2 emissions, satisfied customers.

Sustainability. Fashion retailers strive to reduce the volume of returned goods from online sales. Inditex, a Spanish clothing company, is deploying AI capabilities for its Zara brand to suggest at the time of order the right apparel size based on a customer’s measurements along with his style preferences, such as loose or tight clothing. Reducing product returns means fewer items in landfills and a greener planet.

In the grocery sector, U.K.-based Ocado uses AI tools to prevent food spoilage. Food waste is a huge global problem. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year, nearly one-third of all food produced. The Ocado Smart Platform applies AI to assess 20 million forecasts each day to maximize freshness and availability while reducing overstock and waste. AI also helps determine the optimal time for offering discounts.

Job Losses?

AI-driven solutions improve productivity and release people from mundane and unfulfilling tasks. But many observers worry that applying AI in warehouses and logistics may result in job losses. Not true. Any losses are likely balanced by new roles needed for the human touch. Thus AI will improve customer service while driving backend efficiencies.

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