Google Ignite Event

Google Ignite Event Roundup: The Multi-Channel E-Commerce Strategy

On Monday 29th February, Google Premier SME partners, businesses, industry experts and thought leaders gathered at Google’s St.Giles offices to share insights on what’s new in e-commerce.

Creare were fortunate enough to be invited to the first Ignite event in Europe, and we have highlighted our key takeways from the day below:

Technology and the Global Economy

One of the key topics of the day focussed on advances in technology that will transform our lives, businesses and the global economy. The presentation focussed on findings from a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, which identified 12 emerging technologies which have the potential to reshape the way we think, work and live:

Disruptive Technologies

It is estimated that applications of these technologies could have a potential economic impact of $14 trillion to $33 trillion a year in 2025. Examples of the most influential technologies include:

  • Mobile internet: In just a few years, internet-enabled devices have gone from a luxury item for the few to a way of life for the masses, with more than one billion people owning smartphones and tablets. The mobile internet not only makes elements of our daily lives – like travelling – a lot easier, but also has applications within business, creating opportunities to improve the delivery of services and increase the productivity of the workforce.
  • Automation of knowledge work: Advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural user interfaces (such as voice recognition) have meant that it is now possible to automate tasks that have long been regarded as impossible for machines to perform. Sophisticated machines can be used to replicate the talents of skilled employees, and as this increases it is possible that some job roles could become fully automated.

You can read McKinsey’s study on Disruptive Technologies in full here.

Adwords Trends: Text and PLA are Better Together

When running paid adverts in Google, its important to consider all options available to you, and which combination will generate the best return – be it text adverts, product listing ads (PLA / Google Shopping) or re-marketing banners. The next presentation highlighted some interesting statistics around the success of Google Shopping campaigns when combined with text campaigns, as opposed to using this medium in isolation:

Text and PLA ads
(Photo of a slide from the event)

Overall, the return on investment for companies running both campaigns simultaneously was higher than those only running text ads.

This also supports the theory that combining organic and paid campaigns can improve overall performance, as owning more real estate on the first page of Google results is a clear trust signal for customers.

More information about this topic can be found here.

Omnichannel: Think Like Macy’s

With the competitive landscape of search changing daily, its more important than ever for companies to craft multi-channel campaigns that are able to capture customers with short attention spans at every possible opportunity. The video below shows how Macy’s have adopted this approach in an intuitive way, to ensure a smooth path to purchase for their customers both online and offline:

Although Macy’s is a huge company with big budgets, some of the key takeaways from this campaign can be utilised by smaller companies in inventive ways:

  • Consider how online supports offline, and how you can measure this. Your website might not necessarily drive a large number of sales, but if it is increasing the footfall in your stores it is worth investing in.
  • Clearly define your core customers and ensure you have a consistent presence across all devices they are likely to use.
  • Can you expose your in store inventory on your website to drive sales in your local stores?
  • Consider not only how omnichannel campaigns can improve your bottom line – but how they can provide the best customer experience to ensure they return.

Remember – it doesn’t matter if your customer buys in store or online – along as they buy from you!

The Four Competitive Edges

The event was wrapped up with some clear direction for how to ensure your e-commerce campaigns remain competitive, in four key points:

1 – Multi-Channel – Understand your customers, be where they are and deliver a consistent experience. Your e-commerce website should be optimised for all devices and contain clear information about any physical stores you own as an additional route to purchase.

2 – Targeting – You are the best in your niche so communicate this clearly with your customers and go where they would expect you to be, focussing on multi-channel campaigns.

3 – Quality – Meet and exceed the expectations of your customers. Your communication needs to be clear and relevant – and make sure you ask for feedback so you are continually striving to be better for your customers.

4 – Service – Be available for your customers – on the phone, email, online chat. Ensure your delivery and customer service are outstanding. Making an initial investment to tie up the inventory in your stores and online can make this easier.

See what attendees thought of the Google Ignite event in the promotional video below:

5 Top Tips To Optimise Your Landing Pages

Optimising your landing pages can ensure users stay on your site for longer, interact with your content and most importantly convert into customers! Well thought out landing page content is not only essential for e-commerce websites or companies running PPC campaigns, but every business with an online presence.

Follow our top five tips to ensure your landing pages provide the best possible experience for your customers:

1. Start with the fundamentals


A great online experience starts with a great website, so before you look to optimise your landing pages make sure your site provides the best possible foundation. With mobile now contributing to 45% of all e-commerce traffic in the UK*, it is essential to ensure your pages are scalable to be read on mobile devices, as a failure to address this is likely to impair your rankings on Google, not to mention being detrimental to user experience.

Speak to your developer or SEO consultant about ensuring your site speed is not slow, by minimising the size of image files and scripts in the back-end, as studies have shown that slower page load times result in an increase in site abandonment*. Make sure consumers can see all of your great content quickly when they come through to your site.

Consider the accessibility of your content – is your text big enough? Do you sell internationally, if so, is it easy for consumers to navigate between different languages/currencies? If you sell products online, make sure consumers can easily access information about Deliveries and Rreturns, as  your website often serves as your first opportunity to provide great customer service.

2. Do your research


A good place to start is by looking at how users are navigating through your site. Which pages are the most popular? Which pages are people leaving without having made any interaction? Heat mapping software like Hotjar enables you to see how users interact with your pages, from the percentage of users scrolling down the page, to the areas of the page they typically hover over, to the most popular links. Tools like these will enable you to identify areas of improvement, and where the hot spots are to put the most important information or calls to action.

The next logical step is to look at your competitors. Which companies are currently ranking for your target keywords? Do they rank for their homepage or a specific landing page? Look at how the page is structured, and how easy it is to navigate through the site. Don’t just look at your direct competitors, be aspirational – look at the brand leaders in your industry and sites of other brands you know sell well, as you can pick up some inspiration from them too.

3. Make the most of your campaigns

Don’t just consider your landing pages in isolation, as they form a key part of any campaign. Make sure your sales messages are communicated across all marketing channels – from PPC ads, to emails and even offline media like print ads. Consistency is key; you want customers to be able to instantly locate and recognise your offer, to generate the best return. ASOS have done this particularly well with their seasonal offers.

They promote their campaign through PPC ads:

Campaigns PPC

Which is consistently communicated via email marketing campaigns:

Campaigns Email

Which follows the same design as their landing pages:

Campaigns Landing Page

Be sure to track your campaigns using custom landing pages or tracking URLs, so you can see how they perform and improve on this over time. Ensure you capture customer data wherever possible to broaden the reach of future campaigns, for example offering customers a discount in return for them signing up to your newsletter.

4. Keep it simple

Keep it simple

Make sure your content is easy to digest, by breaking up text with eye-catching images, illustrations or graphics (see more information about how important imagery is on a website here). Consider the fact that users in the UK read left to right, and ensure the most popular content is ‘above the fold’ (the segment of the page you can see without having to scroll down). Be clear on what makes your business unique and display this at the top of the page.

Calls to action are vitally important – make sure it’s immediately clear what you want users to do – be it to view a particular page, make a purchase, submit an online enquiry or call you. Ensure these stand out in their positioning and the colours and language you use. Consider how you can add a sense of urgency, such as an online countdown to the end of a sale. Make enquiry forms as short as possible; you have a short space of time to capture the customer’s interest, so don’t give them any reason to drop off the site.

5. Build trust


Finally, consider how you can prove your unique proposition – do you have any awards/accreditations/customer testimonials you can use to inspire trust in customers? Make sure these are displayed clearly, and ensure you build a culture in your business where you are asking customers for feedback – to both improve your site and campaigns, and provide positive reviews to encourage new customers to buy into your business.



Holiday Shopping Trends For British Retailers

There has been a lot of noise surrounding mainstream retailers over the crazy shopping days, but how did the independent retailers get on?

The key shopping days in the UK; Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday, all took place within the space of just over a week. All of these are adopted from American tradition, the UK has jumped on board with these events in recent years.

Brightpearl analysed the performance of 1,200 of their retail and wholesale customers from various industries over Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday UK. The data looked at same-business and channel comparisons across the number of items sold, gross merchandise value (GMV) and sales channels for all sales orders processed.

Drum roll please… Here are the results and they’re very interesting!

Black Friday vs Cyber Monday

In 2015, Black Friday took place on November 27th and Cyber Monday fell on November 30th. According to the Guardian, Black Friday failed to make up for November’s slow trade, suggesting it was not as big of a success as expected.

Interestingly, Brightpearl’s data shows a large increase in gross merchandise value (GMV) between 2013 and 2014, but this year UK consumers have spent almost the same as they did last year.

Black Friday stayed the same with a 0% increase and Cyber Monday dropped by 2%. Are UK shoppers already bored of the crazy discount shopping days?

Although Cyber Monday spend decreased slightly, the discount day still came out as the winner in the battle between Black Friday vs Cyber Monday.

Small Business Saturday UK

Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday was Small Business Saturday which took place on December 5th in the UK. Small Business Saturday aims to celebrate local small businesses and encourages shoppers to visit independent businesses rather than the retail giants.

Small Business Saturday 2015 has seen the biggest increase from 2014 with a 16% rise in gross merchandise value (GMV). Beating both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in percentage increase, Small Business Saturday awareness has seemingly increased.

With coverage by the BBC, Guardian, Financial Times and various other nationally media, the Small Business Saturday name is growing. Will the 2016 event be an even bigger success for small businesses?

eBay vs Amazon marketplaces

Amazon stole the show with the UK website selling more than 7.4 million items on Black Friday. According to Brightpearl’s data, Amazon has also dominated in the eBay vs Amazon marketplaces battle.

For the third year running, Amazon has dominated in the eBay vs Amazon marketplaces battle. However, 2015 has seen the biggest win with 59.6% for Amazon vs 40.4% for eBay. Amazon certainly seems to be gaining market share from eBay.

Average order value

Average order value has interestingly fell from £128 in 2014 to £112 in 2015 suggesting UK retailers continue to increasingly discount more each year.

As well as average order value falling, more consumers have headed online instead of going to the shops in order to avoid the hustle and bustle experienced in the UK in 2014.

Retailers and consumers alike appear to have had some doubt in their minds about Black Friday and Cyber Monday so what lies ahead for the cyber weekend of 2016?


Are you ready for Black Friday?

With Christmas just over 5 weeks away, you would be forgiven if you’ve started to think about the looming festivities. Some well deserved time off and spending time with loved ones will be top of the agenda for most of you.

However, as a commercial e-commerce organisation, thinking that far ahead could do more harm than good. There are some key dates that you need to think about, starting with next Friday.

The Black Friday hypes starts from next week and is set to be the biggest sales event to date. It has been part of the rapid expansion of pre-festive sales that have organically replaced the post-Christmas bargain hunters.

Now preparing for Black Friday has never been more competitive so I hope you have started early. Here are 5 tips to ensure you maximise your revenue potential.

If you advertise your products, the likelihood is people will buy them. Mix up your marketing with both offline and online activity to push out offers and brand. Make your online offers clear and visible on-site. DON’T compete on price otherwise you could spend too much and never make a profit.

Expect your website to get more traffic if you advertise correctly? If your website server is not correctly performing, expect a lot of downtime, so before you start your black Friday promotion, double check the server and ensure it can handle the increase in traffic.

If last year taught you anything, you need to use that to your advantage. Don’t miss a trick – look at analytical data to see where you may have gone wrong and right and use the information to tailor your promotions to key audiences.

If you have a pre-existing social audience, engage with them and let them know about your promotions. If they don’t buy themselves, they may share your status to friends and family.

Nothing says we care like communicating to a customer like they are in store. Consider adding Live Chat to your website for Black Friday so customers don’t pick up the phone for an online query. Think of think of the increase in saving rather than the cost.

So, there you have our advice on how to make the most of Black Friday for your business. For any further questions or for help on setting up your to maximise the Black Friday potential, get in touch with us online.


Website Images: Are They Really That Important?

Humans are visual creatures, with 40% of people claiming they respond better to visual information than plain text*. For this reason, the design of your website and effective use of imagery is extremely important in engaging your customers and prompting them to make an enquiry or purchase.

With the rise of image central social networks like Instagram and Pinterest, we have learned to process information extremely quickly through visual cues, forming impressions within seconds. In order to make your message understood, it is therefore essential to accompany this with related imagery to ensure an almost instant understanding of what is being communicated.

We have identified some tips to ensure your images enhance – not hinder – your website:

Choose eye catching images

‘46% of consumers say a website’s design is the number one criteria for establishing the credibility of a company’ - Hubspot

It is essential to ensure the images used on your site reflect your company values, look professional and effectively frame your content.

Imagery should relate to your offering, but doesn’t have to be literal. For example, if you sell fire safety equipment, a static image of a fire extinguisher might not be as engaging as an image of a fire being extinguished. Consider how to best catch the eye of the consumer as soon as they land on your site.

Fire Image

Consistency is key – just as you should replicate your company’s tone of voice across all communication through the website and social media, the style of imagery you use should also be consistent to affirm your brand identity and build trust in your customers.

The Jaguar website is a great example of this – they only use high quality lifestyle shots of the cars on their homepage, enhanced in post-production to look as if they are moving, to infer the speed of the vehicles. They haven’t confused the message by including product shots of the cars on white backgrounds, or any imagery containing people – it’s all about the cars and it’s consistent.

Jaguar Photography

While you may not have the budget or resource to produce images of this high a quality, it is important to consider how all of the images on your site complement one another and represent your brand.

Use images to sell

‘67% of consumers said the quality of a product image is ‘very important’ in selecting and purchasing a product’ – Jeff Bullas

If you are selling products on your site, it is essential that you provide as much imagery as possible to give consumers the best possible sense of how the product looks. Mix lifestyle shots in with product shots where appropriate, i.e. if you’re selling a piece of furniture, show the product on it’s own but also include it in a decorated room to give an impression of how it can enhance this space, or if you are selling clothing show this on a model styled with other items to show how it fits a real person rather than just shots on mannequins. Victoria Plum offer a range of product images including shots of the furniture in use:

Victoria Plum Product Image
Victoria Plum Product Image

With the absence of the ability to touch and feel the product, give customers the opportunity to see the product from every angle where possible – 360 photography can enable you to let consumers rotate the product to see every angle.

People buy for emotional reasons, so consider how you can appeal to users’ emotions when selling your products – especially if they are high value purchases. For example, holiday companies often include smiling couples or families in their photographs, appealing to consumers’ emotional attachments to the loved ones they will be taking the holiday with.

Be selective with stock photography

Stock photography can be extremely hit or miss – it can be utilised by companies who do not have the budget or resource to take photos in-house, but it can often be misused when cliché or inconsistent imagery is used.

If you need to use stock images, take some time to browse the resources available – there are a wealth of websites offering free and paid images, of varying quality. Sites such as Stocksnap contain free images supplied by photographers, which are much more creative than some of the other platforms providing generic images. Shutterstock is a great resource for paid imagery, with packages available to save you money when buying in bulk.

Consider using iconography or illustrations instead of photography if you are struggling to find good images. Moz have produced an illustrated mascot, and use attractive iconography across the site which consistently communicates their brand values:

Moz Iconography

Add team and company photos

Including images of the team can give your brand a face and personality online. Browsing online is in the most part an impersonal experience, so help your customers to connect with you by showing images of the people who own and work at the company. People buy from people, so this is an effective way to convey your company’s culture. At Creare we feature colourful images of our staff to communicate our brand personality:

Creare Team

Images of the office can also help to attract customers and potential new employees, by giving a sense of the environment you work in. This enhances the legitimacy of the business, and can be much more engaging on your ‘Contact Us’ or ‘About Us’ page than a generic stock image of a call centre worker.

Studies have shown that on average, over half of users spend less than 15 seconds on a website*. This gives you an extremely short window through which to communicate your message; follow these tips to ensure your imagery helps you to convert visitors into customers.


Image sources:

Retail Checklist: Ten Steps to Improve Customer Service in Preparation for the Holiday Season

For many retailers, the holiday season is the highest revenue generating time of the year. Yes, it can be a stressful few months, but for those that are prepared and equipped to handle the added pressure, it can actually be “The most wonderful time of the year.”

At the centre of the season is the consumer. Your customer. The success of this season lies solely on their shoulders: the what, where, why and how much they decide to buy, or not. A retailer’s ability to meet customer’s needs, keep them happy, and turn a seasonal shopper into a regular customer plays as large a role in retail success.

BizRate recently conducted a survey of 13,000 people of different age groups and genders to see why they chose one retailer over another. Bizrate Insights Vice President Hayley Silver shared the results, which revealed that shoppers most value “customer support,” “product met expectations,” “on-time delivery” and “design of site,” for eCommerce stores.

The following retail checklist offers tips on how to improve customer service for both online and in-store consumers. It includes some tactics you may already be familiar with, but may not have used in some time. Other tips may be new to you, but are proven methods in retail that provide that invaluable one-on-one level of support today’s consumers demand.

  1. Stay on top of inventory levels to improve customer service. When customers make the decision to buy, the best way to serve them is to have that desired product in stock. Staying on top of your inventory levels ensure you can deliver. Through your retail management platform, when levels get to your preset reorder number, a supplier order is automatically generated to replenish your stock levels. When the numbers are going the other way and certain stock isn’t moving, the holiday season is the best time to discount that stock in order to make room for products customers want to buy. Having your inventory, sales, and purchasing data tied directly to your accounting system within your retail platform allows you to quickly run profit and loss statements and other accounting reports at any time, continually fine-tuning your operations throughout the season.
  1. Use inventory reporting to keep customers happy. Mistakes happen, especially during the holiday rush. If an order was lost during shipping, your inventory reports will tell you if you have a replacement product in stock. If the warehouse sent out an incorrect product, your inventory report will show the discrepancy to identify the error, potentially before the customer does. Then you can be proactive by contacting the customer to correct situation.

“Tracking stock levels is really important for us as we sell different quantities across so many different channels – we never want to let customers down by being out of stock – Brightpearl makes sure we don’t.” Daniel Rios, Technical and Operations Specialist, Paper & Tea

  1. Multichannel management to serve customers wherever they shop. Do your regular in-store customers like to shop online for the added convenience? Having all your sales channels – in-store, online, eBay and Amazon stores – tied to together offers numerous ways to better serve your customers. Sales orders automatically update inventory levels across all channels. Pricing can be managed centrally, so if you discover a competitor with a lower price, information which is easily found through eBay’s advanced search functionality, you can adjust accordingly to stay competitive. Offering the ability to buy online but pick up in the store is becoming more popular among shoppers, and as the days wind down to the holiday season, this option could really save the day during last-minute gift buying.
  1. Your Suppliers play a key role in improving customer service AND cash flow. Going back to monitoring inventory levels, having a solid relationship with your suppliers can benefit your customer in many ways. If you have a banger sales weekend, leaving you unexpectedly low or out of a certain product, drop shipping from your supplier to your customer to deliver product before your stock is replenished. You may list a lower sell-through item in your catalogue but may not stock it, knowing that if a sale comes through you can drop ship to the customer or get same-day delivery from your supplier. This enables you to direct that cash elsewhere versus having it gather dust on the shelf. Freeing up that cash flow allows you to spend it in ways the benefit your business, from hiring additional temporary holiday staff, to marketing and advertising, or other on products with higher sell-through rates.
  1. Simplify and improve your deliveries with cloud-based solutions. Third-party ecommerce solution providers such as ShipStation in the U.S. and Scurri in the U.K. integrate directly into your retail management platform and popular shopping carts (Shopify, Magento, Bigcommerce), automatically assigning a carrier for each shipment based on your pre-defined criteria. This increases efficiency over manual entry, providing real-time tracking for both you and your customer. Letting shoppers know exactly when their package is set to arrive is of value at any time, but especially during the holidays. These services also enable you to analyze the performance of each carrier, continually fine-tuning your delivery system to meet and exceed customer’s needs while monitoring costs to improve your bottom line.

“We love ShipStation! This was probably the first automation systems we took on as a small company. We initially did all shipments by hand. We were just starting out and didn’t know any better. Then in Christmas of 2012 our sales really took off, and we were swamped! Not to mention we went a little crazy trying to do all these orders by hand. So we Googled something like “magento shipping integration” and that’s how we found ShipStation. It was love at first sight.” Connor Hartnett, Founding Manager, F&V Lighting

  1. Increase the monitoring of your store’s shopping cart abandonment rates. People get finicky during the holiday season. It’s important to know the difference between a dropped sale because a shopper changed their mind, and a potential problem with your checkout process. Ecommerce shopping cart solutions like Magento will notify you when customers abandoned the sale, and then send them email notification reminders to finish the sale. These can be customized messages to contact your store if there were issues, enabling staff to personally resolve them, even by taking orders over the phone if need be, which offers that personal touch. Tracking if a customer abandon a cart from their mobile device, but completed it on their laptop, could indicate potential friction with your online store from a mobile device, an area you’ll now know needs improvement to better support mobile shoppers.
  1. Take advantage of real-time customer information to better suit their needs. Your CRM has a wealth of information you can use to improve customer service. Filtering by product type and amount of sales by customer, and viewing how they’ve interacted with your store enables you to send personalized one-to-one email messages. These could include a coupon to shop online or bring them back into the store, to invite them to a customer appreciation shopping night, or simply say “thank you” for their continued business. It’s a way to differentiate you from your competitors, where shopping is a pleasurable experience and not simply a lowest cost pursuit.

“Customers can be tracked, tagged, emailed and updated in no time at all. This has streamlined my sales and lead generation by making it easy to communicate with current and potential clients.” Laura Rudo, CEO, Evolve Beauty

  1. If you’re not yet using social media to improve customer service, what are you waiting for? Earlier this year, our partner Creare wrote a great blog post on how to use Twitter for customer support, including an eye-opening statistic: of the consumers who post a complaint on social media, 42% of them expect a response within 60 minutes and 32% expect one within 30 minutes. Closely monitoring your social channels will enable you to quickly address and resolve issues with online customers, or even a shopper Tweeting about waiting in a long line in your store. Use these channels to provide another service by sharing your store’s product expertise through helpful blog posts on the latest trends, tips, and recommendations. Butterfly Twists has a lively and active blog if you’re looking for inspiration.
  1. Small touches can go a long way in creating a welcoming in-store customer experience. Holiday shopping for many is a hectic experience. Having helpful, friendly and knowledgeable staff on the floor can make a world of difference to shoppers. The BizRate survey showed that shoppers of the Baby Boomer and Senior generation stated that service, “they have treated me well in the past,” was most important to them, even over price. Offering a cup of tea or warm cider and a place to rest for busy shoppers is a nice way of letting them know their patronage is appreciated. To help them with their shopping list, turn to your sales reports to see which product lines are selling well, then feature them in eye-catching displays that make buying easier.
  1. A well thought out efficient returns strategy benefits your bottom line and your customer. It’s critical, especially during the holiday season, that your return policies are clearly messaged within your ecommerce store and your physical store. When your returns system is running like a well-oiled machine, products can be added back into inventory quickly, ready to be sold to the next customer. Closely monitoring returns will red flag potential defaults with a product. If you notice a spike for a specific SKU, you can put a hold on a product to prevent future customers from receiving faulty items. At the same time, expediting exchanges ensures your customer receives the replacement product quickly.

According to eMarketer, U.S. retail sales for November and December is predicted to grow 5.7 percent over 2014, reaching $885 billion. This is the biggest increase in retail sales since 2011. Keeping your customers happy through this year’s holiday season will enable your retail business to benefit from what is expected to be, quite a wonderful shopping season.

To learn more on ways you can prepare your retail business for the holiday season, download ‘The Ultimate Retail Guide to the Holiday Season 2015’ today.

This guest post was written by Brightpearl. Brightpearl are a partner of Creare who provide multichannel retail management software.

Top Tips: Improving Your Online Shop

Having an online presence is fundamental to development of any brand or organisation. If you do have an ecommerce store and online shop, ensuring you are making the most of your presence is essential to compete in an ever growing industry. Take a look at my tips to improve your online shop.

E-commerce pages: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

E-commerce product pages are a topic of discussion across the digital world. What makes an effective product page is a question asked almost daily by those battling to compete in the most competitive industries.

There are lots of good examples of product pages across the web but also some really bad ones. Take a look at my selection of some of the best ones across the industry mixed in with some terrible ones.

5 Steps To Prioritise Your Digital Marketing

It’s no secret that the marketing industry has changed; gone are the days of being able to rely on handing out leaflets and placing a small text ad in the local newspaper to generate sales.

Digital has redefined the marketing landscape, and with £1 from every £7 spent expected to come from online sales by 2018*, those not responding to this are likely to fall behind.

But in an ever changing marketplace with an increasing number of digital channels available, how do you know which tactics to deploy and how to prioritise your marketing budget?

Step 1 – Put it into context

Before you start investing in digital marketing, try asking yourself the following questions:

Your Business: What do you want to achieve? How much budget are you willing to invest? Do you want to establish a long term strategy or are you more interested in short term wins?

Your Audience: How have customers found your company in the past? Which digital channels are they most likely to be receptive to? Do they typically buy your products/services online or in store?

The Market: How competitive is the market in which you operate? Is this reflected online? How do your competitors advertise?

There are various online resources you can use to help you identify the right digital channels for your business, for example Think With Google shows an overview of how each channel assists in the customer journey to purchase for different industries:

Think With Google Channel Split


For B2B, Google have identified that organic search (SEO) and email campaigns act more as assist interactions, whereas social media, display and branded PPC campaigns are more likely to be the last stage before purchase.

Step 2 – Optimise your website

Before investing in any online advertising, it is essential that you ensure your website is up-to-date with new and relevant information, is optimised for all devices, and contains clear calls to action. If these factors aren’t in place, your campaigns will be driving customers to a website which provides a poor experience and they are less likely to purchase.

It’s important to check your website is optimised for any campaign you are looking to run e.g. an email marketing campaign that contains links back to your website needs to drive customers to pages which contain relevant content and provide a clear path to conversion.

Step 3 – Choose your tactics

Depending on the competitiveness of your industry online, your budget and whether you’re looking for a short or long term campaign, each digital marketing channel has different benefits:

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation focuses on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) Google search results. SEO is a long-term strategic tactic as particularly in competitive markets, it can take time to generate tangible results. Investing long-term in SEO can generate great returns in terms of brand exposure, increased traffic and conversions.

PPC – Pay-Per-Click advertising involves paying for ads to be displayed in Google search results. It’s a great tactic for generating quick wins as it is possible to bid your way to the top of the search results instantly. However, depending on how competitive the market and search terms you want to target are, it can be very costly. PPC is recommended as a short term solution while longer term tactics such as SEO build momentum.

Display Advertising – Display campaigns enable you to create eye-catching ads, and place these on targeted websites based on the interests of your consumers. Similar to PPC, display advertising can be costly and the return is less likely due to lower average click-through-rates. However, these campaigns can be great from a brand building perspective.

Email Marketing – Email marketing is a great way to engage with existing customers and build brand loyalty. In order to make the most of your email campaigns, it is important to create a clear content strategy – for example, plan out monthly newsletters to keep your customers engaged, along with seasonal promotional offers to incentivise them to purchase.

Social Media – Social media is a great platform to engage directly with customers online. Paid advertising campaigns on the likes of Facebook give you access to their extensive consumer database, enabling you to target your products to customers who have liked your competitors profile, or have specific interests. It is important to have a content strategy in mind and develop a consistent tone of voice across all social platforms in order to get the best out of your campaigns.

Step 4 – Set up goals

Make sure your website is connected to Google Analytics, and add tracking codes to any campaigns you run, so you can measure the traffic specifically coming from each campaign. Setting goals in Analytics will enable you to measure each campaign against your KPIs, be it revenue generation, visits to your site or engagement metrics such as the time spent on site.

Step 5 – Analyse the results

The great thing about digital campaigns is that they can be easily scaled based on their cost and performance. For example, if your PPC campaign is costing too much, you can look at only running your ads at certain times of the day when you know your customers are likely to be browsing. Here, you can weigh up the investment in each channel with the return and tailor campaigns accordingly. It is advisable to utilise a mix of brand building and direct response campaigns to ensure you not only achieve short terms wins but keep customers engaged to sustain momentum.

If you’re unclear as to how to optimise your website, or you would like help in identifying the best digital channels for your business, try Creare’s free Digital Health Check tool, which gives your website a score based on best practises and clear recommendations on how to improve it.


5 Tips to Improve Customer Service with Inventory Control

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) released their 2014 Industry Customer Experience Benchmarks report, which showed that in the area of “Availability of Merchandise (inventory in stock)” retail department and discount stores’ average rate was 79, or a grade of “C+.” And “Website Satisfaction” was no better, coming in at 76 out of a possible 100.

Needless to say, there’s room for improvement. At the same time, within this space lies an opportunity to stand out above the crowd. For retailers to use their ability to deliver superior customer service to their competitive advantage. Along with employing friendly and knowledgeable staff, offering convenient operating hours, and delivering an efficient ecommerce experience, how well you control your inventory can play a key part in improving on your customer service offering.

  1. “In Stock” across all channels equals happy customers

You invest a lot of time and money to get customers to your store, whether it’s your brick and mortar shop or online. When they’re ready to buy, you need to deliver, because more often than not, they’ll not be back to give you another chance. To prevent sales loss and keep customers happy, it’s crucial that your merchandise availability is up to par. That you have the desired models, colors, and sizes in stock that people want to buy.

This is when you turn to a retail management platform to produce product sales reports that provide the intelligence on what, when, and how much you need to keep in stock to meet demand. Filter products by seasonal versus traditional stock, and factor in your supplier lead times. Setting pre-order quantities with your suppliers in advance will help to automate this process, so when your stock gets low, it automatically generates to purchase orders..

For multichannel suppliers, a cloud-based retail platform is especially vital in managing all these processes and more. With all your channels connected, your on hand inventory is reflected on each. When a customer has made a purchase on your eBay store, for example, inventory for that product(s) is updated and reflects automatically within your in-store, Amazon, and ecommerce inventory. For your online customers, they’ll see their desired item is in stock and ready to ship their way.

  1. Allocate stock to deliver on your order promise

Let’s now dive deeper into what happens after a sale. As an example, a customer has placed an order for a woman’s blue rain coat in medium on Amazon. A retail platform will then ‘earmark’ that particular raincoat in inventory, removing that quantity ordered from the ‘on hand’ inventory. This ensures it gets to that customer and isn’t sold to another customer. The blue raincoat is still technically ‘in stock’ because it sits in your warehouse. When the shipment is processed in the warehouse and the coat goes out the door, then the ‘in stock’ inventory level for that product is automatically updated.

This is also important for wholesalers. If a retail shop has ordered specific quantities of women’s raincoats in various sizes and colours, then stock is allocated for each based on that order. When those products arrive in your warehouse from your supplier, they’re already assigned for shipment to that retail store, enabling you to deliver on your promise and stay in good standing with your retail customer.

  1. Receive new orders promptly

While being expedient when it comes to shipping product to customers is centre to quality service, it’s as important to receive stock from suppliers quickly and efficiently. Relying on your retail platform’s inventory control system will help you keep everything straight – especially during times of receiving multiple deliveries from multiple suppliers simultaneously – while keeping your stock numbers accurate.

A smooth receipt process in place is also key for stock allocations, enabling a quick turnaround time from receipt to customer shipment. It also means that the quicker you record your receipts and stock levels are updated, the better able you are to meet demand.

  1. Process returns efficiently

An essential aspect to providing quality customer service is exceeding the customer’s needs and anticipating expectations. You can accomplish this by offering an expedient and smooth return policy and process, especially if they’ve ordered product online.

If your customer is returning a product for exchange, tracking that return from receipt of the item to the shipment of the new item can all be done within the retail platform. Keeping good control of your inventory levels ensures you have the item in stock that they do desire. Once the product is received back into inventory, it may be just what another customer desires, and is now ready to be sold.

  1. Drop ship with ease via direct inventory feeds

Sometimes there are items that just don’t sell on a consistent basis, so it doesn’t make sense to keep them in stock all the time. But you still like to offer them for sale since they complement your line. Drop shipping those items direct from the supplier to your customer may be a viable way to have your cake and eat it too. It allows for better service by offering a wider breadth of products, plus speedier delivery to the customer but without the overhead of keeping it in stock.

Having direct inventory feeds into your retail platform from your supplier enhances your ability to take advantage of drop shipping. It will reflect back into your system what your supplier has in inventory, which can then appear within your sales channel as available inventory to sell. If your supplier is out of stock, it also shows as out of stock to your customer until your supplier’s stock is once again available. This prevents you from selling products you can’t deliver.

Keep in mind that direct feeds typically update once a day, so keep a close eye on sales of product that are marked for drop shipping so you’re working with the most up-to-date inventory data.

In the highly competitive retail market, with customer’s ability to switch to another company at the drop of a feathered hat, keeping shoppers happy and coming back to your store is essential to your success.

These five tips will get you on your way to utilizing inventory best practices to increase customer satisfaction. To learn more download our free white paper “12 Tips for Taking Control of Inventory Control.”

This guest post was written by Brightpearl. Brightpearl are a partner of Creare who provide multichannel retail management software.

Tips for Improving Your Online Shop

Maintaining an online presence and an online shop is no longer a quirk of business or a tech-trend; it is a necessity for survival.

Between 2011 and 2013, UK shoppers spent an extra £23bn online, and forecasts predict that the share of online retail sales will rise from 2012’s figure of 12.7 per cent to 21.5 per cent or even higher by 2018.

The figures underline the reality that the way we shop is, if not going through a revolution, certainly experiencing a large-scale overhaul as digital business takes hold. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past fifteen years, you’ll know that retail success no longer depends on physical stores.

Below are a few guidelines to take into consideration to maximise the impact of your online store.

  1. Images for substance and sparkle

More than a visual of your product, images offset text to bring balance and a more professional look to your page. Graphics allow you to present product stats in a more engaging and animated way than prose permits. Analysing sales each time you upload product images can give you a good idea of which pictures work best for your webpage.

  1. Develop customer trust

Your online shop showcases your company’s image; so present your best side. Include customer testimonials to establish yourself as a reliable firm. Use genuine correspondence that outlines how your service has helped the buyer; a comment stating how your product has promoted or helped a client will go further than a message describing your product as “amazing”.

  1. Qualify yourself

Let readers know that you are the best company for them by outlining your credentials clearly. Highlight key skills and background information in bullet point form, or integrated into a stylish paragraph that introduces your company as a solution-holder for clients.

  1. Flag up special offers

Most people know the online domain holds the cheapest deals, so special promotions should be clearly displayed. Make customers know they’re getting a good deal, so incentivise with lower rates made available when a certain amount is spent. Keep the shopping cart near the top of your page, as users tend not to scroll down the page too far – make sure the checkout remains clear and easy to identify. Rewards points and loyalty schemes are great ways of giving customers a tangible reason to bring repeat business and spread the word about the benefits of spending money at your store.

  1. Customer segmentation, targeted promotions & merchandising

From gender and age to interests and spending habits, the behaviours that make your customers unique should be factored into your marketing. Consider what data you want to collect, how it will be gathered and develop methods of data analysis for segmentation. You should also establish effective communication among relevant departments in your business to use this segmentation to best effect. The process should enable you to target smaller preference-specific consumer groups with relevant information and merchandising so that individuals find what they are looking for quicker and more easily.

  1. Be open and honest

Without a human to speak to, measures need to be taken by your online store to make processes clear, thereby promoting customer confidence. Ensure charges are not hidden but remain highlighted throughout a transaction. The checkout path must be completely linear – without sub-steps going to a previously shown page – so that customers are not confused or left thinking that there has been an error on the site. Give priority to delivery/returns policy and procedure to make sure people know where they stand at all stages of the purchase.

  1. Log customer behaviour

Harness the Internet’s forensic potential for tracking. CRM applications is an example of customer service software that will let you see how much time has passed since a customer last visited your online shop, and what they bought. You will be able to use this knowledge to suggest other items or services, giving your customers a streamlined experience and a personalised feel.

  1. Build a subscription base

Forge and reward customer loyalty by establishing a subscription list through which you can launch your company’s latest news and float special offers. Simply cataloguing client emails will allow you to send notes of thanks in the follow up to purchases to enquire about customer satisfaction. Many companies now use text messages to convey this extra token of customer service that will make the buyer feel more involved, cared for and ultimately more likely to return for business in the future.

People are busier than ever and today’s customers know that if a service doesn’t meet their expectations they have multiple platforms for broadcasting it to the world before they go elsewhere for what they need. This concept is magnified online where your clients can disappear with a click of the mouse. Ensure that maximising the customer experience is top of your agenda to build a solid client base and stay ahead of the online competition.



Quantitative Inventory Optimisation: How To Anticipate Future Demand

There can be very few things more valuable to a small business than the ability to anticipate future demand and optimise their inventory accordingly. The goal is to hit the sweet spot between excessive amounts of stock at high storage costs and dangerously low levels risking an array of stock-out problems. Whilst this sounds simple, getting it right is far from easy.

Inventory forecasting is the data-driven method for future proofing your business. With the right tools in place, you can run your business at much higher levels of efficiency, accelerating your growth and profits.

There are multiple different methods for inventory and demand forecasting. Some rely on expert opinion, or ‘qualitative assessment,’ whilst others rely on data deduction, ‘quantitative’. The majority of large retail networks depend heavily on this statistical method of forecasting demand to optimise their stock levels.

A forecast is traditionally considered that which has 50% likelihood to be above or below the future demand as observed through sales. This sounds complex, but it is easily worked out by comparing the absolute difference between an original forecast and the actual demand observed later on.

Brightpearl and Lokad write that for all the forecasting your business may do, it is the stock levels themselves which are the true forecasts made by the business, since each stock level is itself a “direct anticipation of the future.”

So how can you make sure your physical inventory levels match the upcoming levels of demand? A good way to start is to get measuring.

It stands to reason that you can’t expect to improve your inventory efficiency without closely measuring it first. As we have established, your stock levels are a forecast in of themselves, so start here.

Once you look at what you’ve measured, you can begin to assess the quality of your forecasting. You could do this by calculating the actual amount lost (not the percentage lost) due to the inaccuracy of your anticipations.

In truth, it’s never as simple as this. Not least due to the problem of asymmetry when considering optimum inventory levels. The cost of not having enough stock to fulfil an order often far exceeds the cost of storing the extra stock, so companies which highly prioritise customer service will often over-stock to compensate.

In order to get around this problem, more diligent companies measure the adequacy of the stock levels against the target service levels (where those service levels implicitly represent the financial trade off between the cost of inventory and the cost of stock-outs), rather than against the actual cost.

But what about when it comes to reordering? Firstly, to avoid leaving reorder points to guess work (since they are quantile forecasts) you must keep a record. As we previously mentioned, you can only optimise what you measure.

You must be vigilant when taking into account ‘lead times’ – the amount of time between the placing of an order for stock and it becoming available to you – in order to hit the optimal reorder point. Reorder points must cover the entire lead time, because no stock can arrive sooner that this lead time. The total demand over the duration of the lead time is known as the lead demand.

Lokad and Brightpearl write: “the reorder point should only cover the lead demand but only with a certain probability as defined by the service level. If the service level is set at 95%, then reorder point should be as low as possible while maintaining 95% chance of being strictly larger than the lead demand.”

So by now we have recognised that reorder points can be interpreted as quantile forecasts, but we do not quite have the tools to measure the accuracy of these forecasts. Since certain quantile judgement has been used, classical accuracy formulas cannot be used to measure them. In this case, the pinball loss function could be used.

Whilst beyond the scope of this blog post (you can read about it here), essentially the pinball loss function provides you with an understanding of the relative values of different options with your inventory. It cannot be directly used to quantify company costs, but provides a great way to compare options.

So now you’re set up with the introductory knowledge you need to tackle the optimisation of your inventory. It’s no mean feat, and should be considered an ongoing process, but getting it right will set you apart from your competition. If you want to know more, check out this exceptional white paper “Quantitative Inventory Optimization: How to Anticipate Future Demand.”

Remember, be flexible and always be measuring.

This guest post was written by Brightpearl. Brightpearl are a partner of Creare who provide multichannel retail management software.


Stop being a slave to your inventory

Your inventory is a constantly changing beast. Every single day, factors ranging from new sales, receipts and returns, right through to damage and theft, have a powerful effect on your stock levels.

Whilst daunting, the ability to keep on top of it all as it happens is the most crucial defining character of a successful business trading online. Stop being a slave to your inventory, and come to terms with the importance of careful inventory tracking, before your competitors do.

Priority One = Your Customer

Call it a cliché but whether you’re in B2B or B2C, your customer is always priority one.

When a customer reports to you that they have not received their order, you’ll need to be able to quickly cross-check with your report to confirm you have extras in stock. Crucially too, if you are on top of your inventory you can identify and address incorrect shipments straight away, before they become a problem.

If your stock and systems are up to date with your purchase orders you will be able to sell with confidence, knowing what and when more stock is set to come in.

It is this strong communication which develops a relationship of trust with your customers, and this above all is key to the successful running of a retail business.

Excessive Storage Costs

Without a well managed inventory, your business is leaking time and money to inefficiency.

Running around looking for the last product or rechecking stock levels before a sale is not a smart way for your warehouse staff to be spending their time. You are slowing processes down, adding manual steps, and opening yourself up to errors as you become a slave to your inventory.

When you have an up-to-date inventory report, you know what you have in stock, and what you don’t. Your pick, pack and ship process will run more smoothly, and you’ll get more fluidity of stock from through your warehouse and out to the customers.

A properly managed inventory enables you to process more orders in the same amount of time with the same staff. Having accurate stock levels and streamlined warehouse processes keeps your business lean, getting you free of the chokehold a mismanaged inventory can have on your business.

The Purchase Order Process

Wherever you are wasting time on manual processes is an area in which you can strengthen your business. Purchase orders are no exception.

Instead of physically checking your shelves to form a purchase order, you should establish an automation of your re-order system. Set up low-stock notifications on your inventory management database, or use a more advanced system to automatically send-off purchase orders to your suppliers when stock hits a certain low-point.

With tidy and well managed inventory processes, re-ordering and receiving stock is as easy as a few clicks, leaving you with more time to focus on other elements of your business. It also gives you a smarter insight into how your product lines are doing, allowing you to really optimise your inventory.

With a more advanced inventory management system, you often have the ability to view any supplier details which could cause complications further along, such as long lead times, or irregular deliveries. This kind of information will transform your re-ordering process, and elevate your business efficiency.

These are just a few of the many ways that you’ve been held back by your inventory management, and some suggestions to help you regain control. For an extensive collection of solutions, check out the industry-leading white paper by Brightpearl: “10 Reasons Accurate Inventory Tracking Matters.”

This guest post was written by Brightpearl. Brightpearl are a partner of Creare who provide multichannel retail management software.