Coronavirus and the Future of Ecommerce

Future of ecommerce

It’s no secret that the world is facing a severe global health crisis thanks to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It has not only become a public health pandemic, but it’s also having a critical impact on global supply chains, and markets worldwide have been on a rollercoaster as a result of what economic impact it may have.

As the coronavirus continues to gain traction in the U.S., there have already been considerable consumer behavior changes. Self and mandatory quarantines, along with emerging consumer worry about public places, will provide opportunities for ecommerce businesses to thrive over the next few months and potentially permanently.

As consumers turn to digital options to avoid physical shopping environments, the behavior change may impact longer-term habits. For instance, we are all keenly aware of the modern shift in holiday shopping behavior when ecommerce sales rise sharply compared to the rest of the calendar year. Therefore, it is highly likely that we will see similar shopping patterns possibly lead to a “step-change,” one in which consumers will not return to previous behaviors.

Let’s discuss what a post-pandemic ecommerce shopping environment will look like and the best ways to revise your business model for success.

How Covid-19 Affected Consumer Shopping Habits

Due to quarantines, ecommerce sales in specific categories like consumer product goods, grocery, and staple items, have already seen marked increases, and Amazon Prime has already noted significant increases in membership along with sales within these categories. Grocery delivery is also seeing a boost. In Target’s recent investor call, the company discussed new ways for people to shop with pick-up, drive-up, and delivery to cater to their new customer habits. All of which could potentially be the foundation for the ecommerce step-change that the internet promised 20 years ago.

Studies show that consumer behavior is influenced by environmental, economic, and sociological factors, all three of which are evident with the current COVID-19 crisis.

According to data analysis from Quantum Metric, coronavirus is driving U.S. consumers online. Ecommerce retailers based in the U.S. experienced a 52% growth rate in online spending during the fifth to eighth weeks of 2020 (the period when the virus began rapidly spreading outside of Asia) compared to the same weeks of 2019. According to Quantum Metric, consumers may have increased their online shopping because their local stores have run out of stock due to delayed shipments, stockpile items, avoid busy public places, or take advantage of direct shipping options bulk purchases. Once consumers have become familiar and comfortable in the ecommerce space, they are likely to continue to make future purchases in this same manner.

Tamara Gaffney, VP of strategy for Quantum Metric, posted to her blog, “Without a doubt, the digital retail experiences customers have been having these past few weeks, good or bad, will have a lasting impact on (retailers’) ability to build much-needed loyalty into their consumer-base.”

Consumer habits are hard to change, but when events such as this happen on such a large scale, it forces the market to change. This is a change that consumer marketing has been preparing for since the birth of the internet. Still, it may have just taken a cataclysmic event to unleash the true latent potential of ecommerce, and it would seem the restraints may have been broken forever by Covid-19.

Fortune favors the Bold for Retail-Rebuilding Post COVID-19

Coronavirus Shopping Trends

The longer Covid-19 persists, the faster online sales are being driven online permanently, thus cementing the long-awaited ‘ecommerce revolution’ once and for all.

The ongoing pandemic has swiftly brought on unprecedented social and economic change on a global scale. Many business sectors, including travel, hospitality, and nonessential retail, came to a screeching halt throughout March and April. While still, other industries have seen unprecedented demand. Consumer packaged goods, food and beverage delivery, educational software, health and wellness, and video conferencing software have increased 10-fold.

However, many categories are still in flux. Take fashion as an example. Those brands that sell heavily in wholesale and retail channels have been a transformative experience, leaving many in crisis. Other brands heavily focused on ecommerce and direct-to-consumer have seen expectantly strong results. The reality is that most of these brands have some mix of retail and online sales.

COVID-19 Ecommerce Statistics

A closer analysis of marketing and ecommerce sales across 24 brands shows precise results:

  • Brands that have restricted their marketing spend (greater than 40%), whether out of caution or necessity for cost-cutting in the face of the loss of sales, are seeing their online DTC sales struggle (-40% vs. the same period a year ago).
  • Those who maintained their marketing spend have seen online sales weather the storm after the initial dip in sales seen at the crisis’s onset.
  • Those that aggressively pushed forward with marketing and promotions are seeing unprecedented year-over-year sales growth.

Faced with precipitously falling sales the first two weeks of March, many brands had no choice but to cut their ad spend by about 50 percent, according to analytics firm MediaRadar. But not all brands took this approach. Those in categories like streaming, virtual conferencing, and food delivery took an aggressive approach, as expected. But a few retailers such as Muck Brands and Karen Kane have doubled down on direct-to-consumer. 

With the assistance of Nogin, both brands have come out swinging. They leaned heavily into promotions relying on A.I. consumer profiles driven by the Nogin ecommerce platform. In doing so, Muck US has seen over 120% growth, well ahead of projections for 2020, while Karen Kane has been booming at 160%. Relying on the enterprise ecommerce solutions, both marginally increased marketing to get their message out, first to customers and eventually to prospects based on overwhelming response. Both brands have found a silver lining in this challenging environment.

Many might be surprised by this outcome, but they really shouldn’t be after looking at the data. According to a study in The Economist, consumer discretionary spending is down by more than 50%. However, consumers are still shopping online; the inability to spend on things like travel, restaurants, and childcare and reduced costs for things like necessary transportation mean that there is still strong discretionary spending on ecommerce beyond essential goods. Throw in the fantastic discounts being offered all over the place, and it makes sense why, outside of a dip in mid-March, overall, nonessential ecommerce has fared well.

Adjusting Your Ecommerce Shopping Strategy

Depending on the chosen strategy, individual brands are seeing wildly different outcomes. While overhead for brick and mortar, such as rent and payroll for sales associates, is the cost of doing business in the retail world, digital advertising on Instagram, AdWords, and Facebook (among others) is the price of doing business online. While brands that have pulled back on marketing may conclude that online demand is soft, it is hardly the case. The brands that are fighting for it are taking the share of wallet.

Brands with both large retail and wholesale presence face difficult choices. They know cutting back on marketing will harm the bottom line. Many brands are opting to save their resources for a few months awaiting for stores to reopen. Although this seems to be a logical move facing a significant sales channel’s closure, people’s timeline to return to retail shopping is very much still in limbo. 

As states and retail commerce begin to open back up, consumer fears may still slow the return of retail. The longer consumers remain hesitant to return to brick and mortar establishments, the more likely it is we will finally realize the commerce capabilities the internet has promised since the first “.com” boom of the 1990s.

Despite toilet paper hoarding and panic buying, many consumers are trying online purchases for the first time; others increase online purchases because it is the only option. Either way, through the sentinel event effect, simple psychology tells us that many of these short-term consumer behaviors will lead to a permanent shift. And although some of this behavior will stick, and with states gradually re-opening retail, the presumption is that a return to normalcy is just around the corner. 

Everyday sociology, however, tells us that although retail stores will open, the expected rush of customers in June might never come. As we have already seen in states like Georgia, stores could likely re-open to a flood of week-one returns and very lukewarm subsequent traffic. It may take a long time or even a vaccine before consumers fully return, if they do at all, to some semblance of their pre-pandemic shopping behavior.

In the face of such uncertainty, decision-making can be strategically challenging. Moreover, rushing blindly into the digital world is not the right move for any brand. But taking the time to hone your messaging and getting your ducks in a row to define your re-opening promotional strategy is crucial. This is your opportunity to define your strategy with the specific goal of building your online sales channel.

Right now, you have the opportunity to redefine your brand. Take this opportunity to design market tests that validate your online marketing efforts. Begin to develop testing strategies to weigh your promotional successes, however incremental they may be. Dive in to rebuild your ideal customer profile and scale into new markets, and “always be testing.” 

Hone in on what messaging strategies, based on observable data, can effectively drive online purchasing behavior. Utilize this time to determine your cost of acquisition effectively, and figure out what makes sense for your business to spend. Transform your brand digitally to meet your target audience. The longer you wait for normalcy to return, the more likely you will be to wake up six months from now with multiple under-performing sales channels.

Retail Shopping Trends Post Pandemic

Tens of thousands of retailers have closed their doors to help stop the spread of the coronavirus across the country, either by choice or through government mandate, and according to industry experts, they may not be rushing to revert to the old days of retail anytime soon.

On its face, things do not look well for retailers. The widening pandemic could permanently shutter more than 15,000 stores across the U.S. While some stores begin to re-open in accordance with eased limitations in some states, nonessential retail largely remains closed for the foreseeable future. Moreover, more than two-thirds of America remain on stay-at-home orders.

E-commerce has seen a noticeable uptick. However, analysts are skeptical that it will make up for sales lost due to store closures. In an interview with Retail Dive, Doug Stephens said that luxury brands that hadn’t yet fully embraced ecommerce would be one of the biggest-hit sectors and that fear of viral contagion could also hurt the resale market.

The re-opening of retail couldn’t come sooner. 

According to Retail Dive, department stores only have about five to eight months of liquidity before a cash crunch becomes a risk factor. Companies such as J.C. Penney, Macy’s, and Kohl’s have reported only about 5-8 months of available cash, while analysts have pegged Nordstrom to have about a full year. Therefore, with physical locations likely to remain shuttered for a while longer, the pandemic has many retailers in a tough spot.

But that’s only the half of it. Just because stores are being given the green light to re-open in many places, consumers seem to be less than eager to return to traditional physical shopping. Surveys show that consumers continue to have lingering fears of infection, with two-thirds of respondents telling the Washington Post they wouldn’t feel safe going into a retail clothing store. 

Moreover, a survey from Fluent found that only 34% of respondents were even comfortable with governors lifting stay-at-home restrictions. Ethan Rose, EVP at Nogin, was previously interviewed as saying, “the longer this pandemic lasts, the more fear and uncertainty will necessitate an evolution in the consumer processes.”

Bob sat down with the executive staff of Nogin this week to get their insights as to what the future of retail holds when things attempt to “return to normal”

Here are some of their most insightful thoughts on the issue:

We Won’t Return to Any Sort of Normal Without a Vaccine

Jan Nugent, CEO at Nogin: As we know, sheltering in place was meant to slow the virus, not cure it. And as we move back to somewhat normal life, there has to be an understanding that, in essence, nothing has changed. Without a vaccine, businesses cannot guarantee the safety of their employees, vendors, and customers; but some precautions, like facemasks and daily testing, can be made to limit exposure. 

But as simple as that sounds, this is an unprecedented time (unless you were alive in 1918). However we proceed, it must be with caution. Facemasks and wide-spread daily testing will be the norm. Distancing availability, fewer people per space, and hospitals will have to be equipped to handle the increased caseload.

Understanding Your Customers’ Needs

Rikke Alderson, Chief Growth Officer: Now more than ever, truly understanding your customers’ needs will be paramount to current and ongoing success for businesses.

Brands need to understand that most society is now working in a completely different environment from just a few months ago. 

In that time, shopping patterns have drastically evolved, necessitating a shift in strategy by virtually everyone. For example, shopping habits seem to have shifted regarding the traditional role of seasons. We are already seeing up-tics in footwear, loungewear, athleisure, and negative flows within formal wear or cocktail fancy attire, which are relatively abnormal buying patterns for this time of year.

As such, the opportunity to leverage search engine query volumes correlative to fashion and apparel will be super edifying around what consumers are looking to purchase today versus last year at the same time. Moreover, once stores begin to reopen, with the initial phase of curbside pick-up versus browsing and the like, we expect stores to see greater clarity from the consumer on what they are looking for versus opportunistic buying.

Public Safety Comes First

Kurt Lohse, SVP: Nonessential stores should only reopen after the Coronavirus transmission rates have dropped to federal, state, and local safety regulation levels and when it is safe for workers and customers to interact. Active measures should be taken to provide 6′ distances during work hours, and protective masks and gloves should be required until an effective vaccine is made available. 

Retailers and shoppers alike may adopt protective gear for some time. The three most significant changes I see relate to additional space becoming a requirement to maintain 6′ distance guidelines, limited in-store customer volume control, and added extra cleaning measures to be taken regularly to ensure virus-free surface transmissions.

Companies Should Focus on Their Operations and Digital Footprints

Henry Henderson, Logistics & Supply Chain Executive: Due to the struggles keeping up with demand amidst consumers’ anxiety and protecting front-line sales associates, it’s impossible to pin down a date when things may even resemble returning to normal in the retail world. So until we have a definitive answer as to when people will be back in stores, brands and companies should be focusing their operations and go-to-market strategies around digital fulfillment.

In the absence of in-person experiences, consumers focus on the essentials, and the transition to digital fulfillment has been swift. This crisis has highlighted the absolute need for last-mile connectivity, apart from reimagining traditional single-carrier dependency models and centralized warehousing. In effect, this translates to creating micro-fulfillment centers leveraging the omnichannel capabilities of the store. If nothing else, we see the importance of agility and connectivity being the fundamentals your brand will need in the new normal.

Leave It to the Scientists

Geoff VanHaeren, CTO: As we are already seeing, the opening is being done on a state-by-state basis, as data presents itself. This is key; all decisions surrounding states’ opening needs to be based upon science and empirical data. Of course, people are getting stir-crazy and can make their own decisions, but this needs to be handled from a top-down approach.

Consumer feelings can not be what directs the opening of society. I don’t have experience with infectious diseases, so I am not qualified to respond to “when” questions. What I do know is that the virus doesn’t care about people’s feelings. I will leave those decisions to scientists.

Luxury Fashion Brands: 15 Ecommerce Tips to Sell More Online

Luxury Fashion Brands Tips

Building a luxury fashion brand is not easy. Many brands are beginning to shift focus from physical storefronts to online mediums to sell their products. Fashion is the largest B2C ecommerce market segment. A total of $525.1 billion products were sold globally in 2019, and experts predict the market will grow by 11.4% per year. By 2025, the global market size will reach more than $100 billion.

If you want your fashion brand to survive, you need to invest in your online storefront rather than the in-store cucumber water. To compete with the big retail, your brand will need to leverage a superior ecommerce platform and graduate to enterprise ecommerce operations.

Let’s dive into the ins and outs of fashion ecommerce and learn the best strategies to explode your brand’s online sales.

What is Fashion Ecommerce?

Fashion ecommerce is the process of selling fashion products electronically on the internet. Successful luxury fashion brands sell more than just clothing. They sell an experience, an image, and a lifestyle that aims to elevate their customers’ appearance.

A successful ecommerce fashion platform must replicate its in-store experience to its online storefront. If a brand expects their customers to spend hundreds of dollars for their apparel, they must provide superior customer service, user experience and embody their story on each site page. If your online experience is subpar, you can expect subpar sales.

What Makes a Luxury Brand?

A luxury brand must employ superior manufacturing, superior designs, and superior service to provide superior products for their customers. Whether it is a worldwide brand like Louis Vuitton or a new designer trying to make a name for themselves, each brand must source the finest materials, provide flawless service, and avoid any shortcuts to earn a luxury status.

You can’t just sell a shirt for a hundred bucks and claim your brand is luxurious. Your customers must understand why your logo on a plain white shirt makes it worth five times more than a shirt from Old Navy. Ensure that when a new user lands on your website, they are immersed in an experience that reflects your brand’s value.

Take your customers on a journey with interactive media, gorgeous imagery, and separate your brand from the pack. Make your customer feel like they are part of something exclusive, something special, something that makes them a trendsetter rather than a follower. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so is your brand’s value.

What is Luxury Ecommerce Customer Service Experience?

Luxury prices command luxury service. Customer service is essential to the success of a luxury brand. They service an audience who expects nothing but the best, and in a physical storefront, it is more manageable to ensure your customers are treated right. However, online users need even more support when they navigate your ecommerce storefront.

Brands must elevate their web experience to cater to a pleasant and hassle-free journey. You must make your sales funnel bulletproof so that your visitors can find and purchase the products they want without having to ask questions. You must have integrated customer support on your website ready to help but should focus on creating an intuitive platform that is easy to navigate.

Brands must create product pages with informative product descriptions, multiple images from multiple angles, and detailed measuring charts. Make the visitor feel like they are touching and trying on the clothes in person. Fashion brands should also carefully define and examine their key performance indicators (KPIs) to understand where their users leave their site or fail to convert. Your guests should feel as comfortable purchasing a product online as when they are in the store. If you don’t make a connection, you won’t make a sale.

How to Successfully Sell Luxury Fashion Products

Ecommerce Sales

Gone are the days of relying on elite, seasonal runway shows and elegant, upscale department stores to sell exclusive, high-end fashion brands. These days, tech-savvy millennial consumers of luxury products are looking for personalized, interactive, direct-to-customer shopping experiences — and they expect to find it all on tiny, mobile screens.

It’s no surprise that some luxury brands have struggled to translate lavish, in-store shopping encounters involving all five senses into two-dimensional, ecommerce platforms. Fortunately, ecommerce tools are rapidly evolving to help carry that much-desired, larger-than-life runway glamour over to the smallest of digital devices — where customers are increasingly making their purchasing decisions.

Let’s discuss the most essential ecommerce tips you need to know to take your luxury brand to the next frontier.

1. Offer a Luxury Experience

Just as high-end retail stores exude opulence by being clean, well laid-out, and uncluttered, your ecommerce site should appear similarly luxurious. The site needs to display high-quality images that allow customers to see, touch, and feel (virtually) your products and contain content that appeals to the emotions historically triggered by the brand. It also needs to display plenty of white space, be simple to navigate, load quickly, and provide easy-to-find sizing information.

Luxury product consumers expect individualized, specialized sales treatment, and this expectation does not change when they shop online. Be sure that your site offers easy access to customer service representatives on every page — via live chat, phone, and e-mail. Provide free, expedited shipping, gift-wrapping services, and other perks to loyal customers. A luxury experience involves the feeling of getting something exclusive beyond what is offered to the general public.

2. Use Personalization Tools

In an industry steeped in heritage, tradition, and exclusivity, you might be surprised to learn that artificial intelligence (AI) has a central place in modern-day fashion. AI-powered personalization tools can be a powerful method to collect online data about customers’ shopping habits and recommend relevant products to create a more satisfying shopping experience. Directing customers to tailored product suggestions with prompts of “You may also like” or “Recommended for you” can help speed up (and up-sell) the entire shopping process.

3. Integrate Augmented Reality

Stunning, high-quality images that display multiple product angles and offer a zoom feature are an excellent start to any ecommerce site, but to really up the ante, explore ways to incorporate augmented reality (AR) into the shopping experience. When possible, allow customers to try on virtual products with an online avatar or with photos of themselves.

4. Strengthen Communication

While you should make your brand presence known on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, it is also essential to find ways to cross-market between all sales channels. This multi-channel approach will keep your customers more consistently engaged and interactive with your brand.

Get creative. Embed user-generated social media videos into your website to show how much customers love your brand; live-streaming behind-the-scenes videos from your office or production facility; posting shop-able Instagram posts; using AI features on smartphones to enhance retail shopping excursions, and generally encouraging online communities to rave about your products. All of these channels give you (and your customers) the opportunity to tell the compelling stories behind your brand.

5. Benchmark Brands that Have Made the Leap

One successful example is Nogin’s client Halston — an iconic fashion powerhouse that recently launched a contemporary diffusion line, Halston Heritage. Halston’s approachable digital strategy supports its ready-to-wear brand with direct customer communication on a highly shop-able flagship ecommerce site through expanded retail locations, various social media platforms, and multi-channel marketing techniques. In other words — anyone, anywhere, can now discover the Halston brand and purchase their products.

6. Reach Out to Emerging Global Markets

The world is at your fingertips — and, reciprocally, your brand is at the fingertips of a global customer base. Think bigger and create country-specific ecommerce storefronts that cater to local languages and appeal to various international inclinations.

7. Embrace Change

There’s little doubt that ecommerce is having a profound impact on the fashion industry and luxury enterprises. For continued success in our digital, global economy, high-fashion brands everywhere embrace various ecommerce sales strategies to share brand stories and simultaneously appeal to consumers’ senses and emotions.

With the help of rapidly developing technology, today’s ecommerce strategies can effectively capture the quality, tradition, and appeal of luxury products. Learn more about how Nogin technology can fuel best-in-class ecommerce services and solutions for your brand.

8. Focus on the Emotional Experience

Luxury fashion brand shoppers seek more than just new clothes or accessories — they expect a complete physical and emotional transformation. Luxury shoppers want to look good, feel good, and, ultimately, be noticed. Because they are shopping with their hearts and wallets, the most successful brands engage their customers’ emotions to sell products successfully.

9. Fashion Shoppers Expect to be Entertained

High fashion and entertainment have always been intertwined as consumers look to fashion brands for excitement, exclusivity, pleasure, and even comfort. Fashion brands — now almost co-operating as media organizations — answer the call for entertainment with everything from extravagant runway shows and fashion blogs to frequent social media posts and next season’s video lookbooks. To remain competitive, brands need to continually engage customers through constant communication, using various marketing channels.

10. Customers Take a Leap of Faith when They Click “Buy”

If you’ve ever abandoned an online shopping cart because you’re not sure whether an item will fit right or look good, then you’ve experienced firsthand one of the inherent weaknesses of fashion ecommerce. Customers often don’t know if the clothing items they admire online will fit well or flatter them “IRL.” Fortunately, newer technologies and strategies are developing that provide additional information to any customer who might be giving pause.

Some of these include: high-quality professional images that offer multiple angles and 360-degree views, in-context product videos, improved sizing charts, more details on materials, and cutting-edge solutions like digital dressing rooms. Such strategies are increasing online conversion rates — and even reducing returns.

11. There’s a Virtual War on Returns

Return rates — as high as 50% — continue to be a problem in the fashion industry. One of the most frequent reasons cited for product returns is a poor fit. However, with improved online sizing information and other virtual fitting solutions, retailers can expect a future reduction in this area. For now, to convince customers to take the risk, offering free returns and exchanges is essential to reduce your ecommerce return rate.

12. Focus on Personalization

These days, it’s all about personalization tools: augmented reality, smart fitting technologies, or AI-driven recommendations for products based on consumer searches or purchasing histories.

The more a brand can tailor product suggestions to the individual customer, the more likely it is she will not only complete check out but also purchase additional products — both right now and in future transactions. Today’s busy consumers don’t want to spend time searching, making it easy for them to locate their personal preferences.

13. It’s an Omni-Channel World Out There

Consumers expect seamless transitions between brick-and-mortar stores, ecommerce sites, and mobile devices. They will often use more than one channel to complete a purchase. For example, if they see something they like in a store, they might look up additional colors or care instructions on their mobile phones. If they browse your brand on a smartphone, they might complete the sale on a laptop. (Make sure that cart contents transfer between platforms!) If they send an inquiry via your website, they might want the response via text message. Always explore your full brand experience through your customers’ eyes to make online and experiences as fully integrated as possible.

14. Presentation Matters

Let’s face it; fashion consumers care about appearance. Be sure your online brand appears luxurious by maintaining a well-designed site, using consistently high-quality images, ensuring a smooth check-out process, giving as much information as possible upfront about your products, providing superior customer service, and frequently communicating with your customers about how your products can improve their lives. Also, a celebrity collaboration with your brand can do wonders to support a valuable image.

15. Don’t Twist Yourself into a Knot

The importance of being flexible in this rapidly changing world of fashion ecommerce cannot be emphasized enough. As technologies develop, trends change, and digital natives continue to impact the overall digital landscape — today’s effective strategies will need to be adjusted to meet tomorrow’s demands.

5 Common Myths about B2B Ecommerce, Debunked

myths-of-ecommerce

If you’ve been hesitating to move forward with a business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce site, there are some essential things you should know:

  • B2B ecommerce is rapidly expanding.
  • Millennials are increasingly influencing professional purchasing decisions.
  • Global revenues are predicted to top a staggering $6.6 trillion by 2020.
  • B2B ecommerce is growing twice as fast as business-to-consumer (B2C).

With these facts in mind, it’s probably time to implement online ordering for your B2B customers. If your brand is resisting this essential update, consider whether this might be a result of any of these common misconceptions about B2B ecommerce:

1. We Don’t Need a B2B Online Store

If you’ve already launched a luxury ecommerce site that offers your wares directly to consumers — that’s great! But you mustn’t stop there. If you aren’t also offering wholesalers, retailers, organizations, or resellers the opportunity to purchase your products online, you are almost certainly missing out on business. Companies can also accurately track ecommerce KPIs to help gain available insights into customer buying habits.  

Many online brands are both B2C and B2B — and you don’t need separate websites to manage both. Personalized browsing experiences can be established for B2B clients using customer group logins on your current site. (This works well for VIPs, too!)

2. B2B Customers Don’t Want to Order Online

The days of relying on sales representatives for product information are gone. Instead, today’s tech-savvy millennials conduct extensive online research before making purchasing decisions — and they expect to be able to order online. This demographic of buyers — an entire generation of digital natives (ages 18-24) — now accounts for almost half of B2B online researchers.

Millennials, in general, tend to avoid interacting with salespeople actively and instead turn to online reviews, peer recommendations, or outside experts when conducting product research.

They expect all of the conveniences of their personal online shopping habits to carry over into the business segment and prefer to order independently, with 24/7 research capability and total purchasing control. You can also save money and improve your profit margins by leveraging:

3. B2B Customer Service Can’t Be Managed Online

B2B customers expect quality customer service, and this doesn’t change when they’re shopping online. Existing ecommerce tools allow for excellent customer communication via e-mail, phone, text, or online chat. Because today’s buyers have a do-it-yourself ethic, it is also valuable to develop online, self-service information centers.

In the past, personal relationships were integral to B2B customer satisfaction, but today, the key to success lies more with speed. B2B customers expect near-immediate answers to their questions and quick resolutions to their concerns. If you are unable to provide this, they will find another company that can.

4. B2B Ecommerce Sites Can’t Handle Complex Pricing

We understand that B2B pricing can be more complicated than B2C. In most cases, B2B pricing concerns like pricing fluctuations, customer-specific pricing, bulk ordering, and custom orders can be resolved online by implementing the right B2B platform, especially in luxury ecommerce.

For instance, pre-negotiated pricing can be hidden from the general public by placing it behind customer logins. If customers need a custom quote, a quote engine can allow them to request a quote at any time; for future reorders, an individualized reorder button can be provided. Information on freight and volume shipping options can also be provided on your site.

5. B2B Sites Don’t Need to be Mobile-Friendly

Like direct product consumers, B2B customers also do mobile product research, read reviews, compare features and prices, and, more than ever, make purchases directly on their smartphones. If your site is not optimized for mobile users, you will lose business.

If any of these common misconceptions have been preventing you from developing or optimizing your brand’s B2B ecommerce site, now is the time to look towards some custom solutions. Nogin can assess all of your ecommerce needs, and soon, your business customers will benefit from more immediate, effective, convenient, and reliable online buying experiences.

Need Help Improving your B2B Ecommerce Storefront? Leverage Intelligent Commerce Using Nogin

If you need help optimizing your entire B2B ecommerce storefront, leverage the most advanced ecommerce operating system with Nogin. Set up a time to chat with a team member to learn about our comprehensive suite of services to catapult your business from a medium enterprise to a big-retail juggernaut. Our innovative process has helped dozens of brands increase online sales while reducing operating and marketing costs. 

Beauty and Cosmetics Ecommerce Strategies That SELL

cosmetics ecommerce guide

The beauty and cosmetics online retail industry is growing rapidly online. Many emerging beauty ecommerce businesses continue to invest more money in online efforts to increase their online presence. However, the industry can be tricky to conquer. 

Whether it’s smelling a shampoo fragrance, testing the feel of lotions, or seeing if a lipstick complements your coloring, online cosmetic shoppers sacrifice the luxury to sample products before they purchase. However, many savvy beauty and personal care companies know that a switch to ecommerce is essential. The new post-coronavirus ecommerce landscape accelerated the shift to ecommerce mediums. Brands that invest in a robust online presence and create a satisfying shopping experience will continue to drive customers to their websites and convert new visitors. More importantly, they can cultivate a strong relationship with their customers, nurture their relationship, and create brand-loyal enthusiasts. 

“Beauty products are a great thing to buy online. They have a long shelf life, you use them regularly, so you buy them often, and once you’ve chosen a brand and product you like, you get the same thing every time,” says Skylla Jones, Nogin’s director of sales for health, wellness, and beauty.

Now, more than ever is the perfect time for beauty brands to develop their online ecommerce channels. Jones mentioned, “Before Covid, online sales of health, wellness, and beauty products totaled more than $53 billion in 2019, up almost 19% from 2018.” In fact, it’s the second-fastest growing online category, behind food and beverage. 

Learn the latest ecommerce trends in the beauty and cosmetics industry and how to dominate your niche to sell more online. 

Why is the Beauty Industry Growing and How Is It Changing?

The beauty industry is booming, and in 2020 alone, the beauty and personal care market is valued at $483 billion worldwide, and it’s predicted to grow to $511 billion in 2021. The industry is booming for a multitude of reasons. Beauty vloggers on YouTube and social media influencers allow visitors to discover new products and engage with brands. Cosmetic and beauty companies have continued to invest more in direct-to-consumer approaches, including targeted social media advertising to reach potential customers that fit their ideal audience demographic. 

Social media platforms have also made it easier to purchase products directly from the app for an efficient ecommerce marketing funnel that attracts impulse buying. Brands can also leverage celebrity collaborations to help promote their products. Cosmetic brands spend millions on celebrity influencers to post on their social media channels to hype their products, and it’s especially effective for luxury ecommerce brands.  

Beauty brands also have access to informative marketing analytics from their website traffic, social media campaigns, and PPC ads to better understand which visitors are most likely to convert. They can leverage retargeting campaigns and email marketing to re-engage with visitors to build rapport and increase the likelihood of repeat purchases. 

Many customers in the cosmetic and beauty industry often are extremely brand loyal compared to other sectors. Once they find a brand they like, they tend to purchase various products from the same brand. More importantly, smaller ecommerce brands are continuing to emerge and challenge major brands. Similar to the music industry, many indie brands can start a company from scratch and begin to cultivate a following on social media. They can also create their own Shopify store without much web knowledge. 

The younger generations are also more concerned with the ingredients that go into the products they purchase. They want organic, non-toxic, cruelty-free products. Customers are willing to pay a premium for cosmetic products that align with environmental consciousness and sourced from responsible mediums. They are also willing to expose brands that don’t. Negative online reviews can tarnish a brand’s reputation, so it’s crucial brands invest in greater transparency into what goes into their products. 

Cosmetic and beauty brands can capitalize on these trends by developing long-form content and informative collateral that discusses why their ingredients are superior to the competition. They can qualify potential customer concerns and answer common questions on their products to help reassure of their market superiority. 

For instance, if the main ingredient in your face cleanser is turmeric, you can develop a blog discussing the benefits of turmeric for skin. It will answer the visitor’s question and educate them on why turmeric face cleansers are better than other face cleansers. 

Stay ahead of the competition and start your shift to ecommerce before it’s too late. 

How is the Beauty Industry Changing: 5 Beauty Retail Trends and Strategies for Your Cosmetic Ecommerce Business

cosmetic ecommerce strategy

Capitalize on the ecommerce boom in the beauty and cosmetics industry and follow our five essential strategies to improve your online operations. 

1. Don’t Focus on Your Brick and Mortar Store. Shift Your Focus to Ecommerce to Reach Your Customer Base

There was a time you had to go to the mall or a department store to buy your makeup, but that’s changed as brick-and-mortar retail sales have declined and consumer shopping habits are trending online. Instead of building a brand with a store and then moving to the Internet, companies such as Glossier and Billie earned devoted customers via ecommerce and then added brick-and-mortar locations as needed. 

“Discovering new products used to never happen online, and that’s changed dramatically,” Jones says. “A brand is also much more profitable. The margins are much higher when they sell products from their online store.” For brands that already have a presence in stores, Jones says a smart omnichannel strategy would be to make an initial sale in-store, then drive future purchases online.

You can also easily create urgency and scarcity to increase sales online. Promote your sales using social media campaigns and drive qualified leads to your site. Check out our retail pricing strategies and product listing strategies to maximize your paid media efforts and increase your ROAS. 

2. Create Loyalty Programs and Dynamic Online Experiences

Brands carried by large chains such as Sephora and Ulta can benefit from those mega-retailers investments in online shopping and advertising. “They take extraordinary measures to make sure their loyalty programs and unboxing experiences make the online experience just as much fun as the in-store experience,” Jones says. “Their loyalty programs and unboxing experiences are fun.” 

However, it is just as essential to get customers to visit a brand’s own ecommerce site to increase profitability and increase customer loyalty while still keeping big retailers happy. Some ways brands can get traffic include offering gifts with purchase or small discounts that don’t dig into profits too much. This has the added bonus of preventing customers from being lured into buying other brands while shopping at a third-party site.

3. Have Stellar Cosmetic Fulfillment Services

Beauty products are quite different from many other online products. Each cosmetic product has a unique expiration date and compliance requirements. Some even may require hazmat shipping and storage. 

When scaling a cosmetic brand, it is essential to have an optimal inventory management system. Nogin provides comprehensive outsourcing services for ecommerce, including 3PL fulfillment, warehouse storage, and continuous R&D to ensure your internal costs are low and your profit margins are maximized. 

Our ecommerce business platform and enterprise managed services ensure you have superior intelligent commerce solutions to scale your business. We leverage predictive analytics, machine learning, and have the expertise to ensure your business is more profitable while saving you on expensive internal oversight costs. 

4. Have a Smart Digital Marketing Strategy

Ideally, when someone searches for your brand, it pops up first, before the big retail sites also carry your products. Getting to that ideal point can require a high-level, multifaceted approach that may include Facebook ads, a vibrant social media presence, and a robust customer data collection system, which can then be used to send targeted emails for sales and promotions that take customers directly to your site. 

Social media is vital; Jones calls it one of the most important for brands in this day and age. Influencers and celebrity collaborations can pay dividends in sales, but brands need to beware they aren’t spending too much on these partnerships from their marketing budgets. In essence, Jones adds, “The better relationship you can build with your customer, the more likely they will go directly to your site, as opposed to a third-party site.”

“Online shopping is the new normal,” Jones says, so this is an excellent opportunity to build and enhance ecommerce sales.

If you have a beauty business that needs the resources to grow and strengthen your online channel, partner with Nogin. Our team can supply you with customized solutions that can include logistics, creative, marketing, back-end technology, strategic services, and much more, depending on your specific goals. 

5. Have a Story to Tell and a Mission Your Brand Embodies

Your website should not only sell your products. It is also a hub for new visitors to learn about your story, mission, and why they should purchase from you. Younger generations are more concerned about the ethics of a company. They care about sustainability, environmental impact, and other factors that could influence their purchase of a product. 

Have a mission statement and a story to tell. Talk about what you believe in and build a relationship with your audience. If your products are more expensive since you choose to work with local farmers to source your ingredients, tell your audience. Help them understand why they should shop with you. Talk about any charitable work your business pursues and your mission for something bigger than just profits. People want to support organizations that aren’t just about the profit margins but about helping their communities and their planet. Give your visitors something to believe in and spread messages that resonate with their core beliefs.  

The Art of a Deal: Sitewide and Exclusion Sales

sitewide and exclusion sales

It’s a given that consumers love sales, but they’re also a necessary part of doing business online beyond being a key driver for purchases. Whether it’s a sitewide sale or a special promotion where exclusions apply, a lot of thought goes into crafting a deal that benefits both the brand and its customers.

Let’s discuss some of the best strategies for your ecommerce sitewide sales and the best retail markdown and promotional strategies to maximize your profits. 

Why Sales are Important?

Ecommerce storefronts carry costs of keeping products in inventory. Businesses can use markdown strategies and promotional cycles to lower costs while also driving revenue to move products off the shelves. They are especially important for fashion brands, where many of the products have a shorter shelf life—roughly a 2-3 month cycle—due to seasonality and style trends.

Sales are an excellent tool for moving merchandise quickly, but there is more to sales strategy than meets the eye. “When planning a sale, a brand first needs to figure out the end goal,” says Jeff Deisner, Nogin’s Chief Customer Officer. “Is the goal to drive people to the site to purchase a lot, drive top-line revenue numbers, manage a level of profitability on the storefront, or something else completely?”

That goal can help influence the decision on what kind of promotion to offer. Sitewide sales are the simplest to execute, but in many cases, exclusions make sense—perhaps they’re a better fit for the nature of the overall promotion, or perhaps brands want to avoid discounting an item they’ve already discounted.

Running a promotional sale on social media or a Google ads campaign is an excellent way to bring attractive leads through your ecommerce conversion funnel. Entice viewers by highlighting the sale, the minimal quantity, and specify it is a limited-time offer to drive urgency and scarcity. Both elements are essential to any product listing strategy or retail pricing strategy

The Three Best Sales Promotion and Retail Markdown Strategies

There are three key concepts to keep in mind when formulating sales offers:

  1. How are brands promoting the product?
  2. How will brands reach out to customers to let them know about the promotion?
  3. What is the end goal for the product?

To help you answer these questions, use our three best sales promotion strategies to guide your efforts. 

Listen to Your Audience

For pricing, Deisner says brands should study how their customers. For example, do a particular brand’s customers prefer sitewide sales, buy-one-get-one-free deals, gift-with-purchase promotions, or percentage- or dollar-based discounts? To determine what will work best, brands can leverage data on past purchases or examine larger industry trends. This is where it can be helpful for brands to partner with an ecommerce specialist. By integrating advanced ecommerce software, ecommerce businesses can access deeper insights into their customers’ buying habits to optimize their storefront for conversions and improved retention. 

“We recently worked with a brand that traditionally ran percentage-based promotions, 30% or 40% off, and it was clear there was an uptick in consumer demand for those products,” Deisner says. “We’d seen success in other areas where we took a dollar amount off and tied it in with something like free shipping, and we wondered if it would have more of an impact for this brand. We alternated those promotions: one week, it would be a percentage off. The next, it would be a dollar amount. We ended up finding that the percentage off was much more enticing, especially if it was a sitewide sale. We made a sitewide sale with a small number of exclusions, so we didn’t discount already marked down products too significantly, and we messaged it the right way.”

Make Your Promotional Product the Star

In terms of messaging, brands should advertise their sales on their sites and mention any applicable exclusions. “Generally, we find that when a website makes it clear what product is being promoted, it’s a big contributing factor in driving conversion rates higher for the promotion,” Deisner says. “We leverage strikethrough pricing, which is a way to present the original price crossed out, with the sale price beside it. Customers can see the price difference and know it’s a good deal.”

A good sale announcement will spark a lot of interest right away, but brands will want to sustain that momentum. Emails can effectively communicate promotional offers to customers along with social ads and SMS texts. Brands can craft campaigns around them that run throughout the sale period. To reinforce a sense of urgency, brands may put time limits on promotions or advertise a limited stock of items on sale.

Partner With an Ecommerce Expert to Guide You

Sometimes sales get an overwhelming customer reaction with products flying off the shelves; other times, a promotion just may not be taking off. In either case, Nogin gets real-time results that help brands respond quickly, for instance, by ordering more inventory for sale or crafting different messaging to get the word out.

“There is no magic wand for brands to figure out how best to promote and sell their product,” Deisner says. “They will benefit from engaging a partner like us that can drive decisions based on past experience and understanding best practices, for the greatest likelihood of success.”