Headless Commerce: Part 3— Optimizing E-Commerce Infrastructure

Nogin and Coresight Research’s three-part report series, Headless Commerce, explores the emerging commerce-as-a-service (CaaS) space in the US and the key trends in the market. We leverage findings from an October 2021 Coresight Research survey of e-commerce leaders in the US to identify the key challenges and benefits in building and using e-commerce infrastructure and tools.

In part three this report, our analysis and insights focus on mid-size companies, covering the following topics:

• Challenges in current e-commerce operating models
• The value of external support
• The right combination of internal and external resources
• Desirable features in e-commerce infrastructure

In case you missed it, you can also download the first report in the series, Headless Commerce: Part 1—The Evolving State of E-Commerce Infrastructure.

Do You Feel Like You’re Constantly Competing with Amazon?

Do You Feel Like You’re Constantly Competing with Amazon?

It goes without saying, Amazon has changed the way customers make purchases online. From fast shipping to free returns, Amazon has influenced expectations of online shoppers across the globe.

Many brands with retail websites feel like they have to compete with Amazon by:

  1. Offering free shipping
  2. Offering free returns
  3. Selling their products through Amazon

While these are definitely great ideas to keep your shoppers happy and your product in the faces (or screens) of potential shoppers, we’d like to offer some alternatives by looking at what some other brands have done to successfully grow their online stores.

To start, let’s eliminate the thought that if you’re not Amazon then you’re competing with Amazon. While Amazon does appeal to a wide audience, you have something great and wonderful to offer consumers.

Invest in Technology 

If you’re not already, it’s time to invest in technology, a variety of technologies that is. We have no doubt you have thousands of visitors coming to your retail website each month, it’s time to start using that readily available data to improve your shoppers’ experience and increase sales.

Predictive analytics is a great technology to incorporate into your site. For some shoppers, offering free shipping may be the perfect way to get them to hit that “Submit Order” button. However, you may have other shoppers who have exhibited behaviors that indicate they would still purchase even if they did have to pay shipping. 

Competing with Amazon

Let’s say you offer clothing for men and women on your retail website, do you know which of your customers are buying just women’s clothing, just men’s clothing or both? With this information you could create a more personalized shopping experience based on which audience they fall into. What products you should suggest or what promotional offers would be most effective to get them to purchase.

Where else can you implement new technologies? Your warehouse. Metapack’s 2018 State of Ecommerce Delivery found 70% of those surveyed prioritized purchasing goods from one ecommerce site over another because it provided more delivery options. So what’s going to make your options standout from the competition?

We won’t go into all the details here (we’ve got so much more to discuss below!), but stop to think about what the impact would be on your delivery service and available options if you implemented real-time inventory tracking? And then, continuing down through the delivery process, having your warehouse technology paired with a last-mile delivery solution. Just a couple of things to think about if you’re focusing on improving the delivery options and experience for your buyers.

Focus on SEO

“SEO” has become quite the buzzword (or term) over the last decade, and rightfully so. If done correctly, SEO (Search Engine Optimization for those of you who haven’t heard the buzz yet) can be a powerful and cost effective strategy to bring shoppers to your website. 

Your store is online and your potential shoppers are searching online for exactly what you offer. So how are they going to find you? Yes, digital advertising and marketing is one way, and a great way. But it’s not the only way. Let’s be honest, you probably can’t afford to pay Google, Facebook or Instagram to show ads for every item you offer on your website whenever someone from your target audience is searching for it. But you still want people searching for all of those items to find you.

Elephant in the room

This is where SEO tools can be your hero. With careful planning and a strong SEO strategy, you can build out product descriptions, keyword searches and category descriptions that will help place your product on Google’s page one of search results. We know, you’re probably like us and have been taught being number one isn’t everything. But when it comes to Google search results, being number one is critical.

According to Search Engine Journal, 25% of people will click on the first organic (not ad) search result. They go on to report the 10th search result (the last on page one search results) gets just a 2.5% click through rate. We don’t even want to think about what happens to all those poor results showing up anywhere other than page one.

I’m sure you’re thinking “SEO sounds great! I’m going to start implementing my own SEO strategy today so I can start getting more customers to my site tomorrow!” And we’re going to kindly caution you to sloooooow down. SEO IS great and it IS powerful. However, it takes some time and definitely takes some expertise. It may require investing in a person (or two or three) or hiring an outside partner to help execute an effective strategy that gets results.

Show Your Customer You Know Them

Yes, Amazon can make suggestions of what a shopper should look at based on their previous search history or simply based on what is their “Deal of the Day”. But that’s not a tailored experience, that doesn’t make a shopper feel like Amazon knows them. Let’s be honest, shoppers may wish brands wouldn’t do this when the suggestions start becoming too frequent and/or completely off base from their interests.

So how can you create a better experience for your shoppers? Well, first we’re going to have to circle back to one of our previous points, data. You can’t show your customers you know them if, well, you don’t. 

What has a shopper purchased in the past? What complimentary items do you offer? If you’re a CPG retailer, when was the last time a product was purchased? Is it possibly time to refill/replace their last purchase? Maybe offer a discount for that product when they visit your site, whether they’re on that product page or not. You know they purchased that item, and you know what the average timeframe is to purchase again (because you have the data, right?), so serve them up the right message with the right offer at the right time.

Now, maybe you’re an apparel retailer. Let’s not assume your clothing only lasts a certain period of time or that your buyers maybe don’t fit in their clothes quite the same way they used to. Instead, let’s look at creating an audience based on their purchases. You can find similarities (again, using technology) within these audiences. Shared interests, hobbies, other retail websites they visit, and build an experience for them.

An example of an online retailer who has done this well is Lululemon. They’ve created a community (quite literally, they call it #thesweatlife online community) where anyone can access workouts as well as meditation sessions. Really, if you’re buying workout clothing you just might be interested in workout classes, right? 

Lululemon took the time to research and recognize what interests their customers have and evaluated the needs Lululemon could fill. This was especially powerful during the pandemic when people were turning to the internet for workouts in a way they never had before. They even started a Facebook group people could join to connect with others.

Now that you can clear your mind of thoughts of competing with Amazon, it’s time to focus on  what you can do to get more retail shoppers to your site and create the best buying experience possible to keep them coming back.

The Dreaded Customer Returns Strategies That Can Help Reduce Returns

Reducing return rates

The Dreaded Customer Returns Strategies That Can Help Reduce Returns

Online retailers know there’s no way to completely avoid returns, they are a part of the online shopping experience. How you choose to manage (or battle as some would say) them can have a drastic impact on the success of your business.

But before we go too far down the road of how you can handle the dilemma of returns, let’s take a quick glance at the numbers provided by the National Retail Federation

  • An estimated $428 billion of merchandise was returned in 2020
  • $102 billion of merchandise returned in 2020 was originally purchased through online retailers
  • 12.2% of merchandise returned in 2020 was apparel 

While it may be difficult to embrace the situation, online retailers don’t have much of a choice. So let’s see if we can find some potential ways to at least ease the effect.

Customer Personas

In every business you have personas, right? Let’s look at some of the different personas that exist for your shoppers who make returns. We can place similar shoppers into buckets or audiences to help us designate which persona that most align with.

  • Unhappy with the product received. We hope this is a small audience for you. Ideally you want every customer to love everything they buy on your site, but sometimes that’s not the case. However, you can keep this audience small by producing high quality products and ensuring the images and descriptions provided on your retail website are accurate.
  • Not sure about sizing. You can provide all the sizing charts in the world and shoppers will still be unsure which size is going to fit them best. Maybe they’re in between sizes or more comfortable in a smaller/larger size depending on the style of clothing they’re purchasing. You know you have customers who will buy multiple sizes of the same item, fully intending to return at least one of them.
  • Items received were damaged. We know sometimes this is out of your control. If the service delivering the items isn’t careful or leaves the package sitting in a puddle and it ruins the contents, you can’t control that. However, if the item is damaged at the warehouse during fulfillment, you may have a situation you need to address.

So now that we know who is returning their purchases, what next?

How to Solve for Returns

Strategies to Reduce Return Rates

Develop Optimal Return Policies

If you’ve heard us say it once, you’ve heard us say it 100 times. Technology. By collecting the data from your buyers and their activity you can formulate the optimal return policy available for your online shoppers.

Yes, you could create a return policy and just wait to see how it works. But why waste your time and possibly your profits? Whether you purchase the technology directly and have your internal team analyze it or you hire a third-party partner to help, you have the data you need. You just need to get access to it (if you don’t already) to make an informed decision.

Predictive Analytics

All right, that was just one way you can use technology on your retail website to help alleviate the burden of returns. With the use of predictive analytics you can customize the experience a customer receives. 

Identify online shoppers who have returned more items than they’ve kept. Or new shoppers you may want to entice into placing a purchase with the offer of free returns. Or shoppers who have a high rate of returns, but also keep more than they return. 

Some retailers, Zappos for example, have found that customers who return the most also purchase and KEEP the most. According to the authors of “Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making & Cases” Zappos states their customers with the highest return rates are also their most profitable customers. In Zappos’ case, they’ve opted to keep free returns for all customers based on this data.

You’re not the only one who knows returns are going to happen, so does your shopper. According to the Narvar Consumer Report, Making Returns a Competitive Advantage, 95% of respondents said they would shop at a retailer again after having a positive returns experience. The only thing worse than online shoppers returning purchases is online shoppers returning purchases and then never returning to your retail website to make another purchase because they had a negative experience making a return.

Creating a positive return experience doesn’t have to be painful for you either. Retailers who have built their online retail site on Shopify have a variety of applications to choose from that can help!

Improve Sizing Accuracy

The last idea we want to discuss is reducing the amount of returns based on sizing issues by improving the accuracy of a purchase. We know this won’t completely eliminate the return of items that don’t fit correctly, shoppers return items due to fit even when they’ve had the chance to try them on before they purchase them. But let’s see if we can at least reduce the number of returns.

Try going beyond the typical size chart with a fit quiz. Based on the knowledge you have about your products and how they fit, build out a quiz that asks questions that go deeper than simple measurements to help shoppers better decide which size would be best for them.

This could also be a great solution if you’re a CPG retailer. By incorporating a quiz into your shoppers’ buying experience, you can help guide them to the right product. Again, you know your products best, help your shoppers find the item (or items) that will fill their needs by asking them what their needs are. 

Returns will continue to be a part of the shopping experience, you and I are guilty of it as well. However, implementing one or two new strategies can help alleviate the pain for both you and your shopper.

Headless Commerce: Part 2 – Addressing Profitability Issues for Mid-Size E-Commerce Players

Nogin & Coresight Research Headless Commerce Report - Part 2

Nogin and Coresight Research’s three-part report series, Headless Commerce, explores the emerging commerce-as-a-service (CaaS) space in the US and the key trends in the market. We leverage findings from an October 2021 Coresight Research survey of e-commerce leaders in the US to identify the key challenges and benefits in building and using e-commerce infrastructure and tools.

In this report, our analysis and insights focus on mid-size companies, covering the following topics:

• The levers of profitability in e-commerce
• Why brands and retailers should capitalize on artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics
• How CaaS can help improve profitability


This free report is sponsored by Nogin, a CaaS full-stack e-commerce platform that includes R&D (research and development), sales optimization, and ML- and AI-driven marketing and fulfillment.

You can download the entire report for free here.

In case you missed it, you can also download the first report in the series, Headless Commerce: Part 1—The Evolving State of E-Commerce Infrastructure.

Headless Commerce: The Evolution of E-Commerce and Path to Profitability

Nogin Coresight Webinar

Register for this Webinar here.

E-commerce has evolved into a cornerstone of the global economy, causing particular disruption in the retail sector over the past few years. The rise of e-commerce has heightened the importance of effective e-commerce infrastructure and the need to address profitability challenges. Just as retailers have adapted to the changing environment and ever-evolving competition, so have the e-commerce infrastructure and tools adapted to support these retailers.

On Wednesday, February 2, 2022, at 11am ET, Deborah Weinswig, CEO and Founder of Coresight Research, will be joined by Jan-Christopher Nugent,  CEO at Nogin, to discuss how online retail players can increase their profitability by adopting e-commerce infrastructures that prioritizes flexibility, scale and innovation. Coresight Research will present analysis of proprietary survey data to understand the perspectives and action plans of US retailers as they relate to e-commerce infrastructure.

During the discussion, we will answer the following key questions:

  • How has e-commerce infrastructure evolved over time to satisfy changing consumer and retailer needs?
  • What profitability challenges do retailers face?
  • How do headless e-commerce solutions compare with legacy software systems?
  • How can headless commerce impact e-commerce profitability?

Headless Commerce: Part 1—The Evolving State of E-Commerce

Nogin & Coresight

Nogin and Coresight Research have partnered on a three-part report series, Headless Commerce, to explore the emerging commerce-as-a-service (CaaS) space in the US and the key trends in the market.

This report leverages findings from an October 2021 Coresight Research survey of e-commerce leaders in the US to identify the key challenges and benefits in building and using e-commerce infrastructure and tools.

In this report, Coresight’s analysis and insights cover the following topics:

  • The impact of, and retailers’ response to, the Covid-19 pandemic
  • The evolution of commerce and the e-commerce infrastructure landscape
  • The move to headless commerce—including survey respondents’ satisfaction with their existing platforms, the obstacles to adopting CaaS solutions and retailer readiness for CaaS across different business areas

This free report is sponsored by Nogin, CaaS full-stack e-commerce platform that includes R&D (research and development), sales optimization, machine learning, and AI (artificial intelligence)-driven marketing and fulfillment.

You can download the report for free here.

ModCloth Sees Strong Improvements in Results After Transition to Nogin’s Intelligent Commerce Platform

Nogin & ModCloth

Indie apparel brand’s performance bolstered by cost savings, lower shipping costs and enhanced data-driven promotions.

Just six months after switching to Nogin’s leading Commerce-as-a-Service (CaaS) platform, indie apparel brand ModCloth is registering significant improvements in its overall operations. Additionally, the brand is gearing up for a robust holiday season with limited-time, sitewide savings in advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Mary Jimenez, CEO of the digitally native retailer of women’s fashions and accessories, said the switch to Nogin’s Intelligence Commerce platform has allowed the brand to leverage intelligent algorithms and smart promotions to provide an immediate competitive advantage in a number of areas. Among other things, the switch has provided significant cost savings and increased sales performance. Noting that ModCloth has cut expenses by approximately $17 million in the last six months, Jimenez added that the brand is geared to provide even more products and promotions to its loyal customer base.

“We couldn’t be happier with the improvements we’ve seen in our overall business and our bottom line too,” said Jimenez. Since its founding in 2002, ModCloth has been dedicated to serving a full spectrum of women by celebrating their stories and offering an inclusive range of sizes of unique, vintage-inspired fashion. 

“Nogin’s Commerce-as-a-Service (CaaS) approach has been a game changer for ModCloth,” Jimenez continued. “Their advanced data-driven analytics have helped drive down our costs, retain our loyal customer base, and cultivate new fans. We no longer have to manage a vast network of vendors and can focus our efforts on what makes our brand so special to so many. Our relationship with Nogin has resulted in significant growth gains, especially in light of the world-wide issues during Covid scarcity.”

As an example, sales thus far from ModCloth’s 2021 Gift Guide are already running 9% above 2020 levels. Curated by ModCloth employees, the “Very Merry ModCloth Holiday Gift Guide” features gifts under $30, ‘purr-fect’ presents for pet lovers and the brand’s most over-the-top holiday shop ever.  Jimenez noted that in addition to the robust holiday product assortment, “our strides in sales have been aided by strong gains in social media activity through increased efficiency and better deployment of online marketing tools.” 

Nogin has provided Intelligent Commerce Solutions to major brands such as Honeywell, Hurley, Bebe, Lululemon, and, most recently, Kenneth Cole, Frye, Justice and Charming Charlie.

“We are thrilled that Nogin’s Commerce-as-a-Service (CaaS) platform has freed ModCloth to do what it does best. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to deliver such significant savings and help the brand focus on delivering great products to its community of passionate consumers,” said Nogin CEO Jan-Christopher Nugent. “With our help, ModCloth can stay true to its core values that champion female empowerment and inclusivity.” 

NEWS | Junk Food Clothing switch to Nogin

Nogin and Junk Food Clothing

Junk Food Clothing On Target to Triple Its Online Sales With Switch to Nogin

The premium t-shirt and apparel company, known to adorn celebrities around the world, wanted

lower costs, higher sales and better analytics; Nogin is delivering all that and more.

Junk Food Clothing, the premium apparel company that has become a celebrity favorite with its pop culture designs ranging from entertainment icons to professional sports leagues and popular music acts, is reaping strong benefits after connecting  with another industry leader for its online e-commerce platform: Nogin.

Junk Food moved to Nogin’s Commerce-as-a-Service (CaaS) platform in the fourth quarter of 2020, enabling it to deliver best-in-class e-commerce to its clientele, as well as increase sales, profits and conversion rates, and execute R&D upgrades in real-time.

And the pairing began paying off immediately, according to Bill Hutchison, CEO for Hybrid Apparel, which owns the Junk Food brand. “We are on target to triple our Junk Food e-commerce business during our first year with Nogin. Along the way, we’ve seen cost-savings in third-party vendors needed to drive our revenue growth due to the external partnerships and relationships Nogin has in the space.”

Hutchison said it’s been about more than just increased sales. “The analytical data Nogin has shared with us has also allowed us to make informative and strategic decisions to capture revenue while also growing awareness for the Junk Food brand to a new set of customers we’re continuously bringing to our site,” he noted.

Under the agreement, Tustin, Calif.-based Nogin is handling all aspects of Junk Food’s e-commerce operations, ramping up the manufacturer’s online performance with its Intelligent Commerce software, AI-driven marketing capabilities and high-touch digital services.

“We’re able to offer a turn-key solution for companies like Junk Food that combines all the elements they need to be more effective selling online,” said Geoffrey Van Haeren, president of Nogin. “Just as Amazon Web Services was revolutionary for on-demand cloud-hosting, the Nogin technology platform is a game-changer in e-commerce.” Other Nogin users include such major brands as Kenneth Cole, Honeywell, Hurley, Bebe, Lululemon, True Religion, Yeezy and Charming Charlie.

“Prior to partnering with Nogin, we had an in-house start-up digital business while only using an external digital marketing agency,” Hutchison explained. “The switch to Nogin has given us a best-of-class digital platform, allowing us the quickest solution to grow our digital footprint and capture more revenue faster.”

About Junk Food Clothing Junk Food came onto the scene in 1998, creating and forever changing the premium T-shirt market. Carried in thousands of top stores throughout the world, Junk Food is a celebrity favorite, featured weekly on numerous style icons in major media. Junk Food has signature soft fabrics and trend-leading fits that also include unique treatments that make each piece one-of-a-kind. Also a licensing powerhouse, Junk Food has rights to hundreds of major pop-culture licenses, including numerous sports leagues, artists and bands. www.junkfoodclothing.com

NEWS | Kenneth Cole Re-Platforms to Nogin Intelligent Commerce

Kenneth Cole Joins Nogin

Iconic global brand leverages Nogin’s innovative Commerce-as-a-Service technology platform to optimize online store performance, add AI and decrease costs. Move reflects Nogin’s strong track record with brands in fashion, CPG, beauty, health and wellness.

Kenneth Cole has moved its online store to Nogin’s Commerce-as-a-Service (CaaS) platform, enabling the iconic brand to deliver best-in-class ecommerce to its valued customers, as well as increase sales, profits and conversion rates, and execute R&D upgrades in real-time.

“Like so many other brands, Kenneth Cole was caught between extremely expensive and inflexible legacy enterprise software on the one hand, and inadequate, lower-end SMB platforms on the other,” said Jan-Christopher Nugent, CEO of Tustin-based Nogin. “Intelligent Commerce provides a long-term delivery model that will help Kenneth Cole profitably keep pace with Big Retail.”

The global brand is leveraging Nogin’s cloud services and experts layered on top of the Intelligent Commerce Platform, allowing Kenneth Cole to scale with demand generated by a platform that is always learning and optimizing. 

From a business standpoint, Nogin’s Intelligent Commerce software, people and process can translate into benefits such as reduced free shipping and fulfillment costs, more efficient media spend,  higher conversion rates, stronger gross margin, and more.

“Just as Amazon Web Services was revolutionary for on-demand cloud-hosting, the Nogin platform is a game-changer in ecommerce,” said  Nugent, who notes that Nogin has also delivered Commerce as a Service for such major brands as Honeywell, Hurley, Bebe, Lululemon, True Religion, Yeezy and Charming Charlie.