8 Lessons Learned: Black Friday 2019

Once again the lead up to Thanksgiving saw a chorus of consumer groups calling for a boycott of shopping on Thanksgiving, leading many retailers, including the Mall of America, to close on the holiday. That hardly stopped shoppers from shopping, especially those with a PC or smartphone! Sales reached new records each day from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, and it’s worth looking at the new patterns we see emerge, and what they mean for online retailers.

But first, let’s start with a fun facts because, well, who doesn’t like history? First, contrary to what you learned in school, Thanksgiving didn’t start with pilgrims and Native Americans breaking bread together (although to be fair, harvest festivals are as old as agriculture itself). Abraham Lincoln declared the need for a federal holiday following the battle of Gettysburg:

“I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

Fun fact #2: Thanksgiving has been synonymous with consumerism since the Great Depression when FDR moved the holiday up a week to provide more shopping days before Christmas. Like many retailers, he hoped the extended shopping period would boost the economy. Public outcry forced him to move it back, but the tight association with shopping has held firm ever since.

Here are some important lessons to consider from Black Friday 2019:

#1: Black Friday is still a critical shopping day

Black Friday smashed online sales records according Salesforce, which tracked sales made by more than 500 million shoppers in 30 countries. 2019 Black Friday saw $7.2 billion in digital sales in the U.S. alone — a 14% leap over last year. In fact, Black Friday became the second-largest online shopping day in history, topped only by Cyber Monday last year, which saw $7.9 billion in sales.

#2: Many shoppers don’t wait for Black Friday

As the NY Times notes, “Black Friday shopping, online and in stores, really starts on Thanksgiving and lasts all weekend.” Shoppers spent $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving, about 14.5% more than on Thanksgiving 2018, according to Adobe Analytics.

More people had started their Black Friday shopping early by looking for deals online on Thanksgiving. At Costco, the website was slow so the store extended one-day online deals intended for Thanksgiving into Friday.

#3: Black November has replaced Black Friday

Black Friday deals now extend throughout the entire month of November, and that’s relevant to retailers for some important reasons. For instance, in the first week of November alone, consumers had completed 24% of their holiday shopping, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation — up 16% from a decade ago. In 2020, plan to start your holiday promotions in November, or miss out on a lot of early holiday sales.

#4: Black Friday is now Global

Black Friday is now a global event. This year the day brought in $40 billion globally, about a 24% increase over 2018. How did a shopping day so tightly correlated with Thanksgiving become an international phenomenon? According to USA Today, as American chain stores like Walmart expanded overseas they brought the shopping bonanza with them.

Black Friday sales can be found in many countries, with mom-and-pop and large retail chains participating. Even Israeli retailers are in on the event. As Haaretz reports, “Today Black Friday sales in Israel resemble the real thing. Discounts of 30% to 70% are offered on categories such as electronics, shoes and clothing, housewares, baby products, even pets. But “resemble” is the right word here.”

#5: Revenue is up because AOV is up

The average order value for the tracked online retailers also showed a welcome lift up 6% to $168. We’ve long said that with the right strategies, online retailers can boost average order value during the holiday season, as well as all gift-giving holidays. And, you can increase AOV through strategic promotions, such as tiered discounts, as we discussed in our Last Ditch Holiday Campaigns blog post.

This is something that our Chief Commerce Officer, Phillip Jackson, has covered in detail on his retail-focused podcast, Future Commerce. In Episode 132, Phillip and co-host Brian Lange discussed this phenomenon as it pertained to storied luxury brand Tiffany, and its acquisition by Sephora and Louis Vuitton’s parent company, LVMH. They were joined by renowned retail analyst Sucharita Kodali. (The segment begins at 0:59:00).

#6: Mobile is the rising star

According the Salesforce, “Thanksgiving Day purchases were primarily through mobile devices. Sixty percent of all digital orders came through a mobile phone yesterday, beating prior estimates. Digital traffic also topped over 70%, giving early indications that shoppers are ready to transition toward a mobile-only reality. Mobile is on its way to becoming a beacon of light as the driver for multichannel and multi-touchpoint engagements.”

Something Digital has been a participant of the Mobile Optimization Initiative (MOI) since its launch, and we’ve identified and shared many tops for mobile optimization. Check them out now to make the most of this holiday shopping trend.

#7: Omni-Channel is critical

While shoppers clearly love the convenience of online shopping, many don’t want to wait for their package to be delivered. Record numbers of them sidestepped the delays by placing their orders online and picking them up in-store — driving a 43% uptick in buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) orders.

RetailNext reports that “traffic [in malls] was down 2.1%, average transaction values dropped 6.7%, and overall sales declined 1.6%. Forbes agrees, predicting that the big winners of holiday shopping will be eCommerce and omnichannel retailers with strong mobile platforms, while the losers will be the physical retailers dependent on in-store traffic.

#8: Holiday sales are only as successful as your marketplace strategy

Finally, it’s worth considering a marketplace strategy to increase your holiday sales. The top five most-talked-about retailers: Amazon, Walmart, Target, Gamestop, Best Buy. For tips, check out our post on building a marketplace strategy.

If you have questions about Black Friday and how you can have a successful holiday season contact us.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Chief Commerce Officer

[BRIDGE] SOMETHING A Mentorship Program Designed to Jumpstart Careers  

Bradley Brecher earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from New York University in May of 2019. Like many new grads, he was eager to stay in the Big Apple, and looked around at New York-based companies that could use his newly acquired skills, and quickly settled on Something Digital. Upon joining the SD team in mid-June, Bradley was selected to participate in SD’s Jumpstart program as well as SD’s [BRIDGE] SOMETHING mentorship program.

[BRIDGE] SOMETHING is a 6 month program that brings together newly hired, recent grads with seasoned employees to help ease the transition from school-life to SD-life through thoughtful guidance and structured support.

Bradley was paired with Phillip Jackson, SD’s Ecommerce Evangelist and Magento Master. Eager to know if the program delivered tangible benefits, Phillip sat down with Bradley for a debriefing.

Phillip Jackson: When you graduated in May, you interviewed at a lot of companies, including some big names in this business. Why did you choose SD out of all the opportunities?

Bradley Brecher: First, Something Digital is a multi-faceted agency, so the work will always be interesting. I was also keenly interested in a smaller company, one that would allow me to have an impact from day one.

When I applied to SD, a director, an owner, and a tech lead interviewed me, and frankly, I was impressed. All three are very valuable to the company’s day-to-day operations, yet they took an hour out of their day to speak with me.

I also liked the Something Digital end product. The somethingdigital.com website is very modern-looking and 21st-century focused, as are all the sites the team builds for clients, which I looked at prior to interviewing. From a UI perspective, they’re quite beautiful and I thought: this is the level of quality I want to deliver.

PJ: You were also part of the jumpstart program which is an 8-week program focused on equipping engineers and employees with the skills and knowledge required to excel in their day-to-day responsibilities and careers. What were your thoughts coming into this program, and did it match your expectations?

BB: The Magento platform has a big learning curve, and when I first started five months ago I thought: How am I going to learn this complex platform in just eight weeks? Something Digitals’ jumpstart program spread it out, which made it easier for us. It was clear that there had been a lot of time and effort put into the planning. As a result, by the time we started working with real client sites I felt as if I had been well trained, and that made me feel confident.

PJ: What happened at the end of the eight-week training? Did you know what to expect?

BB: We were placed on teams; I was assigned to the Strategic Engagement Group, other mentees were placed on project teams. At this point, we began interacting with clients, which required new skill sets on top of the technical skills we learned.

We kind of knew what to expect, but until we started working with clients, it’s difficult to know what the environment would be like.

PJ: What were your responsibilities once you moved over to the Strategic Engagement Team? Do you feel as if you’re using the skills you studied in college or are you on new ground?

BB: One thing I really enjoy about being on the team is the real-world experience it provides. You can learn programming skills in school, but that’s just the base. The things you learn on the job can’t be taught in schools. I see this in multiple ways, from working on live projects to working on a team flow where multiple people write, review and change code simultaneously.

PJ: What was your biggest fear when graduating from college and considering a career in software development?

BB: That I’d be stuck behind a computer all day with little to no opportunity to interact with people, or work on other soft skills. But with the Strategic Engagement Team, I’m expanding my technical skills as well as learning vital communication skills, which will deliver dividends throughout my career. This is something most software developers right out of college don’t get to learn or use. I feel lucky.

PJ: What’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to overcome so far, and what was easier than you thought it would be?

BB: The biggest challenge was gaining the confidence to make my own decisions when deadlines were looming and everyone was really busy. I know I’m supposed to be under a lead, but there are times when I have responsibilities and I need to make my own decisions. Or, sometimes a manager will put something into my hand and ask my opinion, and that can be tough.

The challenge I found surprisingly easy is deploying live changes to client websites and moving things to production. I thought that would be much harder than it actually is.

PJ: Has the mentorship program been valuable?

BB: Yes, incredibly so. When I was paired with you everyone in the company told me I was lucky to have such a special opportunity, even though we didn’t work in the same office. They were right, of course, as you’re a Twitter influencer, an eCommerce evangelist, and very well known in Magento. All three of these aspects have benefited me a lot, like the time I wrote a code change to Magento Core and you tweeted it out to all of your followers. Almost immediately it was reviewed. This is a direct result of working with you.

It’s been great to connect with someone who isn’t on my team, someone who isn’t on the engineering team at all. It’s great to be exposed to someone who is on a completely different side of the company.

We’ve read three books together:

  • Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence―and How You Can, Too, by Gary Vaynerchuk
  • The 5 Choices – The Path to Extraordinary Productivity, by Franklin Covey
  • Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, by Nir Eyal

 

As you know, I’ve sought your advice on management questions, technical issues, career advancement and just about anything that confounds someone who is new.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you some questions. Is that okay?

BB: You’re a busy guy; why did you agree to take the time out of your schedule to mentor me?

PJ:  This is something I talked about in a keynote address I gave earlier this year. I realized that I’ll reach a certain ceiling in my career, and while I have some notoriety in the world of eCommerce now, it certainly isn’t destined to last forever. Not everyone is destined to achieve global fame and success, after all. But ever one of us can help others pick up where we left off, if you will. I want my ceiling to be your floor, to give you the tools so that you can build up from there.

This is the open-source ethos. In the open-source world we share all of our learnings, challenges, successes, and failures so that the people who follow behind us won’t need to start from scratch. We want them to start from a higher order level of thinking or a higher platform. This is what the Something Digital mentorship program means to me.

BB: Would you have benefited from a mentor at the beginning of your career?

PJ: I’ve had many mentors throughout my career, though none of them formal like the relationship I have with you. And I didn’t have someone to show me how to avoid the pitfalls I’ve encountered in terms of time management, establishing boundaries between my work and personal life, and setting realistic expectations in what I can deliver. Some of these issues are addressed in the three books I recommended to you, but much of it has been learned through trial and error. Figuring this stuff out early in your career is beneficial, rather than waiting until you’re in your mid-thirties. I wish someone had sat down with me and armed me with tools when I was your age.

If you’d like more information about the [BRIDGE] SOMETHING mentorship program and/or Jumpstart, please contact us! Apply to SD Careers or shoot me an email at pjackson@somethingdigital.com to get started.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist & Bradley Brecher, Programmer

5 Unorthodox Metrics to Track this Black Friday, Cyber Monday

After months of preparation, the fatal week known as Black Friday – Cyber Monday (BFCM) has arrived. While most are enjoying their Thanksgiving leftovers, ecommerce analysists are glued to their analytics platform measuring performance by the hour. When considering what metrics to measure, revenue is the most crucial key performance indicator (KPI) to consider during the holiday season. Online retailers will report that holiday sales can account for 20-30 percent of their fiscal year sales. Given this statistic, revenue performance will determine if your business will make it or break it over the holiday. So yes, revenue is important to track.  But what about other critical KPIs?

Conversion rate and average order value are other metrics that come to mind that determine success, but Something Digital is assuming these have already been accounted for in your reporting. So what are these other metrics? We have put together a guide to the five most unorthodox, yet equally important, metrics to track this holiday.

Cart Abandonment Rate

What is it?

Cart Abandonment Rate is the percentage of users who have added a product to the cart, but have exited the site before completing the purchase.

Why should I track it?

Cart Abandonment Rate (CAR) is an essential metric to understand when analyzing shopping behavior. Consumers will add 40-50 percent more products to their cart throughout BFCM, so online retailers can see nearly a 7 percent increase in CAR. So when analyzing CAR, ask yourself, are users comparing prices? Am I offering free shipping? Are my users looking to buy online, but pick up in store? By knowing your CAR, you will be able to better understand where users are dropping off in the consumer journey funnel.

How do I calculate it?

If configured properly in Google Analytics, you can find CAR in the Enhanced Ecommerce section.

If not, you can use this formula to measure:

Search Terms

What is it?

Keywords entered into a sites internal search box used to generate a search results page that showcases specific products based on keyword or combination of keywords entered.

Why should I track it?

Even when in the comforts of their own home, consumers are still overwhelmed with the rush of BFCM. Rather than racing through the aisles of stores, online buyers are now scrolling as fast as they can to find the perfect holiday gift. To get what they want faster, users are likely to rely on your internal site search feature. Analyzing what shoppers are looking for can further help finalize user behavior. Knowing this metric can also act as a catalyst for marketing personalization through the rest of the holiday season.

How do I calculate it?

There is no written formula for capturing site searches. You can obtain search term performance by using the site search reports in Google Analytics. To do this, you will have to set a proper query parameter. Another option is to use your ecommerce platform’s internal analytics tool.

Cross Device Performance

What is it?

Cross device performance references the tracking of the consumer journey across multiple devices, such as smartphones, desktops, and tablets.

Why should I track it?

Understanding cross device performance is another metric that gives insight into the consumer journey during BFCM. For example, 19 percent of Thanksgiving Day cross device transactions begin on desktop, but are completed on smartphones. On Black Friday, 27 percent of orders begin on smartphones, but are completed on desktops.

How do I calculate it?

There are several ways and tools that your company can use to set up cross device tracking. If you are not working with a third party that is tracking this already, Something Digital would recommend using cookies to capture client ID. The process of setting up cross device tracking can be a blog in itself, so for the sake of time, check out this blog or contact Something Digital.

Repeat Purchase Probability

What is it?

Repeat purchase probability is the likelihood of a consumer completing another transaction.

Why should I track it?

Knowing repeat purchase probability is an essential metric to track when analyzing customer retention. The ecommerce ecosystem is hyper competitive, especially during the holiday season. Every day, there is a new promotion being offered by your competition. You can use repeat purchase probability metrics as a competitive advantage when determining customer retention strategies through the remainder of the holidays.

How do I calculate it?

Use this formula:

Bounce Rate

What is it?

Bounce rate is the percentage of users who visit a website, but leave the site after viewing one page.

Why should I track it?

Tracking bounce rate percentages gives insight into the number of users who are not engaging well with site contact. Something Digital recommends tracking bounce rate by landing pages. Knowing where users are leaving your site can provide awareness around your sites user experience & interface performance.

How do I calculate it?

Use this formula:

Conclusion

Revenue, conversion rate, and average order value are all metrics of great importance.  However, there are other key performance indicators to take into consideration during BFCM. Let these five unorthodox metrics guide a deeper level of strategic insight to determine true success throughout the entire holiday season.

Written by: Tori Oates, Digital Strategist

Merchant to Merchant: 3 Brands Share their Strategies for Staying True to Their Principles

Creating a brand is hard enough – holding true to your ideals is harder still. But not impossible, as dressmaker Christy Dawn, custom eyeglass company Fritz Frames, and yoga brand Alo Yoga can attest. In this podcast, Victoria Ainsworth, growth consultant for Christy Dawn, Gabriel Schulmberg, Fritz Frame’s CEO, and Nick Jaquay, IT operations manager for ALO Yoga talked with Phillip Jackson about “doing things the hard way” and creating brand experiences and products that not only define – but align with – the mission of the brand.

We hope you’ll listen to the podcast in full (it’s about an hour), but if you can’t, here are five key takeaways:

Problem Solving as Genesis of Brand

Each brand began with a desire to solve a problem. For Christy Dawn, it was the massive waste and horrendous environmental impact of the fashion industry. Each year fashion houses order vast quantities of fabric for their collections for the coming year, much of which won’t be used, known as dead stock. Christy Dawn saw a business opportunity in those huge piles of unused fabric: a collection of dresses made from 100% dead stock. As it turned out, women love these dresses.

Heidi Hertel and Gabriel Schulmberg both have children who need glasses, and were frustrated with the experience of buying and replacing them on a regular basis. If your two-year-old needs glasses, expect them to be lost or broken frequently. Getting kids to the eye doctor, then to an eyeglass store to select frames, and then back again to have them fitted is time consuming. On top of that, styles and inventory are limited. Gabriel says that even if he was lucky enough to find a pair find a pair his children liked, there was no guarantee he could replace them with an identical pair once they were lost of broken. “We didn’t start out to sell glasses, we set it up to solve glasses, and the brand is grounded in that.” In other words, the brand was founded on making life for parents easier.

The founders of Alo Yoga are passionate about yoga, and wanted to make it easier for practitioners to incorporate it into their lives. A big challenge: going from the yoga mat to the street without changing clothes. Alo Yoga decided to create, “garments that carry over to the street, into a life lived consciously” because “mindful movement can travel beyond the studio.”

Listen to Customers

All three brands are keen to listen to their customers. For instance, before Fritz Frames began manufacturing frames the company interviewed 100 people, mostly moms, and asked them about their days. These interviews convinced them that they needed to offer customers a super simply sales cycle.

Victoria Ainsworth says that Christy Dawn is still small enough that they can follow up with every customer to find out how they like their dresses. Alo Yoga relies on social media to crowdsource their product design. Yogis get insight from their students, and then feed it back to Alo Yoga via social media.

Designing Products Around Mission

Every thoughtful brand launches with a mission, but staying true to that mission can be challenging. Why are these brands successful?

Fritz Frames’ mission was to make parent’s life easier. To that end, they offer custom, 3D printed eyeglasses, which they sell via an app. The app creates an image of the customer’s face, and allows the customer to select from different styles and colors virtually. The entire process, from downloading the app to queuing up the order at the 3D printing facility takes 5 minutes.

Alo’s mission is to allow people to be more mindful every day, which is why the brand offers an app with instructor-guided yoga routines. Customers can practice yoga as their schedule allows. The brand also has studios where shoppers can practice yoga.

In addition to making clothes out of dead stock, Christy Dawn now plants cotton in India. The cotton is both sustainable and regenerative, so as not to harm the plant.

Approach to Growth

Fritz Frames was launched as a way to provide eyeglasses to kids, but 50% of their orders now come from adults. Most eyeglass manufacturers make assumptions about the types of styles that are appropriate to each face shape, and if your taste runs contrary to those assumptions, you’re out of luck. Because Fritz Frames customizes all styles to the individual face, growth will come from making more customers happier.

Christy Dawn has no interest in growing just for growth’s sake. As Victoria explains, “we believe in sticking with this model and things will grow over time, and grow as they should.” For Christy Dawn, growth comes from word of mouth. Women love their dresses and tell their friends about it. They also advertise on social media, but they don’t rely on the usual tricks of 15% off, their ads stay true to their brand.

Technology is an important part of the Alo experience. For instance, smart mirrors leveraging augmented reality allow shoppers to see what they’ve tried on in many different colors. Growth comes from visualizing what the future holds, and being ready for it from a tech perspective.

Lifetime Engagement vs. Lifetime Value

Interestingly, each of these brands value lifetime engagement over lifetime value, which seems anathema to a consumer brand. “Focusing on long-term engagement, time spent thinking of the brand, is more important than trying to get them into a store to buy something,” explains Gabriel Schulmberg. “It changes how you approach the business. It’s not about driving sales, but how many touch points can we make this person feel great about the brand.”

The panel had a lot more to say about the challenges than described here. Have a listen on your next lunch hour, or commute by clicking here.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

SD Holiday Tips Graphic

The Three Ds of Last Ditch Holiday Campaigns: Discount, Discovery, Defend

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are quickly approaching — events that a lot of brands and retailers plan for all year long. Sites like The BlackFriday.com help consumers find the best deals, and get the most bang for their buck.

But what if, as an online retailer, you’ve been busy doing other things these past few months (like migrating away from Magento 1)? Does this mean you’ve missed the boat? That you’re doomed to have a disappointing 2019 holiday season? Absolutely not. There are some excellent last ditch holiday campaigns you can deploy quickly and easily and be a part of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday bonanza. I call them the three Ds of last ditch tactics: discount, discovery and defend.

First a shout out to Common Thread, a digital sales agency whose report, 103 of DTC’s Holiday Offers, was a source of inspiration for this post. The report includes 180 screenshots of the 2018 Black Friday and Cyber Monday promos offered by DTCs across a wide variety of market sectors.

Discount

Holiday shoppers are always on the hunt for a good bargain, and depending on your ecommerce platform, you can take advantage of that impulse quickly and easily. A popular tactic is site-wide discounts, which were deployed by about 44.8% of the DTC brands highlighted in Common Thread’s report. What I like about this tactic is that it’s egalitarian — everyone can benefit from your campaign, whether they’re first time visitors or loyal customers.

And since the point of a holiday promotion is to build trust and breakdown the barriers to purchase, it makes sense to offer it to as many new consumers as possible.

How much should you discount? Over half of the DTC brands profiled by Common Thread offer 20 – 25% off, with the vast majority offering 20%. Discounts that are less than 20%, it seems, fail to inspire customers to take action or accelerate the purchase decision, and it would be a shame to lose conversions due to a below-market discount. Let’s remember the key reason why retailers launch holiday campaigns to begin with: Consumers are in shopping mode, and discounts remove some of the risk of buying from a new brand. It’s an important trust builder.

Besides, all gifting holidays are boon to online retailers in that when you spend to acquire one new customer (in this case via a 20% site-wide discount), you have the potential to gain up to three new consumers to your brand, as we discussed in a previous blog post.

Tiered Discounts and Coupons

Tiered Discounts is another last-ditch campaign that can help you drive conversions and increase AOV. A tiered discount may offer 10% for orders up to $50, and 15% for orders up to $75. In other words, the more the customer spends, the greater the discount. We’ve seen instances where this strategy goes a long way for online retailers who rarely offer discounts.

Or, you can offer discounts on a select set of products once shoppers reach a specific spend threshold, as Pure did last holiday season:

Of course, retailers like Amazon and Verishop offer free shipping on all orders, which is difficult — but not impossible — to compete with. Applied right, however, free shipping can double or triple the basket size of your orders. For instance, let’s say your AOV is $60; you can offer free shipping on orders above $120. Visitors may opt to buy one as a gift and one for themselves! Self-gifting is definitely a thing.

Finally, you can offer incentives for signing up for your newsletter or offer a coupon code that can stack on top of the site-wide discount.

Just make sure you do the math ahead of time. It’s a great to drive AOV and win new customers, but it can be a fine line between spending a bit of money to get a new customer and taking a hit on your margins. And, you don’t want customers to think of your store as a discount brand.

Discovery

The holiday season is the one time of year when practically all people who shop are deep into discovery mode. Depending on your ecommerce platform, it’s pretty quick and easy to designate a section of your site as a gift guide, which highlights the products in your catalog that make great gifts.

You probably have products in your store that naturally align with one another and would make terrific gift packs. Consider including them into multiple categories (e.g. gifts for Dad, gifts for home) and highlighting them as part of your holiday store.

Ways to Categorize Your Gift Guide

Again, depending on your ecommerce platform, it’s pretty easy to create multiple segments for your gift guide. At a minimum, consider Gifts for Men, Gifts for Women, Gifts for the Home (i.e. non-gender specific) and Gifts for Kids. You can also categorize by personas, say Gifts for Frequent Travelers or Gifts for Gearheads.

If you offer guided selling on your site that’s even better. Holiday shopping can be stressful for people who aren’t sure what to get their loved ones (especially if they’re teenagers!). So, while gift suggestions are a great way to increase sales, they’re also go a long way in alleviating shopper stress.

Finally, you can use a gift guides as a tactic to bump up orders, especially when you offer tiered discounts or free shipping based on spending thresholds. Offering a category of Gifts Under $25 will be helpful for shoppers whose baskets are, say, $10 or $15 shy of discount or free shipping promotion.

Defend

Some companies — Patagonia, Away Travel, Allbirds, Harrys.com — are explicitly choosing not to participate in Black Friday/Cyber Monday. These aggressively priced DTC brands are proudly telling the market they have no intention of jumping on the bandwagon, asserting that they strive to offer the best products at the best price every day of the year. Some, such as Patagonia and REI, have taken the stance that they want no part of the consumer hamster wheel.

Personally, I think this is a brilliant marketing strategy because it speaks to the core values of their customers. And if you think about it, it actually allows them to participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday because, let’s face it, non-participation is a very real form of participation.

Of course, you don’t want to look like you’re not honoring the holiday season at all, so instead of a site-wide discount, craft some messaging that speaks to your core values, whether that’s mindfulness, sustainability or world peace.

Or, you can link to resources that promote your values, or highlight some sister brands that offer discounts.

Here’s the thing: This strategy just might convert the customer anyway, especially if they share your values and sensibilities.

This strategy also has the benefit of reinforcing that you’re a premium brand, and that discounts just aren’t your style. Holiday discounting often creates an ebb and flow of customers, meaning consumers will come to a site only when they know they’ll get a huge deal.

So, there you have it. It’s not too late to implement some very good holiday campaigns just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

If you’re looking for help implementing any of these ideas or need advice on how to get started let us know.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Something Digital - magento

New Open Source Tool for Magento

We’re pleased to announce a new open source tool for Magento to add to your security toolbelt: SomethingDigital_InvalidateAdminPasswords.

Here’s the use case: your Magento website has experienced a breach and you want to reset all admin credentials.

I had previously blogged a quick tip for how to do this here, but this module offers a much better experience:

  • Invalidation is handled via a bin/magento command. No raw SQL queries needed 😅
  • It sends an email to all admin users instructing them to reset their password (process documented in blog post had no way of notifying users).
    • The email can be customized from the Magento admin panel.
  • Invalidates two-factor authentication user configuration (assuming 2FA is via msp/twofactorauth).
  • Functionality is covered by integration tests and hooked up to Travis CI.

 

It’s important to note that the module currently does not kick out any users with active admin sessions. However, there is documentation in the README explaining what can be done to achieve that.

You never know when you might need this feature and don’t want to be scrambling to have it when it’s already too late, so install this module now!

Hope you enjoy it!

Written by: Max Chadwick, Technical Lead

Is Magento 1 your Final Destination?

In part one of this series, we talked about how you can’t escape the pain of migrating off of Magento 1. This next post is for those clever retailers who think that by sticking with Magento 1 they can somehow skirt the death of a platform. [Spoiler alert:] You can’t.

To illustrate this, we turn to the Final Destination franchise, which warns there’s no escaping death, no matter how clever you are.

The movie opens with Alex Browning, (Devon Sawa) about to fly off to Paris with his friends on a class trip.

But just before take-off, Alex has a premonition that the plane will explode in mid-air, killing everyone on board. He panics, a fight breaks out, and Alex, along with his friends are kicked off the plane. Within moments of takeoff the plane really does explode, prompting Alex and his friends to celebrate their good luck in narrowly escaping death.

Little did they know that death would chase them until it eventually wins. Alex watches as his friends are picked off one by one, until he finally meets his end.

It’s a plot device that runs through all five movies: A group of characters are supposed to die but by some stroke of luck, live to see another day. Death, meanwhile, is quite displeased when things don’t go as planned. What makes the movies fun are all the head fakes. As a moviegoer you’re lulled into thinking one character or another will make it, and then wham! It’s curtains, and we never saw it coming.

So how does this relate to migrating off of Magento 1? As we mentioned in part 1 of this series, Magento has moved the end of life (EOL) for Magento 1 a few times. First it was to die in November of 2018, then death got pushed back to June 2020. Retailers who haven’t migrated off of Magento 1 are lulled into believing they have a new lease on life. But do they?

Magento 1 Head Fakes

When Magento 2 was released, the company made it very clear that there would be end of life dates for all point releases, and it meant what it said. For instance, the end of life for 2.0 came in August 2018. Users could expect no more security patches, quality fixes, or documentation updates for 2.0 release. It was upgrade to 2.1 or die.

The same thing happened this past September when Magento released 2.3.

Meanwhile, Magento 1 users have been getting security patches from Magento and can count on them until June 2020. If you’re such a user, did you cheat death? Were you somehow wise or lucky to stay on Magento 1 while users of 2.0 and 2.1 were picked off

You may have been spared the burdens of the 2.0-point releases, but the piper still needs to be paid. Migration is still your fate, whether that’s to Magento 2.0, Shopify or some other platform.

If you’re still on Magento 1 it means you’ve been stuck in time since 2015. Magento as a platform has matured in direct response to ecommerce maturation. For instance, it has Page Builder, B2B features, and supports Amazon Channel selling.

Don’t let 2015 be your final destination.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Don’t Prolong the Horror of Your Magento 1 End of Life

Four years ago, next month Magento announced the demise of Magento 1.0. Many retailers took what was said to heart and made plans to either upgrade to Magento 2.0 or another platform. Some opted to put it off for reasons only they can explain. But whatever the reason, it’s time to act.

This four-part blog series dwells on the gruesome horrors that await retailers who fail to make plans. Since it’s October, we’ve tapped into the horror movie cannon to extract some lessons to drive home our message: June 2020 is coming, run to the safety of a supported ecommerce platform.

We’ll start with the movie Saw. Fans of the horror franchise will remember a central trope of the films: you can put off pain, but you can’t escape it. And, your attempts to avoid it will result in unimaginable horrors — along with profound regret for not doing what you knew you had to do all along.

Saw opens with Adam, (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Lawrence Gorden, (Cary Elwas) waking up chained and locked in a bathroom, a dead body between them. Adam is told to escape; Lawrence is told to murder Adam by 6:00 or his family will be murdered, and he’ll be left to die. They find some hacksaws in the toilet, but quickly realize that they’re meant for limbs, not the chains that bind them to the room. That’s when they’re hit with the gruesome choice before them: hack off their own limbs or die.

There’s an obvious parallel here to online retailers who are still running their businesses on Magento 1. Magento 2.0 was released on November 17, 2015, and Magento told retailers using Magento Commerce 1 (formerly known as Enterprise Edition) and Magento Open Source 1 (formerly known as Community Edition) that they had three years to migrate. Moreover, as of November 2018, retailers could expect no new features or functionality developments, just absolutely necessary security patches. In other words, Magento 1’s end of life was set for November, 2018. We were all warned.

And yet the platform didn’t die when originally promised. Last September Magento offered Magento 1 retailers another reprieve when it extending the cutoff date (pun intended) until June 2020. That led many retailers to hang on to their Magento 1 ecommerce stores, effectively covering their eyes and plugging up their ears to the abject terror of migrating to a new platform.

Three years is ample time to migrate. Many retailers have put off the inevitable, just as Dr. Gordon does in Saw, until they have no choice but to act. You might be hoping for some other outcome — perhaps another extension by Magento? — but it isn’t coming. You need to face that pain.

Yeah, I said it. I equated migrating off of Magento 1 to cutting off one’s own limbs. Of course, Magento provides tools to migrate your catalog and customer base to Magento 2, but all of those plug-ins’ retailers rely on to run their businesses? These are like the five digits Dr. Gordon can’t imagine living without.

We know that once Dr. Gordon lobs off his foot he’ll need to get a prosthesis so he can carry on with his life, just as you know you’ll need to find a prosthetic solution for those plug-ins that won’t work in Magento 2 (or Shopify, if that’s the route you’ll take). That’ll be painful, it will take some getting used to. It will take some trial and error to find the perfect fit. But there’s no getting around your fate.

Here’s the thing: You’ve been warned. Magento’s constant reminders are like the voice of Jigsaw telling Dr. Gordon in the bathroom that his fate is in his own hands; he can escape the horror at any time rather than prolong through procrastination. In the last scene he finally takes the saw to his ankle. It’s a terrible price, but the reward is the safety of his family.

At Something Digital, we totally feel your pain, but it’s yours and you need to face it. The consequences of staying on Magento 1 after its end of life will be gruesome for you and a real horror show for your customers. You need to migrate in order to save your business.

Stay tuned for parts 2-4 in the coming weeks and if you have questions about your Magento 1 migration let us know.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Picture Perfect Ecommerce

Elevate your product imagery with these 6 best practices

What is the first thing customers are drawn to when they land on a product listing page or product detail page (PDP)? The images of the products of course! Humans are visual creatures, with decades of practice sizing up what we like, dislike, and just plain LOVE. We’re good at it, and without the ability to touch and feel products in real life, customers rely on imagery for information gathering. Merchants, you can make customers fall in love with your products and increase your conversion rates with sophisticated product imagery.

At Something Digital we can’t stress enough how product imagery can make or break a sale. SD recently created an ecommerce photography guide for one of our clients in the fashion industry, and we found that a few learnings from the guide can be applied to any ecommerce store. These 6 best practices help to elevate product imagery and the overall user experience, thereby increasing your customers likelihood to convert.

1. Maintain a consistent look and feel

Products should look like they are derived from the same place and brand. When consistency is achieved, customers are able to focus on the differences between products, rather than noticing inconsistencies within the photography styles or layout. The simplest way to incorporate consistency is to apply the same background color to all product images. Not only does this unify the product assortment, but it also creates a visual separation between the image and the page background.

Everlane uses a cool gray background color across all their product imagery.

 

When shooting accessories, consistency can also be achieved with the angle and composition of the products. Ensure the baseline is the same for every image of a particular category. That way, on the product listing pages customers’ eyes will be able to scan the various products more quickly.

Warby Parker keeps the baseline placement of their glasses the same for easy-to-scan product listing pages.

 

2. Incorporate movement when appropriate

When using models to showcase products, show them as the customer would expect to see them—as real living and breathing beings that move. To achieve this, incorporate different poses and angles, and ask your models to walk around in the products. Movement is captivating and adds to emotional feeling to the product. A breezy dress looks more enticing if the skirt is moving as the model walks.

Reformation incorporates movement in their apparel images giving customers a better sense of how the clothes will react in real life.

 

If using models in your photography isn’t appropriate for your product set, another way to incorporate movement is on the PDP. Video is immensely helpful in customer decision making. When selling apparel and fashion accessories, show the clothes on a real person moving around. If you’re selling more technical products like electronics, have an informational video explaining the specs. Customers will most often look to the image gallery for product videos, so ensure this optimal placement.

ASOS incorporates video into their PDP image galleries—helping customers decide if a product is right for them.

 

3. Show at least 4 angles

If only the front of a jacket is shown, chances are customers will be less likely to purchase it. Customers first gravitate toward the image gallery when attempting to learn more about a product, so incorporating 4 or more shots is paramount to their visual evaluation. At a minimum show the front, back, side, and a feature shot. A feature shot informs customers of texture and/or intricate details. Images are replacing in-store experiences, this feature shot can be used to call out important features that otherwise would be hidden to the customer.

Nike incorporates multiple angles for a well-rounded view of their products.

 

At least one image should show a product to scale. 42% of customers will look to the image gallery to assess the scale of a product. Showing a lifestyle shot within the gallery will allow customers to see the scale as well as see how the product could fit into their daily lives.

Burrow shows a person interacting with the product to give customers a better sense of scale.

 

Joybird incorporates lifestyle shots to help customers imagine the product in their own home.

 

4. Show all included products for kits

When selling kits or bundles be sure to show an image of all accessories that are included with the purchase. Keep images simple, and don’t show products that aren’t included with the product, as that can cause confusion to the customer. If a lifestyle shot is used on a PDP, be sure to state which accessories are not included to provide better clarity to the customer. There can be quite a lot of information to take in on a bundled product image, so including the individual product shots alongside allows customers zoom in on a particular part of the kit.

Hims clearly indicates what products are included in a kit with simple yet branded photography.

 

5. Consider a single product variation image

When customers are quickly scanning your site, it can be difficult to find variations of a product such as color or size. A way to incorporate variations more prominently is within the product photography. In addition to the multiple angle shots, a product variation image on the PDP lets customers easily compare without having to tab through the color or size swatches. It’s best to keep these shots very simple with minimal clutter in the background.

Apple clearly indicates what colors are available with simple yet branded photography.

 

6. Use large, retouched images

Customers zoom in on product images to see zippers, materials, ingredients, and much more before deciding to purchase. To ensure the best experience, your images should be crisp and professionally retouched. Retouching can fix any color imperfections, remove stray threads, perfect unevenness, and ensure a consistent tone that is in line with the visual brand. In cases where products are metallic, multiple shots may need to be provided to the retoucher so they can composite the images together to get the correct tone and prevent hot spots.

Allbirds features large, retouched product imagery, and allows the customer to zoom into the image.

 

Retouching is one of the most important steps in the photography. You want your products to look the best they can be, and retouching is the only way to achieve that perfect look. However, there is the risk of over-retouching, and some brands, such as ASOS, are taking control over the amount of retouching done on models. Remember to focus only on the retouching of the product itself, rather than the people interacting with the product. Depending on your brand, an overly retouched person may seem too unattainable or simply too unreal. Retouching is a delicate balance, and an art director can guide retouchers in the appropriate direction.

ASOS doesn’t focus on retouching their models, but rather retouches the products themselves.

 

After your brand has been established, it’s beneficial to create a photography guideline that documents lighting equipment placement, cropping, product angles, tone, and the process of exporting images. This provides new photographers or art directors a reference and helps to ensure consistency when using multiple vendors.

Premium product photography takes time and effort but done correctly it can differentiate your brand from the competition. Many brands today get it wrong.

Follow these six best practices and your customers will be more likely to convert.

If you need help with your photography or ecommerce website, let us know!

Written by: Lindsay Stork, Senior Interactive Designer

Something Digital Helps Magento Move into the Future

The Web has always been a cooperative endeavor, with the best minds coming together to create better experiences for the general user population. It’s an approach adopted by Magento through its Magento Contributors initiative, which acknowledges that the people who work with e-tailers day in and day out have critical insight into market needs, and that their collective insight can help propel the platform forward.

As Magento says about its community of contributors, “Your contributions are the foundation of the Magento open source platform. Contributions include source code patches — either bug fixes or new functionality — delivered by individual and partner developers across our Community.”

Something Digital’s Contributions to Magento

Something Digital has been impressively active in the contributions community, and recently Magento invited one of our developers, Patrick McLain, to join its Community Maintainer team. Patrick maintains a handful of open-source modules for Magento 2, and can often be found looking for interesting questions on Magento StackExchange.

Led by Patrick, Something Digital has made substantial contributions to Magento, including 40 submissions, 39 of which have been incorporated into Magento’s core code. His contributions have ranged from code modifications and bug fixes to new features that will enable progressive web applications (PWA) to support mobile phone shoppers.

Some highlights:

  • Libsodium encryption. A key contribution allows for implementation of the Libsodium encryption library. The encryption library previously used by Magento, mcrypt, had been deprecated for quite some time, so Patrick worked to bring Magento’s encryption library up to date. Thanks to Patrick and Something Digital, all encrypted values stored inside the database and used by the platform are now more secure.
  • GraphQL projects. Most of our contributions concern the GraphQL project, which is a query language originally developed by Facebook for its mobile applications, and competes with REST API. Facebook turned GraphicQL into an open source protocol, which in turn, enabled Something Digital to contribute to power the future of Magento’s front end in bringing about PWA.
  • Mobile Checkout. Within GraphQL Patrick made numerous contributions toward the checkout implementation, thereby allowing users to progress from viewing a product to putting it in their cart, setting shipping and billing addresses, payment information. His contributions span the checkout to order creation processes.
  • Payment Methods Architecture. Something Digital developed the architecture for online payment methods, i.e., how code will be structured for anyone implementing a payment method inside of Magento. And once it’s exposed to PWAs through GraphQL, will follow the architecture that Something Digital developed.

 

“It’s no surprise that Something Digital’s developers like Patrick are prolific contributors to Magento’s core platform. We’ve helped retailers thrive in the global ecosystem for 20 years, and have firsthand knowledge of what they need from their platform in order to serve their customers well and grow their businesses,” explained Greg Steinberg, Principal and Co-Founder of Something Digital. “The fact that the bulk of our contributions are now part of Magento core code speaks to the expertise of our development team.”

Something Digital Clients get an Inside Track

One of the reasons why Something Digital leadership is keen to allow its developers to participate in the Magento Contributors Community is that such participation has a direct benefit to our customers.

As Patrick explains, “For all new features that we help build, even before it’s released to the general public, before it’s available for anybody to use, Something Digital developers are already subject matter experts, because we wrote it. We understand the internal workings of it, the best practices for developing features on it, because we were there the whole way through the development cycle.”

If you want to learn more about our Magento contributions, who we are, and what we do, let us know!

Written by: Brittany Wheeler, Marketing Manager