Holiday Trends 2019

It is officially the start of a new year and decade, which means the holiday season has officially come to a close. Retailers can finally take a deep breath knowing that the shopping rush has ended. Although purchases have slowed, the work has not. Now is the time to analyze holiday strategies to see what did and did not work.

While breaking down holiday metrics for Something Digital’s clients, our Digital Strategy team picked up on a few noteworthy trends:

Trend #1: Average Order Value Drove Revenue Growth

In ecommerce, four key performance indicators drive revenue: sessions, conversion rate, average order value, and transactions. During the 2019 holiday season, average order value (AOV) was the key performance indicator that acted as the catalyst for revenue growth. One of Something Digital’s fashion retailer clients saw a 120% increase in revenue over Cyber Week due to a 66% increase in AOV. This massive growth was not by luck, but due to a planned strategy to offer a 50% discount with free shipping. These incentives motivated customers to spend more in the long run.

One of SD’s health and beauty clients planned to use AOV to drive revenue. By offering customers a gift card with orders starting at $50, users opted to spend more to receive the promotion. This strategy resulted in a 56% higher AOV during the holidays compared to their yearly average.

Trend #2: Mobile Grew, but Desktop Still Dominates

For years, the ecommerce community has been trying to find ways to enhance the mobile experience. These strategies seem to be working, as mobile revenue has increased; however, mobile revenue still does not outperform desktop.

During Cyber Week, SD clients saw mobile revenue growth as high as 88%. While some of these growth numbers are staggering, they don’t demonstrate how much desktop still dominates sales. At the surface level, 88% mobile revenue growth is a strong statistic. If we take a deeper look at this client’s device performance, we see that mobile revenue only accounted for 8% of total sales during Cyber Week. High mobile revenue growth but minimal revenue share was a common trend this holiday.

Trend #3: Home & Bedding Hit Home

SD has a variety of different home & bedding clients both in the B2B and B2C verticals. Regardless of industry, this vertical had a superior holiday season. Compared to BigCommerce’s holiday report, SD’s home & bedding clients had a 470% higher AOV than the industry average. Big Commerce also reported that the industry average conversion rate was 4.1%. One of SD’s luxury bedding clients saw a record high conversion rate of 9.67%.

Runner-Up Trends:
  • SD clients saw the largest revenue growth on Cyber Monday.
  • Despite mobile revenue share not exceeding desktop, a majority of SD clients saw large mobile AOV and CVR growth compared to desktop.
  • Top sales channels included Direct, Organic, Email, and Paid Search.
  • Pre-Black Friday & extended Cyber Monday boosted overall sales in November and December.
  • Health & Beauty industries saw the highest increases in revenue.

 

As another holiday shopping season comes to a close, new trends have formed that will shape the foundation of 2020 ecommerce. If you are interested in getting ahead in your 2020 holiday planning & strategic insights, contact us!

Written by: Tori Oates, Digital Strategist

Bullseye for DTC Brands: Part 2

In a previous blog post I introduced Bullseye for DTC Brands, a flavor of Something Digital’s Bullseye maturity assessment tool we designed for digitally-native brands. The first post sort of set the stage in that it talked about the challenges DTC brands face when acquiring new customers and why the origins of a brand affect strategy going forward. In it I posited that content strategy is a key metric of maturity.

(If this is your first post on the topic, Bullseye is a series of questions we ask businesses that are looking to take their business to the next level. We use Bullseye to help us understand your resources, experience level, available resources, existing infrastructure among other things so that we can recommend the right technologies, partners and strategies to help you achieve your goals”).

This blog post goes deeper into the nitty-gritty of how we define maturity for DTC brands. On the whole, we delve into eight categories that are pertinent to digitally native brands:

Breadth and depth of channel sources

As mentioned in the previous DTC Bullseye blog post, sustainable growth for all DTC brands requires a multi-channel sales strategy. For instance, Casper sells its mattresses via Casper.com, as well as on Amazon, in its owned and operated retail outlets, as well as in Costco and Target.

If you want to continue to grow your customer base, you’ll need to make it easier for more people to discover and purchase your products.

Reliance on marketplaces

Marketplaces are a great way to get your brand in front of new customers, particularly those who are loyal Amazon or Alibaba shoppers. But an over reliance on them can result in a race to the bottom in terms of price, and where the marketplace — not you — owns the customer.

A solid marketplace strategy is essential (as we’ve discussed in previous blog posts) to growing your business, owning your customers and maintaining your brand.

Email marketing

Email marketing is the default tool for DTC brands, and it’s an effective way to keep your brand top-of-mind — up to a point. Bombarding your customers with weekly or daily invitations to buy will probably get your offers sent directly to spam. And even if your killer discounts prompt a lot of purchases, they’ll wreak havoc on your margins.

Email marketing requires a deft touch and should be just one component of your content strategy.

Loyalty and retention

Customer acquisition is the biggest, most costly challenge faced by all DTC brands, which means once you acquire one, you’ll want to do everything in your power to retain that customer and keep him or her loyal.

Loyalty and retention programs require you to understand your various customer personas and develop offers and strategies that speak to each directly.

Affiliate awards and referral

Affiliate awards and referral programs are a great way to acquire new customers, and entire industries have grown up around these strategies.

But not all affiliate and referral programs are created equal. Some new customers may cost you more than others, and some customers would have converted even without the referral (and commission).

Knowing which affiliate sends the profitable customers you can’t get on your own is essential to sustainable growth.

Internal Operational and business maturity

This section accounts for the lion’s share of our Q’s, which is why it’s detailed below in its own section.

Brand affinity

Brand affinity allows you to predict how your customers behave, specifically, if they’ll choose your brand over your competitors. There are many ways to measure brand affinity, from surveying customers to analyzing time spent with content, number of shares and likes on social media, and so on.

Brand affinity will help stem customer attrition, and because it’s so costly to acquire new customers, it’s pretty important that all DTC brands have a strategy in place to measure and promote it.

Customer service/customer experience

Marketers are told all the time that consumers want to buy experiences. Consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to acquiring goods and services and interacting with a brand should be more than a utilitarian experience.

International Operations & Business Maturity Deep Dive

It’s one thing to sell products on a website, it’s another to deliver those products with a great experience as a mature operation. But what is that “thing” exactly? We broke it out into five dimensions:

  1. Promotion, pricing strategy. Are your promotions and pricing strategies designed to attract the customers you most want? Do you have a solid conversion-rate optimization strategy in place?
  2. Channel expansion. Are you expanding into new channels in order to gain access to new customers?
  3. Category expansion outside of core product. Are you expanding category to bring in other customers or even encouraging cross-category purchase?
  4. Business Growth and Accountability. Do you have established business metrics to meet? Do you have someone — angel investors, VC firm, Board of Directors — to whom you answer? What does your financial backing look like? Who sets your goals?
  5. Analytics & Data Points around customers. Do you have a data utility tool? How are you tracking key metrics, such as brand affinity, customer acquisition costs, lifetime value?

 

Ranking DTC Brands: Assigning a Persona

Once you answer all of our questions, we’ll take your input and assess your DTC business maturity level. Most digitally native brands fall somewhere in a maturity level 2 or 3, or as we call them, an Underdog or Challenger.

Here is a full list of the maturity-based personas, along with a general description of them:

The Rookie

A relative newcomer to the world of retail or digital retail, the Rookie can take many forms — from a large, corporate enterprise taking on direct-to-consumer retail for the first time, to a historically distributor-based, catalog brand who, 50 years ago, took orders on pen and paper. The Rookie has endless opportunities and is typically capital constrained. Investment is key, as are the right technologies.

The Underdog

The Underdog has gained ground but sometimes feels outgunned. This can be a powerful place to be when growing because loyalists to other products, brands and services are usually eager to seek out smaller, more capable brands. This allows The Underdog to “punch up” (publicly criticize larger competitors that will be reluctant to dignify criticism with a response.)

The Challenger

Brands take The Challenger seriously. The Challenger has some history, is growing into multiple channels, and understands the importance of brand. Still, the Challenger can’t afford to lose ground fighting upmarket with competitors that have more resources and global recognition.

The Trendsetter

The Trendsetter invests in technology and marketing campaigns that become part of the cultural zeitgeist. On the consumer brand side, they’re household names. In B2B, they’re industry titans who dominate in technology and in supply chain. Most businesses will never reach this level, and a scant few will grow beyond.

The Leader

Standing at the apex, the Leader is the clear winner in their category, and, more broadly, in retail. The Leader is seen as a brand that excels at everything, invests in research and development, and is guiding the rest of the industry. The Leader excels in experience and prioritize brand equity over quarter-to-quarter gains.

Want to See Where You Stand?

We’re happy to provide a Bullseye test to any DTC brand whose business leaders are eager to take the company to the next level, or even better understand the challenges that lie ahead. There’s no obligation to the test, and there’s a lot of upside, namely, it can result in a roadmap to sustainable growth. Interested? Send an email info@somethingdigital.com.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Chief Commerce Officer

Introducing Bullseye for DTC Brands

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you know we’re pretty excited about our Bullseye, a quick and easy assessment tool we designed to help B2C and B2B companies select the right partners and services to grow your ecommerce business to the next level. In fact, we did a three-part series that began with tactics for measuring your business maturity, then moved on to growth, goals and KPIs, and ended with a discussion on how to select the right partners.

Bullseye is a byproduct of our 20 years of professional services. For decades we’ve peppered customers with questions about their goals, KPIs, technical skills, staff availability, existing infrastructure and a dozen other factors that will drive success. Our typical professional services questionnaire can exceed 200 questions, which is entirely reasonable if we are going to design and build a website for a company that will be the foundation of their growth over the next decade. Part of being good at professional services is knowing how to ask the right questions so that we can provide business owners with the kind of advice that will set them up to hit the goals they’ve set.

Bullseye, on the other hand, has a more narrow goal: to help companies assess their business’ maturity so they know where and how to begin their planning process. For that we’ve narrowed down to the essentials, resulting in a 30 question quiz.

Why Bullseye for just DTC brands?

In the six months since we’ve launched Bullseye, we’ve had some great feedback, the most common of which is to refine the questions so that they specific industries. No problem!

As we thought about how to narrow Bullseye, we spent a lot of time reflecting on our own customer base, which has a huge contingent of DTC brands. These brands run the gamut, from small startups that have been in business for a year or less and sell just a handful of products, to very large enterprise DTC brands, like Garden of Life. Some have small Shopify sites, while others have multiple sites running on Magento, all of which are integrated with sophisticated platforms. And of course, we have many customers in between.

We leveraged our experience with the breadth of customers to refine the questions so they help us understand where your DTC business is today, as well as chart out your next steps on your path to growth.

DTC is a channel, not a business model

This time last year the business press and punditocracy couldn’t stop talking about DTC brands. Casper, Allbirds and Dollar Shave Club were the absolute darlings of venture capitalists and enjoying billion-dollar valuations. The IAB hosted DTC-themed conferences, and put together new tools and resources to help long-established brands get a lay of the DTC land. To the IAB, DTC is a game-changing business model because it allows consumer brands to establish one-to-one relationships with their customers, meaning they can legitimately collect, consolidate, analyze and use first-party data. For a P&G or Unilever which rarely sells directly to an end consumer, that’s a big deal.

But here’s the thing: in real terms DTC is a channel not a business model, and it has been that way for the past five years. The DTC brands that have captured the imagination of the business press — Casper, Allbirds, Warby Parker — are now multi-channel. All three brands currently have retail outlets and they sell through other retailers and marketplace. For instance, consumers can pick up a Casper mattress in Costco, Target, on Amazon as well as Casper.com.

The upshot is that when we talk about DTC, what we’re really talking about is a brand’s origins, which happens to be rooted in the digital ecosystem.

Why origins matter

A brand’s origin matters because it has a huge influence on its growth strategy. Brands that are digitally native face a specific set of challenges that differ from the obstacles that a catalog retailer or a brick-and-mortar store will need to overcome.

For instance, unlike a brick-and-mortar store, new DTC brands can’t count on local foot traffic to bring new customers through their doors. This is a huge challenge because the customer acquisition tools for digitally native brands are expensive and crowded. Breaking through the noise via a paid search or Instagram campaign will cost a pretty penny and require constant optimization to be effective. On top of that, customers can’t touch, feel, weigh, sniff or taste products, which means the brands need to find ways to eliminate the risk of the unknown for their consumers. Because survival requires mastering these challenges, DTC brands must develop a mindset and business approach that is different than, say, a brand like Sundance Catalog, which started as a single retail outlet, expanded to a catalog model and eventually added an ecommerce site. Ultimately, of course, all brands will need to embrace a multi-channel sales model if they wish to embark on a path of sustainable growth. The path they take to get there, however, will depend on where they’ve been.

There are many market dynamics that affect all retailers equally, regardless of origins. DTC mega-star Everlane is benefiting from closures of The Gap and Victoria’s Secrets outlets, as are Amazon and the mom-and-pop stores that sell similarly priced-items and are close to where those stores once stood. But reaping those benefits requires a certain level of DTC maturity, specifically, the ability to capture those displaced consumers through multiple channels.

Assessing the maturity of a DTC brand

When we talk to DTC brands about their maturity level, we key in on the way they reach and engage customers. There is a direct relationship between content sophistication and level of maturity. Take Outdoor Voices, an activewear brand that has launched a television channel featuring original programing and documentaries. OV is hardly an outlier, they’re the new normal now that it’s much harder and super expensive to acquire customers on Instagram. Mature DTC brands are devising compelling reasons to engage consumers, and original content is playing a front and center role in their efforts. This is a far cry from simply sending weekly emails with incentives to purchase (a tactic favored by newer, less mature brands).

Of course, content strategy alone doesn’t determine the maturity level of a DTC brand, which is why we cover many other topics in the DTC Bullseye assessment quiz. I’ll tell you more about that in my next blog post. Stay tuned!

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Chief Commerce Officer

Holiday 2019: Lessons Learned

Online Retail Grew 18.8%

Holiday 2019 sales results have been coming in since Black Friday, and pundits like me are hard at work deciphering what they mean. One thing is abundantly clear: the holiday season was good to ecommerce. According to Mastercard SpendingPulse, overall holiday sales were up 3.4% over 2018, with online sales 18.8% higher than last year. In fact, 2019 holiday ecommerce sales accounted for 14.6% of total retail, per Mastercard. Not surprisingly, Amazon said its sales were higher than they’ve ever been, thanks to all those Echo Dots, Fire TV Sticks and other gear Amazon makes and sells.

The Date of Thanksgiving Matters

In my Lessons Learned from Black Friday blog post I talked about how FDR wanted to move Thanksgiving to the third Thursday of November to provide shoppers with more time to buy presents, but Congress balked at infusing the holiday with such over consumerism. Well, he was kind of on to something. If, in the mind of the consumer, holiday shopping begins on Thanksgiving weekend, a late Thanksgiving means fewer shopping days, and the need to be efficient in one’s shopping.

“E-commerce sales hit a record high this year with more people doing their holiday shopping online,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Incorporated, in the Mastercard SpendingPlus press release. “Due to a later than usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omnichannel sales earlier in the season, meeting consumers’ demand for the best deals across all channels and devices.

As the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving can fall anywhere between the 22nd and 28th of the month. In 2019 it fell on the 28th; next year it will fall on the 26th. Consumers are likely to feel crunched for time and may rely on ecommerce just as much as they did last year.

Consumer Confidence Matters

Going into the holiday season consumers were expected to spend an average of $1,500. Consumer confidence was buoyed by low unemployment rates, wages that have increased modestly each quarter including the fourth, and the stock market stayed close to its all-time high. This confidence may explain why particular categories — specialty apparel, electronics and jewelry grew by 17%, 10.7% and 8.8% respectively over last year.

But next holiday season might not be so rosy. It will kick off just 23 days after what promises to be an acrimonious election, with both parties predicting gloom and doom if the other side wins. Meanwhile, two-thirds of CEOs surveyed say they believe there will be a recession in 2020, and they just may give in to that fear by halting hiring and freezing wages. If that’s the case, any contraction will be exacerbated, leading to lower spending in Holiday 2020 (Note: I don’t mean to scare you about the coming year. A recession isn’t the same thing as a financial crisis. The financial crisis of 2008 has been dubbed The Great Recession, but it’s causes weren’t the result of the economy contracting, but of crazy bets made. Contractions are necessary adjustments, but more on that some other time.)

Kids, Kitchen and Kats

According to Amazon, toys, kitchen gear and pets were strong performers (in addition to electronics, that is). Legos and L.O.L. flew off the shelves, as did Instant Pots, coffee makers and Roombas.

Pet treats were among the most popular items, as was the Furbo Dog Camera, which lets dog parents monitor their pups from their smartphones, receive push notifications when they bark, and distribute treats remotely. Last year we learned that Americans spend an average of $126 per month on their pets, so we shouldn’t be surprised they’d shell out a few hundred dollars to keep tabs on them while at the office.

Last Minute Shoppers Saved Brick-and-Mortar

Overall department store sales fell by 1.08%, but it could have been worse. Thanks to procrastinators, Saturday, December 21 — aka Super Saturday — was a banner day for US retail, pulling in a record $34.4 billion, according to Customer Growth Partners. That’s 4x more sales than Cyber Monday 2019. Still, it’s a rather worrisome development for department stores, and probably doesn’t bode well for the next holiday season.

As we head into 2020, whatever it holds, it’s well worth focusing on the types of activities that can cement your relationship with your customers and keep your brand top of mind — many of the tactics deployed by DTC brands. We’ll help you do that by reporting on important trends in the blog, including how to craft the perfect gift guide (in time for Valentine’s Day) among other topics. Stay tuned and if you have questions about your ecommerce business and how SD can help you grow, let us know!

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Chief Commerce Officer

SD’s 10 Ecommerce Conferences to attend in 2020

To quote Semisonic’s “Closing Time,” “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” We’re inching towards the final moments of 2019, and at Something Digital we’ve been preparing for 2020 (hopefully you are too.) While we all get ready for the new decade ahead, we’ve come up with a list of can’t miss ecommerce conferences for 2020! Whichever you choose to attend, we’re sure you’ll walk away with not only valuable information but connections to help grow your business.

SD’s Top 10 Ecommerce Conferences:
  1. NRF, Retail Big Show: January 12th – 14th, 2020 | New York City, NY
    It’s only right to kick off the new year with “2020 vision” at the world’s largest retail expo. With over 38,000 attendees, 800+ exhibitors (Something Digital being one of them), 400 speakers from top ecommerce and retail brands, and 175+ sessions – this is one expo you should not miss!
  2. Shoptalk: March 22nd – 25th, 2020 | Las Vegas, NV
    Where can you go to find 8,000+ innovative retailers in one space discussing the future? Shoptalk. The conference features a ton of industry leaders and fun fact: this year the entire speaker line-up is women! Look forward to hearing from female leadership at companies like Ulta Beauty, Pinterest, Amazon, and much more.
  3. Adobe Summit: March 29th – April 2nd, 2020 | Las Vegas, NV
    A week filled with all the latest trends in customer experience is Adobe Summit. Brand leaders from places like Microsoft, Best Buy, and more come together with insights and innovation to share. With 400 sessions and labs, at Adobe Summit you’ll learn from the leaders of top brands that’ll cover a range of topics from advertising, omnichannel marketing, analytics, and more. Adobe acquired Magento in 2018 and in 2020 there will also be Magento Imagine at Summit too. So, there’ll be plenty of opportunity between both to meet people and learn something new.
  4. Shopify Unite: May 6th – 8th , 2020 | Toronto, Canada
    Bringing together their partner and developer community, Shopify Unite comes together once a year to “ignite the future of commerce technology.” Day one of the 3-day conference is “partner day” where partners are given the opportunity to network and connect with one another. The last two days are filled with Shopify announcements, technical workshops, talks lead by industry leaders, and some 1:1 time with API support and product experts, just to name a few!
  5. The Lead Innovation Summit: May 19th – 20th, 2020 | Brooklyn, NY
    Looking for a place where fashion brands, retailers, and investors come together? Then The Lead Innovation Summit is where you want to be. With over 1,800 attendees from the fashion and retail world, you’ll meet the right people and have the right conversations. The “festival” is two days filled with speakers from brands like DVF, Nike, Snapchat, goop, and more!
  6. Code Commerce: May 26th – 28th, 2020 | The Beverly Hilton, CA
    This annual invitation-only conference held by Recode and VoxMedia is returning to California in 2020. Focusing on tech, Kara Swisher and Recode reporters are interviewing leaders in the tech industry to discuss things like AI, automation, tech policy and regulation, innovation, mobility, and much more. These unscripted Red Chair interviews are sure to be filled with tons of insight on the current and future impact of digital technology.
  7. IRCE @ RetailX: June 9th – 11th, 2020 | Chicago, IL
    A meeting place for both online and offline retailers – IRCE (RetailX) is a place where ecommerce, design, and innovation collide. With over 1,200 exhibitors (SD being one of them) you’ll not only connect with others but be able to discover and learn the latest trends and technology to grow your business.
  8. Groceryshop: September 14th – 17th, 2020 | Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, NV
    Founded by the team that created Shoptalk, Grocery Shop is back in 2020 with over 3,000 attendees. An event for grocery retailers and CPG brands, you’ll leave the conference with tons of insights, gain exposure, and opportunities to network. From food and beverage to health and beauty, household, and pet supplies, at Groceryshop you’ll have plenty to bring back and share with your team.
  9. Etail: Multiple dates/locations
    Hosted all over the world, the Etail conferences bring together some of the top minds at the most successful retailers to meet and learn. Whether you choose to experience the Etail Palm Springs retreat from February 24th – 27th, 2020 in Palm Springs, CA or Etail Asia from March 3rd – 5th, 2020 in Singapore, you’ll gain innovative industry insights and network with over 600+ of the most successful retailers there is.
  10. CommerceNext: July 28th – 29th, 2020 | New York, NY
    Described by Something Digital’s Business Development team member Brian Lange as “A treasure trove of advice about customer acquisition and a great place to connect with forward thinking brands, retailers, and commerce tech companies.” CommerceNext is just that, what else is there a need to say?

 

Honorable mention
  • Future stores: Multiple dates/locations
    They may not be the largest but Future Stores events hold their own amongst the rest of this list. Launched in 2013 these are in-store experiences where you’ll get the opportunity to network, visit retailers for store tours, and more!

 

Is there something we missed? Do you have a conference that you love and we should know about? Let us know!

Written by: Eda Gumusay, Sales & Marketing Coordinator

A Year of Partnerships, a Year of Thought Leadership

2019 was an incredible year for Something Digital, both as a company, and for individual team members. Our end-of-year recaps always lead with what we’ve learned, and given our journey over the past 12 months, this blog post will be long.

A couple years back we published our first ebook, the Ecommerce Footwear Guide, which was a significant event for Something Digital. We published it in conjunction with our partner, Magento, and the collaboration made us realize something important: working with partners is a sure path to success. Partnerships, and the value they offer, has been an overarching theme for us in 2019, influencing how we work with clients, hire new employees, and help ecommerce businesses make the best possible decisions for the next stage in their journeys. Read on!

SD + Zoovu = Guided Selling eBook

This time last year I predicted that 2019 will be the year of guided selling and that turned out to be the case. It’s not as if I had a crystal ball; the interest in better search and browsing technology was unmistakably clear. Consumers want help in selecting the right products for them and progressive brands are eager to provide that assistance. That’s why we kicked off our thought leadership for the year with the Guided Selling eBook, which we created with our partner, Zoovu.

Working with Zoovu reaffirmed for us that creating content with a partner will pretty much guarantee success. Then again, ecommerce in general requires an ecosystem of partnerships, as few people can launch a Shopify or Magento store without integrations from many other tech providers.

Mercury and Jupiter Rising

Did you know that Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system — just a smidgen bigger than our moon? It’s also the fastest, spinning three times on its axis for every two revolutions around the sun. I’ll explain why that’s relevant in a second.

Over the past year we’ve focused on maturing the way we build our front end technology for clients. And, some clear leaders in the third-party tech marketplace have emerged, such as the Klevu search tool, and the shipping management platform, ShipperHQ.

This year we’ve worked with many brands who are small and nimble, and wanted an ecommerce platform that reflected that mindset. With them in mind we created Mercury, an accelerator program that allows Magento Commerce Cloud merchants to go live with an operational, no-frills, affordable online store faster. You can read about it here.

Jupiter, meanwhile, is the largest planet in the solar system, with a mass that’s two times greater than all the other planets combined. The planet is distinguished by a red spot, which is actually a giant storm — bigger than Earth — that has raged for hundreds of years. Jupiter gets its signature stripes and swirls from cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water that float in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. In other words, this planet, with its hundreds of moons, has a unique brand and it aims to flaunt it, which is why we decided to name our accelerator for bigger, more complex ecommerce brands, Jupiter.

Jupiter offers Magento Commerce Cloud merchants a feature set that’s equivalent to a minimum viable product (MVP) and implements customer data-driven enhancements using an iterative approach. You can read about it here.

Both accelerator programs allow SD clients to benefit from best-in-class market-tested technology, at a lower price point, as we pass along our partner pricing to our customers.

Bullseye: We Partner with Our Customers

No one goes to a McDonald’s without knowing what to expect; menus are superfluous in all fast food joints. Now compare that to the fine dining experience, where the wait staff will personally tell you about the specials, ask if you have any food allergies, and recommend the right wine with your dinner. Something Digital is fine dining. Even if you use an accelerator, we’re still going to ask a lot of questions about your preferences, the way you sell, who your customers are, and your day-to-day staff members who’ll manage your site.

Why? We want to be a partner in helping clients choose the right solution, rather than deliver a site that’s based on you prior experience or assumptions about constraints and limitations. We’ll talk with you about your products, customers and industry, and the quality that’s expected. Our menu prices are a bit higher, but we’re an elevated experience.

Bullseye

Guided selling asks the customer some questions about their needs, and recommends products based on their answers. We’ve been doing guided selling with our clients since our founding over 20 years ago, and this year we decided to make our consultative approach available to the world through Bullseye.

Bullseye is a quick and easy assessment tool we designed to help B2C and B2B companies select the right partners and services to grow their ecommerce businesses to the next level, which you can read about in our three-part blog series here, here, and here. Part 1 talks about how we use Bullseye to measure the maturity of a business (it has nothing to do with revenue or business acumen and has everything to do with the size and skillset of your ecommerce team). Part 2 is all about how to right-size the tactics and strategies you deploy to grow your business and define success. Part 3 focuses on how we use Bullseye to right-size your partnerships.

NYU WEST Fest Summer 2019

This past summer, Something Digital was invited to speak at NYU Tandon’s annual WEST Fest, where five women from our team answered questions on a moderator-led panel and questions from students on how to prepare for a future STEM career and our perspective on working in a male-dominated tech industry.

A lack of women in STEM means a lack in perspective of half of the world’s population, which puts any thriving industry competing in today’s economy at a major disadvantage. Because 41% of the Something Digital team are women, they were able to offer first-hand advice on how to create and foster a culture in technology that is equitable to all people, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or identification. Incidentally, we don’t just talk the talk, we walk it too. From hiring practices and writing job descriptions, to providing prayer and mother’s rooms, we focus on creating an inclusive environment where all can thrive. Is it any surprise that we have a diverse team?

Of course, ensuring employee success takes more than recruiting from a diverse employment pool and providing the right physical amenities. Employee success requires providing each new hire the tools, advice and mentoring, which is what we did in 2019.

Jumpstart/[Bridge] SOMETHING Mentoring Program

This year Something Digital hired eight recent college graduates, and six of them participated in our Jumpstart program, which we think of as our bridge between college and work life. Jumpstart is very practical and hands on, encompassing day-to-day tasks that allow new hires to go from zero to hero in terms of understanding what ecommerce is, its lifecycle, and the process of building a site. In addition to the rigor, Jumpstart has a feedback loop in which participants tell SD what’s working and what’s not so that we can continually improve the program. Some of our Jumpstarters have already received certifications from Magento, Shopify and Google, so we know they’re getting a lot out of the program.

[BRIDGE] SOMETHING is a six-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. It’s more about relationships…how is the new hire getting on? Are there questions he or she would like to ask in a safe space? The idea is to match someone just beginning his or her career with someone who has been around the block a few times and can provide perspective. I mentored Bradley Brecher this year, and you can read about our joint experience here.

Magento 1 End of Life — Oh the Horror!

In October we focused on encouraging merchants who are still using Magento 1 to face the reality that they needed to move to a new platform. This four-part blog series dwelt on the gruesome horrors that await retailers who fail to make plans.

Although it was a fun way to remind merchants that demise of Magento 1 is imminent, we were frank about the evil that will befall merchants and their customers who refuse to migrate.

But that’s Something Digital: We’re not afraid to lead with the difficult conversations, or to debate the difficult decisions.

Shopify

This year SD grew our Shopify practice by 50%. We’ve had a number of flagship launches, including DTC brands Robert Graham and Hudson Jeans.

We expect to continue growing our footprint in the Shopify world, especially as Shopify becomes more relevant in the space. The number of sites that use Shopify is growing, and this past October, the company announced that 1 million merchants now use its platform.

We have an ambitious year planned for 2020, as you may have guessed from our December 6th announcement. Among other things, our delivery team is moving from a traditional hierarchy to a matrix structure, and I’ve been promoted to Chief Commerce Officer. We’re already planning more thought leadership pieces, more programs to help our clients and employees succeed, and an update to Bullseye to serve the DTC community. So reserve time next year to read another lengthy blog about SD’s accomplishments in 2020!

If you have questions or comments for us, don’t hold back, let us know!

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Chief Commerce Officer

2020 Predictions from Something Digital

It’s that time of year when pundits look into their crystal ball to make predictions about the coming year. Actually, I don’t mean to be glib about this. Predicting what the future may hold is a tremendously useful exercise, and something business owners don’t always have the time to do. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day realities of running a business, but we really do need to step back and think about what’s happening in the world around us.

Here are my four predictions for 2020 and for the new decade we’re about to enter.

#1: 2020 Will be the year of business-oriented podcasts

Many people have dubbed 2019 the year of the podcast, and I tend to agree (full disclosure: my colleague, Brian Lange and I have one called Future Commerce). Podcasts aren’t new, of course; consumers started listening to them in earnest when they purchased their first smartphone. What is new is the level of sophistication of today’s podcasts. Podcast-based media companies like Gimlet Media and Serial Podcast are exceptionally good, and they’re creating a bigger appetite for on-demand audio in the market. It didn’t surprise me in the least that Spotify opted to purchase Gimlet Media for $230 million back in February, or that Spotify also bought Anchor, a startup that makes it easy for people to record and distribute podcasts. Spotify recognizes a good opportunity when it sees one, and is on a podcast buying spree.

It used to be that people who wanted to work in radio or media had to get a job at a network, so it’s pretty radical that podcasting allows them to hang their own shingle (distribution is still a challenge, which is why Gimlet Media jumped at the chance to leverage Spotify’s reach). Still, it’s worth noting that excellent content is no longer the sole purview of networks, like NPR.

Brands are getting in on the action. The House of CHANEL paved the way with its 3.55 podcast, which launched in 2017. Since then they’ve been joined by Barneys, Gucci, Margiella and Saks, which launched its own podcast earlier this year. Explains Kate Oldham, Sak’s senior vice president and general manager of beauty, jewelry and home: “the format allows us to reach a much broader audience, both in-store and on a national level.”

Kate is on to something profound. Podcasts are one of the few long-form formats that allow brands to tell their stories directly to consumers. More than that, the channel pulls your customers to your brand rather than pushing your brand onto the consumer, as is the case with email, SMS and algorithmically targeted display or social media ads. By definition, podcasts allow you to own your audience and grow it organically. With the right content you can acquire your audience without paying large sums of money to Facebook or paid search.

Final thought on podcasts: we think of them as audio only, but in fact, many are video based.

#2: Local will be cool again

My second prediction is a topic that Brian and I covered in a Future Commerce podcast, Local is Power. A key take away: There is massive untapped potential in local and smart brands are starting to make moves.

According to SpotOn, “In 2018, there were 30.2 million small businesses in operation in the United States, accounting for 99.9% of all businesses in the country.” Consumers are increasingly eager to support local businesses, especially as they read stories about the giant marketplaces abusing warehouse workers or sourcing inventory from factories all decent people blacklist. Local is decidingly cool again.

More than that, it’s extremely consumer friendly. People can touch, sniff, assess, try on, and ask questions about inventory. As the chart from BrizFeel shows, online shopping has a lot of drawbacks.

And local stores are turnkey. From point of sales to inventory showroom and customer service, everything is under one roof.

#3: The tide may turn on Amazon, as evidenced by a slowing or tapering off of Prime membership adoption.

My third prediction is the tide may begin to turn on Amazon. I think Amazon was super valuable coming out of the Great Recession, especially for people who wanted fast delivery of competitively priced mid- and low-end products. But now consumers are witnessing the realities of Amazon’s infrastructure and logistics and it isn’t a pretty picture.

Additionally, there’s the Amazon Effect, by which I mean Amazon has set a standard for fast delivery and customer service that the rest of the ecommerce universe was forced to adopt in order to remain competitive. Paradoxically, the Amazon Effect now means that consumers don’t need to go to Amazon in order to get the Amazon experience.

Of course, Amazon Prime was a huge draw. It offers a lot of benefits above and beyond free shipping, including Prime Video and Prime Music, but will that be enough to keep its Prime membership growing by leaps and bounds? I have my doubts (which are supported by a recent 2PM article by Web Smith).

The report was quite informative. For instance, it describes the experience of being in an airport terminal and seeing people of high net worth who are “mixing” consumer brands; e.g. buying from the low end of the market and mixing it with pieces from the high end of the market, like wearing Old Navy with Louis Vuitton.

Amazon isn’t luxury, nor is it off-price. It’s somewhere in the middle – and the middle seems to be rapidly disappearing (again, the anecdote from the Web Smith piece). This may be a problem for Amazon as Gen Z begins to align with DTC more closely and Boomers age out of Prime.

Gen Z, the largest purchasing power generation ever known, will grow up with an anti-Amazon predisposition fueled not just by unappealing products but also due to:

  • Having similarly great experiences directly with other brands
  • Change of heart around data / privacy implications
  • Issues around sustainability and employment practices

 

#4: Consumers will increasingly shop their values, forcing brands to step up

This is a topic that Brian and I discussed frequently throughout 2019: While the consumer wants to get more for their money, the definition of “more” is changing. In today’s world, “more” equates to social value. How is the product made? Did it destroy an ecosystem and raise global temperatures, or was its manufacturing easy on the earth? Who made the product, and were they paid a living wage? Increasingly, consumers make purchasing decisions based on these considerations.

This trend, which began with companies like Patagonia, really came into the forefront with Toms, a DTC shoe brand that donates a pair of shoes to people in need for every pair it sells to a consumer. Warby Parker did the same for glasses, and that altruism is setting a new standard for consumers. Companies like Everlane aim to show consumers exactly how their clothes are made, and by whom, in a practice the brand calls “Radical Transparency.”

Brands that prioritize social values — and lead with those messages — are grabbing a bigger and bigger slice of their markets. As I mentioned in my LinkedIn article, “Victoria’s Biggest Secret: Sustainability,” Victoria’s Secret may still be a dominant player with 24% of the intimate apparel market share, but last year the smaller, socially conscious DTC brands managed to seize 36.2% of the market. As consumers flock to these brands, they’ll create their own effect, forcing all brands to adopt sustainable and social ethics practices and positions, just as Amazon forced all online retailers to offer 2-day free shipping.

Do you have some 2020 predictions of your own? Let us know what they are!

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Chief Commerce Officer

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

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

Animated gif of lipsticks

Give your site a product-driven makeover

This beauty brand’s trailblazing strategy will inspire you

Often during the design phase of an ecommerce site, stakeholders focus on perfecting the aesthetics of the homepage with the assumption that it’s the face of the brand and the first touchpoint. But if the homepage over-emphasizes the brand proposition while downplaying or delaying the ability to shop, it may not deliver the best ROI.

For starters, customer intent can vary. New visitors may want to see a broad range of products up front, whereas returning shoppers might view the homepage as a pit stop on the way to making their next purchase.

Consider this: when gathering requirements for any project, Something Digital asks organizations to prioritize their valued conversions, and nearly all of them define increased sales as their number one success metric. How can we help customers find the products and services they need easily and with fewer barriers?

Let’s do the math. In a typical journey, customers land on a homepage, browse a menu, navigate to a grid of products, narrow their requirements with filters, click through to a product detail page, and decide if they want to buy the product. In this scenario, it takes them five steps just to think about adding one item to a shopping cart.

How might the number of steps decrease if…

  • Most content blocks on the homepage linked to products?
  • The homepage showcased best-selling products that can be purchased on the spot?
  • The navigation linked directly to products?

 

But wait: what if paid search ads didn’t drive to the homepage all, but instead directed customers to the best-performing category?

It’s time to try a more efficient workflow. At Something Digital, we advocate for clients, researching trends across verticals and recommending ways to stand out in a growing, competitive B2C ecosystem. Let’s make a case study of one brand we’re seeing break the mold, Glossier, an innovative online beauty retailer. We’ll observe how they optimize the site’s navigation, homepage, categories, and product pages to guide both new customers and loyal followers into making quick, but informed purchase decisions. First impressions matter; here are some User Experience (UX) and Content Marketing tips to get them right.

One caveat before we look into their strategy: Glossier is always enhancing the site and updating content to keep it fresh. Visual examples described and shown here were captured in August 2019.

Navigation

Megamenus — navigation menus with multiple columns of category links and promotional calls to action — are ubiquitous in ecommerce. But Glossier’s stands out from the pack. Hover over any category on devices larger than a tablet to trigger a panel flyout menu featuring the image, title, and a brief description of every product in it. We have enough visual and verbal information to click through to a product directly without ever visiting a landing page. If the silhouette images aren’t convincing enough, pass your cursor over them to reveal real-life applications of the product. Not only is the desktop navigation streamlining the path to product, but it is also an immersive experience.

Glossier's desktop megamenu and mobile navigation

Glossier looks out for their mobile shoppers, too. In addition to the traditional hamburger menu, which when tapped, expands to display the navigation, we can also intuitively swipe left and right through a list of categories that display outside of the site header at all times on all pages. These categories follow us as we scroll, minimizing friction caused by expanding and collapsing the mobile menu.

Animation showing Glossier's search functionality

Bonus Feature: Shopping via search is as satisfying as browsing the desktop navigation. We see relevant results — a set of large product images, names, and descriptive badges —that dynamically update in real-time as they continue to type. And all results lead directly to products. No tapping return, no page refresh; Glossier shows us that the standalone results page is a thing of the past.

Homepage

There’s often debate about the first content area on a homepage: Should it be a rotating carousel or static image? Should it fill the full screen width or have ample padding around it? Should it be cropped to fit within the elusive ‘fold’? But what if we spent more energy planning not what is looks like but where it links to? While hero images on most sites drive to a category page, Glossier goes bold and links to a product detail page for a top-performing product instead. Click the lifestyle half or the packaged product half of the split hero image; either way you bite, you’re one step closer to commitment. Plus, Glossier updates the hero often, so every product gets its moment in the spotlight.

Glossier's desktop and mobile homepage

Then comes the holy grail of content: Six featured customer skin-care routines fuse editorial, User Generated Content (UGC), and merchandizing into one powerful sales pitch. Conceptually, it convinces us that flawless skin is attainable with an easy DIY regimen. Could it be possible that one day they might showcase YOUR routine? Clicking through any of the real names and faces routine takes us to an intimate profile where we can read about someone like us, follow their routine, and add the full set of products to our shopping bag. Glossier gives us the proof we need to make a decision, no Product Detail page (PDP) required.

Baymard Institute, a leading web usability research institute, recommends that homepages promote at least 30% of the site’s main categories to adequately convey product diversity. Glossier does this by alternating category Calls to Action (CTAs) with a selection of best-selling products from those respective categories. We have options: dive deeper into the catalog, add products to our bag right away, or get more information from the Quick View directly from the homepage.

Glossier's desktop and mobile quick view

Bonus Feature: Quick View is optimized for mobile. Many retailers neglect or disable Quick View for smaller screens, but Glossier takes on the challenge and succeeds; everyone from any device can view product details at-a-glance.

Product Listing Page (PLP)

This is not your average PLP. Within the first viewport — the visible area of the web page — a contextual image and marketing copy communicate the brand voice, while a capsule product collection shows the scope of the category. These featured products are given prime real estate and are strategically merchandized to align with promotions, email marketing, and inventory. We’re enticed to look at items we might not have considered before defaulting to our usual browsing patterns. Plus, there is no false floor. We get brand flavor and a substantial taste of the product set, encouraging us to scroll for even more crave-worthy content. Like the homepage, all products can be viewed, configured and purchased directly from the PLP.

Glossier's desktop and mobile product listing page

Presumably because they have a small product set, we can sort, but not filter products. However, we’re still able to efficiently find the serum, moisturizer, or gift set made for our unique skincare needs. I call this the “MVPL” effect: Minimum Viable Product Listing. First, products have short, unequivocal names that describe what they do. Next, each product has up to two badges: one that displays on top of the image to advertise deals, and one that displays below the name to plug special features. We circumvent the PDP, getting helpful details here and now. Lastly, by combining the price with the CTA, Glossier streamlines visual clutter. It’s clear exactly what we’re adding to our bag, how much it costs, and how much we’re saving.

Hovering over a product on Glossier's desktop product listing page

Bonus Feature: Every hover is an opportunity. For example, hovering a product image reveals an alternate contextual image, intended to surprise and delight us. Some static images hover to animated gifs, telling a story, without words, about who shops Glossier and how they use the products. These joyful interactions persuade us in a way that no bulleted list of benefits can. As for CTAs, button hover states differ when products can be added to our bag right away vs. when we need to make size or color selections. For instant purchase items, the bright, accessible text color on hover reinforces urgency. And in case we still aren’t ready to take the leap, hovering anywhere on the product triggers a reminder that Quick View is an option, too.

Closing the Deal

If we have sufficient information to bypass the PDP, great! If we need more, Glossier’s efforts to push traffic to their content-driven product pages pays off tenfold. Let’s roundup the top five most effective selling tools on the PDP. We’re convinced. Will you be?

  1. Silhouettes? Please. We need results!: The photo gallery, which includes images of real people who swear by the product alongside studio and model shots, is a visual testimony to quality. Plus, makeup captions mention which product variation the person is wearing.Glossier's desktop and mobile product detail page image gallery
  2. It’s all in the details: Everyone shops differently. Whereas I’m a sucker for clever descriptions, you may be more pragmatic and need a structured list of product details to trust the brand. Glossier’s specs vary in length and format, accommodating all of us. Perhaps cute, hand-drawn icons representing product benefits — like a peach for ‘plumping’ — resonate with you? Glossier has those, too.
  3. W.A.K.: As we mentioned earlier, UGC is GOAT. We can read, search, and filter reviews to fill in any gaps within the product specs. And we can rate and leave reviews — pics included — contributing to the community. Post-purchase, we can share our IRL routine and post our experiences to Instagram, where other brand devotees can shop the look. Word-of-mouth is powerful, especially sealed with a shade of raspberry pink.User generated content on Glossier's desktop and mobile product detail page
  4. We’ll have one of everything: Related products and cross-sells are effortless to add on. In essence, we can design our perfect bundle from a single page.
  5. Easy, breezy, beautiful, transparent: Glossier doesn’t have anything to hide, literally. We’re enticed to scroll through the enjoyably rich one-long-page layout and we’re never asked to expand, collapse, show more, or show less to get information. Fewer steps = a faster path to checkout.

 

Bonus Feature: Retailers often opt for a tabbed or accordion layout instead of a one-long-page layout, arguing that customers won’t want to scroll, but Glossier shuts that myth down. The primary CTA conveniently follows us on scroll, AKA Sticky Add to Bag. From anywhere on page, we can access the Buy Form, the area on the PDP where we select color, size, quantity, and/or any other product variant and add the item to our bag. We’re free to explore; the option to buy will be there for us when we’re ready.

Glossier's sticky add to bag feature on mobile

From header to footer, homepage to the shopping bag, Glossier’s ecommerce strategy is product-focused. Their online store experience is tailored for customers to make informed purchase decisions early on in as few steps as possible. Every CTA either navigates to product pages or allows us to bypass PDPs entirely — even signing up for the mailing list triggers a welcome email that links to, you guessed it, a product. And it works. According to Bloomberg, Glossier’s revenue more the doubled last year.

But it doesn’t end there. Glossier could further optimize the site in the future by displaying alternative products for zero search results, saving customer preferences to personalize content, or inviting new customers to take a quiz unlocking the best products for their skin type. They exemplify why retailers should consider deviating from the traditional checkout funnel, investing more in PDPs, and shortening the path to conversion.

Are you inspired to rethink your conversion strategy? Something Digital’s award-winning Designers and Digital Strategists can help you revamp your site’s UX and Content Marketing — and measure the revenue impact. Give us a call or email us to meet your business goals today.

Writer: Gina Angelotti, Interactive Designer