Choosing the right SSL certificate for your e-commerce site is crucial

The internet is an ever-expanding world of opportunity, both for legitimate businesses and for criminals. To ensure you get the best rather than the worst of it, you need to protect your website with an SSL certificate. The trick is choosing the right option for your business.

What is an SSL certificate?

An SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate addresses security on your site in two ways:

  1. Data Encryption: It ensures that all communication between your website, it’s server and a visitor is encrypted and therefore secure. This means that customer usernames, passwords and credit card details are encrypted, so it can’t be intercepted or manipulated by anybody.

  2. Authentication: It authenticates the identity of the company that holds the certificate. This gives visitors either an approximate idea or exact data about who they’re dealing with, depending on the level of the certificate.

Customers buying from your e-commerce business can then rest easy, knowing that you are a legitimate business and that their personal information can’t be read or used by a third party. This protects not only the customer but also your business’s reputation.

The way that customers know a site is secure, is when they see ‘https://’ rather than ‘http’ in the search engine results or at the beginning of a website address (URL):

Google search result with enphasis on where to find if the site is SSL secure.

Another way to identify a secure website is to look for the padlock at the beginning of the URL:

Screenshot of plumblink home page with enphasis on where to find if the site is SSL secure

The padlock and https, plus trust seals on your site from your security provider, boosts customers’ confidence in your business. It can also increase your search engine rankings. All of this translates into higher conversion rates and more money in the bank for you.

Without an SSL certificate, visitors to your site will see a ‘Not secure’ message in the URL. Not surprisingly, your visitors are unlikely to stick around to see what you have to offer.

Where to see if a site is not SSL secure

How does an SSL certificate work?

Once you’ve been approved for your SSL certificate, all you need to do is install it onto your web server. Then when a visitor lands on your site their browser checks if your site has an SSL certificate. If it does, an ‘SSL handshake’ takes place during which the browser makes sure the certificate is valid, using public and private keys to communicate securely during this part of the interaction.

Once the validity of the certificate is confirmed, a third ‘session key’ is created which is used to encrypt the rest of the interaction, creating a secure connection. Both parties need to have this session key in order to unscramble the communication.

Types of SSL certificates

There are several different kinds of SSL certificates and it’s important to know which option is right for your business. To help you decide, start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Encryption: How much sensitive data do I handle and therefore how strong should my encryption be for security reasons?

  2. Authentication: How strong is my site visitors’ need to know that my business is legitimate?

  3. Single- or multi-domain: How many websites am I securing?

A. Encryption: How much security do I really need?

When buying an SSL certificate, note that some products’ encryption strength may vary. The certificate encryption strength is a measure of number of bits in the key used to encrypt data during a sessions. The bigger the number, the longer it would take a computer to decrypt the data.

It is strongly recommended to use 256 bit encryption on your e-commerce website. But it is important to note that this SSL certificate will provide you with up to 256 bit encryption protection as there are many other variables in play such as your server configuration and the visitor’s browser capabilities.

At Comaytics, we use Comodo SSL Certificates and all their products use 256-bit encryption for maximum security and protection of your customers’ private information.

Please note:

Name change: Comodo Certificate Authority was acquired by Sectigo in Oct 2017. Brand changes have been implemented during 2019. There will be no change for visitors of websites protected by legacy Comodo SSL certificates.

Comalytics offers: All information below is directly related to Comodo (Sectigo) – our default SSL choice. However, Comalytics also implements Symantec, GeoTrust, Thawte and RapidSSL if requested. Contact us to discuss your options.

B. Authentication: How strong is my site visitor’s need to know that my business is legitimate?

All SSL certificates encrypt communication, but each offers a different level of authentication.

Let’s look at the options from the most basic level of validation (Domain Validation) to the most complex (Extended Validation):

The different types of SSL Validation.

1. A domain validation (DV) SSL certificate

This certificate encrypts communication and it authenticates the ownership of the domain. From your visitor’s perspective their sensitive data will be secure, and if they know and trust your company, they won’t need to know who is behind the domain. However, if you are a bigger e-commerce site with an unknown brand, you will do well to upgrade your domain validation to an extended validation so that your visitor has trust in the ownership and legitimacy of your business.

  • What it offers: 256-bit symmetric encryption and domain validation

  • What you need to do: Prove ownership of your domain

  • How long it takes to issue: Usually a few minutes

  • Cost: Free with all Comalytics websites

2. An organisation validation (OV) SSL certificate

This is the next level up. It also offers 256-bit symmetric encryption and the level of authentication is higher as only legitimate legal entities can get one. Organisations are authenticated by real agents checking information against business registry databases hosted by governments. Here are the elements that are verified:

An example of an organisation validation SSL certificate

Visitors, clicking on the OV certificate, can see the necessary informtaion to validate your organisation.

The problem is that, at first glance, it’s not easy for the visitor to distinguish between a DV and OV SSL certificate, and not everyone knows where to find the added information that’s available about your company.

In the URL, it looks exatly the same as a Domain Validation SSL certificate:

An organisation validation url

  • What it offers: 256-bit symmetric encryption, light business authentication and display verified organisational information in the certificate details.

  • What you need to do: Provide proof that:

    • You own the domain

    • Your company is a legitimate legal entity

    • Your company is based where you say it is

  • How long it takes: 1 – 2 days

3. An extended validation (EV) SSL certificate

An EV certificate (at Comodo) also includes 256-bit symmetric encryption, but the validation of your organisation is of the highest level. In some browsers, it’s extremely obvious to visitors that your site is secure, as the address bar displays as green and shows your company name, along with the padlock and ‘https’ . However, this differs across browsers and a lot of change and debate is occuring in the industry currently. At the time of writing this blog, an EV SSL certificate displayed as follows across major browsers:

An extended validation (EV) in differemt browsers SSL certificate

Source

This extra level of protection has been proven to boost sales, which means that, although it costs a bit, you get good returns on your investment.

Here are the elements verified in this certificate:

3.	An extended validation (EV) SSL certificate

  • What it offers: 256-bit symmetric encryption and extended organisation validation

  • What you need to do: Provide proof that:

    • You own the domain

    • Your company is a legitimate legal entity

    • Your company is based where you say it is

    • Your company is registered as a business

    • Your company approves the SSL certificate

    • All the business validation documents you need to provide are correct

  • How long it takes: Usually 1 – 5 days but sometimes longer

C. How many websites am I securing?

Once you’ve decided on the level of validation you need, you need to make sure your certificate secures all your domains.

Choose from:

A single domain SSL certificate

Single-name SSL certificates cover only one domain or subdomain.

So if you buy a single-name SSL for a website called www.cheapdeals.com, it won’t cover mail.cheapdeals.com.

This can be useful if, for example, you have added a subdomain after getting your original SSL certificate for your main domain.

A wildcard SSL certificate

A wildcard SSL certificate covers several subdomains that fall under one domain, as long as the url structure flows from the main domain.

So if you buy one for cheapdeals.com, it could also cover mail.cheapdeals.com or login.cheapdeals.com, but not example.shop.cheapdeals.com.

This means you only need to go through the validation process once for all your subdomains, saving you time and money. Note that all subdomains must be listed on your SSL certificate.

A multi-domain SSL certificate

Multi-domain (or SAN) certificates allow you to secure several domains and their subdomains all under one certificate, again saving you time and money.

At Comalytics, we use Comodo as our SSL certificate provider. Here is a highlevel overview of what is included in their certificates:

a highlevel overview of what is included in their certificates from Comodo

Factors to consider when choosing an SSL certificate for your e-commerce site

Before you rush to buy your SSL certificate, there are several other aspects to think through. We’ve already mentioned:

  • The strength of encryption

  • The different levels of authentication – domain, organisation and extended validation – and,

  • The number of domains you have.

Below are a few more factors to take into account when making your choice:

Factors to take into account when making your choice

Warranty

If fraudulent activity does happen on your e-commerce site despite the security you have in place, the certificate authority will pay you out. The amount you get will depend on the level of validation you have.

Reputation

Make sure the certificate authority (CA) you choose is well respected and has plenty of users. They are more likely to have a strong infrastructure and to stay on top of the latest developments in cybercrime.

Issuance time

As we’ve mentioned already, the higher the level of validation, the longer it takes to get your SSL certificate. The EV certificate especially can take a while as all the information you submit needs to be thoroughly checked by the CA.

Price

How much your SSL certificate costs will depend on the CA you use, the level of authentication and number of domains, and the validation period. A multi-year validation can save you time and money, especially if your business is well-established.

Customer support

Your CA should be available to help when you need support. If you can’t get hold of them, that’s not a good sign.

Extra security elements

There are many other security options available and some of these may well come as a package deal with your SSL certificate, especially if it’s an EV option. Investigate what’s included in your package and whether it might be useful for your business.

The bottom line…

If you’re running any kind of e-commerce site, by default you’ll be dealing with sensitive customer information like passwords and bank details. You do get a good basic DV SSL certificate with your Comalytics site. However to protect both your customers and your business, you may need an organisation validation (OV) or an extended validation (EV) one.

Make sure you do your homework before you commit to a certificate or a provider. As you go through the process, keep in mind that your SSL certificate will pay you dividends in customer trust and in sales, so it’s well worth the time and money invested.

Boost your e-commerce sales with these product bundling strategies

Product bundling is a gold-standard practice for e-commerce businesses today, whether you’re a start-up or a large, established business. It’s a strategy driven by value perception and the demand for shopping convenience and personalised choices. For a merchant, bundling increases not only your average order value, but also your number of new and repeat customers.

What is product bundling?

Product bundles are essentially package deals made up of at least two items, sometimes more. The products involved are usually complementary to each other or, less frequently, they might be similar items. The bundled products are sold together at a discount compared to what the customer would pay for them individually. (Note that when merchants offer more than one of the exact same product in a packaged deal, then it’s referred to as a ‘multipack’ rather than a product bundle.)

The psychology of product bundling

Product bundling works by creating two perceptions for the customer: convenience and good value for money.

Convenience

From the consumer’s point of view, product bundling makes shopping extremely easy and convenient. When you present them with either a ready-made or a customisable bundle, they don’t need to spend extra time and energy thinking about what else they might need and then searching for it.

Woman holding an ipad showing product bundling

Good value for money

Bundling essentially reduces the “pain of paying”. These days, customers have access to almost unlimited information online, which in many cases makes it easy for them to compare prices. This is very useful but it also increases the pressure to find a good deal.

Bundling addresses this in two ways:

  • If the customer does know how much they would be paying for the individual items, and it’s clear they will be paying less in total for the bundle, they feel they are getting a bargain.

  • If they don’t know how much the individual items would cost (i.e. the prices are ‘opaque’), it’s impossible to judge the value of a bundle against the individual items. Ironically, this frees them up from having to make that call and they more easily part with their money. This is particularly true in some industries. For example, if you are buying a luxury car, the salesman doesn’t itemise how much you are paying for the leather-bound steering wheel and the custom trim. You simply pay for the ‘luxury interior package’, which includes those features and more.

Either way, bundling closes the deal. By being creative in your bundling, you drive the perception of receiving a discount, without becoming discount driven or even experiencing a major impact on your profitability.

Is product bundling right for your e-commerce business?

Certain types of businesses are very well suited to bundling, while others may not be. To find out if it might work for you, look carefully at your analytics and your customer personas. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you have customers who would value a product bundle due to its convenience and/or price advantage?

  2. Do you have customers who often buy certain items together – or might they be persuaded to? For example, think about someone who wants to start camping. They’ve never done it before and need advice on what to buy, so bundling a camping starter kit could be very helpful to them.

  3. Do certain products naturally complement each other?

  4. Do you have a new or little-known product you want to introduce to your clients?

  5. Do you have products that don’t sell well on their own, but will definitely sell if combined with a complementary product? Fast food restaurants are an excellent example of this. A side of chips is a huge seller in a KFC or McDonalds – but it’s hardly ever bought on its own.

  6. Do you have lower-priced products that could increase the overall value of the package if they are bundled with something more valuable? Just be careful if you are pairing expensive and inexpensive products (see more on this below).

  7. Do you have dead stock you want to move instead of sending it back to the supplier? This is a way to correct an inventory mistake – as long as you never disappoint your customer by giving them old or inferior products in a bundle.

Benefits of product bundling for your business

Providing great value to your customers is always going to create customer loyalty, which pays long-term dividends for your business. Your financials benefit in many other ways too, for example:

  • Revenue: You increase your average order value (AOV) because the perceived value tempts customers to spend more money than they planned (while still feeling like they’re getting a bargain).

  • Profit: Selling multiple products in one solution means a greater initial return on the cost of acquiring a customer.

  • Wider sales: When you bundle well-known items with lesser-known ones, you broaden your customers’ awareness of your product offerings. They may then buy more products from you in future, rather than going to your competitors.

  • Inventory management: Bundling is a great way to get rid of older or less popular products that might otherwise take up space in your warehouse or eventually have to be written off as dead stock.

  • Trust: Curated recommendations can build or enhance the relationship between the merchant and customer.

  • Differentiate: If done well, with creative flair and innovative thinking, product bundling can really differentiate you from your competition.

Best practices for product bundling in e-commerce

Make sure you follow these important guidelines to get the most out of your product bundling strategies:

The products you bundle should naturally fit together

A bundle could be a collection of items that complement each other, for example, a cellphone with a protective cover and headset, or a braai with charcoal and braai tongs. Just make sure all the items are of similar quality, or you may decrease the perceived value of the bundle.

Test your bundles if you’re pairing expensive and inexpensive items

Research published in the Harvard Review shows that bundling expensive and inexpensive items together doesn’t always work. Pepperdine researchers Alexander Chernev and Aaron Brough cited an example of a home gym which sold much better alone than when combined with a fitness DVD. Likewise, if a luxury hotel charges R20 for a 500ml bottle of water, guests feel ripped off. But if the hotel room price is raised by R20 and the water is included, the ‘free’ water feels like a really nice touch. It all comes down to the perception of value.

Image of a group of items, Image contains two bottles of water, pringle chips, cups and glasses

The price of the bundle should be lower than the sum of the individual parts (if all the prices are known)

If the customer can research prices of all the individual parts of your bundle, then the discount they are getting by buying the bundle needs to be very clear to them. Show them exactly how much money they will save on every bundling option.

Focus on benefits and not price

If price-based bundling presents problems for your business for whatever reason, then avoid price comparisons by refocusing your bundle marketing to highlight other benefits. For example, if you sell phones and phone accessories, you could highlight convenience and improved device performance as the primary benefits of bundling.

Beware of cognitive load

Cognitive load is the amount of mental energy it takes to complete a task – in this case for the customer to understand the bundle. High cognitive load can make the customer’s decision more difficult, leading to inaction or exit. So, your bundles need to be easy to understand and make intuitive sense.

Worried on line shopper trying to pay with a credit card and a laptop sitting in a bar terrace

Selling the bundle needs to be worth your while

As you’re selling the bundled items at less than their usual individual prices, your profit margins will be lower. The extra sales and higher AOV should more than compensate but don’t assume that. Be rigorous about running your numbers. The key to making product bundles work is symbiosis i.e. your bundling strategy should benefit both you and the customer.

Use bundling as an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise

Think about how you, as an expert in your field, can provide guidance to a customer who may be a novice. For example, someone who is just starting their own plumbing business and needs tools, or a person who has decided to start brewing beer at home. They might not be aware of everything they need, and your bundle can educate them while also saving them money.

Let your customers custom bundle

Research done by Timothy Derdenger and Vineet Kumar showed that when companies gave customers the option to purchase products as a bundle, sales went up. However when customers were forced to buy a fixed bundle, instead of being given the choice to mix and match, sales went down by 20%.

At Comalytics we have a plug-in that can help you set up your bundles, and then allow your customers to alter them to suit their needs. This works well for book lists, gift bundling, starter kits and so forth. Our product bundling plug-in is easy to implement and if your site integrates to your ERP, you can also take advantage of some extremely useful data management features.

A screenshot of Comalytics' product bundling functionality

See a demo of this plug-in here.

Think about your packaging

When you show products attractively packaged together, it helps to subtly convince buyers that they go together.

Best ideas for product bundles

There are many ways you can put bundles together. Some of the most popular and profitable include:

  • A product bundled with its accessories e.g. a laptop with a software package and a mouse, or a washing machine, clothes drier and laundry basket.

  • Bulk buys of similar products e.g. selling a curated case of beer or wine, rather than individual bottles. Some businesses allow the customer to create their own bundles.

  • Collections of equipment or consumables e.g. baking or cooking bundles, or a lavender-scented collection of soap, hand-cream and candles.

  • Bundles of useful basic essentials e.g. a spice collection or basic DIY tools like a screwdriver, hammer and spanner.

  • Seasonal bundles or gift packs e.g. a pack of three different Christmas decorations or a beautifully packaged box of chocolate, wine and nuts.

  • Popular products bundled with new or less well known ones (or even old stock you want to clear) e.g. a cleanser and toner bundled together with a free sample of a new eye cream. Once the customer tries the new eye cream, they may well want to buy it again.

  • Products bundled with gift cards or discount vouchers, especially for once-off purchases e.g. with a hair-drier. The gift card or discount voucher encourages customers to come back to your store for something else, or acts as a referral if they choose to give it to someone else.

  • Up-selling or cross-selling by offering related items, creating a discounted bundle e.g. if a customer orders a gaming joystick, offer them the 2019 version of a popular game bundled with the joystick.

  • Recommendations of complementary items based on “Others who bought this also bought…” or “Frequently bought together”. This gives the customer other ideas of what they might like to buy.

The bottom line…

As with all business strategies, there’ll be some trial and error with product bundling. If you keep value and customer convenience front of mind, there’s a good chance you’ll develop better customer relationships and see long-term benefits. Make sure you balance that with short-term profits though. Carefully analyse revenue and profit projections for both unbundled and bundled options. Then track bundling performance along with customer satisfaction to make sure this strategy makes sense.

Get ahead of the curve with e-commerce trends for 2020

Technology moves so fast these days that savvy business owners always need to be looking ahead. If you want your business to thrive, staying on top of e-commerce trends is critical, especially given that changes to your site often require development time. Whether you’re running a B2B or B2C site, our summary of online sales trends for 2020 will get you ahead of the curve.

Some previous e-commerce trends are now so well established that they hardly bear mentioning. For example, if your site isn’t fast and responsive, or you don’t yet have a content and social media strategy, we recommend you spend some time on these basics early in 2020. To help you get your foundation in place, see our checklist of e-commerce best practices to follow.

For those of you who already have the basics in place, here are some trends to keep your eye on for the near (and not so near) future.

E-commerce trends on the rise

1. Searching for products online and on your site

a) Image search

Ready-to-buy consumers are more likely than ever to want to search for products using a photo instead of a keyword or search term. They may use an image they saw on the internet or take a photo of an item themselves.

The future of search will be about pictures rather than keywords

Big companies like ASOS, Pinterest and Target are already using visual search technology. This helps a user to simply snapshot an image, upload it and then find a similar item on their site.

Image search probably won’t replace keyword search so e-commerce sites would do well to consider offering both forms of search. If you write a blog about “how to care for your sunglasses,” customers will find it using search terms like “sunglass maintenance” or “caring for my sunglasses”. When they’re ready to actually buy a pair of sunglasses though, they may use an image to search for what they’re looking for – and this distinction will be significant for conversion rates.

Image showing a person taking a picture to find online products that match

Tip: Tools like Slyce, Visenze and Cortexica can help you with visual search on your e-commerce website.

b) Voice search extending into voice commerce

With about 50% of all searches predicted to be voice-based by 2020, this is a rapidly growing trend. There has been a big uptake of voice assistant and voice search usage in the last six months (US based).

Bargrapgh showing when users first started using voice searching

Source

As well as searching, shoppers will complete their purchases by interacting with their voice-activated intelligent assistants such as Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon Echo (powered by Alexa), Google Home (powered by Google Assistant) or Apple’s Siri. This is already happening and will continue into the future.

Tip:

E-commerce companies will need to adjust their SEO to keep up with these changes. This requires:

  • A considerable effort to optimise site speed;

  • Adjusting keywords for slight differences in written vs spoken search queries;

  • Ensuring your site is mobile responsive;

  • Using long-tail keywords;

  • Leveraging the use of Schema Markups or Structured Data;

  • And more.

c) Advanced product search on your site

Although advanced site search is mainstream already, South African online merchants are now becoming more aware of this consumer need. Visitors expect your e-commerce site search to work as well as a Google search, because that is the search capability they’ve become accustomed to.

They want their site search terms to be understood, taking into account spelling errors and synonyms. They want the search tool to provide them with predictive search words, relevant to the specific site. Most of all, they want their search results page to produce relevant data and also to be customisable. In other words, they want to sort their results according to popularity, price and other factors important to them. Moreover, they now expect their search results to be personalised, taking into account their preferences and previous online behaviour.

Tip: You can test drive the super-fast DooFinder site search tool we have installed for these clients: www.plumblink.co.za, www.gabriel.co.za and www.redpepperonline.co.za. The results do depend on your product categorisation, which is an extremely important search factor.

2. E-commerce website functionality

a) Exceptional and unique images

We already know that images, and now video, are crucial to making a product real for a customer shopping online. In future, customers will want to know instantly if a product is right for them personally. No-one wants a lengthy explanation of a company’s purpose or mission. Instead, to stand out from the crowd, your product information will need to show customers how the product is suited to them.

Consider how Bellroy has done it. The video on their homepage helps visitors understand exactly what problems they’re solving. Then, if you explore their products, notice they use product videos, images and descriptions to make it clear how each solution fits the customer’s need. No thinking required – you immediately know if it’s what you’re looking for.

Tip:

Consider Sirv to help you do the following:

  • Manage images for your e-commerce website through features like bulk resizing, faster loading time, image optimisation and more.

  • Provide responsive images so your images adjust to whatever device is being used.

  • Give your customers a 360 degree view of your products. To set this up, you need to photograph your products on a turntable.

  • Show your products in full detail without slowing down your website. Sirv uses the same technology as Google Maps, so the load time of hundreds of small images is rapid.

Considering that image search is on the rise, it may be time to invest in your product images.

b) Personalisation supported by machine learning and AI

Personalisation is a very strong theme for many of the new technologies for eCommerce and this is supported by artificial intelligence. Technology is already capable of tracking user behaviour and preferences by analysing browsing history and past purchases, then formulating appropriate responses through machine learning. This allows merchants to address their shoppers on an individual basis by communicating through dynamic website designs, personalised pricing, ads tailored to the shopper’s interests, tailored product recommendations and sending highly relevant emails.

quote - By 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital business to increase their profits by up tp 15%

Source

As time becomes a scarce commodity, buyers will value a brand that appeals directly to their needs and preferences, and helps them quickly find what they want.

The graphs below show the ways merchants currently like to personalise, as well as what they’re planning for the future:

Bargraphs ways to personalize your e-commerce site

Source

c) Augmented and virtual reality

Augmented reality (AR) means to enhance the real world – or at least our perception of it. AR superimposes a layer of virtual information/data/products over what we see around us with our naked eye (or on a screen). For example, placing the digital image of a couch in your living room to see how it will look before you buy it, or testing how sunglasses will look on you before purchasing. Or perhaps going into a physical store, picking up AR glasses and being given extra information on every product you touch or look at.

Person using app to see what an empty room could look like

Look at these example sites:

Virtual reality (VR) on the other hand, means immersing a person into a completely different virtual setting. This is done through a special device which helps you feel like you’re leaving your real surroundings and becoming part of a parallel virtual world. In e-commerce, applications could include building virtual show-rooms or virtual stores alongside your online and physical stores. Or building a virtual image of your new home and walking virtually through it to experience its flow, light and features. Imagine sitting on your bed at home and visiting a 5th Avenue New York store, a wonderful experiential store that just opened in Vietnam or a new concept store in Copenhagen.

Tip: Augment is a tool that can be applied to B2C or B2B e-commerce. Integrate it to your site and allow customers to try your products in life-like situations. Using this tool within your e-commerce business removes the guesswork for visitors shopping online.

d) Chatbot support

When we first started shopping online, virtual assistance was almost unheard of. Now when customers need help, they expect to be instantly supported on-site with attention and assistance. Helping customers make better decisions keeps them coming back and also creates good ambassadors for your brand.

The first step in this direction was offering live chat with an agent, and the trend now is towards chatbots, which are the machine equivalent of live chat agents. Depending on your business and your needs, chatbots can be programmed to answer questions about products and handle complaints. They are even able to ‘learn’ (powered by artificial intelligence), using a customer’s behaviour to identify what they need and adjusting their responses.

White robot on a blue background

Tip:

  • Live chat: Talk to your customers in real-time via one of several chat integrations, such as Zendesk chat.

  • Chatbots: Guidelines to consider when designing your chatbot system:

    • The chatbot’s voice, tone and personality needs to reflect that of your brand.

    • Don’t write conversation-killing lines for your chatbot. Rather get him/her to ask questions that help the user move further down the conversion funnel.

    • Be clear about your chatbot goals, so you can make sure the platform you choose is able to deliver.

  • More and more chatbot tools are emerging that will allow merchants to create a bot easily. This article discusses the top 10 tools to create your own chatbot.

  • Freshdesk is an alternative tool that we sometimes integrate for live or bot chat.

e) Dynamic and personalised pricing

Dynamic pricing is a pricing strategy developed to help your business stay relevant to the market and thus competitive. With this technology, the prices of your products change based on variables such as supply, competitors’ prices, demand, day of the week or time of the day, seasons, weather and so forth. All your customers see the same price but that price changes over time (be that over a shorter or longer period).

Amazon uses this pricing technique and has demonstrated that it’s critical for e-commerce when competing with omnichannel and brick-and-mortar players. It drives both margin growth and earnings through the perception that you have competitive prices – without discounting your products in a race to the bottom.

Personalised pricing on the other hand, is when a merchant has an idea of who the customer is and they adjust a product’s pricing based on a specific customer’s characteristics, behaviour and actions. A personalised price is shown to one specific person at a given time. This has been around for some time in B2B and is now becoming a need in B2C e-commerce.

This method allows an online merchant to discreetly offer a deal to a customer who has a lower willingness to pay – and therefore, instead of losing the sale, to win it. A risk though is that shoppers may not feel comfortable with you knowing their shopping habits. They might not trust you if they know you offer different prices to different customers. There could also be legal concerns with discrimination and operational difficulties with returns.

If it’s done right though, this can be very rewarding for you and your customers. To “do it right,” according to some experts, dip your toe in the water by providing pricing tiers for different segments first.

Amazon failed in personalising pricing years ago and has not attempted it again.

Both methods are sophisticated, access large amounts of real-time data and use the same math.

Tip: Pricing tools such as Minderest, Prisync and others are available to integrate to your e-commerce site.

f) B2C features for B2B

With so many B2B buyers shopping online at B2C stores in their personal lives, they now expect the same kinds of features from B2B e-commerce sites. This includes great visuals, enhanced searches and all the information they could wish for at their fingertips.

3. Consumer behaviour changes

a) Omni-channel

Omni-channel shopping is already massive and will only grow going forward. Customers are always looking for more convenient ways to shop, saving them time and effort. For example, many users search online – often across multiple platforms and devices – for the product they want. Then they either buy it online or in-store, or buy it online and pick it up in-store. If they want to return it, they may interact with a call centre and send it back via courier to a warehouse.

Keeping track of the customer’s journey, including their actions and data, the effect of digital campaigns on them and so on, requires complex systems. The customer’s experience of your brand, values, prices, processes and communication (regardless of the channel) must be seamless and consistent.

quote - 2020 for e-commerce is all about omnipresence. The customer journey is now far from linear; it's not only multi-device, but multi-platform.

Tip:

  • Integrate e-commerce and ERP systems: Your ERP system should be the sole data source for all your channels. Make sure your provider is an expert in integrating ERP systems with e-commerce stores and other channels. Comalytics integrates to these ERP systems, including SAP and Microsoft Dynamics Navision (with more in the pipeline).

  • Consider a Product Information Manager: With multiple channels on the go, this handy piece of software helps you keep one source of your product specifications, photos, videos, installation manuals and marketing materials up to date and distributed correctly. Our Comalytics Product Information Manager software is available for use on both B2C or B2B sites.

  • Stream your products to popular platforms: Integrate your site with local channels like PriceCheck, bidorbuy and OLX, as well as a multitude of global ones such as Amazon and Walmart.

b) Social commerce

Humans are social animals. Back when purchasing a product online was only possible on our websites, having ‘social proof’ was a massive trend and it’s now mainstream best practise. People want to buy what other people have tested, approved and endorsed. Now, driven by convenience, people want to buy right there within their favourite social media platform, where they can see an influencer or a friend displaying the product. Instagram is leading the charge with their new Instagram Checkout as a prime example of the future of social commerce.

Tip:

  • Integrate your e-commerce website with Facebook and Google Shopping

  • Utilise Instagram to its full shopping potential

  • Remember that your website remains the central channel that customers will visit to decide if they trust you. Make sure their experience on your website is consistent with your social commerce and other channels.

c) Progressive web applications

Progressive web applications (PWAs) are seen as the future of mobile devices. The major difference between PWAs and native apps is that PWAs are delivered on a mobile device using https through a browser (in other words, it is technically a website), while offering an app-like experience, including features such as off-line use and push notifications. They therefore combine the best of website and mobile apps in one package. Native apps require approval and several steps for payment, plus download from an app store.

Tip: At Comalytics we build PWAs according to your needs and in record time. Speak to us to find out what is possible.

4. Strategic direction enforced by Internet of Things

Broadband internet is becoming readily available and the cost of connecting is decreasing. More devices are being created with wi-fi capabilities and sensors built into them. Technology costs are going down and smartphone penetration is only growing. All of these things are creating the right climate for the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is all about connecting any device with an on/off switch to the internet and/or to other devices.

The IoT is a giant network of connected “things”.

Image of icons that are connected to a network

Imagine your alarm clock waking you up at 6am and telling your coffee maker to start making your cup of coffee. Or your office equipment knowing when it needs to re-order stationery or ink supplies. The IoT can also be applied to “smart cities”, helping us reduce waste and pollution, improving efficiency of energy use, etc.

Today IoT-enabled sensors are already being used for:

  • Inventory management

  • Product quality control by monitoring temperatures

  • Manufacturing or warehouse equipment maintenance alerts

  • Smart mirrors that let customers try on clothes virtually

  • Dash buttons that allow customers to re-order household items that are running low (developed by Amazon)

What does this have to do with e-commerce trends in the near future? Well, as things get connected, the consumer will more and more use other devices and interfaces than just their laptops, desktops or phones to interact with and buy from merchants. Your e-commerce website will become just one of many, many touch points for the consumer. Imagine multi-channel exploded.

Merchants will be able to reach consumers with helpful articles and videos, personalised product and price recommendations, personal account information and payment methods on their electronic watches, fridge display units, intercom or security system, smart TV or phone, and so forth. This means that e-commerce merchants need to start thinking right now about e-commerce software solutions that can integrate their back-end data into any front-end application necessary.

Tip: At Comalytics, we believe your ERP, e-commerce and PIM systems should be integrated. The ERP system should be the master source of all activity, using APIs to interface with different front-ends.

5. Business model changes

a) Direct to consumer

Many manufacturers are expanding their business model to also sell directly to the public, rather than going through intermediaries like wholesalers, distributors or retailers. This new B2B2C model only works for certain businesses but it has many benefits, including opening up a new sales channel and giving manufacturers direct access to data on their customers.

b) Subscription services

Subscription services work well when your customers tend to regularly reorder consumable items, or if you offer curated collections of products. They can be personalised and the customer gets convenience plus any discounts offered for the service vs what they would pay for individual orders. For example, Yuppiechef offers a monthly collection of craft beers.

Screenshot of league of beer sign up page from yuppie chef

Subscription services encourage repeat business, increasing your profits with no further effort on your part. They also make inventory management easier as you know exactly what will be included in that next order.

c) Brick and click

This business model is a combination of retail and e-commerce. Stores are often smaller, sometimes even pop-up shops, and they hold limited stock but they give customers a more traditional retail experience. Customers can interact face-to-face with staff, try on products and attend events. The stores also provide interactive digital access (kiosk screens) so customers can find more information or order online while in the store.

In-store kiosk screens have several different applications:

  • AI digital sales assistance to provide information on how to choose a product

  • In-store ordering to shorten order and payment queues, for example in stores like McDonalds

  • In-store ordering to limit stock holding and therefore real estate footprint, or to offer a wider range of products than what is available in-store

  • Digital assistance for customers and staff to help them more quickly find items

  • Continued education for staff members whilst in-store and on the job

Pictures of an AI digital sales assistant and a instore ordering screen.

Tip: At Comalytics we are able to assist you with your kiosk screen needs.

d) Drone deliveries

Drone delivery is in its infancy, but for e-commerce companies it’s important to note that it’s already happening and will only grow. There are still issues to iron out, like weather, flight regulations and battery life, but companies like Amazon, UPS and Uber Eats are experimenting with the concept.

quote - It's only a matter of time before drones deliver packages to our doorsteps

For e-commerce this means that packages could be delivered within 30 minutes, at an estimated delivery cost of $1 to the customer, and with massive savings on shipping for the merchant. Customers of the future will expect their orders to arrive faster than ever before. Merchants need to start getting their order and fulfilment processes ironed-out now, so they’re ready to meet that demand when drone deliveries arrive.

The bottom line…

There are many exciting trends to watch in the world of e-commerce. Some are already becoming more established and others are still on the horizon. Make sure you keep a close eye on developments. Start thinking now about which ones would be best suited to take your business into the future.