Blog

Matt Scaramastra By Matt Scaramastra, COO

December 30, 2020

Lemonade From Lemons? Yes, 2021 Is Going To Work Out For E-Commerce

Enthusiasm for the New Year is at an all-time high. Most of us are looking forward to putting 2020 behind us for at least a few good reasons. Moving forward is good but learning from the past is best. To make the most of a fresh year, online retailers should pay close attention to trends observed and lessons learned in a year marked by quick and sweeping changes that are not likely to revert.

In 2020 we saw new behaviors in online consumers

New consumer behaviors prompted by stay-at-home orders and a general aversion to going into public spaces spurred almost 150 million consumers to make their first online purchases during the pandemic. As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic crept into our lives, consumers’ interest in safety and security compressed in online commerce a decade of growth into a matter of weeks.

U.S. e-commerce market penetration, %

Sourced from: McKinsey

For the first time, goods such as groceries, beauty products, cleaning products, heath & hygiene, and other home basics are leading growth categories.

Consumers’ demand for free, fast shipping and free returns has become a key benefit. In fact, 65% of consumers check the free-shipping minimum purchase before adding to their cart and 39% of US consumers expect two day shipping to be free.

Retailers have adapted and continue to respond

Most business leaders globally expect digital shopping to remain relevant and DTC brands and marketplaces are responding. With nearly $2 trillion spent in the top 100 online marketplaces annually it’s no surprise that traditional retailers including Target, Walmart, and Google are gaining market share from leading online marketplaces. In response to consumers new expectations for fast, free shipping sellers are differentiating their shipping & fulfillment offering with innovations such as branded packaging, de-centralized fulfillment hubs, and carefully set free-shipping thresholds. Customers’ tendency for bracketing purchases – buying multiple sizes or styles with the intention of returning one or more – resulted in online purchase returns totaling nearly $205b in 2020.

Retail value of returned online purchases, 2014-2023

Sourced from: statista

With online shopping booming, logistics companies have operated at or near capacity through most of 2020. In response shipping rates are going up with FedEx announcing a 5% price hike coming in 2021. Meanwhile, customer demand for free shipping and free returns, is driving costs up.

Ad spending shifted quickly as buying trends changed. Paid search and social media ad spending each increased 25% year over year as traditional advertising mediums gave up substantial ground. Print advertising spending declined 33%, radio spending declined 31% and TV ad spend declined 24%.

Year over change in ad spend

Sourced from: iab

What’s an online retailer to do?

Several strategies are recommended to incorporate into every online retailer’s 2021 business plan. With the cost of customer acquisition continuing to rise, shift emphasis to customer retention. By prioritizing your customers and rewarding your best customers, customer loyalty will increase and time between purchases will be shortened. Consider launching a rewards program. Studies show that customers who enroll in a reward program are 47% more likely to make a second purchase. Top customers who most identify with your brand could be further engaged by invitation to an exclusive tier that offers to access to limited product lines or a user panel to experience and review test products or provide feedback in some other way. Those top consumers now help shape the brand and in turn develop a deeper loyalty. Referral incentives are an easy step too.

Top reasons online consumers advocate for brands

Sourced from: Global Web Index

Make sure your websites and product pages tell engaging stories and enable branding opportunities. Include lifestyle photography and create a more local and personal experience. Consumers are craving human interaction more than ever and gravitate toward brands that offer personalized buying experiences. Does your packaging reflect the brand experience? Custom designed packaging has become a relevant differentiator. An emphasis on customer experience at all turns will resonate even louder in the new landscape.

Changes are here to stay

All signs point to stickiness in the 2020’s consumer trends. An end is hopefully in sight for COVID-19 but consumers’ behavior is likely not to return to pre-COVID patterns.  By prioritizing customer retention, providing personalized experiences, and finding ways to enhance shipping, any online retailer will improve performance.

Choose Kinsta for WordPress Hosting

When you’re considering WordPress hosting, it’s like picking a car rental company at the airport: there are two tiers.

Tier 1 is the credible, professional tier.

Tier 2 is includes the companies you’ve never heard of — or if you have heard of them, it’s late at night. 

Unless you’re under financial duress or a penny pincher, you are going to choose a professional vendor. So for cars, that’s Enterprise, Avis and Hertz, right?

For WordPress, that’s WPEngine, Flywheel, Mediatemple — and, the latest entrant, Kinsta.

Tier 2 for WordPress includes, GoDaddy, Sitepoint, Bluehost… We have literally endured pain and suffering at each of these vendors. We will never go back. 

Here’s why Kinsta crushes it by a mile:

One: they don’t make you wait in line for support. There is no line, in fact. You launch the chat widget and ask you a question. Wait a moment, and you get an answer.

Let’s have a moment of silence in reverence for this holy vendor. 

Every other vendor we’ve used and tested makes you get in line and wait. Sometimes it’s a long time. Most of the time it is in fact a long time.

“You’re number 15 in line.”

No thanks.

Two: Kinsta has the most PHP workers available for its business tiers. Why does this matter?

PHP workers determine how many simultaneous requests your site can handle at a given time. WordPress’s pages are put together “on the fly” so concurrent requests happen 100% of the time. Practically speaking, this is about user experience — both inside of WordPress (as an admin or content writer) and outside of WordPress (as a visitor to the site). Kinsta’s business tiers start with 4 php workers. It has literally made working with WordPress a joy again.

WSL had considered moving off of Kinsta at the end of last year — to save a few bucks — but the moment I saw an announcement that they were increasing the number of php workers across the board, I aborted that endeavor. Why, because page speed is king. User experience is king. Everyone is accustomed to fast. So if you have a business that you care about, don’t pinch pennies on the one thing that matters most: customer experience.

Paul Rodriguez and Berner Chatting About Skating

Here’s a podcast we’ve been working on with Mosaic Media. It’s video though! Yes, ‘podcast’ is an ambiguous term — it encompasses both “talk radio” and “talk shows”. 

We’re testing Facebook embeds here. Do you use them? 

Our thesis is this: try everything. 

Digital Advertising Tsunami! Highlights from IAB’s 2018 Internet Ad Revenue Report

IAB just came out with their latest report on digital advertising. Staggering!

I’m not joking. Let me pull a few highlights out for you.

Due to a methodology change, the numbers could be even more… staggering.

What else?

When you work in this context, you kinda think that, yes, indeed, there are incredible shifts under foot. But when you see the data — it’s… yes, staggering.

One last one.

This is evidence that we are all, truly, walking around looking down — at our screens. 20% more time online!!

Who, the shift has gone to digital. But mostly to our phones.

So, is your business optimized for this?

Oh yeah, here’s the link to the report.

Instagram’s Brand New “Creator” Profile

Instagram is finally realizing a specialized profile type specifically for creators.

Whereas the only previous options were for a personal or business, this new type is geared towards those interested in a wider range of features to not only better understand and analyze the engagement they have with their audience but interaract them with in a more streamlined and impactful way.

Creator profiles will now have access to more in-depth analytics to track their engagement like a breakdown of their reach or metrics on optimal engagement time; even demographic breakdowns.

If your follow numbers are getting up there, you’ll want this new profile type to manage all those DM slide-ins. You’ll now be able to filter them as well as prioritize them between friends and preferred brands. There maybe a restriction so be warned! It hasn’t been confirmed yet but it’s possible only accounts with a minimum number of followers may be allowed to access this profile type, (We are guessing at least 10k).

In a move to make it more like business accounts, now you won’t have to use outside apps to get statistics on those follow/unfollow numbers because it will be built right in! Honestly, we can’t believe they haven’t released this sooner. It makes sense for business profiles but it’s a lot of work to do on your own personally without an outside app.

There are some minor downsides to mention, however. They’ll no longer be enabling API access which means no post scheduling. Not a huge loss. Be organic with your content!

All-in-all this is a great move for the app. Users with large followings have been using outside tools for a while now. We are certain Facebook has been doing their research and taking the best ideas to make it an all-in-one platform that will continue to build it up as a leading social media outlet. Analytics are everything and we’ve been around the block.

Reach out and let us show you what a proper game plan can do.

A New Data Product — drugadverseeventreports.com

We’re excited to announce that we’ve released the first version of our health data product: drugadverseeventreports.com.

What is it?

Drug Adverse Event Reports is a website that allows anyone to purchase low-cost reports on pharmaceutical drugs that are regulated by the FDA. The reports are focused on providing information about “adverse events” — the FDA set up a system to capture reports of reactions to drugs.

Who is it for?

Patients want information. They smart enough to get source data. We’re providing it. We think (and we’ve heard) that pharmacists want the information, too.

Why did we build it?

We built it because we think there are certain datasets to that need to be set free. Well, we are in business, so we’re not doing this for free. But we think the work we’ve done to pull down the openFDA data, to clean it, to organize it — is worth a lot to the community.

Tag Your Products In Instagram Stories and Posts

A feature only previously accessible to business profiles will now be available to influencers! Account with large followings often cross promote with brands to spread awareness. It has proven to be a hugely successful marketing tool for brands and this give creators that same powerful tool.

Forget about constantly hearing “Click the link in my bio for more info!” This is huge. Everything will be right in the app with links embedded right in the post instead of creators resorting to their valuable single bio link. Not only will products appear directly in the app eventually you’ll even pay internally! They’re still beta testing the in-app checkout for now but just imagine. Soon you’ll an amazing pair of sunglasses then seconds later being completely checked out.

This is huge for not only influencers, but also the brands as BOTH will be getting access to analytics. What a game changer. We predict revenue-sharing features in the near future. Currently, this only open to a few select accounts and brands but it will be rolling out and changing them game later this year.

The direct to purchase potential should be a really exciting opportunity. We are keen to utilize this feature as soon as it rolls out. Reach out and make an exciting game plan with us to get in on the ground floor.

The Simplest Way To Create A Bilingual Site Using WordPress and WPML

When our clients require a multilingual solution for their website Walnut St. Labs turns to WPML plugin for WordPress. Simply put, WPML extends the functionality of the basic WordPress CMS in a clean and simple way.

Ease of Setup

WPML allows for more than 40 different languages. Although, you will probably not utilize all of them the ability to choose from a wide range of languages makes this a very robust solution with an ease of setup not seen in other translation options. Select which languages you are going to be translating the site to and instantly all the plumbing for each language is already in place — with no coding.   

 

Ease of Use

The greatest feature is the integrated nature of the translation pages with core WordPress features you already know. On one dashboard you can see all translated versions of your pages or posts and their translation statuses. You can access any of the translated pages right from here (see below). Ordinary WordPress users can be made Translators. Translators can access only specific translation jobs which Translation Managers assign to them. And if actually doing the translations is a blocker, you can connect WPML’s powerful translation management with a translation service of your choice. This is very powerful and will keep all translations in sync by alerting your translation service to any changes made to the original language a page was translated from.

 

Fully Integrated Multilingual Website

For our client’s who service multilingual audiences WPML for WordPress has expanded their reach by providing communication options to engage users in their native language.  

 

 

If your site is need of a multilingual solution get in touch with us and we will detail how WPML for WordPress and Walnut St Labs can help you broaden your reach and deepen your engagement across the language barrier.  

Three Shopify Apps That Enterprise, High-SKU Stores, Need From Day One.

Managing and optimizing tens of thousands of SKUs while while maintaining agility is hard “af” as they say. We manage high-SKU stores mostly on Shopify these days  — and we do it with the help of these three app. These apps allow merchants to bulk optimize your Google shopping feeds, optimize shipping options, and the ability to edit just about any product or subset in bulk.

 

Google Shopping Feed by Simprosys InfoMedia

Integrating your Shopify store with Google Merchant Center is a critical channel to optimize for sales. Having a properly optimized Google Shopping Feed makes your ad spend efficient. This app offers some one-of-a-kind features like being able to bulk set Custom Labels or Google Product Categories.  

Google Shopping Feed by Simprosys InfoMedia

 

Bespoke Shipping by MZL Solutions

Shopify has great shipping functionality until you want to start mixing and matching calculated rates with weight-based rates — then throw in conditional rules and free shipping and you quickly find yourself searching for a tool… This tool allows you to build a decision tree based on rules you define to show what shipping options you want to show. This app is very powerful and MZL Solutions provides awesome support. There really is no more powerful way to handle all the shipping scenarios tens of thousands of SKUs from multiple suppliers bring to your desk to manage.

Bespoke Shipping by MZL Solutions

 

Bulk Product Edit by Hextom

Bulk Product Edit is Walnut St Labs’ go-to tool for making bulk changes to products in Shopify. Need to tag 4K SKUs with a vendor name? Done. Need to add disclaimer to the bottom of every product or just a sub set? Done. Need to changes prices on a vendor by a percentage? Done. This app provides so much utility and value that managing a store without it would be truly daunting, because 50K of anything is not fast.

Bulk Product Edit by Hextom

 

We believe these apps make managing a high-SKU Shopify store easy — so you can stay focused on sales! If you need help or want to talk through one of your problems, let us know.