Posts by: Sally Wills

E-commerce Personalization Trends: The Changes After COVID-19

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Ecommerce personalization trends after COVID-19

COVID-19 ushered in meaningful change for eCommerce, but what will the impact be on eCommerce personalization trends in 2020 and beyond? Read our findings from a survey of 400 eCommerce marketers.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw eCommerce make 10 years’ worth of growth in a 90-day period, drastically altering not only the present landscape of eCommerce but also its future. McKinsey, the institution that first reported the sector’s immense growth, has come to refer to this monumental shift as ‘The Quickening’. 

However, with COVID-19 accelerating eCommerce to unprecedented levels, where does that leave personalization, a trend that was beginning to experience a surge in growing consumer demand?

In July 2020, Yieldify conducted research with 400 eCommerce leaders* across the UK and US to explore the current state-of-play in regards to website personalization specifically, the challenges it faces, and where it could be heading next. Here, we summarize just some of our crucial findings.

1. Over 74% of companies surveyed already have a website personalization program in place.

2. In 2020, retention (58%) has overtaken conversion (55%) and acquisition (45%) as the key goal for website personalization.

3. Only 54% currently use AI-driven predictive segments. However, this was identified as an area of high potential growth, as 89% expected to be using it by the end of next year. 

4. The three biggest obstacles that stand in the way of scaling a personalization strategy are: A lack of expertise (37%), limited functionality (36%), and a lack of time (35%).

Website personalization’s winning component? Data, say 74% of marketers 

The modern-day consumer is evolving. With access to the global economy, the latest technology at their fingertips, and social sharing working in their favor, today’s consumers know they are in control of their shopping experiences. 

“Customers in today’s era […] have the means to explore, research, and share every purchase decision. […] You have to be responsive to their needs immediately instead of trying to direct them,” says Gayatri Patel, eBay’s Director of Global Data Infrastructure.

This growing power of consumers means they are increasingly dictating when, where, and how they engage with brands. Instead of a funnel-shaped sales process where brands push information to customers, the process is now inverted – consumers are actively pursuing brands and channels that they feel are relevant to themselves as individuals, whether that’s morally, ethically, or environmentally. 

The challenge for eCommerce businesses is to keep up with growing customer expectations, and the distinctiveness of them. Enter: Personalization.

Currently experiencing a surge in popularity, personalization enables today’s consumers to feel as though their wants and needs are heard, understood, and incorporated as integral parts of their shopping experience. 

From a brand’s perspective, personalization offers a way to contextualize, and individualize, the messaging, offers, and experiences they deliver using unique data retrieved from each visitor’s profile.

So it’s no surprise that over 74% of companies surveyed have made changes to ensure website personalization is a key part of their business.

When surveyed, 76% of our respondents said that currently, the most popular option for driving website personalization is real-time behavioral data, ahead of historical cookie data, third-party data, and individual user profiles ingested from CDPs. 

These findings would indicate that website personalization is largely generated in response to in-session behaviors. A user session refers to a group of user-specific actions performed on a website or within an application during a period of time. These sessions contain data that can visualize user behavior by recording their button clicks, page loads, and service requests which give identifiable indicators of visitor motivation and desire.

This data can then be used by developers and marketers alike to increase user retention and reduce churn by better understanding what users seek most from the site. Having that understanding of a user or visitor means personalization strategies can be tailored to those requests.

Scaling a personalization strategy is not without obstacles 

At its core, personalization delivers tailored, meaningful, and relevant communication to your consumers. In return, this connection between brand and follower becomes an effective – and desired – conversion rate optimization tool. But juggling a multitude of user behaviors is not without drawbacks, even with sophisticated personalization technology available to assist the process. 

Our research showed that there were a handful of obstacles preventing scalability and subsequent, potentially higher conversion rates. 

Out of those surveyed, 37% said they lacked the expertise required to either take the next step or optimize their personalization strategy further. Another 36% advocated having limited functionality or personalization tools available to do so and 35% stated they simply did not have the time.

Nonetheless, these findings are still encouraging. Together they indicate that it is not an unwillingness to scale, but a lack of knowledge, skillset, and functionality required to enhance the strategy. 

Overall this suggests that personalization is not ineffective, as if more marketers and eCommerce owners were equipped with the time to enhance their knowledge, they would implement larger personalization solutions. 

The majority of website personalization will soon be powered by AI

In personalization strategies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a valuable, efficient, and time-saving resource capable of consolidating multiple data streams from various channels, extracting valuable insights, and then identifying actionable trends. 

AI is quietly powering personalized experiences everywhere, from music giants such as Spotify to fashion industry leaders like Tommy Hilfiger. Whether it’s implemented into a live chatbot or a product recommendation engine, it’s converting visitors to consumers and most importantly, retaining them. 

One of the most important findings from our research was the discovery that whilst 54% of all size businesses currently use AI-driven predictive segments, 89% are planning to be using it by the end of next year. 

In our research, positive responses to planning to implement AI-driven predictive segmentation by the end of 2021 far outweighed negative responses across all company sizes surveyed. And responses were especially positive in small to medium-sized companies, which is unsurprising given the impact on time constraints due to the ongoing economic fall out of the pandemic. 

As eCommerce companies continue to navigate the negative impacts left behind by the COVID-19 pandemic, AI is the perfect solution to the problem of having to do more with less. This is a personalization trend that will continue to be identified as an area of high potential growth as more companies look for time-efficient methods of scaling, growing, and enhancing their business in economic downturns. 

In the future, simply being a favorite won’t be enough 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, fundamental changes have been observed in consumer behavior. With more independent stores opening up online, offering discounts, or simply better, safer shopping experiences, as well as additional bonuses like faster delivery times, consumers are starting to shift their loyalty from companies they used to purchase from in the past.

As customer loyalty now remains a swirling cloud of uncertainty, within the eCommerce companies we surveyed, 58% stated that their drive to pursue a website personalization strategy came from wanting to retain their customers. In comparison, 55% said that their driving factor was conversions, whilst only 45% were driven by acquisition alone. 

It’s reported that between 65% and 85% of consumers intend to continue new shopping behaviors post-pandemic. The pressure is on for eCommerce businesses to not only optimize the entire customer lifecycle but make the personalization experience so effective and intelligent that customers simply return time and time again.

In conclusion

These are only four of our key findings. Within the full report, we dive deeper into personalization trends post-pandemic, as well as evaluate how different types of content (static, dynamic, and user-specific) fit into personalization strategies.

We also identify the key purchase drivers that are reigning king amongst the economic uncertainty and explore how privacy and personalization go hand in hand. You can download the full report here.

Looking ahead

In summary, the current state of play for website personalization indicates an industry that intends to accelerate rapidly over the course of 2021.  

As businesses look to favor e-commerce customer retention over acquisition strategies and supercharge their insights through growing technology such as AI machine learning, eCommerce personalization trends will be prime drivers in helping to provide business saving boosts to enterprises of all sizes. 

Whereas adoption rates in July hovered between 50% and 70% for many executions, many were forecast to reach over 90% in less than 18 months’ time and seem on track to do just that.

* An online survey was conducted with a panel of potential respondents. The recruitment period was 6th July 2020 to 20th July 2020. A total of 400 respondents completed the survey: 200 respondents residing in the UK and 200 respondents residing in the US. Only senior marketers or eCommerce directors at retailers with an eCommerce presence were eligible to take part and complete the survey. All questions within the survey were verified to be MRS compliant by a marketing research company specializing in online and mobile polling.

Crisis Management Plans: 5 Key Behaviors for eCommerce Leaders

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Creating a crisis management plan is tough, least of all during a global pandemic. Here are the five key defining behaviors of effective eCommerce leaders.

In a fast-paced industry like eCommerce, a leader’s ability to create an effective crisis management plan has become a critical skillset. Experience often plays a key part, but it doesn’t automatically make or break someone as a good leader in a crisis. Let’s explore what does.

Good vs Effective Crisis Management Plans

When you think of the qualities associated with ‘good’ leaders, it’s likely your response is emotion-based. These leaders are often compassionate, unequivocally committed to both their team and company success when times are tough. Decisions are made ethically, after much consideration, and for the greater good.

‘Effective’ leaders work slightly differently. These are the ones that simply get the job done, no matter what crisis or obstacle gets thrown at them. They are goal-oriented and fixated on moving the needle from where it is now, to where it needs to be. All with the aim of securing a successful business outcome.

The key difference here is the ‘effective’ leader’s ability to make quick decisions under intense pressure and creatively explore solutions. If something isn’t working, strategies are pivoted immediately, using the latest information at their disposal.

Can a leader be both ‘good’ and ‘effective’?

In short, yes. A great example of this is Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. According to research, she is “the most popular New Zealand prime minister in a century,” with 92% of poll respondents saying that her decision to take strict measures during the COVID-19 crisis was “the right call.” 

Ardern has built a strong reputation for caring about people. However, she also has a strong, evidence-based strategy for applying that ethos in a practical way. This had resulted in a high level of trust and respect worldwide.

Clara Ross-Benham, Head of People and part of Yieldify’s leadership team agrees, commenting: “a balance is important, especially during a crisis where we often see a conflict between the needs of the employee and the employer. A manager serves two functions: to lead a team and to contribute to the success of the business. Communication and honesty will go a long way in building the trust of your team and navigating them through unsettling situations. It’s important not to over-promise. The goal of both a ‘good’ and ‘effective’ leader here is to ensure that the employee and employer have an understanding. 

“A successful leader should be able to connect and to collaborate. Achieving this requires empathy and greater business awareness. I believe the best leaders care genuinely, not just about their direct reports but about the company as a whole. This allows leaders to bring together the right people, give effective feedback and work as a collective.”

But what is the glue that binds Jacinda and other effective leaders together? Below we explore the 5 key behaviors of crisis planning, nominated by business leaders for business leaders, adding in our own top tips.

5 Key Behaviors To Embrace When Creating A Crisis Management Plan

1. Trust-building

Mattress Next Day | crisis management

Martin Seeley, CEO of MattressNextDay believes “Honesty is one of the most valued character traits, but many leaders fail to achieve it.

“Honest leaders inspire trust from their team, which leads to employees being more productive and loyal. This transparency builds credibility and support.

“In a crisis, a leader must admit when he or she doesn’t have answers to all the questions rather than confusing people with false information. Withholding important information that could affect employees is also dangerous because it can breed mistrust and uncertainty. Honesty will make people work for you not because of your title but because of who you are.”

Top Tip: It’s key to communicate, and that doesn’t stop at the leadership team. Consider creating an FAQ document or intranet page that provides clear answers to the important questions that all employees are asking. Even if the answer is simply ‘we don’t know yet, but we’re working on it’. Silence fuels fear and promotes distrust, which is exactly what you want to avoid.

2. Acting with courage

Fracture | crisis management

According to Abhi Lokesh, CEO of printing company Fracture, courage is mission-critical in many ways. “Whether it’s how you communicate with your team to being willing to make significant changes to your business strategy in the face of adversity. However, in many ways, courage can be found in the actions you DON’T take versus the actions you do take.”

“We tend to admire and lionize those leaders who exemplify the traditional definition of courage. For example, being bold and instinctive, shrugging off doubt and ignoring reason, single-mindedly striding into battle or tackling adversity head-on. The truth is that courage and cowardice often get confused for each other. It’s important to try and understand the difference.”

“The courageous leader is the one who exercises restraint and calm even in the eye of the storm. As human beings, we’re biologically wired to react instinctually to danger – hence our “fight or flight” response. It’s incredibly hard to fight that impulse and conquer that instinct. True courage is not simply following the herd and doing what everyone else is doing. Instead, it’s stopping and asking “Why?”, reflecting upon past experiences, and seeking counsel from those around you.”

Top Tip: It’s easy to confuse action and motion with courage. So be patient and ensure that you’ve analyzed a situation from the necessary angles before you make a move. Whatever decision you make will likely face intense scrutiny, so having the facts, figures and logic to back up your rationale will help overcome any objections.

3. Anticipating the unexpected

English Blinds | crisis management

John Moss, CEO of English Blinds comments: “An effective leader during a crisis is one that is calm and adaptive. They understand that the crisis is still evolving and is, by nature, unpredictable, and so requires a fluid and responsive approach to mitigation and management.”

“Being able to take a big picture view and understand not just the current or direct impact of the crisis is important too. This ensures that the secondary or knock-on effects that are apt to happen down the line are prevented or planned for as well.”

“Staying one step ahead, being able to visualize the potential directions or conclusions things will take, and problem-solving or troubleshooting on the fly are key skills. As is being able to keep a cool, clear head and provide direction and reassurance to others.”

Top Tip: Forward-thinking is a key component of any crisis management plan. The more scenarios that you can predict in advance and create a plan for, the more prepared you will be when disaster hits. However, of course, there will always be events like a pandemic that takes us by storm. In which case, having a basic framework that applies to any scenario will be invaluable. You can find this in our Crisis Management Toolkit which is free to download here.

4. Critical thinking

Creation Business Consultants | crisis management

According to Carolyn Cairns of Creation BC: “One trait of an effective crisis leader is their critical thinking skills. They should be able to understand and appreciated the unique complications of each crisis situation.”

“A leader with critical thinking skills can recognize the logical links between concepts, recognize the validity and significance of claims, spot contradictions, or flaws in judgment. Thus, allowing them to make the best decisions.”

“They must also be able to assess how certain information can be relevant in specific situations especially during a crisis like the pandemic.”

Top tip: Trusted third party stakeholders can prove to be valuable sounding boards for testing out new strategies and ideas. They are far enough removed from the crisis management plan at hand that they can offer fresh perspectives and spot subtle flaws that might otherwise be missed. Invest time in building these relationships as they can bring other great rewards as well!

5. Leading from the front

Aligned at Work | crisis management

Laurie Battaglia, CEO of Aligned at Work®, commented: “In times of crisis, people are looking for a visible leader, one who leads by example and knows how to engage the hearts and minds of people who are under pressure.”

“People seek information and guidance during times of crisis. They hope that the leader either has experience in leading through a crisis or that the leader is surrounded by smart people with that experience or knowledge.”

“Great crisis leaders know when to make a snap decision, and when to engage with others to come up with the best solutions. They inform, stay visible, and create an environment where others can step up or step into leadership with them. Value is placed on listening and listening often. They surround themselves with trusted advisors who have the people’s interests at heart. And they describe the larger purpose that people sign on for and support.”

Top Tip: Leading by example doesn’t have to mean taking the entire burden of the world on your shoulders. Surround yourself with a trusted crisis-ready team and bring those employees with you on the journey to the solution. Listen carefully to what they have to say and use this to help inform what actions you take. This will also assist you in achieving buy-in across the business when your plan is ready to present publicly.

In conclusion

The role that effective leaders can play in a crisis management plan is immensely valuable to any organization. Aspiring leaders shouldn’t wait for a crisis to occur to start nurturing their skills. This will ultimately allow them to perform to their full potential if/when disaster strikes.

Things to remember:

  • Be honest and promote an environment of trust and respect
  • Leverage your team and listen closely to their input
  • Always look at situations critically and ask “Why?” before acting
  • Have the flexibility to be able to pivot strategies as the crisis evolves

“Greatness is not in where we stand but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but sail we must and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Want to learn more about creating a crisis management plan for e-commerce?
Episode 2 of our new web series, #TrendsOfTomorrow, is all about this topic. Click here to access the full video archives.

Home and Garden eCommerce Trends: What’s Driving Growth In 2020

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The home and garden eCommerce sector is set to explode over the next few years. Brands are stepping up from what was traditionally bricks and mortar stores, embracing the opportunities that come with an omnichannel or pure-play online presence.

Digitization and new technologies, such as website personalization tools, play a strong role in all this. By offering automation and process optimization, they enable brands to scale at unprecedented rates.

The sector boasts an estimated CAGR of 16% between 2018 and 2022, outshining the CAGR of 5.3% projected for the entire retail industry by over 10%. According to a Forrester Research report, housewares alone will overtake computers as the third largest product category in the retail market by the end of 2020. It’s a truly pivotal time for the sector.

But what are the reasons behind this sudden boost in consumer spending? Well, there are many factors that come into play….

Home and garden eCommerce customers are evolving

According to research, online furniture sales are growing at a rate of 11.9% and set to reach a market value of $294 billion by the end of 2022. However, what is particularly interesting is that 50% of the customers contributing to this growth are millennials and Gen Z. 

The reason? Millennials and Gen Z are growing up and buying their first home is one of their top priorities. Due to higher than ever house prices, many are having to compromise, potentially looking at smaller or older homes that require renovation. This translates to extra sales for home and garden eCommerce.

Even for renters, their surroundings are extremely important to their happiness and wellbeing. There’s a lot that can be done to customize an apartment within the confines of rental agreements. Furnishings/personal effects can really make a house into a ‘home’.

But it’s not just about the younger generation. Baby boomers are also a great source of revenue for home and garden brands. As they reach retirement age, it presents the perfect time for many to dedicate their newfound time to undertaking home or garden renovation projects. A chance to fix all those little things that they’ve been putting off and refresh their home decor in line with recent trends.

Pro tip: Make sure you’re showing up where your customers are searching. For digitally-native millennials, this could mean building up activity and engagement across your social media channels. For baby boomers, investing time into improving your Google search rank is far more likely to get you the visibility you need.

When you decide that you are going to re-design your home, where do you head to get inspiration? It’s highly likely to be social media, home of the ‘insta perfect’ interiors.

Channels such as Pinterest, Houzz and Instagram have truly exploded for home and garden eCommerce. They are bursting with stunning photography and how-to guides for doing it yourself. Basically, the place to be for amateur home design enthusiasts.

Pinterest is a catalog of ideas and tips for how to improve your home and garden

In addition to this, there are social media influencers taking the home and garden industry by storm. The most prominent example of this is Mrs Hinch. An extremely popular mother-of-one with a passion for cleaning and furnishing her house with affordable homewares.

Mrs Hinch boasts a whopping 3.3 million followers on Instagram

She has turned this passion into a business, collaborating with leading home and garden brands. This translates across to an Instagram following of over 3million ‘Hinchers’. Her name is now synonymous with beautiful home interiors and DIY ‘hacks’ and a great example of influencer collaborations at their best. Any products featured on her feed sell-out instantly, a marketer’s dream!

Pro tip: Consider the benefits of building your own online community. Think about how you can leverage user-generated content for your brand. Showcase the amazing results your customers are achieving through your products. This is another way of employing social proof to drive sales.

Homeowners are staying not selling

Market uncertainty is causing many homeowners and renters alike to hit the pause button and stay put where they are. HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Report showed that 80% of homeowners surveyed plan to stay in their existing homes rather than move.

As a result, those homeowners are planning to spend more on home improvement projects this year. In fact, half of all respondents are considering a remodel. On average, homeowners spent $6,649 on home improvements per household in the last 12 months. However, those improvements might essentially pay for themselves.

The avg. home improvement ROI is 12.5%

Yielding an ROI of up to an estimated 12.5%, home improvements add significant value to your house. This makes them an extremely worthwhile investment. Thus, giving prospective customers the impetus to get started and buy home and garden products now instead of later.

Pro tip: Leverage loyalty programs to incentivize your customers to keep coming back and sharing products with their peers. Consider crafting a post-purchase email flow that keeps engagement going and encourage further sales

COVID-19 is impacting home and garden eCommerce sales – for the better

With consumers across the globe quarantined in their homes, it’s safe to say that they acted very quickly in terms of making that home environment as pleasant as possible.

Research by MentionMe revealed that on average, order volumes for brands in this sector have increased by 55% year-on-year. Over the same period, referrals have increased by 83%. For example, home offices are now essential fixtures as the world’s workforce goes remotely. Desks and office chairs sold out almost instantly once lockdown was announced.

Our customer data corroborates this, with home and garden eCommerce seeing a surge in both site traffic and online sales. In the chart below you can see that the peaks directly correlate with the original announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic and countries going into lockdown.

Now the dust is starting to settle, interest is shifting from quick, obvious wins like a home gym, home office, or BBQ. Consumers are now interested in starting projects such as gardening or DIY. They can help offer much-needed relaxation, especially for those currently furloughed.

Pro tip: Use dynamic content to help replicate the in-store experience online and aid decision making. Want to bring to life a garden set to get the deal across the line? Give the user a helpful video that shows a 360-degree view of the product and how to put it together. Chatbots are also great in a crisis where human to human contact isn’t possible, giving instantaneous answers.

How to use website personalization to boost your home and garden eCommerce brand

So, we’ve covered the top trends and why consumers are turning to the home and garden eCommerce sector right now. But how can you build on this further and drive even more sales through website personalization?

Well, it doesn’t get more personal than furnishing your home with furniture and trinkets that you have specifically sourced to appeal to your own taste and personality. It’s imperative that the buying experience reflects this, especially when online.

80% of shoppers are more likely to buy from a brand that offers a personalized experience, presenting a lucrative revenue opportunity for retailers. It really does go without saying that consumers are more likely to buy products that are highly relevant to their needs. This means if home and garden eCommerce brands can deliver that, it can be a great way to increase AOV and upsell.

LinenHouse’s personalized product recommendations

Technology is key here. By employing behavioral segmentation, brands can display hyper-personalized and extremely targeted product recommendations based on the users’ exact preferences. Think about Netflix: every user receives a completely customized home screen based on what they’ve been watching. This is exactly the same concept, only with homewares instead of films.

Ultimately you want to take the visitor through a carefully curated customer journey optimization process, keeping them on your site and exposing them to as many products as possible. The aim is to create predictive relationships with customers instead of reactive, taking you from a static website to a trusted advisor.

Pro tip: Think about your lead capture strategy, is your website optimized with a form that compels users to submit their details? Post-sign-up, ensure you are making the most of that data, and tracking on-site behaviors to deliver the personalized experience that your customers crave.

In conclusion

The opportunities are vast for home and garden eCommerce brands to really capitalize on the increased consumer demand and market growth potential. However, to do this, it is imperative that you get personal with your audience.

By creating a personalized on-site experience, you will not only drive conversions but also raise AOV. A one size fits all approach simply won’t cut it for those looking to rapidly scale, and those first to act will ultimately reap the best rewards.

At Yieldify, we’ve personalized thousands of customer journeys for clients all over the world. If you’d like to see how our experience and tech can help you with your strategy, click here to get a free demo.

Optimizing Your Website for Crisis Management: 3 Tried and True Solutions for Online Marketers

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What does coronavirus mean for your online crisis management strategy? Find out as we explore how to optimize your eCommerce website and adapt your design to answer the new challenges presented.

If we judge by the global impact to-date, the COVID-19 crisis is the first real ‘black swan’ for eCommerce and online booking. This, in turn, places us in somewhat unchartered territory when it comes to crisis management.

It goes without saying that it’s exceptionally hard to react to a situation seemingly changing by the hour. There’s no pre-written rulebook or guide on what to do. All we know is that time is of the essence and that we need to react quickly to the changing business environment if we are to survive.

However, at a time of high tension, a single wrong move could prove catastrophic. Crisis management involves carefully analyzing and optimizing the entire customer journey to fit the situation at hand. You need to make sure your website design gives the user what they need at this time – clarity and reassurance. This sentiment is echoed in past crises and some parallels can be drawn with what’s going on right now. 

Crisis management to date for eCommerce

The 2002-2004 SARS pandemic saw the first use of the term coronavirus, spreading across predominantly China and Hong Kong with a less infectious but more deadly version of the coronavirus we see today. This tragic event acted as a growth catalyst for entrepreneurs starting out in eCommerce, essentially skyrocketing a (then) small-scale Alibaba into becoming the world’s largest retailer and eCommerce company.

Due to the anxiety around travel and human contact, consumers flooded to online stores. This meant traditional retailers were forced to adapt quickly, many pursuing either fully digital or omnichannel storefronts. 

The 2008 global financial crisis was similarly disruptive, seeing a monumental fall in consumer confidence and expenditure. Consumers were faced with lower savings, credit, and income – meaning retailers and online booking agents needed to find new innovative ways to make their offerings accessible to the masses.

This paved the way for digital natives such as Uber and Airbnb to emerge, offering cheap rooms and car rides using technology to ‘cut out the middleman’. With efficient supply chain management, no rental overheads and unrivaled speed and convenience for consumers, eCommerce was and remains to this day, a sector of high growth and opportunity.

But whatever the crisis management scenario, the business objective is universal – staying afloat. You need to bring in precious revenue while acknowledging the challenges at hand. You want to show sensitivity to the situation and that you’re reacting to consumer needs.

Business as normal isn’t an option for anyone right now. However, there are ways to grasp any sales opportunities that do exist and website design plays a huge part in this.

Designing for crisis management

In a time where many physical stores are closed except for essential services, your website/digital storefront has never been more critical.

It’s the first place consumers will head and some brands can even expect website traffic to increase as a result. However, for those with reduced traffic, making sure that traffic converts into a sale will be more important than ever.

A consumer’s first impressions are 94% design-related, so your homepage and overall UX need to hit the mark. Also bear in mind that judgments consumers make on website credibility are 75% based on a website’s overall aesthetics. So if its trust that you’re looking to build, your design needs to reflect that.

Really think about what your primary objective is for your website design in the time of a crisis. What problems are you looking to solve? To help get you started, our talented in-house designers have shared the following insights and advice.

Yieldify design team

Stick to the basic design principles

“You can never go wrong with a clear and concise message that solves a problem for the end-user, displayed in the right place and presented at the right time during the customer journey.”

Lighten the mood with visuals

“Keep visuals positive and uplifting. Incorporate bright colors and icons such as hearts or information instead of warnings or alerts wherever possible. The same goes for images and photography: if you’re unsure then use simple backgrounds and just focus on the message at hand.”

Be strategic with placement

“Put the design element where it’s relevant and will have the most impact. You don’t want to be putting USPs at the bottom of a page. You want them to stand out. Also, think about what page of your website will work best. You don’t want to put something on a page with little traffic – you want to put it on the page where most visitors land on.”

Adapt your message to the situation

“I think right now it’s about the messaging being clear and less ‘pretty’. I’ve always been an advocate for ‘less is more’, but I think right now design should be solving and not impressing.” 

Use tone to convey an emotion

“It’s all about the tone of voice and the message you use. If you want to make users feel comfortable and build trust, don’t be afraid to show emotion and tell them you care. The Estee Lauder example below really demonstrates this point well.”

Website optimization for crisis management | Yieldify

3 ways to optimize your website for crisis management

1. On-page elements

Utilizing on-page elements such as overlays and pop-ups can prove particularly effective as a method for communicating to an audience where visibility is a key consideration. However, exactly which tactic to use will depend entirely on the scenario.

Let’s take a look at the most common ones.

Sharing general information

Whether it’s busy phone lines, alternative communication methods or policy updates, a top page banner that links to a dedicated page is a great tactic. It’s displayed directly at the user’s eye line for optimal impact and is the first thing they see as they start their customer journey.

As you can see in the below example of the Catbird website, the top page banner informs that the online store is open but unable to ship its full range. A call-to-action invites to explore the products that can ship now.

Website optimization for crisis management | Yieldify

Here are a couple of other examples from Yieldify clients who have used different formats to inform about their COVID-19 changes.

Website optimization for crisis management | Yieldify
COVID-19 overlay from Hayes Garden World
Website optimization for crisis management | Yieldify
COVID-19 overlay from Bellabox

Product out of stock

For any retailer, having your product go out of stock, even in a crisis, can equate to missed sales opportunities. If your supply chain is affected, this can be unavoidable. But it means that we need to be creative in how we address this and keep revenue coming in.

The first way to counter this is with in-page personalization such as in the ASOS example below. As you can see, the message injects humor with the ‘Uh oh! This is awkward..’ and then helpfully recommends similar products to the user in order to rescue the sale.

You should ensure the utmost relevancy of that recommendation by leveraging the user’s online behaviors and preferences. This could even result in an upsell.

Website optimization for crisis management | Yieldify
ASOS recommends similar products to ones that are out of stock

Another tactic would be to deploy a lead capture form to inform the user when the item is back in stock. In the Cult Beauty example below, they have deployed a waitlist and used positive language like ‘in stock soon’ and ‘priority access’.

This helps to reshape the customer experience to something more exclusive and exciting, where visitors can exchange their personal information to be the first in line for a product that’s in hot demand.

Website optimization for crisis management | Yieldify
Cult Beauty employs lead capture to inform customers when products will be back in stock

Important updates

Browser notifications are a direct line to your customers for updates in the time of a crisis and considered a very proactive messaging stance. They are perfect for times when immediacy is key to your crisis management strategy and are displayed via internet browsers to those with an already vested interest in your brand.

2. Dark sites and microsites

In some particularly sensitive crisis scenarios, you may require a more targeted approach for message dissemination. By implementing dark sites or microsites, you can reduce visibility to anyone other than your intended target audience.

What is a microsite? A microsite is an individual webpage or a small cluster of pages that generally operate independently from your main website and URL. It is also possible to have a microsite under your existing URL as a sub-domain, which would be called a ‘branded vertical’. The longevity of your microsite is flexible and depends entirely on whether it is tied to a specific campaign or ongoing brand activity.

You can use microsites as your public-facing information hubs: a one-stop-shop for everything related to the crisis in hand. Whether the media, customers or any other visitors, the purpose of the site is crystal clear. It also will not obstruct the customer journeys taking place on your main website.

This allows you to better control the narrative, offering a central resource that can be quickly updated as the crisis transpires. In terms of design, you can choose to remain consistent with your main site, mirroring the look and feel. Alternatively, you can adapt it to provide distinction and distance from your primary website.

A dark site operates similarly. A dark site is a website that you prepare in advance but don’t actively promote until a crisis occurs. They are often very minimalistic in design, putting added emphasis on the language and messaging that is communicated instead. The tone of voice may also differ, which can digitally compartmentalize the crisis from your other brand activities.

3. Chatbots

When dealing with visitors at scale but wanting to maintain that one on one personalized approach, automation offers a highly effective solution for triaging queries and assisting customer care teams.

This makes chatbots an indispensable tool when carving out a crisis management strategy, considering they can reduce customer service costs by up to 30%  and free up those crucial resources to focus on the tasks that matter most.

A Gartner report estimates that 85% of customer interactions will be handled without human agents by 2021. Additionally, research by Drift estimates that 37% of consumers currently use customer service bots to get quick answers in emergencies.

As the adoption of this technology increases, consumers will begin to expect the immediacy that chatbots offer. This simply can’t be replicated by humans at the same scale. An investment into this functionality is likely to be one that can stand the test of time; especially as AI innovations become even more intuitive to customer needs.

In conclusion

It’s clear that design and website optimization can have a huge impact on your business, especially during crisis management scenarios. Whether it’s making key information accessible, providing reassurance or encouraging sales and conversions: the potential rewards are high and resources required low in comparison.

Ultimately, it’s the retailers and online booking agents that can adapt their website’s fastest to the ongoing crisis and everchanging customer needs, that will be most successful.

The storm will pass, but not everyone will make it through in one piece. By taking control and acting now with tried and true solutions, you can better future-plan and protect the longevity of your brand.

Conversion Rate Optimization: 4 Trends to Watch In 2020

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Increase the ROI of your digital investments by leveraging these 4 trends that support conversion rate optimization.

Following a few decades of patiently waiting for the right blend of technology, innovation is now ablaze in the conversion rate optimization (CRO) arena. Channels and end-user behaviors have shifted to not only drive traffic to websites, but focus on achieving conversions once there.

Consumer devices and technology, combined with a rise in personalization and value-based customer interactions, have been integral to this change. As we move into 2020, the core principals of conversion rate optimization still ring true:

  1. Test, test, test your lead capture pages for conversions.
  2. Ensure there is a plan for direct follow-up communications with leads.
  3. Personalize those responses.
  4. Make your Call-to-Actions (CTAs) clear and effective.

But for marketers planning out 2020 strategies, which trends will help accelerate the online customer journey and propel customers towards the actions and steps you want them to engage with and complete? Let’s explore…

1. Conversion rate optimization for voice

It’s more important now to recognize where customers are accessing your content. Before, the challenge was mobile, getting the user-experience right for varied devices. But now there’s more than touch-interface to contend with when looking to improve conversion rate optimization.

In more homes, devices with voice-interaction like Alexa and Siri are now orchestrating the customer’s journey to your content and your conversions. In this way, CRO has become more complex – but the challenge brings new opportunities.

Part of the reaction to this sees Gartner spearheading “UX research renaissance” as a key trend for CRO, with user-centric design principles to foster cross-discipline collaboration. The number of consumers using voice-driven assistants is significant enough to require this kind of fundamental strategic shift. Who knows – in 2020 we might start to see more companies replacing their lead forms with voice-enabled chatbots.  

2. Scale individual connections using personalization and AI

Personalization should create a connection that users feel is aimed directly at them. Engage them in the give and take of discussion, make it about their needs and how you can help them. Offer them a specific way to connect (time, day) to further address what you can do for them and use AI to help automate this personalization process. Make conversational replies smart and end-user specific.

Neil Patel has a simple but effective method to resuscitate unconverted leads. Text someone using their first name and it’s almost certain they’ll respond. After this, set into motion an automated reply that drives the next stage of the conversation and yields results.

3. The right narrative for the right audience

Keynote speaker and best-selling author Mari Smith advises rethinking how people are consuming information. Try and edit down long-form pieces into “bite-sized, tap-and-swipe-worthy content.”

Stories will always drive responses in the most compelling way because humans are born storytellers. We connect to everything in our lives through stories. But, consider the format, access and longevity. Make the content work through the vehicle of delivery. Repurpose content now that will never be permanent, but can still have a powerful impact in the moment.  

Stellar Media Marketing owner Kelly Mirabella adds that there’s no point building a large following just to say you have it. Instead, focus on targeting those who actually engage with your content using behavioral segmentation. Nearly all social media channels can help you manage that. You can really stretch tight budgets by focusing on smaller but hyper-relevant campaigns.

One way to do this would be to use a custom URL shortener like Rebrandly. With custom short URLs, you have the option to dynamically route traffic based on user behavior, which is a great way to keep your campaigns hyper-relevant to your audience’s needs — especially on a tight budget.

4. Privacy: regulation and legislation

GDPR, PECR, CCPA, ePrivacy Regulation, and others are impacting conversion rate optimization, with marketers needing to align their brands with these guidelines to achieve full compliance.

Third-party analytics such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics and Leadfeeder will be impacted by this. With consent increasingly handled by the browser, this remains an issue if end-users elect to block cookies.  First-party consent will certainly help and ultimately foster more trust from your audience.

In conclusion

While conversion rate optimization is set to see some exciting developments in 2020, there are also challenges.

Voice-driven interfaces will become a key consideration, impacting the lives of even more consumers and the way they shop. Automation through AI and consumer interaction through Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) will enhance personalization and end-user experience, all key to building CRO. Recognition of the role that new privacy laws play on browser activity is also critical.

A strategic focus on engaged, user-centric content and design, alongside a combined CRO/SEO strategy, are the key avenues to take to ensure those customer experiences build to conversions. By adapting your marketing plan now to fully capitalize on these opportunities while addressing the challenges, you can maximize the CRO return on your digital investments in 2020.

Looking for more tips on getting a great return on your digital investments? Here are 5 Ways to Increase Conversion Rate that are a must-read for any marketer.