eCommerce

It’s Back to the Future: The 21st Century Evolution of Retailing

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 3.51.16 PMIn early January, Macy’s announced that it plans to close 36 under-performing brick-and-mortar stores this year, laying off 4,500 people in the process. In doing so, Macy’s has joined a long list of other retail chains closing their stores – including Office Depot, Walgreens, Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters and The Gap.

Despite this trend, not all is doom-and-gloom in retail circles, as some on-line retailers are moving quickly into brick-and-mortar stores. Forbes reported that eCommerce retailers like Fabletics (athletic brand) and Birchbox (subscription-based beauty shop) are opening traditional retail outlets.

Forbes noted: “Moving from an online platform to bricks and mortar is a growing trend with younger online brands, and one that could reshape the future shopping center / mall dynamic.”

Online retailers are confident in making such a disruptive move because they have built an established customer base online, have data on those customers that can inform what to offer them and when. A physical store presence can also offer unique customer experiences, otherwise unavailable on-line.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 3.52.58 PMThis trend reflects a growing “omni-channel” approach to retailing. It’s a business model that deploys a variety of distribution channels to deliver a seamless customer shopping experience. This approach can go beyond an eCommerce website and a physical store to include “buy buttons” on social media outlets such as Pinterest.

For example, a customer can discover a product via social media, go to check it out at a retail store, and then order it online. Or some retailers offer a hybrid shopping experience, such as Best Buy and Staples, that allows customers to shop online then pick up the merchandise at a near-by retail store, without having to pay shipping charges.

This reverse online to in-person retail strategy is helping drive growth for “challenger brands” such as Adore Me Lingerie, a $43 million a year eCommerce business. Founded in 2010 by Morgan Herman-Waiche, Adore Me appeals to young women by offering low prices, and a fast-fashion sensibility to selling lingerie.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 3.58.58 PMThe NYC based company is the intimates answer to fast fashion giants like Zara, H&M and Forever 21. Adore me is also giving lingerie category leader Victoria’s Secret, with $12.5 billion in annual sales, a real run for its money.

Adore Me operates on a fast-fashion / rapid manufacture-to-retail cycle in which the brand introduces a new 30-40 piece collection every month. Their price point is about $39.95 for a matching bra and panties set. New members can buy their first set for $24.95 plus free shipping. Adore Me also offer swimwear, sleepwear, lingerie and accessories.

Recently Adore Me joined the growing ranks of eCommerce merchants opening a physical store by announcing the opening a by-appointment only location inside its West 39th Street headquarters in NYC.

Morgan Hermand-Waiche

Morgan Herman-Waiche

This savvy move was prompted by the success of a three-day Valentine’s Day pop-up shop which Adore Me had created in New York City’s Hudson Hotel earlier this year. Adore Me plans to enhance the customer experience even further by providing 45-minute one-on-one sessions with a personal shopping stylist. Interested shoppers can sign up online for appointments.

“I literally came to the U.S. with my luggage and ambition,” said Herman-Waiche   a French native and Harvard Business School alumnus. “Now I’m disrupting a whole industry.”

As another Frenchman, Marcel Proust, once noted: “Most things are not what they appear to be.” Online shoppers need to be mindful of price savings offers and comparisons that could make them feel like they are getting a great deal, when in fact, they are not.

As the NY Times recently reported, many online retailers use “list price” as a comparative benchmark to demonstrate online savings. However, this sales tactic, which usually involves a much higher amount, is now drawing legal scrutiny and may raise integrity questions for eCommerce merchants.Everything is on Sale

It’s clear that the retail marketplace is changing fast, driven by disruptive technologies (smart phones), risk-taking start-ups, and shoppers who continually seek better deals and broader selections of merchandise.

But the future of retailing may lie in the lessons of the past, as exemplified by Chicago retail pioneer Marshall Field. He was renowned for his ability to provide an exceptional level of quality, selection and customer service. Field’s motto for success was “Give the lady what she wants.”

Marsahll Field

Marshall Field

Retailers like Adore Me are doing just that (in 21st Century terms) in terms of giving customers what they want: great merchandise selection, attractive value, convenient eCommerce delivery via smart phones and tablets. As for those who want to physically see then handle the merchandise, a personal shopper to enrich the transaction.

 

 

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2016 Resolutions for eCommerce Businesses Success

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.33.02 AM2015 was a good year for many eCommerce businesses, but regardless of how prosperous your company was, there’s always room for improvement! With the new year upon us, BLACK + GOLD has come up with five New Year’s resolutions that can help make 2016 progressive and prosperous for your business.

  1. Get engaged with social media marketing

Social media Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.42.23 AMcontinues to grow like a weed, and it has become a great venue for not only marketing but also selling using newly introduced “buy buttons” where people can buy directly from the social media site. Everything is testable on social media, including which types of “content” resonate with your target audience, reflected by what they choose to engage with and share.

  1. Start your own blog (and post frequently)

More and more companies are using marketing to “invite a conversation” with their customers rather than “talk at them” the way traditional advertising does. A blog can tell your story, or invite your customers to share their stories about your brand. Authentic and engaging content produces results: people will think your blog is worthy of sharing and commenting on, and it will build your brand in the process.

  1. Upgrade your website content

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.45.49 AMYour website is your “digital storefront” and it should be treated with great care. Take an objective look at your site (or have someone else do it) to make sure the content makes sense. Look at your web analytics for simple metrics like the “bounce rate” off your site (people who only look at the home page then leave, often never to return). Be sure to change a homepage that is boring or off-putting. Make sure you have a clear call-to-action and use relevant key words to consistently drive web search traffic.

CCampaign4

Branded image created by B+G in 2015

  1. Create a consistent / high quality visual brand image

Consider creating visual keywords. Does your website and its product images convey a consistent, high-quality look and feel? Are all the images easily identifiable as your brand? This applies to static images and video /streamed content as well. Consider developing visual keywords for your website. Check out our blog post on the best ways to do this.

  1. Take reasonable risks

In his book “The Start-up of You” LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman suggests that people should act like a start-up and be in “permanent beta”  or constantly challenging the status quo by testing new things. This can include your merchandise, distribution channels, website images, pricing strategy, marketing efforts or even evolving your business model. Try a test-learn-apply approach to business. Disruption can create big value, just look at Uber and Airbnb.

Here’s to a healthy, happy, and- most of all -prosperous 2016 from the team at BLACK + GOLD.

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How to Get Your Share of $1.5 Trillion

Last week the Content Marketing Institute reported  “Visual Content Strategy: The new ‘black’ for content marketers.” In essence it is crucial for businesses involved in eCommerce to understand how to use pictures effectively. Why? Because it just might reveal how to get your share of $1.5 trillion (in eCommerce business).

Photographs are best for driving social media engagement

Consider these data points that illustrate the growing importance of images as the driving force in social media content:

Images in social media Visually driven social media are growing their user bases by leaps and bounds, led by Instagram. The Pew Research Institute reported that Instagram grew its user base last year by nine percent. This translates to 26% of the US adult population is now on Instagram.

Consider how Facebook has evolved as well. According to Business Insider, Facebook users upload 350 million photos every day, making it the largest photo sharing site on the web, leaving Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket in the dust.

And upstart video-sharing platforms Periscope and Meerkat are growing at an exponential rate as well.

Stats on visual contentA recent survey from Software Advice and Adobe reports that images and photos are the most important social media tactic.

The obvious conclusion is that photography matters when it comes to engaging people in eCommerce. But how can an online business effectively monetize this trend and grow their business in the process?

There is both an “art” and “science” answer to this question. Let’s first examine the science side of the equation:

Social Media “Buy Buttons

As TIME magazine reported last month “Social media is no longer just ‘social’ it is fast becoming commercial too.”

Instagram Logo Instagram is giving advertisers much more powerful tools according to a report in TechCrunch. These tools include “Shop Now,” “Install Now,” and “Sign up” buttons, interest and demographic targeting, and software for efficiently managing huge campaigns. At this point they’ve stopped short of allowing “buy buttons” but appear to moving fast in that direction.

facebook logoFacebook announced last month that they are testing a new way to make it easier for users to shop on the social network’s app. Facebook cites the problems user have with their mobile shopping experience: difficult navigation, slow load times and too many steps on the way to check-out.

Facebook is testing immersive mobile ads called Canvas. “After clicking on an ad, people will see a fast-loading, full-screen experience where they can browse through a variety of products before going to the retailer’s website to purchase.”

Pinterest Logo Pinterest launched “buyable pins” earlier this year, and the Marketing Land blog reports that they are working in terms of driving new customer acquisitions. When users see a pin with a blue price, they will know it is buyable. They’ve created a simple secure checkout using Apple Pay and other experienced payment processors.

An attractive feature of buyable pins is Pinterest does not charge a sales commission. The bad news is there is a waitlist for merchants to sign up for this service.

Twitter logo Twitter has also rolled out “buy now” buttons embedded in its tweets. Twitter is partnering with major eCommerce platforms to offer this service, including Bigcommerce, Demandware and Shopify.

Now is the time to jump on this trend

All the major social media sites are making it easier to directly engage users, and then sell to them in new and innovative ways. This translates into growth for your eCommerce business.

Smart digital marketers and eCommerce sites should take note of this opportunity, and at the very least test one or more of these tactics to see how well it works with their products / services and eCommerce platform.

Like all new things there will be a learning curve, some growing pains and points of frustration, but it should be worth it in the long-run. If this seems daunting, simply think about getting a slightly larger part of what eMarketer expects to be the $1.5 trillion consumers will spend via eCommerce this year, while delivering a better user experience in the process.

To learn more about social media buy buttons, be sure to check out these links:

Twitter: http://bit.ly/1QL13fI

Pinterest: http://bit.ly/1PkVvf2

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1kOz56o

Instagram: http://bit.ly/1AJkv9U

 

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Jewelry eCommerce that Glitters

“The jewelry industry seems poised for a glittering future” according to a recently published report from global consulting giant McKinsey & Company entitled “The Jewelry Industry in 2020.”

McKinsey estimates annual global sales of $168 billion are expected to grow at a healthy clip of 5 to 6 percent each year, totaling $285 billion by 2020. The report noted that “Consumer appetite for jewelry, which was dampened by the global recession, now appears more voracious.”

The industry is also reported to be dynamic and fast moving. “Jewelry players can’t simply do business as usual and expect to thrive; they must be alert and responsive to important trends and developments or else risk being left behind by more agile competitors,” the McKinsey report went on to say.

The dynamic nature of the business is clearly evident in two key trends: The growth of branded jewelry and the massive increases in online jewelry sales. Online jewelry sales are enjoying double-digit sales growth, far outpacing the category as a whole.

What makes for an attractive, engaging and ultimately successful eCommerce presence for a jewelry company?

Create a Distinct Visual Brand

These days it is more important than ever for an online jewelry retailer to establish a clear and distinct visual brand. What does this mean?

Jewelry Photographed on Plain White Background. Fashion and fine jewelry designers need to start with a great product line, and then work to establish a visual identity that will empower them to stand apart from the competition.

Much of the visual brand presence is represented by photography, and there is a need to create images that consistently underscore your brand. If people see the product line on a website or social media (often on a smart phone) will they be able to quickly recognize and experience the unique attributes of your brand?

The online jewelry market is saturated, and the method for success is to distinguish yourself visually, in a fast and in an engaging way.

Use Consistent High Quality Product Images

In many people’s minds, when it comes to eCommerce it is all about product shots on white.

White and Yellow Gold Bracelet They think creating these shots is very simple, though it is actually very complex, and many aspects need to be managed with a great attention to detail.

Styling of pieces is important: the arrangement of the product in the frame must be smooth and neat, in order to makes the product look most appealing. When shooting a series of like products, make sure they are styled consistently.

Lighting is especially import for jewelry. It is an intricate process to light the various component parts of jewelry well. Some need “hard” light, while others look much better using “soft” light.

Retouching is also important. It is its own craft, and nearly all images need help: for example delivering consistent color, a clean white background, with strong contrast. In short, a litany of issues need to be managed.

Effective eCommerce usually means employing a large volume of images to keep things fresh and engaging for viewers. A good balance of quality, with a casual appeal, will work best for these eCommerce images.

Smart jewelry companies seek out photographers who have a process and infrastructure in place to deliver consistent, high quality shots. Every time a detail is overlooked, the images and ultimately eCommerce sales will suffer as a result.

Move Fast to Test Emerging Technologies

People are using mobile devices and smart phones more than ever in their daily lives. In an era of short attention spans, and a need for immediate gratification, the appearance of “buy” buttons is revolutionizing the way people can shop online using social media.

Twitter Buy Button

Twitter “buy” button makes shopping fast and easy.

Many social media networks, including Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter, are now offering a simple two-step “buy” button. This is a revolutionary online shopping development. This emerging technology is ripe for use in jewelry eCommerce.

Any online store that is a customer of Demandware, Bigcommerce or Shopify can now use software to create a link to a product that will show up with a “buy” button.

Using this feature, the social media user can purchase the product in as few as two taps – one on the buy button and a second confirmation tap.

Online merchants also need to work hard to stay visible and relevant by actively managing their “digital storefront” (website, blog, social media) with fresh, engaging and relevant content. They should also be mindful of tracking the data eCommerce produces to help identify what works, and what does not work.

It’s clear that the eCommerce future for jewelry manufacturers and retailers is a bright one, with a mindful approach to the art + science of eCommerce.

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The Art + Science of Keywords

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 3.50.34 PMKeywords – everyone seems to be talking about them. But what’s the best way to use the art + science of keywords to help build your business?

Keywords are usually thought of as an “index term” to help people and search engines find relevant web content. They can also be the primary gateway to eCommerce or other business engagements.

Let’s take a look at them in a broader way. In this post we’ll look at:

  1. Using keywords from an artistic / visual branding perspective
  2. How keywords work, and why you need them
  3. The different types of keywords

Consider the artistic and creative perspective on keywords. Your brand should have a unique character, and an equally unique aesthetic look and feel.

Here’s a fun marketing exercise:

Pick three keywords to describe the aesthetic character of your brand.

Is your brand fun? Colorful? Intimate? Quirky? Serious? What’s the personality of your brand?

Think in terms of the three words that can immediately describe the way your brand looks and feels. This is a useful exercise – as the key words can lay down a consistent foundation for your images and related marketing content. This process is something an algorithm can’t do for you.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 3.53.33 PMConsider Tiffany, the legendary jewelry brand. If you were to distill the visual character of their brand into three words, they might be elegant, powerful and loving. The company embodies these terms, and they are used as a visual blueprint for every image the company’s creates.

Without using keywords as a road map – you may fall victim to the old adage: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” and this certainly applies to the visual presentation of your brand and its products.

In terms of the science of key words, a business should create content around relevant topics for their products or services, and these are expressed as keywords, which helps them “rank” well in search engine result listings.

A simple informative video  of how search works from Google can help you understand the mechanics.

Why do you need keywords?

  1. Keywords should be used as the foundation of your website, blog and social media presence. They can also inform offers and e-mails.
  2. Keywords can help visitors and potential customers understand the purpose of your web page / blog and business.
  3. When a search engine crawls your web pages to index them – it will parse the keywords on the page to determine the purpose of your pages.

There are two different types of keywords:

Broad Keywords vs. Long-tail Keywords

Source: Hubspot

Broad Keywords: Are short words or phases that can apply to your own company, as well as every other firm in your industry.

Long-tail Keywords: Tend to be longer words or phrases that are more specific to your company.

When you’re first getting started, you definitely will want to start by targeting long-tail keywords, because these are easier to rank for and they also bring in the most relevant and qualified traffic.

Using a combination of both “art” and “science” driven keywords will help spell success for your eCommerce / online marketing efforts. Be sure to test different keywords to see which yield the best outcomes or results in terms of building site traffic, visitor engagement and eCommerce.

That’s the art + science of keywords in a nutshell.

How do you plan to use keywords to build your business this week?

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Three Smart Strategies to Step-up Your eCommerce Site

With the rise of eCommerce retailers, it’s only logical that showrooms would soon follow suit. Online showrooms like Joor, The Runthrough and Edited have streamlined the process of perusing look books, placing orders, and requesting samples.

Not only are these showrooms increasing their access to scores of potential customers and helping to eliminate tedious paperwork, but they’re also making major sales- we’re talking 9 figures here. That’s a lot of zeros! 

But a great showroom won’t boost your sales if you don’t provide them with great photography. Here are some smart strategies to consider:

Clarity is Crucial

A quick glance at your photos should tell the consumer everything they need to know. Are you uncertain of how to represent your products? Our Creative Directors and Stylists will devise a plan to make them shine! If you need multiple views of the same product, of course we do that too.

Communicate Visually

Once your images are online, the whole world is watching! How do you communicate effectively to everyone & anyone? Thankfully, exceptional photography is the other “international language” and clean, elegant images never go out of style. Whether you need product or model photography, our team can execute your vision and communicate your message.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 10.20.31 AM

Stay Ahead of the Competition

Working with a showroom enhances your visibility, but it also puts you in direct comparison other brands they represent. Fabulous photography is the key to standing out among the masses!

Ready to amp up your creative images? Seek out and hire a photography studio that has proven it can generate unique concepts and fresh look that will give you a creative edge and elevate your brand.

 

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Selecting the Right Type of Photograph for your Business Needs

When it comes to using photographic images to promote your brand and products on an eCommerce website, in advertising, catalogs, with e-mails or on social media, its wise to know that there are distinctly different kinds of images.

Which type of image should you use to get the most from its intended business, marketing or promotional purpose? How much time, energy and most of all money should be invested in conceptualizing and creating the images?

Finally, how will you know which images are working the hardest for your money to help grow your business?

At BLACK + GOLD we look at these challenges from two distinct, but not unrelated perspectives: Art + Science.

ART Department:

Here’s an overview of the various types of commercial photos that are available, what makes them great and how to use them to help build your business.

The most basic type of commercial photographic shot is a product on white.

Acacia Wood Bowl

Acacia Creations: 10” Acacia Wood Bowl

In this shot the “product is hero.” You will want to portray your product in the most flattering way possible in terms the angle of the shot and lighting. It’s worth working with a reputable commercial photographer or agency, with a good portfolio of work, to help make your product looks the best it can.

Here “professional eyes” on the lighting and styling of the shot can make a world of difference on its ability to sell product for your business online, in advertising or from catalogs.

A similar shot to the product on white image is the creative grouping on white. Here the objective is to portray a line of products in a compelling way, in terms of how the products are arranged and illuminated, such as a line of bracelets or earrings.

Jane Taylor Fine Jewelry

Jane Taylor Fine Jewelry

Groups of products tend to generate better engagement, and are the most affordable of the “creative” shots, showing products in a stylized way to enhance their impact.

Again, it’s critical to use professional styling and lighting. It will have a big impact on the quality of these types of shots, and their ability to help sell merchandise.

The next type of photographic image to consider is the Creative Campaign shot. Here you’ll want to invest time and money to get both the concept and photography right. With this shot you want to aim to get the best quality (photographer / agency) you can afford, that will deliver a polished brand image.

Selecting the right props, casting the right talent, selecting the right location, time of day, lighting, wardrobe, hair, and make-up are key. These can be still life product shots as well.

The combination of  the art direction, styling, lighting and photographer’s creativity along with some help from retouching will deliver a sophisticated, glamorous and larger-than-life image for your brand / products.

In the end you simply want to make people linger over the image, and make the product “an object of desire” that they will want to buy.

Last but not least are social media / eCommerce shots. Many companies simply don’t pay much attention to these shots, and they suffer from inadequate art direction and general poor quality.

createluv.com art and products

Luv. Exclusive goods for consciously styled living.

But consider the explosive growth of smart phones / tablet devices along with visually driven social media venues like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook; and online shopping – all these venues have made images a key point of consumer engagement.

With this category of images having more shots is always better, where you may want to opt for the quantity of images over super-high production value – to help manage costs, and keep things fresh for your audience. These shots are typically more casual, in order to be more fun and accessible.

Think of these types of shots as Chanel off-the-rack ready to wear, versus Chanel haute couture (campaign type shots). Both have great style and branding, you can simply afford to buy more off-the-rack merchandise, and happily live with a little less production value.

SCIENCE Department:

Today’s eCommerce landscape is ruled by data and analytics. In simple terms it’s using data to help you figure out which marketing activities are working and which are not. Knowledge is power here, which can lead to a more profitable operation.

When it comes to managing your image library, you will want to identify and use more images that generate the most “audience engagement.” That includes which are being shared most on social media, and those that can be tied to actual eCommerce orders. These actions will help build awareness of your brand and grow your bottom line.

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 1.43.07 PMA great place to start is Google Analytics. Using Google Analytics can help you better understand the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, better understand your visitors, and optimize your eCommerce efforts in term of more conversions and increased sales.

Google Analytics can be intimidating. Just the thought of a bunch of data, graphs and charts can easily scare a lot of people off. However, understanding the fundamental metrics of your site and your visitors is absolutely crucial to growing and scaling your business.

In the end, effective marketing and eCommerce is a function of creating and delivering engaging images (art) and using analytic data (science) to measure which products / images work and which don’t work in term of driving business results.

This learning can guide your marketing content development and investments for the best business results possible.

 

 

 

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Welcome to the Art + Science of Modern Marketing

Welcome to the new BLACK + GOLD blog “The Art + Science of Modern Marketing.” We’ve created this blog to talk about how we view the current order of marketing and creativity.

Much has been said and written about how much marketing has become a science, with all the advancements in technology and the web impacting eCommerce. As famed consulting firm McKinsey Company wrote recently in their white paper The dawn of marketing’s new golden age:

“Advances in data, modeling, and automated analysis are creating ever more refined ways of targeting and measuring the returns
 on marketing investments, while generating powerful new clues about why consumers behave as they do.”

While we respect and practice the science of modern marketing, at BLACK + GOLD we are firmly committed to the art of visual story telling with great photography, creating images that reflect and celebrate the authenticity of a brand and its products, in a way that no algorithm can define.

BLACK + GOLD is made up of artists, writers and creatively inspired people first and foremost, and we use that lens for everything we do. And we then combine our artistic sensibilities with proven business acumen.

Is freely mixing art + science in business, marketing and eCommerce like trying to mix oil and water?

We think not.

On this blog we’ll be sharing ways that will help you understand and then put into practice both the art + science of modern marketing.

We invite you to comment on and share our posts on social media, and let us know if there is anything you’d like us to write about going forward.

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