Leonardo Da Vinci’s Wanted: The Atelier reBORN

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Wanted: The Atelier reBORN

By: Adam Weissman, Back End Associate Developer at BORN Group

For boot camp grads and those early in their tech careers, the conventional
“job-seeker” wisdom is often less about lighting the spark that will make your star burn brightest, but finding a stepping stone that isn’t so slippery that your ambitions are extinguished before your journey even begins. In other words, they say, “Get into a training program, apprenticeship, or junior position as prestigious as possible, so that a second job will be the reward for the first.” While that mindset might be “practical” it disregards that not all training programs are about transforming you from a round peg to fit a square hole, and not all “stepping stones” are for crossing streams — some are for climbing mountains. 

Would-be associates at any company should consider the larger ecosystem of talent, and people they’ll be working with and learning from.

But how do you know if a company is just for crossing a stream, or the mountain to climb? It comes down to whether the associate training program is a factory or an atelier. The atelier, as mentioned here, is best represented in its ideal ‘graduates:’ the Leonardo Da Vincis, Michelangelos, Raphaels, and many more whose work you know, but names you’ve never heard of. The emphasis and goal of the High Renaissance atelier (1490s-1527) was to produce work worthy of the top art patrons of the day. In 2021, we might substitute art commissions for eCommerce builds, and the patrons for today’s leading brands. 

The BORN Associate Program IS the modern equivalent to the renaissance atelier. The analogy starts with each project-build destined to be its own masterpiece, but goes further with each of BORN’s Practices serving as a quarry; with each custom build: Arctic Fox, Bulldog, Eagle, or Bison (supporting leading eCommerce platforms spanning; Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Adobe Commerce Cloud, SAP Customer Experience, or Shopify Plus) acting as a slab of marble waiting to take life. 

But the atelier is truly reborn in the relationships forged by associates with each other, and the Tech Leads that raise them up. In the 2021 class of Salesforce Associates, Tech Leads Matt Meagher and Chris Connell mentored the associates on the nuances of platform-specific problem-solving. Answering questions like; what can go right and what can go wrong, as well as passing down “unwritten documentation” and debugging techniques the way a Master Sculptor might illuminate secrets from one generation to the next. 

“Documentation can teach you only so much. Hands-on experience with the platform, day-to-day tools, and problem-solving techniques is where the real true comprehension happens,” stated Chris Connell, SFCC Tech Lead at BORN Group. 

“I tell anyone confused on how something works to ‘follow the path.’ Not sure what this is doing? What code is it using? What code is that using? Being able to trace that usually leads to discovery. I show them how the codebase can become documentation,” added Matt Meagher, Front End Tech Lead at BORN Group.

Lastly, the BORN Associate Program not only sets new hires on track to realize their potential as technicians with trade tools like Javascript, The Salesforce Platform, Git, and beyond — the way in which Leonardo Da Vinci or Raphael would’ve been masters of mixing their own paints and “techniques of the brush” — but as artisan problem solvers capable of conquering legacy code from pre-built solutions, similar to how Michelangelo might’ve had to reimagine and reengineer St. Peter’s Basilica after 40 years of construction and five earlier architects.

“We are creating a work environment where we consistently identify our team’s strengths, weaknesses, interests, and values by maintaining open, effective communication and ongoing encouragement. Based on these assessments we regularly promote new roles and responsibilities to challenge each one of us within the organization,” stated Kevin Yao, Salesforce Practice Lead at BORN Group.

And so, as the BORN Associate Program brings the atelier ‘full circle’, we come back to the point of those bootcamp grads and early tech-career starters that might be wondering, “Where do I go from here?” If you’re looking for a program that will help you realize your potential, where once you ‘graduate’ to production work every project is as its own commission, where the work you do is always fresh, then keep an eye out on BORN’s career page for updates surrounding the next Associate Program.

“Fostering a learning-based culture is paramount to growth, retention and satisfaction. Watching the new energy brought in by each batch of associates is infectious. The maturation of those leading the program gain each go-around is inspiring. The unbridled success of this program is inspiring adoption in other capabilities and geographies. I am personally excited to see the growth that comes out of these types of efforts in the coming years!” stated Dustin Holmstrom, Head of Digital Architecture, North America at BORN Group.

eCommerce 101

eCommerce 101

It seems as though we’ve transacted online forever, but really it is only in the last three decades that eCommerce – that is, the buying and selling of goods via online services or the Internet – in its current form has been around.

The History of eCommerce

The germ of the concept dates back around forty years though, to well before the Internet became ubiquitous.

Encryption technology around telecommunications and the semiconductor industry advanced enough that in 1979, English inventor and entrepreneur Michael Aldrich demonstrated the first ‘online shopping system’[1] using a modified television set connected to a transaction processing computer via a telephone line in the UK. He enabled automated business-to-customer or business-to-business transactions in a closed, secure loop that could be shared by third parties, which would go on to become what we called eCommerce today.

In 1982, Boston Computer Exchange, an online market for people to sell used computers, became the first eCommerce company.

eCommerce stores and marketplaces

It took another 10 years till Book Stacks Unlimited debuted as an online bookseller, using an dial-up bulletin board. In 1994, it moved over to the Internet at books.com, today owned by Barnes & Noble.

In 1995, Amazon also launched as an online bookseller before converting into to a broad spectrum eCommerce store in 1998, and finally evolving into a marketplace that also accepted third-party sellers in 2000. Also in 1995, eBay was founded as an auction site which has gone on to become a giant of online retail globally. The takeup of broadband internet connections in the first decade of this century had a big part to play in this trend too.

Amazon set many of the standards for modern-day eCommerce by offering features that mail-order couldn’t, such as one-click shopping, comparison shopping across retailers, product reviews, quick and sometimes free delivery as well as easy returns.

In 2005, by adding a membership component with Amazon Prime that allowed for two-day shipping and later, access to its streaming service, and building warehouses across the US to be closer to the customer and cut delivery times, it revolutionized the supply chain management and fulfillment side of eCommerce. Etsy, the marketplace for crafts and small sellers, was also launched in 2000.

Membership is also how music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer and operate – as premium subscription services – though actual streaming of music goes as far back as 1881 when the Theatrophone allowed listeners to listen to opera and theater performances via a telephone line. Netflix and Disney have, of course, done the same for video streaming, which has turned them into a club-type good.

While Amazon is the largest eCommerce store and marketplace globally in terms of revenue and market capitalization[2], Alibaba (founded 1999), Rakuten (founded 1997) in Asia and Mercado Libre (founded 1999) in Latin America are significant players in their markets.

Payment Infrastructure for eCommerce

In 1998, though, another important part of the eCommerce ecosystem, that of the payments that power it, launched when Paypal (originally Confinity) was founded. Paypal is now owned by eBay.

Since then, the proliferation of other digital wallets and peer-to-peer payment processing platforms such as Google Pay (previously Google Pay), Stripe and Apple Pay have made mobile payment even easier and more widespread.

Afterpay, Klarna and Paypal Credit are introducing customers to the idea of buy now, pay later, the practice of paying for eCommerce purchases in three or four installments like in actual retail, making it more widely accepted.

Anyone Can Have a Webshop

With customers not necessarily confined to a geographic location, there needed to be a way to reach them. Google Adwords, introduced in 2000, fulfilled that need. It allowed eCommerce businesses to advertise to people using Google search.

The arrival of Shopify in 2004 upended the till-then expensive coding and equipment necessary for the development of a webshop and point-of-sale systems and democratized it to allow anyone with an account to set one up using available templates. Shopify has built up a 20% market share in the US with WordPress plug-in WooCommerce themarket leader with 26%[3].

Types of eCommerce

Business to Business, B2b The traditional route where companies buy and sell goods and services with each other.

Business to Consumer, B2c This is the route when companies sell to consumers.

Business to Business to Customer, B2b2c A route where larger businesses sell to smaller entities who resell the product & services to a customer. A good example would be an HVAC company selling air conditioning equipment to a contractor who services the end customer.

Marketplaces This is where suppliers (business vendors and individual sellers) sell to buyers (businesses or consumers).

Consumer to Consumer (C2c) eBay is the best-known example of a platform that allows consumers to sell and buy products to each other.

Social, mobile and voice eCommerce applications

The future of eCommerce is all about shopping using mobile devices and apps and increasingly, voice. 81% of visits on Shopify sites is from mobiles[4]. SMS marketing is therefor becoming increasingly important. Social shopping has also taken off with brands using sponsored stories on Facebook and shoppable posts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to reach customers.

Choosing an eCommerce platform

BORN Group has been around since eCommerce was in its infancy. Today, we are integrators for the major systems including SAP Commerce, Salesforce Commerce, Adobe Commerce, BigCommerce, ShopifyPlus, Commercetools, VTEX, and Elastic Path. To make informed platform decisions, we use something called a 5C methodology as part of our technical roadmap that we call the Feature Value Matrix at BORN. These include:

Conform We identify requirements that can be supported to conform to out-of-the-box features in a platform.

Configure BORN identifies requirements that can be supported through configurations made to the platform.

Customize We determine the necessary customizations that will need to be built into the platform.

Compromise The configuration and integration of third party tool or systems such as ERP, OMS and CRM systems that cover tax systems, loyalty programs, payment gateways, fraud detection, affiliate programs, email campaign systems, and user reviews

Connect Identifying all requirements that are supported through integration and offer accelerators for a shorter time to market at a reduced cost.

Through optimization of the 5C’s BORN Group is able to pinpoint your businesses specific needs and map those requirements to the most efficient solution.

eCommerce: Even more potential

Currently, only around 14% of retail sales is e-retail[5]. Moreover, 4 in 10 people worldwide don’t have an internet connection and over half the world doesn’t have a smartphone[6], so there is still a huge amount of potential with regard to eCommerce. Expect to see more omnichannel experiences, personalization, and artificial intelligence-enabled shopping.

The situation with Covid saw eCommerce sales accelerate around the globe – the US alone saw a 30% growth[7] – and is expected to touch USD 476 billion in 2024[8].

To know more about how BORN is leading the charge to merge usability with shopability by making informed platform decisions  to drive consumers online, click here.


[1] Michael Aldrich Invents Online Shopping, Historyofinformation.com,

https://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?id=4068

[2] Global Amazon retail e-commerce sales 2017-2021, Statista,

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1103390/amazon-retail-ecommerce-sales-global/

[3] Ecommerce Platform Marke Share in the USA, Oberlo, https://www.oberlo.com/statistics/ecommerce-platform-market-share-in-usa

[4] Shopify Announces Third-Quarter 2019 Financial Results, Shopify, https://news.shopify.com/shopify-announces-third-quarter-2019-financial-results

[5] E-commerce share of total global retail sales from 2015 to 2023, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/534123/e-commerce-share-of-retail-sales-worldwide/

[6] How Many People Have Smartphones In The World?, https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/how-many-phones-are-in-the-world

[7] US Ecommerce Growth Jumps to More than 30%, Accelerating Online Shopping Shift by Nearly 2 Years, emarketer, https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-ecommerce-growth-jumps-more-than-30-accelerating-online-shopping-shift-by-nearly-2-years

[8] Retail e-commerce sales in the United States from 2017 to 2024, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/272391/us-retail-e-commerce-sales-forecast/

A Marketplace for All Reasons

A Marketplace for All Reasons

Before the advent of the online retail marketplace as we know it, there were B2B marketplaces that came out of the dotcom bubble such as VerticalNet, CommerceOne and Covisint. They helped businesses with online auctions at the one end and with procurement on the other, which involved complex transactions such as requests for quotations, information and proposals. They have mainly been subsumed into and are used these days as part of complex enterprise resource planning systems in major corporations.

However, the online marketplace model has persisted, driven by consumers seeking the convenience and broad assortment that marketplaces provide. In fact, online marketplaces now represent 57% of global web sales, totaling more than $2 trillion annually[1]. B2Bs are catching onto the marketplace trend as well: Gartner says that “By 2023, at least 70% of the enterprise marketplaces launched will serve B2B transactions”[2].

The origin of the modern marketplace trend can be traced, in part, back to two companies that did survive the dot-com bubble: Amazon and eBay. Amazon was founded in 2000 originally as an online marketplace for books before expanding into multiple categories and becoming a behemoth that is one of the biggest economic forces in the world[3]. Alexa, itself an Amazon company, ranks it the third-most visited website in the United States after Google and Youtube.[4]

eBay, founded by Pierre Omidyar in 1995, evolved from being an auction site to becoming an online marketplace with its ‘Buy it Now’ feature. eBay has grown to become a multibillion-dollar organization so big that the payment services provider it owned at one time, PayPal, had to be spun off.

eBay is present in over 30 countries but in China, where the consumer-to-consumer (C2C) platform Taobao – founded in 2003 by Alibaba – is the market leader, it couldn’t make a dent. Just like how eBay felt the need to own a payment services provider, Alibaba also owns Alipay, an escrow-based online payment system which is the most-widely used third-party payment solution in China.

In 2010, its service AliExpress connected Chinese manufacturers directly to international visitors, a move that would go on to radically change the offerings in many marketplaces today and give rise to retail fulfillment practices such as drop-shipping, where sellers don’t stock the product but instead buy it from a third party and have it mailed it out the customer. Taobao’s B2C platform Tmall is the third-most visited site globally.[5]

In Japan and Southeast Asia, eBay runs one of the main marketplaces Qoo10, in a joint venture together with another early C2C marketplace platform GMarket, founded in 2000 in Korea. The leader is Japan is Yahoo’s Paypay Mall, which was built on the success of the PayPay payment app and modeled on Alipay and Taobao, followed by Rakuten and then Amazon.[6]

The success of these digital giants has accelerated the adoption of the marketplace model across industries and regions, and marketplaces are being adapted to a variety of uses. We’ve begun to notice a myriad of them that can be labeled under the below categories.

Types of Marketplaces

  • Horizontal Marketplaces: where vendors offer a broad range of good and services across multiple categories, for example, Amazon or Idealo (the latter a price comparison site launched in 2000 in Germany that also offers sales of goods).
  • Vertical Marketplaces: where vendors offer products and services specific to a defined category or market. Etsy for arts, crafts and vintage items (founded 2005) or Airbnb for rentals (founded 2008) are prime examples.
  • Product Marketplaces: offering physical products such as Amazon or Walmart and even the tech marketplace Newegg.
  • Virtual Marketplaces: offering virtual products. Gaming marketplace G2G or cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance and Coinbase fall under this category.
  • Service Marketplaces: carpooling marketplaces Didi Chuxing, Uber, Lyft Line, Waze Carpool and Blablacar are some of the most popular. TaskRabbit is a marketplace for handymen while Udemy offers online courses.
  • Hybrid Marketplaces: offering both products and services. The subscription box marketplace Cratejoy offers extra services such as subscription-specific logistics, fulfillment management and shipping, tax-smart checkout, and resource guides. Houzz connects people with interior designers but also sells products for the home.
  • Niche Marketplaces: covering only a small part of the market.

From eCommerce to Marketplaces

Traditional eCommerce websites have to deal with challenges such as a limited product range, inventory, multiple sales channels and lack of control over the customer journey. This has led to many of them converting into marketplaces, where the owner then can take over the customer journey, allowing for a seamless customer experience.

The model is also more profitable than the conventional first-party eCommerce model. Because marketplace operators do not have to source, purchase, or warehouse inventory, they mitigate the cost & risk of inventory, and can adapt and scale their assortment in response to inevitable fluctuations in consumer demand throughout the year.

Marketplaces also Offer Many Advantages for Sellers

  • Access to a Broader Customer Base: A whopping 56% of searches start on Amazon[7]. Amazon Prime has 112 million members in the US alone and over 150 million worldwide.[8] [9] In December 2019, 214.8 million users visited Amazon’s websites per month, while second-ranked Walmart could boast of 138.3 million unique visitors during the same period.[10]
  • Reduced Time to Launch: Marketplaces allow new sellers to generate revenue straight away while building awareness for their brands without worrying about driving traffic to their sites.
  • Established Infrastructure and Support: The most popular marketplaces have established programs to help sellers get their products out to customers in terms of marketing, sales and fulfillment. Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and eBay’s Global Shipping are two examples of them.

The ubiquity of marketplaces has been powered by technology companies such as Mirakl, a best-of-breed marketplace technology solution on the market. Founded in France in 2012, Mirakl was built on the expertise of its co-founders, who launched, scaled, and sold Splitgames, the first omnichannel online marketplace for video games in 2005.

Retailers, manufacturers, and wholesalers have built their online marketplaces on Mirakl’s cloud-based software. Mirakl counts customers in over 40 countries, including Carrefour, H&M, the Kroger Col, Urban Outfitters, and Best Buy Canada.

They have also made a foray into B2B marketplaces for procurement or bulk buying of parts such as Astore by Accor Hotels, as well as clients such as Airbus Helicopters and Toyota Material Handling. Mirakl even runs a “marketplace of marketplaces” called Mirakl Connect, where sellers, marketplace operators, and technology partners connect to identify new opportunities in the marketplace ecosystem.

Marketplaces have changed the way we discover products and services. Indeed, they may have changed the way we live by bringing a wide range of these directly to our devices and reducing inefficiencies by lowering the cost of acquiring information about the sellers’ products.[11]


[1] What are the top online marketplaces?, Digital Commerce 360 https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/article/infographic-top-online-marketplaces/

[2] 1 Gartner, 11 Imperatives When Building an Enterprise Marketplace Business, Sandy Shen, Jason Daigler, 10 December 2019

[3] The Amazon effect on the US economy, Investopedia,  https://www.investopedia.com/insights/amazon-effect-us-economy/

[4] Top Sites in the US, Alexa.com. https://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/US

[5] The Top 500 Sites on the Web. Alexa.com. https://www.alexa.com/topsites

[6] Online Marketplaces in Japan: Rakuten, Amazon and PayPay Mall, Webretailer,  https://www.webretailer.com/b/online-marketplaces-japan

[7] Report: Google beats Amazon for product-search reach, but rival sees greater loyalty, Searchengineland, September 2017, https://searchengineland.com/report-google-beats-amazon-product-search-reach-rival-sees-greater-loyalty-282570

[8] Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/546894/number-of-amazon-prime-paying-members/

[9] Amazon Prime tops 150 million Prime members https://variety.com/2020/digital/news/amazon-150-million-prime-members-1203487355/

[10] Most popular retail websites in the United States as of December 2019, ranked by visitors, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/271450/monthly-unique-visitors-to-us-retail-websites/

[11] A Strategic Analysis of Electronic Marketplaces, J. Yannis Bakos, ACM Digital Library, https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/280324.280330


BORN Group’s Year in Review

BORN Group’s Year in Review

On our one year anniversary of being acquired by Tech Mahindra, BORN Group reports a transformative year looking back at our expansion of services and accolades as an agency. In face of the pandemic, BORN has kept buoyant, thrived, and secured landmark wins and awards to continue its status as the most decorated agency of its class.

BORN commanded over thirty-seven award wins throughout 2020. Client work with brands like Starbucks, Cadbury, Digi, Frette, Cartier, Tata Cliq, Tata Cliq Luxury, Tata Tetley, Love Bonito, Changi Airport Group, and Sour Patch Kids enjoyed high honors across the globe, receiving distinctions from the Communicator Awards, the Lovies, the FoxGlove Awards, Campaign India Digital Crest, the dotComm Awards, the Mob-Ex Awards, and the Digies. These wins centered around delivering excellent UI/UX, cultivating best practices, and ensuring best consumer engagement for these marquee brands.

As an agency, BORN Group received various commendations, winning Gold for Best Digital Consulting Agency of the Global Brand Magazine Awards, Company of the Year in Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations by the International Business Awards, an Agency of the Year Finalist by the Drum Awards, and named advertising + Marketing Research Agency and Brand and Design Agency of the Year. BORN Group’s CEO, Dilip Keshu, was also distinguished as an Entrepreneur of the Year by the International Business Awards, otherwise known as the Stevies, while the agency also enjoyed numerous accolades via partner awards, namely in receiving the SAP APJ Excellence Award 2020 for SAP Customer Experience, Most Innovative Partner of the Year Award by the 2020 Bloomreach Awards, and Best User Experience and Design by the BigCommerce 2020 Partner Awards.

As part of its acquisition by Tech Mahindra, BORN Group undertook a complete digital overhaul to capture their full suite of offerings, verticals, and 80+ comprehensive case studies. The new site was recently awarded multiple CSS Design Awards for Best UX Design, Best UI Design, and Best Innovation, along with an honorable mention from the awwwards. 

Behind all these accolades were our fearless BORNies. With over eighty new hires this year, including key hires in management positions with the additions of, Minna Rhee, Managing Director, North America, Reji James, Head of Managed Services, North America and Dustin Holmstrom, Head of Digital Architecture, we’re proud to note our team grew despite the many challenges of 2020. Finally, BORN came together to build and deploy state of the art strategic frameworks in Stella and SMOC, and pledged support toward change through contributions to the BORN Equality Fund.

With 2021 on the horizon, we look to move towards a post-pandemic world more resilient and able than ever.

As we say here at BORN, onwards and upwards!

Best Practices: CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote)

Best Practices:
CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote)

Use CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) Wisely!

In recent years, businesses have adopted to CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) systems to provide configurable products as a personalization option for their customers. CPQ systems provide the flexibility for a customer to mix and match options available for a product they are interested in while simultaneously delivering a personalized end-to-end buying experience. Its also important to be mindful of launching the right strategy for CPQ functionality for your end customer, with a well thought out roadmap based on an array of factors including, customer behavior, business needs, and market trends. 

With that said, the adoption of CPQ isn’t necessarily for everyone, but it’s critical to start by answering the broad question, ‘Will this offering really accommodate and help the customer to make their buying decision?’ As we keep the customer at the center of everything we do, it’s critical to make the path to purchase completely seamless while simultaneously empowering the user. 

In most cases, the adoption of a CPQ strategy will have a direct impact on conversion rates and revenue. If the right CPQ strategy is not rolled out for the market segment that you are targeting it could spell disaster on conversion rates. Also, the longer it takes for the customer to complete the buying journey could directly impact the revenue. 

The broader considerations can be split further into more granular aspects as listed:

Customer Behavior

  • Age of the customers interacting actively with the brand.
  • The cultural background of the end customers.
  • Existing brand engagement metrics.
  • Market sentiments towards the brand.

Business Needs

  • Challenges in maintaining Product data.
  • Challenges in materials procurement.
  • Challenges in stock allocation.
  • Challenges in production for pre-configured items with demand.
  • Challenges in the maintenance of pricing for pre-configured products.

Upcoming Market-Trends

  • Trends are driven by social media and networking.
  • Innovation or market disruptions related to the product lines.
  • Transparency on pricing options.

It has become essential for businesses to strike a balance on having the right mix of options, messaging, and possibly gamification of the customer buying journey for a configurable product and also make it responsive enough to be delivered to any digital touchpoint where the customer interacts with the brand. Also, in addition to rolling out a product personalization feature to the customer, it is also important to monitor the interactions of the end customer with the CPQ feature. This provides valuable insights to allow you to improve upon your offering to ultimately enhance customer experience and conversion rates.

Apart from the major business considerations, it is equally important to choose the right CPQ product and eCommerce stack that can work well with your backend systems (ERP, CRM, etc.).  

All the above-mentioned considerations, analysis and decision making can seem intimidating. Here at BORN Group we specialize in CPQ and can help you to navigate a rollout strategy along with ongoing maintenance. Please feel free to reach out to Mackenzie Johnson, [email protected] for more information on our service offerings. 

Deck The Site: How to Approach and Market Holiday Shopping

Deck The Site: How to Approach and Market Holiday Shopping

Despite a troubling job market and looming election, according to a report from Deloitte, sales this season in the US are expected to grow between 1% and 1.5%1.This push is expected to be driven by increased spending from high-income households with fewer avenues for consumption, now that experiential spending on dining and travel have been curtailed2. Wealthy households are expected to have an impact of between 2.5% and 3% growth on sales.

It’s less about the 4Ps of marketing – product, price, place and promotion – when targeting online shoppers. One analyst called the new strategies “prepare, perceive and then pursue”3. During the course of this year, it has been proven that retailers that already had invested in omnichannel capabilities were better equipped to pivot to the change in customer shopping habits. This meant providing full omnichannel capabilities, like curbside delivery to accommodate the current conditions. However, there are a few things to keep in mind about approaching and marketing this season in particular.

A Longer Season 

Getting into the holiday spirit early is going to be the mantra of most people. Analysts expected that the holiday season would be extended this year and start early October4. Amazon’s Prime Shopping Day that took place October 13-14 – pushed back from its usual July dates – kicked off the season, though other retail brands such as Target, Walmart and Best Buy were offering deals in advance of that. Amazon said its independent third-party sellers alone clocked up US$3.5 billion worth of sales, an increase of 60% from last year’s Prime Day5. Retailers and logistics partners are  also pushing for shoppers to start their shopping early to avoid last minute delivery issues, while many shops are closed on Thanksgiving Day, making Black Friday less of a landmark date than it has been previously. 

Logistics, Last-Mile and Fulfillment

With an increase in online shopping comes added strain on the logistics industry. Salesforce believes that shipping surcharges will be imposed between November 15 and January 15 globally6. Retailers are beefing up their call centers and warehouses with more workers, investing in additional warehouse space to accommodate extra stock or converting brick and mortar locations to serve as delivery centers. Others such as Target, Staples and Walmart have partnered with solutions like Shipt, Instacart and Postmates to offer same day delivery. Others are preparing to be able to handle an influx of orders7. Logistics companies are recommending that shipping cut-offs for a delivery by Christmas Eve be brought forward to an earlier date. Keeping the last-minute rush in mind, retailers such as Macy’s are talking about keeping in-store and curbside pickups and returns to bolster online shopping in case of shipping bottlenecks8

Gift Ideas

The nature of gift-giving is also expected to change with more people gathering online or virtually. Even if they meet in person, the groups are expected to be smaller than usual. The nature of gifts exchanged are expected to change with fewer people gifting experiences and more practical and useful gifts, especially those that support the stay-at-home lifestyle such as consumer technology. Always popular, gift cards are expected to be featured prominently on shopping lists this year as well.

Clear Communications and Engagement Strategies

Morning Consult’s research has revealed that Americans are more likely to buy from brands whose ads are realistic or optimistic and explain how they’re keeping shoppers safe or provide gift ideas9. Even in stores, not just the adoption of Covid-19 health precautions to keep customers and employees safe but good signposting about them is key to allay customer fears. 

Managing customer expectations through clear communications about delivery options, status and timelines are crucial to retaining customers and building loyalty10. Aside from contactless mobile wallet transactions to allow for reduced contact between employees and customers, SMS texting and push notifications from retail apps at various touch points in the customer journey are key to building customer relationships11. Bloomreach advises retailers to ensure that product discovery and personalization are used to help customers find fun and interesting gifts, while making product availability clear to view while searching and browsing12.

Advertising

Retailers can leverage online advertising to reach their customers and direct them either to their online or brick and mortar stores. Data from Zenreach shows that click-through rates for online advertising are at 2-3%, about 20-30 times pre-COVID13

There’s one caveat though, the increased numbers of shoppers online is bringing with it online shopping scams, thereby shining a light on site security.

Even if dogged by uncertainty, the shopping season has gotten off to a great start this year, and these tips above can help retailers deploy ‘prepare, perceive and pursue’ strategies so that they and their customers both have a happy holiday.

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Understanding Headless Solutions as a Tool for Your Business

Understanding Headless Solutions as a Tool for Your Business

In the early 2000s, enterprises were implementing monolithic architectures as their eCommerce solution as it fulfilled their business requirements within a single location. As times have changed and technology developed, brands looked for more flexible solutions that would meet the needs of the consumer along with ever-changing market demands. While a monolithic architecture may work for some, it can oftentimes be challenging to scale these types of solutions as well as make updates. Thus, the microservices or ‘headless’ architecture was born. 

Since its inception, headless has gone beyond a trend to become a route for online retailers looking to create a future-proof platform that can adjust with their business. According to a recent study by Gartner,  56% of enterprise organizations have adopted microservices architecture solutions or have planned or budgeted to deploy API-based or headless commerce architectures in the future. Nonetheless, headless commerce is here to stay. 

What is Headless?

For a headless approach, the front end of your eCommerce shop and the back end are independent from one another or ‘decoupled.’ Thus, the content and experience management system is separated from the business logic and functional layer (existing eCommerce stack, integration and commerce management). This architecture paves the way for ‘Experience Driven Commerce’ applications that are heavily focused on the use of customer data to optimize and personalize the customer experience and rapidly increase conversions without compromising the integrity of your eCommerce build.  

With a headless approach, businesses have the ability to commerce-enable any system, application, or IoT device, and seamlessly integrate with other content management systems. In addition, this type of structure gives businesses the opportunity to remain nimble as they’re able to pick and choose what features and functionality they need to run their business. Additional benefits of this structure include: 

Speed: With a headless architecture you’re able to make rapid changes to the back or front of your build without disrupting the entire system. Design changes, testing and optimization can be done without impacting the stability of your eCommerce solution. In addition, in a headless scenario you’re free of operating constraints, making it easier for front-end developers to work efficiently (this means lower operating costs + accelerated site updates). 

Flexibility & Adaptability: Parts of the system can be delivered without impacting the core commerce functionality since they’re decoupled, making it easier to make developments and updates over time as needed.

Personalization & Customization: With a traditional or side-by-side structure the ability to customize or personalize a UX on the fly is nearly impossible. Integrating a personalization solution allowing marketers to offer relevant promotions and offers to customers across each touchpoint. In addition, a headless solution empowers the marketing team as it enables constant content updates that support marketing campaigns without IT restrictions. 

Omnichannel: In today’s day and age, it’s critical to offer users a complete omnichannel shopping experience, from in-store to online to over the phone. The ability to identify users across many devices and using consistent ID’s for online and offline behavior allows for a seamless experience, and is critical in retaining and attracting customers.

Elements of a Headless eCommerce Environment 

To ensure adaptability and flexibility, it’s critical to have the ability to innovate swiftly. In order to do this, brands must have a ‘swappable’ architecture which is only possible in a headless environment, where your applications are decoupled. Below you can see how headless comes into action, as each piece acts as a swappable lego. 

Is Headless Right for Your Business? 

While a headless solution is a great option for many retailers, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There are some additional factors that you should consider: 

  • Retailers looking to get online fast at a low price point may not be the best fit for a headless implementation. You’d have to consider multiple additions including an eCommerce solution, Search and CMS as opposed to a one-stop stack that fulfills all of these needs under a single umbrella. 
  • In addition, a headless implementation can require additional team members and developers to manage and execute, also affecting your total cost of ownership. 
  • Retailers would lack the technical support from a single software vendor. 
  • While headless solutions have been available to the market for some time now, the ecosystem of partners is still maturing. Retailers must be cautious in selecting third-party plug ins as they may not be suited for a headless environment. 

Scaling your Headless Return via ROX (Return of Experience)

Finally, understanding return of experience, or ROX, is key to gauging how successful a headless opportunity could be for a potential brand, and how best to scale the opportunity. ROX is the metric with which we measure the purchase experience of consumers. While Return of Investment (ROI) measures the amount of return on one’s investment, ROX goes beyond to assess multiple facets of a business to determine correlations that have decisive influence on customer experience, and ultimately affects your company’s bottom line. It’s our perspective that most organizations need to invest beyond customer experience (CX). Understanding how changes to customer experience impact your customers (in a positive or negative way), is critical in making informed choices in the development of your digital solution.

With a headless implementation, businesses have the ability to build their ‘perfect’ solution in a lego-like, plug and play format. Choosing what pieces are most valuable to drive your business and what you can live without. Understanding and achieving a high ROX is an important key to understanding what you should invest in, and how to review your potential headless solutions.

For more information on BORN’s headless solutions, please contact Mackenzie Johnson, [email protected]