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US stock futures recover from shock Omicron case in California; oil rises ahead of key OPEC+ meeting

The first US Omicron case initially hit stocks hard, but some stability was returning on Thursday. Meanwhile, oil rose off three-month lows.

K-pop boyband BTS members cash out $8.5 million worth of shares in their management agency, Hybe

Three members a Jin, J-Hope and RM a sold the Hype shares over several regular trading sessions from October 13 to November 9.

Apple has told suppliers demand for the iPhone 13 is falling ahead of the holidays, Bloomberg reports

The tech giant had already cut its iPhone 13 production target for 2021 by as many as 10 million units due to the ongoing global chip shortage.

Suncity, the biggest junket operator in Macau, has shut gaming rooms after its CEO was arrested, sending shares down to record lows

Former CEO and chairman Alvin Chau was arrested with 10 others on Sunday over alleged links to cross-border gambling and money laundering.

The head of the European Union Commission says it's time to consider making vaccines mandatory

With one-third of EU's population unvaccinated, said Ursula von der Leyen, it's "understandable and appropriate" to start discussing mandates.

Key witness in Congress' Capitol riot probe says he intends to plead the 5th amendment

The committee voted to recommend criminal charges against Jeffrey Clark but will give him a chance to invoke his 5th amendment claim on the record.

Justice Coney Barrett questions if adoption laws could eliminate the 'burden' of parenthood for abortion seekers

"It doesn't seem to follow that pregnancy, and then parenthood, are all part of the same burden," said the Supreme Court justice.

A former Marine pleaded guilty to assaulting police officers on January 6 after saying he was '50/50' on whether or not he regretted his actions

Kevin Douglas Creek, 47, was captured on body camera footage striking and kicking police officers, according to the criminal complaint.

Online mortgage startup Better reportedly laid off 9% of its staff a about 900 employees a as its plan to go public looms

Two months ago, Better was named America's top startup. CEO Vishal Garg has hired 7,000 people ahead of going public with a $6.9 billion valuation.

Jan. 6 panel votes to recommend criminal charges against top Trump DOJ official who refused to cooperate with Capitol riot probe

Jeffrey Clark is the second Trump ally to face potential contempt charges, but his case could be tougher for the DOJ than Steve Bannon's.

A 25-year-old private-equity associate died in midtown Manhattan on Monday. His father said that the cause of death was suicide.

The police found Drew Miller's body outside a large apartment complex in midtown on Monday. His father said he died by suicide.

A college law professor who teaches critical race theory worries that educators are living through another 'Red Scare'

Teachers are worried about their future job prospects as new state laws are signed that restrict classroom lessons on race and diversity.

Chris Cuomo says his indefinite suspension from CNN is 'embarrassing, but I understand it'

CNN suspended the anchor after transcriptsA appeared to showA Cuomo used media sourcesA to try to help his brother navigate a sexual-harassment scandal.

Check out Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes' handwritten 4 a.m. schedule that was submitted as she testified that her ex-boyfriend was abusive

A handwritten note was submitted into evidence on Monday as Elizabeth Holmes testified, alleging abuse from her ex-boyfriend Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani.

The 4 best comforters we tested in 2021

The best comforters for your bed in 2021 come from Brooklinen, Room Essentials, The Company Store, and Lands' End.

Former White House chief of staff says Trump won't run in 2024 because he can't 'be seen as a loser'

John Kelly, who served as White House chief of staff from 2017 to 2019, said he thought Donald Trump might declare a campaign but not end up running.

The 5 best pre-lit artificial Christmas trees in 2021

Pre-lit Christmas trees will save you the hassle of having to string a tree with lights every year. Here are the best pre-lit Christmas trees in 2021.

Facebook, now Meta, says users in China created a fake Swiss scientist to spread conspiracies that the US was falsely blaming it for COVID-19

Facebook said a user named Wilson Edwards for 2.5 weeks spread lies that the US was urging the WHO to blame COVID-19 on China. But he doesn't exist.

A disgraced Trump loyalist is in trouble for blowing off January 6 investigators. But Biden's DOJ still faces a tough call on prosecuting him.

Jeffrey Clark presents a tougher case for DOJ to prosecute compared with Steve Bannon. Both Trump allies are defying January 6 investigators.

Here are 5 of the weirdest music trends of the year, according to Spotify Wrapped

Music for plants, sea shanties, and UFO-related playlists topped Spotify charts this year, according to findings from Spotify's end-of-year report.

An Airbus A340 aircraft just landed on Antarctica for the first time ever a see the history of aviation on the 7th continent

In 1956, the US Navy managed to accomplish what many had thought was impossible a landing an aircraft on the Antarctic ice.

The top 9 shows on Netflix last month, including 'Squid Game' and 'You'

Netflix's biggest TV shows in November included two Korean-language series, "Squid Game" and "Hellbound."

American corporations could pay to vaccinate the world 10 times over with just their extra profits from 2021

Vaccinating the world would cost about $50 billion, the OECD says. That could be easily paid for from extra cash the biggest companies made this year.

Square changes name to Block just 2 days after Jack Dorsey steps down from Twitter

The name change highlights Jack Dorsey's continued cryptocurrency and blockchain ambitions.

Facebook launched an online program in marketing analytics that aims to get beginners job-ready in 5 months a here's why it can be a good lower-cost option

Facebook has a new online marketing analytics program through Coursera to get you certified in about 5 months. Here's what you need to know.

Convict at center of the US Navy bribery ring now claims he secretly recorded naval officers with sex workers he paid for

Leonard Francis, an ex-contractor at the center of a notorious US Navy bribery ring, claims he secretly recorded officers with sex workers.

Tesla's move to Texas from California is officially complete

The company said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that it had relocated its headquarters to its Gigafactory in Austin.

How to see all your YouTube subscribers on a computer or phone

You can only see how many YouTube subscribers you have on the website or the mobile app, but you need the website to see a list of your subscribers.

A study on NBA players and staff found vaccinated people with breakthrough infections may be less likely to spread COVID-19 to others

The study, done when Alpha and Delta were dominant in the US, found vaccinated people "clear" the virus days earlier than those who are unvaccinated.

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How To Get Ahead of The Competition with Easy-to-Launch eCommerce Subscription Services ?

Prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a shift in customer buying habits, as more and more shoppers were in search for convenience and preferred to complete their purchases online. So itas no surprise that after the COVID-19 stay-at-home measures were implemented, the demand for online subscription services spiked. Shoppers fell in love with the ease and convenience of online shopping for their favorite products and having it automatically delivered to their door steps, without putting their health at risk. In 2020 alone we saw a 48% increase in subscription enrollment, with $3 Billion in orders in the physical goods eCommerce subscription space, with no signs of it slowing down even after the end of the pandemic.

As such, it is a great time for retailers to enter the market and add subscriptions services to their existing physical products or simply start from scratch. By deploying subscription services, it puts brands in an ideal position to drive predictable and sustained revenue, while also generating increased customer loyalty with more affordable buying options. Gartner even predicts that, aBy 2024, leading commerce organizations will generate 10% of online revenue from services, such as subscriptions, attached to physical products.a However, they also state that while a75% of organizations selling direct to consumer will offer subscriptions services by 2023, only 20% will succeed in increasing customer retention.a

 

Whyas that you may ask?

  • Firstly, while consumers are easily enticed to purchase subscription services, they tend to cancel those that donat create extended value and deliver superior end-to-end user experiences. Once they find that the subscription is too limited, they often arenat able to justify the value and cancel, leading to a high churn rate for brands.
  • And secondly, itas difficult for brands to continuously drive convenience, offer personalized and curated choices, and grant exclusive access for their subscription services, when they leverage traditional out-of-the-box subscription management solutions. These types of solutions lack the flexibility to create personalized subscription experiences or are excessively expensive and time consuming to do so. This leaves brands incapable of keeping up with customer demands, which leads to high churn.
  • So how should brands who are interested in entering the subscription services market go about doing so? In this article, we will dive into understanding if you need a subscription management solution and explain how Elastic Path can help businesses excel when launching subscription management services, thanks to our newly launched Pre-Composed SolutionsTM for Subscriptions.

     

    Do You Need A Subscription Management Solution?

    Itas important to first understand if your business even needs a subscription management solution. Oftentimes, brands think they need a asubscription managementa solution, when what they really need is a arecurring billinga service. These terms are used interchangeably quite often, even though they serve different purposes.

    Subscription management is the organization and oversight of the interaction between the business and its customers. This could include:

    While recurring billing is the process of:

     

    So as you can see, the two are indeed not the same, but are actually complementary to each other. However, when paired together, they do create a good solution for both managing the services, and what we might see as the most important part, collecting payments that go towards your revenue.

    Therefore, if youare the type of brand that is just looking for a way to allow your customers to sign up with their payment credentials, and have a payment be automatically collected for a specified period, then a standalone recurring billing service may be right for you.

    However, if youare the type of brand that is interested in:

    Then a subscription management service may be right for you. So how can you get started and get up and running quickly? With the new Pre-Composed SolutionaC/ for Subscriptions built by our partner Pixie Labs.

     

    New: Pre-Composed SolutionaC/ for Subscriptions

    At Elastic Path, we understand the desire to innovate and test new business ventures quickly, while also minimizing risk. Thatas exactly why we offer Pre-Composed SolutionsTM. These business-ready solutions are pre-composed from a combination of Elastic Path commerce capabilities, third-party integrations, and customizations that brands can use to quickly deploy a commerce solution; with greater flexibility and less risk.

    Our new Pre-Composed SolutionaC/ for Subscriptions, built by Elastic Path partner, Pixie Labs, on top of Elastic Path Commerce Cloud, provides a complete subscription management solution that allows for B2B, B2C, and D2C brands to quickly create and customize unique subscription services for their customers, that drive predictable and scalable revenue channels.

    In addition to the Elastic Path core commerce capabilities, this solution comes pre-integrated with:

    to allow brands to build differentiated subscription services from scratch, or as an addition to their existing Elastic Path implementation.

    As previously mentioned, traditional subscription management solutions are often rigid and come predefined, which makes it difficult for brands to create custom subscription services. This Pre-Composed SolutionaC/ reduces the time and complexity of configuring customer-centric subscription services, and thus empowers brands to get ahead of their competition faster. Additionally, the ultimate flexibility of the microservices architecture also enables brands to quickly experiment with new approaches that could give them sustained advantages in their market. Therefore, brands can now feel empowered to create differentiated subscription services that keep their customers engaged and satisfied, allowing them to succeed in increasing customer retention and driving more sustained revenue.

    With the joint solution from Pixie Labs and Elastic Path, brands will have access to a complete end-to-end eCommerce subscriptions solution that offers:

    We'd love to talk about how this Pre-Composed SolutionaC/ for Subscriptions could help you launch your subscription management services in record time. Reach out today or join us for a live aAll Demo-No Pitcha session of this Pre-Composed SolutionaC/ on December 14th. Register Here.

     


    Why Page Load Time Matters

    Have you ever been frustrated by an online shopping experience? Clicked on a link while scrolling social but abandoned it because the product page loaded too slowly? Increasingly, customers expect convenient and seamless experiences when buying online.

    These expectations can have a surprisingly impactful effect on your brand's bottom line.

    When it comes to eCommerce, an often-neglected aspect is website performance. How fast your website loads directly impacts your customer experience and outcomes. Is your website doing all it can to encourage purchases, or is it causing your brand to leave dollars on the table?

    Does it Matter to Your Brand?

    Over the past couple of years, you've undoubtedly heard about the increasing use of mobile to make purchases, both for B2C and B2B brands. Flashy stats and presentations often lead to knee-jerk reactions like setting up a mobile channel but fall short on delivering an experience that will help your brand convert more sales.

    As ever, the numbers don't lie. Here are a few stats to consider:

    Before your customers can make a purchase, ensuring they make it through the door is essential to making a sale with the probability of a bounce increases 90% as mobile page loads go from 1s to 5s.

    Another added benefit is that your site speed directly impacts where you will rank on search. A few years ago, Google even announced it as an update, yet a significant number of retail sites still have poor load times.

    "Sixty-four percent of all online retail is from mobile, but conversion rates on mobile are only half that of desktop. That's more people browsing, but fewer people buying... In fact, we've seen that companies who commit to great mobile design are seeing 32% increases in revenue. And, get this, up to 400% improvement in conversion rates. " - Adrienne Clem, Director of Search Ads Growth and Optimization at Google.

    Check out our mobile commerce guide to learn more.

    This isnat to say that mobile experiences should be the be the sole focus of your page speed optimizations. Providing seamless experiences across channels is a crucial benefit of a cloud-based Headless Commerce platform like Elastic Path; it's a perfect fit for your website's scalable, near-instantaneous performance.

    To learn more about how a Headless Microservices-based cloud platform, check out our guide to Headless commerce here.

     

    Build Faster, Seamless eCommerce Experiences

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    What Site Speed Should You Target and How Do You Get There?

    The holy grail of website performance is simple: a page load time of 3s.

    Two of the usual culprits for lagging performance are large images (file size), and the architecture used to build your site (from poorly designed coding to back-end systems like your eCommerce platform).

    Thankfully, there are a plethora of resources to help guide you on your optimization journey. We recommend Google's PageSpeed insights tool to start. The tool helps determine where you stand, and how you can start to make improvements.

    Optimizations will be an ongoing process for your IT team, however, itas great to have the peace of mind that your eCommerce platform can help support your journey to stellar performance.

    Hereas a quick snapshot of what an Elastic Path powered site performs like.

    Versus a not-so-great performance on other Headless Commerce platforms.

    Ready to switch to an eCommerce platform that helps rather than hinders your website's performance? Chat with us today to see how Elastic Path can help your brand.


    Inside Elastic Path with Esme Flynn

    Our Inside Elastic Path series features Esme Flynn, Customer Success Manager, whoas been with Elastic Path for five months. Esme enjoys working with long term clients, and welcoming in new customers, by making them feel comfortable, and introducing them to different team members. Learn more about Esmeas role and why she loves working here!

    Q: Can you describe a usual workday as a Customer Success Manager?

    Q: In your current role is there something you are most proud of?

    Esme: In our team, we care about our customers shared success and helping to achieve to their goals. Iam proud that we have been able to start our year out strongly by helping our customers adopt more of our features, grow their business, and be an extension of their team.

    Q: Thinking back from when you first joined Elastic Path, what led you to join the company?

    Esme: I have been here for around five months and it feels like 10 years, in a good way, due to all the information I have learned from when I first joined Elastic Path. This was my first time working for a tech-based company, and tech was very intimidating going in. However, with coaching and the great support, I am able to learn new information as I grow. I can easily hop on a call with our engineers which is a very easy and comfortable conversation. I can easily ask a silly question I am stuck on and get the answer right away, which makes my job easier.

    Q: How would you describe the culture here at Elastic Path?

    Esme: The culture is very casual, and everyone is warm and welcoming. I have been able to meet people face-to-face in our Boston WeWork office, or I have been able to meet people outside work if we live close by. Every team member in the company, no matter their title, are open to meeting everyone, whether it is through an internal or external call, and it is something I enjoy about the culture.

    Q: Since shifting to remote work, have you felt supported?

    Esme: I have definitely felt supported since shifting to remote work. It is flexible, easy, and people make you feel supported every day. Everyone misses the face-to-face interaction, so everyone wants to stay later or hop on early morning calls because they miss the company. This in return, makes you want to reciprocate the same way. It is also very flexible to have the option to go into the WeWork office if you want to be face-to-face with other employees, or if you need to be home, you can hop on zoom right in your own living room.

    Q: If you had to say to someone that was considering on applying, what would you say?

    Esme: If I had to say to someone that was considering on applying to go ahead and apply. I have many friends who ask me if they should apply, and I whole heartedly tell them to go for it. Working at Elastic Path, you are surrounded by a supportive team, and you get inspired every day when coming into work and learning new things.

    Q: What is your favorite movie?

    Esme: My favorite movie is Remember the Titans. I like watching a movie that I can watch over and over again and does not get old.


    Shopping Cart Checklist a What to Look For in a Checkout Experience

    Author's Note: This is an update to a post originally published in May 2011 and has been edited for relevancy

    There are myriad reasons why your customers donat complete a purchase; from sticker shock, to wanting to showroom an item instead prior to purchase, to simply getting distracted and abandoning the cart,andit can be something entirely unrelated to design or usability. When shopping online here are several things related to cart/checkout to look for that affect your customeras experience in meaningful ways:

    Must Have Shopping Cart Page Features

    1. Cart is visible throughout the experience

    Research shows when a cart is constantly within range of the shopping experience abandonment rates diminish. Amazon does this effortlessly on their dedicated app.

    2. Seamless Multi-brand or Multi-geo

    When multiple brands co-exist the cart/checkout process should look seamless to the customer.

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    3. Easy to view thumbnails

    The product is the hero and stands out within the cart.

    4. Product availability is prominent

    Should the item be out of stock, itas clearly set off in a different font size, color, or housed within a separate design element.  

    5. Offer clean, non-competing CTAs (Calls to Action) 

    CTAs should never compete font-wise, nor be similar in size, shape, or color. Be clear in what youare asking the customer to do.

    6. Shipping and Tax Calculation

    All costs are clearly visible, so the customer knows exactly what they are paying in total for the item(s) including tax and shipping.

    7. Chatbot

    Should there be questions or issues within the checkout process or throughout the shopping journey, a chat feature pops up to assist in real time. No need for emails or calls that may adversely affect the customer experience.  

    8. Move to Later

    Not a must-have for every shopping experience, but certainly worth it to retain the purchase for later and to help with conversions on the retailer side.

    9. Save Cart

    Especially helpful for a buyer purchase when the order may be larger or more complex for a specific project.

    10. Gift Options

    Icing on the cake for a busy shopper!

    11. Universal Cart 

    A bit more complexity than meets the eye, but certainly in the zeitgeist of eCommerce. A universal cart allows customers to add, remove, modify, or purchase any of the items in their digital cart whether customers are in-store, online or on the retaileras mobile app.

    When taking a deeper dive into the universal cart concept, youall need to ask yourself a key question as a retailer: What price are you willing to honor across all channels and geos? Spending and shopping habits drive the experience. Shoppers are increasingly demanding the lowest price for an item, no matter what channel theyare using to find it.

    The presence of these elements are not the end of shopping cart optimization. It's also key how they are presented, and how your cart page works. This list is a guideline to show you what you may be missing, but ongoing testing is the best way to continue to learn what works best for you.

    Looking for more eCommerce content? Check out our Mobile Commerce Guide for more insights and trends.


    Top 10 Things Customers Expect from Your Online Store

    Customer experience is key to any online shopping scenario. Shopping behaviors dictate these experiences and if youare paying attention to your bottom line there are a few rules to follow:

    1. Omnichannel Experience: Allow your customers to shop any way they choose. What that usually means is a blended, omnichannel approach from discovery to purchase. Your customer may start in a brick-and-mortar store window shopping for their next couch, but the transaction may occur on a tablet as they settle in for the night streaming their favorite show. What that means for you isa consistently branded, fully optimized experience across all platforms. From store, to smartphone, to laptop, the experience is seamless.

    2. Clear Shopping Interface:

    One of the key detractors for an abandoned cart is always a clean interface with the shopping cart in clear view. One of theUser Interface design champions is Amazon. With the uncluttered layout and icons (including shopping cart), the user is guided through their shopping journey from search to checkout.

    3. Visual Appeal:

    In addition to clear focus towards checkout, shoppers respond to pleasing layouts (more UI driven design). A trend in the mobile commerce world is the adoption of integrated design. More and more apps are turning to animation and card layout design to entice the user to engage in any way they choose. Here is an example of the card layout design.

    4. Robust Search:

    The larger your product catalog, the more important site search is to your ecommerce success. While it's rare to find an ecommerce site without a search box, it happens, even among some of the most famous brands.

    Search result usability is also important. Customers expect filtered navigation to further refine results by attributes that are meaningful to them (category, price, star ratings, color, size, etc.). Killer search result pages provide filters, the ability to sort results, prices, stock availability, large thumbnail images, product description snippets and add-to-cart/add-to-wish list buttons.

    When it comes to product search, Elastic Path partners with Algolia to enable product catalog sharing. Elastic Path offers the script to push the catalog from Elastic Path Commerce Cloud to Algolia. With an integration partner for functions like search, you ultimately build better user experiences with easy implementation and quicker speed to market.

    5. Customer Reviews:

    Customer reviews are known to increase conversions by as much as 270%, with a majority of shoppers (82%) seeking out negative reviews. Word of mouth matters, and shoppers not only seek it out they clearly trust it.

    6. Chatbots Shoppers:

    Prefer the ease of contacting a chatbot to resolve cart or order issues versus making a time-consuming live call and be subjected to the dreaded call queue, or the slower pace of waiting on an email inquiry response. Aside from customer support, product suggestions are a chatbot use case to guide your customer towards purchase, much like a personal shopper. You may also see applications in weather, online banking, news, or even ordering a pizza. Chat is good for business. Research shows sales activity transacted through chatbots, digital voice assistants, and messaging is expected to rise from $41 billion in 2021 to $290 billion by 2025 according to Juniper Research. Read more about top chatbot providers in the market.

    7. Personalization:

    With so much competition in the marketplace itas important for brands to differentiate themselves with unique experiences. A growing demand for personalized shopping, often tied to social media, is highly sought after among online shoppers. With the ability to curate personal collections and browse influencer content, shoppers are enticed by product suggestions specifically tailored to their style.

    8. Payment Methods:

    Allow customers to pay with any method they choose. Alternative payment options like digital wallet options from Apple, Google, or Samsung are widely accepted and favored for their touchless function. A growing trend in mobile payment is the BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) option from vendors like PayPal and Klarna. BNPL provides a broader payment solution for those on a budget who seek big ticket items.

    9. Quick Page:

    Speed The albatross of all shopping experiences. The slow page load. You have a matter of seconds to impress a shopper once they arrive at your site. The good news is you have established metrics and UI/UX design methodologies in your corner to optimize the experience.

    10. Easy Checkout:

    The checkout process can be tedious enough with entering multiple fields on a smaller smartphone screen. Itas frustrating to get so close to the aplace ordera finish line then have the burden of a forced account sign up. It most likely results in an abandoned cart. Create more options for shoppers by allowing them either path to purchase; create an account, or simply checkout as a guest.


    Digital Readiness: How Your Ecommerce Brand Can Succeed This Holiday Season and Beyond

    The 2021 holiday shopping season is expected to be a record breaker. Retail ecommerce sales are projected to increase nearly 17% this year and reach roughly $4.9 trillion. But capturing market share and exceeding the expectations of shoppers beyond this season will require brands to overcome a number of persistent challenges. Ongoing supply chain issues, continued disruption from the pandemic, worker shortages and consumer habits that have changed forever have forced ecommerce brands to operate in new ways in 2021. And these challenges arenat going away anytime soon.

    Brands that have planned well and strategically stocked inventory, tested technology systems and worked closely with their partners will be positioned to succeed for the long haul. Hereas what you need to keep in mind to set your ecommerce brand up for success beyond the holiday season.

    Plan for new consumer behaviors:

    The events of 2020 changed the world, but by some measures, that may actually be a good thing for ecommerce brands. Not only did online shopping get a boost when physical stores were closed, but consumer behaviors appear to have changed for the foreseeable future. According to McKinsey, 75% of consumers have tried a new shopping behavior since the pandemic began.

    Social commerce a the use of social networks to promote and sell products and services a is gaining significant ground in particular. Social buyer penetration in the U.S. is expected to hit 36% in 2021, which would rank second only to China, where 46% of internet users are expected to purchase through social networks. Ecommerce brands should consider how social commerce fits into your overall marketing strategy and how you can more authentically engage with consumers on their preferred platforms.

    Baby boomers are also more active online in 2021 after contributing significantly to higher ecommerce holiday spending in 2020. Overall, studies show 47% of boomers have increased their digital spending since the beginning of the pandemic.

    Across all demographics and geographies, sales are expected to rise during this holiday season and into next year. Understanding who your customers are and how they behaved throughout this year will be critical for achieving long-term success.

    Manage expectations for fulfillment:

    Supply chains continue to be in turmoil around the world, with many brands facing delays in getting physical goods to market. Walmart and Home Depot have reportedly chartered their own ships to try to cut shipping times for goods coming from Asia. As prices rise, U.S. retailers are expected to spend $223 billion more this holiday season than last year on freight, manufacturing, and labor.

    Itas more important than ever for brands to proactively engage with fulfillment partners and build out a cross border fulfillment infrastructure that is as reliable as possible. With supply chain issues expected to extend well beyond this holiday season, here are some other things brands can do to position themselves to ride out future volatility:

    • Use data to intelligently predict consumer behavior and prepare for surges in demand for different products and locations
    • Minimize returns by giving shoppers an overload of information such as product images, comparison charts and reviews
    • Brands that donat have physical stores can simplify reverse logistics and improve the customer experience by partnering with third-party drop-off sites for returns

    Throughout the holidays and beyond, the most important thing brands can do is communicate clearly, effectively, and transparently with customers. It may be too late to establish all new shipping partners. But you can help customers manage expectations and work diligently to foster a positive experience and build relationships despite any challenges that may arise.

    Looking ahead, consider building out a deep network of carrier partners to create strategic redundancies, increase efficiencies and reduce delays.

    Localize marketing to make real connections:

    To capture sales, marketing materials and consumer-facing communications need to be truly localized for every new market you enter. Simply translating old assets into the local language wonat be enough. You need to capture the nuance of the local culture as much as possible to foster genuine connections with new customers. You will also need to localize your promotions calendar to reflect the preferred holiday shopping seasons in that market as various cultural traditions can impact sales.

     

    Another thing to keep in mind is that different regions of the world and within the U.S. continue to offer varying responses to the ongoing pandemic. This means customers in one part of the country may be experiencing a very different situation than others. As much as possible, take this variation into account when devising your marketing strategy. Make sure communications are appropriate for the current situation in the target market.

    Build strategy into payment processing:

    Payments are central to ecommerce success. Brands should strive to optimize not only the payment method options they offer during checkout, but also the back-end systems used to process payments and their overall payments strategies. Consider which payment methods resonate with your core audience and whether investing in some of the following concepts could boost sales:

    • Digital Wallets a Digital wallets accounted for 44.5% of ecommerce transactions globally in 2020 and are expected to continue increasing in popularity in many markets.  
    • Buy Now, Pay Later a Throughout the world, this payment method is quickly becoming a preferred way to pay. For example, 10.4 million people in the U.K. used a buy now, pay later option while shopping online in 2020.  
    • Direct Debit a Most popular in Europe, where this payment method accounted for 4% of ecommerce sales, direct debit is expected to grow in popularity around the world.  
    • Shopping from Smartphones a Customers in developed and emerging markets now expect optimized mobile shopping experiences that allow them to use their preferred payment method via smartphone.

    Take time for taxes:

    Many brands are looking to expand their operations into new geographies and take advantage of the increase in online shopping to reach new customers in new markets. But this also brings a host of tax questions as each new jurisdiction you sell into has its own set of tax laws and requirements.

    For example, tax remittance processes vary by country in the E.U. because each member state sets up its own systems based on the blocas wider tax directives. In the U.S., more than 43 states have enacted economic nexus laws that say ecommerce vendors need to charge sales tax once they reach certain sales volumes or revenues.

    All of this variability, and the inherent complexity of tax laws in general, means brands need to have a robust strategy in place for managing tax obligations. Consider how partners and external vendors can help simplify processes around tax calculation and remittance.

    Finding a partner who acts as your merchant of record allows your brand to launch into new markets faster and easier. You wonat have to spend time investigating local tax laws and building out internal systems to manage taxes and other legal responsibilities. Your partner can take on the tax burdens so you can focus on delivering a seamless shopping experience for your customers.

    The spirit of the season:

    Many retail brands depend on the holiday season for a significant portion a or even a majority a of their annual sales. In 2021 and into 2022, brands may see an even bigger and more prolonged spike in sales as experts say many people are ready to arevenge spenda due to pent-up demand and excess savings. Brands that are ready to capture that spend with thoughtful planning and robust strategies that simplify ecommerce will do well this season and beyond.

     


    A New Way to Embed External Content To Your Markdown Files with Remarkable-oEmbed

    At Elastic Path, we use markdown to author our product documentation. Markdown is a great format for any type of content publishing. It's a plain text format that can be used without any special tools or software.

    However, sometimes we need to add a little more than just plain text article. One request I had often received was to be able to add videos within the documentation, such as a visual step by step guide. But that's not natively supported by markdown format. Plus, these videos are hosted by a 3rd party service provider. That's also a problem because markdown does not have any native way of embedding contents external sources.

    What is Markdown?

    Markdown is simply a set of guidelines/syntax for writing. Markdown parsers then follow those guidelines and convert the document into another format for publishing. The syntax is very simple and does not get in the way of the readability of contents. A document written using pure markdown format can be consumed as-is. A common usage is converting those documents into html files for publishing online article.

    With the simplicity of the markdown format, it is possible for anyone within our organization to be able to contribute to our product documentation. For the same reason, reviewing the content before publishing is also a smooth experience. We build our documentation website from the markdown documents using a tool called Docusaurus v1, which uses remarkable markdown parser for converting the documents into an HTML format.

    How to embed external contents using Markdown?

    As mentioned earlier, Markdown format does not have any syntax or guideline for embedding contents from external services. There are several ways a video or any other external contents could be added without using any special tools:

    • A link to the external contents - This is the simplest approach but lacks a cohesive experience. The user will move away from the content and go into another site or page containing the video.
    • An iFrame whose source is the page containing external contents - The drawback with this approach is that another "site/page" is being embedded in your page, instead of only the content you're interested in.
    • Add html code provided by external content hosting platform - Usually the service providers have a "Share" or "Embed" option that will give you a block of html code that can be added into into your website. That code  can be added into your markdown document. But, this requires writing and maintaining html code in the markdown document. That affects the maintenance, simplicity, readability, and review of contents. Besides, even a small typo or mistake can break the html page when that document is converted from markdown into html.

    All of the above approaches have some drawbacks. This is where oEmbed really shines. That's why we've built remarkable-oembed - a plugin for remarkable markdown parser.

    What is oEmbed?

    Similar to Markdown, oEmbed is simply a specification or guideline for content providers and consumers. Following the specs, providers can deliver contents to be consumable in any way without implementing tools for every consumer. Additionally, consumers can retrieve contents from various service providers without implementing specific tools for different providers.

    You may have already used oEmbed in various tools or platforms. For example, have you ever added a link to an image or a video into a rich text editor, which then automatically replaces the link with the corresponding image or video? That's most likely oEmbed under the hood.

    The consumer, such as blog editing tool, contacts the content providers following oEmbed specs. Provider then responds back with appropriate html code (or an URL to an image) and the consumer then replaces the original link from user with the response received from the provider. The user (i.e. blog author) does not need to deal with any code.

    oEmbed plugin for remarkable-oembed

    At the time I didn't find an existing plugin for the remarkable markdown parser that uses oEmbed specs for embedding content. So I decided to implement a plugin ourselves. The plugin adds a new syntax for content authors to provide the URL of the external content. When the markdown document is converted into using remarkable parser, it will retrieve the external content and include it in the html document prepared for publishing.

    Going with this approach added extra benefit for Elastic Path:

    • Simple and familiar syntax for embedding content without requiring html code to be maintained
    • Easy to update if we change our video hosting platform
    • Embed other type of media from 3rd party sites  besides video, if needed

    The simplest form of the plugin syntax is: `!oembed[alternative text](source url)`. This is very similar to existing/built-in syntax of markdown format for embedding an image. Many platforms support oEmbed specs already. For example, embed code editor from codesandbox.io, audio player from Spotify, video from YouTube or other streaming services, and so on.

    If you use markdown format for any type of content publishing, such as docs, blogs, news, announcements, and so on and use the remarkable markdown parser, try out this plugin! Check out the open source plugin repository for installation and usage instructions. A list of supported providers can be found in the repository if you search for the `providers.json` file. 

    Feel free to open a pull request if you find any type of provider missing. There are still opportunities for features to be added into this plugin. Help us build those features!

    Thank you

    Special thanks to some of my colleagues for engaging in the design discussions (shout out to Jake Lin, Damoon Tahmasbi) and many thanks to Allegra Chan for carrying out the implementation.


    Inside Elastic Path with Nikola Radic

    Our Inside Elastic Path blog series features Nikola Radic, a Principal Performance Engineer, who has been with Elastic Path for 8 years. Nikolaas role consists of optimizing the Elastic Path Commerce product to meet customer expectations and improve user experience. Learn more about Nikola and what he loves about our company.

    Q: Can you describe a usual workday as a Principal Performance Engineer?

    Nikola: My day can be very different, depending on whether I work on a customer issue or on a regular task.  Customer issues usually require my full attention and a quick and effective solution. Regular tasks may include (but are not limited to) the development of new performance features, fixing non-urgent performance issues, optimizing build pipelines etc. Generally, my ultimate goal is to improve the efficiency of both, the product and the development process.

    Q: In your current role is there something you are most proud of?

    Q: How would you describe the culture at Elastic Path?

    Nikola:In two words, the people and culture. However, the culture overall at Elastic Path is unique, and simply amazing. There is so much collaboration between teams, the people are friendly, and willing to help at any possible moment.

    Q: Thinking back from when you first joined Elastic Path, what led you to join the company?

    Nikola: I came across Elastic Path when looking for jobs before moving to Canada. I have had experience working in the eCommerce area before, and Elastic Path stood out to me. The culture and the job description aligned with everything I was looking for, which is what caused me to apply and join the company!

    Q: If you had to say to someone that was considering on applying, what would you say?  

    Nikola: Elastic Path is a great company to work for, and it is very rewarding, so I recommend applying. I also enjoy how we can further our skills in our role, and take professional development courses with our allowance to learn new things.

    Q: What is your favorite movie?

    Nikola: My favorite movie would have to be the first Matrix movie, and if you have not seen it, check it out!


    8 Mobile eCommerce Trends Here to Stay

    What to Watch: 8 Mobile Commerce Trends

    Our shopping habits have irrevocably changed in recent years, especially in the fallout of a global pandemic. In the U.S. economy alone, mobile commerce revenue rose from $268 to $338 billion from 2019-2020. Itas even more alarming to look at where that same revenue stood in 2013 a just a fraction at $41B. When a smartphone becomes as essential to our daily lives as the air we breathe, retailers must respond to mobile shopping behaviors or risk being left behind. As mobile commerce trends constantly evolve, here are the Top 8 trends to watch as 2021 grinds to an end:

    1. Mobile Payments

    Ranging anywhere from bill pay to shopping, to splitting costs among friends and family, mobile payments have hit their stride.

    According to recent data, digital wallets are expected to become a U.S. $2.4 trillion industry in 2021, with the value of transactions showing an increase of about 24% compared to a year ago. Forecasts point to a further increase in 2023 reaching the amount of $3.5 trillion as far as value is concerned and the amount of $4.6 billion in 2025.

    With options like Google, Samsung, and Apple Pay, a payment is one click away from a linked bank account, or by using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology the transaction is touchless. The need for cards and cash is obsolete.

    2. Single Click Purchases

    Mobile device shoppers want the path of least resistance went it comes to placing an order. Having to enter the same information multiple times e.g. name, credit card info, shipping and billing info, and email address wastes time and leads to higher rates of shopping cart abandonment, with the burden of having to enter information on a smaller screen.

    A dedicated mobile app allows order details to be saved in a profile. When the time comes to checkout the purchase is completed in seconds. Big wins for the consumer, who is incentivized to buy more, and to the retailer with an increase in conversions. A simple solution to a fairly onerous pain point.

    3. Dedicated Mobile Shopping Apps

    While weare on the subject of mobile shopping appsa| youare no longer ahead of the game with an optimized mobile site. The dedicated mobile app is the preferred way to shop from discovery to purchase. Forecasting insights tell us that US consumers will spend over 900 hours on shopping apps this holiday season alone. Moreover, an overwhelming 78% of shoppers would prefer to access a store via app than through a mobile website.

    (Figure 1: App Annie, 2021)

     

    4. Chatbots

    Conversational commerce has become a shopperas delight in the past year. Sales activity transacted through chatbots, digital voice assistants, and messaging is expected to rise from $41 billion in 2021 to $290 billion by 2025 according to Juniper Research. Shoppers prefer the ease of contacting a chatbot to resolve cart or order issues versus making a time-consuming live call and be subjected to the dreaded call queue, or the slower pace of waiting on an email inquiry response.

    You wonat be hard pressed to find a chatbot provider, with so many options you are sure to find one that meets your needs. Many have significant social media presence, and offer additional benefit such as dialog templates, image, video, and audio enablement, third party integrations, and audience segmentation and targeting capabilities. Read our recent blog post reviewing top chatbot providers and their offerings.

    Need help evaluating eCommerce Providers?

    Connect with an Elastic Path expert to answer all of your questions, set up a demo, access a free trial, or discuss pricing options.

    Get in Touch

    5. Social Media eCommerce

    Iam not surprised to learn that in the last two years, social media traffic has increased 100% to online stores, or that about 70% of consumers search social media for potential buys. With so much time spent on sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook documenting and sharing our lives and personal style, it makes sense to turn to those same platforms to inform our buying decisions.

    Social e-commerce sales rise year after year as a whopping 3 billion people flock to social media. As people seek out more personal shopping experiences, social e-commerce provides an open space where big brands and small proprietors alike can create and market to those exact experiences.

    6. Voice Enabled eCommerce

    You may have seen an influx of home voice assistants like Siri and Alexa on the market in recent years, but what you may not have noticed is how those applications have affected shopping behavior. Digital voice assistants in use worldwide are steadily on the rise and are set to double by 2024.

    (Figure 2, 2021 Statista)

    Further research shows that 32% use voice-activated search daily instead of typing, and that 43% shop online with voice-activated devices. What are the most popular activities while using such devices? Top three include: researching products, adding items to cart, and tracking a package. The people have spoken; when given the opportunity to shave off a few extra minutes of their day spent talking versus typing, theyall take the voice enabled option.

    7. VR and AR Enhancements

    Virtual and augmented reality has created dynamic opportunity to improve the shopping experience, especially when making highly personal or big-ticket purchases online. You may have seen applications to virtually try-on eyewear or have the ability to apreviewa what a couch or large accent piece would look like in a room prior to purchase. These applications reduce trial and error and the frustrating consequence of having to return an item.

    And finallya|

    8. Mobile App Design Elements

    With an emphasis on functionality and a user-friendly disposition (think UX design), more mobile apps are adopting design elements to engage shoppers in any way they choose. One of these trends is using a card layout as seen below. The card layout gathers content in a meaningful, clean, and coherent way; this layout also performs well across multiple devices on screens of all sizes.

    (Figure 3) Interested in more mobile commerce content? Check out our Mobile Commerce Guide for a historical perspective on eCommerce, featuring how mobile commerce came to be absolutely critical to modern shopping behavior and habits.


    How to Launch a New D2C Channel in 90 Days or Less

    The Continued Rise of D2C Commerce: In Gartneras latest Digital Commerce Market Share Analysis, a key theme was continued exploration of new business models for brands looking to double down on their existing successful digital commerce businesses.  Specifically they shared:

    aExploration occurs into direct-to-consumer (D2C) for manufacturing and consumer packaged goods (CPG) verticals due to the disruptions in distribution channels.a

    Brands in these industries, and others, have seen an opportunity to explore direct-to-consumer (D2C) commerce for the first time.  In this blog post, I share some top reasons for why we are seeing an increased investment in D2C. But, in short:

  • Customers want to buy direct
  • Brands are feeling the pressure to drive growth with digital
  • A D2C model means brands can innovate and differentiate on their own terms
  • The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated digital adoption & disrupted product availability
  • Fast & Flexible & Budget Friendly: Can You Have All Three?

    10 years ago the needs of brands embracing digital were simple. Driving digital revenue was as easy as launching a basic website and the expected timeline to implement or make a significant change was 9-18 months. Traditional platforms were a perfect fit for these brands, it provided everything they needed to launch eCommerce out of the box and promised to scale with their enterprise business.

    But, the digital world has drastically changed in the last 10 years. Now having a website is table stakes.  D2C brands feel the constant pressure to differentiate their digital presence through omni-channel experiences, out-innovate the likes of Amazon, and keep up with customer needs with engaging experiences that outshine the competition.

    We are not only seeing the need to launch D2C, but the need to design unique brand-centric experiences and launch them fast, without breaking the bank. This is easier said than done. The reality is, the majority of eCommerce platforms on the market provide canat offer all three.

    • Fast: Traditional platforms like Shopify might promise speed to market but, their technology is rigid meaning if youad like to customize their base offering (for example: launch D2C in multiple countries or give merchandisers complete flexibility to create dynamic product bundles), it will require expensive and time-consuming workarounds.  
    • Flexible: MACH-based platforms like Commercetools promise flexibility to design and launch the D2C experiences of your wildest dreams BUT, their offering is made up of 100s of APIs that only a company with an extremely high digital maturity could take advantage of.  We often hear from brands who have run a POC with Commercetools only to find the technology too complex to actually meet their unique needs in a timely manner.  
    • Cost-Effective: While on paper both Shopify and Commercetools may seem cost effective, their inability to provide solutions that are both fast & flexible means that brands will have to compensate with custom work that drives up TCO.

    For brands looking for a simple way to deliver their unique digital commerce experiences (even when they are complex!) in a cost effective way, there is no good option. This problem is exactly what we seek to fix at Elastic Path.  We provide Composable, API-first Headless Commerce solutions that make it simple for brands with complex requirements to deliver unique digital commerce experiences.

    While our modular microservices-based architecture and business-centric core commerce capabilities provide flexibility, our Pre-Composed SolutionsaC/ ensure brands can get to market rapidly, without blowing their budgets. These business-ready solutions are built on top of Elastic Path Commerce Cloud and pre-integrate core Elastic Path capabilities, 3rd party integrations, and any necessary customizations.  By pre-composing everything brands need to fulfill a specific use case, we eliminate the risk of having to custom-piece together your own solution and we ensure speed to market.

    New: Pre-Composed SolutionaC/ for Rapid D2C Commerce:

    Today we are excited to announce the latest addition to our library of Pre-Composed SolutionsaC/: a Pre-Composed SolutionaC/ for Rapid D2C Commerce, also known as CommerceFactory, built by Elastic Path Partner TA Digital.  After the success we had with a similar Pre-Composed SolutionaC/ on Elastic Path Commerce, it was a no-brainer for us to co-develop a 2nd Pre-Composed SolutionaC/ for Elastic Path Commerce Cloud in order to take advantage of the explosive growth weare seeing with our MACH-based offering for high-growth brands.

    This solution gives brands the flexibility and speed to easily launch their unique D2C experiences, without blowing their budget. Key benefits include:

    • Reduce technical complexity by eliminating manual integrations and ground-up site builds  
    • Launch in 90 days, guaranteed, with a fully-managed, pre-integrated solution  
    • Reduce IT costs with aready-to-launch" solution that removes the need for extra delivery or dev work  
    • Drive customer loyalty & revenue with intuitive and engaging D2C customer experiences across channels

    It reduces the risk and time commitment associated with embracing a multi-vendor solution by pre-integrating Acquia for CMS, Elastic Search for search, CyberSource or Stripe for payments, and Avalara & Vertex for tax and shipping.  Plus, since it is built on flexible microservices architecture, brands can easily customize their experiences at launch or months or years down the road.

    Core features include:

    • Enterprise CMS functionality such as content workflow, drag & drop content, dynamic image scaling, support for multi-language, visual page builder and more  
    • D2C experiential design focus including large imagery support, promotion banners, SEO friends, full width design, and more  
    • Mobile optimized including cross-platform cart, PWA, and quick payment methods  
    • D2C enterprise commerce functionality such as bundling, advanced promotions, catalog syndication, Google, Facebook, & Instagram integration, guest checkout, guided shopper, single page checkout and much more

    Wead love to connect on how this Pre-Composed SolutionaC/ for Rapid D2C Commerce could help you launch a D2C channel in 90 days or less. Reach out today to learn more.


    5 Dove Cameron Songs That Whisk Me Away to Escapist Fantasies

    The same can be said about her latest release, "Remember Me." In an interview with POPSUGAR, the songstress opened up about the rapt single and its gist of cradling fond memories. "Life is just like a series of things coming to an end," Cameron said. "We live in a sort of constant state of mourning over the things that we love, but are always leaving us, or always dying, or always venting, and 'Remember Me' is a bit of an expression of that. It's a bit of a, 'I will only be this beautiful, this young, this healthy, this vibrant right now, and will never be more beautiful and in my prime than I am right now.' And while I'm aware of that, I also know that it's ending and that this is fleeting."

    Obviously, I'm looking forward to Cameron's upcoming album. We don't know when it will drop yet, but we're fully prepared for the journey she's going to take us through. Thankfully, we have a handful of jams to hold us over until the LP makes its way onto our playlists. Listen to Cameron's best songs ahead and read how they transport us to an imaginative world.