Ecommerce goes from strength to strength in 2018

E commerce growth

With the convenience of being able to purchase products and services from your sofa at any time of the day or night, it’s hardly surprising that ecommerce has become many people’s preferred way of shopping. Quick, accessible, and user-friendly, ecommerce enables customers to browse multiple merchants to find the best prices, search for discount coupons, and read comprehensive customer views about a product all with a few mouse clicks. From a retailer’s perspective, ecommerce enables businesses to service a much wider geographical location than physical stores, acquire new customers through organic search engine traffic, and reduce outgoing costs, enabling them to offer customers more competitive prices. 

Internet shopper entering credit card information using laptop keyboard

Ecommerce statistics in the UK

  • According to figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, UK online retail sales were up +13.9% year-on-year in January 2018, possibly assisted by the higher-than-average rainfall that kept many shoppers off the high street.
  • Clothing sales were up +16.8% year-on-year in January 2018 – the strongest performance for the month of January since 2013. Sales of electrical items grew by +4.4%, far higher than the 12-month average of -1.9%.
  • In the UK, 80% of buyers still conduct online ecommerce research, even when they are planning on buying an item in a physical store.
  • Business-to-consumer ecommerce turnover in the UK increased to £13.7 billion in 2017, with a growth rate of 14.3 percent predicted for 2018.

Predictions for the future of ecommerce

With today’s tech-savvy younger generations becoming increasingly reliant on the web for their everyday activities, the future of ecommerce is bright. Demand for ecommerce website development is at an all-time high, and growth looks set to continue at an exponential rate.

  • As the popularity of ecommerce develops, high street retail will continue to suffer. The closure of many high street retailers has been fuelled by the growth of Internet retail giants such as Amazon, which increased its sales from $16 billion to $80 billion in the space of just 4 years.
  • Demand for one-day shipping will increase – nearly two-thirds of online buyers say that they would like to receive their purchases within a matter of hours after ordering.
  • Mobile shopping will expand – in 2014, purchases made on mobile phones accounted for less than 12% of ecommerce sales, however according to Business Insider this will increase to 50% by 2020.
  • The role of voice activation will increase – will Siri and Alexa soon be doing all our shopping for us? It is estimated that 50% of all online searches will be voice searches by 2020.

Online shopping at Forms Plus

Forms Plus is one of the largest UK suppliers of integrated label forms to multichannel retailers, including NotOntheHighStreet, eBay, and Amazon. With more than 35 years’ experience, we can take care of the complicated print requirements of your business. Contact us today to find out how our knowledgeable team can help you.

Using Artificial Intelligence to personalise your online retail experience

Using AI in online retail

Do you immediately throw away the paperwork you get with your online shopping orders because you are confident that none of it will be useful or relevant to you? The days of generic marketing are all but over: advancements in Artificial Intelligence are helping companies create more meaningful connections with their customers. Here are a few examples of how AI is optimising the online shopping experience and recreating the personalised service of a traditional retail store.

Personalisation

Imagine only receiving useful marketing materials that are relevant to you and your business – thanks to advances in AI, targeted messaging is constantly improving the customer experience. Delivery notes, for example, can now be personalised based on customer profile, geography and purchase path to ensure that every customer receives relevant, bespoke offers and product recommendations. This type of personalisation goes a long way toward enhancing the customer’s online shopping experience and securing repeat business.

Artificial Intelligence can take numerous different factors into account, from browsing history and purchase history to the time and date of purchase. This type of data collection can help companies make accurate recommendations about the types of product their customers may be interested in. For example, if the majority of Forms Plus customers who ordered point of sale till rolls also ordered shelf edge labels, we could make a helpful recommendation for shelf edge labels whenever someone added till rolls to their cart. This helps customers avoid the frustrating experience of realising they need additional items as soon as they place their order, and potentially helps them avoid extra shipping costs. Personalisation has a whole range of benefits for customers, including targeted discounts for products they purchase on a regular basis, improved customer service, and accurate product recommendations for future orders.

Chatbots

Wondering whether you can customise a particular form or get an urgent next-day delivery? Waiting for an answer from a customer service representative can be exasperating if you are trying to make an order out of hours or during busy ordering periods. Fortunately, Chat Bots can assist – powered by Artificial Intelligence, they can answer many customer queries automatically and instantaneously. Chat Bots can also provide order updates throughout the purchase process and send notifications through Virtual Assistants or services such as Facebook Messenger. With technological advances enabling Chat Bots to convincingly simulate human conversation patterns, it’s possible you have encountered a helpful bot without even realising you were being assisted by a machine.

Inventory Management

Going online to reorder your office stationery only to find out that the notepads you need are out of stock can be annoying – fortunately Artificial Intelligence solutions can help to prevent this situation. Data collection tools alert companies when an item is running low, so they can ensure it is restocked before it runs out. Business owners no longer need to rely on a gut feeling about what types of products their customers want – analytics and forecasting tools now help online retailers make sure they are stocking the most popular products, so customers can easily find what they need.

For a personalised online retail experience from a company with more than 35 years of print experience, contact Forms Plus today. We look forward to assisting you.

Forms Plus joins the British Printing Industries Federation

BPIF logo

Forms Plus is excited to announce that it is now a member of the BPIF, the leading business support organisation representing the UK print, printed packaging, and graphic communications industries. The BPIF is a trade association that assists print businesses with Health & Safety, Environmental, and Quality issues. It also helps implement HR requirements, assists with technical and legal issues, and gives advice on marketing, sales, and finance. With 1300 members consisting of printing companies of all shapes and sizes, the BPIF is both a voice for the printing industry and an active participant. We are confident that the BPIF’s expertise will be invaluable to Forms Plus and greatly assist its future development.

Some of the BPIF membership benefits will also have a tremendously positive impact for our employees, including discounts on RAC breakdown cover, group pension scheme, and private health insurance. Forms Plus will also benefit from the provision of various training and development courses, which will enable us to help staff members reach their true potential. The association currently has more than 500 learners involved in its training programmes, with a completion rate of 78% – consistently ahead of the national average.

A driving force in lobbying on behalf of the printing industry, the BPIF plays a vital role in making sure the concerns of companies such as Forms Plus reach the ears of decision-makers in parliament and it is regularly consulted by the government regarding the formulation of public policy. As the fifth largest producer of printed products in the world, the UK is heavily dependent on the printing industry – in 2016 printing generated £5.8bn in Gross Value Added for the UK economy, more than any other manufacturing industry apart from pharmaceuticals. In total, the UK printing industry employs more than 116,000 people. The BPIF has identified several important areas in which the government can help support the printing industry, including single standard apprenticeships to assist recruitment efforts, tax relief on plant and machinery requirements and R&D, and continued ease of UK-EU trade in a post-Brexit world.

Forms Plus looks forward to participating in future BPIF events, which include skills workshops, team leader training sessions, Health & Safety forums, and networking opportunities all over the country.

Forms Plus Managing Director Victoria Andrews said, “We are pleased we have recently joined the BPIF. It was great meeting Dawn Reid and Mandy Woodcock, who explained the benefits of the membership and the services available to us. We look forward to becoming an active member and meeting other BPIF members through the various events.”

Healthy Workplace: Featured Case Study for Forms Plus!

Forms Plus Win Award

Although Forms Plus is quite a young and physically able team musculoskeletal health was identified as a key theme due to the amount of desk and PC work processing orders and proofing artwork for errors. The current premises are quite compact and there are restricted options for movement during work. A few team members had existing musculoskeletal issues and there was general interest in preventing future problems related to office work. Feedback from staff when completing our standard workstation self-assessment forms also indicated they didn’t feel confident assessing their desk set up correctly.

The company decided to arrange a one to one site assessment through a local physiotherapy practice. Our loose brief was:

  • Get an outsider view on our workstation set up and how we use them
  • Expert input on importance of good posture
  • Advice on adjustments/changing habits to avoid MSK issues, pain, tense muscles,headaches, stress etc.
  • Suggestions for preventative exercises for desk work

The team completed a bespoke questionnaire beforehand then sessions were run over two days around work. Everyone attended a talk by the lead Physio about the importance of incorporating activity, movement and stretching into our daily routine and then one on one time with the Consultant. The consultant observed the team at their desk, talked through their role, any health issues and took some measurements of the desk/chair etc. and gave recommendations.

Staff were encouraged to make their own notes and learning points in order to make best use of the opportunity provided by the company and take ownership of their health in this respect.

The recommended equipment is now in place including monitor risers, foot stands, wrist rests and a saddle chair and adjustable height desk for one team member. As a legacy of this workshop the team are more aware of the measurements and angles recommended for desk work and any recommendations made specifically for them.The team now does mid afternoon stretches each day at 3pm to move and reenergise and the company is looking into the possibility of introducing more standing desks in future.

Team feedback from the workshop:

“Workstation assessment and Musculoskeletal talk – what a revelation! My computer screen was miles away from me, quite obvious thinking about it now, that a few tweaks to my chair and bringing my screen forward has encouraged me to sit up straight with my feet flat on the floor. So much better for my posture”.

“I feel we benefited a lot from the Physio visit, it made me think about posture, and the lady that looked at our workstation was informative. I also enjoyed our afternoon stretches it gives us a boost”.

Forms Plus celebrates Workplace Health Silver award win

Forms Plus Beach Games

After a tremendous effort from all our team members, Forms Plus was delighted to receive a Silver award in this year’s Workplace Health Scheme. Read on to find out more.

Forms Plus has been part of the Workplace Health Scheme since 2016. Run in conjunction with Cornwall County Council, the scheme rewards businesses for taking healthy living initiatives that make a real difference in employees’ lives. Everyone at Forms Plus has been hard at work making small lifestyle changes that have a huge impact on their physical and mental wellbeing. In 2017, we focused on musculoskeletal health, activity, and food and nutrition. Some of our events included bring and share healthy lunches, (rainy) lunchtime team walks, talks from healthcare professionals, and making exercise fun at the Cornwall Beach Games. Our hard work was rewarded with a total score of 87 out of a possible 106 points, earning us a coveted Silver award that was presented at the Workplace Health Conference & Award Ceremony on Monday, 26 February.

Forms Plus is excited to participate in the next Workplace Health awards, when we will be going for gold! This year, we’ll be focusing on wellbeing and mental health. We have a litter pick planned in April with Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) at Gunwalloe to do our bit for the community, we’ll be training two of the team to be mental health ‘first aiders’ in May, and we’ll be having another bring and share healthy lunch in June themed around foods that improve people’s moods (‘Mood Food’!) By the end of 2018 we hope to have an even healthier and happier Forms Plus team.

Professor Dame Carol Black, the Department of Health’s Expert Advisor on improving the welfare of working people, has given her full backing to the county’s scheme. “Cornwall and the Scilly Isles have championed the Health and Work agenda magnificently,” she said. “Whenever I visit the excellent work that you are doing I am delighted to see the enthusiasm and innovation of all participants.”

Forms Plus can help with all your print management requirements. Check out our online shop or contact one of our healthy and happy team members today.

Optimising print to drive up profits

Optimising Print

Are you making the most of your despatch notes and labels? If your paperwork is designed solely to get an order from your distribution centre to your customer’s doorstep, you could be missing out on vital marketing opportunities and, more importantly, potential revenue.

 Tips for maximising the potential of your despatch notes:

  • Incorporate your branding – When you provide customers with a hassle-free delivery experience, reiterating your company name and logo on your labels and despatch notes helps to build brand loyalty. Forms Plus offers treble integrated labels, which enable you to use the two large sticky labels for delivery and return addresses and the small sticky label for promotional purposes.
  • Offer promotions/discounts – Incentivize your customers to re-order with special offers, friends and family discounts, or leaflets/brochures that can help cross sell other products. A3 despatch notes offer retailers the opportunity to promote your top products, or highlight special offers.
  • Simplify your returns process – By integrating a pre-addressed, self-stick returns label, you can provide a stress-free returns service that will encourage customers to order from you again in future. One study from UC Berkeley reports that nearly 90% of customers will return to shop where they had a positive return experience.
  • Spread the word through social media – When you provide your customers with a positive ecommerce experience, give them the chance to rave about it. Including your social media details on your despatch notes and labels is a free marketing opportunity that helps to build brand loyalty and enables you to directly interact with your customers. Studies indicate that 65% of people have more brand loyalty if a company reaches out to them on social media, and 75% of people share positive experiences they have had with brands via social media.
  • Maximise print space – Leaving the back of your despatch note blank can be a waste of a valuable marketing opportunity. Consider including a feedback form, link to a web survey, or return satisfaction questionnaire and make the most of your print space. 

Translating print into profit:

A well-designed despatch note can help you drive up your profits. With the average customised despatch note costing around 2.5p per sheet, you can cover your print costs with a 1% re-order rate. As the chart below shows, sales increases of 2%+ can deliver an incredible return on your investment:

Forms Plus can provide you with additional ideas to help you personalise your despatch notes and labels to help drive sales, create better brand awareness, and improve customer service and operational efficiency. Contact our helpful customer service team today to get the most out of your print operations.

Ecommerce trends to watch in 2018

Online Shopping Paperwork

We are now into the post-Christmas phase when brands will go back to the drawing board and begin planning new online retail strategies for 2018. Here are some of the ecommerce trends to look out for in 2018….

  • Commerce through email – Did you know that email already drives more revenue than all social networks combined? What’s more is that it’s especially efficient at driving visitors to a website. Email (which isn’t going anywhere anytime soon), also allows customers to make secure purchases directly through their inboxes: the appeal of this will continue to grow in 2018.

 

  • Your customers are on the ball – A study carried out by Adweek found that 85% of customers conduct research before they make a purchase online, so when you come to create content for your site, ensure that it educates, engages and entices your customers to buy into your brand and products; your customers are evidently investing the time into cross-comparing brands, so you need to put the leg work in to keep up with this.

 

  • Personalising your brand – Your customer’s ecommerce purchase is a journey which includes getting a sense of your brand and with the major players all paving out strong brand identity, you can’t afford to neglect this area of your business. Bear in mind that users will be likely to visit several sites and make an informed decision afterwards (as noted above, 85% of customers conduct that ever-so-important research), so you have limited time to impress online, whilst your customers flit from site-to-site seeking out the best all-round brand.

 

  • Increase in video content – Statistics show that by 2020 video will make up 80% of all online consumer Internet traffic and as it continues to evolve, the platform will be the next best thing you can get to a face-to-face interaction with your customers. It is estimated that video marketing can boost click-through rates by 200-300% and increase purchase intent by 97%. Slidely and Wistia offer users analytic features where they can identify when viewers watched and stopped watching, helping to inform their marketing strategy. Live video will also continue to thrive in 2018, being an affordable option for businesses and driving 3 times the engagement driven by recorded videos.

 

  • The power of Amazon – The importance of keeping your ecommerce strategy and online branding fresh can be reflected in the following prediction: by 2021, Amazon will account for 50% of all US ecommerce. Amazon will continue to pave the way in how the ecommerce market continues to evolve; Founder of eCommerceFuel Andrew Youderain described their yearly growth as ‘continuing to advance at a an incredible rate and they’re changing the ways in which independent merchants have to sell, think and operate online.’

 

  • Increasing delivery options – The continuing rise in online shoppers means retailers will be competing to provide the most flexible delivery options possible. The ‘click and collect’ option is an attractive incentive for online shoppers and online retailers should be clocking this if they want a chance of keeping up with the bigger players. Business Computing World recently surveyed 100 retailers and found that whilst delivery speed was a big factor, customer expectations are continuing to become more complex and demanding, for example the desire to fit deliveries in around their busy lives. Courier services such as DPD’s ‘one house delivery slot’ are a reflection of this, allowing customers to choose a specific delivery time.

 

If you would like more information about the products we offer here at Forms Plus, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The ghosts of ecommerce presents: past and future…..!

Despatch notes for Christmas Sale

Christmas Day is predicted to be the busiest shopping day of 2017 – on Christmas Day 2016, 66% of purchases were made using a smartphone and it’s not too difficult to see why this is – think Row easy is it to browse the best deals whilst sitting down in front of Christmas TV? A discernible trend emerging in ecommerce appears to be that periods of downtime away from work encourage shoppers to browse the net for the best deals. With this in mind, it’s essential that your checkout page is fully optimised for smartphones, easy to use and that your despatch labels are clear, making returns easy. 

Smartphone sales are set to grow by 14% this year and this figure will continue to increase every year – last year smartphone sales were up by 51% on 2015. So what can retailers learn from this? Improving checkout on smartphones is certainly something to consider as mentioned above. David Jinks (Head of Consumer Research at ParcelHero) predicts that ‘Between 2020 and 2030 half of the UK’s existing shop premises will have disappeared and by 2030 e-commerce will account for around 40% of all UK retail sales’. This further indicates the importance of offering a hassle-free online shopping experience if you want your customers to stay loyal to your brand.

Black Friday (which is today as it so happens!) will see more ecommerce than ever. In 2016, it was recorded as the biggest day in ecommerce, overtaking Boxing Day when the traditional sales begin. In light of this, it’s no surprise that sales surges are coming earlier than ever. A significant change is that shoppers have actually started to look at items around the Halloween period, presumably to identify the deals they want by the time Black Friday comes around. Retailers and brands should be keeping this in mind when promoting Christmas to shoppers: the latter are clearly ready for Christmas earlier than ever before! The fact that customers are thinking ahead with their online purchases, means it is likely we will see the same trends around the Valentine’s Day and Easter period in 2018. With this in mind,  promoting and getting the despatch labels you need at an earlier date is more important than ever.

Cyber Monday (27th November) & Green Monday (11th December)

Cyber Monday and Green Monday are also set to be 2 significant dates in the world of ecommerce and sales on these days continue to grow year upon year.

Integrated labels for your business at Christmas time

The world of online retail is more competitive than ever and over the Christmas period, shoppers will be seeking out the best delivery and returns options, so you need to make this a very streamlined process for them. Integrated labels will facilitate the returns process for your customers whilst also saving your business time and energy. Benefits of integrated labels include:

  • Reduces the need for unnecessary paper and printers, saving time and resources.
  • Combines several labels into one making the returns process very clear and easy for your customers – a complicated returns process will alienate your customers, especially around the festive period.
  • They allow you to get creative – integrated labels are a great opportunity for you to get feedback from your customers, for example, you could incorperate a survey asking for customer feedback, giving you the opportunity to develop your service.

Click here  to read more about integrated labels at Forms Plus. Our site is fully optimised for smartphones and laptops alike, so it’s easy to get your hands on the products you need to make the Christmas shopping experience stress-free for customers. Forms Plus supply labels to suit platforms including Etsy, Amazon, Ebay and Not On The High Street – if you are unsure about what kind of labels to purchase, you can read our blog about which type of labels suit each of these  here.

Please note:

Our last despatch date before Christmas is Thursday 21st December. Our offices close at midday on 22nd December and re-open on 2nd January at 8.45 am. Maximise your sales this Christmas by stocking up on shipping supplies, labels and business stationary. Forms Plus also offer a dedicated print management service, taking the stress of keeping on top of stock out of your hands. Find out more about this here.

If you would like more information about the products we offer here at Forms Plus, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

Forms Plus supply labels to suit Amazon, Etsy, NOTHS & Ebay platforms

Ebay Shipping Labels

If you’re an artist or craftsperson selling your products online, you’ll be constantly looking for ways to make your despatch process more efficient for your customers. Incorporating a returns label with your customers’ order will facilitate the process of returning products and reduce the risk of products getting lost in the post.

Alushta Russia – November 5 2015: Woman holding a iPhone 6S Rose Gold with service Ebay on the screen. iPhone 6S was created and developed by the Apple inc.

Customers will continue to expect online purchasing and the returns process to become easier, reflected in a recent study conducted by Forrester that revealed 55.2% of consumers dislike online shopping due to products being ‘difficult to return’. With this in mind, failing to find ways to make returns easier for your customers may result in them shopping elsewhere.

Forms Plus supply labels to suit the following platforms:

  • Etsy 
  • Not On The High Street 
  • Amazon
  • Ebay 

Etsy & Not On The High Street labels 

Etsy and Not On The High Street are international marketplaces providing craftspeople and artists a platform to sell their products to online consumers. Forms Plus stock the FPS-19 single label and FPD-1 double label integrated A4 form, offering a number of advantages such as:

  • The despatch process is streamlined, saving you time and money. 
  • Everything your customer needs is on a single smart and clear form.
  • The risk of mislabelling parcels is reduced.
  • Reinforces your brand essence.

Click here to see the full list of labels suited to Etsy and  NOTHS.

Amazon labels 

Amazon labels consist of products including laser labels, integrated labels (see advantages above in ‘Etsy &NOTHS labels’ section’) and barcoded labels. Click here for more information on Amazon forms. Here is the full list of labels compatible with Amazon. 

Laser labels 

These type of labels can have any number of Amazon labels die cut onto the page and can be delivered with or without a margin around the edge of the paper. Laser labels can be used for product codes, barcodes or dating items. Ecommerce businesses seek to use services like Amazon Fulfilment which means many of the products sent need to include a barcode for the internal system to link the sales and inventory. 

Ebay labels 

Ebay postage labels offer a number of advantages including: 

  • Print out to include the buyer’s name and delivery address, so no need for additional data entry or to write out labels by hand. 
  • Print the labels on any inkjet or laser printer. 
  • Allow you to create and print a pre-filled packing slip outlining what you are sending to your buyer. 
  • No need to fold and position into a document enclosed wallet.  

Click here to view the types of labels suited to Ebay. Order in bulk for bigger discounts.

Good quality labels will reduce the chance of disruption when your products are being picked and delivered – in today’s commerce climate, there is very little room for error where this is concerned, as customer expectations rapidly continue to rise. 

Forms Plus offer a ‘try before you buy’ option, allowing you to request a free sample – contact us today so you can see the benefits for yourself!

Visit our online shop to find the right label for your choice of selling platform. 

How will new GDPR regulations affect retail?

EU Flag and GDPR

How should retailers be preparing for the new set of GDPR regulations? We take a look at what GDPR is and how changes will affect retailers from May 25th 2018…..

So what exactly is GDPR? 

GDPR (The General Data Protection Regulation) is a regulation that will ensure companies have a clear and dependable set of rules when handling data as well as being used to strengthen and unify data protection for individuals within the EU. The regulation was ratified in April 2016 and will replace the Data Protection act 1988, covering the control, capture and consent to use personal information. A study conducted by Compuware found that 77% of retailers do not have a comprehensive GDPR strategy in place yet which could have a dramatic impact on the future of their business. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham described the consequences of failing to implement the new GDPR regulations as ‘leaving your organisation open to enforcement action that can damage both public reputation and bank balance.’

The relationship between customers and retailers is being transformed by constant innovations in technology. Customers are now able to connect anywhere in the world (or pretty much anywhere!), gain information about a product, compare prices and purchase. For retailers, these advancements in technology present new ways in which they can sell products and communicate with customers but they will have to abide by a new set of data protection rules in order to do this.

The global ecommerce market is continuing to grow and expected to account for 25% of overall ecommerce revenue by the end of 2017. The new GDPR regulations will reinvent the way personal data is used and collected and retailers will need to understand the priorities for online and offline retailing – this includes consumer consent, behavioural advertising and use of cookies. However, GDPR goes beyond technology, as personal consumer data includes a customer’s home address (used for home deliveries) and email addresses (used for marketing communications, loyalty and e-receipts). It’s going to be important for retailers to remember that technology is not the lone solution to GDPR….

 

What does this change mean for retailers? 

Data is essential to excavating more effective customer experiences and retailers use it to offer a higher level of bespoke service to customers. The introduction of this new EU legislation will mean that businesses will need to be completely clear about the personal data they are holding and where – failure to do so could cost 4% of a business’s worldwide turnover. The legislation will give much more authority to individuals, who will have more access to their data and have a transparent right to know how their data is being processed.

Customer confidence and brand trust are highly valued in the world of retail and any breaches in data regulations could destroy even the biggest names out there.

 

Forms Plus prepare for GDPR

Our finance director Jo Carter recently attended a course on how to prepare for GDPR; we have implemented a plan of action to update our current Data Protection Act 1988 policies and procedures and will be following it to bring us up to date and compliant by the May 2018 deadline.

 

You can check out our online shop here. We’d love to hear from you – get in touch.