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Kadro Coronavirus Trends Hub

Kadro Coronavirus Trends Hub

(powered by Signifyd)

(Editor’s Note: Kadro is partnering with Signifyd to bring you ongoing coverage of eCommerce trends data - by category - across their network of 10K+ merchants globally. We hope this info is helpful peripheral vision as our industry navigates this dynamic environment, and the team at Signifyd is happy to host deeper data reviews if helpful for merchandising, advertising or other decisions.)

Beauty and Cosmetics Enjoys Another Strong Week Online

The increase in eCommerce spending since pre-pandemic days appears to have settled in at about the 50% range despite the opening up of brick-and-mortar stores in many parts of the United States and elsewhere.

Overall eCommerce spending was down 1% for the week ending May 18, according to Signifyd eCommerce Pulse data. The week’s pattern in fact was much like the previous week. Eight of the 13 major categories that the Pulse tracks were down for the week, seven of them by single-digit percentages. The modest changes, both up and down, left eCommerce spending up 49% since the last week of February, which marks the pre-pandemic baseline for spending.

One standout category during the week just ended was Beauty & Cosmetics, which was up 21% for the week. The category has been making an uneven, but steady, climb since the first week of April, which left the category up 34% over the end of February.

Potential mini-trends reveal themselves deeper in the data. For instance, it appears consumers have become more confident that they will be able to find the supplies they need, as signs of stockpiling have abated. Sales in the subcategory of Baby Products dropped 20% last week and Consumer Packaged Goods (think paper products) and Pet Supplies were down 8% and 3% respectively.

The week also marked a subtle shift in how consumers were spending to support recreation and diversion. Consider the Leisure & Outdoor category, which has been a strong performer throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Sales are up 132% in the vertical since the pandemic began, largely due to the fact that it includes games, puzzles, video games and in-home workout equipment.

Weekly Change Trends by Vertical

Weekly Change Trends by Vertical

But if you plunge into some of the subcategories in the vertical, you see a glimmer of evidence that homebound consumers are focusing more on getting outside as the shelter-at-home and modified shelter-at-home days drag on and the weather improves. For instance, sales of media, toys, hobbies and games fell 1% last week. Meantime, consumers spent 16% more on the outdoor subcategory, which includes equipment designed for camping, hiking and fishing.

Industry Spotlight: Weekly Change Trends in Leisure & Outdoor

Industry Spotlight: Weekly Change Trends in Leisure & Outdoor

Retail analysts had been wondering whether one particular indoor venue would draw consumers with new-found freedom — stores. Non-essential retailers are opening up in more states, at least for buy online, pick up in store and curbside pick up. But polling numbers, anecdotal evidence and data show that consumers are in no rush to shop in physical stores.

Opportunity Insights, a Harvard University-based, non-profit research center, found that the opening of businesses in states such as Georgia, Texas and South Carolina had little effect on consumer spending. In fact, spending in those states contracted before non-essential stores were ordered closed and appear to have not loosened up even as stores are being allowed to reopen.

A recent Harris Poll found that 89% of those surveyed had concerns about returning to physical stores to shop. And a Washington Post / University of Maryland survey found that 67% of consumers were not comfortable with the idea of going into an apparel store.

Industry Vertical: Weekly vs. Cumulative Change

Yet, eCommerce continues to perform at peak-season levels, a pattern that we should see hold or increase as newly reopened stores rely on buy online pick up in store or at the curb, either to assuage customers’ fears or to adhere to local regulations.

Note on Methodology

The data shared here represents weekly trends across the Signifyd Commerce Network. It encompasses transactional and behavioral data across 10,000+ merchants and 100+ countries. All figures are normalized to the week of 2/25-3/2, as a representation of pre-Coronavirus “steady state” shopping volumes.

For ongoing data, please visit Signifyd’s eCommerce Pulse hub page.

I’m on Magento. What Extensions or Tech Partner do I work with?

No more frustration when choosing an SI or Extension

There are over 250,000 merchants on Magento for eCommerce. The vast ecosystem of Magento developers and technology partners is often a driving force for merchants to choose Magento as their platform for growth. One of the greatest benefits of Magento can also be one of the most daunting problems. At some point every merchant struggles with deciding on the right technology partner or extension to meet their need. With so many choices, how do you decide the right choice for your business?

Our clients engage the Kadro team regularly to help identify, evaluate, and integrate potential technology partners and extensions that can satisfy business needs.

So how does the Kadro team help our clients? We start by continually educating ourselves about the possibilities. The solutions and architect teams routinely meet with technology partners to understand their offerings and evaluate whether their solution aligns with any known customer needs. Some of these technology partners we enter into a formal relationship with as you can see on our partner page. Formal relationships provide us better access to technology partner resources and support that we can leverage to benefit our clients.

The solutions teams working directly with clients internally share their experiences, positive and negative, with third party extensions. Kadro uses those experiences to advise clients on what extensions or extension providers to avoid, and which ones clients have had more positive experiences with.

Selecting the right technology partner can be very complex. Is there a cost difference? Are there functional differences? How well does the technology integrate with Magento without development? Can the technology solution also integrate with other systems in our technology stack? So how do we do it? We help separate the sales pitch from the offering. As an example, below is a list we use when our clients are evaluating Digital Marketing Platforms (formally called ESPs – email service providers). These same criteria can truly be used for any technology partner/extension with a few tweaks. Also listed are some unique points on each bullet that we ask our customers to consider.

  • Presales and Sales Engagement
    • The buying journey for consumer, and even businesses, is an emotional decision. You have to feel strongly about a vendor that you are going to partner with for 3+ years.
  • Eases of use of the technology platform
    • How much training will you need to work on the platform? Is there an additional expense to get training?
  • Integration capabilities
    • Out of the box the solution should integrate with Magento, but what if you need to connect to your ERP, OMS or other 3rd party systems. Can this be done? What is the level of effort to make that happen?
  • Account Team/Support
    • Who will you be working with on a day-to-day basis? What is the escalation path when you have issues? Are you comfortable working with these people? By default their team will become an extension of your team.
  • Professional Services
    • Should you need additional help in creative, copywriting or enhanced strategy can they help you? If so what are the associated costs?
  • Overall digital marketing tools
    • Will the tools presented enhance your customer interaction today, tomorrow and into the future?
  • Maturity of the platform and growth potential
    • How long has the partner been in business? How many clients do they have? What is their churn rate?
  • Proposed Contract length
    • Are you looking to kick the tires or make a long-term decision? How does this affect your budget?
  • Access to partner executives
    • Do you have access to the partner executives? Do you need it?
  • IP address warming strategy
    • Very email specific, but this is mission critical for any company who has switched ESPs.
  • Deliverability Service (inbox placement)
    • Again email specific, but very important.
  • Product roadmap
    • What does the future hold? Does their roadmap that resonate with yours?
  • Current Kadro customers’ feedback
    • This is the best! Hear from real life customers who are not references given to you by the sales team. We have found this to be a great way for merchants to talk to other merchants and have a true conversation about the partner being evaluated.

Hopefully the above process resonates with you. This is the service we strive for at Kadro. If you have questions regarding the Magento ecosystem, are looking to build a Magento eCommerce store or seeking a new Magento Partner to help you maximize your investment in Magento contact us here at Kadro!

Avalara AvaTax: The proved leader in sales tax decision automation

Avalara AvaTax: The proved leader in sales tax decision automation

Sales tax is compulsory, complex and costly for any business.
Automating the process saves time, money and effort.

AvaTax dynamically delivers billions of tax decisions and applies them across 12,000+ jurisdictions at the point of transaction, within many ERP or billing systems.

Fast

AvaTax applies US sales tax and VAT calculations as the transaction takes place via a secure, encrypted Internet connection without disrupting your existing workflow. Centralized, secure management enables tax schedules for new locations to be automatically assigned and maintained.

Easy

AvaTax integrates seamlessly with existing business systems and removes the guesswork. Rates are calculated behind the scenes and automatically applied to the transaction. Reports are generated on-demand.

Accurate

Forget about tracking rates, rule changes and tax holidays. AvaTax continuously updates data, making accurate sales tax calculations available quickly. Minimize audit risk using advanced address validation, sourcing and taxability determination, and jurisdiction assignment technology.

Affordable

Redeploy accounting resources and avoid spending time and money on audits and penalties. AvaTax is a scalable, subscription-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) that is tailored to each customer’s specific needs. Ease and speed of integration get you up and running quickly and the cloud-based service eliminates additional hardware costs.

View upcoming Avalara webinars for sales and use tax professionals

Learn best practices and get sage advice from leading experts on sales and use tax compliance.

Learn more about our other solutions:

How to Import Products into Magento for your Enterprise System

Product Management Workflow

Complete eCommere solutions often involve numerous enterprise systems working together. Product management can be one of the most labor intensive and error prone aspects of maintaining your solution.

Clients generally default to three common solutions for handling product management:

  1. Add/Update/Delete products using the Magento Commerce product administration screens.
  2. Upload or add new products using the Magento product import tool.
  3. Installing a rudimentary data upload extension like uRapidflow or Xtento.

If your organization lacks complexity, your product updates are infrequent, or you have simple product configurations these solutions may work for you. For the vast majority of customers we encounter this is not the case. All the above solutions, lack any customer-specific business intelligence on how to organize products (e.g. auto-generation of parent configurable based on sku format, grouping of products into bundles based on particular criteria, etc.)

If you are already using Magento and find your team:

  • Publishing incomplete products
  • Pushing products with errors
  • Manipulating data in spreadsheets
  • Uploading countless different spreadsheets
  • Passing spreadsheets around between team members
  • Having difficulties detecting incomplete products or inadvertently breaking products on updates

… there is a better way.

Some customers can achieve complete automation and never use product management within Magento while most others use a combination of automation and precise workflow to efficiently handle products. A customer's precise capabilities and needs should be reviewed to determine the best architecture for them.

Full automation is only possible if the product data source has complete information capable of properly merchandising (e.g. descriptions, images), pricing, and categorizing a product. Additionally, well defined rules must be established on how new attributes, new attribute values, and new categories are handled.

In these scenarios, the ERP/PIM/Product Data Provider owns the product data and is responsible for product additions and updates. These systems often have limited or fixed formats for data export and are not easily updated. Magento is responsible for ingesting the product feed on a regular basis and performing the following functions:

  • Mapping product feed data to Magento taxonomy
  • Auto generation of new attributes
  • Auto generation of new attribute values
  • Auto configuration/reconfiguration of the category hierarchy
  • Auto generation of new products
  • Auto updating of existing products
  • Auto archiving of deleted products

Depending on the nature of customer products and customer needs, some of the automations may not be necessary. Category structures, attributes, and accepted attribute values may all be maintained directly in Magento.

More often the source of product data does not contain the necessary information to properly sell a product online. In these scenarios, there is joint ownership of product data between systems. The external system feeding product data controls the fields they know and understand and Magento controls and owns the fields necessary to complete the setup of the product.

In these scenarios, a combination of automation and workflow makes sense. Magento ingests the feeds and checks for product existence. If the product already exists, the data controlled by the third-party source is automatically updated. If the product is new, the feed data is mapped to Magento data and the product is dropped into a customer-specific workflow to complete the product setup.

The workflow varies by customer based on their organizational setup. The simplest contains a single role but can easily be split among a number of specific functions (e.g. copywriter, image processor, content manger, approver).

If you are interested in learning more about Kadro’s enhancements to Magento to allow to easier product uploading contact us at sales@kadro.com or visit our Contact Page and fill out our online form.

12 Things to Consider When Moving to Magento Commerce Cloud

Magento Commerce Cloud

Considering moving from an on-premise solution, or alternate cloud hosting solution, to Magento Commerce Cloud?

The great news is the core Magento code does not change. It is possible your Magento solution can be moved into Magento Commerce Cloud with little difficulty. Here are some things to evaluate when considering the move:

1. File System Limitations

The file system on Commerce Cloud is read-only except for the pub/media and var folders. If you have any extensions or custom code that is relying on file system access it is imperative that the code uses the Magento-provided functions rather than pure PHP or PHP framework methods. Attempting to use the non-Magento functions will result in file permission issues.

This is commonly seen in file transfer processes between Magento and 3rd party systems or the generation of log/activity files.

2. Fastly Cache Integration

If your Magento solution is not already integrated with Fastly for CDN and caching, there are a few things to consider. Any code that defines blocks that are not cacheable will cause Fastly to not cache entire pages. This is considered bad practice by Magento. If a block isn't cacheable, the block should be delivered after initial page load via an AJAX request back to the server. Occasionally we see this in custom code, but more often see this in poorly executed third party extensions.

Fastly does provide a tool for you to verify that the caching is working correctly on your site.

Your current CDN solution will no longer be necessary.

3. 301 Redirects

Commerce Cloud only provides limited redirect functionality by default. Simple redirect rules can be applied to your corresponding YAML file. If your current solution has pattern-based redirects (e.g a legacy system using request parameters to define pages) you will need to reimplement these redirects as VCL snippets to install into Fastly.

4. File System Access

Commerce Cloud requires that server access runs through SSH key exchanges. If you have current integrations or business processes that presumes unfettered access to the server or basic login/password credentials, they will need to be upgraded to use SSH keys. Any processes that are leveraging file copies or basic ftp will need to be revised to instead use sftp to transfer files to and from the Commerce Cloud server.

In the event that your local processes cannot accommodate the more secure ssh key exchange, you will need to revise your Magento installation to pull and push from the Magento side rather from your internal application side.

5. Database Access

Commerce Cloud only allows direct access to the database instance from the application server. To access the database you will need to use your registered SSH key and use SSH tunneling. Tools like DbForge will allow you to setup the SSH tunneling and access that database like you would in normal circumstances.

Database administration can be accomplished through a tool that supports SSH tunneling or by ssh'ing to the application server and using the MySQL cli interface.

6. WordPress

Numerous non-cloud installations still use WordPress for blog content. This is not recommended by Magento due to the security vulnerabilities associated with WordPress and is forbidden within the Commerce Cloud setup. Only in rare circumstances (e.g. you have a team of WordPress experts, use many WordPress extensions, and have significant content separate from the e-commerce solution) would maintaining WordPress make sense.

There are several blog extensions that provide popular blog features and serve as a reasonable replacement for WordPress. If your solution must continue to use WordPress you may need to reorganize your site to ensure WordPress will be installed in a separate server infrastructure apart from Magento Commerce.

7. Domain-based Licensed Extensions

Some extensions limit their use by domain names. This licensing structure is incompatible with Commerce Cloud. Commerce Cloud allows customers to spin up new environments with a few button clicks. Each of these environments will have a new domain name. At a minimum your site will have four domains (production, staging, integration, and local development). If your site has multiple stores and the stores use unique domains, each additional store will be another 4 domains at a minimum.

8. Realtime Integrations

If your application is relying on real-time communications to your ERP or OMS system, you may have been leveraging the fact that your system was within the same LAN (local area network) as Magento. With Magento moved to the Commerce Cloud there will be significant latency issues compare to a LAN connection that may make your solution untenable. You may need to work with the cloud infrastructure team to make special provisions for traffic between your server environment and the cloud environment.

9. Active WAF

The default setup for Commerce Cloud only includes a passive WAF from Fastly. If you have suffered through some DDOS attacks and are using active WAF's from companies like Cloudflare you have to consider a few options:

a. Subscribe to the Fastly Active WAF in addition to the default options.

b. Setup a double proxy that routes Cloudflare (or like) -> Fastly -> Magento (not recommended by Magento).

c. Forgo your current active WAF setup and work within the passive WAF capabilities

10. Bulk Data Loading

Commerce Cloud does not allow for bulk inserts into the MySQL database using the PHP MySQL interface. If you are bulk inserting data, you will need to configure the YAML file to specifically add the bulk operation permission to the database user.

11. Composer-based Deployments

Commerce Cloud uses GIT and composer to execute deployments. If you have made modifications to the vendor folder (and you should never do this), these changes will be lost on deployment to cloud. The deployed code in the vendor folder will be completely determined by the composer.lock file.

If you have hot fixes from Magento, they will need to be placed in the m2-hotfixes folder. When placed there, the hot fixes will be auto-installed on each deployment.

If you have been disabling extensions by editing the config.php file, you will need to modify a deployment file to make sure that they remained disabled after a deployment. Direct editing of the config.php on the cloud post deployment will not work.

12. Local Development Environments

Lastly, a common misunderstanding for customers new to Commerce Cloud is that the integration environment is where development takes place. Developers should be running the system on their own local environments to take advantage of modern development tools like PHP Storm.

If you don't already have local development environments, plan to spend some time setting up those environments. This includes a separate GIT repository for tracking all code changes within the standard GITFlow process. Commerce Cloud GIT is not your source code repository, rather it is simply the mechanism for pushing application builds to an environment.