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The Ultimate Guide to Exemptions Certificates for Sales Tax Compliance

The Ultimate Guide to Exemptions Certificates for Sales Tax Compliance banner

Achieving sales tax compliance in today’s complex environment is no easy feat. There are changing rates to calculate, evolving requirements to monitor and a wide array of exemption certificates to manage. Companies must handle every step correctly, and each one is riddled with potential pitfalls. This guide will help your business navigate all those challenges.

Get Avalara's Sales Tax Guide 

Pay or Don’t Pay?

If you are in the business of transacting business, you know there are a multitude of laws and regulations you must follow to remain in business or, at the very least, to not pay penalties for non-compliance.  Making sure you pay the right amount of sales tax to the government is an obvious example of when you want to ensure compliance.  

And knowing when you don’t have to collect and pay sales tax is equally important because you have to able to prove retroactively why you didn’t.

Generally speaking, the scenarios where a sale can occur without sales tax being collected are:

  • The buyer, such as a school or non-profit, is deemed tax-exempt by law
  • The buyer is going to re-sell the product to their customer
  • The product being purchased, such as some foods, is tax-exempt by law.

As a seller of products, and also many services, such as landscaping in Texas or accounting in New Mexico, there is a simple way for you to stay on top of sales tax compliance – automate it and avoid:

  • Overpayment
  • Credit rebilling
  • Product delivery delays

Learn more about tax-exempt sales with Avalara's ultimate guide 

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Kadro eCommerce Insights Newsletter May 2021 Issue

kadro-20th-anniversary-email-newsletter-header-1
May 2021 Edition

News, insights and information from the rapidly changing world of eCommerce designed for the online merchant!

eCommerce Puzzle Pieces
OPENING THOUGHTS 
May is quickly fading into the rearview mirror along with annual spring celebrations like Cinco De Mayo, Mother's Day and for many - graduation. Now we prepare for June and the coming of summer.  Predications are that it will be a very busy summer travel season as we hit the roads and take to the skies to our favorite destinations.  Travel and destination websites should see significant traffic increases and robust bookings.
 
Google's Core Web Vitals website ranking factors are set for June 2021 implementation. Regardless of what you sell online, it's a good time to revisit the performance aspects of your website and how it delivers the user experience. Pay special emphasis to the mobile experience. 
 
Not yet have an eCommerce website? Kadro is here to help with an array of available services including our newest offering - Accelerated Magento Website Development.   
 
Be sure to take a few minutes to read an informative new article by James Bruner, Senior Business Solutions Analyst, about setting up Google Tag Manager for Adobe Commerce. You can also learn more about James in our Employee Spotlight below.
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INTRODUCING...

A new service from Kadro designed for those looking to start selling online faster with a powerful, feature-rich, custom Adobe Commerce (formerly called Magento Commerce) website. It's a scalable solution that can grow as your business does delivering lower initial project costs and higher value.

Learn more. Visit our Accelerated Magento Website Development page.

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MAGENTO PROJECT GONE WRONG?

KADRO CAN HELP WITH RECENTLY INTRODUCED

PROJECT RESCUE SERVICES

eCommerce projects don’t always go as planned. This can occur for many reasons. No matter what the reason, Kadro can help. We offer a comprehensive array of website project rescue and support services tailored to each client’s needs.

Visit our Magento Project Rescue Services page to learn more.

TECHNOLOGY PARTNER SPOTLIGHT
Gorgia-logo
In a COVID world, customer support teams now have blurred lines between support and sales. Support representatives are ramping up their skills to deliver exceptional customer service experiences that wow their clients, drive sales, and create loyalty.  That is why Kadro has partnered with Gorgias, a machine learning helpdesk built natively for e-commerce merchants to help our clients turn their call centers into profit centers.    
 
Gorgias enables a seamless customer journey by aggregating all channels (email, voice, chat, SMS, social) into one platform and personalizing engagement with intelligence from integrations with the e-commerce platforms and the e-commerce technology stack (loyalty, shipping, reviews and ratings, marketplaces and more). Gorgias customers increase support efficiency by 30% or more using automations to handle common and repetitive inquiries.
How do you drive sales from your call center? Through Automation, Personalization, Channel Aggregation 

  • Automation: Provide lighting fast responses to turn browsers into buyers
  • Personalization: data-enriched interactions create meaningful connections with customers that increase order values and lifetime value 
  • Channel Aggregation: All channels in one platform create a seamless, connected customer experience. 
Take a look at Gorgias' guide on pre-sales support to learn how you can start driving revenue from your support operations. And if you sign up with Gorgias now, you can even get the 2nd month of service FREE.
ARE YOU READY TO MOVE TO ADOBE COMMERCE
(formerly Magento Commerce) 
OR TO UPGRADE TO THE LATEST VERSION?
Let Us Know
EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT
 
JBruner2
Meet James Bruner
Senior Business Solutions Analyst

What do you do at Kadro?

I help Kadro clients with their incoming project and support requests advising  them on the best way to proceed. I also provide counsel on long-term strategy and project ROI. The requests can address a range of issues from frontend bugs to full integrations. Our clients span such a wide range of industries that you really get exposed to a lot of different solutions. So, that’s pretty cool. 

If you could do anything you want right now, what would it be?

Explore space. Or be a full-time philanthropist. Or be a full-time philanthropist that travels through space helping people out.

What’s your favorite food?

Food is my love language. I love cooking and try to make dinner for my family every night, so we rotate through a lot of recipes in my house. If I had to pick a singular dish as my favorite though, it wouldn’t be something I make: it would be the Beef Wrap (basically a fancy Gyro) from Devine Foods in Columbia, SC where I grew up. I worked there back in the day and frequented the place for decades. They closed their doors several years ago, but I still dream about their food.

What about family?

I’ve been married for nine years with two kids (three if you count the dog). My wife Lauren has never met a stranger, and she can put together a pretty mean gift basket. My son will be four this summer, my daughter will be one, and Sunny the mini Yorkie turned 5 this year. They’re all pretty great - most of the time.

Favorite video game?

If my kids are asleep and it’s a weeknight you’ll find me either making music or gaming.

Favorite quote?

“You’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just .......” - The Big Lebowski

Favorite place to visit?

Colorado. My family has a place on the Western Slope where I’ve gone my whole life. Being able to share that with my family and now my kids is just incredible, so I try to get out there as much as I can.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Coffee, coffee, and more coffee.

Biggest or most meaningful recent personal accomplishment?

I have a lot to be grateful for - my family, friends, and bandmates to start - but I think one of the biggest accomplishments recently was getting debt free. We still owe on our house, but even with two kids in daycare we managed to pay off all other debts, which is an incredible feeling.

What is one unique thing about you that few people know?

I like to record hip songs about robots when no one is around.

Featured Kadro Blog content of the month:
  1. Setting up Google Tag Manager for Adobe Commerce, an informative article by Kadro's Senior Business Solutions Analyst - James Bruner
  2. Deciphering a Magento Website's Delivery Times Dilemma - an interesting article about overcoming technical challenges for a client written by one of Kadro's Senior Software Engineers - Logan Wilkerson.
  3. Watch the dotlive by dotdigital webinar on How to use segmentation to supercharge your marketing campaigns.
  4. What’s the One Thing Businesses Need in 2021 - an informative article by Kadro and Annex Cloud
  5. Listen to the Naughty x Nurture by dotdigital podcast with Ariel Mordetsky (Kadro) and other eCommerce experts as they talk about the similarities between eCommerce and fishing. It's reel interesting!

Setting up Google Tag Manager for Adobe Commerce

Google Tag Manager logo

Google Tag Manager (GTM) has become an incredibly powerful tool in eCommerce when it comes to tracking user behavior, gathering analytics, tracking affiliate activity, and user testing. Over the years I’ve watched the platform and technology grow beyond the original purpose of tag management. As a result, I’ve updated our approach to using it to make our work more efficient and effective. Below are a few tips to help you make sure you’re getting the most out of Google Tag Manager for your Magento eCommerce site.

Go Native

If you’re using Magento Open Source, you will need a module to provide you with the dataLayer, but if you’re using the more advanced Adobe Commerce, Adobe has already provided a baked-in solution. Simply look under the Google settings in the admin, add your container ID, and you’re set. Assuming you haven’t done any major customization to your templates, Magento will now be providing dataLayer information for all your primary events. Pretty cool.

  • Impressions (category pages and related product sliders)
  • Product Detail (aka Product Pages)
  • Adding and removing items from the cart
  • Checkout events
  • Transactions (order success)
  • Promo Views (for promotional content like banners)

Are You The One?

I still see many clients using different GTM containers to manage different environments, like a development environment versus production. But I found the process of exporting and importing tag information between different accounts, and having to review and adjust any tags that overlapped or were overridden - well, cumbersome. Even the built-in environments seem a bit clunky to me. As a result, requiring human intervention as part of the process inevitably leads to errors. Conversely, by setting up all of your environments using the same container will not only simplify your management, but reduce some risk while you’re at it.

Ok, ok, get on with it already... It’s pretty simple really. Look under the Built-In Variables section and make sure you have ‘Page Hostname’ checked. With that enabled you will now see the host name coming through on events (e.g. staging.domain.com, www.mysite.com, etc.) and more importantly, use this data to set conditions. We can now create a trigger that may only fire on our staging environment, and configure a custom variable to use a lookup table so we provide different analytics IDs based on your hostname. On top of that, deployment doesn’t require merging containers or switching environments; which would result in twice the testing cost. Once your tags have been confirmed in Preview mode, it’s as easy as updating a trigger and publishing the changes to your site.

Copypasta

There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. Use templates or built-in tags whenever possible. More often than not you can find good examples of all your major tags. Custom tags are great but they add risk: thorough testing is required, and introducing any broken (or potentially malicious) JavaScript to your page could be catastrophic.

Less is More

When my family goes on vacation, it doesn’t matter if we’re leaving for just one night - sometimes my family needs EIGHT bags worth of stuff. It’s madness, and really causes me more stress than it should. So, my advice? Be mindful not to overpack for an overnight trip and when you’re reviewing your tag plan: minimize your tags. How many tags are too many? I don’t know, and I haven’t seen any conclusive performance testing to give any better advice other than the following: being nice to people, use your good common sense, and follow best practices:

  • Pause or remove any tags not relevant to current tracking or testing
  • Remove tags and triggers not being used
  • Remove any custom variables not being used

For the “remove tags and custom variables”, I recommend that you should audit all of your Google Tag Manager entries once a quarter to make sure obsolete tags and variables are no longer being used.

Keep It Tight

Lastly, tag Management isn’t a “set it and forget it” situation - this isn’t the Honda Civic you drove for four years of college without ever once changing the oil - it’s important to review your tags and update accordingly as technology and your business needs grow. But you also don’t need to review your implementation every single day or week.

The platform is growing and more tagging is coming into play as we find new ways to offer personalized experiences to our customers, which is exciting but requires regular maintenance.

Added Bonus

Google Tag Manager is also an excellent way to manage all of your 3rd party scripts for affiliate tracking, live chat, digital marketing, or advertising and social media tracking. Set up your ids as variables just like we set up our ecommerce tagging and you’ll keep the data clean. The added bonus: no need for code deployments or providing more admin access.

Kadro eCommerce Insights Newsletter April 2021 Issue

Kadro 20th Anniversary logo and 20 years of eCommerce Excellence

April 2021 Edition

News, insights and information from the rapidly changing world of eCommerce designed for the online merchant!

Kadro puts the puzzle together

OPENING THOUGHTS

It's Q2 2021! What can we expect for the remainder of 2021? Will shoppers return in numbers to their favorite stores? Will the surge in new eCommerce businesses and in eCommerce-related transactions continue? All questions to consider, but only time will tell.

As a merchant there are things you can do to maximize the opportunities that currently exist and may exist in the months ahead. Are you up-to-date with the latest release of relevant eCommerce technologies? Do you know which technologies to choose and who to trust with the creation and implementation of your web store?

Kadro is here to help make your vision for selling online a reality. We can recommend enhancements to your present eCommerce environment that will help you gain and retain more customers or get your started on a full-feature commerce platform. Check out how our own Logan Wilkerson solved a very complex Delivery Time scenario on Magento Commerce!

Contact us to discuss your needs.

CLIENT SPOTLIGHT

Pool Season is Here! Let's Get in the Swim.

Doheny's

Founded in 1967, Doheny's is a leading provider and supplier of swimming pool and spa equipment and supplies in the United States. Doheny's websites sells both direct to consumers as well as to commercial buyers for above-ground, inground, and spas including pools, chemicals, supplies, equipment, accessories, safety products, and parts.

When Doheny's first approached Kadro, they were seeking a Magento systems integrator that would operate as their partner. They needed a Magento development partner that could provide both the technical and business expertise to move their eCommerce business forward. Learn More about the Doheny's & Kadro Story

Limited-time bonus: Use coupon code K21FREE to get free shipping on orders of $100 or more at the Doheny website.

Magento Rescue Services

MAGENTO PROJECT GONE WRONG? KADRO CAN HELP WITH PROJECT RESCUE SERVICES

eCommerce projects don’t always go as planned. This can occur for many reasons. No matter what the reason, Kadro can help. We offer a comprehensive array of website project rescue and support services tailored to each client’s needs. Learn more by visiting our Magento Project Rescue Services page.

TECHNOLOGY PARTNER SPOTLIGHT

Vertex

Vertex, Inc. is a trusted global provider of indirect tax software and solutions. The company’s mission is to deliver the most trusted tax technology enabling global businesses to transact, comply and grow with confidence. Vertex provides cloud-based and on-premise solutions that serve specific industries for every major line of indirect tax, including sales and consumer use, value added and payroll.

Unlocking the Secrets to an Outstanding Commerce Operation

Download this eBook from Vertex to discover

  • What B2B buyers expect as they research and transact purchases
  • Key challenges to delivering a better B2B customer experience
  • What’s causing the gap in customer experience
  • How you can create great B2B buying experiences by leveraging a powerful ecommerce platform with a tax technology solution.

ARE YOU READY TO MOVE TO MAGENTO OR TO UPGRADE TO THE LATEST VERSION?

Magento Commerce

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT

Logan Wilkerson, Kadro Senior Software Engineer

Meet
Logan Wilkerson
Senior Software Engineer

What do you do at Kadro? I’m a Sr. Magento Developer with full stack development experience. When it comes to setting up a Magento store, there isn’t much I haven’t done at some point. Custom feature development, data migration, 3rd party extension installation/configuration, server configuration, and deployments are all within my domain.

If you could do anything you want right now, what would it be? Unrealistically I’d like to orbit and experiment on a black hole. Realistically I’d like to be running a tabletop RPG game right now, but I have to wait for my Saturday game.

What’s your favorite food? On a general level I’d say chicken wings. I have my own wing, sauce, and dip recipes that I have tweaked and modified over the years. On a specific level there is a restaurant in NZ called Flame that makes ribs I have yet to be able to top. I have a BBQ sauce recipe inspired by the experience.

What about family? My wife Helena and I were married in 2018. My mom has retired to Washington with her partner. My sister is still trying to make her way and is currently in Austin, TX.

Have any pets? I have one cat named Doctor. He’s about 95% fluff.

Favorite karaoke song? I tend to listen to the same song on repeat over and over and over again until I can belt out the words. The last song that I subjected to this process was History Read by The Altogether.

Favorite video game? I play a lot of games, so this is a hard question to answer. The game I probably have the strongest fond memories of is Megaman Legends.

Favorite quote? I don’t really mentally catalog quotes. I’d have to look something up which somewhat negates the sentiment.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? An alarm of some sorts generally.

Biggest or simply most meaningful recent professional accomplishment: I take pride in my ability to convert messy failure prone processes and turn them into robust repeatable processes. Every time we take on an existing project that’s pretty much my mission statement. Recently we received glowing feedback from one of those customers about how my efforts had completely changed their feelings about their site and their deployments. It meant a lot to me.

Biggest or most meaningful recent personal accomplishment? About 8 months ago I started a FFXIV savage static with my wife and two real life friends. I hadn’t played the game in years and going from zero to savage was a tall order. We recruited another four people and started trying to tackle the game’s end game content. Despite my inexperience, I stepped up to raid lead and to be honest we were all kinda bad. The group has improved by leaps and bounds and we recently completed our second tier of content ending out the current expansion. I’ve had to make some hard choices in order to get us there, but we did it. And now we’ve teamed up with some new friends and are starting the ultimate difficulty challenges.

What is one unique thing about you that few people know? Haha. If I told you what would I do the next time someone asked me this question? For real though, I tend to be pretty open with my hobbies and interests, so the fun stuff is public knowledge.

THE KADRO BLOG

Our blog is a great place to find articles on a variety of eCommerce and business topics, links to webinars and podcasts, and more.

Featured content of the month:
  1. Watch the dotlive by dotdigital webinar on How to use segmentation to supercharge your marketing campaigns.
  2. Read the article - What’s the One Thing Businesses Need in 2021 - an informative article by Kadro and Annex Cloud
  3. Listen to the Naughty x Nurture by dotdigital podcast with Ariel Mordetsky (Kadro) and other eCommerce experts as the talk about the similarities between eCommerce and fishing. It's reel interesting!
  4. Deciphering a Magento Website's Delivery Times Dilemma - an interesting article about overcoming technical challenges for a client.

Deciphering a Magento Website's Delivery Times Dilemma

Delivery On Time banner image

Introduction

In building an eCommerce site, it is easy to overlook and dismiss some of the physical connections a website has to the real world. However, as a software engineer responsible for the site’s success, it is extremely important to do so. Every catalog page should account for actual inventory on hand. Every order requires items to be packed and shipped. Every customer notification should be triggered by and reflect real world actions. Consumers and buyers do not care about the software abstractions of the real world and the challenges that come with them. They just want to browse, purchase, and receive their items. Central to that equation is providing customers with realistic expectations regarding delivery times. While the expectation as to what is a reasonable shipping time has changed over the years, the necessity of generating and communicating accurate estimates has been around since the days of mail-in catalogs. Failing to meet shipping expectations leads to unhappy and anxious customers. This was the problem Doheny.com found itself in. There was a disconnect between their digital and physical existence which sometimes caused their delivery times to be wrong.

Doheny's Website Homepage Apr2021

The solution that never worked

Doheny’s sells pool supplies. This market is highly seasonal and customers are occasionally in frantic need of their ordered parts or chemicals. Incorrect delivery times are not an option if the Doheny’s website is to generate exceptional customer experiences that lead to happy customers. When Doheny’s chose Kadro as its new business and technology partner in late 2019, their Magento 2 site was already up and running. At the time, the website even had incorporated an attempt at a solution to the delivery time issue. The solution’s process went something like this. Each product on the site had a flag attribute that designated it as a Next Day Delivery product and those products received special messaging on the site. Tying the messaging to a product attribute required a product update which had to come from the system that managed all product data - Doheny’s Product Information Manager (PIM) system - which in turn had to wait for inventory data to be compiled in another system from Doheny’s various warehouses. By the time the data managed to make it into Magento, it was already out of date and had a reasonable chance of upsetting a customer with misinformation about their order. The solution had obvious and inevitable problems. That is why before Kadro even began working on the project a number of conversations around improving the delivery times feature occurred.

The solution that would never be

Warehouse and data image

When the Kadro team was given the task for improving the delivery times feature of Doheny.com that project came with a built-in plan. The original plan was for Magento to be given access to zip code warehouse delivery estimates and stock data for each warehouse. This data would be periodically synchronized to Magento and used for determining what delivery time estimates should be shown to the customer. It will come as a surprise to no one, but that plan did not last a day before requirements changed. The inevitable question was, ‘Where do we get this data?’ The response was unexpected. Kadro was told that the data would not be made available directly, but instead an API would be created that would take a zip code and collection of products and return the delivery times for each zip code and product combination. A delta file would also be made available that would include the cross product of zip codes and products that had stock changes.This was not going to work with the original plan and project scope. Our team had to come up with a new solution.

And the solution that isAPI image

A naive approach to these new requirements would have involved querying the provided API for delivery times as they’re needed. That would have meant each product listing page, each product detail page, and each checkout page showing the shopping cart would be required to call the API. This approach would have ensured a deluge of similar requests against an API endpoint whose tolerance we did not know. Sometimes though, a terribly naive approach can be turned into a professional enterprise-level solution by simply adding a cache in front.  

Unfortunately, we couldn’t just throw in a cache and call it a day. The first problem was the actual decision space involved. Doheny’s has a catalog of a little over 20,000 skus and there are about 41,000 zip codes in the United States. Since our decision space is the cross product of those two variables, we had about 820 million data points to worry about. On top of that, after getting a few sample delta files, we discovered that they had on average 100,000 – 500,000 data points that would need to be processed and updated every hour. Throwing that amount of data into Magento’s MySQL database is a recipe for a crispy fried server, and even then it’s not the right tool for the job. Therefore, as an alternative, our team decided to use Redis.

Magento has native support for Redis and Doheny’s was already using it for data and session caching. Magento even makes creating a new data cache pretty simple. However, we were concerned about shoving so much data into Magento’s existing caches. Also, Magento’s Redis adaptor code is written and optimized for how Magento plans to use it. Our usage was decidedly non-standard, so we made two key decisions: 1.We were going to set up a separate Redis service and 2. Write our own small Redis wrapper.

Setting up the service was actually the easiest part. Since our team could fall back on the API for missing data, the cache’s main goal was dealing with repeated calls and taking stress off the API. This is a classic case for a cache using the Least Recently Used (LRU) strategy. It works how the name implies. If data needs to be ejected, the data that hasn’t been used for the longest period of time gets the boot. With this tactic, we didn’t need to worry about how to store 820 million data points. We only need to store enough data to take the majority of the heat off the API. Our team talked over the requirements with Doheny’s hosting company who had a new service set up in QA and production within the day.

The Redis wrapper itself wasn’t too much of a problem either. We decided to build it on top of Zend_Cache which did most of the heavy lifting. After piecing together the code to make a SOAP call against the API, we had a working proof of concept taking data from the API, putting it into the cache, and then using the cache for subsequent calls. Things were going too well and were bound to come to a screeching halt. The delta files made sure of it.

While the code we’d written so far worked great for the smaller requests, it could not process the large delta files in anything close to a reasonable amount of time. While the file processing happened fast enough, Zend_Cache didn’t include support for a Redis mass insert and attempting to add the data one line at a time was too slow. With no other options readily available, digging into the Redis documentation led to the right answer. Redis does have an answer for this problem. You can convert the data into a specialized Redis protocol and pipe that in directly. After a few false starts as we failed to create properly formatted Redis protocol, our team wrote up something that we believed would work. We took the delta file and created a Redis protocol version before piping that into Redis. Once we had finished testing on a collection of smaller delta files, we decided to go for broke and threw the largest file we had at it. The test completed so quickly our team assumed something had gone wrong. Instead we were delighted to find out that things had worked great and for our purposes the Redis protocol was lightning fast.

With the data workflows humming along we could finally turn our attention to the frontend. While we don’t want to diminish our own efforts, the frontend part was straightforward. A little JavaScript here, a view model there, a dash of AJAX and wrap it all up with some LESS. You know, frontend stuff.

Going live

For us, every production build comes with at least some degree of nervousness. We can be supremely confident in both the code and the process, but we’ve been doing this too long not to expect all manner of the unexpected. Combine that with a build using a new Redis service, custom Redis code, and a dash of Redis protocol and we were a bit on edge. Doheny’s was still a new partner and this feature had a lot of eyes on it. Kadro wanted to impress. So as we put out the new code and made the final connections, our team checked and double checked. The site came up, the first delta file was processed, and customers started ordering again. The dedicated Redis instance started to fill up. 10% no issues, 30% going well, 50% over the hump, 70% we clenched our teeth, and finally 100% full. The cache reached capacity without issue and happily tossed old unrequested data. The API calls stayed at a reasonable rate and the delivery messaging loaded quickly on the frontend. As if blessed by the god of programmers herself, everything worked and our nerves subsided. The new version of the old feature was live and improved. Good thing too, because Kadro already had new problems waiting to be solved. Which is what we do, overcome business and technical challenges and make merchant’s visions for selling online a reality.

Learn more about the Doheny's project by visiting the Doheny's Portfolio page on the Kadro website.

Naughty x Nurture Podcast eCommerce and Fishing Episode with Kadro

naughty-x-nurture-podcast-withKadro-ArielMordetsky

We’re casting a line to lure you in to listen to the next installment in the Naughty X Nurture podcast series by dotdigital where you’ll hear Ariel Mordetsky (Kadro), Jeff Roth (Avalara) and your host Gavin Laugenie (dotdigital) discuss the similarities between eCommerce and fishing. Have we hooked your interest? Get on board starting Friday, April 23rd. It will be reel fun!  Listen in https://bit.ly/3xdkutW

What’s the One Thing Businesses Need in 2021

Loyalty image

Answer: Loyalty!

Regardless of the type of commerce you engage in, B2B or B2C or both, and whether you are online exclusively or omni-channel, something you can’t live without in 2021 are strategies and tactics aimed at maximizing customer retention and loyalty.


There are a lot of uncertainties in the world today, but the one thing we all know is that keeping existing customers is vital to the growth and sustainability of your business. For years we have read and heard the adage, it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to find new ones and this simple statement has never more true than in today turbulent business environment.


This time last year, where we were citing reasons retention is important like the Bain stat that says increase retention 5% and you’ll increase profits by 75%. This year poses four additional reasons to connect and stay connected at a new level with your customers, which reinforces why you really can’t pass on your loyalty strategy in 2021.

  1. Economic uncertainty and recessionary times
  2. Consumers demands (and needs) for genuine communications and real connectivity
  3. A far greater number of choices, especially in the eCommerce space
  4. Saying goodbye to cookies and other 3rd party data approaches

Economic Uncertainty Drives a Need to Focus on Customer Retention

When times get tough, money gets tight. People spend less and make more critical decisions as to where they do spend. In 2008, many organizations made conscience decisions to shift their limited marketing dollars to retention efforts. Those that did fared far better through and post recession period than those who kept spending consistent or slowed spend all together.


With limited resources, consumers are more concerned about making a purchase mistake. They tend to be less likely to try new things. With limited cash in hand, consumers tend to make the familiar choice, the trusted choice and the smart choice that has served them well in the past. If a consumer or business is a customer of yours, you want to be that familiar, trusted, and smart choice.

But to ensure your customers come back to you, you need to connect with them on a consistent basis. You need to reinforce the value you bring to their business. You need to remind them of the positive experiences they’ve had in doing business with you and reinforce those experiences at each touch point. You need to establish a personalized ongoing relationship of mutual value.


Consumers Need Genuine Communication and Real Connectivity

Fast forward 10 years, 2018 as consumers began to raise the bar on their expectations of the organizations where they do business. It was no longer okay to just personalize with my name in an email. Or offer up product selections based on the items they purchased. Consumers know they are sharing their data. They’re expecting organizations to be diligent stewards of their data and use the data to deliver a more relevant customer experience.


Additionally, people today are more focused on what they feel is important – doing good, giving back, sustainability, equality, etc. They expect organizations they patronize to share the same concerns and values they embrace. A few years ago consumers were asking brands to “know me, understand me, inspire me.” Today consumer’s expectations go further to “walk with me, walk in my shoes.”


To top it off, we experienced a year unlike any other in recent history which placed us in lockdown from which we are only now slowly emerging. People are focused more than ever on what’s important to them. They’re making more and more conscience choices based on their values. The right loyalty strategies and programs allow organizations to create a clear, unique, personal, even empathic value exchange with customers.


The Field of Available Choices Has Grown Much Broader

Changes that the COVID virus created in the global business sphere include a rapid expansion of online commerce with many new merchants opening online stores and a transformation in brick-and- mortar commerce with many brick-and-mortar merchants going online and offering new ways of shopping and pickup (BOPIS). With such a rapid expansion in available choices for consumers and businesses wishing to shop and buy online, companies must give strong credence to development and implementation of loyalty strategies and tactics since now more than ever it is essential to retain customers once you get them.


Bye Bye Cookies

As marketers, we’ve grown accustomed to building out our marketing strategies based on 3rd party data and technology tricks like cookies to identify customers and prospects and deliver personalized experiences based on these inferences. We’ve built our tech stacks and our analytics around look-alike models and personas. We’ve invested in CDPs that can get us to 70-75% accuracy in matching data. These activities have been working fairly well for organizations.


Now, all of this is changing. The stringent privacy laws to protect consumers and their data are finally coming to fruition. They are finally here. Organizations are now being forced to play by new rules. These new rules are affecting the technologies we’ve grown accustomed to using. A great example of these changes – cookies are going away.


With the dawning GDPR, CCPA – now morphing to a much more stringent CPRA, mean organizations will need to move from reliance on 3rd party data, to going directly to the source – your customer – for information. Organizations will be forced to work directly with customers to collect their information and gain permission to use their data in marketing efforts.


For many organizations, this means a whole new way of marketing and potentially a number of new technologies. The good news – loyalty technology is built on the foundation of permissible value exchange. These 4 major environmental changes point to the need to research and select the right technology partners to develop, integrate and implement your online eCommerce environment and to guide you through loyalty as a core solution and strategy you must have to be successful in 2021 and beyond.

Kadro, a certified Magento Solutions Partner with 20 years experience, is here to help make your vision for selling online a reality. We help clients, large and small, in a wide array of industries create full-feature, high-functioning, eCommerce environments on the Magento Commerce platform and then integrate those environments with applicable ERP, OMS, PIM, CRM and other backend systems. You can learn more by visiting the Kadro website. Also follow us on popular social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.


And to ensure you are successful in your loyalty strategy, the Annex Cloud Loyalty Experience Platform is the perfect answer. With roots in the social space, Annex Cloud is the only solution that can track, understand and communicate with your customer with a personalized, empathic message at every touch point. Plus with our extensive integration and partner network, the launch process is swift ensuring you can make an impact in 2021.


This article was co-authored by Erin Raese, CMO - Annex Cloud