January 19, 2021

Removing Barriers to Sale Part 1: Checkout

To kick-off the year we’re taking a closer look at common barriers to sale and how to remove them. Working backwards, we’ll look at check-out, delivery costs and lead times as well product experience and returns.

In this first article, we’re looking closely at the checkout process, which is one of, if not the most critical stage in the customer journey. Once initiated you have almost 100% certainty that there is intent to buy so it’s critical that you aren’t throwing up any roadblocks here.

Long, complicated or unusual check-out processes are one of the biggest barriers to sale and if you are seeing drop off at this stage it’s time to think about why.

Below we’ve taken a closer look at three key elements that will not only help to streamline the check-out process but also offer consumers greater choice about how and when they pay.



1. Reducing Steps to Purchase

Checkout should be as quick and easy as possible for the consumer so reducing the steps to purchase is the first thing to address. Forms are a total pain, so only use them to gather the basics needed for a successful transaction.

If you’ve already asked a customer for a piece of information i.e. their e-mail address to login, don’t ask for it again. If they are a new user, don’t force them to go through the process of creating an account up front, but provide this as an option during or post-purchase.

Auto-complete is a game changer for forms and significantly reduces the time it takes to checkout, especially on mobile devices where forms are particularly fiddly. If you have Apple or Google Pay set up for mobile transactions then autofill is a given, but platforms such as WooCommerce offer auto-complete plugins, which can be installed at a relatively low cost and can streamline address inputs.



2. Payment Processors

A good payment processor will do a lot of the work for you and two of the biggest and, in our opinion best, are Stripe and WorldPay (FIS). Although if we had to pick one, we’d almost certainly recommend Stripe thanks to the fact that its integration is easily implemented and very reliable when used on new and existing systems.

For sites built on WooCommerce there is no coding required for a simple setup. It is also the easiest way to facilitate mobile payment methods such as Apple and Google Pay.

With the Stripe gateway it is also very easy to customise the integration to simplify purchasing, from on-page purchases to recuring subscriptions.

It’s also worth offering PayPal as an option at checkout for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s a household name that has a fair amount of consumer trust behind it so users may feel reassured by this option. Secondly, it’s an easy way for someone to complete a purchase if they happen not to have a card to hand.

That said, PayPal’s transaction fees do tend to be higher than other processors, so this is something to bear in mind.



3. Finance Options - Buy Now, Pay Later

While interest free credit is by no means new, in the last few years ‘buy now, pay later’ services such as Klarna and ClearPay have skyrocketed. Integrated into the checkout process itself, they present customers with even more choice about how and when they pay. Whether that’s in three instalments or 30 days later, the choice sits with the consumer and that’s quite a powerful thing.

In fact, Klarna claims that its integration at checkout can increase sales by 44% and improve average order value by 68% when the payment is split over four instalments.[i]

These companies are also starting to remove some of the stigma around finance that perhaps held people back from applying in the past. The speed of the credit checks, combined with the increased presence of credit or subscription-style payment plans, whether on cars or TV streaming services have made consumers far more comfortable with the idea of them.

The liability also sits with the credit provider rather than the merchant, which is a huge advantage for smaller companies who are not large enough to offer their own finance.

That said, these options come at a cost to the retailer, with Klarna creaming off 5.4% of the transaction value. It is possible to set a minimum spend for finance options to protect your margins on lower priced stock however, and this also has the added advantage of potentially driving up order value.

An alternative, that comes at no additional cost to the merchant is PayPal Credit, which offers consumers similar terms to Klarna, but at no additional cost to the merchant. It doesn’t integrate as well as Klarna, but it’s a service worth highlighting to your customers if you already offer PayPal as a payment option.




Refining your checkout process really boils down to two key things: removing superfluous steps in the payment process that cause frustration or hesitation and offering enough options to allow the customer to pay in a way that works for them, whether that is on mobile or by instalments.

Address these two things and you’ll be on your way to success.

Keep an eye out for our next article in which we’ll be looking at delivery costs and lead times.


September 24, 2020

Building an audience for an online event

Making the most of your social channels.

Social media can give you fast access to a wide audience. Honing, targeting and investing in high quality content is the trick to see real results. Think attention-grabbing video, eye-catching photography and unmissable graphics.

LinkedIn can be a highly effective tool for profile raising, whether that’s through ads, groups or publishing teaser content on the company’s page.

Paid ads on social media channels will help you target the right people. If you’re looking to attract a particular age group, geographical region or those with specific interests, for example, LinkedIn and Facebook in particular give you the tools to do so.

Social channels are also the ideal place to build anticipation ahead of an event. You can drip feed content – perhaps short insights from the speakers to whet audience appetites or a first look at the guestlist to entice eager networks.

Promoted posts can help to boost interest at key moments in the run up to your event, such as speaker bookings or programme reveals.



Think email

Email marketing can be a powerful tool in your pre-event promotional toolbox. Use it sparingly to deliver key selling points via content that’s tailored to your audience. Give people something useful that steals and then holds their attention. For example, that can be sales hacks from one of your speakers or a 30 sec tutorial from an expert guest.


A website that works hard

In the virtual world, you can live or die by the quality of your website.

This is where your audience can access information, acting as your shop window. Whether it’s eye-catching graphics, engaging clips of speakers or professional photography there are a number of ways to make your site stand out – all of which keeps people from wandering away from your page and losing you a potential sign-up.

And remember to make it mobile responsive. Last year more than 52% of worldwide mobile traffic was via smartphones.

Make all the key information – time, date, lineup etc – immediately visible. Your website should be the one-stop shop for potential attendees. You don’t want them drifting off elsewhere out of frustration.

Put a sign up link as a rolling banner across the site, so that users are constantly encouraged to register.

It’s also important to think about search engine optimisation (SEO) – that’s how visible your website is to online audiences. Using a keyword planning tool like Google Ads can help you discover what words people are searching for most so you can use them in the content on your site – ranking your event page higher with search engines.


Website Design


Ready to roll?

Although we will be missing the friendly, face-to-face element of events for the foreseeable future, there’s no reason you can’t make the most of online events for your business, boosting your overall marketing reach in the process.

We’ve helped a number of clients make the shift to online events and marketing. Contact us today to find out more.

July 10, 2020

How has lockdown shaped upcoming trends?

As the epicentre of our lockdown, our homes have naturally felt the force of these changes more quickly than other areas of lives and it’s already clear to see that what we need and want for these spaces has shifted.


home working


From our perspective there are three big factors that will shape upcoming interior trends:

1. Working from home

Firstly, working from home is here to stay. In the short term, many of us are still working remotely due to Covid-related restrictions but looking to the future, it’s likely that many companies and employees will choose to implement a more flexible type of working.

It goes without saying that home offices are trending and will be for some time, but drill down into this a little bit further and we can pull out what this actually means for our homes.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a dedicated space that can be used as a home office so our existing living spaces are going to need to become multifunctional. This means furniture that can bridge the gap between living and working, providing practical solutions that look good too. For example, there’s a gap in the market for stylish office chairs that will fit seamlessly into a home environment, but still offer ergonomic support.

In the longer term we’re likely to see people moving further away from cities in search of more space and this will come with a whole new set of considerations for brands and retailers too.




2. Online channels are leading the way

The second big thing that’s influencing upcoming trends is the fact that we’re spending even more time online and this is where we’re gathering most of our inspiration about furniture and styling.

A quick glance at a recent Google trends report reads like an Instagram feed, with line drawings, house plants, mosaic tiles and dried flowers among the most searched for interior trends between March and June this year.

Trends are being formed by influencers and audiences are buying into them with more confidence than ever before.




3. Is it sustainable?

Last, but by no means least, the lockdown has forced us to think about sustainability in a number of different ways. Not only in terms of the environmental impact of our purchases, but in terms of our local communities and national economy too.

We’ve reconnected with the businesses on our doorsteps but we’ve also seen how quickly they can fail. As a result, the power that we have as consumers is evident and this will undoubtedly shape where we spend our money.

We are now all the more likely to seek out brands in which we can trust, which have a history of ‘doing the right thing’ and that are transparent about their practices and the provenance of the materials and labour that goes into their products. In other words, there are economic, social and ethical dimensions to sustainability, which is a big leap forward from where we were only six months ago when the word ‘sustainability’ was easy to say and hard to think about. Today, that conversation and thought process has accelerated to something like warp-speed.

Get in touch with us on 0191 375 9150 to find out how we can work with you.

July 9, 2020

Re-thinking the consumer journey

Despite the fact that the high street has been declared officially open by the government, it feels like we’re a long way off ‘normal’. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

They say in every crisis lies an opportunity and in case of furniture retail, the opportunity is digital. Not ‘digital-only’ but digital as part of a new customer journey in which stores still have an integral role to play.

Since re-opening, many furniture stores have reported strong sales thanks, in-part, to pent-up demand but this initial surge will at some point start to subside and in its place needs to be a strategy that engages customers at each step of their journey.



A recent study by EY found that 51% of consumers think that the way that they shop will fundamentally change because of Covid-19, so any retail strategy needs to be able to adapt quickly to these changes.

For bigger ticket items it’s likely that a store visit will remain a key part of the purchase journey, however this may now happen further down the line in the decision-making process, so bringing the online and offline experiences together is key.

With shoppers less inclined to visit stores on a whim, more browsing will happen online so capturing the attention of customers in this ‘discovery’ phase is really important. Content that creates an enhanced online browsing experience will put those using it ahead of the competition and play into a new found digital confidence that can be found across almost all audience groups.




From virtual store tours created using shoppable 3D technology, to digital sales consultant appointments, there plenty of ways to make the experience more engaging, from a distance.

Retailers such as Heal’s, John Lewis and Wren are all offering virtual consultations via video, which enable customers to ask questions, seek recommendations or view products on the shop floor, all from the comfort of their own homes. Simple to set up, these new systems are able to provide a personalised service that forges a connection between the brand and customer.


interactive shopping


The next step is to bring the customer in-store and appointment booking systems are working really well for many retailers. They not only help to reassure customers that their journey to a store will be a useful one, but have an incredibly high conversion rate which makes them helpful forecaster for retailers.

Out of town furniture stores with bigger spaces and plenty of parking have seen higher than normal footfall in recent weeks, demonstrating that ease of access is also an important part of the purchase journey to consider.

Those who are managing this new journey well will raise the benchmark and other retailers will need to rise to meet it in order to compete. Are you ready for the challenge?

Get in touch with us on 0191 375 9150 to find out how we can work with you.

July 2, 2020

How will house builders respond to the rise of the home office?

As the last few months have demonstrated, however, your home environment can make a big difference to your productivity. Cramped working arrangements and whole families tussling for space on dining tables has meant that many more of us are reassessing our homes and considering how we can carve out a ‘home office’.

This presents a big opportunity for house builders. The state of the housing market may still be uncertain right now, but it’s clear that there is a need for high-quality housing that addresses our need for spacious, comfortable and well-built home working spaces.

More than just a roof over our heads

The role of the home has never been more important. For years, busy professionals have had to endure lengthy commutes, with their homes serving as little more than dormitories. Location has been the watchword of the buying and letting market for years, as workers seek a home base close to important transport links.

But with more and more companies signalling no return to the 9-5 office environment, the time we spend under our roofs has increased considerably, and with it our whole sense of what we want from our homes.

Buyers and renters now need to know that their homes will offer them the space they need to get their work done. Whether it’s a dedicated home office environment, light and airy living spaces to get comfy with your laptop, or even a terrace for al fresco conference calls, housebuilders now need to highlight exactly what they can offer to today’s remote worker.

Home is where the heart is

Home is where the heart is

More than ever, housebuilders and developers need to be savvy with their marketing, emphasising the emotional pull of home and the impact of comfortable and well-designed environments on our productivity and wellbeing.

Whether it’s highlighting how different spaces can be used for home working, or showcasing how the whole family can find their own slice of peace and quiet within your properties, prospective tenants and buyers want to know exactly what your property offers to them in this new normal.

Utilise new marketing tools such as AR and VR to bring your homes to life, showing how different spaces can be used for family and work life. Talk to your customers about exactly what it is that they want from their homes. And be creative with design; the traditional family home as we know it has changed radically, and customers want to be inspired by totally new ways of living and working.

Challenging times provoke real creativity. As remote working becomes the norm and we start to use our home spaces differently, developers and builders will respond with innovation and creativity the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

We work with a number of property developers and landlords to creatively engage with customers and showcase innovation within the property sector. Get in touch with us on 0191 375 9150 to find out how we can work with you.

July 2, 2020

Are VR and AR the answer to marketing in a post-coronavirus world?

But let’s not beat around the bush: shopping in the post-coronavirus ‘new normal’ is going to feel very different. With social distancing set to be in place for the foreseeable future, industries from retail to property, hospitality and travel have been forced to rethink their marketing model.

This is especially the case for big-ticket purchases that are often associated with a lengthy customer journey. How can you sell a property or a sofa to a customer if it’s trickier for them to see it in-person?



Use VR and AR to bring your brand to life

Here’s where virtual reality and augmented reality technologies can really prove their value. By using VR (Virtual Reality) or AR (Augmented Reality) in your marketing strategy, you can give customers an up-close-and-personal sense of your products or services in a way that’s safe and convenient for them.

As lockdown came into effect across the world, brands had to quickly rethink how to showcase their products to customers. Take the example of sports brand Asics. Three new shoes had been in the works for over a year, and were set to be unveiled at a glitzy, big-budget media launch in Japan, timed to coincide with the Tokyo Marathon. However, as countries around Asia went into lockdown,  closely followed by Europe, then nations across the world, Asic’s marketing team had to think on their feet to get the new shoes in front of customers.

Enter VR. Content was quickly developed that showcased the shoes in a high-tech lab, with users prompted to complete a series of games to highlight each shoe’s unique features. VR headsets were sent to journalists across the world, many of whom were now stuck at home and eager for creative content from brands. Through a combination of gamification and cutting-edge VR technology, delivered in a flash, Asics was able to reinvent the product launch


The digital layer

With almost all consumers being in lockdown for months, the ability to put smartphones and tablets down has become non-existent. Looking through these digital windows, everyone has been gazing at the world that was and the world as it’s becoming - this is the ‘digital layer’.

The consumer’s view of the world is now completely augmented with this digital layer in a way that most thought would take another five years to have such an effect. It’s happened in three months.

This new layer offers brands a great opportunity to be a part of the consumer’s life like never before, delivering digital content to them and attracting eyeballs, wherever they are in their purchase journey.


Embrace the new normal

This post-coronavirus world is an opportunity for retailers to totally rethink how we interact with customers, putting their convenience (and of course, safety) at the heart of their shopping experience.

The coming months could see the emergence of stores dedicated to contactless shopping. Shoppers could browse the store – either physically or through VR - tag the items they want, then collect their order at the door on the way out, using virtual payment methods. Not only does this option potentially save time for shop floor staff, it reduces human-to-human contact during the purchase journey, thereby protecting the safety of your customers and colleagues.


Think outside the headset

VR is an ideal tool for innovative marketers looking to engage with their customers in this new normal, but your creative thinking doesn’t have to stop there. Could this post-coronavirus world actually provide an opportunity for your brand to radically rethink your marketing strategy, using fresh thinking to connect with your customers in totally different ways?

Customer journeys will likely look pretty different in this world of the ‘new normal’. How can you engage them beyond the traditional purchase journey, instead creating content that gets them excited and inspired, well before they feel ready to make a purchase?

Whether it’s setting up a VR showroom for your property developments, gamifying your product launches or sending customers low-cost print materials teamed with an AR app so that they can engage with products in their own home for a whole new interior design layout featuring your furniture, get creative with your marketing to bring your brand right in front of your customers’ eyes.


Did you know that we’ve worked with a number of brands on AR and VR technology? Get in touch with us on 0191 375 9150 to find out how we can bring creative marketing strategies to your business.


June 11, 2020

“But Mummy, I’m bored!” – How brands are making family life more manageable

If your lockdown experience has been characterised by working from home while juggling full-time childcare, it would be understandable if you’ve been feeling envious of your childfree colleagues. There they are, able to take part in a video call without anyone wandering in to demand more biscuits, complain that the Hey Duggee episode has frozen again, or announce that they “need the toilet, NOW!”

Being a working parent has always had its challenges, but they’ve seemed particularly acute during the coronavirus pandemic, when so many of us have suddenly found ourselves not only trying to carry on with our normal jobs, but also becoming a children’s entertainer, chef and teacher rolled into one.

With schools reopening in phases, and many parents continuing to keep their children at home, home-schooling and entertainments are remaining a reality for many.

For many families, the past few months have provided an opportunity to reconnect, to spend more time with each other and enjoy a simpler and slower pace of life. Whether it’s building a fort in the living room or birdwatching from the garden, we’ve all been finding ways to pass the time and learn together.

And when boredom has hit, brands have been there to provide inspiration.

Firing the imagination

With footfall to bricks and mortar shops still low and major changes in shopping habits expected post-coronavirus, keeping your customers inspired has been key to keeping your brand relevant and front-of-mind.

Providing a steady stream of inspirational content on social media is key. Take craft brand Stitch and Story, for example. Realising that millions of people were now spending more time than ever at home, they used their

 Instagram feed to share ideas for craft projects the whole family can get involved in, launching their #stitchtogether campaign to encourage families to create together.

Meal kit company HelloFresh has looked beyond cooking to get families inspired, sharing photos from customers’ children putting their recycled boxes to good use, with creative ideas including pirate ships, toy boxes and robots.

Introducing a little levity into your brand content at times like this can really pay off, especially when you show that you understand how tough times are for everyone at the moment. By giving families simple ideas to brighten up their lockdown, they’re more likely to feel an affinity with your brand, thereby keeping you at the front of their mind when it comes to purchase journeys.

Getting through the day-to-day

Even in the middle of a pandemic, life goes on, and all the normal family activities we might have previously taken for granted – like the rite-of-passage that is a visit to the shoe shop to get measured for a new set of kicks – have to be reconsidered.

John Lewis has solidified its position as one of Britain’s favourite brands by providing useful content for families trying their best to carry on as normal, providing a handy guide for measuring your child’s feet at home. The content itself has been cleverly designed to feature a highlight of the brand’s latest children’s shoes, helping busy parents find what they need and shortening the path to conversion at the same time.

Getting customers themselves involved is also an effective way to engage with your audience and show that you are there to help them and their families get through the day. Tesco’s #FoodLoveStories campaign – previously characterised by glossy yet homely adverts sharing customers favourite recipes – has moved entirely into customers’ homes. ‘Bitesize’ videos of siblings making cookies together or proud sons following their mum’s roast chicken recipes have been accompanied by tips from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on creating tasty family dishes.

Authenticity over product

You’ll have noticed that in all of these examples, the brands connecting most closely with families at home aren’t necessarily the ones focused on talking about their product. Sure, we’ve all been making the most of online shopping and home deliveries to keep ourselves occupied and our cupboards fully stocked, but it’s those brands that have recognised the emotional impact of coronavirus, especially on our youngest and most vulnerable members of society, that have shone through.

In the early days of the pandemic, being openly humorous or light-hearted in brand content felt insensitive. However, as the UK begins to emerge from the worst of the pandemic, there’s more room for brands and organisations to be playful in their content, using their communications strategies to provide some much-needed light relief.

By putting authenticity first, encouraging customer-generated content and being useful and inspirational, these brands have helped us all find troubling times a little easier. Boredom, frustration and stress have been inevitable in everyone’s home these past few weeks, but by using content with a sense of humour, that provides inspiration and shows how we’re all still connected, brands have captured our loyalty.

We know how to talk to your audiences. Get in touch with us on 0191 375 9150 to find out how we can help you with your brand communications strategy.

May 13, 2020

The Power of Pinterest

Why brands need to get up to speed with this undervalued social media platform 

With almost 300 million active users worldwide, Pinterest usage is at an all-time high and any brand with an online presence should be paying attention to this.  

With consumers stuck at home, many are whiling away the hours scrolling through inspirational and aesthetically pleasing content on their phones, meaning Pinterest has really come into its own. 

Figures from IPA Bellwether show that the coronavirus pandemic has led to UK marketing budgets experiencing their biggest reduction since the 2009 crash. But it’s important that brands don’t shy away from marketing, especially since evidence points to the fact that consumers are still willing to spend. A survey by global ecommerce solutions provider, PFS found that 65% of consumers had purchased more products since the lockdown began. 

The trick is to use budgets wisely by focusing on areas where there is the greatest chance of engagement.   

If more people than ever before are turning to Pinterest, brands should be adjusting their strategy to mirror this movewhere relevant and possible.  

Pinterest vs Instagram  

Alongside the meteoric growth of Instagram, the global reach of Facebook and the rise of millennial favourites such as Snapchat and Tiktok, Pinterest often gets forgotten, but it has a very valuable role to play. 

Consumers frequently turn to Pinterest early in their purchase journey, and they’re often looking for something specific. Unlike Instagram, Pinterest is essentially a search tool, which gives the platform huge potential.  

Pinterest has been slow to utilise this potential – both in terms of sales functionality and analytics, but momentum is starting to build and the number of users now engaging with shopping on Pinterest has grown 44% YOY.

Last month Pinterest added a new ‘Shop’ tabwhich allows users to filter boards and search results to show options that are not only available to buy, but in stock too. If a user is ready to complete a purchase, Pinterest just made this journey a whole lot easier.  

Build for the future 

Even if you’re a brand that’s not offering delivery or in-store purchases right now, there’s still a strong argument for building your profile on this platform, ready for when the lockdown starts to ease. This is especially the case if you’re selling furniture, kitchens or bathrooms - big ticket items that require your customers to be inspired and guided on their purchase journey. 

Whilst at home consumers will be planning longer-term updates and larger renovations and you can bet that they’ll turn to Pinterest for inspiration. You want your brand’s content to be on those boards and to ensure that each pin is linking straight to your website, so when everything is back up and running the user’s journey to your door is as frictionless as possible.  


We’re experts in connecting your brand to new customersGet in touch with us on 0203 751 0802 to find out how we can help you.  


Cool Blue is a full-service agency that pays special attention to the interiors sector. We make waves in the home and lifestyle world, whether by helping brands find new relevancy or supercharging their sales, our strategic expertise makes brands like yours achieve their goals.

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