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.


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.

April 29, 2020

Don’t let your customers lack for inspiration during isolation

Whatever the coming weeks and months have in store for us, it’s clear that certain elements of the retail sector are never going to be the same again. Before the COVID-19 crisis, bricks and mortar retailers of all kinds were already experiencing difficulties due to the cost of high rates, dwindling footfall and the fast move to online shopping, but recent events are going to call for an entire sector re-think.

The fashion and beauty world is a clear example of how retailers are experiencing a huge change in consumer behaviour. Burberry is already reporting that in-store sales have fallen by 50%, and Next have warned of a significant sales drop this quarter, with boss Lord Wolfson saying “people do not buy a new outfit to stay at home.”

There could, however, be a silver lining for retail businesses that are already geared-up for ecommerce. In time, with more and more people remaining at home, and perhaps taking fewer foreign holidays, retailers involved in furniture, homewares and DIY may benefit from a surge of ongoing spending.

There’s nothing quite like being stuck at home all day to make you want to revamp your spare room or brighten up your kitchen. From getting a new desk to make working from home a little more comfortable, to that new slow cooker to help you finally master that stew you’ve always wanted to make, there’s plenty that retailers can be offering to help consumers spend their time in isolation a little more comfortably.

If you’ve not already invested in a smooth ecommerce user experience, now is the time to do so. Make sure that consumers can see your products in as few clicks as possible, with vibrant and engaging product descriptions to bring them to life.

It’s more important than ever to be clear about your delivery options, so make sure you have well-written copy on your site that explains how customers can get your products to their door – especially in light of the most recent social distancing measures. If you can offer delivery with minimal contact, such as leaving items in a safe place, talk about this loudly and clearly.

Consumer spending will drop, there’s no doubt about that. But if you can go the extra mile to show customers that you care about their safety and that you can still offer them the products they want, you’ll go a long way in setting up your brand for the weeks and months ahead. Remember, we don’t stop daydreaming just because we’re no longer out and about.

Give your customers the inspiration and tools that they need to create that home office or complete that DIY project they’ve been putting off. We all need to stay creative in times like these – make sure you and your customers do too.

April 1, 2020

Are subscription boxes the lifeline retail needs right now?

Whatever the coming weeks and months have in store for us, it’s clear that the retail world is never going to be the same again. The fashion and beauty world is a clear example of how retailers are experiencing a huge change in consumer behaviour; Burberry is already reporting that in-store sales have fallen by 50%, and Next have warned of a significant sales drop this quarter, with boss Lord Wolfson saying “people do not buy a new outfit to stay at home.”

There could, however, be a silver lining for retail businesses.

The subscription ecommerce market has boomed in recent years and is forecast to be valued at £1 billion by 2021. Everything from meal kits to razors, shampoo to alcohol can now be delivered straight to your door, and its our prediction that these companies are likely to see sales skyrocket as households stay indoors.

The UK subscription market is dwarfed by our cousins in the US, but with over a quarter of UK consumers currently signed up to a subscription service, including over half of millennials, it’s clear that there’s a huge growth opportunity.

As the threat of coronavirus spreads and major shopping districts empty out, there’s a lesson in the subscription boom for bricks and mortar retailers. Already some big-name brands have got in on the action, with international beauty giant Sephora launching their own subscription box in the US.

Our advice to retailers is this: get creative. Whether it’s turning your sit-in bistro into a takeaway (the Government has already made it easier for pubs and restaurants to do this), turning your personal training offering into a virtual class, or creating a subscription box to deliver direct to your customers, we’re all going to have to think differently about how we do business.

Look at the furniture industry as an example of innovation. A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to buy big-ticket items like a sofa or bed online, but as retailers have stepped up their game and transformed their online offering, customers are more and more comfortable with the idea of decking out their homes at the click of a button. As a result, the furniture ecommerce market has boomed, with major retailers and smaller brands more effective than ever in marketing directly to consumers.

In this age of uncertainty, no-one can say for sure how our shopping habits will change. There are, however, opportunities to be had for the retailers willing to innovate. Customers still want to look good, feel good and eat well – perhaps even more so in this age of uncertainty. If your brand can offer an easy and convenient way for them to do so in the comfort of their own home, you could attract a larger and more loyal following than ever before.


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.

Toffee Factory
Lower Steenberg’s Yard
Newcastle upon Tyne
T. 0191 375 9150