Let’s face it, customers have done a great job of redesigning the eCommerce industry through excessive demands and high expectations. However, what happens when these demands cut into profit, putting your company at risk? There’s a fine line between loyal and killer customers. In this 3-part series, we reveal the top 3 ways killer customers attack your profit, along with methods you can use to identify and avoid these scenarios.
Whoever said the “customer is always right” certainly never encountered an abusive customer. Killer customers are more than unprofitable customers, they continuously drain money from your organization. Since a great customer experience is high priority, many merchants find it difficult to maintain positive rapport with the bulk of their customers while keeping killer customers at bay.
Return policies are meant to protect a company’s reputation and give them competitive advantages. However, in the hands of killer customers, returns can be the number one profit killer. The average return passes through 7 peoplebefore listed for resale, devaluing the item. After factoring in time and costs of shipping, processing, evaluating, and restocking returned items, only a handful of these items can be resold at full price, and many will be sold at a loss. Over time serial returners cause your bottom line to suffer, but modern merchants have options.
Shoppers often purchase items they intend to use or wear only once before returning. This process is known as wardrobing and is most common with fashion merchandise. Today, wardrobing is a massive problem for retailers and online merchants alike, accounting for over 7.6 billion dollars in losses in 2017.
When implementing a solution, merchants must think of a cost-effective approach that doesn’t negatively impact honest shoppers. Implementing the Shark Tag is popular new approach retailers are taking.The Shark Tagis a one-time at-home removable tag attached to garments. By placing tags in visible areas, the idea of wardrobing becomes less attractive to customers. Once the tag is removed, items become non-returnable and non-refundable.
2. Fitting Rooming
As you know by now, customers expect brick and mortar stores to mirror the same shopping simplicity they experience online. The reverse is apparently also true, with some killer customers bringing the “fitting room” home with them. This process is called “Fitting Rooming” and in these cases, customers order the same item in different sizes and colors to try on at home. Once they are satisfied with their item of choice, all the unwanted items are returned. Online stores that offer free returns are key targets for this kind of abuse.
Solving the issue involves a more creative approach that can increase brand loyalty and invite new customers. Retailers can adopt a “Try before you buy” service to allow customers to test out items they’re interested in before being charged (normally between 7-30 days). Subscription boxes also follow a similar approach, allowing customers to pay monthly to sample specific products before purchasing. These strategies help merchants keep track of specific items they expect to be returned, lowering the costs associated with unpredictable ‘Fitting-Roomers.’
By the end of 2019,A quarter of all retailersare expected to incorporate a “try before you buy service.” This practice allowed companies like Stitch Fix to see a 25% increase in net revenue over a year. Customers are more likely to opt into “pay later” options with confidence, knowing there’s a hassle-free return involved. Best of all, you’ll see an increase in conversion rates.
3. Counterfeit Returning
We recently warned eCommerce companies about cybercriminals getting creative with their hacking tactics. If you gave the article a read, you may not be surprised to learn killer customers are getting just as creative. Thieves a re now using high-quality scanners and printers to make counterfeit receipts and return merchandise they’ve previously stolen from stores. Also, customers are taking extreme measures to use fraudulent credit cards when making online purchases to return items in stores in exchange for money or store credit.
Companies like Nordstrom built brand loyalty based on their legendary “free to return everything”policy. This policy allows customers to return items without a receipt regardless of when (or if) the purchase was made. Abusing this policy can severely damage sales, gross margins, profitability, and most of all, make inventory management a nightmare.
Preventing Counterfeit Returning
To eliminate counterfeit returns, it’s always a good practice to require receipts. Take it a step further to implement a 30-day limitation on returns and/or restrict popular items and high-volume orders from being returned. These minor tweaks will turn away customers who seek to return stolen merchandise and can also keep away Fitting-Roomers. Lastly, utilize an ERP or platform, tracks repetitive returns by requesting proof of identification. This process makes it easy to cross-reference sales and get alerts when a customer excessively returns items. Once you know who your killer customers are, you can ban them (or at least take them off your email lists).
4.Customer Service Abuse
Offering lenient return policies,providing 24/7 accessibility, and creating engaging contentreflect excellent customer service, but there’s a limit. These practices subject retailers to vulnerabilities as abusive customers take advantage. Identifying and dealing with these customers becomes difficult and, in some cases, an expensive task to take on. Customer representatives spend hours handling disorderly phone calls and receiving verbal assaults. This manipulative tactic is used to further gain refunds and discounts from merchants.
Beyond assaulting your customer representative, your reputation is next in line. If customers don’t receive the shopping experience they feel they deserve, they will switch to you competitorwhile dragging your reputation through the mud. Social media is easily accessible for killer customers to provide negative feedback about their experiences with your brand, and can spread like wildfire. Upsetting the wrong customer with the right amount of influence can become a PR nightmare. If your brand has a bad reputation,90 % of customers won’t shop with you.
Preventing Customer Service Abuse
After implementing the previously mentioned solutions. Invest in training for your customer representatives. Focus on equipping them with the knowledge to properly manage abusive customers using proper escalation procedures. Lastly, closely monitor all social platforms to stay on top of negative comments, and have policies that clearly outline how and when your reps are allowed to pass on benefits and freebies to customers. You can also use Instagram’s “hide offensive comments”feature to automatically filter out offensive comments and block users on the platform.
Analysts predict that online and offline return fraud will cost companies $550 billion by 2020 and $3.5 billion during the holiday season. While the goal is to satisfy your customer and keep them coming back for more, be sure to protect your business in the process. However, as we pointed out above, serial returners and abusive customers can have a similarly devastating affect on your business. If you don’t have much info on your killer customers, now may be the time to rethink your priorities, especially as the post-holiday returns season looms.
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Despite changing customer habits across the commerce industry, sales strategies have largely remained static. That is, until now. With a noticeable rise in account based marketing adoption and “hyper-personalization” software that utilizes machine learning, today’s sales teams are better equipped than ever to engage prospects across digital platforms; new territory for B2B companies. Here are the top 5 ways sales teams are taking advantage of new tech.
5. Stepping Up the Mobile Game
In a recent article, Genius Ecommerce notes “91 percent of B2B buyers complete searches using mobile devices and one in four buyers makes a purchase using a mobile device.” With millennials making up more than 35% of the US workforce, there’s an industry-wide push to create simple, elegant, and frictionless online experiences that cater to the generation’s habits and expectations. To do this, sales teams must begin thinking like millennials and driving engagement through smartphones, their device of choice.
For millennials, a downloadable product list doesn’t go a long way, especially on a phone. It’s too time consuming, and millennials know there’s a high probability another company (i.e. your competitor) will have a simpler online experience that shortens their workday and makes their lives easier.
4. Increasing Repeat Purchases
Redstage CEO Adam Morris notes, “Modern B2B sales teams have begun tracking online customer behavior to predict when customers will need to reorder. These teams can use the same tech to order on behalf of customers and even set up automatic subscription reordering.”
These options remove strain from the customer’s decision to buy and encourage repeat purchases. Send a simple reminder to customers recommending they buy again or to buy a related product and watch AOV increase along with order frequency. Imagine what this does for sales commissions.
3. New Ways To Interact & Engage
With all these new modes of selling, teams need to broaden their reach to maximize sales opportunities. Tackling this challenge is easy with the right toolset. Chatbots act as an extension of the sales person, becoming the first-line of defense for customer assistance. Through chatbots, sales reps can help users find a product they might’ve missed, share in-depth details to make a sale, and further engage prospects in real time.
Like chatbots, social media is another tool that extends the sales team’s skillset and enhances reach. DemandGen’s 2018 B2B Buyer’s Survey reports that 34% of B2B buyers are spending more time on social media to research vendors. 52% say they use social media to drive purchasing decisions, and 82% of B2B buyers say the winning vendor’s social media content has a significant impact on their decision to buy. Using social media is much friendlier than cold-calling and helps create a community around your products. Sharing is caring!
2. The Power of Feedback
Customer reviews drive sales. End of story. In G2 Crowd’s 2018 B2B Sales & Marketing Report, 92.4% of consumers said they were more likely to buy a product or service if they were able to read reviews (5.5% were unsure, and only 2.1% said no). The reason? There’s a ceiling on how much buyers trust brands, which makes them trust customers more than the vendors themselves. According to Mashable, “Millennials, in particular, trust user-generated content 50% more than other media.”
Reviews also help sales teams identify specific product attributes consumers love. These attributes can then be highlighted, promoted, and shared with prospects who may be interested in the same products to facilitate additional orders. Positive reviews typically decrease cart abandonment, increase time spent viewing products, and of course, increase sales by helping buyers get honest, trustworthy feedback.
1. Becoming a Customer Experience Expert
A 2017 Walker study concluded that “Customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020,” beating out the traditional “4 P’s” of the marketing mix. As a result, it’s now up to sales teams to lock-on to customer preferences to maximize reach and engagement. Personalization platforms like Bronto help sales and marketing teams understand the preferred devices and channels each customer uses. When it’s time for a customized message, you’ll know how to get their attention.
If you ran a shoe store and a customer came to the register, only to cancel or return their order, you would want to learn why. In the digital world, if customers put an item in their cart but later remove it, it only follows that sales teams should investigate. Maybe a confusing or lackluster product description made them hesitate, perhaps it was a question of quality, source, or price. For B2B’s, fitment is a big factor, and finding replacement parts should be easy for customers. This is the time to send targeted messaging to help narrow down customer “unknowns” and increase the likelihood of a sale.
Using customer, cart, and product data, sales teams can now identify trends faster and easier than ever, pinpoint bottlenecks in the purchasing process, and refine experiences to increase sales and customer satisfaction. For more tips and tricks B2B sales teams can use, find our free Digital Sales Engagement Handbook here, and let us know if you’re interested in enhancing your sales team with Bronto.
“It is easier to invent the future than it is to predict it.”
This variation of a quote by computer scientist Alan Kay was the last line of a 1994 job listing written by Jeff Bezos, and still holds true to this day. While Redstage’s team of forward thinkers possess a knack for accurate predictions, we’ve also helped shape the future of ecommerce through our mobile research initiatives.
Throughout 2018, our team made strides to advance the cause of B2B ecommerce, offering insight into new technology, mobile commerce, and the millennial customer experience. We remain dedicated to helping clients and readers alike stay informed of emerging trends and the strategies you can use to master them. With this said, here are the top insights and articles of the past year:
“B2B ecommerce has several types of customers, each with their individual requirements for how they define their success. These customer types include B2B consumers (the company plans to resell the product or service to them). Other customer types include wholesalers/distributors who will sell your products and services to other B2B companies and dealers who sometimes resell the company’s product for them. Knowing your customers, here’s a few things to consider when selecting the best e-commerce platform for your online store.” — Read More
“Will it be the illustrious AI, the illuminating abilities of augmented reality, delivery drones, or perhaps… chatbots? With the emergence of all this new tech, marketers are left to base their budget allocation for 2018 on speculation. As a result, I am inclined to believe that without a doubt, 2018 will be somewhat of a plateau for marketing; defined by a knowledge-gap surrounding new avenues for advertising and the deteriorating value of current methods. Here’s why…” — Read More
“At this very moment, it’s likely that retail executives around the US are screaming about their Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales performance. For some, these sounds resemble a triumphant war chant. For others, these are the shrill cries of defeat. The reason? Mobile-first adoption. No matter where you stand, this data changes the ecommerce landscape. Here are the latest stats and key trends from the long-weekend of holiday sales events.” — Read More
“The development of AI and Big data, in recent years, has given online retailers both opportunities and challenges. In the next decade, digital stores will be equipped more optimized tools based on AI, and through this, they are empowered to strengthen customer relationship and enhance customer retention. This is a technology competition and I believe that the one who wins the game will also win the customer’s heart.” –Read More
“Today, a single blogger has the same opportunity to get a million comments on a post as Walmart does. A mom and pop online store has the same chance of winning over customers as Amazon. Time, resources and budget notwithstanding, the Internet provides a fair medium for all business to compete, and we owe the state of our world to this universal marketplace of ideas… With the Net Neutrality repeal in effect, major changes are coming that will affect every businesses, especially in the world of advertising and ecommerce.” — Read More
Top Case Study of The Year!
Check out our most viewed case study of the year: White Mountain Footwear. If this were a blog post, it would hold the #3 spot above!
Top Download of The Year!
Take a look at our Digital Sales Engagement Ebook, our most viewed downloadable of 2018! Discover all the tools you can use to optimize your digital sales team and top tactics to revolutionize your digital acquisition strategy.
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Imagine the year is 2020… You awake in your home of the future. The light buzz from your smartwatch pleasantly rouses you from your slumber. You hear the steadily crescendoing notes of your favorite song play through wireless Bluetooth speakers. Morning sun filters into the room as the smartglass on your windows transitions from opaque to clear. As you step out of bed you notice your connected shower is already running, set to the perfect temperature. Meanwhile, your Wi-Fi-enabled coffee machine prepares to brew just in time for your arrival in the kitchen. This is the automated dream of the Internet of Things, and believe it or not, these patterns emulate how B2C companies should be marketing by 2020.
According to Adam Morris, CEO of Redstage, “The most profitable companies in 2020 will be those which seamlessly integrate content, product development and lifestyle marketing into the customer journey — and benefit from the data.” As an IoT enthusiast (already automating his household with Google Home), Morris believes “top brands will meet customer needs almost instantly, anywhere, and make customers view brand interactions as a constant benefit to their lifestyle.” In this world, your coffee would never be too hot, and your shower, never too cold. It combines elements of growth hacking strategies from the world’s most successful marketers to the best “freemium” channel managers. However, there’s one bump in the road to this bright, utopian brand vision… B2C companies are still playing catch-up with today’s technology.
Thinking Ahead: Winners & Losers
As Forbes reported in 2015, “only 10% of companies are using marketing automation.” However, in 2016 marketing automation exploded, rising to 49% of B2C companies on average. Still, we’re not seeing the utopian lifestyle we were promised. Why? Blame the learning curve. Because marketers are
still getting used to the software, the investment has not yet matched the results for many. While millennial companies are diving right in, established giants are taking time because this software is changing centuries-old business models, and mass firings of outmoded workers don’t resound well in the minds of shareholders… At least for now… Regardless, young or old, many companies are still not using automation to its full potential.
As a marketing professional, I recommend taking a look at this list here. These marketing platforms have near-endless integrations with programs most companies already use, and that’s the point: Automate and optimize your existing operations, then innovate, restructure and repeat. One notable member of this list, Magento, contains such immense customization capabilities for B2C and B2B marketers that there are now numerous sites solely dedicated to downloadable integrations for the software.
Preparing for 2020
Companies like Redstage, Zapier, IFTTT (If-This-Than-That) and even freelance developers constantly build new programs and apps to simplify massive processes for businesses. So if you know your company isn’t ready for the next wave, what’s your excuse? It’s time to hop on the innovation train or risk falling behind when 2020 Marketing comes around. And just in case you’re the one writing the budget proposal, start with the bottom line. As CMO.com reports, “77% of CMOs at top-performing companies indicate their most compelling reason for implementing marketing automation is to grow revenue.” The recipe works. What’s your excuse?
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When it comes to ecommerce, email is the most vital and potentially profitable channel in your marketing arsenal. According to the Direct Marketing Association, “Segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue”. That number alone should get your blood pumping, but if your email campaign ROI is lacking, it’s time for some big changes.
1. Use Clear CTAs.
The subject line and opening text are the first part of the email anyone interacts with. The shorter the subject line, the more space the first bit of text in your email will occupy in their inbox (So make sure your opening line isn’t the default “Can’t Read This? View in browser” text… Use this real estate for something more valuable). This is your elevator pitch in ~72 characters. MAKE. IT. COUNT. Be sure to use a subject line that is catchy and engaging. Most customers won’t bother to open an email if the subject fails to pique their interest or at least stand out from the multitude of other marketing emails they receive.
Intend to resonate with the specific demographic you’re targeting, and avoid generic sales words. If it sounds too sales-y, you’re damned to the spam box. Too specific, i.e. “Hi John I saw you looked at our page…” and you’re creepy. Seek balance, and don’t be afraid to A/B test. Your subject line should always inspire someone to click, so aim for powerful call-to-action words like “Jumpstart,” “Command,” and “Unleash” (if applicable).
2. Segment Your Customers.
As I mentioned above, subject lines should be specific to the intended target. This could be 1 person or several thousand, as long as you can get a little specific and make your target feel like the email was tailor-made for them. No customer is created equal, but if your customer analytics are up-to-snuff, you should be using that data to segment your audience by demographic location, gender, age, product category, or at least their general interest area. Amazon isn’t sending emails to middle-aged men about hair dryers. Neither should you.
3. Make Yourself Known.
Your email sender ID can make or break your response rate. Use a welcoming, approachable email ID to send out emails to customers. If there’s a photo section, choose a happy-faced employee’s headshot rather than a cold-faced logo. It’s simply more personal. Lastly, and this should go without saying, you’ll get more feedback from customers if you use and email they can reply to… Instead of using an email such as [email protected] or from [email protected], use a person’s name. Humans enjoy talking to humans. Be human.
4. Personalize the email.
Personalize the email by using the customer’s name. This makes the customer feel valued and inherently makes the connection more personal. You can use *first_name* tags in the body of the email, as well as the subject line (with some email clients).
5. Content Is Everything!
Don’t underscore the importance of style when writing your customers or clients. All images and written content should be of the highest quality (especially because misspellings are usually seen as spam indicators). Less is more: To grab the attention of recipients, keep your copy simple and to-the-point.
Avoid ALL CAPS at ALL COSTS. Refrain from overuse of exclamation marks, images and gifs. Many studies have shown that more images lead to lower response rates. Not only are multiple images too heavy on the eyes of your customers, but your email could fall victim to loading time or formatting issues. These are common on certain devices, which can severely distort your message. If you’re showing off a product or something else that’s photo-heavy, put a “learn more” button that links to a page on your website for external content. It’s easier on them, prevents distortion of message, and if you’re tracking clicks, this can help qualify interested leads. It’s a win-win. Most importantly, the content of your email should be something your customers look forward to, so offer something valuable instead of asking them for something (if you can avoid it).
“Of the 100+ e-commerce companies that I’ve worked with over the past few years, the most successful are those that take the extra time to formulate and execute well-thought out e-mail marketing campaigns. Your e-mails are being seen by all of your clients and prospective clients; optimizing these touchpoints will help you increase sales while strengthening your brand.” -Dave Gardner, Senior Account Executive & Team Lead at Redstage
One Final Note
According to the Direct Marketing Association, only a mere 7% of SMBs use emails as a branding tool. In fact, most Magento users aren’t customizing their transactional emails at all. Luckily, Redstage is launching a new product, offering unlimited customization of Magento Transactional Emails. Our team will work with you to create stunning email templates tailored for your specific needs. You’re already sending at least 4 emails to every new customer – let’s optimize every one of them to enhance your customer experience. Learn More >
Are Men and Women equals when it comes to shopping?
The answer, unsurprisingly, is – definitely not. While much has changed in recent years, there are still some behavioral aspects that set these two genders apart. What this article is primarily tackles though is the difference between online buying behavior between men and women.
Despite growing gender equality in the workplace, stereotypes are still very prevalent in the household. A lot of families still see the male as the provider, while women (although they may also work) are still tasked with shopping for the family. As such, it really is no surprise that women dominate online retail.
The Stats: Where Women Win
Women spend approximately 20% more time browsing through shopping sites online than men. While some key categories like sports, electronics, and outdoor goods are still predominantly controlled by men, women lead almost every other retail category.
What’s more, women don’t just spend more time shopping online. They also spend significantly more money in most categories for online purchases.
As an e-commerce retailer, it’s important to not only know who your audience will most likely be, but also the factors that will affect their purchase decisions. If you’re targeting women for example, you should know that women take coupons much more seriously than men. In fact, 68% of women shoppers (vs. 60% of male shoppers) are likely to use coupons when they want to save money while shopping online. They are also more likely to shop when there are sales (49% vs. 36%), and sign up for incentive programs (33% vs. 23%).
The Stats: How Men Measure Up
However, one of the advantages men hold over women when it comes to online shopping is their dominance of the m-commerce market. Although there are several factors that affect this, such as the fact that men are more likely to own a smartphone than women, the point is that e-commerce merchants who focus their efforts on the mobile market should definitely cater their services to better deal with the needs of the male audience.
The two genders also approach online shopping differently. Males tend to stick to whatever mission they assign themselves when they shop online, whereas women tend to wander among different product categories. Before deciding on a purchase, men tend to search for information on the particular product’s page, while women tend to just scan the information before moving on to the next potential product. This often leads to more impulse purchases from women than from men.
Additionally, women also depend on social media more than men when making a purchase decision. Women are also much more likely to recommend a product to friends and family on a social networking site (35% vs. 28%).
Lastly, despite the apparent differences in shopping behavior though, Shoppercentric, a UK based research firm, claims that the younger shoppers, whether male or female, display mostly identical shopping patterns.
So what do all these facts and figures mean for an e-commerce merchant?
First off, if you are providing a product or service primarily for men, it’s better if it’s within the male-dominated categories. When presenting your product, make sure to give accurate and detailed descriptions of your product. Show why you are superior to your competition and provide customer reviews and testimonials proving it.
On the other hand, if you’re product or service is for the female demographic, it might be better to make your site more interactive. Give the users a chance to communicate with one another via chat, forums, or reviews. Pay particular attention to ease of navigation, filtering, and sorting. You might even want to pay more attention to creating promotions and sales in order to give female purchasers more incentive to choose your product over your competitors.
If you are catering to younger shoppers, you might want to give them detailed product information, customer reviews, and opportunities for social interaction.
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