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Here’s How Customer Service Will Kill Brick and Mortar Retail

Here’s How Customer Service Will Kill Brick and Mortar Retail

Customer Service

eCommerce baked-in customer service as a standard. Perhaps early innovators recognized its importance as a differentiator from in-store retail, or maybe it came naturally. Regardless, many traditional retail giants chose to ignore it altogether. In the stories that follow, we’ll explore vast disparities in customer service driving traditional retailers toward bankruptcy while simultaneously skyrocketing eCommerce sales.

Good CX Demands Good Customer Service

Major retailers now seemingly compete with airlines, telecoms and power companies for the worst customer service. The key difference, however, is the range of alternatives. Most regions of the U.S. don’t get to pick between more than two horribly aggravating cable providers, while anyone in the world can choose Amazon over local retailer. As a result, the need for retailers to optimize their customer experiences through customer service is paramount. However, those who only recently realized this may be too late.

Jura Live! A Customer Story:

Jura LIVE! allows customers shopping online to make live video appointments at their convenience, from the comfort of their own home. Customers can see the products in action in real time and leverage the knowledge of a sales rep. to help them make a purchasing decision. For a luxury product such as a super automatic coffee & espresso machine, this adds a significant amount of convenience to the customer’s experience while also dazzling them with high-end technology. These types of high-touch online experiences help the sites that have them dominate those without. Unfortunately, most brick & mortar stores don’t offer these experiences because they refuse to adapt.”

-Dave Gardner, Sr. Account Executive & Team Lead at Redstage

How Retail Heros Became CX Villains

Sears, JC Penney, and Toys “R” Us are known for major missteps that downgraded their in-store experiences and alienated customers. Sears simply stopped investing in its stores. Years ago, company leadership decided to introduce a poorly-managed customer loyalty program that caused much more harm than good. The “Shop Your Way” program caused extended checkout times; both for customers waiting in line behind someone signing up for rewards AND for loyalty members who facing constant discrepancies in “deal” prices at the checkout.

The Fall From Grace

Here's How Customer Service Will Kill Retail

When sales declined, products began to downgrade, the stores themselves fell to disarray, and customers naturally opted for other retailers like Macy’s and Home Depot. As a poorly planned remedy to decreasing sales, Sears chose to cut in-store staff in half across their locations, propelling worsening structural conditions that led to closures all over the U.S. To this day, the company continues to pump products into stores that no one will buy, without the necessary human capital to even unpack them.

A Sears Auto Story

Recenty, Redstage’s CEO Adam Morris had his own customer service blunder at Sears. He entered Sears Auto looking for a particular item, couldn’t find what he wanted, and exited the store only to discover his car had been towed. According to Morris, the towing company contracted by Sears was watching the security cameras while he was inside. Because he parked in a space for “Sears Auto Customers Only,” and hadn’t made a purchase, he wasn’t considered a customer, which allegedly gave the towing company license to tow his car.

In an attempt to get assistance from Sears, Morris spent hours on the phone with a “rude or unhelpful” customer service representatives. At the end of the ordeal, one rep told Morris to file a police report if he felt he was wronged. He had to pay to get his car back — more than the cost of the item he initially intended to buy.

Think he’ll be heading back to Sears anytime soon?

Alienating Your Audience

Here’s How Customer Service Will Kill Retail
JC Penney’s downfall came when it decided to switch to “low everyday prices” rather than focusing on their weekly coupon deals — something that created buzz from local customers and drove them to stores. At the same time, JC Penney switched focus from inexpensive products to more upscale merchandise, further alienating their customer base. As a result, shoppers decided to shop elsewhere. For a company founded on a middle class audience and low prices, this change was a signal for lifetime shoppers to exit, with seemingly no plan in place for attracting a higher-paying target audience.


Retail Giants’ Company Value Shift (2006 – 2018)

 
2006
2016
2018
06 – ’18
Company
Value ($B)
Value ($B)
Value ($B)
% Change
Sears
$14.3
$0.9
$0.3
-98%
JCPenney
$18.1
$1.7
$1.2
-94%
Source: Peter Diamandis, “The Future of Retail


Know Your Customers (or else)

Toys “R” Us CEO David Brandon mentioned in a recent SEC filing that the toy giant’s inability to invest in customer experiences in-store accelerated the death of the company. Last fall Brandon said the company’s mounting debt caused them to lose their competitive edge “on various fronts, including with regard to general upkeep and the condition of our stores.” In addition to the “general upkeep” Brandon mentions, if you’ve walked into a Toys “R” Us outside of the holidays, you’d understand. The massive store would appear as a moonscape, cold and nearly lifeless, save one or two employees and some barely audible music. Is that the environment that makes kids and parents think of fun?

This blog post does an excellent job of describing how Toys “R” Us could have boosted their customer experience through the roof, and honestly, it was probably within reach. “Special store events could include Nerf gun battles and dress up contests. Store representatives could excel at providing toy recommendations for particular age groups and interests (ever wondered, “What the heck do a get for my 8-year-old niece for Christmas?”).” These are the customer service based experiences consumers expect in our high-touch world. With eCommerce personalizing every customer interaction, it’s no wonder retail’s value continues to diminish.

Here’s Why Retail Will Die

As we can interpret from the examples above, traditional retail’s refusal to adapt (or perhaps retail’s lack of understanding about eCommerce) will be the industry’s ultimate downfall. One-time giants like Sears are ignoring systemic issues that directly impact in-store and over-the-phone customer experiences. Customer-minded marketing, store upkeep, and customer service — once staples of the retail experience — are being outsourced, downgraded or eliminated.

How To Bring The Magic Back

Here’s How Customer Service Will Kill Retail
In a last-ditch effort to get customer engagement, Toys “R” Us launched an AR app called “PlayChaser” to create gamified in-store experiences. There were a few issues with this, like parents who didn’t want their kids running around a massive store with their tablet — and also the fact that the company had already declared bankruptcy — but the intent was there. Toys “R” Us was ready to repent for decades of customer boredom, but it was too-little-too-late.

Retailers seeking a strong, successful revival need three things:

  1. A unified strategy that blends digital and physical experiences while thinking realistically about in-store capabilities (like employees, upkeep, and tech).
  2. A highly-tailored online experience that combines hardcore marketing tactics with artificial intelligence to boost customer retention & sales (watch video).
  3. Unrelenting customer service that makes everything easier for the customer (yes, we mean everything). Understand your customers and meet their demands.

Final Thoughts

Circuit City recently announced an ambitious plan to resurrect the company with an eCommerce focus and an impressively cool omnichannel strategy. The digital retailer relaunched February 15th and is moving forward rapidly. If Circuit City can make a comeback, maybe it’s time for other retailers to get with the program.

What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018?

What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018?

What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018?

Everyone’s asking, “What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018?” Will it be the illustrious AI, the illuminating abilities of augmented reality, 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:

Marketing Tech in 2018

What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018?

As we await the true advent of AI, AR, VR and Mixed Reality in the mainstream, contemporary digital advertising is rolling over and dying, with search, social and display ads experiencing a gradual decline in usefulness. Gen-Y and Gen-Z hate ads, and while pervasive multichannel messaging was previously a working strategy, ads are ignored now more than ever… and expansive ad campaigns are annoying customers, damaging brands.

The savior in this scenario was and still is video, which many companies lack the capability or know-how to properly leverage. Many still refuse any attempt to enter the video realm, despite annual marketing reports for the past decade marking video as the most effective channel for sales and brand engagement. Right now, the benefits of video seem to be buffering (pun intended), with numbers stagnating as users look for something new.

As a natural side-effect of the decline in channel efficiency, marketers have turned to big data as the new god to drive vertical engagement. However, many retail marketers lack the experience and/or artificial intelligence applications necessary to make sense of this wealth of data.

Getting a Grip on AI

What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018?
This past year, we’ve seen the launch of some incredible remarketing software in ecommerce, like HiConversion and Rejoiner. Programs so powerful they can replace entire marketing teams that would typically manage the breadth of digital messaging (emails, ads, social, tracking, analytics, etc).

However… because these systems and the technology are so new, we’re combining the adoption curve with a learning curve. While marketers get a grip on machine learning Saas, I expect their true potential will be neither realized, nor their full impact felt in the market this year.

To make matters worse, today’s AI market focuses exclusively on predictive AI, which all-too-soon will be replaced with cognitive AI (Rajesh Sinha, Fulcrum Digital‘s CEO, predicts in the next two years). There’s a chance the change-over could immediately render predictive systems obsolete. On the other hand, retailers and brands can’t sit around waiting for cognitive AI, and those that do could see big-time losses (Hence the dilemma). Overall, what most of the martech world considers “AI” will soon be baked into every major software system available. What matters is how you use them.

Playing the Waiting Game & Winning

What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018?
For now, we have to keep milking the avenues we have available. Optimize performance as much as possible with regard to channel strategy and be diligent. With the current pace of innovation, you might not get a second chance.

Now is the time for companies to start looking into how AR, AI, VR, IoT and other emerging tech can reshape business alongside other digital transformation strategies. While the long-term strategy teams focus on how they will deliver value in 2020 and beyond (when these technologies are expected to have much wider reach), it’s time to bring our websites into the new age. Maximize your site and sales funnels with every possible upgrade, build out content and bulk-up ad spend while we get over this hump. Rethink your strategy for the next four years and think seriously about how you plan to invest all the new martech. If you haven’t already made significant investments in your mobile customer experience, that’s a good place to start.

Some companies will spend a little more on ads to wait this out. Others will buy into expensive (soon-to-be outdated) platforms they’ll be stuck with long after the competition moves on. Unfortunately, the largest group will likely be those who sit on their hands and refuse to innovate. These will be the losers. Instead, find out how much budget you can pack into the time between now and 2020. Focus on your omnichannel experience and unifying your brand strategies with supportive AI products you can afford (for the short term). In addition, bulk up your ad spend, get some videos or podcasts going, and settle in for the long hibernation period ahead.

Final Thoughts

So let’s review. What technology will have the biggest impact on marketing in 2018? You, the human, which should be an empowering, albeit intimidating challenge for marketers. Lastly, remember, there’s no need to be discouraged. Plateaus are part of every high-growth process…

We just happen to be crossing the Rubicon.

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

Whether your product is bottles of lemonade or festive bikinis for the summer; if you’re new to B2B e-commerce, it’s important to have a plan when selecting the best platform for your business.

The explosion of online shopping popularity projects ecommerce transactions to out-pace in-store sales in the next few years. Nielsen confirms this with research and offers up some of the browse to buy rates for goods & services. Recent trends show B2B customers seeking more of the e-commerce experience as opposed to shopping offline. So who exactly are these customers?

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.

1. What are your company’s objectives for your B2B e-commerce store?

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

  • It is important to know what you want to achieve when you’re building an e-commerce store. Choosing the platform with the best deployment method for your store will ensure your business needs and your brand objectives are supported.

2. Is the platform best for B2B e-commerce?

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

  • The platform you choose should have documented successful experience meeting the demands of e-commerce online stores. Conduct your own research to see what similar online stores are using and if the platforms of their choice have sufficient experience to meet the demands of an e- commerce store such as a high traffic volume, search engine optimization and mobile friendliness. B2B stores operate best on an open source platform such as Magento. The demands of an online B2B store are much greater than that of a B2C. Magento software caters to this need with such benefits as bulk order management and inventory tracking across multiple warehouse locations.

3. Is the platform customizable?

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

  • For companies like Zoetis, it was important to have an online B2B store that provides a B2C experience for their customers. Catering to the needs of veterinary professionals in over 50 countries 24/7, they needed an e-commerce platform that provided world class customer experience, met the needs of their complex business rules, featured promotions and included 40+ database feeds. The best option for them was to use the Magento Enterprise Edition to implement their online store.

4. Can you integrate any existing software into your new platform?

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

  • Integration is very important to the success of your online store. Large businesses that are typical users of B2B e-commerce platforms understand that integration of pre-existing software such as your CRM to your back office is critical. Building an IT environment that improves company efficiency is vitally important; if your existing software does not integrate with the new e-commerce platform it will negatively impact your overall result.

5. Does the platform provide the best user experience for your customers?

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B E-Commerce Platform

  • Today’s customers expect and demand a user experience that is second to none when they visit e-commerce stores. The platform chosen for your store should provide streamlined features like one click purchasing for both software and professional training, providing an easier buyer experience. Staying up to date on how buyers utilize the internet in non B2B environments will enhance your store’s B2B experience. According to Magento, “93 percent of business-to-business buyers prefer to purchase online, with self-serve information, direct from vendors,” so an intuitive experience is key. Learn more about Magento’s B2B module here.

When choosing a B2B e-commerce platform choose a platform with a proven success rate of developing B2B e-commerce stores and can adapt to the changing needs of your company.

Here at Redstage, as a Shopify Plus Partner and Magento Enterprise Partner, we believe one of these great platforms may be the right fit for your B2B store and personally vouch for their abilities. Give us a call anytime for a free consultation on options, features and considerations for each to find the perfect platform for your business.

What the Net Neutrality Repeal Means for Advertising

What the Net Neutrality Repeal Means for Advertising

Access-denied_story

If you’re reading this, you understand what’s coming. The Net Neutrality repeal holds the potential to be the biggest disruption to business in the past century, if not history. In a world where companies rely on digital advertising, agencies and ecommerce, the difference between life and death of brands may hinge on the whim of the world’s largest telecoms. Here’s why you need to worry.

Net Neutrality & Its Impact on the World

connect
Up to this point, a free and open internet devoid of “fast-lanes” and “slow-lanes” created a boom in business that revolutionized the way we live. In line with Moore’s law and Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, this past century experienced exponential growth of technological development, due in no small part to the democratization of the web. Tim Berners-Lee’s creation of the “world-wide-web” in 1991 scarcely resembles the monolithic utility that is our modern Internet, only a mere 26 years later.  In that same 26 years, we went from computers the size of microwaves to computers that fit in our hands.

Much has changed.

Companies who invested in the Dotcom boom flourished, bringing rise to unfathomable industrial power on a global scale; birthing magnates like Jobs, Bezos, Murdoch, Musk, and eventually, Zuckerberg. The latest Internet revolution, social media (starting with email), democratized global communication thanks to AOL, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. These advancements further facilitated burgeoning startups like Uber, AirBnB and DropBox; companies who owe the sum of their successes to the Internet’s level playing-field.

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.

Repeal Implications for Everyone

pexels-photo-693865
By repealing Net Neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclassifies the internet as a public good rather than a utility, removing strong Net Neutrality rules and protections under title ii that bar service interference from companies like Verizon and Comcast. In doing so, the FCC now allows internet service providers (ISPs) to block, throttle or slow Internet speeds if they so choose. The implications are such that broadband providers and cable companies can now charge businesses and citizens considerable premiums for access. Want to watch Youtube? Netflix? CNN? Now you may have to pay. Want to visit the Library of Congress website or use Slack? Please pay. Want to serve ads on any of these channels? Better get a bigger budget because they might not load…

“Repealing net neutrality will definitely have winners and losers. The winners will obviously be the large telecom companies who will have more control over their networks and profitability. The biggest losers will be small businesses. We may end up in a scenario where the most popular content is dictated by the telecom companies and biggest players, similar to the way cable TV and cable content has been run for many years. We may very well end up being robbed of the diversity of the Internet, since only the large companies will be able to play this game.” — Adam Morris, Redstage CEO

Yes. The United States government just made this decision for the entire world. Since these telecom giants are global, these rules will impact companies of all sizes, both domestic and abroad, across the planet (should the common fears of the repeal be realized).

This kind of pay-to-play environment begs the question, “Will this be the end of the startup age?” If companies can’t afford to enter the market, they can’t make sales. With this massive barrier now placed on all businesses, can we expect investors to willingly throw money into new companies anymore? What happens when consumers can’t access their favorite sites for free?

What the Repeal Means for Advertising

What the Net Neutrality Repeal Means for Advertising

Take a look at this picture. This is Times Square in New York city. If you’ve ever visited, you’ve probably been taken aback by the massive screens and billboards with flashing advertisements on every surface. In many ways, Times Square is like the Internet. It’s a place millions visit every day, that just about anyone is allowed to view. Companies pay to have their ads shown to masses who pass by. Businesses both big and small set up shop down different avenues nearby. All of them hoping to make sales from their chunk of the traffic.

If you look closer, however, you’ll notice several of the larger screens and billboards are blank. An uncommon occurrence for Times Square. However, with the title ii protections removed, it’s likely there will be fewer ads than ever before.

“On the most basic level, brands will end up paying more to have their content/ads published online. If Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Verizon begin to charge website “tolls” for being able to deliver the websites’ experience, those costs will ultimately be passed onto brands through increased cost-per-thousand (CPM). Brands with any type of content—from video to games, to microsites — could be required to provide payments to ISPs to enable the quick access to their content. With increased CPMs comes lower ROI, which leads to shrunken budgets, over time.” —MediaPost

It doesn’t stop there…

What the Net Neutrality Repeal Means for Advertising

Companies wishing to display ads on certain channels may now be forced to enter deals with multiple ISPs depending on where they want their ads. As MediaPost notes, marketers may face increased costs where ISPs inhibit ad placement in a scenario “in which, say Verizon has a stake in news sites like CNN.com (but not Fox News).”

Moreover, the companies who serve branded ads like Google, Facebook and Twitter could face considerable damage, as these advertising companies may have to pay a premium to ensure the ads hosted on their channels actually load. Without this, ad companies won’t be able to gauge whether their ads were actually viewed or not, resulting in a lack of insight for the companies who pay them… You can see how the cycle breaks down… Businesses will suffer on all sides.

Say Goodbye to “Freemium” & Social Marketing

What the Net Neutrality Repeal Means for Advertising

This goes without saying. You can’t offer a free-trial of a product online if someone has to pay for it. If the marketer has to pay, the company loses money. If the customer has to pay, it’s not a free-trial. Similarly, social media will no longer offer an advantage as a “free” avenue for marketers.

Millions of consumers aimlessly scroll through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day. As a staple of many e-tailers, especially smaller ones, unpaid social strategies allow brands to attract large swaths of customers across various demographics. This is especially true in the age of customer advocacy, when word-of-mouth customer recommendations are the leading drivers of online store sales. Once consumers and companies have to pay for access to social media sites, the benefits of unpaid social campaigns are removed. With many growing bored of Facebook and Instagram, users aren’t likely to stay… so what happens to the PPC channel these sites offer?

Let’s observe the following waterfall effect: With less social interaction from less users, less companies will invest in social. Brands that opt-out of social will lose their market share from social, resulting in less sales. This will leave only the CocaCola’s of the world to pick up social stragglers. If social media sites crumble as a result of all this, the PPC avenues brands use today will go with them. Since pay-per-click ads generally have a massive impact on business, what option will ecommerce companies have to advertise? And finally, how high will CPC get once hundreds of companies are competing for the same keyword on Google Adwords? Assuming Google can afford to continually index trillions of pages, as well as provide fast access for searches.

Ecommerce Will Undoubtedly Suffer

denys-nevozhai-351746

If the dystopian vision of post-Net Neutrality plays out, there’s essentially two ways the ecommerce situation can unravel:

Scenario 1: Stores must pay ISPs to give all visitors speedy access to their site.

This means these stores will be paying ISPs to enhance customer experiences or face severe consequences for their bottom line. As SpeedCommerce describes it,

“…study after study shows that page load time is one of the most important factors in ecommerce conversion rates. If you’re a huge monolithic company like Amazon or Walmart, you’ll end up being forced to pay for the “fast lane” version of the internet to ensure that your customers have the uber-fast online shopping experience that they’re used to (and you want). However, smaller online retailers won’t be able to afford this premium, and thus their customers will be relegated to the “slow lane”: slower page load times, which could be enough to convince their customers to shop where the the experience is faster. —SpeedCommerce

What’s the alternative?

Scenario 2: The customer will have to buy a “Shopping Package” from an ISP in order to access your online store.

Imagine having to pay just to access Amazon.com. Shipping delays already give customers a headache. What happens when they have to pay just to get to your store? The answer is invariably a steep decline in traffic. To mitigate this, retailers from Walmart to small business will likely aim for higher ad budgets, but as discussed above, this is an uphill battle that leads to diminishing returns. What about social media? Wait, we covered that too in the previous section. Can we expect customers simply adjust to a painfully slow online experience? Will there be a reverse-migration from clicks to bricks?

What can retailers do? Adapt or die; and many will be forced out of the bull-pen to vanish in obscurity. John Zieger, General Counsel at Stripe foresaw the world without Net-Neutrality back in 2014: “An internet where certain retailers suffer throttled network connectivity is bad in the short term for consumer experience, and bad in the long term for consumer choice.”

For now, it seems the latter scenario might be the route things take, or worse, a combination of the two.

In October, California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna shared this example of how ISPs manage the Internet in Portugal, a country without Net Neutrality regulations.

“…without net neutrality, big-name apps could theoretically even pay telecoms firms for preferential access, offering them money — and smaller companies just couldn’t compete with that. … Yonatan Zunger, a former Google employee, recently retweeted Khanna’s tweet, adding: “This isn’t even the worst part of ending net neutrality. The worst part happens when ISPs say ‘we don’t like this site’s politics,’ or ‘this site competes with us,’ and block or throttle it.”” —Futurism.com

A Dangerous Game

What the Net Neutrality Repeal Means for Advertising

Now for the final note, and a haunting one at that. The ultimate nightmare scenario is that the incredible leverage ISPs can now weild over the market could allow them to gain a significant advantage… They now have the ability to use their new-found power to serve themselves at an unimaginable scale.

“For example, an ISP might invest in a service, then throttle competitors’ speeds. This would give their product a competitive advantage. A “double-dip” would subvert the market, empowering ISPs to choose which businesses succeed.” —chargebacks911.com.

This is the reason most people are freaking about about the vote. These companies can act with complete autonomy, and have a chance to control the free market. Now, while there are some* barriers to prevent this kind of activity, it’s still a major fear for many, and a real possibility. How can these companies objectively manage the Internet speed of their own properties without cornering the market as a side-effect? If products and services can only be effectively marketed and sold by a small group of companies, is this really the end of the free market? What will happen to the U.S. economy with hundreds of companies abandoning this ludicrously restrictive online environment for safer shores overseas (if there are any) or if major companies can’t afford to pay? And finally, how can free speech or laissez faire possibly exist in the online world?

Please leave a comment below.

Act Now While We Still Can.

What the Net Neutrality Repeal Means for Advertising
While the major opinion backing the repeal is that this isn’t what ISPs will do (especially since they pinky-promise not to), but the fact that they have the option to dominate and control the market begs the question, “Why wouldn’t they?”

There’s still a short time period when Congress could reject the FCC’s rollbacks, so we all need to fight back:

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress could issue a resolution of disapproval and overrule the FCC’s decision. But it’s not going to be easy—the CRA only provides Congress a 60 day window in which to act, and a resolution of disapproval needs either presidential support or backing from two-thirds of the House and Senate. —Gizmodo

Email Congress TODAY. Call your local Congressman or Congresswoman. There’s not much time. Here’s a link to what you can tell them from BattleForTheNet. We built our world on the web and ushered in a new age of progress. Let’s keep the web open. Let’s keep building, together.

 

Is My Store Good Enough? What it means to give shoppers a frictionless experience.

Is My Store Good Enough? What it means to give shoppers a frictionless experience.

Is my website good enough?

Partner Profile: Shoppimōn
Redstage Worldwide partner Shoppimon provides top online retailers with the ability to know about performance, technical, and content issues before their shoppers ever encounter them. By visiting eCommerce sites the same way real customers do, Shoppimon behaves like a 24/7 mystery shopper, identifying any problems that impact the shopping experience and a customer’s ability to complete a purchase. Shoppimon currently monitors over 2,000 online stores, and publishes the monthly Online Health & Usability Index bench-marking major eCommerce health and performance trends.

Creating the Ideal Customer Journey:

Is my website good enough?

The ideal customer journey is fast, frictionless, and interruption-free. The best online retailers in the world have cut average site load times to tenths of a second, and have optimized the layout of each page to provide an intuitive shopping experience. Ideally, a website should also never suffer from major technical or content issues that interrupt a shopper. Unfortunately, this ideal is not possible today.

3 Things That Make or Break a Store’s UX

Every eCommerce manager should know what’s happening throughout their site, and be prepared to handle serious issues at a moment’s notice. It’s also important to be aware that no store is immune to these problems. Top retailers are prone to face these types of issues at rates similar to SMBs, with the average online retailer losing 13% of their annual revenues to them.

Is my website good enough?

#1 Entry Points

Landing pages and other forms of content that push large quantities of traffic to your site, but are not functioning properly or don’t render visually as they should can make or break a marketing campaign and the sales targets you have for the month. So ensuring there are no snags in the functionality of these gateways to your site is crucial.

#2 Checkout

We speak to many retailers who check their online stores including the checkout process thoroughly in a development environment, but once it’s live, they stop testing. Due to how many moving parts there are in a checkout process, particularly custom built checkout workflows, it’s critical to continuously check that there is nothing getting the way of a customer who has already decided to buy. Shoppers must be able to effortlessly see what they’re buying, the associated costs, easily enter coupon codes, select payment methods and complete a purchase. Do not rely on customers to report problems here, because you stand to lose significant business before a determined shopper actually reaches out. We know that 4% of all eCommerce business is lost due to technical issues during checkout, but with proper attention you can identify problems before customers hit them, dramatically reducing that number.

#3 Errors

In a recent post, Shahar Evron, Shoppimon CTO, discussed how to handle error messages with grace. He’s found that error messages are often left as an afterthought, rather than planned for during a site’s development. Something that is true of even the largest sites. Moreover, development teams regularly decide their content, leading to awkward, highly technical messages that scare customers away. Beyond having an immediate impact on sales, when messages are missing, this can also lead to error messages being exposed on a page. And this poses serious security risks. So make sure neither your site or your sales are at risk by planning for errors to occur in advance. Create simple messages that leave your shoppers with a smile on their face, and the opportunity to either continue down the conversion funnel or engage with you directly.

Site Monitoring: Top Challenges

Is my website good enough?
It is surprisingly common that these things are forgotten about, or put aside, all together. Error messages are a great example where they’re often left as an afterthought. Whereas, for checkout many people know there’s a problem, but either do not, or are not able, to test reliably.

So many eCommerce managers are forced to try and identify issues manually, or wait for customers to complain. And of course by that time, significant sales have already been lost, since the vast majority of customers will simply abandon a purchase.

It’s worth noting that manual testing is highly problematic. Not only is it time consuming, but you will inevitably miss many intermittent issues. Additionally, it is very difficult to manually check multiple variations of a given workflow. For example, testing checkout with one product, vs. 3, or checkout with normal pricing vs. discounted pricing etc.

For scenarios like these, functional (automated) testing, such as Selenium scripting is ideal, but it is not used by many site operators, particularly on a production environment as it can be very complex to setup, maintain and use on an ongoing basis.

The biggest challenge with entry points and traffic gateways is that even online stores which dedicate substantial resources to monitoring their sites on an ongoing basis often overlook off-site sources traffic, such as landing pages. Many eCommerce managers assume that if its not part of the site, then it doesn’t need testing.

The Best Chance for Optimizing Your Overall CX

Is my website good enough?
Awareness is #1: No matter how rigorously an eCommerce site is tested before it goes live, once it is in production it becomes a living breathing entity. Your website will change and be impacted by other integrated softwares, 3rd party services, and your customres. Issues will occur, and code will break. And it’s all par for course in managing and optimizing an online store.

Testing & Monitoring: Because issues happen, you need to keep finger constly on the pulse. Even if your development team has done an incredible job putting together a beautiful cutting-edge site, things can and will go wrong over time.

Therefore, automating testing of your store is an absolute must. Aim to use robust solutions that require less maintenance, and will provide you with clear insight into how customers experience issues, how those issues impact your business, and then help your development team quickly identify and fix their root cause.

And don’t forget to pay special attention to the campaigns and landing pages that bring traffic to your site in the first place.

The Hard Truth: 3 Major Issues With Your Email Campaigns

The Hard Truth: 3 Major Issues With Your Email Campaigns

The Hard Truth: If Your Emails Don’t Do These 3 Things, Why Bother?

As marketers, constantly sending emails is critical to mission success. However… There’s a big difference between simply “sending an email” and delivering targeted reminders at critical touch-points along the customer journey. Reminders, offers and insights, mind you, that influence higher conversions, win-back customers, and maximize your customer lifetime value. Here’s a quick breakdown from Rejoiner’s massive report on the subject: “Email Marketing for eCommerce: The 8 Campaigns That Have Generated over $140M”. So again, here’s 3 major issues with your email campaigns. If you’re not doing these things right, why bother?

1. You’re Doing Newsletters Wrong. Stop That.

Blanket email marketing works less and less each year, AKA: It doesn’t work anymore. According to Rejoiner and the DMA’s 2015 national client email report, “86% of email revenue is coming from email campaigns that use advanced tactics.” So it’s time to switch it up. Rather than sending a promotional email to your entire subscriber list, get targeted. Segment your lists by shopping category and morph one 10% off coupon into 10 different coupons like the hydra from Homer’s Odyssey. Your dress crowd should get a deal on dresses with a distinct description. It’s simple divide and conquer. Your tie-guys should get a deal on ties. Swimwear, slacks, unmentionables… Segment them all and surround the enemy. Er, your customers.

2. You’re Using “Triggers” Right? …Riiiiight???

The Hard Truth: If Your Emails Don’t Do These 3 Things, Why Bother?

Rejoiner outlines the following critical touch-points as send-signals for what we in the industry call “targeted emails.” Set up an automation that sends emails when your customers fit any of these criteria:

1. Browser Abandoner (they looked at that hat 3 times… make it 4)
2. New Subscriber (hasn’t made a purchase)
3. New Customer (after first purchase)
4. Cart Abandoner (you know this one)
5. Primed for Cross Sell (compliment their recent purchase)
6. VIP (The ones who spend the most are worth the most)
7. Replenisher (are they really going to keep that lipstick forever?)
8. Defector (re-engage before you lose them to the dark side)

Rejoiner.com

Learn them. Live them. Love them. Tell your friends.

3. Your Win-Back Emails Are WEAK
The Hard Truth: If Your Emails Don’t Do These 3 Things, Why Bother?

Your cart abandonment emails are lame and uninspired. You also don’t use enough of them. Here’s Rejoiner’s short list of pro-tips that can be used for lonely carts and customers who’ve disappeared into the abyss elsewhere:

  1. Plan your cart abandonment emails under the pretense of customer service.
  2. Know and accept that customers will open win-back emails from their mobile. Anticipate this.
  3. Remember segmenting? Remember categories? Have you remembered anything I’ve said? Your abandoned carts are potential customers. Treat them like the real thing and remember: filter, divide, target, attack.
  4. You should know who’s on your site. Guest, registered, subscriber, Bill from accounting. Be the all-knowing Yoda of site traffic.
  5. Oh a cart was abandoned. Better do nothing about it. Just kidding, send them an email within 30 minutes to ask why. Let them know you mean business, and you’re here to help.
  6. While your win-back email should have a customer service focus, you’d do well to include a visual reminder of the last thing they looked at before they dropped-off.
  7. It’s now or never. Don’t lose them forever. Send a follow-up or two to make sure they come back.
  8. When it comes to discounts, use your brain. It’s 2017 and customers have gotten wise. Many know you’ll send a discount if they leave, so make sure you’re not throwing away money. You can achieve this through what Rejoiner calls “frequency capping.” Don’t be the parent who gives their kid candy every time they scream for it. It won’t do either of you any favors.

Sorry for the tough love, but you’ll thank me one day.

You can read and download the full report here at Rejoiner.com.
Find more email marketing best practices for retailers here.
Keep an eye out for our Emergency Ecommerce Checklist: A Tactical Guide to Surviving The Holiday Rush (Bookmark this page, link coming soon!).