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Our Year In Review: 5 Top Insights Of 2018

Our Year In Review: 5 Top Insights Of 2018

“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:

OUR YEAR IN REVIEW: TOP ARTICLES OF 2018

#1. 5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B Ecommerce Platform

5 Things to Consider When Selecting Your B2B Ecommerce Platform

“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

 

#2. What Technology Will Have The Biggest Impact On Marketing In 2018?

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

“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

#3. The Mobile-First Holiday: Ecommerce Stats You Need To Know!

The Mobile-First Holiday: Ecommerce Stats You Need To Know

“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

#4. AI And Big Data In The Future Of Customer Loyalty

our year in review: top insights of 2018

“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

 

#5. What The Net Neutrality Repeal Means For Advertising

Our Year In Review: Top Insights Of 2018

“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.

 

Top 5 Most Popular Articles of 2017:

#1. Online Buying Behavior: The Difference Between Men & Women

#2. Selling & Upselling with Psychology & Human Behavior

#3. How All B2C Companies Should Be Marketing By 2020

#4. The Incredible Benefits of Magento 2

#5. Top Ecommerce Challenges Stores Will Face This Holiday Season

 

Can’t find info on a specific topic? Send us a message and we’ll help you find it, or we’ll add it to our content schedule! Our team of researchers and thought leaders are always looking for ways to best serve our readers. Visit our blog page to subscribe!

Update! The Mobile-First Holiday: Ecommerce Stats You Need To Know

Update! The Mobile-First Holiday: Ecommerce Stats You Need To Know

At this very moment, retail executives around the US are likely 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. We will update this article as soon as new data is released, so make sure you subscribe to be the first to know!

Thanksgiving Takes an Extra Helping

On Thanksgiving day, as of 7:00am Pacific Time, U.S. consumers spent $406 million. By 2pm, Adobe announced that this number skyrocketed to a whopping $1.75 billion, representing a 23% increase over sales in the same time period in 2017. By the end of the day, Americans beat out last year’s sales for the day by a shocking 28%, resulting in a shocking 3.7 billion dollar Thanksgiving. Adobe initially projected a $3.1B bottom line for the holiday.

Mobile Wins Big

Here’s a quick breakdown of the major events in bite-size chunks:

Thanksgiving Day

“Mobile stole the show Thanksgiving Day with smartphones representing more than 50% of traffic to retail sites, as well as record amount of revenue,” Taylor Schreiner, Director of Adobe Digital Insights

Black Friday

$2.1 billion or 33.5% of sales came from smartphones this Black Friday. Another 10% of sales, or roughly $627 million, came from tablet users. All in all, the day yielded an impressive $6.2 billion, a 23.6% increase over 2018.

Cyber Monday Breaks The Internet

Here’s the big one. Cyber Monday sales shattered all previous records for online sales… in U.S. history.

“Cyber Monday [topped] $7.9 billion by the end of the day, making it the largest online shopping day of all time in the U.S. This represents a 19.7 percent increase year-over-year (YoY) as of 7:00 p.m. ET. In comparison, Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday brought in $3.7 billion (28 percent growth YoY) and $6.2 billion (23.6 percent growth YoY) in revenue, respectively.”BusinessWire

Here’s the share of devices (as of ~1:30pm ET November 27, 2018):

the mobile-first holiday ecommerce stats you need to know See more live stats at ExploreAdobe.com

7 Days of Spectacular Sales

Additionally, Adobe’s latest report notes that this November has seen 7 days where total sales broke the $2 billion mark (as of Nov. 28, 2018)… Thanks in no small part to the mobile sales spikes.

Omnichannel Adoption Drives Sales

The trend of “buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS)” continued, with the trend growing 50% during this past weekend over 2018. According to Adobe, this spells dollar signs for omnichannel merchants: “As the online and offline retail experience continues to blend, retailers with physical stores drove 28 percent higher conversions online.” While this trend helped retailers increase their share of online earnings, in-store sales lagged far behind.

It’s time to join the mobile-first movement. As Adam Morris, Redstage CEO notes, “Cusotmers are no longer expecting an in-store Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but instead, an omnichannel experience.” While many retailers successfully ramped up their omnichannel strategies for this holiday, the data shows this trend is here to stay, and more work is needed.

If you want to reduce mobile checkout friction before the holidays are over, contact us asap! To see the results we’ve achieved with our recently launched Magento Community Initiative, find the latest data here.

Final Thoughts

These extravagant stats spell success for an industry racing to close the mcommerce gap. It’s seems the industry is all-aboard the mobile-first customer experience wave. As Internet Retailing points out, retailers may have finally reached ‘always-on‘ mobile consumers. Now it looks like the key areas for improvement are streamlining mobile checkouts, and optimizing omnichannel experiences.

Update Nov. 28, 2018

Black Friday + Cyber Monday Stats You Need To Know

Here’s a breakdown of YOY holiday sales by device and region based on data collected by our partners at Nosto!

    • United States
      Desktop: 39% (2017) / 34% (2018)
      Mobile: 56% (2017) / 61% (2018)
      Tablet: 5% (2017) / 3% (2018)

 

    • United Kingdom
      Desktop: 47% (2017) / 40% (2018)
      Mobile: 42% (2017) / 48% (2018)
      Tablet: 11% (2017) / 12% (2018)

 

    • Northern Europe
      Desktop: 39% (2017) / 37% (2018)
      Mobile: 51% (2017) / 57% (2018)
      Tablet: 10% (2017) 6% (2018)

 

      • France
        Desktop: 69% (2017) / 67% (2018)
        Mobile: 19% (2017) / 22% (2018)
        Tablet: 12% (2017) / 11% (2018)

     

    • DACH
      Desktop: 40% (2017) / 53% (2018)
      Mobile: 42% (2017) / 39% (2018)
      Tablet: 8% (2017) / 8% (2018)

 

Update Nov. 29, 2018

PayPal Mobile Payments Get A $2B Holiday Boost

    • For the first time in PayPal history, mobile payment volume topped $1 billion, and did so on both Black Friday (November 23) and Cyber Monday (November 26). – PAYMNTS

 

    • Adobe reports U.S. shopping carts averaged $138.00 during Cyber Monday, a 6% bump over last year.

 

    • 49% of Black Friday traffic came from smartphones, driving 30% of online sales.

 

  • “In the [PYMNTS] Checkout Conversion Index report, the 30 merchants with the fastest, most streamlined online checkouts ranked well. Conversely, the 30 merchants with the lowest scores offer a widely inconsistent checkout experience…”

Update Nov. 30, 2018

Cyberweek 2018 Trends Report

Our partners at BigCommerce identified a few additional trends in their Cyberweek 2018 Trends Report. Key findings include:

      • While online stores continue to have the highest AOV for any sales channel, Facebook took second place, accounting for “70% of total GMV” for Fashion and Jewelry brands using the channel. Home and Garden brands selling on Facebook came in at 16% GMV.

     

    • “The Fashion & Jewelry and Toys & Games verticals saw the highest GMV increases over 2017.
Black Friday Countdown: 8 Omnichannel & Back Office Final Touches

Black Friday Countdown: 8 Omnichannel & Back Office Final Touches

Sellers wait anxiously as distant bells chime through the chilly air. Less than a week remains until Black Friday, and projections are looking good. Despite the ghost of retail’s past taking down giants this year, U.S. retailers are positioned for a “Trillion Dollar Christmas” in 2018 (eMarketer).

In line with holiday tradition, Redstage and our partners have an early gift for online merchants. Together, we’re launching this last-minute holiday prep series to ease your seasonal anxieties. The geniuses at Brightpearl combined this year’s top trends and strategies to create the ultimate holiday guide for omnichannel and back office prep.

Use this post as your last-chance optimization guide so you can sleep soundly and avoid the dread of feeling there’s one last thing you forgot. Here’s 8 critical areas you need to master to survive this year’s holiday rush:

#1 Understand your omnichannel buyer journeys

#1 Understand your omnichannel buyer journeys

To truly tackle omnichannel retail this holiday season, there are a few steps you need to take. The first is to understand your omnichannel customer and the path they take to get to your ecommerce website or brick and mortar store, so that you can ensure you’re on the channels they use the most.

Nicole from Retail Minded has identified the following omnichannel buyer journeys. Which do you focus on?

1. The Omnichannel Savvy Customer:

○ The journey: Visits store > Connects on Facebook > Buys online via mobile
○○ This customer typically spends 10% more when shopping online

2. The Last-Minute Buyer

○ The journey: Searches online via mobile > Buys online via tablet or desktop.
○○ 75% of last-minute buyers rate shipping costs as the most important buying factor.

3. The Researcher

○ The journey: Searches online > Visits multiple stores > Continues researching online > Buys from one of the original stores
○○ It’s said that over 92% of online consumers don’t intend to buy during their first visit.

4. The Impulse Shopper

○ The journey: Visits store > Buys in store almost immediately.
○○ 5 in 6 Americans admit to impulse buying.

5. The Feel-Good Buyer

○ The journey: Scrolls through social media > Buys online or in store.
○○ 45% of digital buyers worldwide say reading reviews, comments and feedback on social media influence their shopping behavior.

#2: Gain a strong presence on your customers’ most used channels

Black Friday Countdown: Omnichannel & Back Office Final Touches

Today’s digital age means connecting with customers has never been easier. As the above buyer journeys show, the majority of shoppers experience multiple touchpoints before buying. It’s important to show your presence across a number of channels and offer a consistent customer journey throughout (based on what you know about your own customers).

The following channels are a guide to show you what you need to consider adopting within your business:

  • Ecommerce
  • Brick and mortar
  • Social media
  • Online marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Special events
  • Mobile
  • Location based marketing
  • Loyalty programs
  • Text message marketing & live chat

Know which popular channels your customers are most frequently fulfilling their orders, so that you know where to concentrate your marketing and inventory planning.” – Anthony Payne, VP of Global Marketing, Brightpearl

#3: Use omnichannel fulfillment as a differentiator

Black Friday Countdown: 6 Omnichannel & Back Office Final Touches

Getting omnichannel fulfillment right can have a huge payoff but it can be one of the most difficult areas to implement without the right technology. This is because it requires inventory to be tracked across all physical locations and sales channels.

Some key examples of how omnichannel fulfillment can be used as a differentiator this holiday season are listed below. Which are you taking advantage of this season?

  • Click and collect: The option for a customer to purchase online and pick up in store. By offering this service, you can expect an immediate uplift in revenue based on impulse purchases made in store when picking up items.
  • Ship from store/endless aisle: The ability to offer products not available at the location the customer originally visited. This helps avoid losing a customer if a product is out of stock at a particular location.
  • Online store inventory availability: The ability to lookup inventory at a given store online. This is important as it’s said that 33% of millennials (today’s most influential spenders) won’t visit a store if online inventory availability isn’t published.

#4: Clean up your inventory data

Black Friday Countdown: 6 Omnichannel & Back Office Final Touches

No one likes the idea of disappointing a customer due to inaccurate inventory availability, and especially not when that item was intended as a gift for someone else. Therefore, ahead of the holiday season, you should always endeavor to do a complete inventory count in your warehouse, ensuring inventory is correct across your back office and sales channels.

Furthermore, it’s also important that you know (and have recorded) your true landed costs as well. The holiday season is driven by discounts, promotions, and flash sale days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so getting a clear gauge on your true landed cost of products (e.g. the associated freight, duty, tax, and storage expenses) ahead of time is essential for making business decisions on pricing and for final supplier selections.

#5: Analyze your sales and inventory data

Black Friday Countdown: 6 Omnichannel & Back Office Final Touches

From knowing what items your customers love the most to knowing where you should be stocking your products, last year’s data is this year’s sales gold mine. At the very least, you should use your back office data and reports to analyze the following (and act on your findings) ahead of the holiday season rush. Check the box if you’re using your data for the following:

  • Best selling products: Stock them again if possible or look for similar alternatives
  • Top performing channels, stores and locations: Ensure you’re fully stocked up on your best channels
  • Most loyal customers (MVPs): Send offers and discounts to lure them back to your website or store
  • Stock-outs: Consider ordering more inventory or implement a process that ensures reorders are fast
  • Returned inventory reports: Ensure you know why inventory is being returned; you may need to add more detailed product descriptions, change suppliers or improve packaging
  • Time to ship: Consider the use of automation bots to speed up your time to ship and avoid unnecessary fulfillment delays
  • Warehousing inefficiencies: Implement barcode scanning in the warehouse to power up your staff and reduce cases of human error
  • Checking for business-wide integration

 

It’s not too late to ensure your different departments are all talking to each other where relevant. We suggest you focus on the following as a priority. What tech are you using to keep teams informed, in the loop, and up to speed?

  • CRM + Marketing: Ensures order confirmation emails, discounts, offers and other marketing messages can all be personalized, which increases their ability to convert.
  • Ecommerce + Shipping: Customers want to be able to track their orders all the way to their door, which means shipment notifications must contain tracking references. This is where easy to use back office shipping integrations like ShipStation or Shiptheory become your new best friends.
  • Inventory + Ecommerce: Avoid stock-outs and disappointing customers by ensuring your inventory levels can be automatically updated across all your sales channels whenever an item is brought into stock, shipped or returned.
  • Inventory + Accounting: With holiday season discounts and sales taking place, knowing your true margins is essential. With each inventory update, you should ensure your accounting is updated automatically… after all, who wants to be updating their accounts manually during the holiday season rush?

#6: Automate your workflows

If you already have a back office system that allows for automated workflows, then you should definitely make use of it as best you can. When setting up automation bots, it’s recommended that you map out your current workflows first in a tool like Lucidchart. This allows you to identify where bottlenecks can be removed by automation software.

Make sure your operating systems don’t need any final touches and any special workflows are all set up before the holiday season because as you get closer and closer to the big day, your order volume and site traffic will just continue to increase. Fast and Frictionless experience is key for all your busy customers. Both before and after the holidays.” – Justin Press, VP of Global Customer Success, Brightpearl

 

#7: Make sure you’re ready for the inevitable holiday season returns

Black Friday Countdown: 6 Omnichannel & Back Office Final Touches

It’s estimated that 28% of holiday gifts bought last year were returned at a value of $90 billion. We all know that returns are inevitable after the drama of the holiday season, but you should be putting in steps now to ensure you’re able to ride the returns tsunami like a surfing pro.

Here are a few actionable steps for you to take as a starting point:

  • Assess your current ability to handle holiday season returns
  • We’ve recently created a self-assessment that enables you to assess your current returns processes. You’ll also gain actionable advice along the way for what needs to be improved. Check it out here.
  • Understand your return rates and reasons for return
  • Analyze your returned inventory reports from last year to identify common themes for why items were returned. Do you need to source a new supplier to improve quality? Should you stop stocking a certain item altogether? Does your packaging need to be improved? Try to isolate the problem and prevent it from happening again this year.
  • Give customers what they want

 

Everything that happens in exceptional events (such as when items need to be returned) is where your customers will measure the service they receive from you and whether they want to shop with you again, so it’s important to understand what your customers want (and expect) from your returns process. A survey sponsored by shipping technology leader Endicia revealed these insights about American shoppers:

  • 51% want free return shipping
  • 36% want an easy and convenient shipping process
  • 12% want a swift refund or credit
  • 89% say they’ll shop again at an online store after a positive returns process
  • 62% want a returns label in the package
  • 61% want an easy to print returns label

 

#8: Identify your “serial returners”

Recent data suggests there is a rise in “serial returners.” These customers are identified as those who purposefully buy more items with the intention of returning some. By flagging this type of customer within your CRM software, you can ensure they don’t receive certain marketing promotions or discounts as they are already likely to inflate your return rates. Check out Brightpearl’s Returns Readiness Guide to assess whether or not you’re ready to face the returns tsunami this season.

 


Author Bio: Justine Cross is the Content Marketing Executive at Brightpearl – a cloud-based back office solution for retailers and wholesalers. Brightpearl allows you to provide a truly omnichannel experience for your customers, whilst unifying all of your sales channels, inventory, accounting, CRM, suppliers, fulfillment, warehouse management, reporting and POS in one single automated system.
AI and Big Data in the Future of Customer Loyalty Programs

AI and Big Data in the Future of Customer Loyalty Programs

AI and Big Data in the Future of Customer Loyalty Programs

A sustainable firm needs loyalty customers – this is undeniable. Over the last century, retailers have been using reward programs as an effective tool to gain more repeat customers, and from this, build customer loyalty. However, the fourth industrial revolution is coming and the perspective on loyalty programs is consequently different. Marketers and business doers today realize the importance of AI and Big Data in determining repeat buying behavior. Hence, to take advantage of high technology in loyalty programs catches online retailers’ attention and requires a lot of intellectual and financial investment.

2018 will be the year of AI and Big Data

AI and Big Data in the Future of Customer Loyalty Programs

Customer loyalty programs should be perceived as a campaign designed to build and preserve interaction between clients and brands, not just to increase revenues. From this new standpoint, apart from investing in a powerful reward program, customer experience and satisfaction will become an increasing concern for businesses. There should be additional methods to form higher customer retention, which requires the application of technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data. Interestingly, 2018 may be the year which marks an outburst of AI in general and AI application in customer loyalty programs. This is represented through the figure of NewVantage Partners’ annual executive survey conducted within Fortune 1000 corporations which shows that a very large proportion, 97.2%, of these organizations are investing in AI and Big Data even though the levels of investment is being kept low. Also, according to the BPR Consulting research in 2017, nearly half of retailers would utilize AI to improve CX, and 55% would plan to focus on increasing customer loyalty within the next 3 years. In addition, according to Accenture, customers today tend to be enticed by programs or deals which are tailor-made for their personal needs, as they favor personalized rewards and specialized care. This, as far as I’m concerned, cannot be done without AI-based tools. These facts raise a big question to marketers: How to deploy AI in building customer loyalty programs in future?  

What is AI?

There are quite a lot of arguments among experts about the term AI, also known as Artificial Intelligence. In 1956, John McCarthy explained AI as science and its application to making machines, especially computer programs, which are considered smart. These intelligent machines are able to perform some tasks as a human being would. To clarify, they are able to recognize speech, learn, make plans and solve problems in the way a human does. In this early stage of AI development, people both doubt and fear its potential power in the future. However, for a marketer or an e-retailer, there is no choice but to accept and prepare for its upcoming presence in every single aspect of business.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer a foreign concept to most people nowadays, especially in e-commerce. Customers are now used to receiving personalized emails, being greeted by their names and being offered customized services. According to Chiefmarketer, buyers are, in fact, totally okay with their personal information being collected and analyzed, at an appropriate and considerable level, to get better discounts, more precise recommendations and more personalized services. Such services are what shopping doers are expecting from online retailers without any awareness of what AI is. However, we marketers have to start keeping a close eye on it from now on.

What is Big Data?

The term Big data refers to data sets which are extremely large, so large that traditional methods of data processing are unable to handle them.  We usually get Big data when collecting information from sources such as videos, audio, social channels, log files, websites and networks which are literally created in real time.  Big data can be used to help computers analyze patterns, trends and associations which are often related to human behaviors and interaction. Big data contains information which used to be left untouchable, and by analyzing this data, we are able to make better and faster decisions.

How AI and Big Data can contribute to customer loyalty programs

AI and Big Data in the Future of Customer Loyalty Programs

Tailor-made customer experience

Buyers are becoming more difficult about what they purchase and how they are served in your online stores. Most importantly, customers’ expectations of the personalization in products and services increase as the customer-centric culture is spread among big companies like Amazon. From this, I know that the one-size-fits-all era has ended, that mass-production is no more than an old-fashioned trend and that free-size jeans are being replaced by personally-designed ones on the shelves.

Big Data powered AI systems have made a big step in analyzing and understanding customers’ needs. Now, you are able to collect necessary information and track customers’ purchasing history, shopping behaviors and preferences. Based on these ‘big data’, AI learns and makes a decision to timely offer buyers a personal touch, tailor-made products and personalized services.

Not only is this about sales or conversion rates but also customer loyalty. By deploying AI, customers really get that attention which they crave for today. They know that their problems are heard and solved personally. Also, they get extra benefits when shopping at the store. This is a major factor to retain buyers in this digital era – the era of global shopping just with a few clicks, also the era of commitment and loyalty being difficult to gain.

Even better experience

Bombfell deploys AI to help their stylists pick individually suitable outfits for their customers can be a simple example for the era of personalized services. With AI, user experience in an online store is optimized at the highest level. Customers, thanks to this, find themselves cared for and feel important.

Not only can they have products customized for individual’s needs like at Bombfell, buyers can be welcomed in the store like the way it is at bricks and mortars. Customers are greeted and called by their first names. Their voices and faces are recognized by AI and, thanks to this, all information about their purchasing history or shopping habits is remembered, like the way a shopping assistant in your favorite local store recognizes you. She knows that you love discounts, you often go shopping on weekends and are willing to pay a lot for trendy shoes. And, on a Saturday morning, she speaks to you in a friendly voice: “Hey we’ve just released a limited model of trainers and, because I know you’d love them, I’ve kept them for you with 10% off. Thank me later!”

Besides all that, AI will develop to the level that customers can comfortably communicate with online stores through chatbots. Hence, the response time will be sped up to tick-tocks. Algorithms are developed to enable machines to think like human beings and even to understand customers’ emotions in order to perform appropriate actions. Not only solving problems quickly, AI also helps to replicate a human-like communication atmosphere.

Customer satisfaction and personalized experience combined with tailor-made services are the key points in showing buyers that they are highly appreciated by the brand and consequently in laying a great foundation for building customers’ trust. This is the fundamental of cultivating customer loyalty.

Challenges for brands

Questions about safety and privacy

As mentioned above, customers are willing to share their data for a better price, customized services or more convenience. However, worries about privacy and information security are still very much real, and they form a barrier between customers and brands in building trust. Shoppers, on one hand, understand that their data is collected and love the benefits coming from it. On the other hand, they question about the level at which their personal information is exploited and how it is used. Is their data safe when AI is that powerful? Are e-retailers able to protect them from frauds and identity theft when cybercrime is increasing?

To win customers’ trust is a big challenge that e-commerce websites are facing in building customer loyalty. Personally, I will definitely leave an online store which gives me doubts about security. For example, as a travel lover, I used to make a room reservation online on a well-known hotel booking site; however, one day, I was warned that this website leaked customers’ confidential information including credit card number, CVC and expiration date. Even though there was no frauds or misuse of the data recorded, I decided not to give this brand any second chance.

So make sure you provide your customers an optimized security solution, and more importantly, make a big commitment to providing the highest level of customers’ safety and privacy. They need to feel peace of mind by knowing that their data has always been and will only be used  to improve their shopping experience and to give them personalized offers.

Technical issues

AI and Big Data in the Future of Customer Loyalty Programs

Big data is actually not difficult to be collected, yet it is hard to be captured, organized and analyzed. Different sources of data are always ready to be deployed but remain unused due to lack of structure and technical know-how.

The biggest challenge here is how to, through AI, really understand data and to have an overview of it while too much information comes from various sources such as invoices, emails, social media and CRM. Also, how to turn big data into patterns, trends or associations which are useful for marketing activities and customer insights in real time is extremely important.

Just like other actual personal relationships, that customer loyalty is built on trust, the consistency of high-quality services to buyers and unchanged commitment form a long-lasting relationship. That e-retailers are considering applying AI in building customer loyalty shows their dedication to it in spite of many difficulties.

Final words

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.

 


Guest Author’s Bio:

Summer-100Summer reads and writes blogs about marketing and e-commerce. She’s especially interested in solutions which help merchants improve their customers’ shopping experience and increase customer engagement for Magento 2. “One of the best ways to enhance user experience on an online store is to provide a better Layered Navigation” says Summer.

 

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.

How​ ​All​ ​B2C​ ​Companies​ ​Should​ ​Be​ ​Marketing​ ​by​ ​2020

How​ ​All​ ​B2C​ ​Companies​ ​Should​ ​Be​ ​Marketing​ ​by​ ​2020

 

A Connected Vision

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.

How All B2C Companies Should Be Marketing by 2020

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.

How All B2C Companies Should Be Marketing by 2020

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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