Tag: channel marketing

07 Jul 2016
Multi-Channel Ecommerce – How to Create Your Own Success Story

Multi-Channel Ecommerce – How to Create Your Own Success Story

“Dang! It just doesn’t fit!”

Lea tried again to squeeze the Cherrywood colored bookcase into its designated spot in her newly-appointed living room. The room was small but with the funky furnishings and accessories she had so carefully chosen, it was all coming together. Except for the Cherrywood bookcase. No matter how she turned it, or angled it, it was just too wide for the little alcove she had envisioned it would live in.

Stepping back to assess the situation, she gathered her thoughts. “Okay, now what?” She wondered out loud. “I guess I should get in touch with CoolCases and find out how to get an exchange or refund, because this thing has got to go. “

Lea is about to embark on a journey.

This journey is going to take her down a road that all customer experiences are built from. Every interaction and every touchpoint from here out constitutes her personal story with this particular brand. This sum total of experiences, as with your own customers and their experiences interacting with your brand, make up the customer journey. Positive experiences along the way create a positive story, one in which the customer knows that she matters and is appreciated. Conversely, negative experiences along the way create a story filled with frustration and disappointment.

Creating that story, the one in which your customers feel important and well taken care of is going to take a lot of work. Today, it’s not enough to have great phone support but limited email resources. Likewise, having on site-support in the form of a self-service widget is great, but if your social media channels are unable to provide the correct level of support, you’ll hear about it from your customers – and it won’t be pretty. To reach today’s always connected customers you need to deliver a multi-channel ecommerce experience to be reachable wherever and whenever your customers want to engage you.

The Multi-Channel Ecommerce Journey Begins

 

Social Media: A Good Place to Start

 

“10:47 pm. I’d better check out their hours.” Using her mobile device, Lea logs on to CoolCases.com. “Oh, I can connect with them on social media. I’ll try that.”

As a brand in 2016, social media has to be a big part of your multi-channel ecommerce strategy. It’s a great way to get your message out there and gain followers but more importantly, social media is a great tool to help enrich relationships with your customers, responding to them in real time in a personalized manner, providing fast and accurate information with a human touch.

“How do I return a product?” Lea comments on CoolCases’ Facebook page.

She immediately gets the response:

“Hi Lea! Sorry to hear you need to make a return. We hope we didn’t let you down and we want to make it up to you. Let me know more details and we’d be happy to help. – Sophie M., CoolCases’ Community Manager.”

Lea likes that Sophie was so prompt and eager to help. But she doesn’t feel like explaining the whole story over Facebook. “Ya’ know what, I’m going to check out what I can find on their website.” She goes to CoolCases.com

 

Self-Service: The Channel of Convenience

 

On CoolCases.com Lea notices a friendly-looking widget asking: “Need help?”

“Well, yes I do,” Lea says, smiling to herself.

Web self-service helps customers find information on their own terms, in their own time, keeping them highly engaged and focused on the page they are on. Responses are immediate, accurate, and most importantly, always available. Self service is the only sustainable way to deliver 100 percent accurate information 100 percent of the time, exactly when your customer needs it.

She types into the textbox “I need help with returning or exchanging an item. “

The response: “Sorry to hear you need to make a return. We’d be happy to help with that. Please give us the model number”

After a short polite and detailed conversation, Lea has the information she needs and can decide if she wants to return or exchange her bookcase. Her smartphone dings to let her know that she just got an email to confirm her request. She opens it and is presented with a link showing her different bookcases that might meet her needs better.

 

Email Support: The Backbone of any Customer Service Center

 

“Oh, I like this one,” she thinks, looking at a light brown bookcase with lots of unique detailing to it.  “It’s not as wide, but has really interesting molding.  But I have some questions about the depth of the shelves themselves. I don’t see it listed here”. She hits “reply” to the email.

“I love model #18965091 – Fairelane Tan. My space isn’t all that big and I don’t see the depth listed in the measurements. Can you help me out?” Lea hits “send”.

Email has long been the standard for web-based communication with customers. But, just because it’s older doesn’t make it old-school. Email is still one of the most important tools you have as a brand to create real and meaningful connections with your customers. It builds trust and credibility in a way that social media and other platforms can’t. The next time you hear someone foolishly proclaim “Email is dead!” remember that this person probably doesn’t have customers he is working hard to build relationships with. And if he does, he is going about it all wrong.

“Hi Lea! Sorry to hear that Cheery Cherry didn’t work out with your space requirements. I’d be happy to help you find something fitting your needs. Since Fairelane’s shelves go back pretty deep, at 30×20, I don’t think this is the right choice for you.

“Hmmmm,” Lea looks at that line with consternation. But she continues reading:

“I suggest downloading our mobile app. You can take a picture of the room and input the measurements you need and it will help you assess which case will fit the space and the room best.  Let me know how else I can help – Ginny S”

“Yeah, that’s just what I need!” she thinks and clicks on the link that leads her to download the mobile app from the app store.

 

The Mobile Experience: Essential for Today’s Customers

 

After the app is done installing, she takes a picture of the room and indicates the area where the shelf would go. “Right here,” she says as she moves the slider over a few pixels on her smartphone screen. She types in the dimensions of the space and in a few moments she gets a list of potential bookcases that would fit the space.

Our mobile devices have become an ingrained part of our identities over the last few years. We go everywhere with them and we check them hundreds of times a day. And mobile e-commerce has surpassed web-based e-commerce, which should come as no big surprise considering that people access the internet via mobile devices much more than via laptops and desktops. In order to reach your customers where they want to be reached, mobile has to be at the very top of your multi-channel priority list.

Lea scrolls through the list and finally finds “The One”, a sleek bookcase in oak. “Love it!” she says. It looks great according to the picture she created using the mobile app and the dimensions are just right. Bingo.

 

Phone Support: Putting a Human Touch on an Ecommerce Multi-Channeling Experience

 

“Oohh, I do have one question, regarding the delivery date.” From her mobile she can one-click call them. She clicks “call” and waits for an agent who picks up after a moment.

“Oh Hi, I just placed an order, number 100982 and I have one question regarding the delivery date because I’ll be out of town next week.”

Don’t underestimate the power of a phone call. Sure we have so much tech in our lives that the phone might seem obsolete but the truth is that studies have shown that if you don’t offer proper phone support, your customers will take their business elsewhere. A phone call offers easy human contact in a manner that many people still prefer today and the fact that Mobile is the hot platform of the day is driving the trend back up in a big way.

“Hi Lea, My name is Matt and I see your order here. I also see you are returning the Cheery Cherry bookcase. I’d be happy to help you figure out a delivery date that works best for you.”

After a pleasant conversation, Lea has chosen a date for the delivery of the new case and the return of the old bookcase. With everything sorted out and her goals accomplished, she thinks to herself, “Wow that was so simple, it was almost enjoyable.” Each platform along the way performed brilliantly, creating a seamless story, one that leaves Lea not only a satisfied customer but a really pleased one, one who knows that no matter what, CoolCases will be her first and only choice the next time she remodels or refurnishes her apartment.

An effective multi-channel ecommerce strategy is what creates those positive stories, the ones that bring your customers back for more. When done “right”, the stories they’ll tell about your brand will be more than just positive – They’ll be enthusiastic and empowered, with the knowledge that you’ll be right there, wherever and whenever your customers choose to engage with your brand. Create those stories today with your effective multi-channel ecommerce strategy.

19 Jun 2013
The Omni-Channel Retail Customer Experience & Customer Service

The Omni-Channel Retail Customer Experience & Customer Service

There’s a certain pizza chain from which I order delivery. I go to their Facebook page to see the latest coupon codes I can use for discounts and specials when I make the purchase via their mobile application on my smartphone.

I was looking to buy a new big-screen television, but I was not sure if it would also work as a computer monitor with my home office’s desktop computer and also be compatible with my cable provider and DVD player. So I searched on Google to see if I could find the answers (before I would consider making the purchase) because the store’s website did not tell me what I had needed to know.

In essence, I am an “Omni-channel” shopper. But what does the term mean. According to Wikipedia:

Omni-Channel Retailing is very similar to and an evolution of, multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, catalog and so on. Retailers are meeting the new customer desires by deploying specialized supply chain strategy software.

Ok, so it is about aligning customer experience on all channels. But why is it so important for your company? Macy’s President, CEO and Chairman Terry Lundgren says:

We talk a lot at Macy’s about “Omni-channel” retailing. Our customer is multi-dimensional. She is busy at work and out with friends. She always has her mobile device in her hand. She’s active on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and a dozen other social media sites. She is smart and demanding. We want that customer to be able to interact with Macy’s no matter where she is or how she shops.

Back to my personal experience, the pizza chain not only posts discount codes on Facebook – it also sends tweets and text messages with immediate, time-sensitive deals to use on their website or mobile site channels. In similar ways, more and more businesses have numerous channels through which they interact with customers:

But the increasing necessity of “Omni-channel retailing” comes with a catch: Too many businesses wrongly think about channels when they should still be thinking about their customers. Companies do not have “Twitter customers” and “Facebook customers” and “mobile customers” – they only have customers who happen to use different communication methods. People are the same regardless of the channels that they use to communicate – and in a consumer context, customers have the same needs and desires regardless of the channels through which they interact with companies.

As Brian Kilcourse writes at Retail Systems Research on “Omni-channel retail”:

Simply put, it’s the notion that consumers use more than one channel (web, catalog, mobile, store) to make a purchase. The idea reflects the fact that consumers don’t see channels, they seek solutions: either a retailer satisfies a need or it doesn’t. Increasingly, consumers use the digital channels to make a purchase decision even if that purchase is ultimately completed in a store. Therefore, the notion of channels goes away.

First, it is crucial to determine how you can create a customer service experience that fulfills the needs of your customers and provides the most relevant information to your buyers, including letting them know on different promotions regardless the source or target channel. Along with aligning the messages on all of your channels, you also need to provide that same, quality customer service and experience on all of your channels.

From providing customer support to offering promotions and coupons, your business needs to offer whatever information you choose seamlessly on all of your channels whether it is on Facebook, mobile devices, your website, in-store kiosks, and more.

And what’s the benefit? Multi-channel shoppers spend 15% to 30% more than those who use only one channel. I – or, more accurately, my waistline – can attest to that fact. After seeing all of the specials from the pizza chain on Facebook, Twitter, and being able to use it when I order on my smartphone, I eat a lot more pies than I should.

02 May 2013
Align Your Customer Experience Across All Channels

Align Your Customer Experience Across All Channels

When potential customers visit your website, Facebook page, and mobile website, do they have the same quality experiences and high levels of customer support? If the answer is “no,” then your brand equity and sales revenue may suffer.

As Derek Gehl notes at Entrepreneur, “it often takes several interactions before someone buys from your site.” And today, those interactions occur in different channels. Decades ago, many stores had only physical locations and probably a number for telephone sales. Now, many businesses will have a store, a website, numerous social-media accounts, a mobile website and application, online chat, and much more. If any individual location functions at a less-than-optimal level, the entire sales operation is harmed.

After all, the logic behind having many online points-of-contact between a company and its customers is obvious. Wendy Lea, for example, writes at Inc.com that:

Companies that engage with their customers via social media have more loyal customers. Better yet, customers who engage with brands online report spending 20% to 40% more on that brand, or on that company’s products.

Lea continues to point out the nature of customer service in today’s Internet Age:

  • Customer engagement exists in a full spectrum of experiences.
  • It needs to be results-driven.
  • It happens anytime, anywhere.
  • It’s truly customer-driven.

However, too few companies are taking advantage of the opportunity. In just one example from the Info-Tech Research Group (purchase required for the full report), many companies are not taking advantage of mobile engagement:

Align Your Customer Experience Across All Channels

In short, companies that are not using mobile self-service platforms report lower Customer-Service Knowledge Management (CSKM) success – or, in other words, fewer sales and less revenue.

Much of the time, the problem is that the business intelligence gained from customer-service knowledge is rarely centralized in a single place and spread among all relevant stakeholders. A single person or team might manage customer service each on the website, Facebook, Twitter, a mobile app, live chat, e-mail, and more.

Each of these people gains important information on customers’ questions and queries – but organizational bureaucracy and human nature often impede this knowledge from being shared throughout the company. The person answering Twitter and Facebook, for example, might have a good answer for future use but neglect to share it with his counterpart answering customer e-mail. Someone talking with clients over instant messages might be less experienced and not know a relevant answer held by the person interacting on the company’s mobile application.

The result: Each medium of customer service delivers a different level of customer satisfaction because the information is fractured. The answer: Centralize the collection and dissemination of information through a dedicated manager who uses quality customer support software. One person needs to collect all relevant information from all channels and then optimize the company’s self-service support software as needed over time so that all mediums have the same level of operational efficiency.

A multi-channel customer-service strategy is crucial today – and as David Edelman notes at Harvard Business Review, all channels must be aligned with the consumer-decision journey and on the same “digital” page internally. Otherwise, you risk losing business via your underperforming channels and customer-service representatives.

07 Apr 2013
The Importance of Cross-Channel Customer Experience

The Importance of Cross-Channel Customer Experience

Online retailers increasingly need to unify their marketing and sales channels to understand their customers better and then offer a personalized, cross-channel experience on their e-commerce websites.

As Frost & Sullivan notes in a new white paper:

Retailers are working hard in difficult economic times to generate incremental and repeat revenues. They know that loyalty improves long-term revenues, as loyal customers are repeat customers. And, in the world of multi-channel retail, improving loyalty means giving customers an exceptional experience regardless of which, or how many, shopping channels they use. Thus, the imperative for Smart Retailers is to unify these channels, improve revenue acquisition and provide customers the retail experience they seek.

The difference today stems from three realities:

  • Consumers are empowered and better informed on purchase options
  • They are using Internet technologies in their purchase actions
  • The trend towards buying online is outpacing offline purchases

Customers may visit a physical store to evaluate the product, but they increasingly make the actual purchase online. Four in 10 consumers tend to engage in this practice of “showrooming,” and the reason cited is that the online deals are better. The key to success is to make your online presence as amenable to “showrooming” as possible so that people can bypass your physical store altogether (if you have one) or have as close to a “showroom” experience online as possible (if you do not have one).

According to the case study:

[Retailers] are trying to understand the customer’s shopping behavior and optimize revenue and loyalty through brand interactions. Marketers recognize that to meet their imperative, they must have detailed customer information. They need to acquire this insight from their website(s), call center(s), customers’ mobile devices and from the physical retail location itself. This analytics-based approach to insight is about allowing the retailer to know “more about their customers than they know about themselves to drive positive business outcomes.”

As Shawn Graham noted recently at Fast Company (emphasis added):

Investing in a single integrated technology platform, adding more headcount, and making sure your staff possess the right technical skills are all obviously hugely important. But just like marketing during the days of Don Draper, your ultimate success will come down to the customer experience you’re able to create.

Today, then, the best practice is to invest in a technology that will create the best customer experience possible. The first step for the retailer is to understand their own cross-channel commerce capabilities and limitations. The second step is to implement a cross-channel intelligence solution to improve marketing insight and enable better customer service.

Few companies, however, are using this strategy. According to a Forrester case study cited by Chief Marketer, most firms are still unable to cross-channel market effectively – even though they already recognize the value of doing so. If you are not using tools to create better customer engagement and shopping experience, then your company is missing out on a tremendous amount of sales in this new economic and marketing paradigm.

If your competitors are some of those not using cross-channel marketing, then you have an opportunity now to gain an important advantage.