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How Customer Self-Service is Revolutionizing B2B Commerce
By Sean Cook
1/24/2014 12:00:00 AM  

Increasingly customers value and prefer self-service channels to human interactions. Think about it. Our ability to self-serve is in almost every aspect of our daily lives, from checking out at the grocery store to banking, checking in at the airport, to even ordering lunch via a mobile app. Customers who go online and order for themselves are happier, and actually have higher order value.

Read the rest of the article on Internet Retailer.

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Tags: b2b, e-commerce, customer service, Insiteb2bJan14, Netsuiteb2bJan14, online self-service, ShopVisible, user experience
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One Step Forward for Multi-Touch Attribution
By Sean Cook
1/16/2014 9:00:00 AM  

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Life is a journey, not a destination.” While Emerson was thinking philosophically, his advice could well apply to marketers trying to analyze customer shopping behaviors.

Last touch attribution is the problem. The quote has often been repeated: “I know half of my marketing budget is being wasted, I just don’t know which half.” The ability to track customer purchases online have opened up the ability to see where some of those marketing dollars are working, but when it comes to campaign measurement, marketers have been limited because of the last-touch attribution (the destination) approach they are stuck with. What they want is the ability to measure and adapt their campaigns based on all the different contributing tactics (the journey) and not just use the blunt instrument of last-touch tracking.

Last touch gives disproportionate credit to one marketing channel or tactic, and completely disregards another. This creates a winner-take-all approach to the marketing spend and that does not reflect reality. In reality, a customer could see a banner, find organic search results, go to affiliate sites, click through from an email, look for coupons and check their mobile devices, before finally placing an order.  

The rise of the omnichannel customer has only made the journey more circuitous. According to analytics expert Leon Zemel, marketers are demanding attribution, but struggling with the proliferation of the data they have to analyze, and the speed with which they have to analyze it.   "The baseline ability to perform attribution—just in terms of actually being able to connect a conversion or some user action back to marketing—has become more challenging,” he says.

Progress will come from providing more sophisticated tools that enable multi-touch attribution to a customer and to an order – enabling marketers to see the effectiveness of their campaigns across the customer’s buying journey, not just the last stop. Then real marketing mix attribution can be applied and spend optimized accordingly.

At ShopVisible,  we have developed an attribution report as a standard part of our eCommerce platform offering.  We understood that this type of data would make a real difference for our customers to quickly identify trends and make adjustments in real-time to help increase conversions. A few examples of data available include:

  •   If a customer touches an email, a search, or affiliates all within minutes of ordering, these various channels all get credit for the order.
  •   If a customer originates to a client site from a specific affiliate source and that source changes along the way multiple times.
  •   If a customer searches using in-site search. 
  •   The platform also captures different milestones, such as when a customer goes from being anonymous and then making themselves known by creating a customer account and logging in.

Analyzing the data is up to the customer, and many ShopVisible customers are making some very useful calculations and adjusting campaigns accordingly.  So stay tuned.  We will be writing about these successes soon.   

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Tags: multichannel, omnichannel, ecommerce, on-demand ecommerce platform, multichannel ecommerce platform
Categories: Commerce Insights Blog
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Outsource Your Sales to Your Customers. Your Sales Team Will Love it.
By Sean Cook
12/23/2013 8:26:00 AM  

No doubt about it, self- service is here to stay. In our previous blog post on the topic “Outsource Your Sales to Your Customers. They'll Love it"  we pointed out the inescapable trend in consumer behavior. Many customers value and prefer self-service channels to human interactions. The reasons are numerous, and include the efficiency of the interaction, satisfaction of being in control, ability to “time shift” the service experience to fit the customer’s schedule, and the diminishing need for customers to form traditional “ relationships” with businesses.

 This has been a hard pill to swallow for many B2B businesses, who fear loss of control. Rather than lamenting this loss of control, however, B2B businesses should embrace it and realizing that enabling self-service support is good for business, good for customer satisfaction and good for sales!

First and foremost, according to Forrester research business buyers who go online and order for themselves have a higher average order value. Forrester found that the offline customers who changed to an online purchase environment spent more money per transaction after the switch.

The same research also shows that customers are less expensive to support once they migrate online. By spending less time on tasks such as basic re-ordering, salespeople have new freedom to spend their valuable time building new relationships, prospecting other accounts, or pursuing other high value activities such as training and more premium sales.

A recent study by the marketing leadership council showed that in a B2B buying context, customers completed over 50% of their buying process before ever engaging a supplier sales rep (and the upper limit was as high as 70%).

Online self-service also allows firms to attract and service a new class of customers, who are profitable to them only as online customers. It wouldn’t make sense for the company to dedicate sales resources to personally call on this group of smaller-volume purchasers. But in a self-serve environment, these relationships can be very low maintenance and ultimately profitable.

Bottom line, self-serve is a win-win for everyone.  Customers who go online and order for themselves are happier, and have higher order value. For retailers who do a good job and give them a good experience, (caveat: easier said than done, the bar set by Amazon and others is high) they will be more satisfied, more loyal, and more likely to refer your company to others.  Your sales team will like it because they can be more efficient, sell more product, service more accounts, and focus on the highest value activities with their time.

If you want to check out our recent whitepaper on this topic, click here to download

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Managing the Seamless Shopping Experience
By Sean Cook
12/19/2013 10:25:00 AM  

The future is clear:  customers demand one seamless shopping experience across all channels.

Jonathan Levitt of OpinionLab forecasts blurring between online and offline shopping continuing unabated for 2014.   Levitt says new technology and intense competition will help consumers make “shopping a seamless experience no matter where they choose to browse and buy.”

Retailers need to make sure a customer can order anywhere, and pick up or receive merchandise anywhere they want. And get it to them when they want too.  For some it might be "as long as I get it to put under the tree before Christmas," but for others, "I need it within the hour, I have a dinner party tonight and really need that soufflé pan to bake my special dish.”

For retailers, the battleground has become how to put together this seamless experience for consumers. Whether its drones delivering Amazon packages to the doorstep, robotically controlled dark stores  or malls essentially picking and packing for same day delivery, behind the scenes is where all the data and distribution magic happens. 

Whether it is online or off, those who can nimbly keep track of the orders and inventory, and deliver on the time and place will win and keep the customer. Getting your Order Management System (OMS) to this place is easier said than done.  Even companies with a great deal of experience in retail and wholesale channels often underestimate how difficult it is to efficiently fulfill customer demand from any location and any channel. As supply chains become more complex such things as inventory visibility, order accuracy, flexibility and efficiency become even more critical. And customers are demanding more control themselves, preferring to self-serve and obtain order information online.  Distributed OMS is the key to managing the seamless shopping experience.

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Outsource Your Sales to Your Customers. They'll Love it.
By Sean Cook
12/11/2013 10:03:00 AM  

A recent Wall Street Journal article” by Cristina Rogers “Say Goodbye to the Car Salesman” outlined how online selling has transformed the dynamic between the customer and traditional car salesman:

“A car salesman used to spend long days on his feet. Now he's becoming like everyone else—stuck most days in a chair in front of a computer screen. Today, buyers call or walk into a showroom already armed with a car's invoice price, competing dealer bids and discounts from the manufacturers, and can get updates on their cellphones while standing in the store. They can access online reviews of the salesperson and dealership.”

All this points to an inescapable trend in consumer behavior.  Many customers value and prefer self-service channels to human interactions.  In the B2C world, this has long been fairly evident.  Think ATMs, eTickets, and online banking. In a more recent example, consider the Apple Genius Bar  which has taken the pain out of customer support.  Customers go online to schedule a service appointment at a time convenient for them. At the same time, they also outline their problems.  Appointment times are scrupulously adhered to, so there is little wait.   Apple technicians know what products the customer has before they show up, and they frequently have already researched solutions.

Research supports this.  According to Forrester, “Across all demographics, channel usage rates are also quickly changing: we’ve seen a 12% rise in web self-service usage, a 24% rise in chat usage, and a 25% increase in community usage for customer service in the past three years.”  

In contrast to the B2C customer experience, many B2B customers still experience “live” service channels for procurement.  One question B2B companies should ask themselves:  what is more important for our customers, a relationship or a satisfying user experience?  Most people want a good experience when they buy or use something. They want low-friction transactions, and they want to accomplish them now.  More and more customers are looking for better and smart self-service, and they don’t value the relationship as much as some might think.

What is it that makes self service so appealing?

  • •   The efficiency of the interaction
  • •   The satisfaction of being in control
  • •   The ability to “time shift” the service experience to fit the customer’s schedule, not the provider’s
  • •   Fear of high pressure upsell/cross-sell 
  • •   And maybe most frightening of all to corporate executives, the reduced importance of the “relationship” in comparison to the “experience 

Rather than lamenting this loss of control, B2B retailers should embrace it.  In our next blog post, we will outline the reasons why B2B retailers should embrace this trend and how they can create a user experience that makes customers excited by their products or services (and increase satisfaction and loyalty at the same time!).

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Tags: b2b, sales, customer, service, customer service,
Categories: Commerce Insights Blog
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