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Posts Tagged ‘eCommerce’

Connecting Store pick-up with Web sales

April 14, 2011 1 comment

Wanted to write down a great multi-channel customer journey I had the other day, and elaborate a bit on the brick-and-mortar companies challenges with online pure play competition. I’ve previously written a bit on channel strengths focusing on call centre vs web, but not much about the brick-and mortar stores. One key strength is the delivery without the middleman, the freedom for the customer with an urgent need to pick up the goods (caveat for opening hours & location of course). Another is the superior ability for skilled salespeople to up- & cross-sell compared to the web.

Snail Mail

Picture of a middle man working hard to deliver the goods bought online quickly and efficiently to the waiting customer

So our vacuum cleaner broke down after 13 years of good service (thank you Electrolux). Panic! This is Saturday afternoon, having guests on Sunday and in a desperate need to clean. Given that regular mail is not delivered on Sundays in this country, I realized I had to visit a store.  I was unhappy with that.

My customer journey: Like most people nowadays I started doing online research to understand the options and what it would cost me. I used sites such as Prisjakt to compare options. I found a best-in-test site and decided to go for the test winner.

I eventually ended up at Elgigantens product page for the vacuum cleaner, wanting to see if it was in stock and where I could go to buy it. Lucky me, just next to the Buy button I see two key things.

  1. It is in stock
  2. I can collect it in store. Within one hour! Great!
Screenshot from Elgigantens product page

Screenshot from Elgigantens product page

At this point, I am so focused on completing my task that I don’t even bother to check other stores. The convenience and certainty I feel that I will get a good product at a decent price, within my time constraint, is enough to convert me into a customer. An hour later I pick up my purchase, the salesperson upsells me on accessories (another 10% revenue probably at good margins), and I’m going home happy. And now the customer journey ends with a positive blogpost about the product & customer experience. Good work online Elgiganten!
Switching focus to the business side, there is some good reading on how Nordstrom is connecting stores inventory to online.
Inventory was a big issue, too. If Nordstrom.com did not have the item someone wanted, it was not as if the customer would wait for the company to restock it, Mr. Nordstrom said. “If we don’t have it, you’re going to go back to Google and say, ‘Who else has it?’ ” he said. “We have 115 full-line stores out there — chances are one of them has it.”
I am not sure if Elgiganten is doing that already.
More good information from the article – apparently an impact on Nordstrom’s call center load as well:
Nordstrom began overhauling its online approach two years ago, adding the option to shop and buy online and pick up the item in a store. “It was the first thing that we did, because the No. 1 call we got at our call center was, ‘Hey, I’m looking at this item online, can I look at it at my store?’ ” Mr. Nordstrom said.

In addition to the great customer experience this creates, note that the time constraint I was under ruled out the somewhat cheaper online pure players from the competition. Price was not my main driver, completing the task was.

To summarize the key things that created a great customer experience and persuaded me

  • Pick up within one hour, great benchmark for others going this route
  • Visible placement, next to the buy button before entering the checkout process
  • Clear information on the website about the feature
  • Inventory status visible – I knew it would be there
  • I could choose where to pick it up
Not bad.

What could Elgiganten have done better with this feature? I think they could improve three main things.

  • The in-store experience. It was unclear to me where to pick up my goods in the store, I felt confused and stood in the wrong line waiting for 10 minutes. The information on the web & in the order email was clear, but when arriving at the store I could not recall the details. I had just noted down the order number on my iPhone.
  • Post-purchase communication. I should have received an email thanking me for using the website and directing me to their online customer service for the product I bought, FAQs for the product or similar. Check out this example (in Swedish)
  • Advertising the feature of Collect@Store in the store was lacking. Visible in-store advertising would also raise awareness for their offline customers on what the website can offer.
As discussed above, it is also probably possible to try out for example tactical campaigns around weekends to compete with online stores for customers in a hurry.

Some Multichannel examples

January 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Some interesting news and posts related to Multichannel commerce, thought I’d collate what I’ve run into this week here.

Phone and Web integration: Connecting and tracking conversions between the call center and website, over at Unbounce. I got information that a company called Freespee offered services around this, check it out here. I couldn’t really judge from their website their main target audience, so have requested more info. Not sure yet if they would be competing with e.g. ATGs (now Oracle) Optimization services click-to-call and click-to-chat, where you’ll get great stats on where people are calling from.

Web and store integration: The other great example was an article in New York Times, describing how Nordstrom have linked all their stores inventory to the web, so a web shopper could get the item packed and shipped if a store had that available. I’m sure there was some technical challenges and work on thresholds etc to get that to work. The article was well worth a read.

Mobile: And third, Thomas Husson at Forrester had a good post about mobile predictions for 2011. Some interesting things there regarding mobile bridging the gap between digital and physical worlds.

Future sales tactics for e-commerce

January 18, 2011 4 comments

In a previous post I described the brief but vivid history of eCommerce. What will the future look like? Something that  I find interesting to watch is the increasing professionalism in the industry and how it manifests itself in new great features, site structures and designs. There are tons of landing page optimization experts, great designers and information architects out there that make our online experiences better and better and helps channel shift to the web. However, most of the work is made based on the current concepts and not really addressing the weaknesses of the web channel compared to e.g. in-store experiences or call centers.

Example of converging shopping experiences

Picture of me building a converged multi-channel shopping experience

If we think about the differences and strengths and weaknesses between typical channels, traditional web, (mobile – although some don’t treat that as a specific channel), call center and in-store, a few major things comes to mind.

A few key weaknesses I see in a traditional web channel:

  • Lack of personalization, ability to consult and understand true needs and motives compared to a face to face or over phone situation. Algorithms rarely beat a “what’s most important to you?” or similar question a salesperson in a store would ask to present just the right product for you
  • Unable to answer “long-tail questions”, those millions of minor objections and uncertainties that can block a sale. There just isn’t room to display or a business case to create all that content that a savvy call center agent could answer within seconds
  • Hard to meet other emotional needs, such as lack of trust for online financial transactions in certain demographics, ability to touch and feel before purchase or just the plain old need to get your choice confirmed as a good choice by another human
  • Lacking ability, processes and budgets to try out what works from a store managers perspective. Sure A/B testing is great, everyone talks about that they should, but many don’t do it (yet)
  • etc etc

A few key strengths:

  • Overview, overview, overview. Try to get an overview of hotels locations and rates for any brand in London over the phone, and then compare to getting that displayed as a map. It’s like the difference between the weather forecast on the radio and on TV.

    Example of overview of hotels in London

    Example of overview of hotels in London from octopustravel.co.uk, try explaining that over phone

  • Ability to quantitatively and continuously measure the objective “in-store experience”, time spent, exits, click maps, browsing patterns etc etc. Quite hard to do in-store. Call centers sometimes have ok logging but not near the granularity you can get on the web
  • Meeting rational needs, every detail of every product or process can be shown. Real people rarely know if that wardrobe is 236 or 237 cm (but they can help you measure)
  • Always there for the user, no opening hours
  • Perceived price (belief in good deals online)
  • etc

So what can we make of this? I think the future tactics will be based on addressing the weaknesses and leveraging from strengths by three main means.

First the increased professionalism of online sales will put requirements on platforms from an internal perspective. The product or sales managers will be forced to work more actively and learn from their retail counterparts on experimenting with layouts – main difference being that online is much better equipped to monitor and adapt in real time. So in short much more flexible systems, with more or less built in A/B testing capabilities and bigger organizational investments in working actively with the content, offers, pricing and site structures.

Second I believe that the web will facilitate the interactions with humans, cross channel initiatives will be key to take the experience to the next level. Good examples of that are click to chat and click to call with immediate responses (no lame “we’ll call you back within 48h”, it should take seconds to respond). This is not unusual although not yet common practice. There are a bunch of products out there offering call and chat, check out e.g. ATGs Live Help, Talisma, eGain.

However the next step within live help might be to give the online sales staff ability to approach online visitors proactively, the same way a salesman in store can approach you to ask if you need help. If so you can initiate co-browsing and get more consultative service and personalized selling. There are some cool new products out there that look promising e.g. check out Vergic. (Swedish press release with a pilot client here) Will be interesting to see what will happen, and how fast it will happen.

Third i believe that the social features is key to give that human touch. Companies such as bazaarvoice can show stunning numbers on how much those reviews and ratings actually helps persuade.

What did I miss? Mobile?

On the history of eCommerce Stakeholder Management

January 14, 2011 4 comments

I wanted to combine a few observations based on different blogposts I’ve read and conversations and experiences I’ve had over the past months. The problem is that of  “Stakeholder Management” in eCommerce projects.

Image of me failing to help a client manage stakeholders

On twitter a month ago or so I had a conversation with Elwira Kotowska, on the normal strains between IT and Marketing that made me think. Last week I read Ylva Lindbergs post on “Gesso“. Gesso is, apparently, what you use for priming paintings to make the color stick, or translated to consulting: the trust in the client relationship. Go read it.

Done? Here’s the part that turned me on:

The feeling the client gets that s/he’s in good, professional hands. That s/he can stop being scared – because s/he’s terrified – and with good reason. S/he’s bought something from you that’s so important to get right, something that will define how others see him/her, something that can make or break him/her, without seeing it beforehand. Terrified. That’s why s/he instinctively wants to regain a little bit of control, by telling you to centre the logotype because s/he’s asked around a little and a guy in Sales said he just doesn’t like it to the right. Or by treating your best, bravest ideas like they were a separatist group’s demands for independence: like something that should be negotiated down until it’s completely toothless. Handling fears.

Very eloquently put by Ylva, and anyone in consulting would recognize the situation regardless of industry. Each industry has it’s own set of special challenges, but I think eCommerce and especially Multichannel initiatives wins the stakeholder complexity game.

Let’s look at the history of IT going back to before the internet. Already in ancient Greece, IT helped businesses solve their problems. However before the internet, IT and people working in IT had a mostly internal role. It was all about improving internal processes and building systems, no one had heard the word “brand”. Besides, computers were new, as with the advent of any new technology there was fear and low understanding of the technology in most departments. To Marketing, the interactions with IT had mostly to do with the printer not working.

Enter the early internet, 1990’s. Tipping point, every company gets a “homepage”. Management may have picked up that that was important, or at least allowed it, but who should own it? IT? Marketing? (anyone else?) That new interested guy/girl at Random Dept got to own it and someone at IT learned HTML and designed it. It had an image, a <blink>-tag and contact info.

An example of early use of advanced HTML features to optimize customer experiences

Time progresses. The web is slowly turning into a sales channel, and a customer service channel, and it’s importance increases for recruiting, investor relations, PR,  Partners, … and … and brand building. Meanwhile, Management has understood the need to invest and seen the low customer acquisition or distribution cost that justifies hiring a small team. That interested person at Random Dept have all of a sudden transformed into Head of Online or Online Sales Manager. (Probably reporting to VP Marketing or Sales). The potential is there but for historical and practical reasons, Online is still a peripheral vertical. Changing it is fine, no-one really cares about it. VP Marketing is happy as long as the printers are working so IT has got time to build their own eCommerce system. The focus has been more on automating internal processes maybe not so much on customer experience. At least the <blink> tag is no more.

Tipping point again. 2003 – 2008, in industry after industry, the web turns into a key enabler for virtually all departments’ core business processes, it becomes an important sales and marketing channel. The website suddenly gets more eyeballs per month than the expensive TV commercials and VP Marketing approves a SEM budget. Driven by changing customer behavior the web moves to the dead center of the business, but is still supported by a small part of the Marketing department not directly represented at the VP level.

Changing consumer behavior

Changing consumer behavior is driving organisational change, example from retail above.

In the late 2000, driven by customer demands and untapped potential, the time is right in many organisations for a larger strategic initiative around the web. Focus on Acquisition, hit your sales targets, create a road map says Management. And there we are, with a home grown system, a peripheral organization and a mandate to do something important, kind of get online the same status as the other “real” channels. Cool.

“Go get the requirements, make sure to involve the right people. Build a new digital commerce platform. Oh, and I don’t like the logo to be on the right

So who’s the right people, and will they help when online brings change? Is the solution a powerful eCommerce department that breaks out of Marketing/Sales? I’m not sure that would help. All I know is that every client I’ve seen where the web is being put at the core of the business will walk into territories where the decisions impact everyone, and probably upsets some. HR, Finance, IR, PR, Marketing, Partners, IT and so on. And everyone have opinions and their priorities. And being Head of Online in that situation means interacting, convincing, persuading, soothing, begging, understanding and handling all of them.

It’s very far from easy, but Stakeholder Management is one of the critical success factors in any larger web initiative, no doubt. So before you start make sure to have enough Gesso, need to save some for your client’s clients. Who’s not a stakeholder?