The Clock is Ticking: It’s Time to Leverage Customer Data Platforms

The Clock is Ticking: It’s Time to Leverage Customer Data Platforms

The period of leveraging third-party cookies is coming to a screeching halt, with new regulations and privacy concerns arising daily. While this may be troublesome for marketers who rely on this data, there are options beyond third-party cookies. The time to migrate to a Customer Data Platform or CDP is now.

The key to digital marketing is high-quality customer data. Marketers know that the much-bandied about phrase know your customer (KYC) goes beyond just knowing their names and what they purchased in the past. High-quality data results in superior engagement and high lifetime-value conversations. 

How well do you really know your customers though? Traditionally, organizations have used customer relationship management (CRM) systems operated by salespeople to organize and manage data from customer interactions. For example, a history of a customer’s past purchases would be tracked, or utilized to create a record of potential customers. These are then analyzed to drive sales. 

Further customer-relevant information is stored in other discrete, unconnected systems. Marketing systems and customer service information might only partially appear in CRM systems while unstructured data such as those from delivery platforms, i.e. systems that interact at channel touch points such as email software, webpages, social media or surveys would not be connected to those systems. It was hard to build up and maintain a persona of the customer from all this data that also stayed current. 

Besides demographic and transactional data, you can have behavioral data on the web and mobile from data management platforms (DMP), such as those that serve advertising and are used for retargeting using cookies – information that might expire in 90 days or the cookie’s lifetime – as well as in-store interactions. 

Each of the above kinds of data come with different levels of personalization.

What is a Customer Data Platform?

All the information listed above can now be captured, labelled and stored in a CDP to form a more complete view of the customer to allow for better marketing efficiencies.

Indeed, the CDP Institute defines a CDP as “packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.” 

A CDP these days not only manages data from a wide variety of customer interactions and combine them with marketing content, but also make sit easier to comply with data protection regulations. It is usually managed by the marketing team without much technical support.

Features of a CDP

CDP software must include features such as the ability to

  • scour data from all sources, both online and offline, ideally in real time, 
  • retain all original detail and segment them according to rules
  • store data for as long as users want, 
  • build unified customer profiles including identity, attribute and device data, and offer them to marketers in a web-based interface
  • integration with external systems to enable activation.

The data from a CDP can be used to create a 360-degree view of the customer and their journey that is individual and unique. Such a segmented model leads to superior insights and personalization, and as a result, increased engagement en route to a consistent multichannel user experience. Anonymous users are recognized as loyal customers who interact with the company via their channels of choice. 

CDPs could take the form of solely data assembly; data and analytics; campaigns (data, analytics and customer treatments); and delivery (data platforms, analytics, engagement and message delivery). They must have the ability to send segments and segment instructions to other execution tools for the execution of campaigns, mobile messaging and other channel activity. Some may even include activation features such as recommendations, optimization and testing.

Advantages of using CDPs

Unique view of the customers: A CDP links internal CRM first-party data, second- and third-party data from business partners and providers, offline data, event and activity flows, data from the back office and data on transactions, customer behavior and experience. This granular data creates dynamic and unified profiles that can be updated in real time.

Agility in decision-making: A CDP’s ability to use real-time information such as user behavior and changing technology trends to stay updated allows an organization to stay flexible and thrive in a dynamic business environment. They can do this by tweaking promotional metrics, pricing strategies, inventory scheduling and optimizing relationships with supplies and partners. 

Democratized business intelligence: The availability of customer data in one centralized platform allows users from different departments, customer touchpoints and cross-channel marketing efforts to have access to the same data.

Increased operational efficiency: Using CDPs wisely makes even more sense to get maximum value from the somewhat sizeable investments in marketing technology. They allow organizations to be more competitive – centralized information at the push of a button, ready-to-use integrations and real-time analytics reduce the time between getting insights and using them to make decisions that impact the bottom line. 

A better marketing and user experience: A CDP combines operational data from the back office with front office and experience data. On the basis of permissions given, companies can offer their customers a personalized experience that is tailored to their needs and wants at the right time via the preferred channel.

Reliable data protection: A good CDP automatically recognizes the purpose for which data is recorded and sets the course for a holistic data protection strategy. Collected information is only added to the customer profile if the required declaration of consent is available. With the third-party cookie falling in importance and increased regulatory oversight of data collection, it’s expected that 1 in 4 CMOs will invest in consent and preference management software in 2021. Customers can trust that their data is optimally protected.

Choosing the right CDP for your business: CDPs are already a key part of marketing automation toolkit. With a tsunami of data expected from Internet of Things applications, they are going to become its beating heart.  

To narrow down your choices, start with an audit of your marketing goals and current systems inefficiencies such as the state of your data. Then, identify the features of a CDP that will help you reduce those inefficiencies and achieve those goals.

Peer-to-peer review site G2 has an overview of the most popular CDPs, a list which includes Segment, Exponea, SAP Emarsys, Listrak, Tealium, Optimove, Adobe Experience Manager,  and Salesforce Interaction Studio.

As experts in the CDP space, we at BORN would love to connect for an exploratory session to evaluate your current and future marketing technology strategy.

How to Leverage Technology to Improve CX and Build Loyalty

How to Leverage Technology to Improve CX and Build Loyalty

What turns a browser into a customer, and a customer into a repeat customer? It may be as simple as listening and helping shoppers find what they want. That can be done face-to-face in a brick-and-mortar store. For online sellers, it requires technology.

Though brick-and-mortar retail stores have reopened nationwide, the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to drive record online sales. July’s ecommerce sales were lower than June’s, but still up 55% year over year. Adobe Analytics expects online sales for the year to surpass 2019 online sales by October 5, 2020. For many consumers, including some who didn’t shop online before the pandemic, ecommerce is still the best option.

To capture new customers and retain old ones, retailers must provide the essentials: easy browsing, a secure ecommerce store, seamless checkout, and trackable delivery. Yet today’s savvy consumers often want more. They like to see themselves wearing your products. They may want to connect with a sales associate — like they do when shopping in person.

It can all happen online with the right technology. Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI), authentication tools, and curation services can help customers navigate product catalogs. When a shopper needs more detailed assistance, human experts jump in.

Business intelligence platform PSFK examines how technology helps shape customer experience in its Digital Commerce Playbook. Key findings on the importance of customer education and assistance are summarized below and all statistics are attributed to this study;

Help them find what they want

Customers value clear information, well-timed input, and expert opinions. That’s hard to offer when consumers are anonymous, but increasingly, online shoppers are letting themselves be known. About 58% of millennials are willing to share personal information in order to get attuned product recommendations. And 36% of customers (not just millennials) expect a company to be able to provide “relevant recommendations for additional products and services after a single purchase.”

It would take an army of sales associates to offer that sort of personalized shopping experience for all browsers. Fortunately, AI-enabled support can assist with the early stages, narrowing down choices and gleaning preferences. If more personalized help is needed, it can gather information to share with human successors.

Be there for them

Consumers want to feel connected, perhaps now more than ever. Prior to the pandemic, 72% of consumers aged 18–64 said their overall customer experience would be better if they could text with a live agent in real time — too many of us have spent too many hours of our lives caught in endless cycles of automated help lines that provide no answers. Offering different, more human ways to connect can give you a competitive edge. 

Authenticate

Consumers want access to human help, but they also want assurance the products they’re buying are authentic. And unfortunately, the rise of marketplace sales was accompanied by an increase in counterfeit products. More than 70% of products purchased from marketplaces annually are counterfeit, and consumers spend almost $0.5 trillion annually on counterfeit goods.

Marketplaces are aware of the problem and working to stem the tide of counterfeit sales. Meanwhile, customers need assurance they can trust retailers. You can provide that via AI verification and blockchain tracking, among other tools.

In short, people like supporting businesses they can trust. They respond to ecommerce stores that curate selections to their taste and provide personalized assistance. It’s what they expect when they shop in person, and they’re coming to expect it online. Retailers that can fulfill those expectations are likely to outperform those that don’t.

Want more key insights about how technology can improve consumer engagement? Get the report from Avalara. 

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Welcome to BORN’s Partner series! Through this program we look to highlight thought leadership from our vast array of technology partners. Follow along using the hashtag #thisisBORN and #BORNpartner!

Today, we’re thrilled to call attention to our longtime partner, Avalara. Through this insightful piece, we hope you gain an understanding of what types of commerce technology can lift customer experience and bring loyalty to a brand.

The Benefits of Centralizing Your Business with an ERP System: Part II

The Benefits of Centralizing Your Business with an ERP System: Part II

We return here to flesh out a Part II for our article, The Benefits of Centralizing Your Business with an ERP System. So far, we’ve explored how centralizing ERP functionality has become critical in today’s commerce space. Rather than launching multiple applications and burning through valuable company resources on human error and mistakes, a single elegant ERP solution saves both time and money. 

We’ve now seen this at play in business analytics, Key Performance Indicator (KPI) tracking, project management, resource management and other metrics, and gaining operations visibility across the organization. An effective ERP solution puts all of these items in one central location.

ERP Solution Features

There are other important features that a centralized ERP solution should offer. In addition to business metrics, KPIs, and project and resource management, executives will want to have a clear grasp of profitability and a firm’s bottom line through revenue recognition tools along with utilities for billing and time and expense management. Other tools include features such as work-in-progress (WiP) management and estimate management.

One of the key benefits of centralizing these operations with a single solution is that executives and project managers no longer need to waste time toggling between multiple applications while risking data integrity. Another benefit concerns the streamlining of operations. Without an integrated ERP system, obtaining useful business data such as profitability can be a lengthy and convoluted process—drawing from expenses, billing, revenue, and other sources—that ultimately puts a strain on your company’s bottom line.

Effects on Today’s Companies

Such strains can be more than trivial in today’s commerce landscape where even the slightest inefficiency is magnified as your organization scales. What may seem like a small compromise, even at the executive level, once multiplied across your business this can become a significant detriment to your profitability and, in the end, your company’s success. Centralizing your firm’s ERP solution anticipates growth and changes in operations, especially as they concern the rapid pace of today’s commerce landscape.

One of the key terms introduced in our first article on the benefits of centralizing your business via ERP was the Agility Era, a phrase that describes the advertising industry’s recent turn toward flexibility and streamlined production over stable client of record relationships. 1

Here, as in our previous discussion, this term acquires significance because of the fact that an integrated ERP solution will help to navigate this commerce landscape in crucial ways. As opposed to stringing together multiple applications to handle key tasks, an integrated approach saves valuable time and resources that are crucial in adapting to the Agility Era.

Recognizing revenue—and driving profitability through the smart management of resources—is a key part of the success of companies in today’s fast-paced and flexible environment. Here we’ll look first at how an integrated ERP solution can help drive profitability by staying on top of expenses, billing, and revenue. Clean and clear access to this data is a must for executives and reap the rewards of doing it all one place.

Tracking Your Bottom Line: Revenue Recognition, Expense Management, and Billing

One of the most important challenges facing executives and managers today is the ability to track your bottom line. Revenue recognition is one art of this important puzzle, while expense management and billing play important roles as well. 

Prior to comprehensive integrated ERP solutions like Oracle’s NetSuite, firms typically monitored revenue through manual spreadsheet entries characterized as “manual, error-prone, and a time-consuming process.” An integrated ERP solution automates this process, leaving little room for human error.

Revenue Recognition

Using manual practices, alternatively, leaves companies vulnerable to calculation lapses and misinterpretation of important revenue data points. Furthermore, with the introduction of ASC 606, which addresses the recording of revenue garnered from customer contracts while governing how businesses report specific details of those customer contracts, standards compatibility is a chief concern.

As the importance of such standards increases, companies will need to remain more vigilant than ever to ensure the accuracy and diligence of their revenue recognition processes. So, how can an integrated ERP solution overcome shortcomings and pitfalls introduced by human error to provide full visibility into and recognition of revenue?

The key to rigorous revenue tracking lies in a combination of flexibility and robustness. Ultimately, a comprehensive revenue recognition engine like the one included in NetSuite provides a fully automated revenue recognition process while ensuring that firms meet important requirements such as ASC 606. 

This engine spans from simplistic revenue recognition to more complex rules defining how and when revenue should be reported. Specific events such as milestone completion or billing can be used to trigger revenue recognition in an advanced integrated ERP solution. Rules such as these can be defined at the Statement of Work (SOW) level or the project level. 

One important feature of more advanced and integrated ERP solutions, like NetSuite, lies in the ability to decouple such rules from billing. For instance, an executive may want to know revenue data based on the percentage of completion of all projects, taking into account numbers beyond those generated through billing and expenses. 

Billing and Expense Management

Nevertheless, billing and expense management are also important dimensions of managing your company’s bottom line. One of the important features of an integrated ERP solution is the ability to combine these metrics into revenue recognition and project planning. As with revenue recognition, billing and expenses should be automated and included as core functionality in an effective ERP solution.

The same kinds of pain points found in manual revenue recognition processes rear their heads in haphazard billing systems that are not automated or include error-prone, human-executed steps toward receiving visibility into billing.

Another difficulty lies in systems that are too rigid and allow only one billing method for all clients. Instead, an integrated and robust ERP solution provides a single system with multiple billing methods, along with an ability to define and combine billing rules at the project level. Such an approach—which, as we’ll see, is similar for Work-in-Progress and estimate management—is crucial for project managers across the eCommerce industry.

ERP for Work-in-Progress (WiP) and Estimate Management

Two important components of an effective ERP system involve the management of WiP projects and the generation and delivery of project estimates. WiP management, which will be of interest to controllers, project managers, and A/R, concerns the ability to monitor and regulate current projects that are somewhere between project launch and completion. Estimate management, which is mostly a concern for project managers and accounting, allows a company to manage estimate versions, send working estimates to clients, and for accounting to track approvals and ongoing work.

WiP Management

WiP management can be segmented into three main areas of engagement: visibility, enforcement and control, and automation. As for visibility, with an effective ERP solution, project managers should be able to receive an informative overview with data on each WiP. This includes, for instance, a “WiP aging report,” which shows how long each work-in-progress has been in such a state along with anticipated releases. Auto-releasing and a portfolio-based display of WiPs are two other important forms of visibility included in an integrated ERP solution.

Another level of WiP management concerns enforcement and control, in which compliance and hierarchy come into play. How is the workflow and approval process handled for a project? Real-time integrated reports are important for knowing the exact status of WiP projects. 

As many project managers know, it would be disastrous to isolate this data in proprietary spreadsheets, especially if such platforms remain on local or unshared repositories. An integrated ERP solution ensures that WiP enforcement and control are shared laterally across your firm. Finally, automation ties back into release management, revenue recognition, and other tasks.

Estimate Management

Prior to releasing a WiP—in fact, before a project is even underway—an effective ERP solution will allow project managers to control all of the different versions of an estimate to be presented to a client. The key areas of interest for estimate management include pitch visibility, version control, and forecasting and reporting. 

As for pitch visibility and version control, an integrated ERP solution provides insight into pre-sales costs, while different versions of an estimate are shared and updated in real-time across your company. Finally, forecasting can allow collaboration between creative directors, account directors, and project managers to ensure an accurate understanding of revenue and profitability.

Conclusion: Putting the Puzzle Together

As many executives and project managers can attest, the individual tasks required to run a commerce solution can feel like a complicated set of puzzle pieces. When considering elements like revenue recognition, profitability tracking, expenses, and billing, these elements can seem like an unwieldy set of incongruous elements that don’t seem to fit any pattern or ruleset.

Furthermore, executives often sense that even when one department gets a piece in the right place, it takes a while for the rest of the firm to follow suite. This “a while” is no small concern. In fact, with poor management, such disconnects can cause crucial losses and drops in profitability.

Integrated ERP: The Right Fit

This is where an effective and integrated ERP solution becomes one of the most important decisions that a firm will make. There are of course many dimensions that figure into such a decision. But as we’ve seen throughout this two-part article series, one of the principal concerns should be the centralization of functionality into a single ERP solution. 

Whether concerned with billing, expense management, WiP management, estimate management, business analytics, KPI tracking, resource management, or profitability and bottom lines, the key to an effective ERP solution is that this information is shared and updated in real-time. Only with a truly integrated solution can your company put all of the puzzle pieces together and excel in the fast-paced and competitive commerce landscape of today.

For more information surrounding BORN Group’s ERP practice, please visit here.

Footnotes

1. https://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2014/08/27/how-a-creative-cfo-will-save-advertising/&refURL=&referrer=#2607740412ea

2. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/cab338b3-acc9-4c8d-a3ed-d32fec84dee0?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

3. http://ww2.cfo.com/revenue-recognition-accounting-tax/2018/03/asc-606-whats-impact-far/

4. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/cab338b3-acc9-4c8d-a3ed-d32fec84dee0?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

5. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/b68b1261-573b-41bb-b4e6-1934726d7b85?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

6. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/b68b1261-573b-41bb-b4e6-1934726d7b85?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

7. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/1ebef84d-f911-4108-af84-54b1ddd6c47f?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

BORN Group’s Guide to Mobile eCommerce

BORN Group’s Guide to Mobile eCommerce

Mobile eCommerce or m-commerce is the purchasing of goods and services via mobile devices. You might have thought of mobile phones as being the main device used, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, there are two devices that fall under this category – smartphones as well as tablets. Tablets sales are still increasing year-on-year and are often not given as much consideration when it comes to builds, while smartphones have been a transformative component of the eCommerce industry and are a main consideration as we develop digital strategies for our clients1.

Key m-commerce statistics

  • M-commerce is growing rapidly and is being driven largely by mobile-first economies in emerging markets. In South Korea, for example, a country that adopted mobile early, 65% of online transaction volume now comes from mobile traffic3
  • 76% of customers use mobile devices to purchase because it saves time4.
  • 53% of visitors will abandon the mobile site if it takes more than three seconds to load5.
  • Salesforce reports that 75% of customers want consistent experiences across multiple channels (web, mobile, in-person, social) and 73% will likely switch brands if they don’t get it6
  • 70% of users abandon their carts on eCommerce websites while up to 85.65% of those on mobile websites do so. Extra costs and steps till checkout were some factors cited7.

Mobile versus desktop eCommerce

Even as research finds that consumers order more from desktops than from their mobiles, mobile phones still dominate as the source of web traffic. In some segments, such as fashion, more than 75% of traffic comes from mobile devices. However, conversion rates are lower on mobile (0.6%) when compared to desktop (1.3%)8.

Mobile optimization vs mobile apps

Since they store data locally on your smartphone, dedicated apps work up faster than mobile websites. However, there are many steps that customers need to take to search, download and use an app, and thus many more opportunities to abandon the process. App development also uses a lot of resources as the experience has to be rich and rewarding beyond the initial download. Besides websites optimized for mobile, developers these days are turning to progressive web apps which are websites that function like apps.

Design for M-commerce

Any unnecessary steps that take up time till checkout should be eliminated in m-commerce. Fewer steps equals higher conversion rates. 

It’s not enough to reformat your product catalog. Sephora, for instance, included researchers, product and marketing managers as well as developers not to mention customer feedback in its app redesign9.

A small screen compared to a desktop means less real estate, so here are a few more things to keep in mind:

Smart and visual search: The search function is probably the most important feature on a mobile-optimized website. The ability for high-intent visitors to find, categorize, view, and eventually buy the product is contingent on it. Visual trends are also key in the space – text is less important on mobile than high-quality images and video, and repurposing user-generated content is another way to up the visual quotient of your site10. An example is on Lush, whose mobile-optimized website is deeply visual with a rolling feed of social-media-worthy product images. It also has a prominent search bar offering not just the product as well as articles related to it. Visual search tools allow users to search for products using images.

Gestures and thumbs: Smartphone-specific gestures such as scroll, swipe and tap can be used to increase user-friendliness on your website or app. Keep in mind that the part of the screen that your thumbs sweep across is the most valuable space, so buttons critical to the customer journey shouldn’t be on top or too close together at the bottom.

Navigation, carts and pop-ups: It’s essential to think through your information architecture. Keep menus up top and easy to access, carts and number of products there in view at all times and pop-ups to a minimum.

One-click checkout: The feature popularized by Amazon is becoming commonplace on mobile sites and apps. It requires shoppers to enter their payment information once, so that they can use the one-click option to check out without having to re-enter it. 

Speed: Your customer experience correlates very closely with how fast your site or app is. Every second you can shave off is crucial. Google is famous for citing the ‘speed budget’, or a way to optimize site or app speed11.

M-commerce trends 

With the global smartphone numbers at three billion and growing every day, the proportion of eCommerce sales via mobile devices is only set to increase12.

Here are some exciting developments in m-commerce that will be keeping developers and brand managers busy in the foreseeable future. Some trends in eCommerce in general also apply to mobile. 

Omnichannel: With features such as location-based services, barcode scanning and push notifications, retailers can extend the user experience across all their customer touchpoints. 

Personalization: As with the general trend in eCommerce towards personalization, tailored and user-centric content and communications in m-commerce is not just becoming more popular but imperative.

Social commerce: One way to make the experience personal is to integrate key aspects of the social Web that customers are used to – interactions and recommendations from friends, groups, voting, comments and discussions – before and after the purchase. Integrations include pushing purchase information to social feeds or leaving reviews on forums. Moreover, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest have all introduced shoppable posts that let shoppers make purchases without having to leave the platform

There are other trends though that are specific to mobile because of the features that smartphones and tablets offer.

Voice shopping: Every smartphone sold these days is equipped with tools such as Alexa and Siri. Moreover, 28% of US households have a smart speaker and that number is expected to rise to 75% by 202513. Voice optimization of your website to make sure your products can be found and purchased in a simple flow using voice commands is becoming a standard feature.

AI, VR & AR: Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) make it easier for customers to imagine using your products and services. They help replicate the in-store experience in many ways. Amazon offers a ‘see how it looks’ feature. Mobile chatbots are another simple way for customers to ask a question and for a website to funnel customers to the product or answer they are searching for.

Mobile payments: The rise of various digital payment intermediaries such as PayPal, Google Pay and Apple Pay are changing the game in m-commerce. The use of cryptocurrencies is ramping up as PayPal and Venmo now accept all cryptocurrencies for payment14 – but ever more present is the use of mobile or digital wallets to pay for purchases that ensure the security of user details and save even more time. 

As a whole, the array of opportunities that m-commerce can provide for a commerce brand is infinite. For a tangible example of BORN’s work in mobile commerce, check out our case study for Nestlé Gerber here.

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Footnotes

1. Tablet shipments grew in 2020, Apple still dominant, gsmarena.com, https://www.gsmarena.com/tablet_shipments_grew_in_2020_apple_still_dominant_at_number_1-news-47634.php

2. Mobile E-commerce is up and Poised for Further Growth, Statista, https://www.statista.com/chart/13139/estimated-worldwide-mobile-e-commerce-sales/

3. E-commerce worldwide – Statistics & Facts, Statista, https://www.statista.com/topics/871/online-shopping/

4. The state of personalization in mobile commerce, XP2 by Dynamic Yield, https://www.dynamicyield.com/article/50-most-important-dynamicyield-personalization-stats/

5. Google Data, Global, n=3,700 aggregated, anonymized Google Analytics data from a sample of mWeb sites opted into sharing benchmark data, March 2016, GoogleData, https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/consumer-trends/mobile-site-load-time-statistics/

6. Customer Expectations Hit All-Time Highs, Salesforce, https://www.salesforce.com/research/customer-expectations/

7. Cart abandonment statistics, Sleeknote, https://sleeknote.com/blog/cart-abandonment-statistics#1

8. 2020 Global Digital Growth Benchmarks for Fashion Marketers, Insider, https://useinsider.com/report/2020-global-digital-growth-benchmarks-for-fashion-marketers/

9. How Sephora gave its app a customer-first makeover, ThinkwithGoogle.com, https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-strategies/app-and-mobile/app-user-experience-redesign/

10. The State of Mobile E-Commerce Search and Category Navigation, Baymard Institute, https://baymard.com/blog/mobile-ecommerce-search-and-navigation

11. How speeding up your mobile site can improve your bottom line, ThinkwithGoogle.com, https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-strategies/app-and-mobile/mobile-page-speed-data/

12. Number of smartphone users worldwide from 2016 to 2021, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/330695/number-of-smartphone-users-worldwide/

13. Smart speaker household penetration rate in the United States from 2014 to 2025*, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1022847/united-states-smart-speaker-household-penetration/

14. PayPal and Venmo will offer and accept cryptocurrency for all online payments, theverge.com, https://www.theverge.com/2020/10/21/21527288/paypal-cryptocurrency-support-buy-sell-venmo-bitcoin

The Benefits of Centralizing Your Business with an ERP System

The Benefits of Centralizing Your Business with an ERP System

In today’s digital world, no other decision is perhaps as all-encompassing and essential as choosing an effective Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. One of the questions confronting executives is understanding and implementing the appropriate system to fit their current and future needs. Does a firm go with several individual applications for business analytics, Key Performance Indicator (KPI) tracking, project management, resource management, and other metrics? Or does an executive seek a range of features in a single ERP solution that addresses each of these needs together?

There are other concerns, such as company-level organizational goals, that executives and resource/project managers take into account when considering an ERP solution. These goals include gaining better visibility across the organization in order to achieve insight into the operations of disparate areas of the firm. Another key component that comes in making the decision of an ERP solution is the ability to streamline operations. Rather than hold on to difficult and convoluted processes, an executive will prioritize solutions that allow for better workflow and tighter integration. Upgrading legacy systems with a more current solution positions an organization for growth and overall company improvement.

Specific areas of growth include the ability to scale operations in an efficient manner. Executives want to see concrete productivity improvements along with increased profitability. Today, firms must adapt to many kinds of changes, especially those demanded by the industry. Firms require technological solutions that adapt to what Forbes had dubbed the fast-paced Agility Era—a phrase that refers to the industry’s preference for flexibility and streamlined production over stable and unshakable client relationships1. These are goals that an effective ERP solution will help bring to life. Such an ERP solution gains its effectiveness by integrating multiple interrelated parts into a single application, providing a centralized hub for all creative projects. There are several reasons that a single solution with multiple functionalities is preferable over using several separate applications. 

To begin, the need to switch between more than one application to perform a single task introduces the potential for human error, which increases as the task becomes more complicated. Along with that human error, such a human-led process introduces significant room for error that multiplies over time. Furthermore, using more than one application can have a significant decline in visibility into performance2. Many of the metrics available to an effective ERP solution will simply not be viewable through separate apps.

We’ve broken this article into two components that together provide a comprehensive guide to centralizing business operations leveraging a single ERP solution. In the first section, ‘Roles in an Integrated ERP Solution,’ we’ll look at the ability to switch between different user profiles in order to take advantage of the different ERP features such as the dashboard display and custom KPI metrics. Here we’ll explore some of the advantages of cloud-based systems such as the ability to log on via a web browser using any device from any location. We’ll also look briefly at analytics and time-based metric displays.

In the second section, ‘Integrated ERP Solutions and Resource/Project Management,’ we’ll outline how an ERP solution allows for effective resource allocation with team calendars and availability updated in real-time, along with automatic reminders and notifications once a team member is allocated to a project. We’ll also cover, in the cases where an internal resource is not available, the ability to consult outside talent through freelance resources—all through the same interface accessed through a consolidated ERP solution.

Roles and Metrics in an Integrated ERP Solution

The key to centralizing projects within a single ERP solution lies in the use of clearly defined and separated roles. Oracle’s NetSuite ERP solution, for instance, allows users that fit different profiles to log in accordingly. In one scenario, a user can log in as an executive and receive full access to KPIs, employee data, transaction logs, and other important and potentially sensitive data. In another case, one can log in as a project manager and be greeted by a different but related dashboard, replete with issue tracking, task management, budgetary numbers, and team member status. Still another profile, such as a resource manager, can be accessed with its own set of tools and settings. This profile might focus on resource allocation, timesheets, and financial data.

The paradigm outlined here is known as a role-based platform. The ERP defines exactly what one can see and do within the system and this role-based system is based on a set of defined permissions and access levels. As NetSuite describes it, “roles are based on a robust set of permissions and are the means by which we manage our segregation of duties.”3 These permissions are correlated to different respective user profiles that contain specific levels of access. While not every scenario is contained within the existing user profile sets, the profiles can be modified and tailored to suit the interests of any user. This role-based functionality is essential to centralizing your projects within a single ERP solution by enabling everyone on the team to have a one-stop portal.

Metrics, analytics, and KPIs are valuable as they provide useful insights, especially for executive users and managers. Using an executive role login, a user can select a KPI (or set of KPIs) to display as a graph over time. This will show fluctuations in performance during the selected time window. For instance, an executive may want to view a utilization summary—which shows hours tracked to billable services against project actuals4—over the course of a single quarter. Other KPIs may include timesheet summaries, jobs by company, and a full jobs summary, all data that benefit project managers and other users5.

Beyond the view of graph data displaying a longer period of time, a user can also drill down into specific numbers included in KPI and data views such as revenue reports. When viewing revenue from an income statement, for instance, an executive can choose between different time periods—monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.—and compare the results. The same executive user can drill further down into the number to reveal details at the transaction level. From there, information pertaining to the client, along with associated brands (or other parent/child information), is available for the user to peruse. 

An effective ERP solution gains its traction by centralizing these kinds of metrics in one single location across multiple user profiles. Rather than requiring several different applications, all of the necessary information is displayed in one convenient location. KPIs, metrics, and analytics provide invaluable visibility across the performance of a business, all viewable from a single dashboard. This strength is extended further through the advantage of multiple user profiles wherein views are customized and duties are segregated and related to user permissions.

Integrated ERP Solutions and Resource/Project Management

Another challenge for today’s businesses is the ability for resource and project managers to have clear visibility into the availability of those in their resource pools. Determining availability and forecasting for new hires and freelancers can be difficult, especially when relevant data is inaccurate or not up-to-date. With such unreliable information, resources can easily become double-booked and can often fail to keep track of regular assignments6. Attempting to cobble together this data from multiple sources may only add further confusion to an already challenging situation. This is why a single integrated ERP solution for resource and project management is imperative.

Using an integrated ERP solution for resource allocation allows a resource/project manager full visibility into the calendars and availability across the entire resource pool. The resource manager user profile, for instance, contains a home dashboard with metrics and query results that provide insight into the status of the team’s various projects7. Resource managers need to be kept up to date on this information through reminders, report links, and portlets that relate to hourly burn reports and overdue task and milestone indicators. Only a comprehensive and cross-functional ERP solution will allow such visibility for resource managers while displaying imperative data for other user profiles as well.

An effective ERP solution such as Oracle NetSuite will provide a resource manager a full view of each project which they are currently assigned. Such a view provides a full work breakdown structure with a display of tasks that remain to be completed, the resources required to complete them, how much work has already been executed, and the amount the agency expects to collect when complete8. The view will also display scheduling requirements along with standard billing rates for each resource9. From there, each task can be assigned to a specific resource such as a designer. The replacement will then appear throughout the project displays.

Another important tool included in an effective ERP system is a calendar that shows individual resources and their respective utilization. What is the current utilization of team members throughout your resource pool? Who, among your designers, is available for a two-week period starting one month from today? A resource allocation chart tool allows a resource manager detailed insight into these variables. It allows a resource manager the ability to assign resources without overworking team members, causing burnout, or neglecting important talent. Upon selecting a team member, with an integrated ERP solution, the calendar of that resource will be updated automatically.

Conclusion

Executives and project managers face important decisions on a daily basis. Choosing the right ERP solution is one of those decisions that has a deep and lasting impact on a firm’s success. A number of concerns figure into this decision. At the top of this list of concerns should be the centralization of functionality into a single solution. 

Does the ERP solution require numerous third-party applications to work? Or does it truly scale with your business as you grow? Does it work to streamline your business’s mission-critical processes10? Does the solution provide better visibility across the organization overall in order to achieve insight into the operations of disparate areas of the firm?

We’ve seen here how multiple user profiles—from executive to project manager to resource manager—allows multi-functional ERP within a single elegant solution. We’ve also explored how KPIs, metrics, and analytics can be used to monitor performance to ensure the health and viability of an organization. Then we turned to resource management and saw how an integrated ERP solution can keep resources organized and ultimately help to streamline operations. 

Centralizing all of this functionality into one single location is critical for an effective ERP solution. As opposed to launching multiple applications and using up valuable resources on human error and mistakes, a single elegant ERP solution saves both time and money. By using a flexible dashboard that adapts to different profiles, users can see what’s genuinely important to them on a project. When one considers these benefits, a multi-use ERP solution will greatly benefit companies in both the short and long run. 

For more information surrounding BORN Group’s ERP practice, please visit here.

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Footnotes

1. https://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2014/08/27/how-a-creative-cfo-will-save-advertising/&refURL=&referrer=#2607740412ea

2. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/34cf1b5b-c90d-4c76-8f7e-8a0ecaacf931?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

3. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/34cf1b5b-c90d-4c76-8f7e-8a0ecaacf931?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

4. https://functionpoint.com/4-important-kpis-to-measure-in-your-ad-agency/

5. https://functionpoint.com/4-important-kpis-to-measure-in-your-ad-agency/

6. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/c57918a7-ae28-47f7-87a1-dd19c39db461?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

7. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/c57918a7-ae28-47f7-87a1-dd19c39db461?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

8. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/c57918a7-ae28-47f7-87a1-dd19c39db461?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

9. https://view.pointdrive.linkedin.com/presentations/5e7289ae-cbb3-4f8c-9581-1c7af9e58433/preview/c57918a7-ae28-47f7-87a1-dd19c39db461?auth=48e9df2d-f52b-4b02-af8c-93c80239e39f

10. http://www.netsuite.com/portal/products/erp.shtml

5 Tips for Success for B2B eCommerce Retailers

5 Tips for Success for B2B eCommerce Retailers

Last week’s blog post, centered around the rise of B2B eCommerce outlined the immense potential traditional business retailers have by adopting a digital-first strategy. In this article, we’ve gathered our top 5 insights B2B brands can leverage to further develop and grow their B2B offering, to take advantage of the recent surge in online transactions.

Attract customers using organic and paid marketing

An organic, as well as paid marketing media strategy that involves an SEO strategy, will help drive relevant users to your website. This could take the form of social media marketing, display and banners ads, emails, and press releases to drive traffic and generate leads using content offers.

Focus on stellar customer experience

Traditionally, a B2B purchase involves far less emotional appeal compared to a B2C one, and they also involve many more stakeholders in a relatively standardized purchase journey. However, rest assured that customer experience is still at the top of the list of important factors to lock in a B2B sale. 

  • A fast, responsive and easily navigable website that offers intuitive search results that can also be accessed from multiple devices is key. Optimization for mobile is a trend in B2B eCommerce that most organizations are adopting to reach the millennials involved in the purchase process. An omnichannel strategy can also help in gathering data around the customer’s preferences. W. W. Grainger, which scores in the top tier on distributor B2B surveys, recently introduced a visual search on its mobile app1
  • Order approval workflows should be able to accommodate multiple parties and roles in the buying committees.
  • Personalization and user journeys are equally important to take into consideration. Unique personal content such as personalized product catalogs will appeal to your customer’s needs. Further, adjust cross-selling and upselling suggestions based on the user’s purchase history. 
  • Sales teams have to be rearranged. With marketplaces taking a chunk out of traditional B2B sales, sales teams have to be reconfigured to offer personal connection, advice, broader expertise and build relationships2. According to a Forrester Research study, 68% of B2B buyers prefer doing business online versus with a salesperson, and when they engage with sales, they want that experience to be in a more problem-solving, consultative manner3.
  • Take customer feedback into account. Reliable customer support both during and after-sale is vital. Existing customers are a goldmine of feedback. 
  • AI and automation are increasingly being put to use to take the drudgery and paperwork out of the purchase process. Chatbots that are available 24/7 and also upsell and cross-sell products. At Genesys, the chatbot feature resulted in a whopping 50% less cart abandonment4
  • More information on product pages, different product views, and supporting information such as videos are even more important in B2B eCommerce, especially if you’re selling in bulk. More information will reduce communications, returns, and complaints5.

Pick the right B2B eCommerce technology platform

The architecture for your site is based on both customer need and maturity. Is it commerce-led, content-led, side-by-side or a pure headless model? Choosing the right platform that can handle all your needs can make or break your online offer. Developing an MVP (minimum viable product) can also shorten time to market and leave room to develop features based on feedback from customers. 

Flexible ordering, payment and pricing options

B2B customers need much more leeway with their ordering and custom pricing options as opposed to B2C customers. You have to be able to take purchase orders and credit applications into account and offer digital invoices, various payment methods, and a real-time snapshot of inventory. Incentivize new customers with free trials, reduced shipping costs, or a money-back guarantee. You can entice existing customers with easy order replenishment or loyalty rewards for repeat purchases such as discounts, tiered incentives, access to new features or a complimentary service.

Use social media marketing and user-generated content

Social media can not only be used to drive customers to your site but also for customer engagement. LinkedIn and Twitter are highly popular with B2B companies in regard to connecting with their audiences through text, podcasts, and video, gaining insights via feedback, providing thought leadership, and learning about their buyer persona. They can help funnel the customer from the education and awareness stage towards actual promotional content. Intel (@Intel) with its 4.8million followers is a great example of a B2B Twitter presence6. Publishing customer reviews are another way of establishing authenticity and credibility by driving user-generated content7.

As a leading systems integrator for platforms such as SAP Commerce Cloud, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Adobe Commerce, BigCommerce, Shopify Plus, commercetools, VTEX, and Elastic Path, BORN Group is well-qualified to assess and advise you on the best platform to meet your unique needs.

For more information around BORN Group’s B2B offerings, please visit here.

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Footnotes

1. Grainger eyes a big future for its new mobile visual search tool, Nov 2019, Digitalcommerce360.

2. In 2021, B2B Marketing And Sales Become More Human, Thanks To Tech, Forrester Research, Nov 2020, https://go.forrester.com/what-it-means/ep193-b2b-marketing-sales-predictions-2021/

3. The Death Of A (B2B) Salesman, Forrester Research, May 2017, https://go.forrester.com/what-it-means/ep12-death-b2b-salesman/

4. The Total Economic Impact of the Genesys Omnichannel Engagement Centre Solution, Forrester, Feb 2016, https://genbin.genesys.com/old/resources/TEI_Case_Study_Genesys_-_2052016_FINAL.pdf

5. Rethink the B2B Buyer’s Journey, LinkedIn, https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/business/marketing-solutions/global/en_US/campaigns/pdfs/rethink-b2b-buyers-journey-v03.09-eng-us.pdf

6. 5 Top B2B Brands Delivering Exemplary Twitter Engagement, Toprankblog.com, Sep 2019, https://www.toprankblog.com/2019/09/exemplary-twitter-engagement/

7. The Rise of B2B Product Reviews,  https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/business/en-us/marketing-solutions/resources/pdfs/linkedin-crowd-b2b-product-review-book.pdf

The Rise of B2B eCommerce: Why Traditional Business Retailers Are Headed Online

The Rise of B2B eCommerce: Why Traditional Business Retailers Are Headed Online

Business-to-business (B2B) is a commercial transaction that is conducted between businesses, as opposed to B2C which is a transaction between a company and its customers. B2B transactions might take place between, say, a manufacturer and a wholesaler, or a wholesaler and a retailer. 

Multiple B2B transactions take place in a supply chain where a manufacturer might buy raw material or components that can be used in the manufacturing process. The end-result is the finished product. Much of the purchase process occurs through electronic data interchange (EDI) currently. EDI is well suited for large, recurring orders. B2B eCommerce can also include electronic products such as websites as well as software to increase business efficiencies. 

Learning from B2C

Spurred by the success of eCommerce in the B2C space, many organizations are gradually moving to the Internet and applying some principles and practices from that sphere to that of their supplier or wholesaler and retailer relationships. In 2019, global B2B eCommerce gross merchandise volume (GMV) amounted to 12.2 trillion U.S. dollars, up from approximately 5.83 trillion U.S. dollars in 20131.

Just as an eCommerce shop uses the power of the Internet to allow people to find out more about the company’s products or services and purchase them, online product or supply exchange sites allow other businesses to find out about the products and initiate procurement via an interface. B2B eCommerce sites also allow for more information, images and product descriptions that allow for cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

B2B vs B2C

While B2C involves more impulse buying, B2B solutions purchasing is more thoughtful and planned. B2B relationships are long-term and ongoing and purchases are usually recurring, and for this, the customers expect reliable deliveries along with attractive and dynamic prices and terms

It is no wonder then that B2B purchasing has become even more complex with more stakeholders involved and deliberating in the purchase process2. These developments have become imperative to make the process itself easier. A smooth customer experience is paramount, even in a seemingly standardized B2B purchase journey3.

B2B eCommerce Marketplaces

Leveraging an eCommerce platform, companies can set up marketplaces and online directories specializing in certain industries or products that facilitate B2B transactions. Besides Amazon Business which uses very similar principles to its B2C business, some of the most well-known B2B marketplaces include:

  • Horizontal marketplaces: An early pioneer of a horizontal B2B marketplace was Alibaba. Launched in Guangzhou by Jack Ma in 1998, Alibaba filled a need – to connect Chinese small and medium-sized businesses and wholesalers with clients overseas. Like Amazon, it charged a subscription to sellers who wanted to customize their shop. Unlike Amazon which leveraged its logistics network, Alibaba remains a platform player. Similar generalist marketplaces such as ThomasNet in the US and Tradenet India also exist. The other elephant in the room is Amazon Business. Like Alibaba, an Amazon Business account is a one-stop shop that enables a company which purchases corporate items and supplies to save costs and makes the process efficient. Amazon Business is set to top US$31 billion in revenue and US$52 billion in gross merchandise volume by 2023, including sales by third-party sellers on the marketplace, according to RBC Capital Markets4.
  • Vertical marketplaces: Vertical marketplaces have been around in industries such as automotive and healthcare for a couple of decades but new ones such as Makers Row for fashion, GoDirect Trade in aerospace, CheMondis in chemicals, FastMetals in iron and steel, and Farmers Business Network in agriculture are proliferating. Today, there are more than 70 B2B marketplaces in more than 13 diverse industries, according to research compiled by Digital Commerce 360 B2B5.
  • Service marketplaces: Service marketplaces such as Upwork (for freelancers) and Fiverr (micro-services), where the buying process is different from that of physical goods. One does not choose a supplier or offer but instead sends a request for quotation through the system, and receive offers from all the service providers. Buyers generally can’t browse seller profiles.

B2B eCommerce Trends 

  • Mobile: Mobile transactions for B2B eCommerce are becoming increasingly popular as more millennials drive the purchasing process. Given the 90% increase in B2B executives using mobile devices to research business purchases, mobile sites are now an essential business tool6. Mobile B2B eCommerce requires dynamic pricing and stock indications as well as real-time discount calculation.
  • Personalization, user personas and user journeys: According to Salesforce, almost 75% of business buyers expect vendors to personalize engagements to their needs and 8 in 10 say that the experience is as important as the products and services themselves7. These are high-level decision-makers with complex priorities and speaking to them about their pain-points, roles, goals, and objectives cuts through the noise.
  • AI-driven features: Tools powered by machine learning such as search enable the customer to find what they are looking for faster, with features like auto-suggestions, as well as fuzzy, partial and faceted searches, only added to the utility of the site.
  • Content marketing: The General Electric (GE) B2B experience is held as the gold standard of how to communicate with customers in a B2B environment. Using innovative videos, blogs, user-generated content and collaborations with influencers, GE uses content marketing to demystify its business products and build its brand8.

B2B at BORN

For a North American machine tool manufacturer, BORN implemented a sophisticated solution whereby when a part of a client’s machine goes down, an automated email is sent and the unit is reordered and replaced. This was a vast improvement from the previous system that consisted of multiple steps executed manually.

In another use case, BORN developed an innovative and efficient eCommerce and service experience for client Nestlé Starbucks and its Starbucks Branded Solutions by delivering a best-practice, extensible, global eCommerce framework leveraging an enterprise-grade platform and other key systems to amplify the growth of the online channel.

Over the years, BORN has worked with leading enterprise eCommerce platforms with a focus on B2B commerce, as well as associated applications such as order (OMS), content (CMS) and product management systems (PIM). Powering many of BORN’s solutions are B2B accelerators such as the first-ever SAP-certified accelerator for SAP Commerce Cloud, Eagle. Eagle is our eCommerce framework built exclusively by BORN for SAP Commerce Cloud (B2B, B2C & Custom C2C). In addition, Bulldog is BORN’s Adobe Commerce accelerator which includes pre-built extensions, B2B custom UX & UI features, and special B2B enhancements to essential functionalities.

For more information surrounding BORN’s B2B offerings and case studies, please visit here.

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1. Global B2B e-commerce gross merchandise volume (GMV) 2013-2019, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/705606/global-b2b-e-commerce-gmv/

2. The New Sales Imperative, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-new-sales-imperative

3.  New B2B Buying Journey & its Implication for Sales, Gartner, https://www.gartner.com/en/sales/insights/b2b-buying-journey

4.  There’s a unit inside Amazon that will be a $31 billion business in four years, RBC says, CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/06/amazon-business-a-b2b-unit-to-reach-31-billion-revenue-by-2023-rbc.html

5.  Why marketplaces occupy center stage in B2B ecommerce, DigitalCommerce360, https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2020/03/05/why-marketplaces-occupy-center-stage-in-b2b-ecommerce/

6. The Changing Face of B2B Marketing, ThinkwithGoogle.com, https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/consumer-trends/the-changing-face-b2b-marketing/

7. Young Buyers Are Driving B2B Expectations of B2C-Like Experiences, Marketingcharts.com, https://www.marketingcharts.com/industries/business-to-business-83757

8.  GE Raises the Bar for B2B Content Marketing, enveritasgroup.com, https://enveritasgroup.com/campfire/ge-raises-the-bar-for-b2b-content-marketing/