Assessing The Pillars of Modern Digital Infrastructure

Assessing The Pillars of Modern Digital Infrastructure

Seeking to better understand customer experience expectations of digital commerce, Avalara commissioned business intelligence platform PSFK to research key trends and technologies along the purchase journey. The resulting five-chapter report features Avalara customers, partners, and thought leaders.

What did we learn?

Consumers expect retailers to have ecommerce and mobile capabilities. Their expectations are high; they bank on researching each stage of the purchase journey online. Real-time accuracy and transparency are essential, as is a seamless experience.

There’s a lot at stake. Global ecommerce totaled more than $3.5 trillion in 2019. By 2023, online retail sales in the United States alone are expected to reach $969.7 billion.

To succeed in this increasingly crowded field, retailers must deliver an exceptional customer experience at all stages of the customer journey, from discovery to post-purchase support. Technology is a key component of success, helping to build trust and therefore loyalty.

Mobile has elevated expectations: Consumers count on retailers to deliver a true omnichannel experience, tailored to them, no matter how they shop. Retailers that sideline mobile risk alienating a growing portion of the market. Mobile sales have doubled since 2015 and are expected to account for 44% of ecommerce by 2024.

In short, retail today must be “digital-first, fluid, and agile,” as the current pandemic has highlighted. In recent months, retailers reliant on physical stores alone were often unable to connect with customers. Those with an established online and mobile presence could meet consumers where they were — at home or on the move.

No matter the circumstances, the more agile a retailer’s overall digital infrastructure, the better the experience for customers passing through these five stages:

  • Discovery
  • ‘Store’ experience
  • Shopper education and assistance
  • Payment and tax
  • Fulfillment and support

Discovery

Consumers shop across all digital platforms in today’s hyper-connected world, including through social channels as well as through Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. Managing customer relationships is key. A dynamic outreach with visual search streams and shoppable content helps retailers rise above competitors. 

‘Store’ experience

To convert browsers to buyers, ecommerce retailers need more than an online storefront; the whole shopping experience must be streamlined, secure, and increasingly, curated. An adaptive homepage and social shopping options help provide the experience consumers crave, as does augmented retail. People respond well when given the option to virtually try on products.

Shopper education and assistance

Online shoppers are increasingly coming to expect personalized support at key moments, as they might receive in a brick-and-mortar store. They value well-timed expert opinions. Authentication tools and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots help customers navigate product catalogs and retailers understand when human interjection is necessary.

Payment and tax

Checkout must be seamless on the front and back end. Customers are one step closer to a purchase when their payment information is automatically (and securely) provided. Other best practices include offering one-click purchase options, digital layaway options, and in-cart optimization. Currency conversions aid cross-border sales, as do accurate tax and customs calculations. To foster trust, reveal shipping, tax, and other applicable charges up front.

Fulfillment and support

What happens after a customer clicks “Buy now” is an integral part of the customer experience. Flexible delivery options, including in-store pickup and returns, are a must in the age of near-immediate gratification. AI and machine learning can help streamline logistics and reduce costs. Customer loyalty can be fostered with product setup, ongoing support, as well as programs that encourage customer evangelization.

Exceed expectations

Exceeding expectations is key to successful digital commerce. Gain deeper understanding. Get the report here.

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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. Avalara utilizes the PFSK platform to help assess which components of modern commerce infrastructure are some of the most essential. We hope you get a broad overview in this highlight post and explore deeper at Avalara’s site for the full white paper.

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

Personalization: The Key to Creating an Exceptional Customer Experience

Personalization: The Key to Creating an Exceptional
Customer Experience

Personalization has come a long way from only addressing the customer by name in a direct marketing email that arrives in your inbox – of all the digital strategies being talked about in the race to better customer experience, and thereby setting your brand apart from the competitors, personalization has now grown to be the most paramount.

It has been shown time and again that personalization drives engagement and builds relationships with the customer, making it one of the most important tools in a marketer’s toolbox. A whopping 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize them by name, remember their preferences, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations1. A customer that is seen and heard and feels special is one that will return.

As opposed to the customization of products or services to suit a particular individual, personalization is the tailoring of an experience based on the customer’s previous buying behavior and preferences. The holy grail is to offer the customer an intelligent and contextual, and therefore superior customer experience, which in effect creates more value for the business.

In the past, marketing communications was mostly one-way. The new approach using data to ground insights begins a conversation with the customer.

The underpinning of personalization is data. Most of this data already exists within an organization in the form of the technology that enables every sale – sales and support information can be folded into customer data platforms (CDPs) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, unstructured data in the form of positive or negative feedback, reviews and social commentary consolidated into reputation management systems – all that data just needs to be harnessed, analyzed and put to work not just as the end of the shopping funnel but throughout the customer journey.

Here are a few paths to personalization of the customer experience:

  • Personalized home page, navigation, and copy: New visitors need to be targeted with tailored messages, pages, and navigation compared to returning visitors or regular customers because they aren’t very familiar with the brand or the website. Personalized pop-ups and greetings are one way to do this. Encouraging social sign-ins are another. By understanding target customers’ pain points, interests, and problems, you can also target relevant copy for different segments, thereby increasing conversion. Knowing device types also means mobile users can be offered a different experience compared to those using a tablet or laptop.
  • Location targeting/geofencing: Visitors from different countries are segmented and these segments to allow for personalized pages and experiences. A US apparel brand could have different sizes, not to mention currencies, compared to the UK site. Geolocation targeting also enables daily or seasonal weather-related personalization. One new development is geofencing which puts a ‘virtual fence’ around a physical location. Geofencing triggers a command to the mobile phone when an individual enters or leaves a geofence. Whole Foods launched geofences around their competitors’ locations. When a customer using the Whole Foods app came into or left the geofence, they would receive ads with store-specific offers2. The campaign is said to have had a post-click conversion rate which is more than 3x the industry average. 
  • Predictive personalization: Amazon, followed by Youtube and Netflix, made the ‘Recommended for you’ feature famous. These days, many brands suggest options while the customer is buying or even at checkout to upsell their products and increase average order value. Uniqlo measures neurotransmitters in their UMood kiosks to gauge customers’ reactions as they are shown different clothing items in kiosks. The AI algorithm then uses that data to recommend products3.
  • Retargeting: Google Ads offers brands the ability to remarket their product to visitors who visit their website in other locations. Since they have already shown interest in the brand, retargeting offers another avenue to complete the sale. Conversely, personalization also means that the transition from clicking from an ad to get to your website is seamless and the text matches to suit.
  • Category specific offers: Just as with initial contact, segmentation offers a chance to target specific offers to specific customers. One effective example is how Sephora used to announce all their products to all their customers, but now they send only relevant information with their behavioral-based email program4.
  • Gamification: Using gamification in your brand marketing strategy helps brands know their customers better through features such as quizzes or creating user profiles and avatars. Awarding points is another method can keep consumers loyal. Makeups and skincare brands such Sephora’s skincare quiz or Roadrunner Sports’ “Which Nike shoe fits your personality” are great examples of gamifying your commerce experience to drive return traffic5.
  • Video tutorials and inspiration: Offering how-to videos and tutorials post-sale turns customers into repeat customers. Technology has made it easy to offer personalization even in video and editing techniques mean that text in a video can be customized for easy consumption. Inspiration areas are used by many brands’ websites to guide customers through their product line.
  • Lead generators: Displaying offers free trials or discounts tactically are a useful feature to generate customer leads and keep them on your page. An exit discount pop-up box is one way to do this.
  • Omnichannel delivery: Features such as ‘Continue watching’ and ‘Watch from the beginning’ made popular by Netflix are also being used by retail brands that have a presence on different channels. Headless CMSes can enable shoppers to switch between devices for a seamless experience while also remembering their preferences. Neiman Marcus, for example, remembers your size when you return6.
  • Chat and customer support: AI and machine learning is being used especially with chatbots which can gather data and segment customers, especially if you don’t have the resources to offer round-the-clock support. Information and predictive analysis can be pulled up for customer-facing employees for an enhanced customer service experience. 

More brands are offering hyper-personalized experiences at every customer touchpoint. With enough data, customers can be shoehorned into each segment of one. However, personalization can make the marketing mix more complex and such complexity is both time and resource intensive. Therefore, A/B testing is a key factor to check efficacy before embarking on individual personalization strategies.  

Furthermore, using customer data for the purposes of curation and interaction is treading a fine line – brands would reap the benefits if they were to make their processes transparent, respect data privacy, and safeguard customers’ data while doing so. In the end, personalization is as much about customer behavior and their needs as it is about their data.

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Footnotes

1. Accenture 2018 Personalization Pulse Check. https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-83/Accenture-Pulse-Check-Infographic.pdf 

2. Thinknear Location Score Index, Q4 2017. http://info.thinknear.com/rs/835-JWB-681/images/Thinknear_Location_Score_Index_Q4_2017.pdf?utm_source=&utm_medium=&utm_campaign=&utm_term=&utm_content=

3. AI In Retail: How Tech Is Changing The Customer Experience, Forbes.com, March 26, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2019/03/26/ai-in-retail-how-tech-is-changing-the-customer-experience/?sh=47f31dc1958a

4. Accelerating Agility: eCommerce Marketing Lessons from Sephora, Bluecore.com, https://www.bluecore.com/blog/accelerating-agility-ecommerce-marketing-sephora/

5. Roadrunnersports.com, https://www.roadrunnersports.com/blog/quiz-which-nike-shoe-best-fits-your-personality-free-rn-or-free-rn-flyknit/

6.  5 Outstanding Omnichannel Retail Examples In Fashion, Intelistyle.com, https://www.intelistyle.com/omnichannel-retail-best-examples-fashion/