Thursday Jul 30, 2015

Branded manufacturers ready for next-gen direct to consumer eCommerce sites

The last couple of years brought a crop of first-generation websites from manufacturers going direct to consumer. After some initial hesitancy, big names in apparel, electronics, footwear, and cosmetics launched branded sites that were fairly basic compared to their retail predecessors (and anxious channel partners). During their short online evolution, these brands have narrowed in on how their eCommerce site fits in to their overall company strategy – and are seeing great results.

In recent conversations with brand manufacturers, there are consistent themes across verticals when it comes to direct-to-consumer eCommerce:

  • The vast majority of brands with transactional sites have met or exceeded revenue targets.
  • While it can still be touchy, many have discovered ways to alleviate channel conflict with omnichannel capabilities.
  • To most brands, it simply doesn’t matter how consumers choose to buy their products (although nothing beats direct to consumer margins). Many are in the process of aligning their organizations to measure overall revenue, rather than dissecting who gets sales credit.

Brands are looking back with some relief that direct to consumer eCommerce is paying off across channels, and are energized to figure out how the next rev of their site can drive more results company-wide. Even luxury brands (the last eCommerce holdouts) are realizing the opportunity, with Chanel, Tom Ford and Fendi announcing that they are going transactional this year.

So where should brands focus their next-generation eCommerce sites?

1. Remember the role of the site in the overall business

The site should serve as the brand’s authentic voice, with the goal to get consumers to fall in love with the brand experience and it’s products. Brands selling online are realizing the nuances of research, shopping, and ongoing engagement. Those having the most success understand that the site must cater to various goals, and that shoppers may choose to purchase their products anywhere.

2. Unite storytelling and selling

Creating a destination site where visitors can research, buy, or engage with the brand is all about unifying content and commerce to support sales in all channels.

The site must be optimized for the most common task: consuming content. The ability to purchase products should be woven in to editorial content. Investing in product content will inspire shoppers to make informed purchases in any channel. Cultivating amazing product content like glossy images, videos, downloads, and optimizing site content for scannability should be a core focus of the site.

One of the greatest benefits of a branded site is the direct relationship the manufacturer gets with end users. Brands must include social elements to engage consumers in active dialogue, allowing shoppers to serve as an advocate loving their products. Burberry does this incredibly well. Email and social marketing are other major areas of investment, channeling users to the website as the hub of activity. Mining the data social and marketing brings will improve experiences on-site and company-wide.

3. Elements of exclusivity.

Why would a consumer come to a branded website versus shopping with a retailer? There needs to be a draw – whether that’s amazing content, exclusive products, or interactivity.

Where’s the only place you can design your own custom Jordans? Nike has figured out how to create an online experience that attracts loyal brand advocates with unique experiences and exclusive products.

Personally, I go to branded sites to see the full range of product, whether it’s jeans or car seats. A manufacturer’s eCommerce site is usually the only place to research and purchase from the entire product line (versus a subset of SKUs in retail).

Selling products on a branded site that are not sold in retail helps to alleviate channel competition, and also serves as a platform to test new products, sell limited edition goods, and reduce inventory with special sales.

4. Simplify buying anywhere

No matter when and how they want to buy, invest in features that make it seamless for shoppers.

  • Mobile: Many retailers prioritize mobile and tablet experiences over desktop, and for manufacturers, this is an absolute must. These site visitors are deep in to product research, want inspiration, or want to purchase an item easily. Make sure the site is Responsive, search is optimized, and checkout is streamlined.
  • Omnichannel: Allow shoppers to transact however they please and fulfill in a variety of ways. Let them buy online, buy online and pick up in store, and provide a Store Locator to use retailers as a fulfillment channel (making them happy). Brands can also automatically redirect to retailer sites if their merchandise is out of stock. Make it easy for shoppers with orchestration between order, fulfillment, and inventory systems.
  • Market expansion: Expansion in to new markets is a big growth area for brands in the next year. Making eCommerce storefronts available in regions without retail stores is an opportunity to quickly experiment with new products, markets, and pricing.

Direct to consumer eCommerce will continue to be a disruptive force. Consumers increasingly want to know who’s behind the products they’re buying. Meanwhile, brands need to band together with their channel partners to create stellar customer experiences that drive positive company-wide results. Brands who come out on top will make it incredibly easy (and enjoyable) for consumers to get to know them and buy their products. 

Wednesday Jul 29, 2015

The Connected Field Service Workforce: Past, Present and Future

Face-to-face customer interaction is the best opportunity to build loyalty, immediately address concerns, collect customer feedback and even upsell new services or products. And often, the only employee to ever engage with customers face-to-face at their homes or businesses is the resource sent to provide field services. Whether that person is performing equipment maintenance, delivering a product, or connecting a customer to a new service, it’s vital that field resources arrive at customer appointments with all the tools and information needed to complete jobs correctly the first time, every time. Only field resources that are truly “connected” have the tools to drive an exceptional level of customer engagement. So how can you achieve this level of connectivity within your field service operations? [Read More]

Monday Jul 27, 2015

Analysts, Customers, Partners Discuss New Commerce Cloud

It’s been a big month of media and glory for Oracle Commerce Cloud.

Just one month ago, in a press release on June 29, 2015, Oracle unveiled its new flexible, scalable SaaS solution -- Cloud Commerce -- built for the Oracle Public Cloud. This announcement came one week after Larry Ellison revealed that the company was launching 24 new cloud services.

We believe that analysts, customers, and partners are already touting the strength of Commerce Cloud and its competitive differentiation against other offerings on the market -- as well as a core differentiator in Oracle’s customer experience cloud applications offering.

Praise from Lead Forrester Commerce Analyst

For Oracle, the biggest highlight of the launch has been the July 2015 Forrester Research report, Brief: Oracle Commerce Gets the Cloud Treatment, written by Forrester Analyst Peter Sheldon. In his freshly released report, Sheldon states: “[T]he new platform has a high degree of commonality with the long-standing on-premises version in regard to features and capability.  However, there are many all-new capabilities that differentiate the cloud version that include:

  • The Oracle cloud itself.
  • Oracle Cloud marketplace for extensions.
  • Web-based administrative tools.
  • A new REST API architecture.
  • A new responsive starter store.
  • New “cloud”-exclusive features.
  • A new pricing model.

    Sheldon continues by outlining Oracle Commerce Cloud’s product strategy and target market. Read the full complimentary Forrester report here.
[Read More]

Wednesday Jul 22, 2015

5 Steps to Providing Exceptional Multilingual Customer Support

By Kaarina Kvaavik and Heather Shoemaker, founders, Language I/O

In today’s ever-expanding global world, it’s bad business for companies to not have some sort of multilingual customer support. Even those without a global presence will have interactions with non-native speakers. The inability to support these customers isn’t from a lack of trying, but from a lack of proper resources designated for multilingual customer support efforts.

Having the right tools can be a boon for a company’s global expansion strategy and for retaining current international customers. The importance of retention is reflected in a recent Adobe report that estimates, “for each 1% of shoppers who return for a subsequent visit, overall revenue will increase by approximately 10%.”[i]  Proof that as a global business it’s imperative to invest in ways of attracting and retaining customers.

Just how do you achieve your goals in multilingual customer support? In a recent blog post, Language I/O co-founder Heather Shoemaker detailed the five steps toward multilingual customer support. What are these critical items?

  1. Review your current CRM or Customer Experience (CX) platform, such as the Oracle Service Cloud, and make sure it can support your multilingual support needs.

  2. The Customer Support team should not let other departments dictate the company’s CRM or CX content translation solution. What works for one department in product translations may not work well in support translation.

  3. Hire an objective, third party linguistic reviewer for each supported language. It’s critical to have a human as part of your multilingual support as machine translation is not enough.

  4. Share a translated glossary of key terms across the company so that as new languages are added key terms can be instantly translated.

  5. Share translation memory across the company. This will allow for consistency and translation work only taking place on content that has been updated or changed.

The key in following these steps is to ensure that customer expectations are properly met and that continuity exists throughout the company in all supported languages. Of course, adjustments will need to be made for any lingual nuances that are difficult to translate, the reason why it’s important to have a third party linguistic reviewer on hand.

It’s important to keep in mind the end strategy here: exceptional multilingual customer support that exceeds customer expectations. 

To learn the importance of multilingual customer support and the impact it can have on your global efforts, join Oracle for an informative webinar on Wednesday, July 29th at 11AM ET (8AM PT, 1600 GMT). Hosted by Language I/O co-founder Kaarina Kvaavik, the webinar will feature a discussion with LinkedIn’s Josh Larson and iRobot’s Matt Cooper on how they utilize Language I/O’s LinguistNow product inside the Oracle Service Cloud environment to simplify processes, reduce costs, and support more markets. For more information and to register, click here.

(De)Constructing Customer Success for Consumer Brands – Is it More Than a Buzzword and does it Really Apply to Us?

Customer Success…is this just another buzzword, the new must have, a simple checkbox, or does it actually mean something?   I think we all know that big buzzwords (big data anyone?) can lose their impact and meaning but I am here to tell you that when you strip everything away, ‘customer success’ is really at the cornerstone of creating successful consumer businesses. 

Let’s look at the two words separately. Customers—every business wants to maximize the number of customers they have to grow revenues and spread out revenue risk. Success—achieving or exceeding ones goals, can be measured in revenues and metrics around growth, retention and adoption.

It’s interesting that when we put the words together, they take on a variety of meanings:

Customer Success = Superior Customer Experience = Part Process / Part Relationship = Doing whatever it takes to make the customer successful/happy. A few well-known examples: Zappos, Nordstroms, Chick-fil-A.

Customer Success = Helping the Customer Achieve their Goals = Driving their Success = Pro-active Engagement. A few examples: free nutrition classes at Whole Foods, the Genius Bar inside Apple Stores, pool maintenance courses at my local pool store, coffee shops offering lessons on coffee and brewing techniques, outdoor retailers such as Rock Creek utilizing ambassadors to introduce people to particular sports.

These two definitions are very distinct and have varying levels of adoption. The interesting part is that when one combines them, something really magical starts to occur. From the eyes of the business, they clearly want their customers to have a great experience and feel like they receive superior service, be it when they walk into a store, order something online or when they call. The reality is that, unless you are a monopoly, if your customer is not happy because of how they are treated, at some point they will leave you (about 68% of customers leave for this reason). On top of that, Forrester Research has conducted studies across 13 different industries and has shown that perceptions of customer experience are highly correlated to considerations of future purchases, willingness to recommend to a friend and defection rates to competitors (“The Business Impact Of Customer Experience, 2014, Forrester Research, March 2014”). For some businesses, shifts in customer perception equates to multiple, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, gained or lost.

But rather than just delighting them with great experiences, what if all businesses also started to say to their customers—we recognize that the experience doesn’t stop when you buy our product, we want to help you achieve your goals, help you succeed. The reality is, up until recently, few and far between would ever say such a thing to a consumer. At a very high level, telling someone is much easier than showing and helping someone. As an example, a health food store might say that eating xyz food will make you feel healthier but not everyone would show their customers how to make a food plan to actually make you healthier.

When one thinks about it, superior customer experiences + engagement is really a double whammy, a value proposition that is nearly impossible to beat. Let me put it this way—how many consumer businesses can you think of that focus both on delivering superior customer experiences and proactively help the customer achieve their goals? Those that do clearly know that underneath this catchall phrase of customer success is the pathway to creating successful businesses. Going back to the individual definition of each word, businesses obtain and keep servicing their customers to ensure their own long-term success.

So, where does this leave all of us? Great question. As you can guess, I am a big believer in customer success, from both an experience and engagement perspective. I also recognize that saying you have a consumer focused customer success program and actually implementing one (hint: sometimes simple actions go a long way) are two very different things. A first step forward is the recognition that customer success is not just a checklist item but also a way to grow your business, perhaps even developing into a viable competitive differentiator.

I plan to write more about the topic, using my professional and personal experiences to highlight ways to bring the various components of customer success to consumer businesses. Next up: A Tale of Two Interactions, Enabling the Customer Experience.

Friday Jul 17, 2015

T-Mobile Netherlands Humanizes Customer Experience

Check out how T-Mobile Netherlands partners with Oracle Service Cloud to create the next generation of web customer service by combining web self-service and communities and increased support channels to help lower costs and improve customer satisfaction.

With over 70% of all services being done online, see how they use cloud solutions as the center of human, real, customer communications across all channels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pi-9fCf-oFY.

Wednesday Jul 15, 2015

Field service, the Hollywood Way

On June 1, 1975, Hollywood broke with tradition when it released Jaws to audiences across the country. Traditionally, summer had been the dumping ground for perceived flops – buzz-worthy movies were reserved for cold-weather release on the grounds that people had better things to do on sunny days than go to the movies.

Now, “blockbuster season” is as ingrained in popular culture (and advertising cycles) as holiday shopping or back-to-school. Whether you’re partial to natural disasters, dinosaurs or a little animated magic, the film industry works hard to pack your summer end-to-end with movies you want to catch on the big screen.

Movie making is big business, but what can Hollywood teach us about the way business gets done? Earlier this year, financial reporter Adam Davidson wrote in The New York Times Magazine about the “Hollywood model” approach to business, in which a project is identified and a team assembled to work together for no longer than it takes to complete the project.  Our economy is shifting more and more toward this model, with Davidson adding that more of us can expect to “see our working lives structured around short-term, project-based teams rather than long-term, open-ended jobs.”

Certainly, the Hollywood model is more nimble than what we think of as the traditional model: capital is raised and workers are hired to fill jobs with no specific duration or endpoint. The former is more adaptable to market forces, both in terms of cost and for the workers themselves, because it’s more responsive. In the movie business, as Davidson points out, weekly box-office results provide new information about which skills are the most valuable. If last week’s hit movie relied heavily on computer animation, animators will find themselves in a stronger negotiating position than if a live-action romantic comedy topped the box office.

This all sounds a lot like modern field service management, which is also experiencing a shift from an old, reactive model to the current model of proactive and preventative service. A field force might consist of full-time employees as well as contractors who can respond when demand spikes. As with the Hollywood model, workers arrive at the assigned location, perform tasks and then move on to the next job. Feedback, in the form of customer satisfaction, dictates whether or not the provider will be called upon to provide the service again. And companies that provide the very best service will find themselves in the best position to cement their reputation as industry leaders.

For service organizations, taking advantage of this shift calls for a field service management strategy and the right tools to carry it out. Managing a field force with paper, pencil and phone simply isn’t powerful enough to meet the daily demands of the business and provide good service. This is where field service management technology steps in. Because the Hollywood model is subject to so much change, the technology has to adapt as quickly as the work evolves. 

Oracle Field Service Cloud meets the demands of the Hollywood model because it is self-learning, acquiring knowledge as more work is performed. The solution can make more intelligent assignments as it learns about the work habits of individual performers. Over time, the technology learns which combinations of activities and personnel yields the most success – and the best service.

In the Times article, the author’s assertion that “it is all but impossible to make a healthy profit in the United States by simply competing as the low-cost provider” of a product or service rings true. “Profits,” Davidson writes, “need to come from that extra something that only your company can give, something for which customers are willing to pay a premium.” Increasingly, this extra something is service, delivered reliably and efficiently.

As technology evolves, the way we request service will continue to collapse the time from ticket creation to incident resolution. If a remote cellular phone tower can signal that it needs service without human intervention, or an Amazon customer can press a button indicating they need more laundry detergent, it won’t be long before a cable box can flag itself for replacement or a thermostat can trigger an energy audit. The companies that emerge as leaders will be those that not only understand how this technology will impact their business, but are prepared to respond to requests instantaneously with the help of a sophisticated field service strategy.

Tuesday Jul 14, 2015

Three “In-the-trenches” design observations to help keep your eCommerce competitive

I was at a trends conference in January of 1997 and the keynote speaker said something that I will never forget, The culture of the World Wide Web will never grow beyond an environment of sharing information."

Back then, there was a commonly understood respect for the Internet and the purists would never consider making it into a marketplace. It was a place where mankind shares knowledge for the common good. To use the Internet to buy or sell would have been to insult the Cyber gods.

2015 Coffee Purchase

Eighteen years later we hold our fingerprint smartphone in near proximity to a contactless reader and it vibrates to confirm the purchase of a $4 cup of over-roasted coffee. Trends can be subjective and misleading. Projected eCommerce US sales for 2016 may reach $316B and $98B* made with a mobile device.
*Statistic source…
Research date: 10.9.2014.

[Read More]

Thursday Jul 09, 2015

It’s Time to Get Omni-Geo: Applying Omnichannel CX Rules to International Selling

eCommerce growth in the more mature European markets has plateaued and many brands are looking to new country markets to achieve continued sales growth. But dealing with customer expectations becomes trickier as brands expand internationally. The headaches around offering shoppers a seamless, omnichannel experience on home territory simply multiply with each new country market.

Shoppers won’t understand if a product isn’t available to them when it’s available to customers in another country. The same is true of promotions, and delivery options.  Shoppers may expect to place an order using a money-off coupon in one country and collect from a store in another country, while adding points to their loyalty card. They won’t understand why that’s not possible – it’s all through the same brand after all.

Some brands try to tackle this issue by not allowing customers to see other country websites at all by geo-blocking, i.e. blocking access to websites based on location, or diverting the page back to a local browser - a practice which only further frustrates consumers.

So why don’t all the rules that apply to omnichannel – such as brand consistency, service offerings and stock consistency – also apply across geographical borders too?

[Read More]

Wednesday Jul 08, 2015

Transform Modern Customer Service Trends and Challenges into Opportunities by Stephen Fioretti

The Oracle Service Cloud team has been thinking a lot about what’s most relevant to the people we are serving. What are the day-to-day challenges folks on the front line helping customers solve their service issues are facing?  What are the trends that continue to impact how organizations deliver customer service? Below are a few shifts in the customer service landscape that are disrupting business as usual. These trends can’t be ignored by any global, modern customer service organization:

  • The usage of mobile devices continues to disrupt and drive changes in consumer attitudes and behaviors. Organizations should respond (if they haven’t already) and be ready for all things mobile.
  • Knowledge needs to be the foundation of all service channels and engagements. Modern customer service teams simply cannot be successful without a single knowledge base that underpins both self-service and assisted service channels. As customer preferences tilt toward web-based self-service (both Gartner and Forrester now state the web has surpassed voice as the most common customer support channel), easy access to knowledge and findability is becoming a key responsibility of customer service leaders.
  • Customer Service will increasingly include machines talking to machines (as opposed to humans talking to humans). Soon there will be 20 billion devices connected to the internet. A few years back the concept of leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) for Customer Service was still in its infancy. Today those initial barriers are gone and Service with IOT is ready for mainstream.
  • Customer Service will continue to extend from engagement centers to other functions in the enterprise. Organizations are increasingly accepting that service is a key component during the entire customer journey and part of this realization move is connecting the service function with functions (and systems, platforms, tools) in other parts of the organization. This way the journey from that first brand touch point all the way to the technician standing in your living room is supported by one consistent service platform.

These changing customer service dynamics offer a great starting point for organizations to begin discussions to better understand the current challenges. Also look at how to turn these modern service challenges into opportunities to deliver better service!

Stay tuned as we continue to explore these areas and for more insight, please check out the new Oracle Service Cloud video. It highlights relevant customer stories on the importance of delivering Service Anywhere, providing Knowledge Everywhere, and the importance of Intelligent Service.

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