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Archive for August, 2013

Reducing Online Store Returns: 5 Ways to Improve Merchandise Return Rates

August 30th, 2013 Ashley Harbaugh No comments

Merchandise returns are not ideal for any retailer, but online retailers are especially vulnerable. Given that online shoppers can’t pick up and examine merchandise firsthand before making a purchase, there’s a higher risk that customers will receive their purchases and find that they’re not exactly what they wanted.

But there are ways that merchants can reduce such risks. By equipping online shoppers with valuable product knowledge, e-retailers are able to not only make the sale, but also ensure that customers are happy with their purchase. And by lessening the number of returns that need to be processed, online merchants are able to devote their time and resources to other revenue-drivers instead of to returns management.

See our five tips on how to position products on your online store that will make your shoppers well-informed, eager to buy, and ultimately satisfied with their purchases.

1. High Quality Product Images

Since online shoppers can’t physically see and inspect merchandise, images are the closest way for them to see products up-close.

Providing high-resolution photos of the merchandise allows shoppers to view the product better, which means they also have a better understanding of what they will receive if they purchase it. The ability to zoom-in to the image, and the ability to rotate the image 360 degrees so that the shoppers can see front and back, are also important in familiarizing the customer with the product.

Showing product pages that contain high quality photos as well as zoom-in and 360-degree image rotation capabilities offer online shoppers an up-close view of merchandise.

Showing product pages that contain high quality photos as well as zoom-in and 360-degree image rotation capabilities offer online shoppers an up-close view of merchandise.

2. Strong Product Descriptions

As an activity, shopping involves two very important components: the visual component, and the tactile component. Regardless of whether the shopping is taking place in a brick-and-mortar shop or an online store, how well a retail location engages these elements determines how likely a shopper is going to buy merchandise, as well as how likely a shopper will come back.

For an online retail channel, the visual component is fulfilled with great photos of products (see point #1). For the tactile component, product descriptions communicate the details of those photos, which help shoppers understand the feel of a product instead of just how it looks.

When a customer turns to product descriptions for their product research, the want clear, straightforward information – and don’t be afraid to skimp on the details either. Also, it’s crucial that your descriptions are completely honest. Don’t say that the heel on a particular shoe is 3 inches high when it’s really 2 inches high. If product descriptions are false, then you set your customers up with the wrong expectations – which inevitably lead to returned products.

Product descriptions are a valuable source of information for online shoppers. By providing clear, straightforward, and truthful details about your products, you allow shoppers to get a better understanding of the look-and-feel of a particular item.

Product descriptions are a valuable source of information for online shoppers. By providing clear, straightforward, and truthful details about your products, you allow shoppers to get a better understanding of the look-and-feel of a particular item.

3. Product Comparisons

With the various different types of merchandise that a store may offer, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which item is best. For shoppers, being able to compare two products together is a helpful way to identify which item is more suitable, which in turn means they will be more satisfied with the purchase in the long-run.

While customers shopping at brick-and-mortar stores can physically compare two products side by side, e-retailers can also give that experience with product comparison functionality. With online product comparisons, merchants allow shoppers to choose whichever two (or more) items they would like to compare and then lists the selected items’ dimensions, physical characteristics, prices, etc.

Seeing this information all in one place as opposed to visiting each individual product page and manually compiling it, product comparison saves shoppers time and energy, as well as gives them the material they need to make the right purchase.

Product comparison functionality allows online shoppers to evaluate different items all at one time, giving shoppers instant access to the information they need to make a well-informed purchase.

Product comparison functionality allows online shoppers to evaluate different items all at one time, giving shoppers instant access to the information they need to make a well-informed purchase.

4. Product Reviews

Product reviews are important to post on your e-commerce site because they a) signal to shoppers that real people are buying and using your products, and b) they provide helpful user information on the products.

For example, if a customer writes that a particular shirt runs small in a review, a shopper will know to buy the shirt in the next size up from their normal size. Or perhaps a customer writes a review containing tips on how the product best worked for them – a shopper who reads it will in turn understand how to most effectively use the product, and thus get greater value from it.

Product reviews provide worthwhile information that helps guide customers’ purchases, as well as helps adjust customers’ expectations or understanding. When customers know what they’re getting in purchasing an item, and when they know how to get the most value out of that purchase thanks to other customer recommendations, they don’t have a reason to return it.

Product reviews supplied by customers are a great way to offer valuable user information to shoppers. Providing these firsthand insights allow shoppers to better understand both the product and how to get the most value out of that product.

Product reviews supplied by customers are a great way to offer valuable user information to shoppers. Providing these firsthand insights allow shoppers to better understand both the product and how to get the most value out of that product.

5. 24-Hour, Toll-Free Customer Service

Giving your customers access to a customer service agent can make the difference between returned merchandise and retained merchandise. Providing a 24-hour, toll-free phone number, or a customer service email address that is also monitored 24 hours a day, provides crucial touch-points for engaging the customer and troubleshooting issues.

Designating well-trained staff to handle customer queries is vital for this process. We’ve all heard (or have) horror stories about unfriendly or unhelpful customer service representatives. But if your company develops a reputation for pleasant, easy, and useful customer service, more customers will turn to you for help instead of automatically returning items that they’re having issues with.

If you have any questions, or if you would like more information on how to improve your online merchandising processes, please email us at ecommerce@ignify.com.

Ashley Harbaugh is a Product Marketing Specialist at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRMeCommerce and ERP, software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has won the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 7 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

5 Effective Cross-Selling Features for Online Stores

August 21st, 2013 Ashley Harbaugh No comments

With the convenience and ease that online shopping provides, shoppers know they can get the items they want with just a click of a button – no hassles, no wasted time.

But the speed in which customers proceed to checkout can present somewhat of a double-edged sword for online retailers.

On the one hand, it’s good because it means that customers complete purchases quickly. But on the other hand, it also means that customers don’t really have the chance to see your other merchandise. Because if a customer focuses only on buying a particular item, then an online retailer misses out on the additional revenue that comes from a customer seeing and liking other items enough to buy them as well.

By positioning your merchandise in a way that grabs the attention of customers, especially the ones who concentrate only on the goal of locating a product and checking out, you gain crucial cross-sell opportunities – which translate to more sales. Check out our tips below on the e-commerce cross-selling techniques that capture the interest of even the most single-minded shopper.

1. Featured Products

If you think about it in brick-and-mortar store terms, your e-commerce store’s home page is your store entrance – so it’s important to put that crucial piece of virtual real estate to good use. Putting a designated section front-and-center on your home page that showcases specific products is a great way to catch the eye of shoppers – especially when there’s a “Featured Products” title above it.

By using that title, you convey a sense of importance or uniqueness to the items themselves – you’re essentially saying that these products are special and deserve to be prominently displayed. Naturally, this stirs up curiosity – why are these products featured? What’s so great about them? And curiosity is an inevitable driver of action – shoppers are motivated to check out these products for themselves, and if they agree that the product really deserves its title, then they are also motivated to purchase.  

It’s important to not clutter the home page with too many featured products – keeping a fairly select product grouping reinforces the distinctiveness of the individual items (and besides, cluttered home pages are a basic no-no when it comes to e-commerce site design).

Featured Products

A Featured Products section on an e-commerce store’s home page is a helpful way to draw attention to other merchandise.

2. Customers Who Bought This Product Also Bought These Products

People like to be in-the-know, especially on the latest styles and trends. It’s not fun feeling left out, or feeling like we’re behind everyone else. Displaying a merchandise section on a product page that says “Customers who bought this product also bought these products” taps into that feeling.

By adding this section to a product page, you first build trust with the site visitor by showing that customers – i.e., real people – are actually buying the product. Even if an online retailer has a sterling reputation, the fact that online shoppers can’t physically inspect merchandise before buying means that purchasing still carries a bit of risk. Seeing that other people have already purchased the product alleviates some of that anxiety.

This section also helpfully points people toward the direction of other merchandise that is relevant to that specific product, or other merchandise that is popular, etc. Appealing to both curiosity and the desire to be up-to-date, this feature is an effective motivator in getting customers to check out the items that other people are buying – “Why did the people who bought this particular item buy these other ones?” And it’s also an effective motivator in getting customers to purchase – “Well, if all these other people are buying this, then it must be worth it.”

Customers Who Bought This Product Also Bought These Products

Including a “Customers who purchased this product also purchased” section on a product page establishes trust with the merchant as well as encourages customers to check out other merchandise.

3. Popular Add-Ons

Along the same lines of “Customers who bought this…”, including a section for “Popular Add-Ons” is a good push toward getting customers to scope out and buy other merchandise as well. While “Customers who bought this…” can encompass a somewhat broad classification, “Popular Add-Ons” is an even more targeted message – it says that people purchased other items that specifically go with this particular product.

If people are buying other items that work compatibly with a product, then it shows that buying the other items add value to the purchase. And if those items are designated as popular, then it conveys to the shopper that a lot of people are buying them – which means that a lot of people recognize, and are reaping, the benefit of purchasing all of these items together. 

4. Bundled Promotions

One of the lingering aftereffects of the recession is that people are more mindful of their budgets. Since shoppers are more careful with their spending, they want to make sure they are getting the best value for their money.

Bundled promotions are a powerful way to move merchandise by appealing to bargain-hunters. A bundled promotion is when a merchant offers free or discounted rates with the purchase of one or more items. For example, “Buy A, Get B Free”. Giving this type of special offer to shoppers is so attractive because it a) enhances excitement (“Wow, I get this item along with this product? That’s so cool!”), and b) eases shopper guilt (“Well, getting this item along with this product is such a great deal that I should get this”). 

A bonus tip: To make a bundled promotion even more compelling, add a time limit. When shoppers see that there’s only so much time left to take advantage of an awesome deal, they naturally want to make sure they don’t miss out.

Bundled Promotions

Bundled promotions are attractive because they communicate that shoppers will get more value from their purchase. By adding a time limit, merchants create a sense of urgency to buy, which drives customers toward the virtual checkout line.

5. Customer Reviews

Customer reviews aren’t just about warnings these days – people like to share their experiences. By sharing those experiences, customers are equipping other potential buyers with valuable knowledge – and when a shopper feels well-informed, it makes them more likely to buy.

Not only are customer reviews helpful in getting shoppers to seal the deal, but they can also point shoppers toward the direction of other merchandise. For example, perhaps a customer review on a shirt says how comfortable and nice that shirt is; and perhaps that review goes on to mention how great the shirt is paired with that company’s pants and high heels. With one single customer review, a shopper has received both an assessment of the main product in question, and endorsements of other products in the retailer’s inventory.

Such suggestions are especially important because this is cross-selling in an organic, honest way – your customers are not being forced to contribute reviews. Therefore when customers do post reviews,  shoppers trust them. If a shopper trusts an opinion, then they are going to really pay attention – including if a customer advises buying multiple items to go along with a particular product. 

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are a helpful way to cultivate customer engagement and set the stage for effective, organic cross-selling.

Understanding the Customer

Finding out what your customers want and understanding their buying patterns are crucial in developing effective cross-selling strategies. Because if you don’t understand what is driving a shopper to visit you, then you won’t know how to communicate how your offerings meet their needs. By paying close attention to your customers’ shopping behavior and actively listening to what customers are saying –suggestions, rave reviews, complaints, etc. – you set the foundation for important revenue-driving cross-selling opportunities.  

If you would like more information on how to optimize your e-commerce cross-selling, please email us at ecommerce@ignify.com.

Ashley Harbaugh is a Product Marketing Specialist at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRMeCommerce and ERP, software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has won the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 7 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 – Summary of What’s New

August 9th, 2013 Sandeep Walia No comments

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 is around the corner and will be generally available in Q4 2013. For those interested in what is coming, this blog article serves as a summary of the highlights of what is new in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 – codenamed Orion. I will focus on the functional enhancements in this blog article, the architectural enhancements in a second blog, and then the licensing changes in a final blog article.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Functionality Enhancements:

  1. Mobile Device and Touch-Optimized Screens:

A new user interface that is touch-optimized for tablets and mobile devices, with ability to swipe through forms and stages. Icons and fields are tailored for entry on a mobile device. For example, when I’m on the customer Fourth Coffee below, I don’t have to have a left navigation bar with hyperlinks for forms but can pull down a menu item to see all the related items, such as activities with the customer, documents uploaded for the customer, sales opportunities and customer service cases. As you will notice in the screen shot below – these are large size touch-optimized buttons that are easy to work with as compared to most applications in the market, which need the accuracy of a sniper to work with your mobile device.

Mobile Device and Touch-Optimized Screens

  1. Business Rules:

Business Rules

Configurable business rules in Microsoft Dynamics allow you to set business rules which, based on certain conditions, can have actions tied to them. For example, you can automatically populate other fields including calculated fields. These business rules work on the web forms, tablet/mobile applications, and the new quick create forms. They can be applied to a single form or to all forms for an entity. These business rules are solution aware, so they can be made part of a CRM solution. The solution architecture itself has been improved, and I’ll talk about that later in the blog article. The business rules also support labels for localization, and there is full SDK support through the workflow API.

These business rules can have processes, and each process can have constraints or steps that need to be completed before you move to the next stage

As an example – the screen shots below show a demo of a Biking event. We want to set a rule that if the bike type is Mountain, then a Waiver is required and additional information is captured – e.g., date waiver signed, etc. So we set up a Waiver rule, and if the Bike Type Equals Mountain, then the Action is that Waiver is Required.  The screen below depicts that.

design view of the Event form

The screen above shows the design view of the Event form, which has the fields Bike Type (dropdown with values = Mountain and Road) and the Waiver Type. Also notice the Business Rules Explorer on the right hand side that shows all of the Business Rules setup.

Waiver Rule setup with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013

Waiver Rule setup with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 with Condition where Bike Type is Mountain, then an action will be taken.

Auto Action on the Business Rule

Auto Action on the Business Rule. The action here is that the Waiver Required field will automatically become Yes and will be locked so it will not be editable.

  1. Image/Photo support:

All entities including contacts, leads, accounts can have images tied to them, as in the example of Jim Glynn shown below.

Image/Photo support

  1. Quick Create Forms:

These are essentially forms that allow you to do quick actions when on a form – e.g., you can be on a customer and create a contact from there quickly. Or you can be in the sales area and click on create and create a lead, opportunity, account, activity very quickly. These forms are especially helpful to be able to enter data very quickly, as these are tailored to take the least amount of data required. You can of course select the fields needed.

Quick Create Forms

For example, if I received a phone call from a prospect that saw us at a Charity event for a donation we made and I just want to capture some basic information, I can do that on the Campaign response Quick Create form shown below. The field you want to capture on the Quick Create form can be configured, and as you’ll notice the only mandatory fields here are the subject and the campaign. Others are optional fields. This is especially useful when you are on a phone call or have to jot down a quick note, so instead of reaching out for a pen or paper, you can reach out to Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Quick Create Forms

  1. Real-time workflows:

Real-time workflows

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 introduces synchronous workflows which work on the same process framework – i.e., the same web designer as before. These work everywhere – i.e., web, mobile, or through the CRM SDK, allowing for the build once, use anywhere. These workflows are very powerful and are transaction aware. What does that mean? That means that all steps run within a single transaction. If something goes wrong there is full roll-back capability with the workflow.  In addition, these workflows support both pre- and post-pipeline stages. Simply stated, you can determine at what point the workflow kicks in – after or before an action happens.

Real-time workflows

In the workflow web designer screen, there are now options that allow you to specify the scope of the workflow – e.g., the organization or a business. Also, there is a Start When field which has a Before and After ‘Record is created’ or ‘Record is deleted.’ These workflows also have security enhancements in that these don’t need to now run under the security permissions of the owner of the workflow. You can have the option to run under the security privileges of the owner of the workflow, or the security privileges of the user who made changes to the record.  This helps significantly with security integrity and ensuring that the workflows’ security can be managed to the security permissions of the user that is triggering the workflow.

For example, in the screen shot here – the workflow I have is set to be run after the record changes and the scope to be the entire organization but to run with the security privilege of the user who changes the record.

To understand the power of the real-time workflow, here is an example in action. When a new lead is created and tied to an existing contact, the workflow will in real-time bring over the contact information for the lead and populate the lead screen. This would in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 have required that the record be saved to trigger a workflow and then the record be reopened to see the information (which defeats the purpose). Alternatively, this could have been achieved in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 with Java script, which requires programmer expertise. However, with the real-time workflow, no programming is requires as you can configure the workflow to run real-time immediately after the action is taken.

Step 1: Lead information is entered.

Lead information

Step 2: Real time workflow in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 fills in details of the existing contact and account that is linked to the lead.

Real time workflow in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013

  1. Native Mobile Apps:

At the beginning of the blog, I talked about a mobile-optimized UI. This will allow you to use Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 from any tablet or phone device, including an Android, iOS or Windows mobile device. However, in addition to that, there are two apps for the Windows Surface devices and the iPad that will provide native apps for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013. As I understand, the plan is for these to be available at no additional cost if you have a user license.

Overall, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 brings significant functional enhancements to the already powerful platform. If you are interested in evaluating Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 for your organization, please do not hesitate to write to us as crm@ignify.com. Watch out for our next blog on technical and architectural improvements in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013.

Disclaimer: This information is based on the beta version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 so things may change, though it is unlikely that any functionality listed above will not be in the final release. However, this is not an authoritative guide of what is new since the GA is not yet out. This article is based on personal research and does not reflect Microsoft or Ignify’s opinion.

Sandeep Walia is the CEO of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of CRM, eCommerce and ERP, software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has won the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 7 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.