Archive

Archive for September, 2013

The Rise of Gift Cards: Promoting Your Gift Card Offerings

September 30th, 2013 Ashley Harbaugh No comments

Gift cards belong to an extremely select group of items that are universally adored by both gift givers and gift recipients. For gift givers, picking out the right thing can be difficult (is this the right color? The right style? Will he/she like this?), so gift cards offer a quick, easy, no-decisions-required present. And gift cards are incredibly versatile as well – they can be given to friends, relatives, co-workers, etc. For gift recipients, gift cards are useful, helpful, and valuable – they can pick out what they like or need.

If you don’t believe me, check out the results from a survey conducted by the Retail Gift Card Association (RGCA). According to the 1,000 consumers who were surveyed regarding their attitudes, behaviors, and preferences of giving and receiving retail gift cards, 71.3% said they feel very satisfied when they receive a retail gift card as a gift, and 91.4% report that they plan to give one to three retail gift cards as gifts in the next three months.

According to RGCA executive director Rebekka Rea, “This survey shows that gift card continue to evolve in terms of their utility for many gifting occasions and they continue to be coveted by recipients.”

This survey confirms that with a lot of people choosing to purchase gift cards from retailers, it’s important to incorporate these highly desirable commodities into an online retail merchandising strategy.

Optimize Your Website

Having a clean, uncluttered, easily navigable website is the fundamental basis of good e-commerce site design, but it also helps achieve a couple different goals in regards to gift cards.

Firstly, having a site that prominently and attractively displays your merchandise, and that displays it in an organized and intuitive fashion, shows what a wide selection of different, high quality products you offer. And this conveys to shoppers that buying a gift card to your store would be a good purchase. 

It may seem like an obvious point, but to consumers, what your website looks like is a reflection of your business itself. For example, if a brick-and-mortar store looks shabby, run-down, and cluttered, is it going to inspire a ton of foot traffic? No. If an online store is outdated, slow, and confusing, is it going to inspire a ton of web traffic? No.

Secondly, if your merchandise is displayed prominently, then that means your gift card offerings can be prominently displayed too. If people can quickly check out what kinds of gift cards you offer, then they will be more motivated to purchase them as well.

The Rise of Gift Cards: Promoting Your Gift Card Offerings

By showing what kinds of gift cards you offer, and by making the process for getting those gift cards easy and painless, you encourage shoppers to add them to their shopping carts.

Run a Promotion

Even though posting your gift cards on your online store is a good first step toward publicizing your gift card offerings, generating more awareness (and excitement) through promotions is another way to convert gift card sales.

Since budget-conscious shoppers these days are mindful of getting the best bang for their buck, bundled promotions are helpful in appealing to their value mindset. For example, running an annual special around the holidays where if customers buy $100 worth of gift cards, they receive an item that’s worth $30. Even if a shopper wants to purchase a gift card for another person, that shopper will be more likely to actually buy it if there’s value to him as the purchaser (we all want a good deal!).

Expand Your Marketing Lists

Since positive word-of-mouth advertising is one of the most powerful and effective ways to get your company out there, making sure that your customers know about your gift card options is helpful way to boosting gift card purchase conversions. By building up your email marketing lists, you’re able to expand your outreach to customers, which leads to indirect exposure through their sharing to relatives and friends.

Since people are not always keen to provide personal information because of the fear of receiving a bunch of spam mail, the best way to get them to volunteer their details is to make it worth their while. Even a really small incentive, like giving customers who subscribe to your email list a 5- or 10%-off coupon for their next purchase is helpful for communicating that you understand the importance of their information, and that you want to provide them value for it.

And do remember to focus on providing value in your email campaigns. If you send too many sales-y and promotion-y emails, customers are going to tune out or unsubscribe. By being sure to give useful information in your emails in addition to promotions, you will increase your chances of getting customers to consistently open your emails.

For more information on how to improve your e-commerce channel’s gift card offering, 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.

Ignify eCommerce Performance Benchmark for Online Store Traffic Volume

September 27th, 2013 Brijen Bhatt No comments

Ignify conducted a benchmark to simulate web store performance for demonstrating how catalog browsing and order placement processes scale under a heavy load with a large size database on commodity hardware. A low-level, 4-core server with 16GB RAM and a single SATA hard drive in RAID1 array was able to serve 84,000 page views and 2,000 plus orders in an hour.

Note that 3 web servers with the same database server will handle up to 250,000 page views and 6,500 orders per hour.

High Level Results Summary

The benchmark demonstrated that the web store architecture scales significantly without any performance bottlenecks.

  • 84,000 pages viewed in an hour.
  • 2,185 orders of 3 lines each received in an hour.
  • 2,400 search requests served in an hour, each request resulted in an average of 2,500 search results.

We simulated the following activities in the environment. The diagram below shows the activity flow that we simulated in the environment.

Ignify eCommerce Transaction Flow

Fig.1.0 Ignify eCommerce Transaction Flow

Throughput Measurements

Scenarios

Concurrent users load

Peak hours

Volume per minute

Page View Count

700

1

1400

Order Placement

700

1

36

Keyword Search

700

1

40

Responsetime Measurements

Request

Avg. Response (ms)

Home Page

553

Keyword Search

325

Category Product Listing

553

Product Details

282

Add Item to Cart

87

View Cart

6

Login

338

Address Information

132

Shipping Quotation

137

Payment Information

302

Order Completion

36

The average checkout response time was 1.74 seconds.

Utilization Summary

This section shows the performance characteristics of application server and database server instances that were running on workloads.

Application Server Statistics

Measure

Benchmark

Average CPU Utilization

56%

Peak Memory Utilization

43%

Average Response Time

80ms

Database Server Statistics

Measure

Benchmark

Average CPU Utilization

16%

Peak Memory Utilization

77%

Average Response Time

7ms

Hardware Configurations

Application Server Hardware Specification

  • Single Application Server hosting IIS 7 and Ignify eCommerce Web Store
  • Microsoft Virtual Machine
  • X64-based PC
  • Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU X7550 @ 2.00GHz 1994 Mhz, 4 Core(s), 4 Logical Processor(s)
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise 64 bit
  • 16GB RAM

Database Server Hardware Specification

  • Single Database Server hosting SQL Server 2008 R2
  • Dell PowerEdge R410
  • X64-based PC
  • Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5506 @ 2.13GHz 2128 Mhz, 4 Core(s), 4 Logical Processor(s)
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Enterprise SP1
  • 16GB RAM

Database Disk Configuration

  • SATA RAID1 HDD 750GB
  • 7,200 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute)

Benchmark Data Composition

The benchmark ran on a 16GB database (excludes logs) running with uncompressed data. The system was configured as follows:

  • 500,000 items in the catalog across 800 categories
  • 500,000 customers with 2,500,000 addresses
  • 175,000 price trade agreements
  • 10,000 promotional offers
  • 800,000 orders with total 2,000,000 lines

Benchmark Methodology

The Load Storm was used to generate load, which simulates real user behaviors like logging in, purchasing, clicking links, and browsing the site.

The New Relic was used to monitor the environment that records necessary measurements during the load.

Performance Benchmark Runtime Architecture

Fig.2.0 Performance Benchmark Runtime Architecture

Measurements were recorded on single application and database servers. The benchmarks were taken when the concurrency reached to the steady state. The steady state was maintained for an hour with linear load in repeated runs. Scenarios were considered successful when the deviation among consecutive 3 runs for response time and throughput was 3% or less.

Recommendations

Given the low utilization of the database server, additional web servers can be used to scale up the capacity of the web store. For example:

  • 250,000 page views can be served and 6,500 orders can be placed in an hour using 3 web servers and the same database server.
  • 24,000 search requests can be served in an hour using 10 web servers and the same database server.

Disclaimer

These benchmark results were performed in a controlled lab environment in which Ignify eCommerce was the only running application (that is, no other applications were running on these servers). Performance tests and ratings reflect the approximate performance of Ignify eCommerce. Any difference in system hardware, software design or configuration, customizations, transaction mix, data composition, or indexes may affect actual performance. The transaction mix and data composition affects sizing and hardware requirements. Inherently, Ignify believes that the Ignify eCommerce stack and application are built to scale, and changes to the code base need to go through localized performance testing. A customer or partner should consult other sources of information to evaluate the performance of systems or components they consider purchasing.

If you have questions, or if you would like a copy of the Ignify eCommerce benchmark test, please email us at ecommerce@ignify.com.

Brijen Bhatt is a Sr. Manager of eCommerce at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of eCommerceCRM, 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.

3 Tips for Converting Online Merchandise Returns into Customer Returns

September 16th, 2013 Ashley Harbaugh No comments

Merchandise returns – I know the term is enough to make any retailer groan. We’ve already covered in a previous blog article the ways that you can try to prevent merchandise returns from happening, but they are still an unavoidable part of the retailer’s life.

Given that Americans return 9% of all retail purchases each year – which translates to approximately $264 billion worth of goods, according to InvestorPlace – returns are not going anywhere anytime soon.

With such significant numbers of customers heading to the return aisle, it’s important for retailers, especially online retailers, to keep in mind that returns management is another exciting opportunity to wow your customer. And when customers are happy, they keep coming back.

Read our three tips below for optimizing the merchandise returns process, and for giving your customers a reason to visit again.

1. Self-Service Return Capability

Online shoppers are an independent bunch. Equipped with technology that enables them to research or purchase whatever they wish, whenever they wish, customers want the same freedom when it comes to returns – they want to be able to return items whenever they like.

By enabling self-service returns, online retailers give customers crucial power and control over their purchasing decisions. With Ignify eCommerce, customers can easily create new return requests from their My Accounts. While creating new return requests, customers can select a return reason code that can determine the lifecycle and treatment of the return order.

Self-Service Return Capability

By including a selection of return reasons in customers’ return request forms, you gain crucial data regarding their return behavior, which helps you to better market and merchandize accordingly. 

For example, you can set up your return policies in the system so that the reason return code entered by the customer determines the refund amount that the customer will receive. For instance, a “Damaged Merchandise” return reason code could mean that a customer would receive a full refund; or a “Changed Mind” return reason code could provide a partial refund. You also have the ability to configure your e-commerce store so that customers are able to return an entire order, an order line, or just a partial quantity on the order line.

With this flexibility, if a customer orders multiple items but only wants to return one, then he does not need to return the entire order – which means merchants do not have to process multiple returned items, and thus lose out on those revenues, for the sake of one.

2. Visibility on Return Status

Not only has technology made customers want the instant ability to complete whichever action they want (purchasing, returning, etc.), but it has also made them want, and expect, the newest updates.  Just look at social media –– everyone is always connected to their social networking sites, constantly on the lookout for new happenings in their friends’ lives, or posting their own new life events.

By allowing customers to view the status of return orders – such as Being Processed, Item Received, and Return Completed – merchants communicate to customers that their returns have been recognized and are being handled. Essentially, the anxiety and guesswork of a customer returning an item is eliminated.   Customer service representatives also have the ability to see return statuses, providing full visibility should a customer contact them to verify the placement of a return order.

Visibility on Return Status

Providing customers with up-to-date statuses on their returned merchandise gives greater visibility into the process – which helps put their mind at ease that their return is being handled.

3. Customizing Special Offers Based on a Customer’s Return Information

So you’ve given a customer an easy, smooth, and painless item return process – that’s where the return engagement ends, right? Wrong!

Without a doubt, giving customers an outstandingly simple item return process is absolutely crucial. If they don’t have a good experience making a return, then it can make them look at the entire purchasing process in a negative light – which means there’s a definite chance they won’t want to purchase from you again. 

But in addition to providing excellent return service, if you want to really differentiate your business from your competitors in regards to return service, send targeted promotions based on your customer’s returned merchandise, or on their reasons for returning.

For example, if a shopper says that she decided to return a shirt because she simply changed her mind, follow up with an email campaign sharing the cool new sales on all the tops in your store, or on new shirt arrivals, etc.

Or if the reason that a customer returned an item was because it was broken or not working properly, you can send him a small discount coupon to redeem on his next purchase.

By personalizing offers according to customers’ desires and behavior (even for customers in the return line), you convey to your customers that a) you value their business; b) you recognize them as individuals, not just a nameless and faceless mass; and c) you appreciate them spending their time and money on your store. When people feel sincerely valued, then they will feel comfortable visiting and purchasing from you again – even if they had a previous experience where a product didn’t work out.

Merchandise Returns: Another Customer Service Touch Point

It’s important to remember that merchandise returns are another touch point with customers, making it another way for you to build and strengthen those customer relationships. Optimizing every interaction with customers is a way to keep expanding your customer base – which translates to maximizing potential revenues. And what better way to make your store stand out than by creating an exceptional customer experience in the place that customers expect it the least? 

For more information on how you can optimize your e-commerce sales channel, 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.

Make Your Company Customer-Centric with CRM for Insurance

September 9th, 2013 Ashley Harbaugh No comments

Putting the customer first is important for any industry, but nowhere is that concept more crucial than for insurance agents, brokers, and customer service representatives.

With technologically connected consumers able to access and research competitors with just a few clicks of their smartphones, customers have access to a plethora of different options. Armed with this information, consumers are going to companies where they feel they get the most value – and also where they feel most valued. 

According to a report by the PwC titled “Top Insurance Industry Issues in 2013”, policy shopping and switching behavior is rising. Shoppers increased from 27 to 33% of total insurance customers between 2009 and 2011. Out of the people who shopped, switchers also increased from 37 to 39% (10 to 13% of all customers) from 2010 to 2011.  

While price is a significant factor for shoppers, the customers who are the most price-sensitive and willing to switch for any discount are not your most profitable segment.

But the customers who value brand and policyholder experience, who are basing their shopping evaluations on the customer experience that an insurance company offers, are highly valuable to attract and retain. 

By optimizing the customer experience, you make your mark as a company that truly listens to your customers and helps them get what they need – a crucial differentiator that persuades an unhappy shopper to move, and gets your current customers to stay. 

With CRM for Insurance, you are able to effectively manage customer data and track your team members’ engagement with customers, which allows you to provide comprehensive, efficient service at all times.

Centralized Policyholder Information

When a customer contacts your company with a question about their policy, or to make a claim, or to inquire about new services, it’s important for any agent or service representative to be able to interact knowledgeably.

With CRM for Insurance serving as a central repository for all customer data, you equip your team members with complete access to a customer’s account, including customer profile and history, relationships, support records, etc. Data can also be shared across departments, product lines, channels, and intermediaries. With this information, representatives are able to better understand a customer’s needs and preferences, allowing them to more adeptly communicate with the customer and thus increase client confidence.

Information on prospective accounts is also captured so that even if a customer does not accept an initial quote or move to policy origination, you can keep them in your database as a lead and contact them again. Or, if they choose to contact your company again at a future date, the fact that you have a complete record of your past interactions, and that you can refer to those previous inquiries in the current conversation, signals close attention to the person’s needs.

Centralized Policyholder Information

By having complete access to a customer’s account information, agents and service representatives are able to better understand the needs and preferences of a customer, and thus interact with them more effectively.

Consistent Levels of Customer Response

Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than working with an attentive, focused agent or service representative in one instance, and then having to work with a less attentive representative in the next instance.

To ensure that customers get the same level of customer response across your organization, using CRM for Insurance to create workflows that trigger when a person reaches out to a representative is a helpful way to get your team all on the same page.

For example, creating phone script dialog workflows that service reps can follow when a customer calls in is an important way for reps to handle first contact response quickly and thoroughly. Without a workflow in place, it can be easy for reps to miss an important step, or an important question – which can cause a potentially negative future impact on your relationship with the prospect or customer.

Consistent Levels of Customer Response

With phone script dialog workflows, your service reps are able to improve first contact response and ensure that the customer’s questions or issues are addressed and resolved satisfactorily.

Knowledge Base for Quicker Resolutions

With CRM for Insurance, not only do your representatives have a comprehensive database of customer and prospect information at their fingertips, but they also have access to all troubleshooting guides, data sheets, etc. that your company has available.

The Knowledge Base functionality in CRM for Insurance enables your agents and service reps to find the documents that are most relevant for serving the customer at hand. The ability to quickly locate information that is most applicable to a customer’s specific issue saves representatives crucial time and energy, leading to quicker issue resolution and a happy customer. The Knowledge Base can also provide suggestions on which documents would be most helpful for tackling the particular customer query that you’re working on.

Knowledge Base for Quicker Resolutions

The Knowledge Base is an important repository of information for your organization. Able to contain documents such as troubleshooting guides, frequently asked questions manuals, and other documentation on policies, etc., and able to be accessed by any of your team members, the Knowledge Base is an important way to speed up first contact response.

Taking the Customer-Centric Approach

By better equipping agents, brokers, and service representatives to improve the customer experience, insurance companies reduce operating costs and benefit from higher levels of customer satisfaction – which translates to higher customer retention rates and new potential customers. By implementing a well-defined and executed customer relationship strategy, organizations are able to turn their focus to developing other initiatives that impact costs, premiums, new business, and renewal rates.

For more information on how Ignify can help improve your customer relationship management processes, please email us at insurance@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.