Brands can keep or lose customers at every point in the buying cycle, from first open of the site to the re-ordering of purchases. BRANDPACKAGING talks to experts in the various steps of e-commerce activity on how to help your company help its customers.
Barry Clogan is the SVP of business consulting services at MyWebGrocer (mywebgrocer.com), a leading online e-commerce, marketing and data platform service for grocery chains and packaged consumer goods companies.
“MyWebGrocer enables grocers to have a relevant digital conversation with customers,” says Clogan. “As grocers embrace the changing retail landscape, they need to maintain their unique place in the hearts and minds of customers. However, that becomes more difficult as customers spend more and more time online instead of in the store — how do you continue to grow and build an emotional connection with your customers? MyWebGrocer helps retailers harness the enormous amounts of data that online and digital engagement creates, and by harnessing data, retailers can tell a lot about the lifestyle and shopping habits of their customers.”
Clogan states that building an online channel encourages customer loyalty, captures more of the customer’s spend, and allows retailers to engage with new segments in different contexts.
“Customers are loyal to an online grocer for the same reasons they are loyal to an offline grocer — range, price and shopping experience,” says Clogan. “Capturing a store’s ethos or offline experience and reflecting that online is a capability a lot of retailers don’t have, but one that is key to being relevant with customers and encouraging repeat engagements.”
Initially, grocers created generic shopping experiences online, says Clogan. However, as the market becomes more competitive and customers become more demanding, retailers need to give customers great online experiences.
“The range needs to be relevant to customers; they need to be able to find products and have all the product information they would be able to get in store,” says Clogan. “They need to be offered suitable alternatives that are relevant to their shopping habits, and a site needs to be traded, offering customers promotions that are relevant to their previous shopping behavior. The whole experience — from walking into a store (registering online), knowing where to find products (search capability), understanding what promotions are available (digital merchandising and trading) and having somewhere to pay (online checkout) — should be seamless to ensure customers return. Grocers have always wanted to offer customers convenience; online is the next evolution in that journey, but it needs to be a great experience or customers will go somewhere else.”
Mobile is driving more and more growth online — whether it’s Facebook, site visits or shopping trips, Clogan continues.
“The growth in mobile has been phenomenal over the past few years,” he says. “A mobile-first strategy is interesting: If you are to follow a mobile-first strategy, what difference would it make? Consider the distinct experience you must provide a customer: You have less screen real estate, yet they need to be able to complete the transaction and get much of the functionality they expect from a desktop experience. This demands a very different capability to deliver against customer expectations.
“From a personal perspective, I don’t think I have conducted my weekly grocery shopping on anything other than a mobile or tablet device for over a year. It is incredibly important to understand the different segments we are targeting and the contexts in which they engage with your brand. Since convenience is a significant driver for the reason to shop, ensuring customers can shop effectively on a mobile device is a must.”
By walking in the customer’s shoes, brands will find pain points as well as ways to delight.
“Understand how you engage with customers as they place their online shopping order while on a commute home versus the customer browsing your site on a tablet for some recipes and inspiration while planning a family celebration — sometimes it’s the same customer but in different contexts,” Clogan states. “Meeting their needs demands a solid digital product strategy and capability.”
Jeremy Bodenhamer is the CEO of ShipHawk (shiphawk.com). The company creates shipping software that offers e-commerce retailers logistics automation and shipping intelligence for parcel, home delivery, LTL and more.
When it comes to shipping, customers would like it free — or as close to free as possible.
“According to research by UPS and comScore, six of the top 10 reasons for cart abandonment are shipping related,” says Bodenhamer. “Shipping accounts for the vast majority of the $4 trillion dollars lost in 2014 to abandoned shopping carts.”
Notable results include:
- 56 percent of online shoppers abandoned their shopping cart because shipping costs made the total purchase more than expected.
- 45 percent didn’t complete their purchase because the order value wasn’t large enough to qualify for free shipping.
- 34 percent felt shipping and handling costs were listed too late in the checkout process.
However, brands know there is no such thing as truly free shipping.
“For online sales, shipping is usually the second most expensive cost after cost of goods,” says Bodenhamer. “Incomplete shipping solutions lead to partial or full margin erosion. ShipHawk reduces distribution costs and provides retailers with the data needed to increase their margins.”
“Delivery direct to consumer has become a key channel for brands,” he continues. “This realm presents its own challenges and has the potential to further complicate other distribution efforts. ShipHawk streamlines omnichannel shipping with a suite of solutions that address retailers’ changing needs. The solutions comprise three critical components: buyer experience, shipping intelligence and logistics automation.”
You’d do well to see the theme of buyer experience playing into your brand’s e-commerce outcome. Bodenhamer advises companies to integrate some best practices.
“Shipping cost is only one sales component retailers need to be aware of when working to provide an optimal customer experience. Even retailers who offer free or flat-rate shipping can fall into bad habits that result in lost sales. Proactive and transparent communication is the key to getting customers to complete sales. Provide shipping data in advance, before any registration walls, offer open and flexible return policies (research shows the more lenient the policy, the fewer the returns, so there is little reason for inflexible policies), and keep customers informed while their order is processing and in transit, providing them with accurate tracking instructions on the order receipt page.”
By perfecting shipping from both sides of the equation, brands will win their customers and remain competitive online.
“Data is king,” states Bodenhamer. “It is no longer adequate to trust one carrier with all of your shipping needs. Use shipping automation software to optimize each order, selecting the right packaging and carrier based on the unique characteristics of each transaction and each customer. Invest in shipping intelligence tools that keep you informed of real carrier performance, real costs and opportunities for savings, and actual customer data that will better inform marketing decisions and allow you to optimize margins.”
Gary Hively is the VP of sales at packaging products and equipment distributor Shorr Packaging (www.shorr.com). The company has been providing the industry with advanced solutions for more than 90 years. Recently, Shorr Packaging surveyed hundreds of adult e-commerce shoppers representing a cross-section of Americans.
“The aim was to understand consumer preferences around custom packaging and how shopping frequency and spending impacts those preferences,” says Matthew Zajechowski, SEO outreach manager and content specialist at Digital Third Coast Internet Marketing. “The main survey takeaway was that premium shoppers — customers who spend more than $200 a month — place added value on custom packaging design.”
What does custom e-commerce packaging entail for brands these days, and why should your company consider implementing it?
“Custom packaging for our clients typically means that the appearance of their packaging is driven by marketing,” says Hively. “Shorr Packaging’s approach is driven by more than just marketing: It is also driven by the total customer experience. In addition to the appearance of the packaging, we also address overall cost to serve, the customer experience when they open the package and the disposing of the packaging.
“The use of our Shorr Total Approach to Managed Packaging (STAMP) program addresses this point from the time the order is placed, up to the client’s front porch. We help our clients review everything from the pack station environment to total cost to serve, while never underestimating the customer’s experience.”
And, as you know, customers’ happiness with the online process determines your brand’s success.
“In the survey, we found that only 11 percent of e-commerce customers are completely satisfied with the packaging they receive today,” says Zajechowski. “Custom packaging is the first tactile experience that an e-commerce customer has with your brand, so it is important to make a positive first impression. We also found that returning customers spend an average of 67 percent more than first-time customers, which further reinforces the importance of making a good first impression with your packaging.”
See the full study results of Shorr Packaging’s study at http://bit.ly/1VwMgKk.