Clearly retailers need to understand what are the best and most effective methods to consider driving their loyal customers to their site during the holiday season.
SEM and email marketing are some of the ways retailers are trying to hook into visitor intent and cultivate profitable and lasting relationships. This is away from the traditional price-based promotions as a method to cultivate customer loyalty. Holiday season campaigns are measured with metrics that segment and identify customers across demographics to ensure successful sales. Some of strategies one can look at how to implement an effective holiday season are:
Countdown for shoppers
Time-tailored promotions and specials help shoppers count down to the holiday season. Campaigns like ’12 days for Christmas’ helps shoppers start planning and finding the right gift before the season and these early purchases helps retailers plan more repeat buyers’ incentives.
Give shoppers a sense of urgency with taglines like ‘offer of the day. Gone tomorrow’. These prompts the shoppers to make their purchase decision today knowing that tomorrow it might not be the same offer.
Most of the consumers definitely would come to your site during the holiday season. but equally inviting would be to throw in some offers like free shipping with a certain amount of purchase, free gifts, or even special repeat buyer discount to fuel repeat purchases from existing customers. These special offers dig your customer loyalty relationships and ensure a consistent flow of new and old customers.
Free shipping is vital as holiday shoppers are bound to purchase more when they know all they buy can be shipped without a cost. Most retailers offer this but marketers should also have legal implications to cover up demographic shipping issues and costs.
Personalized promotions, suggested items, gift idea center, live chat are some site features retailers use during holiday season promotions. these are used primarily to generate revenue from loyal customers. Most of these features should be personalized with the click stream behavior of the customers to get maximum sales.
Highlight seasonal content, products and categories and put the holiday season front and center so that shoppers can find, choose and buy gifts easily. Taglines like ‘shop for our exclusive gifts’ gets the message across clearly – recipients are unlikely to get these gifts anywhere.
Many retailers possess high performance analytic tools but at one point they find that these tools are not providing what it required and expected. Higher end solutions like Web Trends, Omniture or Coremetrics have capabilities which may outrun what a basic retailer requires from their sites. No tool would automatically improve site performance right out of the box – marketers have to select and configure as the first step. Some of the reasons some retailers have with their unsuccessful data metrics could be because:
Data using has no methodology
Some of the tools provide more than 4-6 million different views of your site’s website data. Retailers and marketers need to put a methodology in place to analyze the data based on overall site goals, identify opportunities and test solutions using analytics. It’s mandatory to have a team and process in place to keep this moving.
Focus required on KPIs
Metrics has to be clearly defined and prioritized before the KPIs are received to get the maximum data results. Focus is lost when the metrics are not clear and there is no priority levels defined.
Poor implementation tools
Retailers need to ensure that the tools which are set to provide information on key metrics has to be implemented and configured correctly. Otherwise data presentation would not be accurate and misguided patterns will arise.
If incorrect or incomplete data occurs due to poor tool implementations or less focus, then marketers should not act on them. Accuracy issues occur when marketers tent to adopt the incomplete data.
Retailers need to ensure that people who control the tools should communicate with those who are responsible for the site.
Tool training is must
Each tool is unique in how it presents its data and lets you to navigate and acquire the desired metrics. Marketers require to be trained or have the basic understanding of how to exploit the tool and know where to look and which data to focus.
Data migration projects highlight serious data quality issues that too often lead to delayed projects and cost overruns. In extreme cases, poor data quality has led to the abandonment of new business initiatives. Environments where high volumes of data are entered into key business systems are a breeding ground for data quality problems. Lack of user knowledge, absence of stable and robust processes, and missing relationship linkages can lead to poor quality data in any system. The most common issues are:
1. Incomplete Data
Data can be missing partially or completely. For instance if some field values are null and during migration process these were not handled in elegant manner, could cause lot of problems in proper functioning of the migrated system.
2. Duplicate Data
Multiple instances of the same data is a big problem during data migration. It’s unlikely that conversion will ignore duplicate data records. Since the data format is different in each of the duplicate records, though the information is the same, it is difficult to narrow down and ignore duplicate data records.
3. Data Non-conformity
This is because the way the data in the database is formatted differs greatly from individual to individuals who have created the database structure. Hence data is not present in the standard format.
4. Inconsistent and Inaccurate Data
When merging various systems, the data can lack consistency and represent wrong information. Data deteriorates over time, which can cause a lot of difficulties during migration.
6. Data Integrity
Missing relationship linkages can drastically degrade the quality of data and pose problems during migration.
Prior to developing a conversion utility for data migration, it is worthwhile to research the type of data presented in the system. This is similar to the requirements gathering phase of any project. Listing all the types of data that need to be converted reduces the risk of errors.
There are variety of tools available to use in the data migration process by both advanced and beginner developers. These tools are contingent upon the compatibility of the data environment and platform dependent.
Informatica Power Center – A functional programming tool for platform accessing, reporting and integrating data.
Ascential Data Stage – Provides OnDemnd data integration.
ESS Base Hyperion – Creates analytic and enterprise performance management applications.
Business Objects: Data Integrator – Builds data marts, ODS systems and data warehouses.
SAS Data Integration – Generates data streams, data marts and data warehouses.
Microsoft Data Transformation Services (DTS) – Aids data movement issues, and automates ETL processes through databases.
Oracle Warehouse Builder – Provides fully integrated relational and dimensional modeling and the management of data and metadata, among other functions.
For more tips on data migration read eCommerce Best Practices book
Request For Proposal (RFP) can be written for every requirement from all the departments of the retailer. So does that mean that every RFP is different from the other? To a certain extent the content and certain requirements would differ but all the RFPs include the same pre-defined sections like purpose, overview, RFP response, business requirements, technical requirements, support requirements, pricing and costs and finally summary.
This section should be very brief carrying a short description about the purpose of the RFP which is simple and straightforward in its objective. Retailers should be aware that they are requesting a proposal from multiple vendors for a possible service relationship.
Also a brief and simple section this should mainly cater to inform the vendors who you are as a company, your business, and how you want the vendor to handle the functions that they are outsourcing currently.
This section requires being more substantial in content. The retailer should request a response for addressing the vendor’s product history, what their implementation plans are, process for customization and training and finally customer references.
This includes detailed information about how you need things to operate. Care should be taken to ensure that the business requirement information is targeted and specified with respect to all the needs you want met.
This includes functional requirements and is probably one of the longest sections within the RFP. All question and answer slots should be made here so that the vendor can complete answers or, if needed, ask you for any clarifications. System details, management and requirement technicalities are some specifications that can be added to the list.
This deals with asking the vendor what support would be provides—emails, telephone, etc. Also points like whether there would be 24×7 support for all media to help minimize the response time to customer queries, requests, back orders, etc. should be addressed here.
Pricing and Deadlines
Be straightforward about your pricing format so as not to confuse the vendors or mislead them in any way. Identify startup costs, additional support costs; customization costs and, also in particular, any hidden costs. Deadlines for submission are equally important so that there is no delay in the process for finalization. All deadlines should be specified and valid points of contact should be identified from your side. Deadlines are a big factor in determining whether a vendor can actually deliver tasks on schedule.
Technology, today, enables customer service reps (CSRs) to conduct face-to-face interactions with more than five customers at one single time. Even though this is cost effective, it does not turn your order-takers and CSRs into Multi-Channel experts. Employee skill sets are mandatory, but what are they? Representatives that are wonderful with customers on the phone may not necessarily be communicative via emails or vice versa.
Personal attention to each customer is a part of good service, however, providing personal attention to several people simultaneously is harder than you might expect.
So what do you do to ensure the transition of Multi-Channels is smooth for CSRs and customers alike? Below are some standard considerations:
- Stay in the loop. You need to make sure that whenever any new promotions or catalogues are brought to customers, the CSRs also should always be informed before their customers.
- Plan to pay Multi-Channel reps more as the more complex the function is, the more downtime is required for training, organizing and resting.
- In the Multi-Channel arena skill testing is more critical. So when CSRs are hired, you need to set up a common customer service scenario and ask the candidates to role-play it verbally. Then ask them to handle the situation in an email format. Evaluation of channel service in contextual meaning, tone, accuracy and grammar would ensure your CSRs are on the way to your Multi-Channel plans.
- Set up QA (Quality Assurance) programs because the more complex the role and responsibility is, the more likely is that something will slip through. CSRs should identify the tone of emails, find out why the customer wants the specific need, and then address the query.
How to promote ROI mindset and mature from an activity-based to a result-driven retailer. There are many suggested options from marketers but the standard things are to build performance metrics, host weekly metrics meet and make the staff accountable for measurable results.
Performance metrics should start with every project having a performance scorecard that includes key performance indicators or KPIs. Weekly metrics meets allows marketing staff to review, discuss and reset direction based on ROI results. And finally ensuring the staff is accountable requires setting personal incentives within individual performance reviews and reward the abilities to meet or exceed the established targets.
Marketers should know that analysis is not an intuitive activity and they need to establish some momentum to infuse the ROI across everything. Some of the processes to initiate measurement within the ROI methodologies are:
Retailers need to focus their reporting on key metrics based on their marketing objectives. If retailers have the primary objective as ecommerce, then standard KPIs would be for average order size and browser to buyer conversion rate. Similarly if the site is geared towards lead generation, then a different set of metrics apply.
Marketers have to analyze data to identify trends and pinpoint areas that needs improvement. Shopping cart conversion funnels helps retailers see what percentage of visitors is lost on the shipping information page as an example. Examining the abandonment paths of the visitors would help further the immediate indication of what needs to be fixed to ensure customers are moving towards conversion stages.
Decision is important
Marketers and retailers after analyzing data are either not too sure of what conclusion to draw from the data and when to decide to make changes. Sometimes all major changes are done at once and results would not be convincing in the later data procured. Multiple changes make it difficult for marketers to know which specific changes had the greatest impact on performance. To avoid this both marketers and retailers need to make one decision at one time so that it can be measured. And action follows decision – you cannot improve results if you do not act upon the analysis.
Retailers measuring the results can plan their next strategies. marketers continue with the strategies and better them if the results are positive and if results are negative then strategies are re-organized and targeted.
An ROM estimate is typically expressed in terms of Person Days (PD) and in its simplest and most efficient way, indicates the number of days it would take a person to complete the task. It bears emphasizing that efficiency begins to diminish as each task is assigned to more than one person. In spite of well-documented fallacies regarding allocation of additional human resources to shorten the time required to accomplish a task, going back to 1975 and the publication of The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, managers continue to insist in the practice.
Of course, practicality dictates that a number of implementer rather than a single person participate in the implementation of a project, but as more and more people participate there are increasingly diminishing returns. Since allocation of resources and task assignment typically takes place sometime after the production of the ROM estimate, adjustments should be made to compensate for the inefficiencies that arise from the allocation of multiple resources and the communication and managerial overhead incurred.
At this point, you are well aware Pinterest exists and probably have read multiple articles on how to best leverage the network. If you haven’t implemented a Pinterest strategy, the infographic below from Socially Sorted and Mookoo Design details best practices and tips to make Pinterest part of your social media strategy.
Do you think any of the below tips are more helpful than others? Is Pinterest already part of your social media strategy? Have you seen results from your presence on the network? Read more
A common failure of estimation efforts stems from attempting to estimate the efforts to implement a requirement at too high a level. For example, an ecommerce website will likely require the implementation of shopping carts where a customer may place items into for subsequent purchase. It would be a mistake to try and estimate the implementation of this requirement at this level as it would likely result in an inaccurate estimate. Instead, the estimator should look to decompose the requirement into more detailed requirements that stand a better chance of being accurately estimated, but more importantly, will force analysis of what is entailed for its implementation.
This decomposition should be along the horizontal or functional dimension instead of the vertical or disciplinary dimension at all levels but the lowest. For example, the shopping cart requirement should be decomposed along the functional dimension into lower-level requirements such as: association of shopping cart to user, adding items to cart, clearing cart, removing items from cart, re-pricing cart, persisting cart, etc. instead of along disciplinary lines such as: analysis, design, implementation, test, deployment, documentation, etc. If each of lower-lever requirements is granular enough not to be further decomposed, then the vertical decomposition is applied, so that for each, an estimate for its analysis, design, implementation, etc, will be produced. Read more