Referral Marketing Part III: How Tech Helps with the When & Where

Thanks for coming back for Part III of our Referral Marketing talks. In Part I we looked at what referral marketing is and why it is important. In Part II we went through content and incentive ideas to get your customers talking. Now we’re going to look at how to run your program with technology that lets you give your customers referral options at all stages.

When and Where Do You Use Referral Marketing

There are so many possibilities for getting your first-time and repeat customers to tell their friends about how much they need and want your products. A quick tip for thinking about when to ask for referrals: think about when your customer is happy or excited about your brand and products.

Think about giving your customer a nudge at some of these points:

·  On a purchase confirmation page. Give your customer options to like and share the product that they obviously liked enough to buy.

·  When they get the product. Did the customer just get the product and is excited that it came in the mail? Making your product or packaging instantly shareable by being picture or video-worthy can capture that energy; include a postcard or thank-you note that reminds your customers to share.

·  After they’ve used the product. Try sending a follow-up email that offers a referral incentive after the customer has had time to test the product and feels more strongly about recommending it.

·  When it’s time to reorder the product or get a new version. Give the customer who has already purchased an added incentive to make their next purchase by offering a referral bonus in a follow-up email.

·  At loyalty anniversary dates. Show your long-term customers some appreciation and build on that goodwill by sending them special referral incentives along with other loyalty programs.

Tech that Makes the When and Where Doable

So you’ve created your plan—you know the style you want to use, your incentives, who you want to reach and when. Now you’ve got to find the right tech that lets you follow through. Where can software help and what do you need?

·  Widgets to make social media sharing easy. You need to make it easy for customers to push out your images and video, and maybe pre-populated taglines. So you need to attach one-click sharing options in a lot of places—images, offers, emails. When thinking about the widgets that are best for you, think about whether your needs are simple or if you want more customization options with more control over design and placement.

·  Automation and personalization controls. If you’re hoping to send targeted referral offers at different times for different customers, triggered by the customer’s actions, you can’t do this manually. You’ll need software that places the right offers with the right purchase confirmation screen or email. There are many options to automate your referral offers, so think about the size of your program and how easily you need to make changes when choosing.

·  Influencer marketing tools. If you are running referral programs along with your influencer marketing programs, make sure your referral tools work with your influencer marketing tools.

·  Analytics tools. Making the most of any marketing plan means looking at what works and reorganizing. With referral programs, you need to track where referrals are coming from—for example, are certain review sites linking to your products? Find a way to make a stronger connection there by creating a special referral program. Which customers are following through when sent a referral? Figure that out to help you decide whether your discount or video-sharing program is strongest.

The right referral marketing software will depend on the kind of program you want to run. Get in touch and we can help you find the right features for your plan.

Elements of E-Commerce | Referral Marketing: Part 1

Welcome to Thanx Media’s “Elements of E-Commerce” blog series. Follow along as we wade through the nuts and bolts of e-commerce technologies that you need to know.

What is Referral Marketing?

Friends don’t let friends buy junk. Referral marketing looks to that trust—it asks your customers to spread the word about your company and products. Referrals put information and offers in front of new customers with an inherent personal recommendation.

A referral through a marketing program is an email or link sent by-a-friend-to-a-friend telling them to sign up for offers or buy products. The original customer might be given something in return for engaging other people. These incentive arrangements can also be part of influencer or affiliate marketing campaigns.

Word-of-Mouth and Recommendations are the Strongest Advertising

Does referring really work? There’s no question, it does.

An almost hard to believe example is Airbnb’s test referral program. The company offered existing customers cash to use toward future travel if they referred a friend. Almost every one of the referrals sent out actually led to a new Airbnb user! (2,161 existing Airbnb-ers referred 2,107 new users.)

You might question if that was a fluke, but there are so many reasons that referral marketing is one of the strongest ways to advertise:

1.  It’s the thing people trust the most:

⋅  83% of buyers say they trust recommendations by people they know. And 66% trust consumer and editorial opinions. (Nielson.)

⋅  84% of B2B buyers begin their decisionmaking with a referral. (LinkedIn.)

2.  Recommendations lead to high value customers:

⋅  The Harvard Business Review reports that in one case study, referrals led to new customers who were 18% more loyal and had 16% higher sales value.

3.  Referral marketing can have effects beyond the single referral:

⋅  Visibility. Even when referrals don’t lead to new buyers, the very fact of information sharing increases a company’s visibility. Asking a customer to send five referrals will promote your brand awareness, even if only one of those referrals leads to a sale.

⋅  Existing Customer Loyalty. Referral bonuses give your existing customers a reason to stay connected to your brand and products. You can add these incentives to other loyalty programs, doubling up on your customer care and giving you more chances to encourage your existing customers to make referrals.

4.  Most consumers are happy to make recommendations:

(But marketers need to make it happen!)

⋅  83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer a product or service but only 29% actually do. (Texas Tech.)

With all this evidence that it works, it only makes sense that we’re going to help you sort out how to run a strong program. Join us in Part II of our Referral Marketing discussion for ideas on incentives and referral media that will get attention, and Part III for a breakdown of resources and technology that will support a long-running program.

E-commerce Data Analytics: Do You Know What You’re Looking For?

Data analysis is becoming the center of successful and targeted e-commerce. Customers using websites, email and social media platforms give B2B and B2C e-retailers more information than was ever available for in-person sales. There is a way to use this data to strengthen focus on the strongest markets—for example, using predictive analysis tools Dell was recently able to send half the number of leads, but with a doubled return.

The question is, do you know what you are looking for? All of these online interactions mean almost endless behavior to track. How do you focus on the information that will help improve your marketing ROI?

Generating Long-Term Customers: Five Ways to Use Predictive Analytics

1.  New Customer ConversionWhat does a new shopper respond to that gets them to become a customer? Track inbound conversions from newsletters, emails and social media campaigns. Use data to find which products grab the most attention so that you know what should be front and center. Keep track of new sales that are tied to incentives, such as customer loyalty programs, to gauge what is most successful.

2.  Heat MapsWhat parts of your website are getting the most action? Heat map programs show you the hottest points on your site, so that you know what generates the most clicks and what items users are pretty much ignoring. Use this data to decide where information is placed on your site and where to add some graphic punch.

3.  Browsing Behavior Do your customers have a recurring focus? For example, your customers might consistently look at particular product specifications or shipping times most closely. Develop a sense of trust and increase your site’s ease-of-use by highlighting the information your customers find most relevant.

4.  Customer Long-Term ValueAre you generating repeat customers and which ones come back? If your marketing campaigns mostly get you single purchase customers, those campaigns may not be as successful as an initial sales figure suggests. Find common traits among repeat buyers to identify the strategies that create loyalty.

5.  Churn RateWhat spurs a customer to cut ties? Are you losing customers somewhere in the middle of their purchase decision? To successfully track your churn rate and understand what turns customers away, focus on both potential customers who abandon their carts and on previous customers who are no longer shopping—find the overlapping complaints and problems. Also, make sure it is easy for customers to share feedback so that you can consistently track and address complaints.

E-commerce Challenges for B2B and B2C Firms

The channel shift to online for B2B buyers shows no signs of slowing down; in fact many would say that the convergence of B2B & B2C e-commerce is here.

B2C and B2B Firms Face Overlapping Challenges

A recent Aberdeen survey of the e-commerce activities of both B2B and B2C firms reveals many overlaps among the roadblocks impacting B2B and B2C e-commerce activities. According to the survey, the top four challenges facing both B2B and B2C firms are:

  • Customers are increasingly using digital channels to shop; we need to be there.
  • We need to reach a wider shopper base to sell our products.
  • We need to differentiate ourselves from competitors by delivering dynamic and transformative digital shopper experiences.
  • We need to better respond to empowered requests to shop anytime and anywhere seamlessly across multiple channels.

Special Considerations for B2B Firms

Although B2B & B2C e-commerce have converged as it relates to priorities, challenges and shopper expectations, it’s also important to recognize the unique needs facing B2B firms.

What are the notable differences?

  • B2C is simpler. Generally speaking, prices are fixed, shipping is easy, there’s little to no tax complexity, and most consumer products aren’t heavily regulated.
  • Contrasted with B2B: prices are highly variable, fulfillment and distribution are more complicated, and there are many concerns about sales tax and regulatory restrictions.

So what steps should a B2B firm take to deliver a best-in-class omni-channel experience? Build a B2B e-commerce strategy that puts customers first.

Three key things to keep in mind as you’re formulating your B2B e-commerce strategy are:

  1. B2B buyer expectations have been shaped by their B2C transactions
  2. By 2025, Millennials will become 75% of the global workforce
  3. Thinking digital first means thinking mobile first (yes, even for B2B buyers)

B2B firms can learn a lot by modeling customer experience best practices after the top B2C online retailers. But don’t forget these key B2B buyer needs:

  • Split shipping and multiple ship-to addresses
  • Quotes and Request for Quote (RFQ)
  • Competitor cross reference
  • Custom catalog and contract pricing

If your B2B e-commerce platform isn’t where it needs to be, now is the time to make the investment in modernizing the way you do business.

How Personalization & Automation Boost Conversions

We know that relevancy is a key conversion factor—the more closely a product matches the consumer’s intent, the greater the chances of capturing a sale. According to a study by Magnetic (formerly MyBuys) and the E-Tailing Group, 39% of respondents stated that they buy more from retailers that personalize web recommendations.

But it would take an army of merchandisers to manually execute a 1:1 personalization strategy, right? Actually, that’s why we use technology. Thanks to modern technology, you don’t have to be Amazon to automate a personalized product recommendation strategy to supercharge your online sales.

The right product recommendation engine is an e-commerce merchandiser’s best friend. It takes the guesswork out of your e-merchandising personalization strategy by enabling your business to use historical and real-time shopper behavior. Use that data to personalize and engage your customers with some of these strategies:

Automated Personalization Strategies that Increase Conversions

  • Dynamic Landing Pages — Customize landing pages and personalize them based on geographic location, brand preference, and other demographic information.
  • Behavioral Emails — Include targeted product recommendations based on website activity and order history in your email strategy.
  • 1:1 Personalization — Machine-learning technology tracks an individual’s actions and behaviors in real-time and suggests highly relevant complementary products.
  • Intelligent Search — Search that “learns” and refines product listings to increase relevancy as your visitors shop.
  • Dynamic Navigation — Intelligent facet sorting based on category and shopper behavior.

Personalizing the entire shopping experience is possible, and is a must marketing strategy that translates directly to higher conversion rates.

Part 3 | Source B2B E-Commerce Talent Creatively

Welcome back to Part III of our series discussing the three key issues highlighted in the Forrester report “B2B E-commerce: A Trillion Dollars For the Taking”. Now that we’ve talked about the importance of optimizing the B2B customer experience and reviewed some tips on how to overcome channel conflict between e-commerce and direct sales, it’s time to talk about staffing.

Technical and Nontechnical Talent Needed for B2B Organizations

B2B organizations moving into e-commerce need to begin staffing to optimize the B2B experience to match B2C expectations. This will include:

  • merchandising,
  • personalization,
  • marketing, and
  • technical management

for creating online features such as those common to B2C online shopping.

In addition, B2B organizations need to address more complicated:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Sales force enablement
  • Purchasing workflows
  • Complex pricing models
  • Custom catalog and contract pricing
  • B2B specific fulfillment methods

Finding the Right Team

Staffing for the future of B2B e-commerce is going to necessitate training, collaboration, and creative thinking. The Forrester report “B2B E-Commerce: A Trillion Dollars For the Taking” offers a couple of insights:

  • Import talented B2C staff — According to the report, “Most B2B e-commerce executives tell Forrester that they prefer to hire employees who have a background in B2C e-commerce on the grounds that many strategies and tactics that have succeeded in B2C will also succeed in B2B.” A winning strategy is to hire talented B2C professionals: they can share insights to help create B2C-like experiences while being trained on B2B needs.
  • Convert promising internal employees — Many companies initially grow a B2B e-commerce presence by establishing a cross-functional team from tech management, marketing, and customer service for initial website setup. Rather than repositioning your focus or looking for outside staffing after your website is up and running, the report suggests that success may come from retraining these internal resources as part of an ongoing e-commerce team.

5 Tips to Find and Win the Micro-Moments

Micro-moments are critical touch-points in today’s customer journey—they are the moments when a consumer with a smart phone thinks: I need to go somewhere, I need to get something, I need to know the answer to this question right now. Every time someone picks up their phone, there is an opportunity for your company to be the one that gives them exactly what they want in that moment. That split second of satisfaction can make an immediate, and maybe loyal, customer.

Micro-moments create endless opportunities to connect with people, but which ones are worth pursuing?

5 Tips for Finding the Right Micro-Moments

1. Identify the top mobile-centric searches that lead to your company — Are customers coming to you because they are searching for a product in a nearby location, or are they looking for the answer to a how-to question? Tap into your analytics tools and resources like Google Search Console to discover how customers are ending up at your site via smartphone. Then plan relevant and eye-catching content for the particular questions your customers are asking.

2. Analyze the most popular questions asked of your brand and/or product category — Invest in resources to help you find and analyze the most common “what, when, and how” queries for your brand or product category. Know how customers get to your product, but also how they get to similar products. Think about whether your content can give them a more direct, thorough, or relatable answer than your competition.

3. Reframe consumer surveys — Focus on the when, why and where of customers connecting with your products, instead of just traditional questions about brand perception and customer demographics.

4. Leverage your internal team to create new ideas — Pull knowledge from all parts of your team—customer service, merchandising, marketing, or technical. Gather data about customer touch-points including call and chat logs and interactions with existing campaigns. Collaborative brainstorming with all of these groups gives you the best chance of identifying and matching customer intent.

5. Experiment with in-store interviews — If you have retail locations, visit them. Talk to customers you observe using their smartphones while browsing in product aisles: find out what they were looking for and whether or not the found relevant results.

A small device doesn’t mean a small purchase, so don’t miss the opportunity to make the most of it.

Considering a New E-Commerce Platform? 5 Must-Ask Questions

Buyer expectations include a unified customer experience across all channels and devices; if your current e-commerce platform isn’t meeting customer needs, it’s time to take a hard look at the topic of re-platforming.

But a shiny new platform won’t be shiny for long if you haven’t thought about your long-term vision, priorities and existing and future systems. Re-platforming is a large-scale project. The key is to understand and define your internal requirements before you start reaching out to vendors with an RFP. It’s amazing how many differences of opinion can emerge when defining the needs of an organization—don’t run the risk of failed implementation with a shift in priorities after the project has started.

5 Pre-RFP Questions for a New E-Commerce Platform

  1. Who are your customers and how do they interact with you? Ask yourself how you currently sell and fulfill, and how your customers buy from you. Who are your future customers; will their online behavior differ from your current customers? Make sure your platform can serve differing needs over time.
  1. How involved do you want to be with ongoing management of the solution? There are pros and cons to a SaaS versus the traditional approach for hosting your solution—the right answer depends on your preferences, budget, and resource availability.
  1. What is your ongoing support strategy? Do you feel too reliant on IT resources for managing your storefront right now? Think about the specific activities you would like to move into the hands of business users.
  1. What systems will require third-party integration? A comprehensive list of third party systems and applications (e.g. product reviews) that might be replaced by the new platform is a must to include in your RFP.
  1. What are the requirements of your OMS? Identify your back end requirements, such as inventory visibility and shipping requirements, to make sure you can discuss how your new system will address your needs in each area.

Extra Tips

  • Don’t get stuck trying to mirror the functionality you already had. Find a system that fully addresses long-term customer needs.
  • Don’t make your decision based on a demo alone. There are more than a few differences in e-commerce solutions when you look under the hood—make sure you thoroughly understand the system’s omni-channel offerings and how the system impacts all areas of your business. Prioritize finding the right long-term partner.

Four Question Quiz: Are You Keeping Up with the Right E-Commerce Platform?

We all know that sales have shifted from in-store to online purchasing. Shopper expectations now include high-functioning websites: they want to easily find product information, they don’t want to waste time browsing products that aren’t relevant, and they especially want to buy when they are ready to buy—that means they better be able to buy from their phones. These expectations can put a lot of pressure on small to mid-size sellers (both B2C and B2B) to keep up with the user-centered navigation of larger e-commerce websites.

But giving shoppers all the options they want is not optional. E-commerce that doesn’t function well will lead to lost sales.

So it’s time for the quiz: Are you using the right e-commerce platform?
#1: Do you get customer complaints about any of the following?
     o Products are hard to find
     o Search results aren’t relevant
     o Navigation isn’t consistent throughout the website
     o Slow page load times
     o Customers can’t figure out how to complete a purchase

#2: Does your platform include omni-channel ability, which keeps the buying experience consistent across channels and devices?

#3: Can you complete minor changes to your website quickly and without breaking other parts of your site?

#4: Can you implement marketing strategy without having to involve IT staff, including:
    o Personalizing product recommendations
    o Targeting marketing and merchandising campaigns
    o Boosting and/or burying products at a category level

If your current platform isn’t meeting the needs of your customers, it’s time to consider a new e-commerce platform. The right choice will be a platform that can integrate with your existing systems, give your customers the options they want, and is designed to customize to your specific needs.

Make sure to identify your internal requirements and set out your priorities and vision before you reach out to vendors. Implementing a new platform is a large-scale project and you don’t need the complications of a shift in priorities midstream.

Check back on our blog for more posts that will help you identify your priorities.

Are B2B Buyers and B2C Shoppers Different?

Thanx Media Blog B2B vs B2C shopper

The blurring line between B2B and B2C buying continues to be one of the most popular topics in e-commerce. When we know that B2B consumers have begun to expect a B2C-like experience online, should we just use one model?

Not quite. A B2B buyer is not the average online shopper looking for the best deal on a new pair of shoes. No, B2B buyers are not leisurely browsing commercial furniture or appliances; they don’t “window shop”. Instead, B2B buyers are more directed, want real details about your products and services, and want to build long-term relationships.

The B2B Buyer vs the B2C Shopper

Business buyers are sophisticated and may even understand your products better than you do. They:

  • buy products to stay profitable, competitive and successful
  • are far less likely to succumb to impulse buying behavior
  • have a high interest in educational content about the products and services they buy
  • negotiate pricing contracts
  • may place frequent repeat orders
  • need access to purchase history and account activity

B2C shoppers are increasingly tech savvy and are usually looking for the best price. They:

  • are less directed and spend free time browsing their favorite e-commerce websites
  • are heavily influenced by shipping costs
  • often make impulse purchases (especially when there is free shipping available)
  • do not negotiate prices, but instead research the competition prior to making a purchase
  • are less brand loyal and more likely to buy from a competitor based on price alone
  • often choose guest checkout—access to order information after the order has shipped is less important

Where do they overlap? Both want:

  • high quality customer service
  • an easy-to-use and well designed online experience

So, when building a B2C-like experience to meet the demands of your B2B buyer, remember that in additional to beautiful images of your products you need comprehensive details about the product’s specifications, that your platform should simplify access to user information, and that your customer service contact information should be prominent. Don’t lose B2B buyers with an e-commerce experience that is too sparse for their needs.