Customer relationship management (CRM) is a top priority for many e-tailers this year, as customer expectations regarding the online experience are at an all time high. In order to contend in the ecommerce arena, some e-tailers are turning to service providers to gain an edge on the competition. Below is an overview of four providers and the products and services they offer to support online sellers.
Baynote for Personalization
Baynote personalizes the online shopping experience, and serves clients such as Dell, 3M and General Mills. The company, whose roots are in search technology, redefines how end customers find products on a retail site. Baynote offers algorithms that look not only at item-to-item affinity, but also at search terms' relationships to clicked products. "We also offer results not typically seen from pure product recommendation engines," notes Dan Darnell, VP of product and marketing. Darnell identifies a site's responsiveness as his foremost concern in online buying. "Personally, when a site doesn't quickly help me locate a product, I leave," he says. Baynote strives to help its clients prevent their customers from doing the same.
To enhance the customer experience, Baynote also provides landing pages, crafts emails featuring personalized content and product recommendations, and sources video recommendations. "In our case studies, we have looked at what happens when clients use an intent-based search engine, such as those we create within websites," Darnell reveals. "With our recommendations, we tend to see a two- to three-time conversion rate, which is a great improvement over the norm."
Volusion for the Whole Gamut
Kevin Sproles founded Volusion in 1999 to craft online stores that provide the best possible user experience. Through a balance of credit card processing, design and marketing services, Volusion equips merchants with a combination of tools and expertise to navigate the changing online landscape. "Last year, our merchants sold three times the industry average and, because of that, we are constantly provided with fresh insight regarding what actually makes a website profitable," explains David Mitzenmacher, chief customer officer. "By far, the most successful of our clients are those who really understand that the customer experience is critical to loyalty and growth." The key to accomplishing this, he continues, is engaging with customers through a variety of contact points. Neglecting any area, be it daily deals, Facebook posts, Pinterest boards, Tweets or YouTube, could put retailers at a severe disadvantage. "None of these were on retailers' radar until just a few years ago, but you can't sell without them in 2013."
Volusion considers each client a unique entity. A teen apparel retailer, for example, would rely on advanced visual merchandising online, as well as social media features to enhance the target customer's emotional connection with the products. A client selling electrical supplies to construction industry workers, on the other hand, would benefit from Volusion's business-to-business features, such as volume discounts, product comparison grids and advanced shipping options. "Don't just consider the features a service provides," Mitzenmacher says. "Think about what can be done with them to generate sales." For some clients, this means allowing Volusion to take care of all online processes, from SEO to product campaigns. For others, the firm is simply a guiding voice, accessible at any time.
Vendio for Multichannel Commerce
Vendio streamlines sales across multiple channels, including eBay, Amazon, Google Shopping and proprietary online stores. "It's important that our clients are able to automate as many services as possible, so that they are able to spend more time focusing on the customer," points out Mike Effle, CEO. "One of our most important services is the inventory sharing module." Clients that sell products through several Internet stores that work from a single inventory benefit the most from this feature, he says, because it updates inventory information for multiple stores as sales are completed.
Once Vendio establishes what a client sells, it evaluates what stage the business is in. Some clients may be looking to focus on the customer experience, while others may be trying to boost sales by adding channels. After evaluating a client's existing channels, it is able to create a commerce plan for its next 12 to 24 months. "We recently worked with a client who needed to efficiently list an extremely high volume of products on eBay," says Effle. "We were able to provide a high transaction and update volume that no other service could offer." Other strategies include mobile optimization and social sharing. "Goods must be available for sale wherever customers congregate," Effle remarks. "This requires maximum social media activity because Google's algorithms will be increasingly designed to favor products being discussed on social media."
mShopper for Mobile Optimization
mShopper was formed six years ago under the leadership of CEO David Gould, former Virgin Mobile executive. The company specializes in transforming standard commerce websites into mobile optimized pages that are user friendly on smartphones and tablets. Its clients' smartphone traffic, for example, increased from five percent one year ago, to more than 20 percent at the beginning of the first quarter this year, signaling that the market for mobile optimization continues to grow. "Mobile commerce is all about convenience, spontaneity and ease," Gould explains. "Retailers that cannot provide those attributes will lose customers to more optimized competitors." Non-optimized commerce sites convert at a low rate, frequently lower than one percent, but when a website is mobile optimized, the conversion rate can increase fourfold. Also of note, mShopper enables online retailers to go live in one day because its information is streamed via data feeds.
When it comes to buying experiences, online shoppers expect four standards across the board, regardless of the type of product they plan to purchase. Consumers want flexible, consistent access to products and shopping carts, whether they are using a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer; they expect to be presented with a fun and innovative web design that makes Internet shopping enjoyable; they want to be evaluated based on their feedback, rather than on conversion rates; and they favor websites that are tailored to their personal shopping habits. With the right service provider, online sellers can fulfill each of these needs.
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