The Potential for Artificial Intelligence in Ecommerce

Artificial intelligence is becoming more ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Even ecommerce giant, Amazon.com, is paving the way for advancement with Echo – its smart-speaker running Alexa personal assistant software. But, while Echo and Alexa are consumer products, the technology behind them could soon become a mainstream component in ecommerce business strategies.

The aforementioned Amazon products use advanced speech recognition technology to perform tasks – like searching for information or re-ordering specific products from Amazon. The algorithms that help Alexa understand people can be used to improve efficiencies in many sectors of ecommerce. Speech recognition technology can be used in a call center to understand caller questions, then direct callers to the appropriate responses or call queues based on their needs. While this use of AI is not widespread in ecommerce yet, it’s already used by many banks and telecom companies.

Earlier this year, Facebook launched "DeepText," an AI learning-based tool designed to make sense of all the data on the social network. Potentially, this could help companies strategize their social marketing campaigns – enabling them to send targeted promotions based on an analysis of content posted by users. Similarly, platforms such as Microsoft’s Cognitive Services can analyze positive and negative feedback in customer reviews, highlighting key trends in user sentiment.
    
Given how quickly AI has developed in recent years, there could be many more applications for ecommerce in the near future. We look forward to seeing what else is in store!

Tips for a Successful Holiday Season in 2016

The holiday season is right around the corner, and when it comes, thousands of e-tailers will be clamoring for the orders of millions upon millions of consumers. Consider these tips to help your ecommerce site stand out from competitors and grab the attention (and the repeat business of) customers.
    

Customer Service

With so many ecommerce sites selling similar products, the way you handle the customer experience can be a key differentiator. Even though the holidays are high-volume, there are still easy ways to ensure that you’re providing customers with a good experience the first time (and every time) they purchase from you.

Value-added features

Coupons and contests are good ways to get attention – but during the holidays, every site is offering them. Think about ways a customer can find added value from choosing you over another ecommerce site. Some examples include membership or subscription programs, alternative payment options, customer-friendly returns, and other ideas.

Demonstrate your expertise

Customers that are interested in a particular category of products (e.g. tools, clothes, or nutritional supplements) seek sellers who are perceived as experts in the area. If your ecommerce site specializes in certain products, showcasing your passion and expertise via blog posts, newsletters, and social media posts demonstrates thought-leadership and trustworthiness – which can drive sales and enhance brand reputation.

Sales Tactics for Ecommerce

Just because the majority of ecommerce orders are completed without customers interacting with salespeople, doesn’t mean that there aren’t multiple types of selling strategies at your disposal. As long as have a good understanding of your audience and their shopping behaviors, you can use the following tactics to show off products and make sales that you may have otherwise missed.
    

Upselling

You can upsell to customers by recommending products that are higher in price, but more enticing (i.e. better quality, more features, etc.). Upsells should be based on items that a customer has already shown an interest in – otherwise, they're just untargeted ads. Read our previous blog post to learn tips and tricks for more effective upselling.

Down-Selling

Instead of offering a discount on a premium product to secure a sale, you can down-sell by suggesting a cheaper alternative product. This can be a great way to retain customers and keep inventory moving.

Cross-Selling

Cross-selling is when you suggest a product that complements another item a customer has shown an interest in, such as accessories. Cross-sales can increase customer satisfaction with their order, while increasing your revenue.

Bundle-Selling

Bundling products together at a cost lower than their individual combined prices can motivate customers to spend more to take advantage of the offer. Because of its similarity to cross-selling, you may want to try some A/B testing to figure out which tactic works best with your audience.

What to Look for in a Call Center Partnership

Because of its role in helping and retaining customers, your call center is a critical part of the overall customer experience you provide. If you opt to outsource your call center management, you need to consider how well a company can represent your brand, in addition to their capabilities and cost – just as you would do when choosing a 3PL provider.
    
The first thing you should do while vetting potential call center providers is to review their performance metrics. For example, the call center services provided through Fulfillment Works boast:

  • average hold times well below one minute
  • average abandon rates of 1-2%
  • average call time of 4 minutes
  • one-call resolution for 98% of total volume

When you find call centers with performance statistics that meet your standards, you need to ensure that the call center will maintain that performance for your customers. That’s why it’s important to evaluate each call center’s approach to training its staff – not just in handling calls, but how to handle calls from YOUR customers. Before agents start answering customer calls on behalf of your company, they should receive a detailed overview of your company’s systems, policies, and products to enable them to handle a wide variety of customer situations. And just as your company continuously grows and changes, so to should the call center’s training be ongoing. Our call center agents are thoroughly trained on new accounts before handling any calls. Agents stay up-to-date on account data through monthly reviews. This training approach provides agents with the continuous learning they need to provide the best customer service possible.

Choosing the right call center is a major step in leveling up your overall customer service. Carefully vetting your providers not only ensures a better deal for your business, it's also an opportunity to improve your customer retention and brand reputation.

Ideas for Reinvigorating your Product Images

In ecommerce, images are an important part of the design for your product pages. The purpose of product images is to help customers get a strong grasp of what it is they’re actually buying. While the product description is also important for building this consumer confidence, images can be more impactful, since they are the closest thing to "experiencing" the product first-hand. To ensure the images for your product pages are effectively driving purchases, follow these best practices for ecommerce images.
    

Images should be properly sized

Image files should be as large as possible to show necessary details, but they also need to accommodate the design of the product page. Use modal windows (aka, lightboxes) to enlarge thumbnails and provide manipulation features (e.g. zoom, rotation, etc.).

Show as many variables as possible

Ideally, images answer all of a customer's potential questions about the product's size and appearance. Make sure that your product pages utilize a gallery of images to show customers as many models, colors, angles, and other variables as possible.

Use many types of images

Give your users something more than the standard manufacturer-provided photos – which tend to convey only the most basic information about a product. Add images of the product in use, before assembly, and on display to give customers more information. Additionally, you can allow previous customers to upload photos they have taken of the product.