June 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

Sponsored Supplement: Eye-opening technologies for today’s e-retailing

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With TrueTag, Channel Intelligence is able to track and capture a consumer’s intra-site movements on the advertiser’s web site, creating a behavior profile for that user and placing the user into an audience segment. User profiles and audience segments then feed a dynamic ad system that constructs a personalized ad experience for each consumer in real time. Ad elements, including message, promotion, product selection, call to action, and overall look and feel, can be altered depending on the user’s profile or audience segment, creating a more relevant ad for the consumer.

Making display ads relevant to the consumer drives more immediate responses to increase both sales and conversions for advertisers. Enhanced relevance also opens new opportunities for advertisers to offer various promotions and discounts to their consumers. For example, a 10% discount could be included in the ad for consumers who have recently abandoned their shopping carts. Alternatively, the advertiser might offer customers who have purchased something within the last 15 days free shipping when they buy an accessory item.

“Our approach is to help retailers and advertisers build a strategy around moving consumers through the decision process in a way that complements a user’s behavior,” adds Allums. “Executing this strategy using our display solution allows retailers and advertisers to have a more personal relationship with their consumers.”

In using this online display solution from Channel Intelligence, retailers have experienced a dramatic increase in performance. A leading online jewelry retailer improved its ROI on display advertising by 12 times, and a top 10 gift retailer achieved an ROI on par with its paid search program.

“Our partners are extremely pleased with the results from using our display advertising solution,” says Allums.

The Channel Intelligence display solution includes a handful of services focused on performance. These services, which include creative development, media management, dynamic ad serving, targeting and personalization, user tracking and campaign management, all work together through a single platform to maximize results.

Customized customer service

Regardless of how effectively a retailer reaches consumers through their marketing and merchandising strategies, if the customer service experience comes off as suboptimal, the shoppers the retailer fought so hard to attract and convert into customers won’t be coming back. Retailers can avoid that outcome by shifting their view of customer service, from just a question-and-answer center to a method for providing personalized help to the customer.

“The call center often gets overlooked as a way to personalize the customer experience and that’s both a mistake and a lost opportunity. Smart retailers understand that good customer service is really about personalized customer care,” says FitForCommerce’s Wu. “The convenience and ease of being able to move to another retailer’s site has helped create a culture of impatience among consumers, which is why customer service is a moment-of-truth instance in the retail business.”

Proactively reaching out to consumers through live chat can help address the lack of patience among online shoppers. “Consumers appreciate e-retailers who sense when they need help and reach out to them by providing the information they need to make their purchasing decision,” say BoldSoft’s Castro-Miller. “Live chat can satisfy those needs.”

BoldChat’s live chat application allows customer service agents to see the pages the shopper has viewed in the current shopping session, how they came to the site, and whether the shopper is a repeat customer. Service agents can call up a repeat shopper’s live chat history to provide insights into prior problems the consumer encountered and how they were resolved.

In addition, BoldChat includes chat invitation acceptance tracking, operator productivity reports and service-level reporting. Service agents are able to follow shoppers’ navigation paths through a site via a tracking cookie. The information can tell service agents whether the shopper entered the site directly, through a paid search or banner ad, or organic search results.

That depth of information is proving valuable to retailers for transforming the call center into a sales center. A recent survey by BoldSoft of more than 400 BoldChat users showed the number of respondents using the application strictly as a customer support application continues to decline. In 2010, 31% of respondents used BoldChat only for customer support, down from 37% in 2009 and 41% in 2008.

“One of the benefits of live chat is that there are a lot of hooks retailers can use to initiate a chat conversation with consumers based on their behavior after they arrive on the site.” says Castro-Miller. “Consumers that engage the retailer using live chat are four times more likely to purchase than shoppers who visit the site and don’t use chat. That’s powerful.”

Castro-Miller adds that 67% of clients surveyed cited live chat as a competitive advantage. “It’s getting to the point that soon live chat is going to be table stakes ante for retailers,” Castro-Miller says.

One aspect of live chat that retailers often overlook is that it can be an important information-gathering tool about customer expectations. BoldChat identifies the pages on which shoppers initiate a chat session and under what circumstances they accept invitations to launch chat sessions. That information can help retailers identify roadblocks in site design or content hierarchy that prevent consumers from making a purchasing decision.

Savvy retailers can also use live chat to survey consumers about the shopping experiences and what, if anything, can be done to improve customer service or the web site.

“More consumers are expressing a desire for live chat, so they aren’t likely to shy away from questions about their shopping experience during a chat session,” Castro-Miller says.

Be responsive

Offering live chat is of little value if service agents are not readily available to respond to consumers as needed. USA 800 has programmed its live chat application to only show the live chat button to shoppers when an agent is available to handle their inquiry promptly. The application tracks visitor volume to a retailer’s site against agent availability.

While it is rare that no agents are available to handle a live chat request, the feature serves as a fail-safe for retailers that operate their own service centers and find themselves understaffed during unexpected spikes in service inquiries. In these instances, consumers are directed to other service channels that do not require an immediate response, such as e-mail.

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