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3 Millennial Expectations Every E-Commerce Business Needs To Address

Tracy Vides

Ah, the millennials – the generation brought up with the Internet and the rest of the digital revolution! While there may be a good deal of stigma attached to this crowd, there’s no stopping the fact they are flooding the job market and are predicted to spend $1.4 trillion in the U.S. retail market by 2020.

Due the fascinating point in history this age group grew up in, they are an extremely tricky bunch to market and sell to. They have essentially caused a lot of brands to throw out their entire playbook and start from scratch.

Let’s a take a quick look at a couple of the top brands today: Amazon, the leading retailer, does not own any physical stores. Uber, the leader in transportation, does not own any cars. Both of have one thing in common: the point-of-sale happens electronically.

This phenomenon is a big indicator that e-commerce is taking over. Modern shoppers (particularly millennials) have much different values and expectations than shoppers did 20 to 30 years ago. No surprise, therefore, that for most online companies, appealing to a millennial audience has become a top priority. Let’s discuss three of the most prominent expectations these shoppers have for e-commerce businesses.

1. Persuasive social media presence

Hundreds of years from now, when historians discuss the biggest breakthroughs happening early in the second millennium, the rise of social media will undoubtedly be one of the most debated topics.

What took off in the early 2000s now has a collective user count around 2.5 billion, many of them millennials. In fact, a recent survey found that 88% of millennials get their news via Facebook.

With this many eyes on social media, having a strong brand presence on popular outlets is no longer an option. The harsh truth is that millennials are not responsive to traditional ads or played-out sales tactics. While social advertising is proving to be very effective, one of the main goals of your brand’s social media presence must be to give your messaging a playful and humanized tone that connects with the younger audience on a more in-depth level.

Red Bull is well known for its superior social media presence. It uses its accounts to become so much more than just an energy drink. If you follow Red Bull, you’ll see how good it is at promoting original, branded material such as films, competitions, live shows, and of course, user-generated content.

In addition to favoring e-commerce brands with a human touch, millennials value consistency and responsiveness across channels. Be sure you are keeping up with all your accounts in all networks to remain in touch with your audience.

2. Personalized user experience

Even though the development of technology and the evolution of the Internet have done a lot to bring us together as a species, e-commerce is getting more individualized. Millennials are not fazed by traditional marketing and sales pitches. They want interactions to be tailored to their needs.

Unfortunately, there is no formula written in stone about how to deliver the perfect personalized experience.

However, there are certain things you can do to embrace this concept. For example, Amazon’s homepage looks different to each and every customer. Using workflows and user information, it recommends relevant items to customers based around their online behavior.

The overarching goal for retailers is to understand customers’ needs throughout the entire sales funnel. The most effective way to do this by implementing marketing automation within your e-commerce platform. For example, Shopify lets you profile customers, map their journey, market to them across digital channels, and provide a consistent shopping experience across multiple devices, online and in-store.

Personalization has become a staple in many e-commerce operations. In fact, a study by Gartner predicts by 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable businesses to increase their profits by up to 15%.

Basically, younger audiences want e-commerce companies to show them exactly what they want to see.

3. Transparency

Sales techniques have seen a huge shift as millennials gain spending power. Smartphones have literally given people all the information in the world in the palms of their hands. With this in mind, e-commerce brands need to come to terms with the fact that each buying decision will be well-researched.

“Millennials have changed the old retail model of price obfuscation, especially in online commerce,” says Jason Goldberg, VP of strategy at Razorfish. “They have grown up with transparency and information available to them at their fingertips, so brands have to design their business around transparency.”

Everlane, a luxury clothing store, is a prime example of how to use this concept in a business model. It openly promotes how all of its products are made, from A to Z, directly on its e-commerce website.

It doesn’t hide any manufacturing costs or warehouse details from the public. A lot of companies are known for relying on cheap labor, and the stigma around that helps get Everlane’s transparent approach into millennials’ good books.

Additionally, it maintains a strong social media presence that constantly reinforces its values. For example, it famously gives its audience behind-the-scenes glances at its factories in action via Snapchat. Using raw footage like this puts customers in a better state of mind about their purchases.

Transparency and authenticity are essential for gaining traction with millennials. It’s not just about what you sell anymore. It’s about how you promote it.

Parting words

Millennials are a fascinating group. Apart from the selfies and constant social media updates, they have a lot to offer in terms of digital consumerism. The truth of the matter is the online shopping landscape is incredibly crowded. Regardless of what products or services you provide, chances are there hundreds of other businesses working towards the same goals. Since millennials have been brought up in the middle of this reality, they have no problem looking around until they find an experience that really speaks to them. It’s up to you to differentiate yourself as a brand that meets them where they hang out.

For more on marketing to today’s consumers, see 5 Steps to Your Customer’s Heart with Emotionally Aware Computing.

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About Tracy Vides

Tracy is a content marketer and social media consultant who works with small businesses and startups to increase their visibility. Although new to the digital marketing scene, Tracy has started off well by building a good reputation for herself, with posts featured on Steamfeed, Business 2 Community and elsewhere. Hit her up @TracyVides on Twitter.

Why $4.6 Trillion Was Left In Abandoned Online Shopping Carts In 2016

Aaron Solomon

Nearly 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned without the customer ever completing the purchase. According to Business Insider, that added up to over $4.6 trillion in the global economy in 2016. So, what can online retailers do to fix this problem? Keep reading to learn why cart abandonment is so prevalent, and the steps you can take to recapture potential sales in your business.

Top 3 (preventable) reasons for cart abandonment

Customers abandon online carts for a variety of reasons, ranging from issues with your online store to simply getting distracted and leaving their computer. Studies show three common, and often preventable, reasons customers do not complete the checkout process.

1. Shipping cost sticker shock

For a whopping 61% of U.S. shoppers, the number one reason they don’t complete the checkout process is unexpectedly high shipping costs. Customers may have found your product prices acceptable, but high shipping costs can change their view completely. Not every company can subsidize shipping, and even fewer can on all orders, but here are a few things you can do to try to reduce your customers’ shipping cost shock:

  • Price fairly: Review what you are charging your customers for shipping against what your actual costs are. It’s no sin to turn shipping into a revenue stream, but if these costs are excessive, it may be costing you more in sales than it’s worth.
  • Offer options: Depending on your carriers, consider offering customers slower, but more cost-effective options, such as UPS 3 Day Select instead of Next Day or Second Day Air.
  • In-store pickup: If you also have physical stores, consider offering in-store pickup as an option.

2. Lack of trust in your site

Whenever a first-time customer makes a purchase, they are demonstrating trust in your ability to fulfill their order, charge them accurately, and most importantly, protect their data. There are several website attributes that could cause customers to consider shopping elsewhere:

  • Site maintenance: If your site has blurry images or broken links, customers may doubt your ability to meet their needs.
  • Online security: Include a “Trusted Site” logo from your certificate authority on your site to tell customers that you have properly secured your site.
  • Return policy: Having a complete and accessible return policy on your online store can provide customers with the reassurance that if the product does not meet their expectations, there will be a way for them to address this issue.
  • Shipping clarity: A shipping information page provides customers information they will want to know before committing to a purchase, such as how long after an order is placed it will be shipped or what shipping carriers and delivery options are available.

3. Frustration during the checkout process

The main perk of online shopping is convenience. If your checkout process is slow or tedious, customers get frustrated quickly. Take the following three points into consideration to mitigate this concern:

  • Guest checkout: In 2016, 33% of U.S. shoppers abandoned their carts when forced to create an account. Having a customer create an account can be beneficial for your business, but, if customers are forced to create an account to make a purchase, is it worth it? Consider leaving the option for them to check out as a guest to simplify their shopping experience.
  • Coupon codes: If you offer promotions with coupon codes, make sure that all your marketing information has the correct coupon codes and expiration dates for these codes.
  • Make it easy for customers to reach you: As a best practice, online stores should always have a “Contact Us” page to allow customers to easily reach out. If customers are experiencing frustration, being able to reach you can be the deciding factor on whether they give up or not.

Successful online retailers manage these issues to ensure that when customers abandon carts, it is not due to failures of the business. Taking these steps can reduce the amount of lost revenue, as well as increase your business’ reputation with both current and prospective customers.

For more insight on selling through digital channels, see Primed: Prompting Customers to Buy.

This blog was originally posted on the SAP Anywhere Customer Success Portal, and has been reposted with permission.

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About Aaron Solomon

Aaron Solomon is the head of Training and Content Development for SAP Anywhere. With a dedicated history in knowledge management and consulting, he is driven to provide quality information to customers and help them understand how best to grow their businesses. His areas of expertise include e-commerce management, data analysis, and leveraging technology to improve efficiency.

Using Philosophy To Find Happiness In A Hyperconnected World

Adam Winfield

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, published in 1974 by Robert M. Pirsig, has been called the biggest-selling and most widely read philosophy book ever. A fictionalized autobiography of a motorcycle road trip the author took with his son Chris across America, the book became influential thanks to its transcendent philosophical digressions. Despite the title, it’s not really about Zen Buddhism – or motorcycles – but living a good and meaningful life.

Pirsig, who died earlier this year, showed us “it might actually be possible to unify the cold, rational, numbingly systematized world of science and technology with the warm, intuitive realm of art and the spirit,” according to writer Tim Wilson, who interviewed him the year the book was released.

“If you run from technology, it will chase you,” Pirsig told Wilson, a caution that carries increased significance in a time when GPS tracks the location of our smartphones and high-bandwidth wireless Internet coverage smothers much of the populated land on Earth.

Pirsig’s point wasn’t that we should run from technology, or hate it. He called out the self-defeating hypocrisy of loathing and resisting technology but lapping up the standard of living it provides. Instead, technology should be considered part of nature, and part of humanity. “The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower,” he wrote.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 2017 edition

Had Pirsig taken his road trip in 2017 he’d be faced with a very different world to the one of 1974, more than 25 years before the Internet went mainstream. Given his willingness to embrace technology, we can assume he’d have taken a 4G-enabled smartphone along for the ride. The technology – the satellites, the data, the sensors – wouldn’t be chasing him; it’d be right there in his pocket.

Unlike those who retreat into nature for “digital detoxes,” not realizing their addiction to technology rather than technology itself is the problem, Pirsig would have seen the beauty in a connected device that made his journey through the American wilderness more enjoyable, safer, and easier.

He’d have been with nature in all its glory, but also connected to the rest of humanity, dipping into the benefits that offers whenever he deemed it necessary or worthwhile. It’s unlikely he’d have felt the urge to check the latest gossip on Twitter or Facebook, but Google Maps, TripAdvisor, and Airbnb sure would have come in handy.

Those more suspicious of today’s hyperconnected technology might say this fails to consider the dark side of sharing your browsing habits, your whereabouts, and other aspects of your existence through your smartphone. To take advantage of the best your device can offer, you must in turn give up so much of your privacy to companies looking to make a buck off the data you’re generating.

Take location-based marketing, for example, which sends location-specific advertisements to consumer’s mobile devices. Sounds pesky and a little… dystopian, doesn’t it? It evokes the scene from the 2002 science fiction movie “Minority Report,” in which Tom Cruise’s character is hit with a personalized ad that tells him he could “use a Guinness right about now.” Pirsig would have felt location-based marketing’s full brunt as he made his way across 2017 America, seeking food, shelter, and supplies.

How would Pirsig have felt about location-based marketing?

Again, though, he likely would have taken a more pragmatic view than the dystopian Luddites. You cannot, surely, buy a 4G smartphone, blindly connect it to servers around the world, and then fly into a rage when you discover your data and location is being sold off to the highest bidder. Unless human microchip implants are written into law, we’ll always have the option to avoid that inevitability.

For those naturally more open to the idea of location-based marketing and the serendipitous moments of magic it can help create – as well as those who stand to profit from it – 2017 looks like being a good year for the technology.

Nearly a third of the world’s population will own a smartphone this year, according to Statista, and 80% of social media activity now happens on mobile devices. This gives companies a much fuller picture of what people are doing and where they’re doing it. People aren’t afraid to use their phones to buy things, either; global mobile e-commerce revenues are projected to reach $549 billion in 2017.

These trends are converging with breakthroughs in technology that are taking location-based marketing to new levels of complexity. Sensors enabling near-field communications (NFC) are not new, but they’re coming down in price. This technology was included in the last two generations of Samsung and Apple phones. Elsewhere, geo-fences use GPS, Wi-Fi, electromagnetic fields, or RFID technologies that capture data from consumers situated in specified areas – a concept Google and Apple are invested in.

Pokémon Go showed that people are ready for augmented reality; again “Minority Report”’s Guinness holograms offer us a vision of how that technology could translate into the world of advertising. And then there’s context, the plumbing of location-based marketing. Context, which feeds on Big Data, is only getting richer, giving brands a deeper understanding of where consumers are, where they’re headed, and what they might want to buy. Done well, all this technological advancement is undeniably useful for consumers too.

So, next time you get out on the open road looking for a clean break from your neurosis-inducing technology habits, consider taking your smartphone with you. It will almost certainly come in handy. As Pirsig might have said (albeit more eloquently), nature and technology are friends, not enemies. Embracing both, warts and all – and embracing them wisely – is the key to living a full and happy life.

For more insight on technology and the well-balanced life, see Give Me Technology, But Help Me Deal With It.

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About Adam Winfield

Adam Winfield writes about technology, how it's affecting industries, how it's affecting businesses, and how it's affecting people.

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:


Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.


Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.


Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.

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Why HR Is The New Marketing

Michael Brenner

In a world of infinite media choices, the best way to reach new buyers and new talent might be right under your nose. Your own employees represent the greatest opportunity to create meaningful marketing and to develop human resources programs that increase sales, while also finding and retaining top talent. Is HR the new marketing?

In the battle for new talent, HR departments have been forced to expand their role from hiring and firing, overseeing personnel systems and processes, and handling benefit management to include leadership development and training, employer branding, and diversity initiatives.

HR has been forced to adopt strategies that look, well, very much like marketing. These days, HR develops campaigns to grow employer awareness, to build the employer brand as a “great place to work,” and to retain top talent—all traditional marketing objectives.

While many in HR have embraced these traditional marketing skills, the most effective companies are moving beyond HR simply applying marketing techniques to a whole new opportunity. These effective companies are actually activating employees as a new marketing channel to achieve both HR and marketing objectives.

Proceed with caution

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving the potential of employees as a new marketing channel is the perception of marketing as advertising.

Asking (or forcing) your employees to share product content on their social media channels is just as dangerous as asking them to share (or guilting them into sharing) what a great place your company is to work.

Consumers are increasingly ignoring and blocking advertising messages, with some research even suggesting that promotional messages from brands can have the opposite of their intended effect. These misguided efforts can actually cause sales to decline!

While some employees may authentically share their excitement and passion for the products they work on, the projects they are engaged in, and the company they work for (and we should celebrate that), this is not a sustainable strategy for getting new customer or talent.

Content marketing and HR

Content marketing has emerged as one of the hottest trends in marketing. Marketers are learning to think and act like publishers to create entertaining, interesting, or helpful content that consumers actually want to read and share (vs. promotional ads). And this approach allows a brand to reach, engage, convert and retain new customers.

The opportunity to activate employees to achieve marketing and HR objectives starts by creating content they naturally want to share.

As the first VP of content marketing at SAP, I learned to tap into the power of my fellow employees to create a marketing program that delivered massive ROI. The biggest lesson I learned: HR is the new marketing!

With a limited budget for content, I asked our internal experts to write articles on whatever they wanted. We had one editorial rule: no product promotion. Our internal experts could explore their professional or personal passions and interests, even if it meant writing about cat videos. Because somewhere out in the world, I believed there was a potential customer, employee, partner or investor who might also loved cat videos. (No one ever wrote about cat videos. Bummer!)

I even created a slideshare deck to explain the value for these employees/budding content marketers:

  • Grow your personal brand
  • Increase or establish your authority on the topics you are interested in
  • Gain new social media followers
  • Maybe even find that new job or get promoted

We also encouraged this behavior by publicly recognizing our top articles and authors each week in a round-up post. We made rock stars of the best performers as their social connections and influence increased. And this drove more employees to sign up.

Today, that site has hundreds of employee contributors. All are growing their personal brand, while expressing their passions and expertise to the world. And many of the employees who don’t write articles voluntarily share the content with their social connections.

As LinkedIn’s own Jason Miller mentioned in his article, the trick is to define what’s in it for them.

Why does this work?

Because you can create massive momentum when we combine the needs of our customers, our employees, and our company based on THEIR own distinct interests:

  • Companies want more loyal customers and talented employees.
  • Employees want purpose and meaningful work that has real impact on their career and the world.
  • Customers want to form relationships with brands on their terms and based on their self-interest

What you can do to activate HR as the new marketing

1. Create a customer-centric vision

Look around your organization, and you will see people above you, below you, and beside you. The traditional org chart still exists to focus on your position in the hierarchy. But where’s the customer? Where is the customer in your org chart? 

Even if your company mission isn’t customer-centric (“we are the leading provider of widgets”), your marketing vision must be. And there is one simple formula to get there:

Become a sought-after destination for which topicin order to deliver what customer value or impact.

2. Create content employees who want to share

According to LinkedIn, the combined connections of employees on the LinkedIn platform is 10 times larger than any company’s followers. And just 3 percent of company employees sharing branded content generate 30 percent of the views and clicks on that content.

Platforms such as LinkedIn Elevate, social selling programs, and other tools can dramatically increase the reach of your content, grow your company’s social presence, and improve the effectiveness of marketing programs — without spending a single dollar on paid media.

But you have to create content your employees want to share. You might even ask them to help you. The trick is to explain what’s in it for them: creating or sharing content can help them build more connections, establish relationships with other leaders in your industry, and grow their personal brand so they can achieve happiness in their careers.

3. Measure the results

Measure the impact of your employee content sharing for your company. Demonstrate how it has benefited the employees (increased connections, awards, and recognition). Discuss ways to profile your best customers as well.

And partner with your colleagues across HR, marketing, and sales to determine the best ways to continuously optimize what is working for everyone.

If you’re in marketing, it’s time to start thinking about your colleagues in HR as your new best friend. And if you’re in HR, it’s time to think about how marketing can help you acquire and retain the best talent — while making the leadership team happy as well.

For more strategies that create a culture that drives business growth, see Employee Advocacy = Engaged Employees.

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.