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5 Key Learnings from The New Age of B2B Consumerism Technology Summit from SCI’s CEO, Chris Galindo

The continuing evolution of new technology has caused an ever-changing rise in consumer expectations, which is now impacting B2B business. These increasing demands are forcing companies to develop new strategies to keep up with these continuously evolving advancements.

Our latest SCI Technology Summit on October 24th, brought together top industry experts to talk about this new age of B2B consumerism. Our speakers and panelists discussed the impact of new technology on B2B business and shared insights on how they’re keeping pace with growing technology demands.

Below are my top five takeaways from the summit:

1) B2C is impacting B2B expectations

B2C customer experiences are setting the bar high, and expectations that customers have in their personal lives are directly impacting B2B decision-making habits. According to Salesforce, an astounding 72% of businesses buyers say they expect vendors to personalize each interaction based on their needs.

To succeed in this ever-evolving environment, companies should consider how to become an extension of their customers to better understand their needs.

2) Focus on a great customer experience

With more transactions happening online or through technology like AI or chatbots, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to personalize the customer relationship.

Yet it’s clear the customer experience remain paramount, with 60 per cent of customers saying are willing to pay more for something with which they have had a great experience (CompTIA research).
Companies need to have a clear customer experience vision. Knowing your customer personas and habits and soliciting feedback in real time can also help businesses personalize the customer journey in a digital age.

3) Optimize machine learning

Machine learning is a field of research that allows a computer to be able to learn from past experiences and is an aspect of technology that is becoming increasingly important, particularly for inventory management.

Machine learning can be used to manage complex and high volumes of data, as well as understand the potential uptake of specific products. It can also be leveraged to predict future sales patterns and foresee when a product may become obsolete.

All of this can help optimize the supply chain and drive improved customer experience and sales.

4) Re-purpose instead of recycle technology

The rapid evolution of technology is causing a high level of “tech waste”. When it comes to end-of-life tech, it’s much more sustainable to reuse technology parts than to recycle.

In the end of life process it is not just about the part any more but also about the data held on any devices being recycled. While 93 per cent of companies say data security is important, only 2 in 10 had a company to assist in managing their obsolete technology and ensure all confidential data had been erased.

It’s imperative for companies to ensure they are properly managing end-of-life tech both for sustainability and security reasons.

5) Adapt to the Speed of Change

To succeed in this current, fluid marketplace, companies need to focus on the customer journey and have the flexibility to scale up or scale down, depending on customer needs.

As expectations continue to rise, technology remains key in building and maintaining strong customer relationships, managing staffing needs and even when considering new real estate space.
I’d like to thank all our speakers, panelists and guests who attended and participated in these important discussions at the recent summit.

It was a great day of information sharing, networking and learning about the impact and influence of technology on B2B business, and it’s clear technology will continue to impact and drive B2B trends for years to come.

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Don’t Fear Returns – Embrace Them!

In a perfect world, businesses would sell products and customers would go home happy and satisfied each and every time. However, we all know that the reality of retail is quite different. There are dozens of reasons why customers either choose to, or are required to, return a product. Perhaps it’s a piece of apparel that’s the wrong size, or maybe their new TV was damaged in shipping, or they simply ordered the wrong product. Regardless of the reason for the return, they will happen, and the manner with which your company handles the returns experience, also known as reverse logistics, can have significant impact on many different parts of your business.

How Important Are Returns?

One important thing to note about returns is just how much they are underestimated in their impact on a business. Several reports have been produced that illustrate the true significance of returns. The Retail Council of Canada states that “online returns during the holiday gift giving season surge to 30%”, which is a staggering number on its own. Couple that with the fact that Business Insider reports that “about half of shoppers making an in-store return for an online order will make an additional purchase”, and you can quickly see just how critical returns are for retailers.

There are many contributing factors to this surge in returns during the holiday season. Many shoppers buying gifts for friends and family are more frequently shipping directly to the recipient, which can make it difficult to effectively judge the product since it’s not been seen physically by the sender or the recipient. Other reasons for returns include products not matching descriptions, products getting damaged in shipping, or an error in picking that sent the wrong product, among many others.

Since there are so many varying reasons on why the customer is returning their order, there are also many different levels of satisfaction that those customers are feeling about your business. For a minor issue such as an incorrect size or mistaken colour, their level of satisfaction will likely be much higher at this point than a customer who received a badly damaged or defective product. It’s critical to keep in mind what the customer experience has been like until the point where they need to return a product, and either maintain or improve their level of satisfaction throughout the returns process by making sure they receive great customer service, and managing expectations.

What Are Customer Expectations?

When it comes to returns, customers will have different expectations based on the nature of the product(s), and the circumstances for their return. For example, a customer returning a badly damaged TV to a retail store will have vastly different expectations on what the returns process should be compared to someone who is returning a jacket because they ordered the wrong size.

In general, however, customers will expect some common elements to a return regardless of the circumstances. These include:

  • Easy to find information on returns on the company website
  • Ability to ask questions and get answers through live chat, email, and phone
  • Ability to track and monitor the progress of their return
  • Minimal steps to complete the return process
  • Option to return through shipping or return to local store

If you’ve noticed that all of those elements can be described using words like simple, easy or convenient, then you’ve hit on an essential concept relating to returns. Returns need to be straightforward for customers, otherwise they can become frustrated quite quickly. Customers who become frustrated with returns often believe they were misled by companies, which drastically reduces the likelihood that they will become repeat purchasers or refer that company to others. As you can see, a lot hinges on the effectiveness of a company to meet the expectations of customers who need to return their purchase.

How Are Brands Meeting These Challenges?

One key aspect to managing customer expectations is to clearly communicate a message that conveys the added value of your return policy and procedures. By doing so, for example with a clearly stated message on your website referring to “Hassle Free Returns” you are reaffirming the customer with assurance and comfort that your company is easy to do business with. Many major retail brands are now prominently featuring similar messaging across their websites, in their stores, and in their advertising as one of their core value propositions.

Some options that brands are incorporating as part of their returns approach include offering no-cost return shipping to their customers, including pre-formatted return shipping labels in the documentation provided with a product, and making arrangements with major carriers to provide pickup or drop-off services to their customers.

Old Navy & The Gap here in Canada understand the returns process, and now provide pre-paid shipping labels/bags with all their online orders to facilitate hassle free returns. It’s something their customer’s love, which leads not only to repeat orders, but word of mouth referrals. 

In the end, adjusting your business to provide a better overall returns experience is not about flipping everything upside down and starting over, but simply refining and improving each step of the returns process that already exists. Adding online tracking, email return requests, pre-packed return labels, or return to store options are not ground-breaking changes for most companies, but each one can add a lot of value in the eyes of a customer.

 

 Conclusion

The time of viewing returns as simply a cost of doing business are long gone. If your business doesn’t view returns as a real opportunity to build value and strengthen customer satisfaction, you are missing out on some significant benefits. It’s been proven that customers who have a problem solved to their satisfaction or beyond by a brand have shown a high likelihood to have a positive view of those brands as a result of the service they received. Savvy brands would be wise to continue to deliver a positive returns process, and build an even better experience every step of the way for their customers. Investing in customer satisfaction is a sure way to deliver more value to each and every person who places an order with you.

The experts at SCI have helped many companies enhance their returns processes and achieve higher levels of efficiency and customer satisfaction. Contact us today and our team of logistics professionals would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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