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E-commerce buys into KM

This article appears in the issue October 2013, [Vol 22 Issue 9]
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E-commerce retailers are using knowledge management solutions to pull together order, inventory, sales and other transaction information, as well as to improve customer feedback and to enhance the overall e-commerce experience.

Integrating information

Dog is Good, a merchant of canine-themed apparel and gift items for dog lovers, was using a collection of disparate systems for accounting, order fulfillment and e-commerce capabilities.

"We had too many independent systems in place, we were wasting too much time and we didn't have good visibility into our fulfillment process," says Jon Kurtz, the company's co-owner and founder, adding that he realized when the company began six years ago that he would need an integrated system that connected order fulfillment, inventory, accounting and the e-commerce stores. Such systems are expensive for a startup, so the company opted instead for siloed systems for different functions. "But I realized that at some point I would have to have something that would tie all of the systems together," Kurtz adds.

That point finally arrived near the end of 2011. Kurtz developed a checklist of capabilities his siloed systems did and didn't offer. He found systems that would solve some of his most immediate concerns, but would be only temporary fixes. Then he looked at more comprehensive solutions, but even they didn't have many of the capabilities that Kurtz wanted. He found an exception in the offerings from NetSuite. Dog is Good now uses many of the modules that NetSuite provides. According to Kurtz, because NetSuite offers its solution via the cloud, NetSuite handles any technical issues and he does not need a technician onsite.

The advantages of the new system are apparent. "The real-time tracking of inventory is probably the biggest benefit for us," Kurtz says. "With NetSuite, the inventory is in real time, so if we sell a ton of one product and run out, we know it." With the old system, it could be hours before the website was updated to show something was out of stock. Then the company had to call those who thought they had made a purchase when the item was actually out of stock.

With all systems now tied together, Dog is Good staff members no longer have to spend time copying purchase orders to key them into the sales system. Kurtz estimates the company can fill 30 percent more orders with the same number of people.

Improved customer feedback

New York-based Ideeli is an online "flash retailer," meaning that the company hosts limited time sales for its membership base. The company, which specializes in women's fashion, had been using a net promoter score for feedback about its performance. While that provided some valuable information, after a while, Ideeli had gotten all of the benefits it could from that type of feedback, according to Jason Faria, the company's director of customer service.

"We needed to figure out a way to get more detailed information," Faria says. "We wanted to be more effective with our sales."

Ideeli first learned about the knowledge offerings of  ForeSee in December 2011. "Nothing else could really match it," Faria says. So in 2012, the company started using ForeSee's customer experience analytics for feedback, starting with the call center and then expanding to Web and mobile applications.

ForeSee Satisfaction Analytics for the Contact Center provides feedback on the performance of individual agents and the contact center as a whole, the primary issues that drive customers to a contact center, how services in a contact center can better align with other channels and how the contact center experience can impact retention.

The mobile experience

The ForeSee Web solution provides information to help companies identify and meet the needs of first-time and frequent visitors, profile various visitor segments and identify what may be impeding online purchasing.

Ideeli also uses ForeSee's mobile analytics solution to quantify the impact of the company's mobile site and apps on customers, how the mobile experience contributes to (or detracts from) total brand impression, which (demographic) mobile users are, and how their mobile experience impacts loyalty and purchase intent.

As a result of the feedback, Ideeli has made a handful of changes, according to Faria, including:

  • Marketing has adjusted its shipping charges so that frequent buyers pay one flat charge a month, rather than a separate shipping charge for each purchase.
  • The "join now" button on the website has been changed to "shop now." Only members can shop through Ideeli, but inviting a customer to shop tends to prompt the customer to join. Leading with "join now" led to more site abandonment, according to Faria.

"One of the beautiful things is that they have peripherals with analysts," Faria adds. "We can target a specific segment of customers. We can learn why customers have a certain behavior. We have usability audits. We can take a section of our site and compare it to best practices on another website. This information can almost drive what we are going to do next."

Optimizing the customer experience

Retina-X Studios provides activity monitoring and tracking solutions for mobile phones, computers, tablets and networks on a subscription basis.

Both new orders and renewals can have non-payment issues (e.g., credit card declined), which typically incur a chargeback fee from the e-commerce provider. Chargebacks can also occur if orders are canceled. For Retina-X, the chargebacks with the previous e-commerce provider were becoming too expensive, plus there were problems with order cancellations not being honored, according to CEO James Johns. So the company opted to deploy Avangate's e-commerce solution in February 2012.

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