The Customer Is The Channel

The customer-centric blog of Linc Global

Consumer behavior is changing faster than anyone is noticing

Email is the new filing cabinet. When’s the last time you checked email? How about when you last checked your phone for new messages? If you’re like 4 out of every 5 consumers, you went first for messages and left email alone. Most people leave it alone for a day, or 2, before checking it, and it is earning a reputation for being a place where official records are sent and can be searched for later. Click video to learn more:  It’s definitely not where most people chat about the weekend’s plans, or check out the latest styles from favorite brands. Now, this shouldn’t surprise anyone, but based on the ecommerce’s love affair with email, it would seem that there’s a misalignment between marketing and its intended audience. While many consumers are using instant messaging, text and social apps multiple times per hour, brands are working hard on their email creative for the week, and setting up their campaigns to go out at just the right time, though it has far less impact that it did 10 years ago. This is troubling for a number of reasons, but let’s keep this brief. Primarily, the problem here is that many teams are structured around channels. And at a higher level, many companies are structured with marketing, ecommerce and customer service teams sitting apart from each other, and doing their level best to “enhance communication channels” and ‘share data’. So while consumers are putting little voice assistants in the kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms, email marketers are working hard to get their graphics approved and their segments locked down. Seems like something’s a little off, right? It is. Though email is still an incredibly effective channel for ecommerce marketers, not many brands are investing in newer ways to connect with their customers. And though we used to talk about preparing for new channels, the new apps and devices consumers are using today represent the need to do more than just develop a strategy for a new channel. The real showstopper here is that marketing, sales and service all collide on these channels when its done right. And that doesn’t jive well when you have separate teams. So while 20-somethings are scribbling on  photos and sending them to their friends, brands are trying to figure out whether Messenger is going to work well for customer service. Or if they should have a branded skill on Alexa that offers some content to the customer. If you’re having these conversations at the moment, please stop. With most of your customers going to instant messaging as their first communication channel, and the majority of consumers who have bought voice assistants saying there’s  no way they would want to go back to their life before voice, its time to start learning about what these channels can be used for, when the customer is put in center-focus. The opportunity is real, but only for brands willing to step outside their traditional mindset. Customers are ready and willing to build new habits, and will be delighted by the services that can be offered through these channels. The same channels they use dozens of times each day. The biggest brands recognize this, and that’s why they are investing in voice, and chat, with a focus on the customer’s interests. They see the opportunity and know the time to start is now. For many others, there’s a hint that this could be mobile all over again - too slow, too little, too late, and too many lost opportunities.

‘Alexa — Turn That Return Into A Saved Sale’

This is a summary of an article published by PYMNTS. You can read the full article here. No one likes the friction-filled process of returning unwanted goods. Say hello, literally, to Alexa, and a streamlined process of getting what consumers want through a turbocharged customer care experience, via Linc. Giving voice to returns can save sales. In an interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, Linc CEO Fang Cheng said that the skill lives at the intersection of AI and customer care, enabling brands and retailers “to have a much more intimate way of serving their shoppers across any channels those shoppers prefer.” The platform also works with retailers who are not plying their wares over Amazon, through both Alexa and Google Assistant.  In an example of the customer care continuum, Cheng said that a consumer can ask Alexa “where is my order?” and the assistant will respond with tracking information and a projected delivery date. It’s an example of quick answer and quick response. One notable absence, and perhaps a refreshing one: There’s no need to know the order number or the specifics of a product, and thus no need for a paper chase. Linc’s platform, the company has said, does all that housekeeping, so to speak, in the background. As Cheng stated, the platform and the merchant are integrated to the point where brands can come to market with their Alexa skill in a matter of weeks. “The beauty [of the skill] is that the assistant already has access to all the past purchases that have been made with the brand,” Cheng noted. Linc’s platform knows what orders are eligible for return, and there is no need for obsessive paperwork, she told Webster. “What makes the assistant smart is that the assistant needs to have a fairly deep level of data,” she said. Linc does not store anything related to that data or the emails that customarily alert consumers to their commerce activity. You can read the full article here on PYMNTS.com

Brief: Reduce Costs and Improve Customer Service With AI-Powered Customer Care

This is a summary of an article published by Total Retail. You can read the full article here. Talk doesn’t come cheap, and this is especially true in retail, where managing customer care costs across the ever-expanding landscape of communication is top of mind for retailers. While retailers will spend exponentially more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one, taking care of an existing one is expensive. Recent research found that 55 percent of retailers are experiencing an increase in customer care costs. Pair this with the increasing pressure from retail disruptors and you see why the industry as a whole is looking for a winning formula for customer care.

The Iceberg That Could Sink Traditional CPG Brands

    Life used to be pretty easy for well-established CPG brands. As long as they had a handle on their supply chain, manufacturing and distribution, their operations would run smoothly. Competition was centered on securing prime shelf space and fending off brand or product line extensions from other CPGs or the private label offerings of supermarkets or big-box retailers. Magazine and TV ads, along with retail coupons, would remind consumers why they preferred this brand of household name toothpaste or breakfast cereal over another. Maybe if you wanted to be seen as particularly cutting-edge, you tried your hand at a light-hearted branded Twitter account. And then things changed quickly and dramatically. What was once smooth sailing got a whole lot rougher.

5 Ways To Increase Profitability With Emerging Chat And Voice Platforms

Today, you can’t talk about creating an amazing customer experience without bringing emerging AI-powered chat and voice platforms into the discussion. They’re rapidly becoming essential channels via which to connect with customers. Indeed, real-time text is the preferred method of communication with brands for Millennials, trumping email and 1-800 numbers and shoppers of all ages are becoming more accustomed to communicating with customer care chatbots. While AI-based voice assistance isn't as established as chat and text, it's also growing quickly. Voice accounts for 20% of search and by the end of 2017, 40M households in the US will have voice-enabled devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo. And people aren’t just using these devices to check the weather or find out movie showtimes–at least a third of Echo owners have made a purchase via Alexa. So, how can a smart retailer leverage chat and voice platforms to create the kind of customer experience that drives ecommerce competitiveness and increases revenue? There are five key areas to focus on.

Pura Vida Bracelets Enhances its Customer Service Capabilities with Linc Global

  Growing lifestyle retailer Pura Vida selects Linc to improve customer care automation and utilize their customizable artificial intelligence platform SUNNYVALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Linc Global, the customer care automation platform that powers the digital experiences that strengthen brand-to-shopper relationships, today announced its partnership with lifestyle retailer Pura Vida Bracelets to improve its customer service offerings through automation and artificial intelligence. Pura Vida will utilize Linc’s solution to provide a personalized customer care experience to ensure timely updates to customers, suggest product recommendations based on recent purchases and strengthen customer relationships. “We’re excited to partner with Linc to enhance our customer care platform. The majority of our sales are direct-to-consumer online so it’s important we have a platform that not only provides a quick solution to customer questions but is customizable to match our branding,” said Griffin Thall, CEO and co-founder, Pura Vida. “Linc enables us to directly interact with our customers via Facebook messenger which is exciting for us as a brand that actively engages with our audience on social media.”

Retailers Say AI Is The Future, But Most Are Slow To Adopt

Retailers have their eye on AI as a force that will reshape their customer care over the next 24 months, but most aren’t leveraging it today or are merely experimenting with it. Research we conducted with Brand Garage found that while almost 87% of retail executives planned to increase their usage of customer care AI in 24 months, less than 42% were currently using it, with most of them reporting they were only doing so on a trial or pilot basis. This future intention vs. current action gap is troubling for a number of reasons.

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