The Customer Is The Channel

The customer-centric blog of Linc Global

Customer Highlight: How JustFab.com Delivers Exceptional Service to Members, While Cutting Costs With Automation

TechStyle Fashion Group, the parent company of JustFab.com and ShoeDazzle.com, has seen explosive growth since its founding in 2010; gaining over 5M members with over 85M products shipped, operating in 12 countries with over 23M Facebook fans. With this expansion came challenges in giving customers the service they expect without running customer service costs sky-high. Parallel to this growth, TechStyle recognized that their customers were changing their habits, and email was no longer being used as much as social chat channels like Facebook Messenger.

Linc wins 2018 Artificial Intelligence Breakthrough Award

Among 2,500 award applicants, Linc was selected for its innovative work in helping brands and retailers reinvent their customer care strategy. Linc’s platform leverages purpose-built AI to answer more than 90% of customer inquiries with automated assistance across web, email, SMS, Facebook Messenger, and voice assistants including Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

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

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.

Top Blind Spots for CPG Manufacturers in Working with Amazon

This is a guest blog post from CPG and Amazon expert, Melissa Burdick. Melissa has over 12 years of experience in ecommerce, and works with brands to help them develop ecommerce strategies and win online. She previously helped launch the CPG retail business on Amazon.com, and was at Amazon Media Group at its inception.     For a long time, CPG brands didn't need to be overly concerned with ecommerce. US CPG manufacturers sleepily watched other categories (like consumer electronics) and markets (like UK and China) increase in ecommerce maturity while still focusing on their bread & butter brick & mortar businesses.  However, as shifting consumer preferences, low barriers to entry online giving rise to niche incumbent brands, and declining brick & mortar sales, an ecommerce strategy has suddenly gone from nice to have to critical and required immediately.  According to a new Nielsen study, brick and mortar sales for fast-moving CPGs have declined, while online sales of these same goods have grown by a massive 32% over the last year. The study stated that nearly nine of out of 10 dollars of FMCG retail growth came from online last year.

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.

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.

Press Release: Linc Joins Shopify Plus Technology Partner Program to Bring Universal Chatbot, Voice and Digital Customer Service Platform to High-Growth, High-Volume Customers

Linc delivers chat and voice capabilities to Shopify Plus customers via Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and other digital channels.

Chatbot Success 101: Why a Single Customer View is a Must

It’s not easy to give customers what they want in places and mediums that are most familiar to the retail industry, let alone on emerging channels like chat and voice. When 1–800-Flowers.com launched its chatbot, it was hailed as an example of capturing commerce interactions on a new channel and giving customers the convenience they crave. As Forrester has since identified, however, the chatbot “forgets users’ information if they try to return to their task the next day — despite displaying the previously entered data earlier in the Messenger conversation.”

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