The Age of the Customer: Redefining “Customer Engagement”

December 18th, 2014 @ Newgistics

Forrester Research recently published a report authored by Kyle McNabb and Josh Bernoff and entitled, “The eBusiness Professional’s Blueprint for Strategy in the Age of the Customer” (September 2014). The premise of the report is how companies are redefining customer engagement and are putting customer obsession at the center of their corporate strategies. Forrester defines a customer-obsessed enterprise as one that “focuses its strategy, its energy, and its budget on processes that enhance knowledge of and engagement with customers and prioritizes these over maintaining traditional competitive barriers.”

One of the main drivers of this shift to customer-centricity is technology. Having once favored companies, technology now empowers customers who can learn all about your products, services, pricing and reputation with just a few clicks. Customers are now in the driver’s seat – they can buy anything instantly and have it delivered anywhere. And as Forrester points out, technology will be the important factor that enables organizations to create the company-wide transformation needed to meet the needs of today’s customer.

While there are many ways to approach customer centricity, we do know one thing for certain: brands across all industries are obsessed with understanding and catering to their customers. From Chico’s to the Bank of Montreal to restaurants such In-N-Out and T.G.I. Friday’s, brands in every vertical are working hard to ensure customers are at the core of their corporate strategy.

For brands looking to achieve customer-centricity, Forrester offers a four-part blueprint, which advises companies to:

1) transform the customer experience with a systematic, measurable approach;

2) accelerate your digital business future for greater agility and customer value;

3) embrace the mobile mind shift to serve customers in their moments of need; and

4) turn big data into business insights to continuously improve your efforts.

Forrester recognizes this is a tall order, which is why it will take the combined efforts of an organization’s most senior leaders. The firm advises these leaders to center on technologies that support the customer lifecycle, place a premium on software skills, and embrace modern approaches to application and solution delivery. According to the report, “Modern delivery approaches will be the de facto expectation when delivering customer-obsessed solutions.”

Is your organization prepared for the “Age of the Customer”? To obtain a copy of Forrester’s recommended blueprint, download it from the Newgistics website.

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Black Friday & Cyber Monday: A Tale of Two Headlines

December 1st, 2014 @ Newgistics

Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two most significant days of the year for retailers, are now behind us and the trend towards digital couldn’t be clearer. The Associated Press covered both of these unofficial retail holidays in articles that likely ran in newspapers across the country, but it was especially easy to see the big picture in The Boston Globe, where both headlines appeared side-by-side in Monday’s business section.

As we alluded to a few weeks back, Black Friday has lost its luster and there are a few different reasons that this is happening. Most notably, retailers are extending promotions on both ends of the shopping seasons – they’re starting earlier and pushing right up until Christmas. On top of that, they’re offering more deals online, which is where shoppers looking for bargains will almost always do their research. In turn this will translate into many online purchases.

Recent research from comScore that shows an uptick in online shopping through the first few weeks of November validates this trend. During the first 23 days of the month, the firm says that $17.5 billion was spent online, marking an 11percent increase from the same period last year. And that’s just shopping done on desktop computers; the research doesn’t even count mobile commerce, where the future of online retail is headed.

Toys ‘R’ Us is just one retailer that exemplifies the trend of extending the season and pushing shopping online. The company is offering 11 days of online deals that began the day before Thanksgiving and includes free-shipping offers. With promotions like that, it’s no wonder cramming holiday bargains into one day – on the Friday directly following a major holiday, no less – is losing its appeal among shoppers.

The steps retailers are taking to extend the season and move more business online are smart ones, as long as they know they can handle the demand they’ll place on their e-commerce infrastructure, all the way from the first click through fulfillment, delivery and returns.

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Enriching Ecommerce: The New Online Storefront

November 17th, 2014 @ Newgistics

Until recently, many e-commerce sites lacked the personal experience a consumer gets when they walk into a brick and mortar store. But, we’ve seen a shift happening within e-commerce where many retailers are offering services traditionally found within physical stores on their digital counterparts. With the busy holiday shopping season kicking off, there is no better time to take a look at some of the new ways online retailers are enriching the digital shopping experience.

The Friendly Sales Associate

Walk into most stores these days and you’re instantly greeted by a friendly sales associate willing to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. In the online world, retailers are using live video assistance to emulate this experience. Now, consumers have the opportunity to speak face-to-face with a sales associate that can help them with their online or mobile purchase. These live video sessions include co-browsing the online store with the shopper, showing them items that might be of interest, and even helping them through the checkout process.

The Personal Stylist

Think you need to be rich to afford a personal stylist? Think again. E-commerce startups like Stitch Fix and Trunk Club offer consumers an easy way to get personal recommendations online through style quizzes that give retailers a sense of each shopper’s tastes and interests. Personalized apparel and accessories are sent to shoppers on a monthly basis to try and – if they like — buy!

The Demo Station

Today’s retailers know that video sells. Whether it’s a model walking down a runway to show how a dress fits and flows, or a demonstration of new kitchen gadget, video promotion is six times more effective than its written counterparts (source: REELSEO). So much can be conveyed about products through short, high-quality videos – just as they are in-store at demo stations.

The Dressing Room

One of the biggest reasons shoppers still prefer to buy in the store – especially within the apparel industry – is the ability to try items on before purchasing. Enter the virtual dressing room, where shoppers can “try on” clothing, accessories and even cosmetics from the comfort of their own home. By using Kinect technology, shoppers can simply stand in front of a computer screen that acts as a mirror of sorts, allowing the shopper to see what they would look like in different articles of clothing. The technology even allows for the shopper to split the screen in two for side-by-side comparisons in different outfits.

When shoppers feel immersed and engaged with a brand, they’ll be a much more loyal customer. In the “offline” world, retailers have turned this into an art form, using things like lighting, music and even scents to strength the bond with their customers. This is much more difficult in the online world, but thanks to technology advances and retailers putting them to use in creative ways, we’re starting to see digital stores match the experiences once reserved for in-store shoppers.

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Is ‘Black Friday’ Dead?

November 6th, 2014 @ Newgistics

Halloween just passed and it’s already beginning to look a lot like Christmas. A number of retailers have already revealed (or leaked) their Black Friday ads, and Target just announced for the first time that it will offer free shipping site-wide through December 20 in an attempt to level the playing field a bit with its biggest competitor, Amazon, in order to get more wallet share this holiday season.

The National Retail Federation expects a 4.1 percent increase in holiday sales this year, with sales reaching upward of $616.9 billion to outpace last year’s 3.1 percent growth. And, even though there is a little more wiggle room in shoppers’ holiday budgets this year, they’ll still be hunting for those holiday bargains. According to a recent PwC study, 84 percent of consumers cited “best prices” as the main reason behind where they decide to purchase gifts, followed by “deals” as the second-most important factor.

There’s good news for these bargain-hunting shoppers; they don’t even have to wait for Black Friday this year now that many stores are set to open even earlier on Thanksgiving Day. Shoppers who can’t resist door-buster deals on popular gift items will be lined up outside Kmart while their turkey is still in the oven for the retailer’s planned 8am opening. And, Macy’s, Best Buy and others will be opening at 6pm on Thanksgiving – before you’ve even had a chance to digest that annual slice of pumpkin pie.

We anticipate a heavy promotional period in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. What was once a single sale day has extended throughout the weekend into its online counterpart, Cyber Monday, and now into Thanksgiving Day itself…and the weeks prior. So, is the whole notion of Black Friday dead (or at the very least starting to die)? In the past couple weeks alone, headlines such as, “Black Friday 2014: Thanksgiving Hours May Signal the End of Black Friday” and “Who needs Black Friday? Retailers already cutting prices” seem to indicate that this is a growing opinion.

The holiday shopping season seems to be starting earlier, just when we thought it couldn’t be extended any further, thanks in large part to e-commerce. If you want to keep up with competitors and reel in shoppers early, you better be preparing your site early too.

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Testing China’s Retail Appetite through E-Commerce

November 5th, 2014 @ Newgistics

Just last month, China overtook the United States as the world’s largest economy, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country’s growing middle class, among a population that’s four times bigger than the U.S. (1.357 billion vs. 316 million), made this an inevitable outcome and a good reason that many businesses – including retailers – have been planning their entrance into the market.

The Economist Intelligence Unit expects China’s retail market to grow to $8 trillion by 2022, while the U.S. market is forecasted to reach $4 trillion over the same period. With this writing on the wall, the West’s largest retailers have been testing China’s retail waters, but many of them have been quickly sinking to the bottom. The Home Depot, for example, set up shop following the same format of its do-it-yourself warehouse stores that’s been hugely successful in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and other countries. However, they misunderstood or failed to see a huge cultural difference behind The Great Wall – Chinese consumers aren’t keen on tackling construction and home improvement projects themselves. They’d rather pay a professional and supervise the project. Best Buy saw a similar outcome because of a culture that’s used to bargaining for their digital wares.

Putting boots and buildings on the ground halfway around the world is an expensive endeavor, even for retailers with all the right resources at their disposal, and it’s especially costly when the effort ends in retreat. Why not test the waters first through e-commerce?

Companies like Home Depot and Best Buy surely had armies of consultants and MBAs guiding their footsteps into China, but none of their research was as good as the lessons they learned once they were actually operating in the market. This is why it makes a lot of sense to make the first step into a market like China a virtual one. Easing into China through e-commerce operations is a natural way to test the waters, collect data about what’s selling, get feedback on products, and learn about cultural issues that could alter your strategy. Plus, building a brand among Chinese consumers through e-commerce will make for a softer landing when you’re ready to physically set up shop in the country.

In addition, there’s still a massive potential upside from an e-commerce market that dwarfs anything we’ve ever seen. To give one example, just look at China’s biggest online shopping day of the year, November 11. Turning “Singles Day” in China into a major shopping event is the brainchild of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and last year generated more than $5.7 billion in sales in a 24 hour period. To put that in perspective, the total amount that U.S. shoppers spent during Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday and Black Friday (combined) in 2013 was a “mere” $3.64 billion.

Keep in mind, this is at a time when Internet penetration in China is less than 10 percent of the population, so the numbers will only grow.

While launching an e-commerce site internationally and shipping across borders has its complexities, it’s certainly less complicated and less risky than opening a physical store. And by partnering with an end-to-end service provider, like Newgistics, that can provide everything from site design to international shipping and returns, entering a new market becomes even more cost efficient and attainable.

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Newgistics Names Trenton Brown as COO of Tacit Knowledge

October 22nd, 2014 @ Newgistics

Highly Experienced Executive Joins Digital Commerce Consultancy to Lead Next Stage of Growth and Development

Austin, Texas – October 21, 2014 – Newgistics, a leading provider of end-to-end e-commerce solutions for top retailers and brands, today announced it has hired Trenton Brown as chief operating officer for Tacit Knowledge, a Newgistics Company.  As COO, Brown will be responsible for leading strategy and execution for the company’s e-commerce offering as well as managing all aspects of the business for the company’s five global offices.

Brown offers an impressive track record of leading companies in domestic and international markets through periods of rapid growth. Brown brings a unique set of experiences that will enable him to be a key driver in the company’s overarching growth, innovation and execution across all areas of the e-commerce offering. Previously, Brown held senior executive positions with market-leading organizations worldwide, including SAP and Parametric Technology (PTC), a leading technology provider for the manufacturing industry. Through this experience, he offers profound expertise in international strategy and a deep understanding of global merger and acquisition work.

During his five-year tenure as President of International Business at PTC, Brown helped grow the company from a start-up to the fifth largest software company in the world, with revenues exceeding $1.3 billion. As an executive at SAP, Brown led the company’s manufacturing business and helped pioneer a successful utilities practice.

“As e-commerce continues to drive an increasing share of revenue, there is a growing opportunity for brands to leverage Newgistics’ comprehensive product and service offering to ensure they’re fully capitalizing on growth opportunities across the globe,” said Bill Razzouk,  CEO. “With Trent on our team with the experience he has brought to successfully growing tech companies across multiple industries, we’re in a strong position to serve the retail market and build the most robust end-to-end e-commerce solution in the world.”

“Our company has a clear vision of what it means to offer a true end-to-end e-commerce experience,” added Brown.  “Newgistics is known for revolutionizing e-commerce delivery and returns at an important turning point in a nascent industry and is building upon its reputation for bringing innovation and reliability to e-commerce technology and services.  It’s a highly compelling proposition at an exciting time in the retail market.”

Brown currently serves on the Board of Directors for companies such as Alianza Security Solutions, Kachyng and Coaloo.

About Newgistics, Inc.

Newgistics, a leading provider of parcel delivery and returns management for top retailers and brands, combines logistics and leading omni-channel commerce technology into a complete e-commerce solution. Integrating every step in the order life cycle, our end-to-end e-commerce solution includes: web design, implementation, integration, web hosting and support, order fulfillment, parcel delivery and returns. Our e-commerce platform is powered by hybris and we have partnered with Manhattan Associates to bring its leading order management solution to our customers. Since 1999, Newgistics has provided top merchants with innovative technology-driven solutions that improve the customer experience and accelerate growth—from customer acquisition through fulfillment, delivery and returns. To find out more, visit http://www.newgistics.com.

About Tacit Knowledge

Tacit Knowledge, a Newgistics Company, is the digital commerce consultancy that delivers Silicon Valley innovation to retailers around the world. Founded in 2002 by a group of software engineers, Tacit implements packaged applications, provides application support, web development, integration and content management,  and also builds custom software for globally recognized multichannel organizations, including some of Internet Retailer’s Top 25. The company is headquartered in San Francisco and employs 100 people across offices in London, New York, Mexico and Moldova. For more information please visit tacitknowledge.com.

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Newgistics and Kewill Present at Transportunities Virtual Tradeshow

October 13th, 2014 @ Newgistics

Session on Achieving Omni-Channel Success Takes Place Online at 2pm ET on October 15th

AUSTIN, Texas –October 9, 2014Newgistics, a leading provider of end-to-end e-commerce solutions for top retailers and brands, today announced its participation in Transportunities 2014, the logistics and transportation innovation show, on October 15, 2014. During this virtual tradeshow, Newgistics’ VP and chief architect for technology, planning and design, Ed Stashluk, will join Kewill director Larry Lewis to present a session titled, “Order to Fulfillment. Shipment to Return. What’s Required for Global Commerce Management Today.”

This session will explore what it takes for retail organizations to achieve true omni-channel success. It will provide a unique perspective of supply chain adaptation, technology and convergence to help attendees determine how to architect the right solution for their business.

“The retail landscape is rapidly changing and consumers want to experience a brand, not a channel within a brand. To meet these expectations, retailers need data that provides them with a single view, encompassing e-commerce through fulfillment, delivery and returns,” said Newgistics’ Stashluk. “The goal is end-to-end visibility that can help reduce costs and increase revenue, and to have that, flexibility in a solution is key.”

Newgistics and Kewill’s presentation on omni-channel success will be held at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, October 15, 2014.

For more information on Transportunities and to register for the event, visit http://www.transportunities.com.

About Newgistics, Inc.

Newgistics, a leading provider of parcel delivery and returns management for top retailers and brands, combines logistics and leading omni-channel commerce technology into a complete e-commerce solution. Integrating every step in the order life cycle, our end-to-end e-commerce solution includes: web design, implementation, integration, web hosting and support, order fulfillment, parcel delivery and returns. Since 1999, Newgistics has provided top merchants with innovative technology-driven solutions that improve the customer experience and accelerate growth—from customer acquisition through fulfillment, delivery and returns. To find out more, visit http://www.newgistics.com.

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Thanks for a great time, Shop.org!

October 10th, 2014 @ Newgistics
Now that the dust has settled after last week’s excitement at the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org Summit in Seattle, we wanted to take a quick look back at some of our highlights. We enjoyed our time networking with some of the greatest minds in online retail and attending all the thought-provoking  sessions the summit had to offer.

Here are some of the bright spots and learning experiences from our time at the show:

REI’s Website Overhaul is in the Works
In his keynote, REI president and CEO Jerry Stritzke let us peek behind the curtain to learn a little bit about what’s motivating a new site his company is set to launch early next year. The retailer currently does 23 percent of its sales online, though 75 percent of all customers who make in-store purchases check out the products online first. Yet again, this is another example of a retailer recognizing the need for a true, omni-channel experience. The new REI site will strive to meet omni-channel demands by delivering the same attention to detail that customers currently find in REI’s 135 stores. The goal is to mirror the in-person shopping experience online, which is extremely important as psychologist Kit Yarrow discussed at the show (more on that below).

Kynetic CEO Michael Rubin on Being Aggressive and Adaptable
With Forrester analyst and conference emcee Sucharita Mulpuru walking him through the hot-button topics concerning online retailers today, Kynetic CEO Michael Rubin didn’t hold anything back as he outlined some of his lessons learned in the retail trenches. Rubin shared some valuable lessons during his packed keynote session:
  • Less is more. To be successful you have to be focused.
  • Surround yourself with great talent.
  • Admit when you are wrong. And then get it right.
  • Prioritize
These are great tips that can be applied to a lot of areas in life, but are especially good to keep in mind in the quickly changing world of omni-channel retail.

Does Anyone Know What Their Customers Are Really Thinking?
As we expected, consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow’s session “Decoding the New Consumer Mind – How and Why We Shop and Buy” was an interesting one. It’s not news to anyone that people are shopping differently, but Yarrow’s session gave us some more insight on how consumers are thinking and feeling – and how retailers can use this understanding to be able to change and grow along with their customers.

Here are some important themes Yarrow says can help retailers better know their customers:
  • Lack of trust – Consumers today have become incredibly self-reliant, so going online helps people trust a brand more easily. It taps into a consumer’s feeling that they are doing it themselves. However, if the brand isn’t consistent across channels, consumers may instinctively feel tricked, compounding their feelings of mistrust.
  • Neurological changes – Our brains are now wired for speed. Regardless of age, people are skimming more and reading less. People expect immediate rewards. Any hassles with the online shopping experience could prevent customers from coming back – and more often, there are no second chances.
  • Radical individualism – Yarrow says human connections are generally becoming more superficial, which creates feeling of loneliness and isolation. At the same time, people are becoming more emotional and narcissistic. Consumers are looking for something that feels like it was created uniquely for them.
It was eye-opening to examine some of the psychological motivations that are driving many of the consumer trends retailers are trying to respond to today.

It was a great event this year. We’re looking forward to Shop.org 2015 – see you in Philly!
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End of Year Holiday Schedule

October 9th, 2014 @ Newgistics

2014 Holiday Schedule

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Newgistics Launches Cross-Border E-Commerce Delivery Service

September 29th, 2014 @ Newgistics

New Offering Makes International  Delivery and Returns Easy and Seamless for Online Retailers

AUSTIN, Texas – September 29, 2014 – Newgistics, a leading provider of end-to-end e-commerce solutions for top retailers and brands, today announced the international expansion of its parcel delivery and return services. This new offering helps to reduce the costs of cross-border delivery and make it easier for U.S. retailers to access and begin selling into the largest markets overseas including the U.K., Europe, Asia, Australia, Russia, China and South America.

Key features of Newgistics’ International  Solution include:

  • Delivery to 34 key global markets with plans for future expansion
  • Full end-to-end tracking
  • Direct injection into local markets and carriers to ensure local delivery expertise
  • Pre-paid and paid in-country returns processing
  • Fast customs clearance
  • Parcels delivered duty paid
  • Full control over packaging, email communications and other details so retailers can maintain a consistent brand experience no matter where their customers reside

According to eMarketer, global consumer spending through e-commerce is expected to hit $1.5 Trillion in 2014, and is being driven by growth in emerging markets. This creates significant opportunity for U.S.-based retailers that are prepared to sell internationally.

“Managing logistics is one of the biggest challenges for e-tailers expanding overseas because international  shipping has been expensive and often complicated, hit by delivery delays, customs hold-ups and unexpected additional charges,” said Ted Tanner, VP global solutions, Newgistics. “As a result, many U.S.-based e-tailers have been reluctant to target overseas customers, but we’re helping to change that. Our mission is to help retailers break down the barriers to growth in e-commerce and our new international  delivery service gives them a fast, cost-effective solution to the challenge of international home delivery.”

Newgistics’ International Solution offers a simple pricing structure without complex volumetric charges, along with fast paperless customs clearance and full tracking so that parcels can be monitored at every stage of the outbound journey until final confirmation of delivery.

For this new service, Newgistics is partnering with wnDirect whichwill manage the international transportation and customs clearance, including ID capture and duty payment management for countries where appropriate. Parcels collected in the U.S. will be shipped out of international gateways at Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, and will then be sent to domestic delivery partners for the final mile delivery to the customer.

“International e-commerce is a minefield of multiple languages, purchasing habits and expectations. Our entire offering is built on an appreciation of these challenges and, in response, for each market we deliver from and to we seek out a best-in-class partner,” said Stuart Hill, wnDirect’s CEO. “In the U.S. our partner of choice is Newgistics. We are delighted to have developed a partnership with them as, together, we have been able to create an exciting e-commerce solution to help U.S. retailers to begin capitalizing more on growing global markets.”

About Newgistics, Inc.

Newgistics, a leading provider of parcel delivery and returns management for top retailers and brands, combines logistics and leading omni-channel commerce technology into a complete e-commerce solution. Integrating every step in the order life cycle, our end-to-end e-commerce solution includes: web design, implementation, integration, web hosting and support, order fulfillment, parcel delivery and returns. Our e-commerce platform is powered by hybris and we have partnered with Manhattan Associates to bring its leading order management solution to our customers. Since 1999, Newgistics has provided top merchants with innovative technology-driven solutions that improve the customer experience and accelerate growth—from customer acquisition through fulfillment, delivery and returns. To find out more, visit http://www.newgistics.com.

About wnDirect

wnDirect is an example of entrepreneurial thinking at its best. Well established as a market leader in the U.K., wnDirect is now supporting U.S. retailers to realize their global aspirations. By combining unrivalled experience and knowledge with a fresh approach to international logistics wnDirect is helping U.S. retailers say Welcome, Bienvenue, Willkommen, Bem Vindo, Velkommen to 740 million new customers.

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