Optimizing the Online and Catalog Connection
While every online retailer wants a compelling high-performance webstore, catalogers have unique needs. Among these needs are an optimized website for catalog shoppers, promotion of catalogs to online shoppers, integration of the catalog and online channels, and tools that will enable call center agents to support catalog shoppers.
Utilizing Consumer Insights to Drive the Online and Catalog Connection
Data is vital for all catalogers, so linking the online and offline experiences is key. One customer has tackled this from a few different angles. Virid’s marketAgility eCommerce platform supports single-use coupon codes managed through a simple interface. These are often used for abandoned cart incentives or email newsletter signup incentives, as they minimize fraud.
One of our large cataloging clients has leveraged this feature to allow certain attribution for catalog orders. Unique codes are put on each catalog sent, allowing the retailer to track which catalog customers are converting into actual shoppers. When a single-use coupon is redeemed, it’s attached to an order and marked as ‘used’ in marketAgility. A list of redeemed coupon codes and purchase amounts are sent to the client’s back-end system via an automated process. This information is used by our client to clean up mailing lists and calculate overall ROI on catalog designs and market segments.
In marketAgility, multiple external user IDs can be associated with the online customer’s accounts, either via a back-end process or an online customer-initiated process. This enables the more robust CRM systems and catalog management systems to link their internal IDs to the eCommerce website customer’s (with their permission of course). Order information can be exported to these third parties tagged with the specific system’s customer IDs. This allows more accurate linkage than implied associations using email addresses, results in cleaner data, and vastly simplifies the integrations for the third parties.
Site Optimization to Support the Catalog Customer
Some of our clients have faced significant partner hurdles in enabling deeper support for their catalog customers. At the absolute minimum, print catalogs should be available online. For one of our clients, this was not possible using any of their existing relationships. They chose to put their catalogs online using marketAgility’s native ‘Catalogs’ feature in the administration tool. This tool allows merchandisers to easily upload pages and link catalog images to the corresponding products online, or to alternative products when the item pictured is no longer available. This feature helps convert catalog customers who have gone online to buy without the product information in hand. It also gives the opportunity to expose online-only shoppers to the catalog experience. Adding a contextual link to an online catalog subscription will help convert online shoppers to cross-channel shoppers, deepening the brand relationship.
The client’s website also allows management of catalog subscriptions through an easy online interface, though this was not something their partner could directly support. Depending on the catalog management system, this online interface can be connected directly to the third party’s systems, or, if that cannot be supported by their system, the information can be gathered in marketAgility, then exported out via a scheduled process. The task management system in Virid’s eCommerce platform allows flexible scheduling of export tasks down to the minute, and the exports can be sent to the third party’s file system, put on the client’s FTP server for pickup, or sent via email to a designated recipient.
Not all catalog management companies or systems are geared for the online environment, so it is important for a platform to be flexible and meet partners where they are, technologically speaking. This flexibility ensured that this client was able to support their customers with online catalog management, in spite of the technology constraints of their catalog list management partner.
This client also faced constraints from their back-office systems. Certain business and accounting processes required that the catalog use different product IDs from the eCommerce product IDs. To work around this, the website loads both online and catalog-specific product IDs and adds them both to search indexes so that both are valid search terms online. This allows catalog customers to quickly find exactly what they are looking for. This information can be managed in the marketAgility tool on a per product level or as part of an automated product load from an inventory management system. For this client, this catalog-specific information was available from their inventory management system, and the process required no additional effort from their merchandising team.
Enabling Call Center Support for Catalog Shoppers
One multi-category customer is a heavy cataloger and had specific needs driven by the desire to support their catalog customers. One of the biggest needs was enabling call center support for this market. On the marketAgility platform, their call center agents are now able to process all their mail-in orders through an agent-friendly cash register interface.
While many platforms force call center reps to place orders on the website as if they were regular customers, marketAgility has created something tailored specifically to call center agents, accessible only through the administration tool. This system allows easy search of existing customers, both registered and not, to link orders across channels and minimize data entry. It also provides quick search for products, and displays all available colors and sizes and available inventory counts. With this information at their fingertips, agents can give quick alternatives to out of stock products, potentially saving a sale. Agents are empowered to price adjust, with system order notes auto-added when the process is complete, for tracking purposes. This cash register also gives agents exclusive access to behind-the-scenes shipping coupons allowing them to expedite shipping when needed, with no charge to the customer.
Call center agents working with catalog customers often manager orders in unusual order states, such as paused or awaiting payment. For example, they will have to call customers for clarification on mail-in orders when they can’t read their writing or a product is no longer available. These issues are often discovered part way through the order entry process, usually forcing agents to cancel the incomplete order and re-place it later by reentering the same information for a second time. In the marketAgility cash register, these partial orders can simply be paused and agents can save all data entry done thus far, making the process more efficient. These orders can be reopened and placed by any agent when the customer calls back, making updates easy.
Agents can also take alternative payment method orders over the phone, then put them in a placed but paused ‘verifying’ status as they await later mail-in payment via invoice, money order or check. The order is placed and the stock is held for the customer, but nothing is shipped. As soon as payment arrives, the agent accepts the order and it is sent out to be fulfilled.
Catalogs, once derided as ‘dead tree’ communications, are undergoing a huge resurgence in the marketplace, especially among Millennials. At Virid, we have never lost site of the value of catalogs. Working with this market for nearly two decades has taught us the value of this channel. We are proud of the work we have done enabling smart cross-channel retailers who are taking advantage of the power of print. Reach out to our sales team at email@example.com to see how we can help you master cross-channel commerce.