MSC Industrial praised for personalizing e-commerce software

In a recent article from Digital Commerce 360, Dirxion customer MSC Industrial was highlighted for employing new e-commerce software that recommends products to consumers based on their previous viewing and purchasing history. Large e-commerce corporations have been known to deliver similar experiences, most notably Amazon, which had recently unveiled the open source software they use to power their product recommendation system.

MSC Website

The software also relies on MSC’s email campaigns, displaying what products and promotional offers consumers have responded to and interacted with in the past. It integrates with other customer relationship management software to base product recommendations off of customer account activity and product life cycles.

Overwhelmingly, consumers have shown an increased preference for a personalized e-commerce experience. According to Accenture, 75 percent of consumers would be more likely to buy from a retailer that either knows their purchase history, recommends options based on past purchases or recognizes them by name. Certain levels of individualization translates to brand loyalty, as brand relationships are often driven by emotion. Consumers who interact with a personalized shopping experience have also been more likely to recommend it to their peers; 77 percent of consumers have chosen, recommended or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience, according to research from Forrester.

The company’s investment in e-commerce has benefited them even in the short run. As reported in a separate article by Digital Commerce 360,e-commerce sales increased by 6.4 percent and now accounts for nearly 60 percent of their total net sales. MSC, No. 74 on the B2B E-Commerce 300 list, has continuously invested in new ways to implement e-commerce within their business to remain an Internet powerhouse.

MSC Twitter

MSC implemented Dirxion’s online catalog directly within their website. “The Big Book,” MSC’s annual catalog, can be opened and closed from wherever within their website using a tab on the left-hand side of their webpages. Dirxion’s online catalogs are optimized with HTLM5 and are supported by a multitude of proxy servers to assure fast loading times, in spite of large databases from which to pull information. Dirxion’s commitment to industry revolution gives MSC Industrial and hundreds of other B2B businesses the tools to meet consumer needs and remain leaders within their market.

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Stories of brick-and-mortar struggles don’t account for e-commerce adaption mindset

The retail industry in the past two decades has seen a myriad of changes due to the evolving expectations of consumers and the persistent rise of the Internet. Reports and articles across the market have highlighted layoffs, foreclosures and bankruptcies of some of the industry’s biggest players, essentially constructing a narrative where online-exclusive stores will eventually phase out the brick-and-mortar experience. These reports, however, don’t account for the costs associated with e-commerce development and implementation and how stores are finding new ways to create an omnichannel experience for their customers.

There’s been no end of stories lately about retail store closures, layoffs and bankruptcies, but the real story isn’t about physical retail dying. It’s about evolution — and that outlook is very positive.
Ifti Ifhar, CEO, ComQi

E-commerce growth has been somewhat misleading in recent years when analyzed in an isolated scenario. For instance, according to ComQi, e-commerce sales have grown by 14.7 percent in the past four quarters and physical stores have grown by 4.3 percent in the same time period. But when converted to sales, e-commerce brought in $13.5 billion whereas brick and mortar reeled in $47 billion.

But that’s not to say that e-commerce hasn’t taken some of the market away from physical stores. From 2009 to 2017, the percentage of total sales accounted for by e-commerce grew from 4 percent to nearly 9 percent. Consumer preferences across generations have continually preferred to make physical purchases. According to BigCommerce,across all generations, an average of 54 percent of all purchases are made in-store.

Physical stores have been in an adaption mindset, returning to old concepts and evolving them to work in this new market. Most recently, many large brands such as Patagonia and Athleta found success after bringing back or revamping their print catalogs. However, at the same time, other businesses found print to be too expensive, with high printing and shipping costs as well as the risk of shipping out catalogs with very low returns on their print investment. The market eventually found a comfortable medium in online catalogs, as the demand from consumers for companies to deliver a coherent, on-brand omni-channel shopping experience rose.

Dirxion online catalogs have successfully combined the aesthetic and familiar feel of a print catalog with the connectivity and versatility of the e-commerce experience. Dirxion offers custom features such as minimal UI and embedding within an existing domain to create a seamless transition from website to digital publication. And because these online catalogs live within a website URL that is accessible anywhere with an Internet connection, shipping costs are essentially eliminated. Most decisions are a matter of how and when to send an e-mail blast or promote the material on social media sites — an opportunity cost, but not heavy expense.

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E-commerce values merge for international millennial customers

Due to the rise of e-commerce and the Internet, integrated technology has become a daily aspect of everyday life. As covered in a recent TechCrunch article, marketers and industry analysts are discovering these changes are diminishing the power of geographical differences,with generations across the world becoming more alike than ever.

“If you want insight into Chinese millennials, you’re better off looking to their American peers than their Chinese parents. This wasn’t always the case: a Chinese person in their sixties grew up listening to and worshipping Chairman Mao, while an American did the same for the Beatles.” — TechCrunch, 2017

Millennials, those aged 18-34, account for 200 million in the Chinese population and 80 million in the U.S. population. Globally, this generation has been known as “digital natives,” those who have grown up in the digital age, causing customer values to merge. The article points out that the two demographics are unlikely to reach a point in which they’re exactly the same, especially considering the Chinese and U.S. market has large logistical differences in mobile versus desktop preferences, delivery networks and rival in-store shopping options.

For millennials in both the U.S. and Chinese markets, e-commerce has changed to a brand loyalty dynamic. E-commerce performance and brand consistency are held in high regard and are graded under strict scrutiny. Studies conducted by Taylor & Francis Online concluded consumers make an evaluation of a website or e-commerce platform within 50 milliseconds. If expectations aren’t met, consumers are more likely than ever to switch over to a competitor. Online purchases account for 67 percent of all purchases made for millennials, according to BigCommerce.

 

Other international markets have characteristics that make it easy for e-commerce to take hold. Areas who are mobile-first and have economies built without suitable offline shopping options generally thrive as e-commerce rises. New markets within the Chinese economy have taken a similar approach, taking tried and true business models in the U.S. and localizing them. Dirxion online catalogs give businesses an opportunity to tap into the developing global e-commerce market. Dirxion online catalogs can support a variety of languages that allow businesses to deliver an on-brand experience across international barriers.

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MSC Industrial increases customer support to match growing e-commerce

As reported by Digital Commerce 360, MSC Industrial attended the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition June 6-9. Senior Director of E-Commerce Mike Roth discussed the company’s balance between investing in the digital shopping experience while still retaining a personal customer service experience. The article points out MSC’s high ranking (72/300) on the 2017 B2B e-commerce 300, a list of high-profile B2B companies that represent 72 percent of B2B e-commerce sales in the U.S.

Steve Baruch, senior vice president, chief strategy and marketing officer, also spoke at the presentation. He highlighted the positive relationship between digital and customer experience and how when digital presence rises customer support has to follow. He and Roth then go on to describe the three ways a B2B business can successfully combine e-commerce and customer service.

MSC Online Catalog

 

1. Know your audience. According to the article, MSC has applied a variety of digitally-driven marketing research to supply their sales teams with information valuable in making personal connections with their customers. By examining certain customer habits, MSC gained valuable information about their customer’s buying behaviors. Such data opens news doors for MSC’s sales team.

2. Listen and respond. By gathering and evaluating customer feedback from a multitude of avenues, MSC has been able to evolve their customer interaction methods. For instance, after analyzing feedback data, the company realized customers wanted their shipping data in real time and changed their website to include shipment tracking. The company adjusted to the changing needs of their customers.

3. Build loyalty by winning your customer’s trust. MSC knows the preferred communication and ordering methods of a business can vary. Baruch mentioned, for instance, that some small customers prefer to work through the website for communication, order management and inventory control but prefer to speak to a dedicated customer care team for real help. MSC also pushes to promote their customer care phone number as a way of balancing online presence and personal care.

 

Dirxion provides MSC with new ways to meet the growing e-commerce needs of their customers through Dirxion’s online catalogs. MSC’s Big Book is embedded within their website and can be accessed from anywhere without having to leave the site. This allows customers to work within their preferred methods of ordering. Other Dirxion features, such as Google Analytics support, allows MSC to know what products their customers are interested in and interact with the most. Dirxion’s customization capabilities keeps the catalog on-brand, an aspect of building brand loyalty and earning customer trust.

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Ulta Beauty showcases CRM, e-commerce strategy at conference

Dirxion customer Ulta Beauty spoke at the annual CRM Conference in Chicago earlier last week,as reported by TotalRetail. Ulta Beauty’s SVP of Marketing Strategy Eric Messerschmidt spoke on the company’s CRM and e-commerce strategies and how they increase customer loyalty.

The presentation focused on how retail businesses can adjust their customer retention strategies in order to attain loyalty membership and revenue growth. Such skills were emphasized in an era where e-commerce sites have been taking away some of the market share of physical stores. According to the article, Ulta saw a 24 percent increase in sales, a 28 percent increase in earnings and a 27 percent growth in their loyalty program. Messerschmidt revealed that their customers buy a third of their beauty needs from the company, partly in thanks to their strong commitment to a loyalty program. He then reveals the keys to achieving a high level of CRM:

Ulta Ultimate Rewards

1. Align on a trusted measurement methodology for your CRM program. Customers respond to transparency. According to the 2016 Label Insight Transparency ROI Study, conducted by Label Insight, 81 percent of surveyed customers would be willing to sample more of a brand’s products if they were comfortable with its level of transparency.

2. Implement a cycle of continuous learning. “If you haven’t failed, you’re not trying hard enough,” said Messerschmidt. Ulta adopted a trial and error mentality when it comes to trying new campaigns.

3. Employ a diverse set of offers and approaches. In partner with its brands, Ulta offers a variety of deals, offers and samplings. Other premium experiences, such as early access for new products, are extended to members of their Ultimate Rewards program.

4. Build and leverage a knowledge base. Ulta is constantly conducting market research and collecting data about their customers. By being in tune with the evolving habits and methods of their customers, Ulta can better market their offers and products. Often times, this is done through target campaigns on target audiences as opposed to a control group.

5. Staff consultative “account managers.” Certain employees are responsible for managing Ulta’s relationships with their brands to get the most out of their partnership. However, special attention is given to brands that “move the needle,” according to Messerschmidt.

Partnered with Ulta Beauty, Dirxion has provided Ulta new avenues to connect with their customers with Dirxion’s e-flyers. The e-flyer gives Ulta customers a new way to browse and purchase Ulta’s products in a format that can be sent to their customers at anytime from anywhere. This format also increases the efficiency in which Ulta can interact with and extend new deals to their customers. Integrated into their Google Play and Apple iTunes store applications, Ulta’s e-flyers receive a high level of exposure to their mobile customers.

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Online catalogs give businesses a way to meet generational needs

E-commerce creates a unique scenario for many businesses. The rise of the Internet in the early 1990s has divided generations and given way to various expectations, values and skepticism with regards to the online shopping experience.

The Pew Research Center discovered 77 percent of U.S. adults own smartphones. But when divided by age group, the data shows a much clearer picture. For instance, 92 percent of U.S. adults ages 18-29 own a smartphone, compared to 74 percent when looking at U.S. adults ages 50-64. How U.S. adults interact with those devices, especially with regards to e-commerce, can help explain shopping trends among different generations.

E-commerce is at a crossroads where consumers who grew up in the Internet era and those who were introduced to it in a later stage in their lives share a space within the online market. Studies conducted by BigCommerce, an e-commerce software development company, have revealed online shopping and e-commerce takes up varying degrees of shopping per generation. For instance, Millennials do 67 percent of their shopping online whereas Baby Boomers do 59 percent of their shopping in-store.

Despite this, across all generations, certain trends remain consistent. Large retailers make up a greater majority of the places U.S. adults shop (73 percent on average). What each generation considers “influential” in deciding to make online purchases follows the same pattern. With a commanding average of 71 percent, reviews have the biggest influence on a consumer’s decision to purchase, followed by friends and family and then advertisements.

In order to capture the attention and trust of customers across all generations, businesses have realized a strong and trustworthy online presence is key to meeting the values and expectations of each customer. Dirxion’s online catalog services provide a strong complimentary product to any business’s e-commerce site. Capitalizing on a familiar layout and easy-to-use format, the online catalogs create a hassle-free experience for any Generation X or Baby Boomer customer. Similarly, the fast-loading, integrated shopping technology meets the needs of Millennial shoppers.

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Rise in e-commerce exemplifies change in consumer habits

In this year’s first quarter, U.S. consumers spent a collective $106 billion and drove e-commerce sales up 14.7 percent from a year ago, according to a recent article published in U.S. News. The article includes the Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales report for Q1 2017, as published by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The study includes data from 2007, wherein retail e-commerce sales made up only 3.5 percent of all retail sales, having now increased to 8.5 percent in 2017.

Tim Stringfellow, president and chief investment officer of Frost Investment Advisors, is quoted in the U.S. News article: “the big winner (and more indicative of the health and mindset of the consumer) was the online retailing category.” Statista, a statistics and studies gathering website, estimates total retail e-commerce sales will reach roughly $354 billion dollars in the U.S. in 2017.

 

The article suggests consumers are changing the ways in which they spend their money. For many companies, this required a replanning of how much time and money they spend on the physical aspects of their businesses. In April of 2016, Victoria’s Secret announced it would discontinue producing its physical catalog, once used as a means for customers to buy items from the catalog via a phone call. Arnie Preston, the investor relations officer of the parent company L Brands, estimated Victoria’s Secret spent between $125-$150 million annually on the catalog.

As both retail and B2B companies cut back on print, Dirxion continues to be called upon to create a strong online catalogs experience. Dirxion’s online catalog services allow retailers to stay alongside consumer’s evolving online habits while delivering a seamless and on-brand shopping experience. This is done by integrating existing programming from e-commerce sites and hosting a catalog on a dedicated URL. This allows the catalog to live within the customer’s website.

A good example of this is through Dirxion customer David’s Bridal. Dirxion integrates programming developed by David’s Bridal’s website. When customers interact with linked products throughout the catalog, an iFrame opens within the catalog that is pointed directly at the URL where a product is hosted. This allows customers to look at available sizes, colors and even add that particular item to their shopping cart, all without breaking the shopping experience. Such practices allow for the publisher’s e-commerce strategies to take hold within the online catalogs, creating a common user experience and easier path to purchase.Davids Bridal Online Catalog

 

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Studies show manufacturers favor distributors with strong e-commerce

The message from manufacturers to distributors is to get your e-commerce up to snuff, according to recent surveys conducted by Modern Distribution Management (MDM). A post earlier this month summarized some of the findings and analyses that pointed toward the importance of online transaction practices.

Dean Mueller and Jonathan Bein of Real Results Marketing are quoted in the MDM article, and they believe manufacturers understand that “the path to sales growth includes offering products in multiple channels, with e-commerce at the forefront.”

Mueller and Bein state that manufactures want to partner with distributors who have a more-established e-commerce channel because they “don’t have time to nurture distributors without solid e-commerce options.” MDM supports this claim with statistics that show manufacturers are actually further along in their e-commerce development than distributors. According to MDM, the percentage of manufacturers who report e-commerce as less than 10 percent of total revenue is lowering (from 57 percent in 2015 to 41 percent in 2016); meanwhile, the number of manufacturers reporting 10-30 percent e-commerce revenue is growing (15 percent increase from 2015-2016).

Distributors, on the other hand, haven’t been as quick to shift from the nascent (fewer than 10 percent revenue) to the mature (10-30 percent of revenue) stage. There has been only a 7 percent drop in the nascent stage and a corresponding 5-percent gain in the mature stage. In other words, distributors aren’t growing their e-commerce revenue as quickly as manufacturers.

MDM also claims that manufacturers are deliberately looking for distributors that will help develop markets and drive traffic to online channels. “They want partners that will help sell product benefits through the online channel, such as adding short videos about the products to their websites,” the article states.

Dirxion has seen an emphasis placed on rich media among its online catalogs customers. This emphasis has resulted in new developments like the “Videos” tab that stores a library of videos within the online catalogs interface. HD Supply showcases 14 different categories in its online catalogs videos tab, which can be found on the left-hand side of its interface.

HD Supply Catalog

In linking product numbers to e-commerce pages, Dirxion plays a vital role in strengthening the distributor’s e-commerce results. One of the most notable examples of this is MSC, whose e-commerce revenues continue to climb. Please visit the previous link for more information on Dirxion’s work with MSC.

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