Many eCommerce retailers have probably never heard of the 1992 Supreme Court case we discussed recently— Quill Corp. v. North Dakota. Up until recently, the only thing you really had to know was that the decision in that case has saved you from sales tax headaches.

Unfortunately, the 25-year grace period seems to be ending and it’s time for eCommerce companies to prepare. The overview of the online sales tax problem and the challenges you might face because of it, is helpful; however, now it’s time to dig a little deeper into the legal topic.

Nexus is the legal term at the heart of the online sales tax debate. But what is nexus and what does it mean for your eCommerce business?





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Defining Sales Tax Nexus for eCommerce Retailers

The strict legal definition of “nexus” is a connection between people, things, or events with a focus on chain of causation. However, the definition becomes a little more ambiguous when it comes to retail.

The ruling in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota is predicated on the concept of nexus. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not collect sales taxes from sellers that did not have a physical presence in that state. This physical presence requirement has kept eCommerce retailers from dealing with many potential sales tax challenges.

Tech innovation and the emergence of mainstream eCommerce have helped complicate the meaning of nexus. And now that online sales taxes seem like an inevitability, it’s important to know what sales tax nexus means for your eCommerce retail business.

The Complicated Nature of Nexus in eCommerce Today

While physical presence seemed fairly straight forward in 1992, it has become increasingly complicated over the years. Now, most states that haven’t pushed back on eCommerce retailers for online sales taxes interpret nexus as having a physical store, office, or distribution center in the customer’s state.

However, even that definition is under fire as states push for more power to collect online sales taxes. Depending on the state you’re dealing with, any of the following could fulfill the sales tax nexus requirement for online retail:

  • Sales made while traveling to trade shows in different states
  • Having employees working in a different state
  • Attending meetings outside of your home state
  • Using third party marketing strategies such as remote ad targeting of affiliate marketing
  • Leveraging Fulfillment by Amazon in a state where Amazon has a distribution facility or warehouse
  • And more

Rebecca Madigan, executive director of the Performance Marketing Association, has said the only viable solution to such a confusing mess of nexus requirements is to require all eCommerce retailers to collect online sales taxes for all states. While this certainly seems like where we’re headed, it’s clear that eCommerce retailers must prepare to properly apply any number of nexus-based regulations on a transaction-to-transaction basis.

According to Scott Peterson, director of government affairs for Avalara, “Today, any number of standard business activities can result in a tax obligation. Ever state’s regulations are different, so it’s important to have a nexus assessment performed periodically if your business makes sales to out-of-state buyers.”

Nexus assessments will prove essential for online sales tax compliance, but there are residual issues that you’ll also have to manage. As you apply all of the different online sales tax laws to your eCommerce site, you’re bound to unknowingly create customer experience friction. Whether it’s through form field errors or inconsistencies in disclosing online sales taxes to shoppers, you have to be ready to optimize customer experience in the way of new regulations (even if they vary between tax jurisdictions).

Don’t let complicated compliance processes ruin your site’s customer experience. Learn how to identify customer experience friction and optimize your site to ensure customers are moving smoothly through checkout.





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We’ve reached that time of the year again—Halloween is behind us and stores are starting to roll out their holiday-themed decorations. And no one is happier this time of the year than retailers who are set to see massive revenue spikes for November and December.

2015 was an important year for eCommerce as, for the first time, consumers shopped more online than in stores between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday. In fact, Thanksgiving-weekend eCommerce sales grew nearly 20% to over $7 billion in 2015—and 2016 is set to exceed these expectations.

Over the course of the November/December holiday shopping season, eCommerce sales are expected to grow 17% in 2016, leaving retailers with plenty to feel happy about.

You’ve Earned Holiday Shopping Revenue—You Just Have to Take It

Take a step back before the holiday season gets underway and think about all the things you’ve done this year to set you up for a strong year. Everything you’ve done from a customer experience standpoint—customer attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy, etc.—sets the foundation for your success in the November/December eCommerce rush.

The effort you’ve put toward email marketing, advertising, social media engagement, PPC/SEO, loyalty schemes, voice of the customer programs and more means you’ve earned the right to holiday season revenue.

However, there are so many retailers that miss out on the eCommerce opportunity because of poorly-timed customer experience issues.

Don’t Let Customer Experience Issues Play the Role of Scrooge This Year

Customer experience (CX) is so often the one thing standing in the way between you and the revenue you’ve earned from consistent marketing and sales efforts. During the holiday shopping rush, it only takes one issue for customers to abandon the website and search elsewhere for the items on their wish lists.

On a high level, you might be aware of the potential challenges that can cause friction in your customer experience. The problem is that during the holiday season, it can be almost impossible to actually identify and remedy the issues before it’s too late.

At a time when big data is so readily available, eCommerce companies have to leverage the information at hand to actually improve customer experience and unlock the revenue they’ve earned throughout the year.

Sorting through big data manually isn’t scalable or efficient for the holidays, but a customer experience analytics solution can help you solve a number of CX problems that could put your customers into an Ebenezer-Scrooge kind of mood.

Read on and check out our latest infographic, 5 Customer Experience Tips for a Happier 2016 Holiday Shopping Season, that covers the key CX issues you’ll have to overcome if you want to ensure that this is the happiest holiday season yet for your eCommerce business.

 

Infographic Regarding Holiday Shopping Trends
 

Get the Full Infographic PDF Here
 

<< Read The Full eCommerce Guide: Optimizing The Customer Journey During the Holiday Season and Throughout the Year >>




Holiday Season Shopping eBook




 

Recently, we posted a blog about some crucial KPIs that traditional retailers need to understand in order to survive the transition to the digital era. In order to keep their customers and stay profitable, digital retailers need to monitor the ROI on advertising, keep track of the customer journey, and ensure they’re stocking the things that their customers want to buy. Additionally, retailers should focus on some important internal metrics—using customer experience data to fine-tune their internal resources and make smart investments.

Should You Change the Channel?

One-click ordering. Consumer rewards. Free shipping.  Customers demand conveniences that come as an expense to retailers. Just as an example, 20% of users will abandon their shopping cart if shipping costs are too high. By using analytics, digital retailers can understand which ecommerce features their customers demand right now, and which can wait.

 

<< Book a Demo Now to See How You Can Increase Your Customer Experience ROI >>
 

This approach can help amortize the cost of building and maintaining an ecommerce presence over a longer period, taking less away from the bottom line. As an example, Wal-Mart recently warned its investors to expect two years of decreased profits as they reinforce their online presence.

Are You Changing Fast Enough?

Thirty percent of online shoppers expect to make grocery purchases over the internet. That’s right—even grocery stores are seeing the necessity of an omnichannel strategy. If your brand or industry doesn’t have that strategy in place yet, it’s probably time to invest. Retailers need to future-proof themselves. We’ve already seen the rise of customer experience analytics, social media marketing, and mobile ecommerce. What might be coming around the corner?

Macy’s has just introduced RFID-tagging that allows unsold items in-store to be listed on their ecommerce platform instead of sitting on a shelf. Amazon has introduced dynamic pricing to maximize profits on the fly. Waitrose, a UK supermarket, has introduced digital personalization to boost orders by 24%. One or another of these innovations will allow you to recapture revenue, stay competitive, and remain relevant in the digital era.

Is Your Digital Operation Short-Changing Your Retail Stores?

Online coupons and other price promotions can be gold for ecommerce—45% of millennial shoppers have redeemed a coupon online as of Q3 2015. Because your physical stores will also have to honor the reduced price, however, your digital investments might be draining some of the profits out of your retail locations.

Digital business can definitely siphon money from physical retail, if customer experience is not optimal. More to the point, a lot of retailers can’t even tell it’s happening, because decision makers and analysts often don’t’ have access to integrated digital and brick-and-mortar sales data. Separate data silos now represent one of the largest barriers to accurate revenue analysis in ecommerce.

Recapture Revenue to Reinvest in Your Business

Digital commerce requires serious financial resources. Whether it’s more features on the frontend, or analytics on the backend, digital retailers can expect to invest a great deal of time, energy and money into creating an attractive, well-supported online store. Done poorly, this won’t just represent a waste of resources—it can also drain revenue from your physical locations.

Based on this assessment, it is absolutely necessary to capture as much revenue as possible from an online presence—and there’s where Customer Experience Analytics (CXA) can help. Essentially, CXA helps digital retailers to find ecommerce revenue that they’ve earned, but haven’t been able to realize.

For example, many customers will visit an ecommerce website, find a product they like, click to buy it—but then discover that due to an unforeseen technical issue, their purchase will not complete. Many ecommerce operators have these kinds of issues, and UserReplay can help you sniff them out and uncover what you’ve lost. One retailer was able to get back £4.7 million pounds per year!

For more information on how UserReplay can help retailers uncover hidden income that they can reinvest into their businesses, check out a demo today.



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Three More Crucial KPIs for Digital Retailers with coffee

 

Over the last five years ecommerce has been taking big bites out of the brick-and-mortar market, and the gap is more apparent this year than ever. Amazon—the biggest store in the world—recorded an e-commerce revenue of $82.7 billion. Walmart is Amazon’s nearest competitor in the ecommerce field, but its online earnings were a comparatively paltry $12.5 billion.

Retailers aren’t finding a whole lot of success when they foray into the ecommerce world—and their physical locations are losing money. Starting with the disappointing 2015 holiday season, traditional retailers have seen their revenue drop almost across the board. In order to defend their place in the market and keep pace with online-only sellers, retailers must closely examine these three indicators and react accordingly.

Does Your Advertising Work in the Digital Age?

Collectively, retail companies will spend $15.09 billion on digital advertising in the year 2016. A certain—large—percentage of this money will be wasted. A customer will see an online ad, and not only will they fail to go to a store and buy something, the ad will be completely inappropriate for their age, gender, and demographic.

 

<< Book a Demo Now to See How You Can Increase Your Customer Experience ROI >>
 

How can retailers minimize ad wastage? It is incumbent upon retailers to create attribution models that can determine which marketing channels are responsible for what amount of income.

Who’s Buying What Things?

“Customer journey,” is a term that Customer Experience firms use a great deal. Making sure that customers can navigate a website, enjoy an experience catered to their preferences, and complete their orders without any issues is a huge deal for ecommerce companies. Retailers who operate both ecommerce sites and physical locations have a two-fold customer journey challenge.

How can you figure out why a customer visited either an ecommerce site or a physical store? Was it because of an online ad, or the email with a 40% off coupon? Did they see a commercial on television, or a circular tucked inside their newspaper? Here’s a clue—over 50% of US customers visit an app or website before making a purchase in-store. 31% of UK shoppers did the same. According to data from the Centre for Retail Search, online sales in the United Kingdom accounted for 10.7% of total retail sales in 2014. According to data from the Ecommerce Foundation, ecommerce in the UK was worth 157 billion euros in 2015.

Are Those Things in Stock?

Inventory control is more of an art than a science. Retailers often stock items whose popularity waxes and wanes due to unpredictable tides. Here’s an example of one reason why retailers had a less-than excellent holiday season: El Niño. Warmer winter temperatures meant that stores overstocked coats and boots, which subsequently failed to sell.

Understock goes hand-in-glove with overstock—too much of one thing usually means too little of something else. Both problems amount to lost sales and lost money, so this is a hugely important KPI to keep track of for retailers.

Using a CXA Solution for Much Greater Success

Customer Experience Analytics (CXA) delivers the revenue you have already earned by bringing customers to your site that have the intention of purchasing, but have a suboptimal customer experience and abandon the purchasing process.  A CXA solution can uncover the segments of your customers who fail to convert and can then quantify and monetize these segments, and prioritize them for optimization.

CXA can be used to assist retailers who are trying to drive traffic to a brick and mortar stores.  For example, many customers are driven out of the sales process when they see an “out-of-stock” message. If they’re trying to find an item in a particular physical store, this can cause them to cancel their visit. UserReplay’s Customer Experience Analytics solutions can flag this kind of interaction in order to help stores understand how to re-engage customers after one of these events. UserReplay is helping to manage customer engagement for The Container Store to ensure that no issues are encountered when consumers attempt to claim their loyalty rewards.

For more on how UserReplay can help retailers looking to defend their share of the market, get a live demo today.



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We’re all used to completing forms online – sometimes they work well, other times they can be confusing and frustrating. Consequently, this can be an area where customers drop out of key processes on a website such as checkout, insurance quoting, registration and many more.

In an increasingly global eCommerce environment, consumers need to be able to easily complete online forms for any brand, anytime, anywhere. We have outlined below some of the common issues that cause customers to struggle when completing online forms:

1. Fields that do not accept special characters

It’s a challenge for brands to cover all the bases here but there are some common errors we see arising again and again. For example, town fields that do not accept certain types of punctuation such as a hyphen. The people of Weston-Super-Mare struggle a lot!

Similarly, this applies to name fields where apostrophes and hyphens are not accepted. For example, names such as O’Neill would not be accepted as valid. Rather ironically, the founder of the worldwide web, Tim Berners-Lee probably has more than his fair share of frustrations trying to enter his surname as well!

2. Postcode vs. ZIP code

For non-US consumers, the dreaded ZIP code field often appears on forms. Most people try to enter their postcode but often the form field does not allow for enough characters or the right format. For example, UK consumers are typically used to writing their postcode with spaces.

3. Mandatory fields that are not applicable

Address fields are a minefield internationally. One of the most common issues is that the ‘state’ field often requires an entry but none of the selectable values are relevant outside of the US. Form fields need to be flexible depending on the country origin of the customer and need to ensure there is always a relevant option that can be selected – even if it is something like “outside US”.

4. Phone number formatting and validation

As with the punctuation limitations in names and addresses, the problems don’t stop with phone numbers. Entering international phone numbers often causes problems because of brackets and plus signs in front of the country code. Many forms are designed not to accept these characters which can be frustrating for users if they are used to writing their phone number in this way. Also, the field may be designed to accept numbers in a very specific format. We saw an issue at one of our customers where they were validating Republic of Ireland phone numbers against the Northern Ireland phone number format. Users in the Republic of Ireland could not progress through the form on this basis and sales were being lost.

5. Usability issues on mobile devices

As more and more of us use mobile devices to access websites, we are seeing frustrations with the ability of forms to work correctly on these devices. Elements that work perfectly well on desktop may not have been adapted to work correctly with touch screens. For example, have you ever been annoyed when trying to use a selector button that does not react correctly to touch control?

Whilst these issues seem straightforward and are often relatively easy to fix, many organisations just do not know their customers are experiencing them and, crucially, how much impact they are having on conversion. This is why UserReplay has introduced a new, fully automated Form Analytics capability to enhance our already powerful CEM solution.

The UserReplay form analytics capability is a “fire and forget” solution that automatically identifies forms and form fields in the page and captures key data about their usage. This data is then used to automatically populate form analytics within the UserReplay portal. These analytics include overall form completion and engagement overviews, actionable form conversion funnels and field drop-off analysis. The analytics can also be sliced by segments such as time and browser/OS platform. Of course, the usual benefits of UserReplay apply such that when form field issues are discovered you can use event based analytics to monetize the impact of these issues on conversion.

Form field fails could be costing your business significantly in terms of lost conversions. With UserReplay you can make form field fails a thing of the past! Find out more here.

How well do you really understand your customers’ experiences on your website? Can you measure the quality of experience at any particular point in time? Can you measure the impact of change on your customer base as it happens?

As we mentioned in our Digital Customer Experience Predictions blog, 2016 will be the year data truly helps to drive decision-making in eCommerce. Data collection and data analysis will become more closely aligned and usable in real-time, making it easier to prove ROI of technology investments and identify areas of focus.

In recognition of this, UserReplay has launched Customer Experience Scoring, a ground-breaking new capability that enables eCommerce organizations to measure the quality of online customer experiences in real time. Numerical scores are generated to measure the ‘quality’ of a customer’s journey on a brand’s web properties – both from a positive and negative perspective. As well as providing a score for each individual customer journey, an aggregate score can also be collated across all customers to give a measurement of overall customer experience. This is significant because previously this type of measurement and trending was only available on individual aspects of customer experience.

Customer Experience Scoring is an extension of UserReplay’s flagged event technology. Flagged events enable analytics and monitoring into specific activity and behavior of visitors. Now scores can be assigned to flagged events that indicate their impact on the user experience. UserReplay has developed this capability based on specific market feedback. This feedback revealed that measuring the overall customer experience in this way would be valuable but has not been easily achievable to date.

The benefits for eCommerce brands are far reaching in terms of a deeper understanding of their customer base, identifying long and short term trends and reactions to specific events. For example, the ability to measure the impact of a new feature or a change to a website process. If the customer experience score changes, the brand can respond accordingly. This will significantly reduce the time spent on identifying issues that cause customer struggle.

There are also significant benefits in terms of enhancing the understanding of individual customers. Struggle and success scores can be integrated with the data companies already hold about individuals. This means you can have more informed, personalized interactions with the customer that take into account how good or bad their online experiences have been. This does not just impact on how you market to your customers but also extends to areas such as customer service, giving you the ability to proactively address issues customers are having.

With customer experience increasingly a major differentiator, Customer Experience Scoring will give you a competitive edge in the fight for customer satisfaction. For the first time you will have instant visibility of customer experience quality.

We’ve hit the ground running in 2016, and as we get underway with new plans and projects we wanted to share with you our predictions for the major developments we anticipate in 2016. Here are some of the big trends we expect to see in customer experience, eCommerce and digital marketing.

 

  1. Data-driven decisions

We expect to see significant developments in the way data is used to formulate marketing and customer experience strategies. Quantitative data rather than qualitative insights and supposed ‘best practice’ will be used to validate decisions and provide valuable insight. Marketers will require a stronger proof of ROI for technology solutions that collate data; it will need to be easier to demonstrate the positive impact data-driven campaigns can have on the bottom line.

  1. Customer-centric roles

In 2015 we saw an announcement by HSBC’s global head of marketing anticipating the end of traditional marketing department roles as the organization becomes more customer-centric, and the need for ‘customer journey engineers’ increases. This trend will ramp up in 2016 for all brands impacting multiple departments across a business. User experience teams will become customer experience teams, and this new role will be key in utilizing quantitative data to improve and manage the customer experience.

  1. Global commerce calendar

With the success of Black Friday growing year-on-year globally, we anticipate other ‘local’ eCommerce days going global. China Singles Day, for example, is hugely successful in China and as UK and US retailers aim to crack this market in 2016, we could see it becoming a huge global event. Whilst such events can hamper the traditional local sales cycle, we can expect to see eCommerce moving to an international calendar of key dates changing the dynamic of previous purchasing trends.

  1. It’s getting personal

Brands will become savvier in the way they personalize the customer experience. Customers will receive offers intelligently tailored to them in real time. We can even expect to see personalized videos as brands develop more creative ways to use the data insight they have garnered, and bring to life in a dynamic way that truly engages the customer and improves their overall experience.

  1. M-commerce momentum

Browsing on a mobile device has become commonplace but purchases via a mobile have been slower to take off. We anticipate seeing an increase in mobile device purchases in 2016, specifically from mobile websites rather than apps. Brands need to ensure their mobile website offerings deliver the experience a customer expects, and provides the appropriate payment mechanisms that are attractive on a mobile device.  With the shipment of tablets on the decline and more people turning to hybrid devices, brands need to ensure they can identify and quantify struggles that customers are having on each device.

Ultimately customer insight will drive a number of key trends in 2016 further proving the value of real time insight of the customer journey. 2016 is set to be an exciting year not only for brands who will understand their customer better but the customer themselves. Here’s to a great year!

 

In a data rich world, it’s surprising how many brands we come across that lack full visibility of their customers’ experiences. According to the Counting the Cost of not Knowing research report, only one in five eCommerce organisations can fully and accurately quantify the amount of revenue being lost through a less than optimal online customer experience.

Yet in 2014, according to research by e-nor, 67% of Fortune 500 companies were using Google Analytics, 26% Adobe Analytics and 12% Webtrends. Why then, in an age when many organisations are prioritising their online channel, are they experiencing blind spots in their visibility?

Don’t get me wrong, web analytic tools have their purpose, and can be very useful – I would say a majority of our customers use a web analytics tool alongside UserReplay. But herein lies the key: full visibility of the customer experience requires a mix of qualitative and quantitative data insight to achieve true visibility.

Web analytics tools provide the high level facts about your website –  e.g. conversion rates are down – but you need to know the ‘why’ to discover the specific issues that are causing particular situations. It is recognised that one of the best ways to do this is through capturing and replaying customer journeys – thus allowing you to uncover specific issues that are being experienced by real customers. 73% of the eCommerce professionals surveyed in the Counting the Cost of not Knowing research said a combination of quantitative and qualitative feedback on the performance of their online channel is ultimately most useful.

However, being able to replay user sessions is just one element in bridging the visibility void.  The eCommerce and digital marketing functions are busier than ever and nobody has the time to replay hundreds of user sessions trying to find the needle in a haystack.  It is necessary to have a layer of customer experience analytics that directs you to those journeys that are most interesting and relevant.  Also, once an issue has been discovered, these analytics need to provide quick quantification on it’s cost to the business.

Typically, website analytics are usually owned and controlled by the marketing function, and it can be challenging for the wider business to holistically understand their customer base. Sharing and access to the data captured about customer experience is imperative to develop informed strategies, and to measure the impact of those decisions.

The goal for eCommerce brands is to understand their customers’ wants and needs as though they were standing in front of them in a shop. Complete visibility of the customer experience across every facet of the website journey is essential to achieve this.

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It would be fair to assume that the more complex an issue is to fix, the greater the impact on the bottom line. However, in the world of eCommerce, this is not necessarily true.  Quite often, issues that could be fixed relatively easily can have a negative impact on conversion rates and revenue.  More worryingly, many of these issues go undetected.

Finding, prioritising and fixing the issues that have the biggest business impact is key. However, for many organisations this is challenging because they don’t have the visibility to discover them or clearly understand if they are having a significant effect on revenue or conversion. I wanted to share some recent anecdotes from the work we have done with our customers – including some quantifiable results – to show why improving visibility of the customer experience is so significant:

  1. Postcode pitfalls

UserReplay identified a recurring problem affecting the customers of a leading food and beverage company. Users appeared to be entering their postcode on numerous occasions during the purchase process. Further investigation of the impacted journeys found once customers had selected their items and clicked ‘Pay Now’, they were being kicked back to the beginning of the purchase process due to a previously unknown technical issue. With an average basket value of £20, it was calculated this was costing £1.2million a year in potential lost revenue.

  1. Session timeout troubles

Direct Ferries is Europe’s largest ferry ticket retailer. UserReplay identified an issue with .net authentication: for around 20% of mobile devices, the authentication cookie would disappear from page-to-page (when it should actually be persistent for at least 20 mins). For other devices, such as those running Windows, this was only 4%.

Further analysis revealed that the type of cookie being used was not supported on mobile devices.  A simple fix was implemented, which significantly decreased the number of sessions timing out across all devices. Fixing this issue has seen an increase in booking revenue in excess of £1 million per annum!

  1. Voucher code challenges

Conversion rates for a high-end fashion brand dropped from 41% to 19% overnight. UserReplay discovered this was the result of an email being sent to customers including a voucher code that many people found they were unable to use. The qualifying criteria for the voucher was unclear, and in a single day the brand lost £54k of potential revenue, not to mention the damage to brand reputation.

These examples provide a very small glimpse into the vast number of issues that occur on websites every day.  However, they also give an idea of the variety of issues that can impact on conversion rate if left undetected. Complete visibility of the customer experience is the only way to ensure you can identify and quantify these issues accurately.