Why Catalogs Play a Crucial Role in Modern Ecommerce

“When everything is available for sale on your smartphone, why do catalogs still clutter your mailbox? The old-school marketing format has survived to play a crucial creative role in modern e-commerce. Today, the catalog is bait for customers, like a store window display, and a source of inspiration, the way roaming through store aisles can be. The hope is shoppers will mark pages they like and then head online, or into a store, to buy. Today’s catalogs are no longer phone-book-size compilations of every item a retailer sells. Instead, they have fewer pages and merchandise descriptions, and more and bigger photos and lifestyle images.” [Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal]

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Target Expands Subscription Program

“Target has significantly expanded its subscription-based e-commerce service, first launched last fall as a response to Amazon’s popular “Subscribe and Save” program, by increasing the number of online items available for subscription purchase from just 200 to now 1,500. While the company’s original focus was on baby-care items, the now revamped service offers similar savings for other everyday purchases, including cleaning supplies, health and beauty aids, pet treats and training pads, grocery items, home and offices supplies, and more.” [Source: Techcrunch]

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USPS Details Plans for Partnering with Ecommerce Sites

“Nagisa Manabe, the chief marketing and sales officer with the USPS, offered a preview of an array of initiatives that the agency is working on to improve and expand its services through the use of technology, tapping into unused infrastructure and by forging new partnerships. [...] Manabe described the agency’s vision for “forward distribution centers,” a plan to offer retailers access to unused areas within USPS distribution facilities, making it easier to deliver merchandise in short windows, not unlike Amazon’s strategy of opening up new outbound hubs all around the country. Additionally, Manabe said that the Postal Service is working to make it easier to process returns of orders placed online. That starts with the shipping labels, which Manabe says should be reconfigured within the next few months to include return freight that could be activated when a customer needed to send back an order. [Source: Ecommerce Bytes]

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RetailMeNot Acquires Personalized Shopping Startup Pickie

“RetailMeNot announced today that it will be acquiring the team behind personalized shopping startup Pickie. Pickie provides a personalized email newsletter and iPad app to show users products that they would like to buy, based on your interests and mentions by friends on social networks. Designed as part magazine, part catalog, Pickie created a beautiful, shoppable experience for its users. The company is being acquired by Austin, Texas-based RetailMeNot, the online coupon giant which went public last year.” [Source: TechCrunch]

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10 Phrases Customer Service Agents Should Never Use

“Effective training of the customer service staff (or anyone that interacts with customers) is critical for small-business success. This means ongoing coaching on what to say and, perhaps more importantly, what not to say when a customer calls. What are some examples of things reps shouldn’t say, but often do?

1.“No problem.” This is becoming the standard reply when a customer says thank you. Why? It’s silly, because why should helping a customer ever be “a problem”? This phrase is lazy and thoughtless. Instead use: “You’re welcome, thanks for coming/calling.” This shows direct appreciation for the customer patronizing the company.

2. “Please hold.” Putting a customer on hold optimizes the employee’s time. Why should the customer wait to be helped after the phone call has been answered?Instead use: “Thanks for calling, how can I help you today?” Have systems that tell holding customers how long the wait time will be or what number they …

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Ecommerce Beauty Brand Julep Raises $30 Million

“Julep, a cosmetics and beauty brand and e-commerce platform, has raised $30 million in Series C financing; Azure Capital, Madrona Venture Group, Altimeter Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Maveron all participated in the round. The new investment brings Julep’s total venture funding to $56 million. Celebrity backers include Will Smith and Jay-Z. Founded by former Starbucks executive Jane Park, Julep produces its own nail polishes, mascaras, moisturizers, lip glosses, face creams and other cosmetics that are sold on its site. The brand also has a monthly beauty and subscription service, through which it distributes its own products. What makes the startup unique is its social approach to product development.’ ” [Source: TechCrunch]

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Razorfish And Peet’s Coffee Agree To Profit-sharing Ecommerce Deal

“Ad execs have long relied on truckloads of coffee to stoke their creativity. Now one agency is counting on a java company, Bay Area-based Peet’s Coffee & Tea, to help reinvent the industry’s jittery business model. Last month, Peet’s hired Razorfish(PUB:FP), a global digital agency, to revamp its e-commerce business. But instead of working for a fee, Razorfish is earning a share of the profit from the rejiggered site—when and if it rises. “We’re all in,” says Pete Stein, Razorfish’s global chief executive officer. ‘None of our costs are paid for if profits don’t go up.’ ” [Source: Bloomberg Businessweek]

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Retail Sales Surge as Consumers Rev Up Growth

“A measure of U.S. consumer spending heated up in March, an early sign of accelerating economic growth this spring. Retail sales increased 1.1% in March to a seasonally adjusted $433.9 billion, the Commerce Department said Monday. The reading was the best monthly gain since September 2012 and rose above the level of sales recorded in November, before unusually cold weather chilled spending across much of the country.” [Source: WSJ]

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Showrooming Hits Top-Tier Luxury Brands

“Anna Cariati recently spotted a Saint Laurent clutch in a London boutique. Then the 28-year-old marketing coordinator went online and clicked to purchase on an independent website. ‘I like the whole shop experience, touching the fabrics, but I’m not an impulsive buyer,” says Ms. Cariati. ‘I love to wait until the weekend comes, go to the Internet, compare prices and decide in my own time what I want to buy.’ ”

[Continue reading at Wall Street Journal (subscription required)]

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Comcast: ‘It Bothers Us’ That People Hate Our Customer Service

“During a Senate hearing on its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen admitted that Comcast could do a better job on customer service.

“It bothers us we have so much trouble delivering high quality of service to customers on a regular basis,” Cohen said. “Sometimes, we need a kick in the butt.”

Cohen’s comments came just a day after the Consumerist rated Comcast the worst company in America, beating out agricultural giant Monsanto by three percentage points.” [Source: Washington Post]

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