Survey Says Consumers Prefer Email During Holidays


Editor’s note: This article is excerpted from StellaService’s Q3 2014 report, Essential Holiday Ecommerce Data & Best Practices

StellaService polled consumers in August 2014 to understand expectations specific to the the holiday season. Topics ranged from customer care through shipping and returns.

The impact of delivering bad service impacts customer retention. Just 5% of shoppers said they would continue to shop with an online retailer after receiving bad service during the holidays.

Northeast U.S. shoppers are the most forgiving, with almost 10% reporting they would shop with a site that gave them bad service during the holidays. The South held a firm line with 71% of Southerners reporting they wouldn’t return to do business with an online retailer that gave them bad service.

More than half of respondents said that email is their preferred communication channel during the holidays, with phone coming in second at 28%.

Email is clearly the preference of holiday …

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Mass Merchant Fulfillment Performance Wavers Across Product Categories


Do shoppers have a better delivery experience ordering from ‘category-specific’ retailers than mass merchants? Think: L.L.Bean vs. Amazon for Apparel, HP vs. Costco for Electronics or Crate & Barrel vs. Sears for Home Furnishings.

We evaluated the fulfillment performance data of six mass merchants — Amazon, Costco, Kohl’s, Sears, Target, and Walmart — across three specific product categories: Apparel / Accessories, Electronics and Home Furnishings and compared performance to that of retailers specializing in that category.

The time frame for this study was May-July 2014, and the six mass merchants were:

  • Amazon
  • Costco
  • Kohl’s
  • Sears
  • Target
  • Walmart

The first three months of data tell an interesting story. Only two of the six outperformed the vertical across all three categories. That is, only two mass merchants — Costco and Sears — consistently delivered Electronics, Home Furnishings and Apparel faster on average than their category-specific …

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Sears Rolls Out Curbside Returns, Exchanges


Sears has added returns and exchanges to its popular In-Vehicle Pickup service. The new integrated retail service, powered by the Shop Your Way mobile app, lets members pick up, return or exchange their purchases for free – guaranteed in five minutes or less – without ever leaving their vehicle.

It’s a great option for consumers, as Sears has struggled with refund speed in 2014. StellaService data shows the retailer’s Total Days to Refund has doubled since March, now averaging close to 14 days through August. Sears trails competitors like Amazon, Target and Walmart in the metric.

But, Sears has certainly found success in leveraging its physical stores to ship products faster. And, earlier this year the retailer aimed to better connect in-store and online shopping with the launch of In-Vehicle Pickup.

Curbside returns and exchanges takes that concept of convenience to the next level.

This is how it works:

  • To start an in-vehicle return or exchange, a customer visits, …

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Neiman Marcus Acquires

“Neiman Marcus Group has acquired the German fashion e-commerce platform and Theresa, its flagship Munich store. Owned up until now by its founders, Christoph and Susanne Botschen, and investment firm Acton Capital Partners, the brand will run as an ‘independent subsidiary of NMG based in Munich,’ a statement from the brand read this morning.” [Source: Vogue]

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UPS to Hire Up to 95,000 Seasonal Workers

“UPS plans to hire up to 95,000 workers to help deliver packages during the busy holiday season — an increase from last year, when the company was caught unprepared for a boom in online shopping. The Atlanta-based company said Tuesday that the positions will include package sorters, loaders, delivery helpers and drivers.” [Source: ABC News]

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Ecommerce Presents Challenges for UPS

“When United Parcel Service Inc. Chief Executive David Abney bought his first book from Inc. about 15 years ago, e-commerce seemed no more complicated than ordering from a catalog. “Pretty basic,” he says. Online sales have mushroomed since then into a huge business for the package-delivery company—and a big problem. Because of the ubiquity of free shipping, fierce competition from other delivery services and Amazon’s power to drive down shipping costs as it gets even more enormous, UPS’s average revenue on each Internet-related package it handles is dropping.” [Source: Wall Street Journal]

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Preparing for the Holiday Rush: Q&A with Kevin Gardiner of Macy’s


Editor’s note: This interview is excerpted from StellaService’s Q3 2014 report, Essential Holiday Ecommerce Data & Best Practices. Kevin Gardiner is Director of Store Operations & Strategies at Macy’s. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Experts predict this will be the largest holiday ecommerce season in history. How are you preparing for that at one of the largest department stores in the country?

Our .com business has continued to outpace the industry’s growth. We have been dealing with such massive growth that last year we were more than prepared. [...] It’s one thing to plan for your business to be up x-percent, but it’s really just a few key dates that drive that volume. We’re trying to be more flexible. [...] We usually over-prepare. We over-hire. What we’re starting to do this year is work with outsourced partners and work-at-home [agents].

What motivated that shift to more outsourced and in-home agents?

Last year we had …

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Time to Prepare Your CSRs to Answer Questions About Apple Pay


In addition to the iPhone 6, Apple announced Tuesday a payments platform accepted at more than 220,000 merchant locations as well as digital shopping applications.

Now payments happen with a single touch.

To pay, users will hold their iPhone near a reader with their finger on the phone’s built in fingerprint reader. A subtle vibration and beep lets users know the payment has been made. Users can also use Apple Pay to pay with a single touch in apps. Checking out is as easy as selecting “Apple Pay” and placing a finger on the fingerprint reader.

With the iPhone’s share of the mobile device market and projections for sales of the iPhone 6, Apple Pay has great potential.

Participating brick-and-mortar retailers include Babies”R”Us, Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Nike, Staples and Toys”R”Us, while retailers offering Apple Pay in-app include Sephora, Starbucks and Target.

Of course, in the wake of major data breaches at retailers in recent months, …

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Lowe’s Funnels Customer Feedback Through “Rant or Rave” App


Social networks have proven to be a challenging channel to service customers, who often turn to Twitter or Facebook to air grievances.

Part of the challenge is providing a good solution to a customer’s issue in 140 characters (or less when you include the user’s Twitter handle). And for obvious privacy concerns, a retailer doesn’t want to encourage customers to publicly share details like order and shipping information.

Lowe’s has created a microsite and application to collect and respond to customer feedback, from sources including Twitter and Facebook, that seems to address these challenges. Both the Lowe’s Twitter account dedicated to customer service, @lowescares, and its main account, @lowes, replies to customer tweets and refers them to the microsite.

@dewittrunner1 Lori, we understand your frustration, pls let us help you. Share the details with us at

The link sends the Twitter user to, a microsite that encourages visitors …

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