Monday, July 14, 2014

16 ways to prevent returns for ecommerce company's

16 ways to prevent parcel returns in ecommerce

Parcel returns. Every e-commerce company has to deal with returns. In Europe customers have the right to withdraw an order up to 14 days after the parcel arrived at the customer. Returns cost a lot of money for e-tailers. 

Below you find 16 ways to reduce your return percentage.









  • Make use of "product" reviews and user generated content (UGC). Experiences and pictures/video's from others will help meeting expectations from your customers and will reduce returns.
  • Use High Resolution product images. If you have a "living" product (f.e. plants) be clear about the product that people receive and how it looks like when it is mature. This can be done by images but in the case of plants with "time lapse" video's. 
  • It depends at your competition and long term strategy, but you can charge (shipment costs) for returning ordered goods. Especially for Europe, mention this in your terms and conditions. Be clear about it. Otherwise the customer does not have to pay for the return of his parcel.
  • Make sure you offer multiple prepaid payment methods. Offering post paid payment methods causes higher return rates. Especially cost on delivery. People can easily refuse the package when the mailmen arrives.
  • Be clear at your website about your guarantee conditions.
  • Setup an interactive return process at the website. Let people register their returns first. Do this by making a simple process, but do ask some questions about the reason of the returns. Be able to change this process. If you know why they return, depending at the product you sell, you can prevent them from returning, by giving the right advice in this process.
  • Disable/Remove customers who always return and never keep an article. 
  • Be very clear about your delivery and order process both at your website and your after sales communication. Better sent an extra e-mail about the order status then one less.
  • Make sure you deliver fast. People expect fast delivery for most consumer goods. 
  • Make sure you offer multiple postal services. Many countries for example have popular pickup spots (droppoints) that are used for distance selling. Make sure you offer the most popular methods in each country.
  • Make the "unboxing" a surprise and fun. And if you sell a difficult (technical) product, be clear in the parcel about how to set up the product and how to use it. Clear directions for customer service also might help. 
  • Customer Service Agent. The customer service agent is a "gatekeeper" for reducing returns and customer satisfaction. Be sure your customer service instructions/scripts help reducing returns but also keep customer satisfaction. The customer that returns now, must order next time again with you.
  • Use the "internet of things" if possible for the product you sell, to improve customer satisfaction. If the devices you sell can connect to the internet, you can give tailor made advice and help. This also prevents returns.
  • Use Augmented Reality to show how the product looks like in your home, or when you wear it.
  • When a customer returned a parcel and the payment is reimbursed, make sure you have a good after sales communication strategy, so you can keep the customer and prevent the next return.
  • Expand your content and product attributes, you sent to external marketplaces. 
  • Invest in CRM and Personalisation tools. If you know what your customer wants, based at order, click or conversation history for example, you prevent returns because of your tailor made offers.

Remember: Trustworthiness + Expertise = Credibility = E-commerce Success = Less Returns.

A fair, clear and transparent return process helps your trustworthiness and this helps your ecommerce success.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book review: Webs of influence, the psychology of online persuasion


I decided to travel to Berlin today. Something different for a change. So now I am in an Eurocity train from Hilversum to Berlin. Time to read a book again. This time “webs of influence, the psychology of online persuasion”. An interesting book also in relation to cross border e-commerce because cultural differences in persuasion are described.
The book "webs of influence, the psychology of online persuasion" travels with me today.

There is no “silver bullet” for persuasion. Everybody is different, but the book gives nice case study’s and with some creativity of yourself, you can think of some very interesting tests and possibilities to change your website and marketing. The book has (very convenient) after every chapter a “ make this work for you” section. Perfect for a quick reference.

Well as the book teaches me, blue is the colour that is most preferred by people, regardless of gender and culture.
The blue colour is prefered by almost everybody
So probably that is why the book’s cover is also blue :) However other aspects of persuasion that are described in the book, are not always practiced by the book itself :) I would have expected a picture of the author, or some testimonials at the cover :)

The book consists of three parts.

  1. Know who you are targeting
  2. Communicate persuasively
  3. Sell with integrity

Part 1: Know who you are targeting

The book starts with a “brain introduction” and makes a difference between three brain types:

  1. The primal brain: responsible for our basic vital functions
  2. The emotional brain: responsible for relevant stimuli in our surroundings, responsible for emotions such as happiness, sadness
  3. The rational brain: Responsible for rational thinking, problem solving, planning and organization.
To be successful online you have to target all three “brain parts” the book explains.

Luckily the book gives some examples:

Target the primal brain
  • Images of attractive people
  • Include food images (if possible) hunger is targeted by our primal brain
  • Contrast: before/after 
  • Use scarcity
  • Keep it concrete: what’s in it for me
Target the emotional brain
  • Empathy: use photos or video’s that convey the emotional state you want your customers to feel. Be aware of cultural differences!!
  • Storytelling provides an emotional band with your brand
Target the rational brain
  • When customers are emotionally engaged, provide them rational support. 
  • Make use of authority
The following take-away I found interesting;

"One of the best ways to sell a product is to make new things seem familiar and to make familiar things seem new" 

Cultural Quirks

Page 32 is the chapter called “Cultural Quirks”. "The success of any business rests on its ability to engage and respond to it’s target market. Equally if you wish to be influential online, you must research your audience and understand their culture” . A case study from Coca Cola is described. In China the characters for Coca Cola mean ‘delicious and happy’, in Hong Kong, Coca Cola is sometimes served as a remedy for colds and the coke you order in London is physically different from the coke you drink in the sychelles.  As a result Coca Cola's website throughout the world are completely different:

Coca Cola's websites are completely different per country

Well, I am in Germany now, the train passed the border, the train gets crowded now, baby’s start crying, and I am sitting at a reserved seat  for someone else (because this one has a power plug). I just got a cup of coffee and a snack from the train restaurant but because the train is changing tracks or something, half of the coffee went on the ground and my arms. Not the book luckily!! So I can continue reading.


Dangerous cup of coffee in the train that almost went over the book

Monday, June 9, 2014

Model / Template EU wide withdrawal form | Consumer Rights Directive

The new EU wide consumer law, the so called, consumer rights directive in Europe, that will be into force in most countries as from the 13th of june, requires that websites offer a EU wide withdrawal form. Customers are not obliged to use it, but you have to offer it at your website.
Since I could not find an easy working template for this EU wide withdrawal form, I created an interactive PDF file with the minimum required information.

Download the latest ADOBE reader to make the interactive template work.
  1. Download the interactive withdrawal form PDF template here
  2. Upload your company logo (in PDF) (I am sorry, I could not get it programmed to upload JPEG's)
  3. Translate the texts in the PDF (you can start typing over the existing text) or if needed empty just give a space.
  4. Save the file using the "save as" button in the top left corner


For those who can't work with the (beautifully programmed) interactive PDF, the microsoft word template is available here.

Some background information:

Differences in the ways in which the right of withdrawal is exercised in the Member States have caused costs for traders selling cross-border. The introduction of a harmonised model withdrawal form that the consumer may use should simplify the withdrawal process and bring legal certainty. For these reasons, Member States should refrain from adding any presentational requirements to the Union-wide model form relating for example to the font size. However, the consumer should remain free to withdraw in his own words, provided that his statement setting out his decision to withdraw from the contract to the trader is unequivocal. A letter, a telephone call or returning the goods with a clear statement could meet this requirement, but the burden of proof of having withdrawn within the time limits fixed in the Directive should be on the consumer. For this reason, it is in the interest of the consumer to make use of a durable medium when communicating his withdrawal to the trader. Source

There is a lot more you have to know about the consumer rights directive if you do distance selling in Europe. Read more here

Personally I think, it is far better to set minimum requirements more focused in an "electronic consumer friendly way", then the directive there is now.
In this case about withdrawals to make this obligatory:

  • Webshops must have an online form for customers to register their withdrawals.
  • Webshops must confirm via electronic communication the receipt of the registred withdrawals.
  • Webshops must confirm via electronic communication when the withdrawed goods arrived.
  • Webshops must confirm via electronic communication when the money is reimbursed to the customer.
  • Webshops must announce in their electronic order confirmation (most opened and read e-mail) how consumers can withdraw the purchased goods. 
You can learn a lot from your customers when they withdraw their purchases. Make sure you ask information about why they return and make sure you store information about how often they withdraw their purchases.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Age of the Customer

The age of the customer has began! A nice painting for at your office.

The age of the customer will transform marketing and business. Remind yourself of that every day with this painting.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Book Review: Global Marketing and Advertising - understanding cultural paradoxes-

I was at holiday, a few weeks ago. Traveling to Hong Kong, mainland China, Cambodia and Thailand. Time to read a few books. One of the books I read was "Global Marketing and Advertising" from Marieke de Mooij. A very interesting book about cultural differences in advertising and marketing. The book is not an "online" book, it focuses at marketing and advertising in general, many offline marketing cases are described as well. The book consists of many in depth research of cultural aspects. I recognize a lot of cultural aspects described in the book from traveling, now it is related to advertising. I will not do a complete review of the book this time. I will highlight a few interesting parts of the book instead. Just go and by the book. You won't regret.
Global Marketing and Advertising from Marieke de Mooij, very intresting book, I read at a recent holiday as you can see...the book traveled with me across many cultures...:)



  • There may be global products, but there are no global people. There may be global brands, but there are no global motivations for buying those brands. 
  •  US advertising professor "John Philip Jones" is highlighted. Economic convergents is assumed to lead to better educated customers, resulting in rational choice behavior. Even in Europe there are many cultural differences between countries. The Belgians drink 10 times as much mineral water as the British and 6 times as much as the Dutch, their neighbours. Altough the quality of tap water has improved all over Europe, the consumption of mineral water has increased in some area's and remained the same in others. These differences cannot be explaiend by differences in national wealth. Only by culture. The wealthier countries become, the more manifest is the influence of culture on consumption and consumer behavior. 
  •  The member countries of the European Union are culturally very different and these cultural differences cause differences in consumer needs. Understanding culture is the first step to take by global companies when deciding on the type of strategy for their global brands. Youths from Stockholm to Seville may use the same type of mobile phone or computer, but they might have bought it for different reasons. 16% of the respondents in Amsterdam said entertainment was their primary reason for using technology, compared with 9% in Helsinki and London and only 4% in Milan. 
  • Numerous variables influence the decision to standardize or adapt.Various strategic aspects can be analyzed. 
    •  The product, including product category and product lifecycle 
    • The company, it's organizational culture, the culture of the country of origin of the company and it's export dependence 
    • The business environment: the competition, economic development of markets, marketing infrastructure, environmental factors such as laws and government regulations and media infrastructure 
    • The consumer: spending power, and cultural and social variables including local tastes, habits and conditions of use.
  • In most categories, today's companies do not compete with products but with brands. A brand is something made to appear unique. A brand is trust, a brand is not merely a product: It's the feeling a product evokes. A brand is why people will pay more for a product. A brand is the proprietary visual, emotional, rational image that people associate with a company or product.
  • Pepsi and Coca Cola increased the sweetness of their drinks in the Middle East, where consumers prefer a sweeter drink. Mc Donalds has standard specifications for it's technology, client service, hygiene and operational systems, but everything else is localized such as products and communication. Example of localised products are the Kiwi Burger in New Zealand, the Teriyaki Burger in Japan the McLaks in Norway. In France advertising for McDonalds was linked to Asterix et Obelix, in China McDonals is the place to go for a "date"  because the most typical Chinese restaurants do not provide the privacy couples want. McDonalds has lot's of tables for "two" in China. 
  • Global brands develop in several ways. Companies can use basically six strategies for internationalizing their brands.
    • Cultivate established, local brands. Develop a national brand into an international brand, transporting brand value and strategy to more countries. (coca cola, Timotei)
    • Global concept, local adaptions. Develop one formula, a concept for the world that can carry local products with local values. (McDonalds)
    • Create new global brands. Recognize a global need or want and develop a new product for it. (Zara, Apple, Nokia)
    • Purchase local brands and internationalze. (strategy often used by Unilver)
    • Develop brand extensions. Extend a brand name to other related categories. Gilette now also hoas shaving foam, after shave etc.
    • Emply a multilocal strategy. Different strategies are developed for different countries for local reasons. (Nestle, the best of Australia)
  • A core problem in global advertising is a cultural mismatch between the advertisement and the target groups, which is rarely included in advertising testes.
  • Germans raise their eyebrows in recognition of a clever idea. The same expression in the Netherlands and Germany is a sign of scepticism. The US sign OK means "zero" in France and Hungary and "money" in Japan. 
  • In individiualistic cultures a youth has to develop an identity that enables him or her to function independently in a variety of social groups apart from the family. In collectivistic cultures youth developement is based on encouragement of dependency needs in complex familial hierachical relationships and the group ideal is "being like others", not being different. The very first words of little children in China are people related, whereas children in the United States, start talking about objects. In Japan feeling good is more associated with interpersonal situations such as feeling friendly, whereas in the United States, feeling good is more frequently associated with interpersonal distance, such as feeling superior or proud.
  • Buying motives! Understanding the variations in what motivates people is important for positioning brands in different markets.
Cultural Differences and buying motives for luxury brands

  • Blogging has become a global phenomenon, but the degree to which people blog, their motives and their topics vary by country. In 2006 there were more blogs in the Japanese language then in the English language and the French spent five times as much time blogging as the Americans. For the French the blog is like the cafe, where they discuss everyday life and politics. Japanese tend to care less whether their blog influences others, and they are reluctant to reveal their identity.
  • In order to analyse differences in advertising styles across cultures, four elements of advertising styles can be distinguished. Each will vary by culture.
    • Appeal (including motives and values)
    • Communication style (e.g. explicit, implicit, direct, indirect)
    • Basic advertising form (e.g. testimonial, drama, entertainment)
    • Execution (e.g. how people are dressed, the look of kitchens or male-female roles)
  • Website design: A striking feature of Chinese websites is the recurrent image of the family theme. Japanese websites exhibit clear gender roles and are rich in colors and esthetics with pictures of butterflies, cherry blossoms etc. Indian websites prominently depict the titles of the employees to demonstrate hierarchy, US websites are low context, direct, informative, logical and success orientated. 
  • Generally, people watch mobile TV when they are bored, waiting or using public transport. But this all depends at national habits. Japanese people spend a lot of time riding trains to their work. In individualistic cultures like the United States, United Kingdom or the Netherlands, people are not used to doing much in the public domain and many people drive to their work by car. In asia, mobile TV developed faster then other parts of the world. ONe reason for young people to use mobile TV was to be able to watch one's own programs when other family members were watching other programs on the main home television screen.
  • E-commerce. Chinese websites show collectivistic community activities like group buying that you will not find on US websites. Differences in what people buy online, across cultures reflect the same differences in products or services people buy in regular stores. For example, more event tickets or video games are bouhgt online in individualistic than i ncollectivistic cultures. The internet offers the opportunity to compare products. Across Europe in the individualistic, low uncertanty avoidance and low power distance cultures where decision making is more inforamtion based, more people tend to search for information and compare products on the internet even when they do not buy online or buy in the shop. Collectivists prefer shopping to compare products and they visit different shops.
Social media and culture (Hofstede)
  • Another use of social media is customer care. One characteristic of social media in collectivistic cultures is that people may complain or ventilate discontent with companies more online than they will do in person, because of digital display of negative feelings is easier than in personal communication. This offers an opportunity to companies in collectivistic cultures to get feedback. In Brazil, for example social media usage related to brands is focused at customer care. Also in China people express complaints via social media, which they would not do so in person. 

Well, these quotes from the book are just a few highlights. I recommend the book for everybody who is interested in cultural differences and advertising. Lot's of theory's are described. There is no such thing as a "framework" for global marketing and advertising. And that's good! That makes this field so interesting. The book helps to get a broader view at the world and advertising possibilities.

It is good to read that cultural differences can have high impact at the effectiveness of campaigns and that is also one of the reasons I started this blog, to discover and learn from these aspects in both on and offline communication. I feel the need for (partly) localising strategy's, localising online campaigns, localising websites and localising customer experiences only increases after reading this book.

For online marketing the book gives a few handles and lot's of things to think about. Culture has en enormous effect at the use of media in general. Culture has an enormous effect at how people see your brand. The book zooms in at usability and cultures and lot's of information about that can be found at the web currently.

Other online marketing questions like:

  • How to use online marketing to get the best brand perception/personality across countries? 
  • Do my customer journey touch points needs to be (totally) different in country A. than in country B? 
  • Does my social media (content) strategy has to be totally different between country's or continents?
  • Is my content driven e-commerce giving a totally different brand perception in country A, than it has in country B? 
  • Is my "marketplace" e-commerce website aiming at the right "buying motives" when I expand it to other countries?
  • How to translate my interactive advertising campaign so it fits the culture in this new country I try to setup business.

are not answered, but the book gives handles to help solve these questions.

For example this interesting chart:

Advertising Styles 

"The advertising styles in the two right quadrants, where cultures are individualisitc is direct and explicit, more verbal than visual and it uses argumentation. Direct style communication  uses the personal pronoun (you, we)." So translating this to online marketing, will probably make this interactive advertisement from Grolsch effective at the right two quadrants, but not so at the left quadrants. The campaign is directly aimed at YOU, what kind of character are you.....

"In cultures of strong uncertainty avoidance, advertising is more serious and structured. The execution of the visuals will be detailed, often including a demonstration of how the product works." If you look at this map, you will see that Russia, has a strong uncertainty avoidance.
Does this mean that  in Russia, your e-commerce site can be more succesfull with in depth explanation of product usage at every product detail page? Maybe even by using interactive video? Or step by step interactive guides? And that the chance is high that this will not be the case in Norway?

"Direct style communication also tends to be more verbal whereas indirect style tends to be more visual. Where US advertising utilizes more copy, Japanese advertising uses more visual elements. Chinese-speaking consumers tend to judge a brand name based on it's visual appeal, whereas English speakers judge a brand name based on wether the name sounds appealing".

We see in the quadrant that in Australia, facts and text are probably more effective in a display advertising campaign than in Thailand where showing emotions are more effective.

"In weak uncertainty avoidance cultures, more humor is used in advertising". So a humorous viral marketing campaign or adding humour to your social media content calendar, can be more effective in these cultures.

Interesting and lot's of things to think about!

Greetings,

Alex Baar


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy Cross Border E-commerce 2014

I wish everybody a happy , healthy and especially a great cross border e-commerce and marketing year.
I have combined a few presentations about digital trends for 2014 in this combined slideshare presentation so everybody can keep up with the trends and be prepared for a great digital 2014!!




Friday, December 27, 2013

Cultural differences, marketing and management

Just because it is such an interesting subject, a short video about cultural dilemma's, management and marketing.