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Study: BOPIS usage tops holiday shopping lists this year

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

If retailers want to maximize in-store foot traffic this holiday season, they must focus on buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) services.

In fact, 58% of consumers said they’ll rely on the BOPIS fulfillment option this holiday shopping season, an increase of 25% over last year, according to “Holiday Consumer Trends Report: 2017 Edition,” a report from Kibo.

Consumers are attracted to BOPIS for a variety of reasons. The top ones include saving on shipping costs (66%), saving time while in-store (53%), and getting the product when it’s convenient (39%). This holiday season, BOPIS services are key to retailers maximizing in-store foot traffic, and thereby cement their brands’ reputations for stellar service across both digital and physical buying touchpoints, the study said.

“It’s clear that consumer expectations for this holiday season are as high as ever, and retailers need to prepare by providing connected and seamless experiences across online and physical channels,” said Tushar Patel, chief marketing officer, Kibo. “BOPIS fulfillment and accessible inventory information are going to take center stage this season for the seemingly obvious reasons of saving busy holiday shoppers time and money.”

Shoppers are so value-savvy that 70% of shoppers expect to receive free shipping during the holidays, a clear influence of Amazon Prime. Almost half of shoppers surveyed (46%) indicated the top way to improve their experience is for retailers to provide offers and promotions that are relevant to their current gift search. Meanwhile, 70% of shoppers indicated a relevant discount will make them more likely to visit or shop on a website during the holidays.

Customers also have pre-requisites to round out their store visits. For example, over half of shoppers (54%) said they use online inventory information to justify a trip to a store during the holidays. Meanwhile, 67% of shoppers expect free shipping when gifts are returned, and 65% expect to be able to return an online purchase to a store.

“Retailers can further enhance their odds of winning more consumers by providing better personalized and relevant product recommendations and promotional offers,” said Patel.

“Consumers are shopping on the behalf of others this time of year. Personalization solutions that rely only on typical past behaviors will seem completely irrelevant while shopping for gifts,” he added. “Only real-time individualization solutions can predict buying intent and change the offers in response to consumers’ real-time shopping behaviors. The benefits of this continues beyond the holiday season, as consumers fall back into more normal shopping behaviors. No shopper wants be haunted for the next six months by the doll they purchased for their niece at Christmas.”

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Holiday Fraud Prevention: Seven tips from the pros

BY Sarah Beldo

Is anyone ever really ready for the holidays? It’s hard enough to keep up as a shopper, but if you also work in e-commerce fraud prevention, you know you’re guaranteed a crazy ride.

To help retailers navigate the seasonal rush, we crowdsourced some expert strategies from fraud and risk experts who’ve already logged a few seasons in the holiday trenches. Here are their suggestions:

1. Plan for adverse scenarios. Start the holidays with well-prepared SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for anything you think could go wrong. Think of things like communication procedures for a fraud attack, handling for staffing or quick decisioning when the manual review queue grows high, and steps to take for internal or external system downtime.

With prepared documentation and agreement from leadership on how to handle fraud risk tolerance in various adverse scenarios, you can focus on fixing issues if they arise instead of figuring out how to fix them.
Caleb Callahan, director of payments and fraud at Jet.com 

2. Adapt fraud logic to seasonal buyer behavior. Anticipate that your customers’ purchasing behaviors may change during the holidays, and update your fraud logic (both your models or rules) accordingly. Depending on your business model, be aware that your average transaction value may increase as well as the count of transactions.

Adjusting your fraud logic will help keep false positives low. You don’t want to find a legitimate user whose order seems to be higher than usual and wrongfully attribute it to fraud!
Tal Yeshanov, risk and expert, Uber 

3. Optimize manual review to enable good buyers. Holidays = abnormal shopping patterns, which can make discerning fraud vs. gift shopping very hard. Since the holiday shopping behavior is abnormal, it can greatly increase the chance that your team will be rejecting good orders incorrectly.

To help mitigate this, find a core two to three indicators of good buyers, then make that fundamental to the manual review process. When your team sees these indicators, accept the order without further analysis. Further analysis will confuse the auditor and increase the chance of making the incorrect decision (most people are risk averse and don’t want to process a potentially bad order). Also, create firm caps as to how long a team should review orders for.
Courtney Bode, marketplace operations manager at digital mall Wanelo 

4. Consider relaxing your fraud prevention. When you are in a good place with your fraud and chargeback levels, you should consider relaxing your protection slightly, to enable more revenue while taking into account a small increase in fraud. This should happen cautiously and in a controlled manner, of course. If you manage this carefully, the increase in revenue will far outweigh the additional fraud risk. The fraud team is also a sales enabler, as much as it is a fraud prevention team.
Danièle Thillmann, senior VP fraud and customer service at Green Man Gaming 

5. Collaborate closely with customer support. Make sure your customer support policies are in line with increased sales from the season rush. For example, if sales increase then contact with your customer support team may rise accordingly. Make sure to work cross-functionally to arm your support team with intel so they can continue to please your customers, which will help avoid chargebacks due to dissatisfied users.
– Tal Yeshanov, Uber

6. Look out for friendly fraud. “Friendly” fraud or unauthorized transactions placed by an acquaintance tend to rise over the holidays – especially as a new wave of younger shoppers start using the computers and devices they just received to shop online.
Keep an eye out for multiple accounts that share a family name, similar geolocation attributes, and payment instruments with a known good user.
Vinson Lee, business operations at Sift Science, previously trust & safety at Google

7. Keep an eye on seasonal fraud patterns. Make sure someone is watching for trends. Last year, much of our fraud came from Caracas, Venezuela. Once we discovered this, it was easy to reject these orders and narrow down the pool for potential fraud. Once you see trends, be sure to label users in Sift Science.
– Courtney Bode, Wanelo

Sarah Beldo is the communications manager at Sift Science, a trust platform that offers a full suite of fraud and abuse prevention products designed to attack every vector of online fraud for industries and businesses across the world.

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October retail hiring lowest in six years

BY Marianne Wilson

Retail hiring took a dip in the month leading up to the holiday shopping season.

The sector added 136,700 jobs, which is down 8% from last year and the lowest October gain since 2011, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. It’s the second year of declines and comes as fewer major retailers announced large-scale hiring plans.

“The shrinking job gains in retail during the holiday season are indicative of the changing consumer habits and overall transition the industry is experiencing,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Overall, seasonal retail hiring has fallen each year since 2013, according to the firm. Last year, October gains reached 149,400, 18.5% lower than 2015.

As of October, there were nearly six million (15,827,700 Americans employed in the retail sector, which is 56,600 fewer jobs than the 15,884,300 employed in October 2016, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the BLS.

Meanwhile, employment in the transportation and warehousing sectors stood at 5,151,400 in October of this year, 111,400 more jobs than in October 2016.

“The ‘Amazon Effect’ and consumers’ online shopping habits are definitely shifting seasonal job gains from traditional retailers to warehousing and transportation positions,” said Challenger. “New technology in retail also eliminates the need for some back-office operations, which may lead to less hiring.

However, this new technology may change the nature of the work as opposed to replacing workers altogether.

“For instance, Walmart instituted shelf-scanning robots in their stores that flag issues for human workers to fix,” added Challenger.

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