Jul 29
Reading Time: 3 minutes

   The Future of Virtual and Augmented Reality in E-commerce - BMT Micro

The Internet has forever changed the way consumers shop. Throughout the past decade, the evolution of technology and the Internet has allowed online businesses to capitalize on consumer needs, enhance customer experience and even increase brand awareness. As a result, online shopping has grown to rival traditional shopping and is even predicted to outperform in-store sales over the next few years.

It’s clear consumers are growing more and more comfortable with shopping online. But, the inability for consumers to touch products during the purchase decision-making process still poses a major challenge for online businesses. Fortunately, Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies now promise a solution for this by adding a touch-and-feel factor to online shopping.

Augmented Reality
The overnight success of the popular mobile game “Pokémon Go” has introduced Augmented Reality (AR) into the public eye in an unprecedented manner. But, AR has a lot more to offer besides an opportunity to become a Pokémon master. By definition, Augmented Reality is the integration of digital content with live video and a user’s environment in real time. It allows consumers to use real-life spaces and even their own faces and bodies to virtually “try on” furniture, clothing and more. The biggest advantage of the technology is the fact that it bridges the gap between digital and real worlds.

For example, AR Watch (an app from Belgian mobile app developers Underside) allowed customers to “try on” an Apple Watch with augmented reality. The app allowed consumers to see the device from different angles and flip between wristbands of different sizes and colors through a virtual mirror on their iPhone. In a different retail space, IKEA (the Swedish home furnishings giant) found that 14 percent of its customers took home furniture that ended up being the wrong size for its intended space. As a solution, IKEA created an AR catalog app that allows customers to try out select products in their homes with their smartphone or tablet.

Augmented reality is distinct from virtual reality in that it offers consumers graphical enhancements to their real, physical environment. With AR, online shoppers are able to fully inspect the product they’re considering purchasing as if it were really there. AR can also give consumers additional information on certain products and the ability to view more options and variations in less time than a physical showroom would allow.

Virtual Reality
The tech industry has promoted the prospect of Virtual Reality (VR) for quite some time. But in recent years, vendors such as Facebook-owned Oculus, Sony, and HTC have helped propel the development of VR (they have also been joined by Microsoft, Google and smartphone makers like Samsung). By definition, Virtual Reality is an artificial, computer-generated simulation or recreation of a real life environment or situation. The most up-to-date virtual realities are displayed either on a computer monitor or with a virtual reality headset.

While VR technology is largely associated with the gaming industry, the platform does offer a new set of opportunities in entertainment, advertising and more. We are already seeing major e-commerce brands start to take steps in the virtual direction. For instance, NARS makeup is currently using Facebook 360 Video to offer their customers a new interactive way to click through their 3D makeup tutorials. Dior and Tommy Hilfiger have also been experimenting with VR headsets that offer a 360-degree catwalk experience in-store.

It is important to note that being an early adopter of VR technology comes with costs and a long timeline. For example, it can take six months or longer to produce a high-quality 360-degree video. But as low-cost solutions like Google’s cardboard headsets gain popularity, it’s only a matter of time before more brands start experimenting further with this technology.

If Augmented and Virtual Reality aren’t of interest to your online business yet, it may be time to start taking a closer look. These technologies are already gaining traction and are expected to change the way we know e-commerce in the near future.

Jul 22
Reading Time: 2 minutes

  The Consumer Decision Journey - BMT Micro

Traditionally, the consumer decision journey has always been depicted as a funnel. The funnel served as the primary model for how a prospective customer moves from initial brand awareness to purchase. But, the funnel concept was created long before social media, blogging, or digital content marketing ever existed, so is it still relevant today?

In the past, brands were taught to push marketing toward consumers at each stage of the process to influence their behavior. These consumers formed brand impressions from touchpoints such as advertisements, word of mouth, and product experiences. This is still true today, but consumers rarely take such a linear journey. They are moving outside the funnel by changing the way they research and buy products.

The traditional funnel:

Today’s consumers move through a set of touchpoints before, during, and after a purchase. They are no longer evaluating or making purchases by how much marketing messages are able to sway them. It’s a much more complicated conversation because they are actively seeking out information on their own. While the funnel approach may have been successful in the past, it cannot adapt to today’s changing consumer expectations. It fails to capture all the touch points and key buying factors. The approach also has very little regard for the post-purchase experience.

As a result, McKinsey & Company (a worldwide management consulting firm) established the new decision-making journey. The new decision journey is much more complex than a linear funnel, with multiple inlets of information. The approach explains the decision-making process as a loop within a loop, with one initial purchase decision journey that feeds into a loyalty cycle after purchase.

The Customer Decision Journey:

The main difference between the traditional funnel and the decision journey is the emphasis placed on building and maintaining relationships with consumers. It’s not about shaping a consumer’s journey through messaging that is only relevant because it pertains to a predetermined stage like the traditional funnel suggest. It’s about being able to identify where a consumer is in the decision journey and provide the most relevant messaging for that given moment. This new approach also accounts for experiences consumers have with brands that affect their long-term loyalty after the initial purchase.

 Each touch point a brand has with a consumer needs to deliver a clear, consistent message. It’s also an opportunity for brands to be in the right place at the right time with the right message. By understanding the decision journey, brands stand much greater chance of reaching consumers at moments of maximum influence.

Jul 15
Reading Time: 2 minutes

   Benefits of User-Generated Content - BMT Micro

A common problem facing most online businesses today is producing great content that continually engages their audience. In order for businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition, their content needs to stay fresh, relevant, and distinctive. It also needs to effectively answer questions so consumers can make informed purchasing decisions. But, content like this can be time-consuming and costly to produce.

Fortunately, word of mouth is an incredibly powerful tool. Most consumers consult various social channels and peer reviews before they ever visit a business’ site or intend to make a purchase. In fact, 92 percent of consumers trust a complete stranger’s product review over information on a company website. People want to feel that they are not the only ones using a product or service. This is why you see businesses using testimonials, reviews, and well-known logos to show off satisfied customers and that they can be trusted.

This also shows the power of user-generated content (UGC) – content created and shared by consumers featuring products and brands. UGC includes social posts, photos, product reviews, personal blogs posts and any other kind of online expression from consumers. While user-generated content often means free content for brands, it can turn marketing messages into brand experiences that help businesses reach new markets. It can also foster customer loyalty and lift conversion rates. What’s more, inspiring consumers to share UGC is easier than you may think.

If you already have consumers who love your brand, simply provide them with some direction for expressing their loyalty, like a catchy hashtag or contest. This could be all your business needs to encourage consumers to share photos, videos, and other posts. Of course, a driving force behind all of this is that humans are a species that likes to share.

A business can also inspire UGC by:

  • Simply asking customers for their opinion or feedback.
  • Encouraging customers to post about their experiences with your products on social media.
  • Being proactive about managing your online reputation – don’t be afraid of negative feedback, but address appropriate issues.
  • Looking for what type of content customers are already sharing organically.

User-generated content offers a direct view into consumers real-world experiences with your brand, and a great opportunity to add an extra dimension to their shopping experience. User-generated photos and videos can be a powerful testimonial and concrete evidence that products and brands deliver on their promises. Furthermore, studies have shown that when brands inspire UGC, they see an average of 20 percent more visits to their websites, receive 25 percent more new emails and measure a 50-percent lift in social engagements.

Overall, consumers trust other consumers more than brands and companies. User-generated content helps address common questions, eliminate doubts, and gives consumers reassurance in their purchasing decisions. The potential for UGC is everywhere and successful brands are already encouraging consumers to create it.

Jul 8
Reading Time: 2 minutes

   Types of Fraud To Prepare For This Year - BMT Micro

Online fraud is expected to flourish as the US rollouts EMV technology. The transition has made physical credit cards nearly impossible to counterfeit and fraudsters are now turning their attention to online sales. Some reports even indicate online retail fraud in the US alone to rise by 106 percent over the next three years.

For US retailers, the coming wave of online fraud means it is vital to stay up-to-date with how fraudsters are operating. Knowing their tricks can help protect an online business and prevent hard-earned revenue losses.

Card-Not-Present Fraud: Typically, these fraudsters use stolen credit card numbers to make fraudulent purchases. Usually, a business finds out about this when the actual cardholder initiates a chargeback about the unauthorized charge with their issuing bank. To help prevent this, verify the CVV code and billing address with the sale. It will help confirm that the cardholder is actually the person authorizing the sale. An address verification system (AVS) can also confirm if the address provided matches the billing address on file with the credit card issuing bank.

Friendly Fraud: Unfortunately, out of all the different types of credit card fraud, this may be the most difficult to prepare for. With friendly fraud, a legitimate buyer will use a credit card to purchase goods or services. This fraudster seems like a normal customer, but after they obtain goods or when services are rendered, they still initiate a chargeback. The best protection for friendly fraud is to keep accurate records so you are prepared to dispute a chargeback if one should occur.

Gift Card Fraud/Coupon Abuse: Currently, gift card fraud is one of the more popular types of fraud. These fraudsters use stolen credit cards to purchase gift cards in bulk to be used or resold long after the purchase is made. An online business can employ an anti-fraud solution to help avoid this. Also, offering coupons or promotional credits could be opening a business up to promo code abuse. To avoid losing money on this it is important to identify fake and linked accounts.

Even though card-present credit card fraud will likely decrease with the EMV rollout, more criminals will naturally turn to buying online with stolen credit card numbers. Unfortunately, fraud doesn’t go away, it just goes somewhere else. Fraudsters are always looking for new vulnerabilities, but knowing how fraud is operating online is a simple way to prevent it.

BMT Micro is here to help as well. We are continually adding new features and functionality to make sure that online security measures remain a priority. Our advanced, proprietary fraud detection system is state of the art and effective in preventing almost all fraudulent order attempts. If you have questions or concerns about your current fraud prevention or if you are interested in learning more about BMT Micro’s offerings please contact our vendor services at vendors@bmtmicro.com.

Jul 1

Understanding Chargebacks

Posted by BMT Micro

Reading Time: 2 minutes

   Understanding Chargebacks - BMT Micro

Many would agree that to be competitive in today’s market, a business needs the ability to accept credit card payments online. By doing this, it can help increase your revenue, customer base and improve productivity. However, accepting credit cards also comes with one important aspect that every business needs to be aware of – chargebacks.

Chargebacks occur when a customer files a dispute and asks their credit card company to reverse a transaction. A customer may file a dispute for the following reasons:

  • Technical: Expired authorization, non-sufficient funds, or bank processing error.
  • Clerical: Duplicate billing, incorrect amount billed, or refund never issued.
  • Quality: Consumer claims to have never received the good as promised at the time of purchase.
  • Fraud: Consumer claims they did not authorize the purchase or identity theft.

[source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chargeback#Reason_codes]

Furthermore, ignoring chargebacks can be costly for your business, and in worst-case scenario, they can hold up funds. So, how can your business avoid these? There is no easy answer, but there are several things you can do to help prevent disputes and chargebacks:

Provide Contact Information
It is critical to be able to communicate with your customers to ensure a smooth processing of purchases. By providing an email address or phone number, a customer can contact you directly about the issue first without initiating a chargeback.

Respond Quickly
If you are notified of a chargeback, responding quickly can be your business’ greatest tool. There is a certain time limit in each step of the chargeback cycle. If your business does not respond by the date requested, most banks will process the chargeback automatically. This results in your business losing an entire sale, a chargeback fee, and possible additional penalties.

Have a Clear Return Policy
To help prevent chargebacks and disputes, make sure your return and refund policies are clearly stated and easy to understand on your website. It can work to your business’ disadvantage if a customer claims they could not find your return or refund policies.

Prevent Unauthorized Transactions
Some customers may dispute a charge when they believe a purchase was made using their card without permission. In some cases, the buyer may have forgotten they made the purchase or that an authorized family member used the account to make the purchase. However, in other cases, this may be an indication of fraud. The best way to avoid this is to work to prevent fraudulent charges in the first place. A way to do this is to use a card verification system which will help to ensure that the card is physically with customer and not just a stolen one.

Ultimately, chargebacks are just another cost of doing business, but too many can actually cost your business the ability to process credit cards. If you respond to them correctly and prepare yourself appropriately, your business can keep the number of chargebacks to a minimum.

If managing chargebacks sound like too much of a headache for your business, let us handle them for you! BMT Micro manages refunds, charges, and chargebacks for our customers. Also, our state-of-the-art fraud detection system automatically screens orders and puts questionable orders through a manual approval process. We have a reliable, cost-effective solution that is flexible enough to meet your online business needs now and well into the future. If you have any questions or if you are interested in learning more about our offerings please contact our vendor services at vendors@bmtmicro.com.