Driving Sales in a Gifting Economy: A Chat with Jenn Muller, CMO of Loop Commerce, a Synchrony solution
Enhancing customer loyalty and customer support initiatives with a gift giving strategy, especially gifts related to essentials people may need or things they can benefit from during the Covid-19 downtime can be of help to customers and can contribute towards enabling stronger business relationships. In this chat, Jenn Muller, CMO of Loop Commerce, a Synchrony solution discusses how one can optimize sales in a gifting economy.
Tell us a little about yourself Jenn and a little about Loop Commerce, the idea behind the company, and the journey so far?
I joined Loop Commerce in January of 2019. Prior to that, I led Sales, Marketing and Digital teams for Synchrony. In that role, my focus was on improving the customer journey as it related to accessing and utilizing the advantages of private label credit. With Loop, I’m able to apply many of those lessons and in a much more personal and emotional space, gifting. Consumer research has continually revealed an inherent anxiety around the act of buying something for someone else. Whether it’s a small token or a grand gesture, we want to make sure the gift itself somehow accurately conveys the sentiment behind it….and we don’t want to mess that up! At Loop, we are driven to discover the ways in which we can remove the barriers between generous thought and generous action. That journey started with peer to peer gifting but has evolved into a gift experience management methodology that includes corporate gifting, campaign gifting, gifting insights and much more.
The challenging business environment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic today has forced companies across sectors to change the way they function: as businesses reopen and pick up pace over the next few months; what thoughts do you have for sales in retail / B2C; how can businesses increase loyalty and customer support with gift giving initiatives that can be of help to customers during this time. What thoughts would you share on this for the B2B segment?
COVID-19 has certainly shifted where we spend. As a result, online spend is seeing double even triple digit growth in key categories, but it’s also changed our mindset as it relates to contact along the delivery chain. Safety has joined expediency as a key driver of consumer satisfaction. Customers want to engage, but in ways that minimize physical contact. As a result, multiple buy paths are emerging not only in physical locations (ex: physical POS updates) but in a drive to connect online and offline experience in a truly omnichannel experience (ex: curbside pickup). When it comes to gifting, an area typically known for high return/exchange rates, this becomes increasingly problematic. Retailers need to find a way to deliver gifting solutions that allow for personalization while enabling virtual returns/exchanges that enable the receiver to ultimately get the gift that’s right for them. With the biggest gift giving season right around the corner, finding the right gift experience management solutions might very well be what makes or breaks a retailer’s holiday season. Corporate gift giving is also important during the pandemic. Meaningful, memorable gifts help build relationships between employers and employees, sales teams and prospects, and businesses and customers during this difficult time. This offers merchants an exciting opportunity to connect with new customers. Big retail and specialty brands that don’t currently deliver products via bulk or corporate gifting programs get increased brand visibility, a new channel for repeat purchases, and access to a new segment of shoppers they might not reach on their own unless they spent the marketing dollars to do it. And bulk orders can make a meaningful impact on their sales without necessitating a loss in per-product margin.
In order to focus and achieve better business continuity during these times, how should businesses / ecommerce and others capitalize better on their customer engagement and customer success initiatives as well?
We have to listen to our customers and evolve more quickly than ever before. We need to work harder to retain their business and reward loyalty. The American home has changed. It’s no longer somewhere we return to at the end of the day. It is where we work, play, educate our children, shop, visit virtually with friends….even where we go for “happy hour.” We need to evolve our offerings to support and celebrate the everyday heroes in this new environment. We also need to be transparent in the measures we are taking to protect them and our employees.
Loop Commerce / you have coined the term Gift Experience Management (GXM)– we’d love your thoughts on how you see the ecommerce / GXM evolving because of the pandemic.
Because of the pandemic, digital gifting is going to become even more critical as people want to remain connected with their friends and loved ones but aren’t able to go to a store to shop or deliver a present. We expect to see gifting transform dramatically, especially now when people may not be able to get together face-to-face this holiday season or even just to celebrate a birthday. For the upcoming holiday season, as well as every day gifting occasions like birthdays or wedding anniversaries, merchants need to rethink how their e-commerce sites handle people shopping for others. Most retailers do a great job of optimizing the e-commerce journey for people that are shopping for themselves. But it’s generally challenging to buy a gift for someone else. What if you don’t know their size or color preferences? What happens if you don’t know their desired shipping address? You’re stuck and likely opt out of the purchase, costing retailers lost sales.
Gift Experience Management, GXM, is a holistic approach to gifting for merchants that brings gifting into the digital age at a time when we’re living in essentially a digital world. GXM provides merchants with a purpose-built, digital gifting solution for products and gift cards that takes the anxiety and roadblocks out of giving and receiving, making gifting easier than it’s ever been. For merchants, this means more customers, increased revenue, and fewer returns.
GXM will also play an increasingly important role in corporate gifting during the pandemic as it empowers HR teams to delight employees, sales teams to win prospects, customer service teams to connect with loyal customers, and event and marketing teams to make a lasting impression with myriad audiences by allowing them to give the most valued kind of gift: that handpicked, thoughtful present that makes a recipient feel seen and appreciated. These gifts don’t just make recipients happy; they also have a big influence on their business decisions: 70% of people say that receiving a corporate gift that was selected just for them would make them more likely to keep working with a company.
Using a GXM platform lets gifters choose from a wonderfully broad range of gifts for every individual and occasion. No longer limited to impersonal swag, gifters can use GXM to give thoughtful, meaningful gifts—from kitchenware to athletic equipment to home accessories—and personalized gift card experiences.
Plus, GXM eliminates the potential risks associated with personalized gifting, so they can even give hard-to-gift items like clothes. Because gifts are delivered digitally and not shipped until the recipient accepts as-is or makes adjustments to their order, not knowing someone’s size or color preference is no longer a barrier. Even if a recipient doesn’t like what was picked out for them, the gift is still a success, as they can exchange it instantly for something they really love.
And there’s another benefit: inventory management. Businesses typically have to maintain an inventory of gift items, which takes space and cash. With a GXM platform, the retailer or merchant manages inventory and ships the desired item only after the recipient accepts it.
How according to you will the rest of the year play out for businesses and the economy, what are your top predictions?
I think we’ll continue to see a shift in the retail landscape as brands learn to evolve and navigate the new normal. New adjacencies will evolve as we innovative humans continue to harness the power of technology to connect with friends and family both near and far. As some segments grow and others decline, we may see a shift in the workforce along with where and how we live. Much of the analysis we see indicates a recovery in total spend across the US. My hope is that we will continue to see that as we move through the remainder of 2020.
Any other thoughts for us before we wrap up?
E-commerce has made shopping easier than ever. In fact, it’s hard to remember the world before e-commerce. Today, customers can browse the aisles of a store without leaving the couch, reference thousands of reviews, and compare products. With one-click checkout, customers don’t even have to get up to get their wallets, and next-day delivery guarantees they get what they need right away. Plus, they get personalized recommendations based on their purchase history that curate their shopping experience and help them discover items they’ll love…and Gifting is evolving as a result. The way consumers buy, sell, choose, receive, and exchange gifts is changing for the better, and we can expect the experience around gifting to evolve, too: The anxiety, disappointment, and stress that can be associated with gifting will fall away, replaced by feelings of excitement and anticipation. Why? Because consumers will demand it. Successful retailers will find a way to manage gifting experiences holistically, addressing the friction points that make the personal online shopping journey so frustrating for gifters by offering gifters a specialized shopping journey of their own, designed around their needs and concerns. It is only through this that businesses will be able to fully enjoy the opportunities of the gift economy, which can include lower cart abandonment, increased incremental sales, improved customer acquisition and a reduction in return and shipping costs.
GiftNow, from Loop Commerce, is a holistic Gift Experience Management™ (GXM) solution that takes the friction out of gifting. With GiftNow’s revolutionary purpose-built GXM platform, gifters can send personalized digital gifts and gift cards in seconds and recipients can exchange or modify their items before they ship. It’s a big win for gift givers, recipients, corporate gifting programs, and retailers, which is why GiftNow is used by premium specialty and department stores across the United States.
Jenn Muller is the Chief Marketing Officer at Loop Commerce, a Synchrony solution that is powering the digital gifting experience for e-commerce leaders like Target, Coach, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, and others where their GiftNow solution is a leading choice for online gifting of products. Jenn moved to Loop in 2018 from her role as SVP, Digital Optimization & New Client Integration at Synchrony. Jenn spent 25 years with GE Capital and Synchrony in various sales, marketing and leadership roles. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas and an MBA in E-commerce from the University of Phoenix. She is a certified Six Sigma black belt.