Advocate assisted commerce improves customer experience and drives business results – Interview with Scott Pulsipher of Needle

Carhartt

Today’s interview is with Scott Pulsipher, President & COO of Needle, a US software firm that is pioneering advocate-assisted commerce. Scott joins me today to talk about what Needle are up to, trust, customer experience and advocate-assisted commerce.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: A degree of humility always succeeds in business – Interview with Michael O’Leary of Ryanair – and is number 145 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Highlights of my interview with Scott:

  • Needle is pioneering advocate-assisted commerce.
  • In online commerce we are often faced with a lack of trust and access to trusted advice when making purchases.
  • What if businesses could allow their own customers and advocates to help new customers? Doing so would dramatically improve the customer’s experience and increase the likelihood that customers would find and buy what they are looking for.
  • Scott quotes some Forrester research that says that only 20% of us trust the associates of the company that we are doing business with.
  • Needle works with firms that are selling what they call ‘considered purchases’, where they are generally at a higher price point, often entail extensive usage after purchase and where there are lots of different options.
  • Scott tells the story of Carhartt, who provide technical workwear. Needle helped them find and engage their advocates such that when a Carhartt shopper is displaying certain behaviours on the Carhartt site, the shopper will get an invite (pop-up) that will ask them if they would like to ‘chat’ with a Carhartt expert/customer that may be able to help them with any purchasing questions they have.
  • If the customer clicks yes then this tends to lead to a dramatic increase in the customer being able to locate the right product, higher customer satisfaction and NPS as well as higher and more frequent purchases.
  • This can lead to a 6-10 fold increase in conversion over a self-service customer and a 10-25% increase in the average order value.
  • All of the advocates are clearly identified through their bio and picture as fans of the company, experts and purchasers of the company’s products.
  • Advocates are rewarded primarily through 3 things: products, brand experiences and cash.
  • Advocates’ primary motivation is that they want to help.
  • They love to receive products and exclusive brand experiences but the cash element also has to be enough that they are willing to show up and do ‘work’.
  • Advocates also receive a schedule of when they are to be ‘live’ and helping customers just like any other role.
  • There are advocates for everything out there so this is not an exclusively large brand opportunity.
  • For ecommerce businesses this would mean that they would need in excess of 500,000 visits per month to their site to ensure that the right amount of community can be developed.
  • This could help firms scale their sales efforts and drive incremental revenue without increasing headcount.
  • To identify if this could be for your firm then first identify the higher price point product category that has great engagement but low conversion rates and start there.
  • The majority of online businesses are pre-occupied with traffic and how to increase it.
  • However, Scott advocates that a $1 spent on trust, engagement and community will generate a return 10-fold higher return than a $1 spent on driving higher traffic.
  • Not everyone understands advocacy and not everyone trusts what their advocates might do. But, when Needle works with their clients they experience big uplifts in satisfaction and NPS as well as significant increases in conversion, average order value, loyalty and incremental revenue.

About Scott (taken from his Needle bio)

Scott PulsipherScott Pulsipher is the President & COO of Needle.

Scott was previously the general manager of Amazon Webstore, a division of Amazon Services, where he directed overall strategy and global go-to-market efforts. Under his leadership, Amazon Webstore was launched in the US and Europe, and rapidly scaled to support the ecommerce business of tens of thousands of companies. Prior to Amazon, Scott was the senior vice president of Products and Marketing for Sterling Commerce, which was acquired by IBM in 2010. Scott received his MBA from Harvard University. When not working, Scott tries to keep up with his family of six children, while sneaking in the occasional round of golf or day of skiing.

You can find Scott on LinkedIn here and on Twitter @scottpul.

Photo Credit: halfrain via Compfight cc

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