By Greg Brown

E-commerce continues to transform global retailing, and in Canada it is picking up steam. Online retail sales grew 30.6% (C$15.65 billion) in 2017: twice that of U.S. merchants1. International sales are likely an important key to this momentum. Canada’s geography also makes e-commerce a natural as much of the population lives far from major urban centres, while these centres are home to mobile web-savvy residents.

The key to e-commerce success is customer retention. It costs far more to obtain a new customer than to retain a current one2.

At the core of customer retention is getting the customer details right. Just one false entry in the contact data can cause a frustrating experience that leads to customer churn.

Unhappy customers are three times more likely to abandon a retailer3. This means that providing a great customer experience from the shopping cart all the way through to delivery is paramount.

Having accurate address data is therefore critical for making sales and providing support for in-country and cross-border parcel delivery. It is the key to fulfillment, both in guaranteeing accurate and timely delivery but also in delivering on the customer’s expectations for a seamless experience.

Harnessing the right tools to provide a seamless shipping process can help satisfy customer retention challenges while avoiding costly chargebacks. Here are several examples.

Turning addressing into a fine art
One way to simplify and speed up the checkout process is by utilizing an address autocomplete solution that verifies addresses as your customer types, thereby reducing keystrokes by 50%. This not only speeds up checkout, but it also ensures that an error-free, verified address is entered, thus empowering timely fulfillment and reducing returned mail. Plus, a friendly shopping cart drastically reduces cart abandonment.

Jerry’s Artarama is an online art and hobby supply store. The international e-commerce market presented a great opportunity for growth, but incorrect addresses plagued the company’s shipping process. Blamed on “fat-fingered” mobile orders, address problems were destroying customer retention. The retailer needed more accurate tools to verify cross-border addresses, help consolidate orders and improve international returns.

Jerry’s Artarama now uses an address autocomplete solution from Melissa called Global Express Entry, which is integrated within its Magento e-commerce platform to validate addresses at the point-of-entry on web forms. The type-ahead address autocompletion feature cuts data entry keystrokes in half, reduces incorrectly addressed mail and cures fat-fingered typos. According to Michael Marchetta, director of marketing operations at Jerry’s Artarama, the company saw a 30% decrease in ordering mistakes after implementing Melissa’s Global Express Entry.

Point-of-entry address verification can also group parcel orders going to the same address when ordered separately, reducing packaging, postage and fulfillment costs, while simultaneously lowering trucking and associated environmental costs. Parcel grouping also improves the customer experience. The customer only has to physically be there, worry about or wait for one delivery instead of multiple deliveries.

For customers, address autocompletion means less time filling out forms, more time shopping and a speedy, worry-free checkout. In the customer’s view, this experience is just as important as a pain-free return policy.

Breaking chargeback trends
Customers enjoy tracking deliveries, but they also want visibility into return shipments. Many businesses see returns as only a business cost, but that’s a limited perspective. Returns are the new norm, and can be leveraged for customer retention. 95% of shoppers who were satisfied with a return process said they’d shop again3. Managing this process well offers the opportunity to recoup lost revenue, cross-selling and upselling, and maintain customer loyalty.

Yet if the return process is mismanaged, the customer might feel bilked and never buy again. Or worse, they may simply initiate a chargeback, which is already on the rise. And international chargebacks are three times more likely to occur than domestic chargebacks4. Chargebacks happen when fraudsters use stolen credit cards to purchase items that get shipped to an address that doesn’t match the credit card holder’s address. Once realized, the credit card holder, bank or credit union will initiate a chargeback. This results in lost revenue, wasted shipping costs and forfeited goods.

One quick, accurate and affordable way to identify possibly fraudulent purchases is by matching a customer’s contact information with multi-sourced reference data sets: for example, matching a name to an address, e-mail or phone number. This is a simple way for merchants to screen for fraud and prevent international chargebacks. Plus, it can all be done cost-effectively without having to use a full-blown identity verification service.

Z1 Motorsports supplies high-performance parts to do-it-yourselfers all over North America, but it needed a better way to combat the fraudsters hurting its business. Z1 spent seven minutes verifying each order by hand, but still suffered $250,000 in chargebacks!

Z1 implemented Personator Consumer from Melissa as an identity verification tool to reduce chargebacks. Personator can verify entire customer records within the CRM systems, so that you know customers are who they say they are. It can also update customer records for a complete picture and improved certainty. It enriches missing contact details like phone, e-mail and more. Plus, Personator adds geocoding. This further mitigates fraud by comparing addresses to locations, to make sure people are—and parcels go—where they belong, anywhere in the world. As a result, within one year of utilizing Personator, Z1’s chargebacks dropped to only $22,000: a 90% reduction.

International accuracy
Accurate addresses are exceptionally critical for international shipments because of the added time, distance and return shipment handling costs. Each country also has their own postal addressing protocol, making it even more challenging for e-commerce companies.

To realize the benefits of accurate addresses, you need all the right tools for the job. Global Express Entry and Personator both integrate easily and, especially when used in tandem, work miracles for online retailers. They streamline the order and fulfillment process all the way from order placement through international delivery. Companies benefit from increased conversions and better-quality contact data for shipping and returns. Plus, chargebacks from fraud are dramatically reduced, which lowers the bottom line.

Quality addresses with international coverage are paramount to driving cross-border e-commerce turnaround. Provider solutions that keep contact details standardized across your system—and international borders—are rare. Melissa is among a handful of vendors licenced by Canada Post® and USPS® to bridge intelligence across borders with applications powered by a SERP/CASS™ certified engine. Complete, standardized U.S. and Canadian addresses valid to delivery point can drive more than ideal results. With confidence in customer addresses, you can effectively expand past the borderline to grow and retain your international customer base.

For more information, visit or call 1-800-MELISSA.

Greg Brown is vice president of global marketing, Melissa ( Greg powers Melissa’s brand management, business-to-business, Internet and e-mail marketing strategies. He is an ANA-certified Marketing Professional and having worked for more than 15 years on both the client and the agency side, he brings a unique perspective to developing creative, results-oriented marketing programmes to acquire and retain customers.

1 Allison Enright, “Canadian online retailers grow sales 30% and are taking share from US merchants”, Internet Retailer, February 26, 2018.
2 Rustin Nethercott, “5 Reasons Why Repeat Customers Are Better Than New Customers”, infographic, Constant Comment.
3 Narvar, “Narvar Report: Making Returns a Competitive Advantage”, report, June 2017.
4 Chargebacks911, “International Chargebacks”, September 5, 2014.

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