Thank you and welcome to the January 2012 KCSEM meeting on Google Trusted Stores. My name is Mike Kearns and Mark Jackson and Josh McCoy asked if I would speak about how Pro Athlete got started with Google’s new Trusted Store program. And here I am. A glutton for punishment.
Before we get started, I would like to thank Mark Jackson and Josh McCoy for hosting the event and all the other sponsors like Brett Burri and TooBaRoo Marketing, as well. Without someone to organize the event, communicate the message and get people to come out - we have nothing. Thank you - round of applause.
Thanks for coming out to listen to me speak. I’m hoping you find my presentation fun and exciting. I’m going to discuss my background and what I’m currently involved with. Go into some depth about the Google Trusted Store program as you would expect. Then talk about why Pro Athlete jumped at the opportunity to get Google Trusted Stores installed on our websites. I’ll go into more detail about how to implement Google Trusted Stores and what to look out for. I’ll cover the entire Google Trusted Store system moving parts. Present what I think is the future of Google Trusted Stores, and wrap-up with some Q & A.
I have not spoke in public since 1998, one year after I started 5 Star Net with my Brother Brian. At the time, I was working at Cap Gemini America and built a call system simulator web application for Sprint Long Distance that was completely designed from the ground-up to train, track, and allow managerial review for all training calls. Through Cap Gemini America I was approached to speak at KC Connect about web applications programmed on the net so I talked about the Sprint app. The tricky part, was that Sprint knew about the speech, so I had to stay up all night and remove the Sprint logo from the application, supporting materials, videos, and ended up missing a logo. It showed up on the page for a half second during my demo and Sprint ended up calling Cap Gemini. You should have seen the scorn on their face. Thankfully, one of the awesome engagement managers at Cap Gemini stepped in a cleared our name.
While still working at Cap Gemini America, I setup 5 Star Net, my web design company. I had a strong feeling y2k work was going to mix things up. At the time I was working at the BMA tower on the 10th floor writing COBOL programs for group insurance calculations.
In 1999, I met Scott, my business partner at Pro Athlete, Inc. He was looking for a company to setup websites for his growing sporting goods company. We agreed and began working on our dream of building an online business. However, I was still working 45-50 hours at my client site for Cap Gemini, which was BMA then Farmland. But I worked nights and weekends to get the websites started for Pro Athlete.
In 2002, I was able to leave Cap Gemini and start working full-time as a consultant for Pro Athlete. I took a huge pay cut and became the Graphics designer, UX, DBA, Web Dev, QA, Project Manager, Requirements gatherer, Marketing guy, and change control person all at the same time. But hey. That’s what I wanted. In 2005, I enlisted some help on the programming side and now we have 12 IT/Development employees, and Pro Athlete has about 95 employees as of this presentation. We are now a mid-sized company. Overall, however, the team at Pro Athlete is happy I’m no longer the Graphics designer, UX, DBA, Web Dev, QA, Project Manager, Requirements gatherer, Marketing guy, and change control person.
What I feel is different and unique about Pro Athlete is that we are a customer-focused, data-driven, and a results-based company.
Here’s all our domains we maintain and manage from our Kansas City Location. My linkedin profile, twitter, and Google profile are all available here and at the end of the presentation.
I’m married to a beautiful woman - Mindy for 14 years. Blessed with two kids - Logan (6) and Allie (4).
For short, I’m going to referrer to Google Trusted Stores as GTS from now. GTS is a system with a few moving parts. In its bare form, there a badge that goes on your website, there’s some code that goes on your website, and there’s some shipping and order data you must send Google on a daily basis. Overall, It’s a new eCommerce KPI that is transparent and available for everyone to see which, I believe, will become a new measurement in brand value. Especially, online brands.
GTS is strategic. Why? No one has attempted to measure the time it takes to get a product out the door, and measure the time to the customer’s front porch. Lofty to say the least, but who can argue with the data Google captures? When ordering from a brand that offers GTS there’s a trust factor that you get from Google and from the brand. In the end, let’s not forget Google is an advertising company and selling ads is an important goal, but getting people to click on the them is even more important.
Google is measuring each merchant track record with regards to customer service and shipping metrics. There’s data Google is collecting on the website, when an order is placed, and when daily data feeds are sent. They also obtain shipping data from ups and fed ex. They collate the data and track delivery speed and order issues and tie the results to our domain.
Consumers who choose a GTS store opt in to $1,000 buyer protection in case the merchant fails to ship correct item, Item not in the promised condition, billed an incorrect amount, item was not shipped in a timely manner, or the merchant does not honor their return policies. As a merchant, when you opt in to GTS, Google can turn off GTS if you are careless and do not pay attention to your customers.
GTS provides merchant transparency for shipping and order issues. Pro Athlete is able to share it’s on time percentage with the world. Reminds me of the tweeting scale. Anyone heard of the wifi body scale? Keeps everyone honest.
The merchant transparency is displayed in the form of a badge the customers interact with which displays shipping and customer service report cards. This is illustrated on the next slide.
Here’s the JustBats.com homepage and you can see, in the bottom right corner, there’s a small GTS logo. When clicked, you can see to the right, there’s a lightbox that displays the merchant logo and rating. It shows the volume of transactions the merchant has completed with GTS, the A,B rating and % based rating for reliable shipping and excellent service. The merchant account can also be verified, customers can learn about the purchase protection plan, and more about GTS by clicking the links around the light box.
Here’s the JustBallGloves order complete page which also shows the GTS badge.
When Scott, Brian and I set out to build the Pro Athlete websites in 1998-9, we didn’t like how most websites worked and felt like they ripped people off and gave the net a bad name. This was way back in the day when shipping was not free. There was no such thing as a guest checkout. Shipping was not guaranteed. Sounds like a lot of websites now-a-days.
We wanted to offer our customers the best customer service so we hired flexible employees in the beginning who could put away merchandise, box orders, take calls, clean the building, answer emails, order product, write content, etc. We wanted to set a high standard early on so people would recognize our brand. Now, we have grown to where each employee focuses on core tasks and executing systems in customer service, marketing, creative, information tech, development, distribution center, human resources, and operations.
We guarantee shipping times on our website up until 8 PM central. We work hard to get all the orders fulfilled that are placed even at 7:59 before our Fed Ex and UPS driver picks us up. We staff extra people just to help with the mad rush between 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM.
GTS was a great fit for Pro Athlete since we built the company on awesome customer service, free shipping, and fast delivery. Now, with GTS, we have a way to shout from the mountain-top, with Google’s help, about our customer service reliability and shipping accuracy with transparent metrics available for anyone to see.
Trust marks are an important aspect to converting customers on an eCommerce website. The GTS badge is implemented in a way where it shows on the page, in the bottom right-hand corner, no matter where the fold is. Most trust marks are in the footer, and if your customers are anything like mine, they don’t make it that far down on the page all the time, so it’s wise for Google to implement that badge in this way. When the badge first started to appear, it would fly-in from the bottom, now it flys-in from the right to left and has a fancy animated sheen. Google is trying to get more people to realize it’s there I presume.
GTS allows Pro Athlete to prove our shipping accuracy and customer service reliability and show customers our true, measured track record. What else does a customer what?
Last, but certainly not least, GTS allows us to build our relationship with Google. I know if you choose an agency to manage your PPC campaigns then Google will not talk to you, but we see an advantage working closely with Google since we manage everything internally. We’ve asked our Google reps to include us in beta programs. We have not opted in to all, but GTS was a perfect fit for the reasons I’ve just outlined.
To begin with GTS, you’ll need to fill-out a form and be qualified. Since it is in beta, Google is slower and may not communicate to you in a timely manner, so please be patient. The form for GTS is on the screen in a shortened url form or you can Google it.
Once the data feeds are setup and everything is working, there will be some waiting to do. Google calls this being dark. On a call with our Google team today, I asked about the biggest problem. They mentioned the data feeds are a huge hurdle for many retailers. I can only presume this is because they don’t have expertise on hand or it’s not available.
Once the customer service department takes escalation training in how to deal with Google when they call, and sign off on it, then you can go live. No sooner.
Once you go live, Google displays the badge for about half the users. Like an a/b test.
Like I said before since GTS is in beta, you cannot expect miracles. Be patient if you submit a request and also be realistic. Google is looking for specific candidates for the program that, I can only presume, will make it appealing to other online retailers. Later on in the presentation, there’s a small list of retailers who offer GTS. When the fine folks at GTS email, please be sure to respond quickly. That shows them you a willing and able partner. As of the development of this presentation, there is no Google Analytics integration for merchants to view the different a/b conversion results. I’m pushing for this. On the call today, I asked about this. I’ve also requested that Google share some data with the merchants about the success or failure of GTS, and they provided some in Dec 2011, but I cannot tell much from it other than Google sees an increase in conversion for split testing. There are no specific results for our brands, however.
Now, let’s switch gears, for an overview of the GTS system.
For those that are familiar with the Google Merchant website, this will look familiar. Here’s the console that shows data feed status and other details. There are two feeds, an orders feed and an order status feed. We have two brands setup, so you will see four rows. The console allows editing frequency of product catalog change, and viewing history of uploads. Files can be uploaded manually, hosted on your website, or uploaded via ftp. After a feed is manually uploaded, then you can see validity of the file upload. At first, doing it manually was okay, but ultimately, we setup an automated ftp process since that was best for us. Getting the files perfected did take some work, so again, be patient. Like I mentioned earlier, that’s a problem for some retailers trying to get setup.
The measured performance standards are the key to the whole process. It’s a whole new eCommerce KPI. No one that I know of is going to the level Google has with GTS to ensure accuracy. Merchants must maintain a high level of on-time shipments. Merchants must get the product out the door, fast. Customer service must resolve high level of customer issues quickly. Also, customer service must maintain low number of issues with customers, overall.
While the standards are rather vague and don’t specify exact numbers, Google does have more detailed metric specifications for the GTS merchant standards that you get once you become a trusted store. I cannot share the exact numbers, but I can share with you the categories of metrics used within GTS. I had to clear this presentation with Google and this was a sticky point, but they agreed that I could show categories.
So here they are. Real fast - move to the next slide.
As you can see, Google is tracking ten items. On-time shipping must be within a certain percentage. Avg time to shipment must be below or equal to a number of days. Transaction volume must be over a certain number. The primary escalation response time includes 100% of all responses and must be within a certain number of business days. The secondary escalation rate can not exceed a small percentage of customers. 100% of all refunds must be processed within a certain about of business days. Refunds must be resolved so that reimbursement from Google is less than a very small percentage. A good percentage of packages you ship are trackable. The cancel rate is less than a small percentage. Finally, the pre-order or backorder rate is less than a small percentage of all orders.
GTS will help grow Adwords. Google is an advertising company first. If they can get more people to click an ad based on a badge, then that’s extra money in their pocket. Is that evil? Or smart? When I sent the presentation to Google, they were sensitive to my speculation about GTS, so I had to remove 3 slides from the presentation.
Here’s what I can talk about. GTS and AdWords and Google’s future in commerce.
There’s already a buyers protection badge I’ve seen floating around in our Google PPC ads. The folks over at Google who run GTS have assured us they are constantly measuring results and improving the system. That means they are trying new stuff and things will come and go. What works will stick, of course. Google is very much data-driven in that sense.
I can see Google setting up a shipping guarantee badge or augmented ppc ad in some way if a searcher enters keywords about the product and shipping. That would alert Google that the searcher is not confident, and out pops GTS.
The same thing could be done with a customer service badge.
Look for the circle logo with the trademark google colors and checkmark in the middle for new GTS placements in PPC ads.
Google is investing a ton in commerce. Mainly, mobile commerce. Look at Google Offers for example, it’s a groupon clone that’s trying to be better integrated with mobile devices than Groupon. Then, there’s Google checkout, cough, I mean Google Wallet. Google is investing in near field communication NFC to make it easier for consumers to use their phone to buy stuff. Google shopper is another app Google has created which taps into Google Product search data and allows customers to price shop brick and mortar storefronts, then potentially go somewhere else, possibly online, to order the product. Most of this is happening due to the iPhone, but android has been very disruptive for Google and for Apple. Steve Jobs claimed Google was stealing all his employees over Android, so I know there were concerns. Android is very important to the future of Google.
Results of all this infrastructure/tools/platforms is complete disruption. However, did Amazon just beat Google at their own game by forking android? Food for thought.
Here's a list of other companies who use GTS.