MarTech Interview with Mikel Lindsaar, Founder and CEO of StoreConnect

Unlock the secrets of sustainable growth in online retail, learn how data integration revolutionizes returns and boosts customer satisfaction.

Mikel, can you briefly share your professional journey and how you became involved in the intersection of data, online retail, and sustainable growth?

In the mid-80s, while only in my early teenage years, I proudly told my step-father that “one day, people will buy and sell houses and cars using only the Internet!”

I was told in no uncertain terms this was a crazy idea and no one would ever buy such things using computers. Undeterred, I went on to found one of Australia’s first successful Internet Service Providers and website companies and learned first-hand how powerful the Internet would become.

After spending a decade volunteering and producing open-source software, I moved on to building a software development business that built Salesforce-connected custom web applications. I kept getting asked to build custom eCommerce websites and, while we could do it, there were a lot of eCommerce systems out there, and so, having a request to build a custom (and very expensive) solution confused me.

After building many of these and learning all the hard lessons on what makes or breaks eCommerce, I found that what these clients needed was an affordable, yet scalable and comprehensive eCommerce and Point-of-sale solution that was built on the World’s #1 CRM providing Small-to-Medium Businesses (SMBs) a completely scalable solution, which I went on to call a Customer Commerce solution.

A solution they could sign up for from their earliest humble beginnings and not have to move from until they were incredibly successful and could afford to do so.

In your perspective, why is leveraging data crucial for online retailers to enhance and streamline their return processes and achieve sustainable growth?

It isn’t data that is crucial, it is what data provides the business – and that is understanding. Understanding and human connections are what drive sustainable growth for business. Making a connection with a customer could be said to be the fundamental driver of brands and brand value.

However, if your systems yield confusing data or incomplete data, then your understanding will be subpar as a result. You can’t leverage data if it isn’t there, isn’t accessible, or is spread across multiple systems.

If a retailer wants to enhance and streamline their returns, the first step they could take would be to build a better understanding of the customer and provide better personalized information and service to that customer so that the return never occurs in the first place.

A customer who knows the brand’s offer – for example, the sizing – is less likely to choose an incorrect product. No one can plan for changes of mind, fraud, or other reasons for returns, but there are a lot of controllable reasons the retailer can handle.

Of course, any return is a major cost to a business. Returns cost the online retail sector some $750 billion in 2023. So, reducing returns and making them simpler through technology solutions is always going to contribute to higher growth since the business doesn’t have to make more sales just to stand still in terms of revenue and profit.

How does StoreConnect leverage Salesforce’s CRM capabilities to analyze customer data and identify patterns and trends in returns?

StoreConnect is built and integrated into Salesforce, and this single platform and single source of truth approach means all the power and capabilities of Salesforce are available natively to StoreConnect. One source of truth, data, and understanding is incredibly powerful in terms of building your business model and your service model to customers.

Could you elaborate on how StoreConnect enables real-time updates to customers and websites, and why is this capability crucial for minimizing dissatisfaction and returns?

Simply, all the systems are ONE system, so you don’t have to have multiple systems and updates, or scheduled data transfers. It is there, available 24/7 – the front end of the website is in the same system as the back end, and the CRM, the finance, and the delivery system. It is the single system that drives the real-time availability of data and information.

Regardless of whether the customer is on the phone with a support agent, updating their details on the website, or is in store with a representative, any data entered is automatically saved to the central CRM and available everywhere.

Most customer complaints come from incorrect data. StoreConnect handles this by making sure we always capture the correct data and make it instantly available.

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What role does having all systems on one single platform, like StoreConnect, play in assisting call center staff and support teams to guide customers through their buying or support journey effectively?

Again, to put it simply, they only have to look in one box to find what they are looking for. If you think of most online retail systems – particularly in SMBs – there are multiple systems, all with a piece of the puzzle. If you have to go rooting around in a whole bunch of ‘boxes’ to find the data you need to service the customer, you are going to take time and upset them. So, with one system, the data is always available to you, and always in real-time, so service becomes effective, efficient, and appreciated.

How does the automation within StoreConnect contribute to reducing the burden on staff and minimizing errors in the return process?

I might sound like a broken record, but multiple systems cause errors. Data is overwritten from one system to the other, or different in different systems. As such, staff can make errors, or waste time trying to fix a simple issue for a client.

With one system, there is less burden on staff and less chance of system errors contributing to mistakes.

Could you share insights into how StoreConnect streamlines return processes using the power of the Salesforce platform, and what specific benefits this brings to businesses?

Every business has a slightly different returns process. The problem with traditional software is that you have to fit your business into the software’s processes. Because StoreConnect is built on and within the incredibly customizable and configurable Salesforce CRM, businesses can instead just configure the system to match their return process.

This coupled with always up-to-date and in-sync data means that the staff in the company can operate on up-to-date information, with the next step already configured within the system making handling the return process a breeze.

How does StoreConnect facilitate effective communication with customers during the return process, and what strategies have you found to be particularly successful in maintaining customer satisfaction?

Being a single platform with a single source of customer information, StoreConnect makes it far easier to communicate with a customer – not only outbound because their data is correct, and communication will reach them – but also inbound when you are trying to service a customer or answer an inquiry. Fast human service is what underpins the success of any business. You waste a customer’s time trying to find an answer in multiple systems at your own peril. The research backs me up that businesses that provide fast, human service are the ones whose customers love them and to whom customers are loyal. Serve them and you’ll satisfy them could be the simple mantra.

In your experience, what are common challenges faced by online retailers in managing returns, and how does StoreConnect address or overcome these challenges?

I have researched this issue in depth, and there is a huge amount of data about it online. Returns are such a huge issue industry-wide that it is attracting a lot of attention. The problem is AMAZON, EBAY, and other Goliaths created a read rod for their backs, and that of many other smaller retailers with FREE shipping and returns. When you think of just the practical logistics of moving physical objects not just from warehouse to customer, but then back again, and potentially a third dispatch of a replacement product, it simply isn’t sustainable to do these things for free.

In traditional retailing, the burden of returning an unwanted or incorrect purchase was on the consumer legging it back to the store they bought it from. In the online world, offers of FREE shipping and then FREE returns put all the burden back on the retailer and absolve the consumer of ALL responsibility. Many people would just buy 3 sizes of the same thing, or 3 colors so they could have a fitting session at home, knowing they had no cost or issue with sending what they didn’t want back. Worse still, the refunds done before receiving goods back have left some retailers handling issues such as the TV box full of bricks from one criminal customer.

Whilst we can’t stop criminals from ripping us off, retailers can use the systems offered by StoreConnect such as better data, automation, and other tools to reduce all the mistakes and incorrect ordering reasons for returns, thus reducing the overall burden.

Finally, what are your final thoughts or key takeaways for our audience regarding the integration of data, technology, and streamlined return processes in the context of sustainable growth for online retailers?

At the end of the day, technology has a purpose, which is to do mundane tasks such as data collation, number crunching, and automation. It isn’t supposed to add a burden of human cost to a business – which is what has happened with SMBs needing multiple systems and plug-ins that don’t communicate or cooperate to do business online.

With a single source of truth, a single platform concept like StoreConnect built onto Salesforce, retailers are finally able to put technology in the box it does best, and free up the humans to provide the human experience and service that customers not only desire but demand. When the tech does its job right, we can get onto what we love, which is servicing customers and delighting them with the experience of doing business with us. Delighted customers are loyal customers who will spend more with us over time, thus leading to higher profitability and stronger deeper relationships with customers. Having a long-term customer who returns something occasionally is less of an issue than transactional customers who return nearly 25% of the time and contribute to higher costs and lower profits.

I don’t believe businesses can survive, let alone grow if they continue the transactional model. I believe the relationship model is the only way brands can survive in the future. This brings me full circle to my first thought that a brand and its value are an outcome and measure of the understanding, human connections, and relationships that result.

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Mikel Lindsaar, Founder and CEO of StoreConnect

Mikel Lindsaar is the CEO and Founder of StoreConnect, a Salesforce Partner Innovation Award Recipient.  Mikel is a serial technology entrepreneur having successfully built and sold four SaaS companies within the last decade. StoreConnect has one goal: to help small and medium-sized businesses become scalable Customer Companies powered by Salesforce. Clients achieve this daily by breaking free of the shackles of what Mikel calls “Plugin Purgatory and SaaS Hell.” StoreConnect clients don’t need multiple SaaS systems connected by plugins to manage their online, in-store POS and in-person Customer Commerce business systems. Many of today’s eCommerce solutions are designed to get up and running quickly and inevitably hit a brick wall of scalability and extensibility as companies grow.  That's why StoreConnect is built on the world’s #1 CRM, so its customers will never need to replatform no matter how fast they grow, product offerings or regions. Global growth now has no barriers for any SMB. Being built on Salesforce allows StoreConnect customers to update their websites, funnels, and content in real time, providing an unparalleled competitive advantage. StoreConnect is Time. Well Spent. Visit  LinkedIn.
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