It happens all the time. A consumer visits a merchant's Web site, finds appealing items and puts them in a virtual shopping cart. Then it's time to move from browsing to purchasing.
But instead of clicking the designated checkout button, the consumer exits the site, leaving the shopping cart in cyber limbo.
This presents a formidable challenge for e-commerce merchants, as well as for the ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) who serve them.
Some shoppers are comfortable purchasing merchandise via the Internet from known retailers (and sometimes from unknown retailers).
Other shoppers are uneasy about purchasing goods they can't inspect in person before forking over their credit card information, especially when they do not know whether unsatisfactory items can be returned, and if so, how difficult the process is likely to be.
Meanwhile, online merchants want to capture all the dollars they can.
Web sites that employ encryption and authentication standards to protect transactions do much to ease consumers' fears of hackers potentially accessing their financial and personal data.
But secure transactions alone do not reassure customers that merchants will stand by their products and that the merchandise-return process will be painless.
Providing such confidence in e-commerce is Assurz Inc.'s raison d'être.
Assurz was founded in 2005 by Steve Hoffman, Assurz Chief Executive Officer, and David Dittmore, Chief Operating Officer.
The company's mission is to make shoppers as comfortable purchasing products online as they are when shopping at the very best retail stores.
And when a customer is dissatisfied with a purchase, Assurz strives to make certain that returning merchandise for a full refund is convenient and easy.
The vehicle for this is the Assurz 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, a third-party shopper satisfaction guarantee program designed to drive sales for online merchants. The service debuted in April 2007.
The company now employs 25 people in Redwood City, Calif., and Morrisville, N.C.
The Assurz symbol, a shopping cart with an umbrella above it, notifies online shoppers at checkout that the merchant offers the 100% Satis-faction Guarantee.
The program provides a 90-day return period within which shoppers can receive a 100% refund, including shipping and handling fees. Assurz also prepays all return shipping costs and even provides packing peanuts, if needed.
Furthermore, consumers don't have to provide a detailed reason for their returns. They simply might have changed their minds, or decided those shoes weren't as cute on their feet as they were on the Web site. And that's OK.
Gregg Gumbinger, Assurz Vice President Business Development, said, "This industry-first guarantee program works to overcome widespread insecurities about unfamiliar Web sites and possible product dissatisfaction through a fast, simple and convenient return process."
A 100% satisfaction guarantee may also benefit merchants, ISOs and MLSs in several ways. Merchants can reduce shopping cart abandonment rates, which will drive additional sales.
If consumers return merchandise, Assurz pays all related return costs, including consumers' refunds. Assurz steps in when merchants cannot accept returned merchandise and when card issuers have not given customers refunds and issued chargebacks. Merchants win because they retain money from sales.
"Assurz handles all customer requests for guarantee services, processes returned merchandise and liquidates that merchandise in secondary channels to avoid competing with its merchant affiliates," Gumbinger said.
Assurz offers a Channel Marketing Partner Program for ISOs and MLSs to sell the Assurz 100% Satisfaction Guarantee as a value-added service.
Partners receive a share of revenue for all transactions from merchants who implement the Assurz 100% Satisfaction Guarantee service. ISOs and MLSs have the option of private labeling the service, too. This enables them to increase their brand value and boost merchant retention rates.
Merchants can choose between two 100% Satisfaction Guarantee options:
Regardless of the model selected, the Assurz service cost is a percentage of the shopping cart total displayed during the checkout process.
Fees are based on a Web site's average purchase amount, annual sales volume and return rate. There are no setup charges or recurring fees. "We keep the pricing simple," Gumbinger said.
The merchandise return process is seamless, too. Neither agents nor merchants need to facilitate returns; Assurz handles everything.
Customers begin the return process by calling Assurz's toll-free number.
"We take over from there," Gumbinger said.
Even though Assurz manages the return, merchants can access online reports, including customer return requests and the status of a return.
Assurz noted that providing a 100% satisfaction guarantee can benefit both new and established e-commerce merchants: It can help newer merchants distinguish themselves and assist seasoned retailers in boosting revenues and customer satisfaction.
And ISOs and MLSs, who formerly had minimal influence on consumer satisfaction after online purchases were complete, can now have a positive impact in this area.
Happy shoppers provide great word-of-mouth advertising. And that translates into increased sales for merchants, as well as greater residuals for ISOs and MLSs.
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Director of Business and Channel Development
203 Redwood Shores Parkway
Redwood City, CA 94065
Web site: www.assurz.com