Here is to having your cake and eating it too – pleasing customers and having an awesome brand. Customers shopping online have high expectations – they are looking for great online experiences, as well as brilliant products, services, and deals. Have you already taken control of the situation by analysing your online marketplace? Now is your chance to put all that data and insight into practice by giving customers what they’re looking for.
Manage customer data effectively
People expect immediacy. We use Amazon’s 1-click service to buy our books, and order taxis in seconds through Uber.
Online commerce is about saving time and making things as easy as possible for customers – a sales infrastructure that is all based on customer data.
- Use a CRM system to help you manage customer details accurately. Customers expect to always be remembered – customers will want to continue the conversations they’ve already started with you. Whether it’s buying a product or a service – people often need weeks, months, or even years; before they come to a final purchase decision. Don’t lose out on any leads through sloppy data management. Manage data effectively so that you can always meet people on their buyer journey, no matter where they are.
- If you’re selling online through a checkout system, make sure that customer data is being correctly captured along the way. Give people the option of saving multiple addresses and payment cards and don’t ‘forget’ customer purchases just because they’ve closed down the web page for a second.
- Include easy/repeated purchasing options (especially for bulk items), and use wish lists so that people don’t have to think twice about making a purchase.
Takeaway: Embrace the data opportunities of digital technology in order to deliver better customer experiences.
Provide content that feels more real
Buying and selling in 2017 is all about value exchange. Self-empowered buying has changed the B2B digital marketing landscape for good. Brands need to be able to level and be real with customers – hyped-up sales pitches will fall on deaf ears.
You want to avoid putting up a facade that everything is 100% perfect all the time. Users are getting tired of the same old platitudes – be a bit more honest and real with your content.
- Content that comes from your customers and users is the best kind, because it doesn’t smell of editorial review and marketing speak. But be aware of doing this with an attitude of tokenism, as it can backfire and make you look even more smarmy. To be super real, integrate real social media posts and clips from your audience into your website.
- Think about how you can go ‘back to basics’ with your content, and focus on offering real value. People are using technology and products to help them live better, saner lives – can you be part of that change? Recognise what people are really saying when they buy a product from you – and relate to them on that level.
- Brand storytelling as a term gets bandied about a lot, but lots of brands are still getting it wrong. Conversion-oriented brand storytelling is about connecting with your audience’s why and their stories more – not your own. This is the true way to create brand advocates.
Put it into practice:
Create content in a format that users like and consume on a regular basis already. Bumble and bumble help their customers create awesome hairstyles with their ‘how to’ videos from their stylists. They then plug these same videos on their YouTube channel – creating brand coherence and building an evergreen content resource.
Invest in visual commerce & branding
Say goodbye to flat websites; say hello to complex visual environments. The modern user expects an all-singing and all-dancing web experience. By embracing modern digital features, you’ll be able to improve your conversions and sales.
- Visual content is a huge driving force for online sales and conversions. Make sure that you have your visual branding down to a fine art – bad product imagery is the number one conversion killer. Think beyond simple imagery layout and quality, to the story you are actually telling customers with your pictures. What values and experiences are you conveying? How do these fit in with your wider brand story?
- People expect a shopping experience that moves with them – use flexible personalisation that supports the user through their shopping decisions. Targeted ads, pop ups, notification, and product recommendations are great for conversions, but make sure they are useful, not over-bearing.
- Social media integration is a great way to make your website look more alive and create a sense of community around your brand. Don’t be afraid to also include social media on product or sales pages.
Deliver omnichannel shopping experiences
Ecommerce is more 3D and 24/7 than ever before. You need a brand that can handle today’s complex shopping demands. Omnichannel is definitely better for the consumer, but it also helps you up your sales figures.
- Don’t create a customer journey that works in only one ‘ideal’ environment – you need something more universal and omnichannel. Build an ecommerce framework that looks beyond your online store and is able to traverse marketplaces, offline retail environments, adverts, and social media selling.
- Use flexible brand guidelines in order to create a coherent and exciting customer experience, no matter how shoppers find you.
- Omnichannel doesn’t have to be hard – use data and technology to help you manage diversification and growth. Invest in software to help you manage and automate key processes like inventory, pricing, and customer relationships.
- Where are consumers looking to right now? What do they like to buy? What problems can you help them solve? Think about how new sales networks and pathways like subscription boxes, VIP services, gifting services etc., can help you make your brand more valuable to your customers.
Don’t think there’s a new sales channel out there for you? Think again. Teabox sell beautiful teaware and tea subscription boxes, and now they have also branched out into corporate gifting. Their ultra-targeted corporate product is perfect: unique, and easy for Teabox to handle as part of their existing operations.
Offer customers multiple ways to engage with your brand – don’t get stuck in a one-way sales rut.
The mobile revolution is here. Mobile is increasingly important as a sales platform, but it’s also become a place where people go to manage their businesses, payments, and daily lives. Enterprising technology companies are giving us more and more ways to run our lives via our mobiles. Ecommerce brand Shopify have invested in their mobile offering and now even offer ecommerce mobile management “on the go”. Mobile is all about convenience for the customer, and convenience for the seller – make sure your mobile user experience is simple.
Takeaway: Embrace new technology to help you develop as a brand and look for custom web solutions when needed, especially when trying to solve mobile usability issues.
Offer easy logistics and delivery
Online businesses need to be careful that the online customer experience doesn’t break down when it comes to the offline world – logistics.
Don’t spend so much time tinkering with your website that you forget to put proper logistical channels in place! Whether you are using fulfilment services, or do it all in-house – make sure delivery is easy and painless for a busy customer.
- Delivery is part of the sales experience – it will have a big impact on how customers perceive your brand. Go the extra mile with an awesome delivery service that’s transparent, traceable, and friendly.
- Always provide plenty of delivery options and make complaining about any issues easy and straightforward so that customers feel heard. Missed deliveries and missing parcels can quickly sour a positive customer relationship.
Create exceptional customer service moments
Great customer service is becoming more and more central to sales. Modern sales is about taking customers on a personal journey, and raising their awareness levels; rather than selling them products or services ‘cold’.
- Seek for the exceptional in your branded experiences, whether that be in your packaging or customer care. People will remember you if you take care of them – word of mouth marketing and customer satisfaction go hand in hand. (Take note of recent social media trends like unboxing videos – how can your brand get a slice of that social action with better packaging)?
- Try to integrate your sales with your customer support and service departments, so that you have a more holistic and well-rounded customer journey. Don’t separate sales and support from each other – they are all part of customer experience.
Feel like your online business or digital brand is stalling? Sometimes speaking to the experts is just what you need. Try to approach digital challenges with a positive ‘can do’ attitude and don’t focus on what you don’t have (yet). A lot can be achieved through careful listening of your customers and putting those insights into practice. What have your customers taught you recently?
|Patrick Foster, Ecommerce Enthusiast
I’ve been coaching entrepreneurs and writing about ecommerce for awhile. My passion and purpose come from seeing great brands succeed at ecommerce – here’s to your success!
I am also a regular contributor for Emarkable as part of the resident ecommerce consultancy team, after having been a regular reader for quite some time.
He can assist marketers achieve balance in their approach to key areas affected by the growth in digital marketing.
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