In online retail, engendering loyalty leads to repeat purchases and recurring revenue – try these tips to improve your customer experience and increase loyalty.
There’s a huge problem with modern marketing, a problem we’ve termed Jurassic Park marketing.
The internet is full of awesome advice and information on how to increase your signups, conversions and revenue. And it’s all incredibly exciting for marketing managers. You’ll read an article or e-book outlining how to generate more sales and your first questions will be something along the lines of:
Can I implement this in my business?
How can I make this work for me?
Can this increase my revenue?
Business owners, in their quest to grow their brand, are so preoccupied with whether they could, that they don’t stop to consider if they should. Sure, that other internet marketer increased engagement using Snapchat and yes, you could technically implement a similar strategy for your brand.
But should you? Will your consumer base appreciate it or will it just pass them by? For each piece of advice you read, ask yourself how it will impact your overall customer experience.
Because modern businesses live or die on their reputations. Poor customer experience is enough to turn customers away from you and straight into the shopping carts of your closest rival. Conversions are always going to be a paramount point of focus for online businesses. However, focusing on conversions alone is a very shortsighted strategy. Consider the long-term and how your campaigns affect customer feeling and lifetime customer value.
Why customer experience is so important
It’s strange that customer experience is overlooked by online brands, especially considering the number of studies that continue to highlight the importance of customer experience in the lifelong health of your business.
- Customer acquisition costs five times more than retention. Keeping customers happy with good service keeps them coming back which drastically cuts down on your overall marketing spend.
- 89% of customers have stopped shopping with a brand due to poor customer experience.
- Service related problems cause customers to purchase from a competitor four times more than price related problems.
- A 5% reduction in customer abandonment rate can increase profitability by between 25 and 125%.
- Companies can experience a 30% increase in the value of their business by improving retention rates by 10%.
- Customer experience is predicted to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.
Customer experience isn’t just about presenting a favourable image of your brand. It’s a key element in keeping your customers happy.
Happy customers are one of the most profitable commodities for any business.
Happy customers bring in more referrals, spend more money on each order and leave great reviews which are key in convincing new customers to take a chance on your brand. The question every marketer needs to answer is what can they do with their business to improve customer experience and create a loyal following who are more than happy to refer their friends.
First things first, know your customers and your shortcomings
As with any marketing campaign, the first step should be research. Every business is different. We could list 100 tactics for you to employ in this piece but until you know exactly how to apply them to your business they’re going to be absolutely useless.
Even if you think that your company is currently offering the best customer experience and experience around you shouldn’t skip this step. According to Bain and Co, 80% of companies believe they offer a superior customer experience, but only 8% of their consumers agree.
So how can you reduce the gap in expectation and reality? According to Gartner, the brands with the most successful customer experience ratings are those who are actively reaching out to customers to see how they feel. So that’s what you need to do.
Before you take any optimisation steps you need to have a full understanding of the shortcomings of your brand in the eyes of your target market. Quiz your audience with surveys and questionnaires and mine their correspondence to find the answers to three important questions:
- Are customer expectations being met?
- Would your current customers recommend you to their friends?
- What’s your audience’s’ opinion on the purchasing process you have in place?
Couple each of these questions with the ever useful “why?” and you should have a great starting point on where to improve your service.
Was the purchasing process easy?
Because I couldn’t find a product for my needs and there was no help offered.
You immediately know whether the customer is happy with the service they’re receiving and why. You can use a free survey service or even implement a post-purchase automated email campaign to gather useful feedback you can use to improve your business, service and processes.
If however, you don’t have the ability to send a survey and reach out to individual users you can turn to public forums. Thanks to social media, review sites and the interconnected nature of modern consumerism customers are extremely quick to voice their complaints online.
Whilst airing your dirty laundry in public isn’t advisable, it does offer a wealth of information on how you can improve your customer service. In the planning phase for your next customer service campaign be sure to look through:
- Any complaint/praise emails your customer service department has received
- Any complaint tweets, Facebook messages etc pertaining to your business
- Third party review sites like Trustpilot, Amazon etc
Trawl through as much customer data as you can to find what aspects of the service your previous customers haven’t been happy with. Identifying the problems is more than half the battle in improving your customer experience.
Problems will occur, you just need to respond to them quickly
No business has a 100% customer success record. Something somewhere will go wrong sooner or later. And as soon as it does, you can be sure that affected customers will take to as many public channels as possible to voice their opinions.
This is problematic for two primary reasons. First and foremost, it’s a complaint against you. That customer’s opinion of your brand has been damaged and, if the problem is severe enough, they could end up leaving your brand. The second issue is your poor service has now been brought to the attention of the world. All those prospective future customers could see the complaint and use it as justification not to purchase from you.
You’ve got to nip these problems in the bud. You can’t leave them be and hope they’ll sort themselves out. Check the Twitter account of any major brand and you’ll notice how they respond to any complaint within a few hours.
An example from Lancome getting back to a customer ASAP.
The user doesn’t want the complaint to be solved right there on the spot. They just want to be heard. They want you to take their complaint seriously and acknowledge your service hasn’t been what they expected.
The general best practice for public complaints is to get the customer to take the conversation to a private channel. Once there you can sort out the problem on an individual basis and offer a more focused resolution service.
Once the problem has been solved you should also implement a post care automation which aims to achieve two things:
- A better understanding of how they found your customer service procedure
- A potential amendment to the initial bad review
Segment and personalise
Consumers want to feel valued. They don’t want to feel like just another face in the crowd. If you’re taking a generic approach to your marketing then your customers will feel undervalued. They’re not going to value what you have to say to them because mass email blasts show them that you don’t value them or their business.
Studies have shown that 68% of customers will stop doing business with a brand because they feel like the company was indifferent towards them. You need to show your customers that you value them, not just as a paying customer, but as an individual.
At the very basic level, your personalisation should include custom first names and other basic merge tags in email correspondence. However, you need to take it further. You need to segment your audience by their interest so you can accurately market the goods and services most appropriate to their needs.
Track user behaviour and segment your audience based on the actions they take, the products they purchase and the items they show interest in. By doing so you can provide recommendations and advice based on their individual needs. Your consumers will no longer feel like just another face in the crowd and will resonate better with the materials you send to them.
Streamline the customer experience
The modern consumer is impatient. They want a quick, easy and streamlined process to find their perfect product. With average attention spans now sitting at a paltry 8.25 seconds, you can’t afford to confuse your customers with huge product ranges, complex support procedures or confusing recommendations.
You need to make sure you’re providing a customer-centric service. One which allows consumers to achieve what they want in the shortest time possible and with minimal hassle. To help achieve this, consider implementing a few of the below. A guided selling solution is a great way for you to help customers quickly and easily find the perfect product for them. Often consumers won’t understand confusing technical specs of products like cameras, televisions or other electronic goods.
Guided selling asks questions based on the consumer’s needs to recommend the best product for them. It’s a quick, easy solution which helps consumers find the perfect product and thus cuts down on the likelihood of returns or complaints from a bad purchase.
Here’s an example from Canon and their guided selling lens selector:
Guided selling will help consumers navigate large, confusing product ranges, but what should you do to answer their questions? Most sites implement a support@emailaddress or they simply add an FAQ section to the site. These are average solutions at best. They’re not quick and, more often than not, your consumer will have moved on to another retailer before they get their response or answer form you.
An onsite chat function enables consumers to have their product or service questions answered at any time of day and eMarketer found that 63% of customers were more likely to return to a website that offers live chat. There are a few different ways to implement a chat function on site:
- Sony redirects you to a specific chat page for the opening of tickets and to connect you to a real person who will walk you through a potential solution.
- Nike opens a separate page on your browser so you can continue to peruse the store.
In a similar move, other sites use corner highlights in the bottom corner to highlight their chat service – this unobtrusive method doesn’t cause any interruption to the customer experience.
When it comes to streamlining the customer journey most marketers will immediately jump to automation as the answer. Automation is great for certain aspects of your marketing strategy, however, when it comes to your customer experience you need to have real-time information and advice from a real person.
The convergence of marketing and service
We’ve entered an interconnected digital era where marketing and service have combined. Marketing no longer focuses on simply producing compelling sales messages, witty slogans or persuasive ads. There’s a huge overlap with the customer experience world. For your brand to be successful you need to focus on how you can amend your marketing practices to better align with customer expectation and streamline the customer journey.
They sound very un-service like, but when consumers enjoy using your site and the purchase journey with your brand is easy it leaves a favourable impression which leads to repeat sales and more referrals. Take a look at your marketing strategy and ask if you could implement any of the above methods to improve your customer experience and offer a better, more streamlined service.