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How to engage with customers on your site

How to engage with customers on your site

By Ian Davis, Director at e-commerce platform specialist, ATG

A recent study conducted by respected academics in the UK and Germany and published in the Harvard Business Review examined 1,700 e-commerce sites worldwide and found that those that add compelling content to their websites to directly engage customers performed stronger financially.

The scary part however is that the majority of e-commerce managers interviewed for the study believed that “a broad array of information diverts attention from the core offerings”.

The report outlines how most e-commerce managers are building their online shopping experience with efficient purchasing in mind, rather than considering how to create an engaging store front and an enjoyable shopping experience. The result is all too often a focus on price or dramatic offers to lure shoppers in.

But, the research indicates that e-commerce managers that build their sites around what really matters to the person at the other end of the keyboard will be rewarded with higher returns. After all who doesn’t want to be shown a little TLC?

Imagine the scene. You’re at a party. You get chatted up by two different, but equally attractive men or women over the course of the evening, both hoping to get a date with you. One asks you a couple of qualifying questions (are you single, your age) and then tells you everything they think you might be interested to know about them in the hope that you’ll like what you are told and agree to the date.

The other starts up a two-way conversation during which you both share your thoughts on a wide range of interesting topics, from your jobs and leisure activities to the holidays you’ve been on and your favourite restaurants.

Now I don’t like to make assumptions but I’m pretty sure you’d choose the second person for that date. No one likes to be lectured at, particularly when they don’t get to choose the subject matter, and even less so when the information they’re given is generic, one-size-fits-all facts and figures. If this seems so obvious in a real-life context, how can e-commerce managers apply this knowledge to their operations?

The trick is to take the ‘e’ out of e-commerce, while still using the best of technology to help your site behave like a human being again. Searchandising and web self-service tools allow you to track and analyse online behaviour, and use this knowledge to engage with your customers on a variety of different levels.

Are they looking for flip flops? Provide them with tips on keeping their tan. Buying a car? Information on choosing the right insurance might be helpful. This ensures a unique and tailored experience for customers every time, which in turn will increase up- and cross-sell opportunities for the business and, most importantly, prevent customers from abandoning online purchases at the last minute.

Similarly, click-to-call functionality that seamlessly ties the website to the call centre can allow customers to match their online experience to that in the real world. If a shop assistant in a high street store might ask the customer buying flip flops if they would like some reduced-price sun cream thrown in with them, there is no reason why a call centre operative can’t do the same.

These tactics are miles away from the one-sided ‘chat up’ of the shop window websites of the past, and help create an interactive conversation with the customer which is far more likely to lead to a long-term relationship – or at least a date. The principals of retail are not much different than dating whether it is online or in person.

Great looking stores with personalised service will keep customers coming back, and happy customers who feel assured that the retailer will remember them every time they return are more likely to pay more for a quality experience.

Engaging customers in a two-way dialogue is not as difficult as you may think – especially if you know what makes them tick. Retailers that get to know the other person first and use that information in the right way will be more successful.

Skipping the essential courting period could cost e-commerce managers more than a second date. As in the natural world it is only the fittest e-commerce sites that will survive, and to do so they need to engage with the customer in as natural a way as possible.

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