By Tim Norman, director at SDL Web Content Management Solutions.
A personalised, relevant and customised shopping experience keeps customers coming back and spending more. For this, there are three pillars of success: Capture, Engage and Convince.
Customers expect greater sophistication from websites, as well a more engaging shopping experience. Businesses should be able to capture analytics, such as from where and what time a visitor came to their website and whether they’ve made repeated visits to the site - allowing them to be reactive in their customer offerings.
The next pillar is customer engagement – how they interact with your business, and how you can maximise cross-selling and up selling opportunities. This method is proven – as anyone who’s ever ordered a hamburger and been asked ‘would you like fries with that’ will agree.
There are three tiers of how consumers buy products:
Shopkeeper – high conversion rates, but also a high cost associated with it
Call centres – medium conversion rates, but also an average level of cost
Online – typically low cost, but also low conversion rates.
However, it is now possible for online interactions to have a low cost, but high conversion rate, without the need for ‘heavy lifting’, or armies of systems to process and track information and large groups of people to code information.
Now, the tools are much simpler for marketers to use – giving them endless opportunities for customer interaction. Marketers can build up their knowledge of the tools, and rollout extra capabilities in increments from an out-of-the-box solution, rather than having to select components right from the start, in an expensive bespoke solution.
The focus of engagement for companies has now moved on from only engaging with those who were looking to buy, to recommending products and services that people might be interested in – providing food for thought for a browsing customer.
It is now a regular occurrence to see indirect buying recommendations – after all, who hasn’t seen a ‘you’ve bought this…you might be interested in this’ on a web page? The key is to give customers knowledge and increase familiarity with your brand - like an online version of a shopkeeper giving you advice to make you feel more comfortable.
This is the crucial last step - if you’ve got the last two steps right - where a prospect becomes a customer. But there are some simple processes and sophisticated technologies that can help bridge that all-important gap between surfing and shopping.
There has been, and will continue to be, a shift from a product-centric to experience-centric online interaction with shops and brands, which will result in the all-important higher sales and subsequently, revenues.
However, it is essential to ensure that all consumer brand interaction is seamless – which means that the website cannot exist in isolation. The key is to link up all communication channels – call centres, in-store, and the website – so that brands know when a customer has last interacted with them and what they wanted, so they can subsequently offer the best possible advice and experience.
Focusing more on the experience rather than the direct sell, provides a better opportunity for up selling further down the line. The up sell is more likely to come from customers happy with their relationship with the brand.
It is important for marketers to keep a degree of flexibility – customer expectations are always evolving, and marketers need to anticipate and keep ahead of them where possible.
Marketers also need to bear in mind the multi-channel nature of many of the interactions businesses have with consumers – customers don’t want to receive an email offering to sell you a computer, if you’ve just bought one from a sister company. The whole digital experience needs to be tied together.
As online intelligence is growing, the next sector for improvement is multi-languages. Whilst leaps and bounds have been made with English recommendations, relevancy in other languages still lags some way behind.
Although people may be coming into a website from England, English may not be their national language, so marketers need to think about taking the next step up in interaction.
People are also accessing websites in a number of different ways, for example through their iPhones. But many websites are not optimised for customer interaction and personalisation on that level. As more and more people own smart phones, this is a key focus areas for businesses in the future.
The rules of capture, engage and convince are simple really – make the ‘shop’ as enticing as possible, size up the customer, steer them to what they’re likely to buy, listen to what they say, respond accordingly and press for the sale.
There has been a shift from being an e-shop, to an e-shopkeeper, with regular advice and smartly recommended content for customers. It is much easier for marketers to implement these tools now, and to deliver on a promise that the web community has offered for some time.
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