The Importance Of Customer Service In Driving Your Business

Barbara Spagnola - Wednesday, November 04, 2015
by Murray Goldstein, Cox Business

What’s your company’s most valuable asset? Maybe your fantastic product, your supportive shareholders, or your brilliant team come to mind. But without satisfied customers, you’re out of business.

Want proof? Here are three crucial benefits of great customer service—plus a few ways to improve your customer experience.

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Customer Retention—and Increased Revenue

Satisfied customers are loyal customers. Keep customers coming back with customer service that shows you prioritize their needs, and see real results in increased revenue. Retaining your current customers is more efficient and profitable than seeking out new ones, and loyal customers are easier to sell to than those without any experience with your company.

Positive Word of Mouth

Happy customers are likely to recommend your company or product to friends, as well as engage with your company on social media channels. This increases your visibility and draws new customers to you—again, saving you effort and resources in customer acquisition.

Feedback for Future Improvement

Your customers—the people actually using your product or service—can tell you how well it’s working and how it can be improved. Customer feedback is an invaluable resource as you continue to refine and scale your offering to make it the best that you can provide. Feedback will also help you improve your customer interactions to further improve the customer experience.

Some Tips for Increasing Customer Satisfaction

A few simple ways to improve your customer service:

  • Maintain consistency in customer interactions. A 2013 report from the Harvard Business Review suggests that minimizing the number of touchpoints or different contacts involved in a single customer’s interaction with the company improves satisfaction and loyalty, as fewer transitions between customer service providers allow fewer chances for error. Further, the study asserts, each touchpoint in the customer chain must be held accountable for the ending result of the customer’s entire interaction.
  • Simplify and clarify support text on your website—or forgo it altogether.  Small changes to FAQ sections or other help text on your website can help customers help themselves, decreasing the number of support requests. On the other hand, in his article “7 Customer Support Hacks to Increase Sales, Build Better Customer Relationships, and Grow Your Business,” Len Markidan cites Buffer’s decision to get rid of support text entirely. Instead, customers are directed to email for help, which makes it easier for Buffer to track customer issues and make changes to eliminate them in the future.
  • Take advantage of social listening and respond appropriately. Every complaint or concern raised by a customer on your social media channels—or elsewhere on the web—is an opportunity to win over customers. Not only do customer interactions on social a chance to solve the individual customer’s problem, increasing their satisfaction and loyalty, they show your network (and the customer’s) that you are responsive to customer needs.
  • Reach out. Show your customers that you’re always putting them first. Markidan suggests sending emails checking in during the account onboarding process, for example, or even a handwritten note expressing appreciation for a loyal customer.

Your business can see dramatic growth in your customer base, the loyalty of your customers, and in your profits. Make a commitment to customer service, and reap the benefits.

 

 

10 Ways to Sweeten the Deal for Customers

Barbara Spagnola - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Not getting enough sugar from your propective customers? No problem! We’ve got some simple ways any business owner can transform a challenging customer negotiation into a lovefest. Here are ideas for sweetening the deal in ways that will melt the heart of even the toughest buyer:

Sweetener 1: Volume Discounts

Turn a price objection into an incentive to buy more! Volume discounts can take the form of more products (for sellers of products) or more hours (for sellers of services). The key is to make the incentive strong enough to get the buyer’s heart pumping. A buyer may not think that saving 0.5 percent is worth doubling up on an order, whereas to save 5 percent, the buyer wouldn’t think twice.

Sweetener 2: Annual Rebates

Reward customers for doing business with you long term. Rather than merely dropping your price, give customers money back at the end of the year based on their total purchases. A sliding scale from, say, 1 percent to 5 percent, based on total annual volume, grabs the attention of the buyer. It also sets you apart from competitors.

sugar cubes

Sweetener 3: Cash Discounts

Turn a slow-pay nightmare into a cash-flow dream. You’re better off giving a 60- or 90-day payer a 3 percent cash discount rather than waiting for late payments on open terms. This technique also works for prompt payers; in fact, they may be more inclined to go for it because they probably have the cash flow to handle it with ease.


Sweetener 4: Freebies

Something as simple as a T-shirt or baseball cap can tip the scales on even the largest of the large orders. People love getting something for nothing and the emotional impact of a gift — say, giving a diehard Chicago Cubs fan a Cubs logo mug — may far outweigh its monetary value.

Sweetener 5: Waiving Fees

Just as buyers are delighted by small gifts, they are infuriated by small upcharges. If a bank were bold enough to waive its annoying ATM fees, it would earn an ocean of customers for life. You can improve retention by eliminating small order charges, processing fees, and the like.

 

Customer Experience: It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It

Barbara Spagnola - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

by Blake Morgan

“I can’t stand the sound of my own voice!” This is essentially every person who ever attempted to set up a voice messaging service for themselves. There can easily be a disconnect in how we think we sound, and how we actually sound.

So how about the voice of the brand? Do you think your company has a disconnect between what you assume you sound like and what you actually sound like? Is it too painful to really listen to how the world hears our brands?

The thing about communication is much of how we communicate is not in the what of our words but rather in how we deliver the message.

Where as before phone calls and letters and interactions took time–and the company was in complete control of time, place and channel–those days of company control are over. Now companies must be ready to field incoming messages anywhere anytime. Companies must be ready to listen and respond every day and every night of every year. Don’t believe me? Remember this article about “how one stupid tweet blew up Justine’s Sacco life?” She sent a tweet boarded a plane and 11 hours later realized her life was over. This type of overnight destruction can happen to any person and any brand today.

ladies

The increasing amount of channels and demand for 24-7, 365 day response has its own set of challenges for most businesses. You can’t provide scripts for incoming messages on every single social media channel, chat box, email exchange and phone call. There is no way you can create and control one message with one tone throughout every customer interaction.

However what you can do is hire smart people. You an also make a significant time and effort investment in training. Wouldn’t it make more sense if agents are equipped to handle the communication with experience, knowledge and guidelines? We can’t train our people to be robots. It’s very disempowering for agents. It’s a death wish for customer experience. However investing in culture, training and onboarding will provide your people with the communication skills to create more powerful customer experiences.

5 Customer Experience Strategies That Work

Barbara Spagnola - Monday, August 10, 2015

by Ross Beard

Have you ever lost a customer to a competitor and didn’t know why they left? A customer experience strategy can help you retain more customers and stop them from defecting to competitors.

Research by HBR found that companies who skillfully manage and execute customer experience strategies reap enormous rewards. They achieve higher customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction.

Furthermore, with rising competitive pressures, creating a highly differentiated customer experience can help turn dissatisfaction or indifference into delight. People like being WOW’d and having their expectations exceeded.

Creating a unique customer experience is one of the best ways to achieve sustainable growth, particularly in industries that are stagnating. If a telco, a utility, or an insurance company can create a highly differentiated customer experience that turns dissatisfaction or indifference into delight, it will recruit an army of vocal advocates online and offline, gain market share, and generate revenue growth.

– ATKearny, How to Create an Entirely Different(iated) Customer Experience

In this post I will take you through five customer experience strategies. I’ll also analyze two real examples of amazing customer experiences delivered by Zipcar and Zappos.

Why customer experience is important

  • Higher customer referral rates and customer satisfaction were reported by a study of 860 corporate executives who increased their investment in customer experience (Strativity Group, 2009)
  • It eases customer acquisition, drives customer loyalty and improves customer retention (Beyond Philosophy, 2013).
  • Increases customer satisfaction. When a customer is WOW’d by the experience and has their expectations exceeded, it increases customer satisfaction.
  • Reduces customer churn. People want to buy from places that make them feel good. Creating an experience that is memorable and enjoyable for the customer will help to keep them coming back for more and not churning away.
  • Create a competitive advantage and differentiation. No longer can you compete on price, customers want more, and they want emotional connections with the companies they deal with. Create that experience that keeps them coming back for more. This will create a point of differentiation that you can use as a competitive advantage.
  • A report by Econsultancy found that just 20% of companies have a well-developed customer experience strategy. Big opportunity for companies who are willing to invest in the customer experience.

Now let’s take a look at five customer experiences strategies you can use to increase satisfaction, reduce churn and increase revenue.

1. The three ‘Ds’ of customer experience

A Bain & Company survey (2005) found that only 8% of companies truly deliver a superior customer experience. On the flipside, when the survey asked companies to rate themselves, 80% thought they delivered a “superior experience” to their customers.

James Allen, Frederick F. Reichheld, and Barney Hamiliton wrote a piece for the Harvard Business School and looked at what sets the 8% companies apart from the rest.

How were they able to deliver a ‘superior customer experience’ in the eyes of their customers?

They found the leaders in customer experience to pursue three imperatives simultaneously.

a) Designing the right experience-focused value propositions

The companies delivering a truly outstanding customer experience divide customers into segments and design experience-focused value propositions for each one. They tailor and design customer experiences for different customers.

Vodafone offers a great example. Unlike traditional mobile phone companies who might segment users based on country alone, Vodafone segments their customers into high-priority global segments: “young, active, fun” users, occasional users, and a handful of others.

In designing the value propositions for each segment, the entire customer experience was at the forefront. The ‘young, active, fun’ users were offered Vodafone live!, a state-of-the-art service that provided everything from games and pop-song ringtones to new, sport and information (this was back in 2005). Occasional users were offers Vodafone Simple, which provided an ‘uncomplicated and straightforward mobile experience’.

b) Delivering value to the customer

The best companies deliver these value propositions by focusing the entire company on delivering them. An emphasis is put on cross-functional collaboration. For instance, the marketing team and supply chain team are in line across the whole customer experience; they know and deliver a consistent value proposition.

CRM tools can help with this. They offer a way to keep all customer data in one place, and give multiple department’s access to that information. Sales people can add information which can trigger specific actions. Customer support or supply chain can jump in, know what segment the customer is in, and then deliver a customer experience that has been defined for them.

Tracking the metrics behind delivering the customer experience can get tricky. I recommend measuring it using a Net Promoter Score or a customer satisfaction tool like Client Heartbeat.

You can sync Client Heartbeat up to most CRM’s, and measure exactly how happy (or unhappy) your customers are. Use this data to analyze how effective your customer experience strategies are, and make better business decisions using actionable customer feedback.

c) Developing the capabilities to do it again and again

The 8% of companies who offer superior customer experience have developed their capabilities to please customers again and again. They have systems in place to deliver a consistent customer experience over and over again.

The leaders also know how to keep innovating and improving the experience. They have tools to help with customer-focused planning and executing; they know what customer-based metrics need tracking; and offer customer-focused management incentives to keep their employees goals in line with the company’s goals.

2. Define the customer experience and keep it consistent across all touch points

According to Bernd Schmitt, customer experience management represents the discipline, methodology and/or process used to comprehensively manage a customer’s cross-channel exposure, interaction and transaction with a company, product, brand or service.

The best companies recognize that customers interact with different parts of the organization and across multiple touch points. They know customers engage with different employees when they make a purchase, when they’re getting service and support, and when they’re talking to billing or accounts.

A company must take all of these experiences into account if they want to create loyal customers.

Scott Nelson, vice president and distinguished analyst at industry research firm Gartner, shared this on the topic of customer experience.

In the past, companies could rely on loyalty out of sheer convenience. If you wanted a bank account, for example, you went to the branch closest to your home or office. Not anymore, Nelson says: “I can bank with somebody in Ohio if I’d rather, [instead of] with the bank across the street.”  – Scott Nelson, Gartner

Customer loyalty is now driven by a company’s interaction with its customers and how well it delivers on their wants and needs. The customer doesn’t see the marketing department and customer support center as two different things, they simple see one brand. They demand an experience that reflects that.

So when a customer gets transferred from support to sales, you better make sure your sales guy is clued up with what existing products and support requests the customer has had in the past. No way is the customer going to want to explain it all again.

To keep a customer experience consistent, Adam Feigenbaum from iCIMS suggests these tips;

  • Hire right: regardless of the role, make sure your employees believe in your brand and what it stands for.
  • Own the issues: make yourself a part of the solution and ensure you satisfy and upset customer.
  • Empower your people: Let your team actively own the issues and give them the power to solve customer problems without having to ‘pass you onto the manager’.
  • Don’t let it fester: The more time a customer sits in limbo, the worse the experience becomes. Fix problems quickly and find solutions fast.

3. Base the experience on individual customer needs

Customer experience strategy must start with knowing what your customer needs and wants, which will equate to their expectations.

Once you know that, you can work backwards to create an experience that exceeds those customer expectations.

To achieve this, the best companies speak to their customers. One example of a company that is particularly good at listening to customers and delivering a superior experience is Superquinn, the Irish grocery chain.

Here’s an excerpt from “The Three Ds of Customer Experience”, which details how Superquin approaches their strategy:

Founder and President Feargal Quinn walks each of his stores’ aisles every month, talking to consumers. Twice monthly, he invites twelve customers to join him for a two-hour roundtable discussion. He asks them about service levels, pricing, cleanliness, product quality, new product lines, recent displays and advertising promotions, and so on; he also asks what items they still buy from his competitors and why. Quinn uses what he learns to evaluate store managers and continually improve the company’s strategy and its execution of that strategy. – The Three “Ds” of Customer Experience

Taking a hands-on approach to understanding individual customers’ needs will help create an experience that WOW’s your customers. Exceeding customer expectations is the easiest way to create a memorable experience. Memorable experiences also develop customer advocates, who sing praise about your company to friends and colleagues.

4. Create experiences with ‘real people’ not ‘brands’ or ‘companies’

People want to deal with other people, not brands or companies. There’s nothing less personal than getting an email from a ‘brand’ with no personalization. It just doesn’t pack a punch. We seek human to human engagement.

I recommend you try to make sure that every engagement with a customer is a personalized experience. It’s an opportunity to build a strong relationship with a customer. A relationship that extends beyond expectations and one that will lead to a memorable experience.

Think about the now famous Zappos customer service reps. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, doesn’t care how long his customer service reps stay on the phone. He doesn’t enforce any KPI’s around phone time. He sees it as a marketing opportunity to build a customer experience that then gets told to friends and colleagues. Tony Hsieh writes it off as marketing expensive!

Too many companies think of their call centers as an expense to minimize. We believe that it’s a huge untapped opportunity for most companies, not only because it can result in word-of-mouth marketing, but because of its potential to increase the lifetime value of the customer.  – Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO

Here are my tips to start using people, not brand to build an experience:

  • Send emails from a personal email account.
  • Use names and personalization – treat them like a person not a number.
  • Send follow up emails and calls based on a specific action (don’t just blast them).
  • Get your employees engaged, and excited about your product. This comes off when emailing and on the phone! A Gallup survey found 70 percent of U.S. workers were not fully engaged, which results in unhappy workers and poor brand experiences.

I love this quote by Martin Zilling, it really exemplifies what customer experience should be about.

Customers Remember Experiences, Not Your Brand Logo Martin Zilling

5. Leverage technology to enhance the customer experience, not create it

A common problem companies fall into is trying to use technology and software to create a customer experience. This is not recommended as it can lead to the focus being on what the technology can do, as opposed what you can do to enlighten an amazing experience

I recommend you define a customer experience, and then identify what tools and software you need to assist to make it happen. Do not mold your customer experience strategy around technology. Find technology that you can use around your strategy.

Here are some tools you should look into:

  • CRM tools for relationship management: keep all data and communications between your company and employee in one spot so everyone can see it quickly.
  • Marketing tools to engage with customers:  send trigger emails based on specific actions.
  • Online survey tools and customer satisfaction tools: survey customers, get feedback and measure satisfaction.
  • Web analytics and tracking tools: Measure engagement, number of site visits and page visits. Build out a customer profiles full of data to help manage the experiences.

Customer experience examples with analysis from Zipcar and Zappos

Example #1: Zipcar delivers holistic experience to customers

Zipcar is a car sharing company which bills itself as the ‘alternative to car rental’. They offer an amazing customer experience across all touch points, from sign up right through to collecting the car and dropping it back off.

Zipcar does this so well because they know their audience. As Pamela Walshe describes on the answerlab blog, Zipcar knows their audience are busy, mobile people with places to be. Pamela goes on to say that every aspect of the customer experience has clearly been designed with the customer’s experience in mind.

One great example is how Zipcar communicates their rules across multiple channels. They are clear, concise and available everywhere. Unlike traditional rental car companies that bury the rules to try make an extra buck, Zipcar wants you to know the rules so that you fully understand your obligation and the costs if you don’t follow them.

zipcar rules

Zipcar Rules (photo credit)

Example #2: Zappos has no limits on customer service rep calls and marks it off as marketing expense

Zappos brand has instilled a WOW factor in their customer service since the company was founded in 1999. This WOW factor is part of their customer experience and is embedded in their corporate culture.

One great example is all successful recruits take a five-week training course which includes two weeks on the phones in the call center. Customer service is a big emphasis and they are drilled on what the company culture expects from them.

When the customer service reps hit the phones, they are instructed to do whatever is required to make the customer happy. They don’t have KPI’s around call times; the focus is on creating an amazing customer experiences.

This has paid dividends for Tony Hsieh and Zappos. Customer service forms a big competitive advantage for the company. Through lots of amazing customer experiences and so many positive stories, Zappos has some remarkable customer loyalty. Impressively, 75% of purchases made at Zappos come from returning customers, and repeat customers order more than 2.5 times every 12 months. Repeat customers also have higher average order sizes.

Retain more customers by creating a better experience

A customer experience strategy will help achieve higher customer satisfaction, reduce churn and increase revenue. A well designed strategy starts with defining what customer experiences you want to deliver, then making sure those experiences are consistent across all channels.

Use the strategies provided in this post to start formalizing your new, amazing customer experience. I hope it becomes something that keeps customers coming back for more and creates plenty of positive worth of mouth.

 

'Customer Experience' Is Today's Business Benchmark

Barbara Spagnola - Monday, August 10, 2015

by Martin Zwilling

Not so long ago, every business assumed that the keys to success were the highest quality product, the best value for the buck, and the best customer service. Now all we hear about is providing the best “customer experience.” Exactly what is that customer experience that every modern marketer is talking about, and how do you measure it?

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review “The Truth About Customer Experience” defines it as your customer’s end-to-end journey with you, not just the key touchpoints or critical moments when customers interact with your organization. Customer experience is the cumulative impact of multiple touchpoints over time, which result in a real relationship feeling, or lack of it.

The advent of social media and real-time interactive feedback via the Internet allows every customer to build and expect a relationship with your business, rather than just touchpoints. Yet we are all still learning what that means, in terms of hard business practices.

I like the insights outlined in the new book “Summit,” by F. Scott Addis, who is an experienced business executive and recent Inc. “Entrepreneur of the Year” finalist. He ties business success and your personal summit to elevating your customers’ experience with the following specific recommendations and key differentiators:

  1. Listen to the individual customer. Every relationship requires listening, as well as talking. You have to hear your customer’s dreams, goals, passions, and aspirations. That opportunity for your customers to talk and be heard is pleasurable and memorable, and defines their customer experience, more so than just satisfying business touchpoints.
  2. Exploit your product and service differences. A memorable experience has to have something different from the norm. You must be able to highlight these differences between your products and services, and those of your competitors. If not, you are part of the crowd, and no relationship can be built.

  1. Demonstrate the value of your offering. The first step in being able to demonstrate your value is being willing to find out what your customers want or need. This will create a connection with them, which demonstrates more value than price or quality. You create a loyal customer that wants to buy from you, and will recommend you to others.
  2. Show your passion and creativity in every solution. This active discovery mindset searching for new questions drives real innovators away from more of the same. They fundamentally become value seekers; they look for value in every experience, in every conversation. They don’t seek prescriptions, they seek possibilities.
  3. Demonstrate your personal commitment. When in contact with customers, focus 100 percent on them, and do all you can to determine and meet their needs. Remember, customers are the reason you do what you do. Give them the respect and results they deserve and they will tell others about your good work and your business.
  4. Shoot for the customers’ hearts. Engagement and an emotional connection will make a customer relationship the driving force for loyalty and differentiation. Move from customer friendliness to customer charisma. A business with charisma gives the customer something very special, and they want to tell others about it.

Once you know how to improve your customers’ experience, you need to also know how to benchmark it. Remember the old adage, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” So how do you measure customer loyalty and relationships? One new metric now commonly used is called the Net Promoter® Score (NPS).

This works by asking your customers for feedback, and dividing them into three categories:

  • Promoters. Loyal enthusiasts who keep buying from you and urge their friends to do the same.
  • Passive. Satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who can be easily wooed by the competition.
  • Detractors. Unhappy customers who feel trapped in a bad relationship.

The formula for the Net Promoter® Score is the percentage of customers who are detractors, subtracted from the percentage who are promoters (NPS=P-D). Legendary companies like Amazon and Costco operate with an NPS between 50 to 80 percent. But the average venture sputters along at an NPS of only 5 percent to 10 percent, or even negative.

Maybe it time for all of us to focus more on the customer experience. There is other evidence that companies with the highest customer experience typically grow at more than double the rate of their competitors. The inverse case is that you can lose you competitive lead very quickly by focusing on the wrong things. Have you checked your customers’ experience lately?

What Is Next For Content Marketing?

Barbara Spagnola - Monday, July 06, 2015
by Daniel Newman

I believe we will continue to see the lines blur as brands mature as publishers and as the effectiveness of interruptive ads continues to decline.

DN: What is your best piece of advice for brands looking to maximize their content marketing efforts?

MB: My best advice for brands looking to maximize their content marketing programs is to create content people want. It has to be an obsession in focusing on the customer. It requires brands to take themselves out of the story and make the customer the hero. The brands that focus on this will turn content from a cost to an asset within their business that produces a return on investment.

DN: What is the next big shift in content marketing that isn’t yet being talked about?

MB: Well I’m not gifted enough to see around the next corner. But as I said, looking ahead I see more brands producing content that is more entertaining. In the early stages of content marketing, brands are just trying to understand what their consumers need when it comes to content. So we see lots of lists and how to’s and “what is…” articles.

In the next phases, they will begin acting more like production studios and creative shops that publish content people seek out to laugh, or cry, or touches them in some deep, personal way. Visual content will be key. You’ll see more humor and much more humanity coming from the content brands produce.

Brands will move beyond hiring journalists and begin to hire comedians, script writers, movie producers, and storytellers of all kinds.

In Summation: The role of content marketing for business is still much more in its infancy than some may think. While adoption is growing and more companies are starting to understand the role of content in the new buyer’s journey, there is still a substantial shift to take place from where we are today.

The content that most deeply connects us to a brand is rarely the content with the greatest utility. While we must certainly consider what consumers need to know about our products and services, it will be the way we create an emotional response that drives the human purchasing experience.

Thank you to Michael Brenner for taking the time to discuss the content r(evolution) with me here on Forbes. If you are interested in hearing more from Michael you can find his blog here. 

Daniel Newman is the author of The Millennial CEO, The New Rules of Customer Engagement and Evolve: Marketing (^as we know it) is doomed. Follow him on Twitter @Danielnewmanuv 

3 Ways to Create Customer Experiences That Boost Sales

Barbara Spagnola - Tuesday, February 17, 2015

by Brett Relander
Founder of Launch & Hustle and Digital Marketing Consultant Specializing in Social Media & Mobile Marketing

Businesses must provide high quality products and services, but customers frequently remember the details related to their customer experience far better than the actual product or service that they purchased. Even little details can enhance their overall experience and make a difference in terms of how a customer feels about their purchase. Given that e-commerce is driving an increased amount of retail growth, it is more important than ever for retailers to focus on developing customer experiences that enables them to grow and retain their customer base. This is crucial given the ever-increasing competitive business landscape.

1. Recognition.

One of the most important steps you can take to create and enhance customer experiences is to personally recognize your customer when they return to make future purchases. It is this personalized treatment that adds true value to a purchase, and injects tremendous loyalty into your customer base. Evaluate your business operations to for areas where you can ensure that your customers know you are paying attention to their purchases. Remember their preferences and cater to their needs with every transaction. Customers are more likely to return to those businesses that take the time to demonstrate that they remember them and their preferences.

2. Personalization.

Among the great benefits of ecommerce are the sheer number of options your business can provide customers, including discounts, sneak previews and more. While customers appreciate these offerings, it is also important to focus on providing customers with personalized shopping experiences. Integrating interactive experiences along with in-store shopping is an excellent way to do this.

Info Tech Spotlight reports that customers expect VIP treatment from brands in both online and in-person shopping experiences. Providing customers with the same personalized experience when shopping online as they receive when they are in the store can go a long way toward encouraging repeat business. Great ways to interject a personalized shopping experience into an e-commerce platform is to offer access to video chat when customers have questions.

3. Tap into emotions.

For many consumers, shopping is an emotionally driven experience. Whether it is shopping for a special event or occasion, consumers are seeking opportunities to connect those events with their shopping experiences. One way to do this is to provide consumers with the option to build shopping lists and share with friends. Along with seeing what people close them are shopping for, these lists also make it possible for consumers to save the products they like for future reference, increasing the chance of making a sale.

Walmart is an example of one brand that has done an excellent job in this regard by helping consumers to merge their physical and digital experiences. Their mobile app makes it possible for users to create shopping lists using either voice input, or by scanning bar codes while they are actually shopping.

 

Why Customer Engagement Is the Future of Ecommerce

Barbara Spagnola - Monday, February 09, 2015
Matt Relander,
Founder of Launch & Hustle and Digital Marketing Consultant Specializing in Social Media & Mobile Marketing

The rush of shopping that typically begins just after everyone has had his or her fill of turkey and cranberry sauce has dramatically changed. Both online shopping and mobile devices are having an effect on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to eMarketer, 41 percent of online retail traffic on Cyber Monday was attributed to tablets and smartphones. That represents nearly a 10 percent increase from the previous year. Now that consumers are able to purchase practically anything they desire on whatever device they wish and wherever they happen to be, the ecommerce experience has changed dramatically. As a result, businesses need to ensure they are ready for those changes and are prepared to focus on customer engagement to drive long-term success.

No longer is ecommerce considered an additional feature. Today, it is viewed as a necessity for growing and remaining relevant in an ever-evolving and increasingly mobile-driven world. Businesses today must recognize that competition has grown and will continue to grow. Small businesses can get started online for less than $50 per month and have a professional online store launched in a single day, even if the owner has no experience with programming or coding. With more competitors looming on the horizon and consumers benefiting from greater access via their mobile devices, businesses of all sizes must learn to separate themselves from the herd. The best way to do that is through customer engagement.

Creating a memorable brand is key to succeeding with customer engagement in a mobile world. The good news is that social media has not only made it easier to accomplish that goal but also makes it cost-effective to do so. Social media has rapidly developed into a tremendous equalizer. Furthermore, the number of social media sites offering the ability to make purchases directly from their platform is increasing. Internet Retailer recently reported that Tumblr has added a number of action buttons to posts, including a Buy button.

How important is social media when it comes to the consumer purchasing process? Business2Community reports that 63 percent of millennials state they actually stay updated on brands via social networks. Another 46 percent stated that they rely on social media when making online purchases.

Clearly, it has now become vital for brands to ensure they not only have a presence on the major social media networks but that they also work consistently toward engaging their customer base on those networks.

Among the most important ways that brands can focus on customer engagement is by remembering to continue the conversation not just at the end of the transaction but throughout the year. While the massive amount of data collected from selling online on numerous platforms can certainly create a challenge, moving forward, it is one that online merchants will need to handle effectively. Learning to translate that data into actionable information for driving future customer engagement could prove to be a significant asset. A study conducted by Moxie Software, Inc. found that consumers shopping online would spend more if brands engaged them proactively.

The best way to drive customer engagement, particularly across social networks is through a strong content strategy. Beyond simply providing product descriptions, it is important to deliver refreshing, informative share-worthy content. Enabling customers to contribute to the conversation through comments, product reviews and ratings can also help drive customer engagement through giving customers a voice.

As more social media sites make the move toward ecommerce, customer engagement will become even more important. The time to harness that power is now.