As we posted recently, I had the opportunity attend IRCE in Chicago, where I had many conversations with both brands and retailers about the challenges of customer loyalty and customer retention. Online shopping has always been good for customers and increasingly difficult for brands. Customers leverage the convenience of the web to research product verticals, inform themselves about their options and then make their purchasing decision based on one single metric: price.
For brands, this poses several well-known problems. In the brick and mortar environment, brands at least had more control over display, placement, and, of course, pricing. How do you, as a brand or e-tailer, leverage that same level of control and consistency when customers have an almost limitless amount of sellers who are just a few clicks away? Shopping from the comfort of home surely benefits consumers. Companies, on the other hand, are (understandably) consistently worried about brick-and-mortar attrition, and, at least according to what I heard from company after company in Chicago, how to maintain a relationship with an anonymous buyer.
The One Thing That Hasn’t Changed About Customer Loyalty
Retaining customers is now, and has always been, cheaper and more profitable than finding new ones. We’ve already a the Harvard Business Review study that shows returning customers can increase revenues up to 95 percent. Even in the dynamic world of online retail, this singular measurement hasn’t changed.
What Are the New Customer Loyalty Drivers?
Location used to be a major deciding factor in what product or service a customer selected. Customers in a recent (2017) survey from Accenture revealed that they’re looking for other factors that outweigh even price. Customer appreciation, like discounts, rewards, gift cards, and other “thank yous” matter quite a bit, as does personalization. How can your brand offer services to buyers that make each product feel specific to them? This isn’t always a straightforward or easy issue to manage, but it may mean the difference between a customer searching online by brand name (ideally, yours) rather than trusting Google’s and Amazon’s search algorithms to make the best choices for them.
Where and How Content Can Help
Think of the role of the in-person sales associate or the store owner: that person used to represent a knowledge base that served the customer. Brands can’t just rely on the online store as the source of that knowledge. Instead, present your customers with impartial resources that explain and differentiate products in every vertical. Brands: examine the content pages on all your major third party sites. Are they consistent? Are they informative? Do they engage your customer in the same manner that a shopkeeper might? Is there any missing information that could impact your customer’s buying decision.
Content Resources for Internet Retailers
Since the marketplaces, especially Amazon, tends to drive customers to only a handful of product pages, the information you present on them is crucial. Product pages, from the keywords to the features, should have a conversation with your buyer. Anticipate their needs at every step and they’re more likely to turn to you as a product authority.
For internet retailers: think impartiality as much as possible. Present yourself as an expert in every vertical. Buying guides, online FAQs, and videos that place information and education ahead of conversion are genuine resources for buyers. Retailers have a lot of opportunity to manage platforms where customers can reliably find educational materials about consumer electronics, food, and lifestyle products. Also: study your search results in all of your product categories. Are you pushing out of stock products at the top? Can you spot other results that could frustrate and impede customer experience?
The good news about customer retention is that, because it’s still extremely cost effective, it’s worth all the investment that you put into it. Consistency, quality, and availability of content for both brands and retailers are as vital in the virtual world as they ever were in the brick and mortar environment. In fact, study after study is showing that the availability of information online is even more important now.
Co-Founder and CEO
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