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How customer insight fuels e-commerce success

If you run an e-commerce business then you likely know that it’s not enough to have an amazing product. You can have the best velvet trousers in town but, if no one is buying them, you’re not going to make ends meet – never mind turn a profit.

To be successful, you need to give your customers a good all-round experience, from browsing products on your site to adding them to the cart, hitting that checkout button, receiving the product and even returning it if need be. And to do this, you need to know who your customers are, why they are on the lookout for a product or service like yours, and what makes them tick.

In this blog, we’ll consider ways in which you can assume a customer-centric approach and how this can help your business to grow.

Welcome to the world of high expectations

Being customer-centric means placing your customers at the centre of everything you do. It’s the approach that many highly successful e-commerce businesses take. Think of Amazon, Uber, and AirBnB to name a few.

  • Amazon made ordering items online quick and easy with fast delivery and a ton of options at your fingertips;
  • Uber made catching a ride as simple as clicking a button, removed the necessity of cash payments, and even enabled you to share your location with loved ones as you travel; and
  • AirBnB removed the extortionate price of hotels from your travel itinerary and empowered ordinary people to hire out their homes to tourists for a few days at a time.

While knowing your customers is important to every business, this is especially important for e-commerce stores who are dealing with some of the most demanding customers around.

Think about it. When everything is just a click away, customers come to expect the entire purchasing process to be frictionless. While at a brick-and-mortar shop, you may expect a certain level of service from cashiers, you will typically have far higher expectations of online retailers. After all, buying online is the epitome of convenience and, with sites such as Amazon offering next day – or sometimes even same day – delivery, consumers’ standards are sky-high.

Did you know? :This has even impacted the expectations that people have of their accountants.

The importance of making customers your focal point

In the world of e-commerce, it’s especially important to understand your customers as you need to know the kind of advertisements that are likely to increase traffic to your online store and, ultimately, result in conversions. If your customers have a good experience navigating your site and engaging with your staff when they have questions or need to return or exchange something, then they it’s highly probable that they will tell their friends.

They are also far more likely to become repeat buyers if they’re happy than if they had a poor experience, couldn’t find what they were looking for, struggled to check out, or found the returns process difficult.

It’s no longer enough to provide the perfect product. You now need to delight your customers at every turn. Today, people’s choices are nearly limitless, so convincing them to choose your store or product over others requires you to pay attention to what they really want.

Methods to understand your customers

What should you do to get to understand your customers and their needs and desires better? The first step is to conduct market research.

Market Research

Market research gives you the ability to understand how your target customers think so that you can adapt to their needs and turn them into repeat customers and brand evangelists.

Most new businesses will encounter three different types of customer:

  • The industry influencer – This is someone who knows a lot about your target market and holds great sway over prospective buyers. They are more likely to be concerned with value and quality than price and are ideal candidates to use for primary market research.
  • The end-user – This is the customer that will actually use your products or services regularly. These people are good for primary market research as you can interview or survey them to find out their frustrations or things they find limiting on your store, which can help you improve your offering.
  • The “savvy” purchaser – This is the kind of customer who wants to get the best possible value. They’ll likely know how much your competitors are charging and will be on the hunt for a bargain. It can help you to carry out secondary market research with this kind of buyer to determine whether your prices are competitive. If you appear to be more expensive than your competitors, you should consider the reasons you will give the savvy buyer for this, such as better quality or reliability.

To conduct market research, it can be useful to involve these different groups in surveys and questionnaires. If you have the resources to do so, conducting interviews and working with focus groups can also be beneficial.

Analyse customer data and metrics

The next step is to analyse customer data and metrics. You may want to track the number of visitors on your site and compare it to the number of conversions and monitor customer behaviour across your online store.

Pro Tip : Read our blog with Amaka on the Top 5 Shopify KPIs you may want to track to get ahead of competitors.

So, now that you have a good idea of how your customers think and behave, it’s time to find ways to centre them in your processes. Let’s look at four key areas you can work on to centre your customers in your business.

1. Identify customer needs and preferences

Why would customers want to buy your products and why would they want to buy them from you? What differentiates your famous trousers from the trousers you can purchase at any other clothes store?

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about it. Perhaps it’s because your trousers are made of a superior quality fabric and sewn painstakingly by hand in your dimly lit living room. Customers of this kind of product will pay extra for the quality and dedication that’s gone into each unique garment.

Beyond the product, what do you have to offer? Is it easy to order? Do customers have to wait three months to receive their pants, or do you have a system for managing inventory that means that you only sell pants that are currently in stock and can be delivered within the week? Whatever the case may be, it’s best to consider how this would impact your customers and ensure that you keep them in the loop on any developments. As Jake Rheude, VP of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, writes in an article for Forbes:

“People mostly just want their stuff. There’s no simpler way to put it. For e-commerce businesses, part of that is giving people the information to know where their stuff is. Never forget, as soon as they finish the checkout process, your customers view everything in that order as their stuff. That change happens with the click of a button.”

He encourages businesses to focus on the ownership aspect of the items that have been ordered and to reach out to customers as soon as possible to let them know if there are any delays. In general, consumers are a lot more understanding about delayed delivery if you’ve let them know what’s going on. As Rheude adds, “Sharing tracking details with a customer can turn potential anger into someone being okay because they know the item is shipped and en route.” Thus, ensuring that your customers are never in the dark about their orders is key.

Ultimately, you need to consider what customers’ preferences will be both in terms of the products you are selling and their overall experience of buying products from you.

2. Anticipate customer behaviour and trends

A good way to anticipate customer behaviour and trends is to leverage industry research and trend reports – many of which are easily accessible online. As Martin Zwillig, Founder & CEO of Startup Professionals, says:

“With today’s Internet instant access to all the latest reports and white papers of industry experts, there is no excuse for not staying current with outside perspectives, to temper your own views.”

Alongside keeping abreast of the latest research, he suggests regularly following reviews and influencers in your industry, using tools and analytics to identify trends, and making it a point to surround yourself with intelligent people from whom you can learn.

Pro Tip: To anticipate how customers will respond to your products or store setup, you should keep a lookout for how other similar businesses are operating and consider what is making them successful.

3. Build customer loyalty and trust

83% of customers say they’d recommend a business they trust to others. This means that gaining the trust of your consumers can help you not only retain them but also generate new leads and revenue through word-of-mouth.

It’s clear that you need to make your brand trustworthy and inspire loyalty so that customers keep coming back for more, but this is often easier said than done. This is because building trust takes time. And, as is the case with any other kind of relationship, it’s not just about what you say to your customers – it’s about what you do. Here are a few ways that you can begin to build customer loyalty and trust:

  • Offering great customer service;
  • Publishing customer reviews and testimonials to prove your credentials;
  • Being transparent and taking ownership of any problems that arise;
  • Creating a loyalty program; and
  • Asking for feedback frequently.

Remember, there’s no point asking for feedback if you don’t take that feedback seriously. Sure, you don’t want to change your entire business in response to one bad review, but if multiple customers have complained that your site keeps crashing as they hit “Checkout”, you may want to rectify that.

4. Enhance customer satisfaction and retention

You’ve worked hard to attract people to your site and convince them to buy your beautiful trousers. Wouldn’t it be sad if this were a once-off purchase and they never returned?

Retention is just as important as acquisition if you want your e-commerce business to flourish, and return customers are happy customers. So, you want to make sure that you offer all your customers the best possible service.

Having dedicated support staff can be immensely beneficial, especially if you set high standards for the speed and quality of their service.

When customers reach out with queries or complaints, ensure that your staff’s responses are polite, helpful, and consistent. It might be useful to create guidelines for support staff to follow when responding to certain enquiries.

Pro tip: Remind your staff that all the customers logging complaints or queries are individuals and shouldn’t be thought of simply as tickets that could easily get lost in a pile. It’s important to maintain a sense of the human touch – even if they never meet customers in person.

By showing a commitment to customer service, you show that your company really cares about its customers, and they can rest assured that they’re in good hands.

The Amazon success story

To return to one of our earlier examples, Amazon became very successful because it was built around customer happiness, and it was relentless in pursuit of this happiness.

Moreover, Amazon certainly does its homework. The amount of data that it has on its consumers is massive. And the employees at Amazon deploy this data to improve operations and product offerings and also to help others advertise on the Amazon platform.

In this blog, we unpacked some of the ways you can go about understanding your customers better and how this will pay off in the long term, helping your customers remain loyal and engaged with your brand and ensuring that they refer you to others as well.

While this is a lot to keep in mind, it’s certainly doable. With the right team in place and a commitment to keeping customers happy, your business can be well on the way to becoming another success story.

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