Most businesses understand the importance of creating and nurturing customer relationships to build loyalty. Many companies do an effective job of establishing rapport and making customers feel welcomed during face-to-face and telephone interactions. But, when it comes to e-commerce and online shopping, the vast majority of companies just go through the motions of completing the e-commerce transaction without understanding or addressing the emotions of the customer.
In many cases, consumers who purchase products online have more anxiety than those who walk into a brick and mortar store. They may be unsure of the validity of a website, anxious that they cannot actually see or touch the item they wish to purchase and may wonder what will happen if they need to make a return. If shopping for a gift, they may be concerned about it arriving on time and worried about the process the recipient will need to go through if they don’t like it. With the number of e-commerce transactions increasing exponentially every year, I would recommend that companies consider the following 5 suggestions to make sure that their customer’s experience is a positive one and to ensure that their e-business continues to grow!
1. Personalize communication
Customers are people. When they are first registering on your site or requesting a password reminder, don’t treat them like robots. Send them a personalized email, not one that looks like it was pasted together by a robot. Use their name; thank them for using your site. If it’s a Friday, wish them a good weekend. And always sign with a person’s name, not just the company name. When customers are treated as people first, they take notice and feel more welcomed
2. Segment your messaging
Customers are not ‘one size fits all’. Your communication with customers should reflect this understanding. Segment your customer confirmations of purchases into three categories; first time buyers, customers who haven’t purchased on your site for a while and active patrons. Ensure the messaging of the correspondence welcomes the first time purchaser and recognizes them as a new customer. Customers who purchase products infrequently should be thanked for purchasing from the site again and active users should be told that their repeat business is appreciated and valued.
3. Use requests for lost passwords and user names as an opportunity to engage and thank them for returning
Generally, when someone forgets their user name or password, it means that they haven’t used your site for a period of time and something prompted them to use it again. Just sending an electronic, robotic sounding message to click a link to set up their new password is a missed opportunity. Immediately after the customer enters the site, an email should be sent, welcoming the customer, thanking them for re-visiting the site and making them feel that their business is appreciated and if appropriate, missed.
4. Send follow-up emails or letters
Another way to differentiate your company from your competitors is to send periodic thank you emails that are not soliciting new business, but that thank customers for their patronage. And I have found that sending handwritten letters, while more costly than sending an email, can significantly impact how customers view your company. When loyal e-commerce consumers receive a nicely worded and personalized letter from a representative of a company thanking them for their past loyalty, it really makes a difference.
5. Offer communication options
Give customers a number of different communication options so they can choose the one they are most comfortable with. Don’t make it difficult for customers to communicate with your company the way they need or want to. Don’t bury your contact us page. Recently, I was really pleased that when I needed to ask Amazon a question, they instantly offered me a choice of chat, telephone or email communication. I selected telephone and the site then asked me if I wanted to be connected with a representative immediately or at a specified time. I selected ‘immediate’ and within 30 seconds I received a call, ended up purchasing the merchandise and saying to myself, ‘now that’s great service!’ While your company may not have the resources of Amazon, the message is clear; the easier you make it for your customers to communicate with your company, the more likely they will become repeat patrons.
It costs five to six times as much to bring in a new customer as it does to keep the ones you have. Don’t let the customers who use your site for the first time, occasionally or on a regular basis, slip away. The very nature of electronic communication is impersonal, but that doesn’t mean you need to treat your customers that way.