The bar gets raised in the retail world every year. Research from Statista indicates that retail e-commerce sales figures in the United States during the 2014 holiday shopping season reached $53.3 billion -- that’s billion with a capital B.
It used to be enough to sell good products, maybe have a website that describes them and a good customer service center. But these days, you don’t really succeed unless you do all that plus reach people on a variety of devices including smartphones and tablets, and get them to sing your praises on a slew of social media sites.
To succeed, companies need to look at ways to make the customer’s journey a positive one at all touch points. People may look at your website and then research your product on a blog or some form of social media. Did your friends like it? If they did and if you’ve got new customers because of that, you’ve effectively turned your touch points into trust points and a customer into a brand ambassador.
But how do you transform anonymous visitors to enthusiastic brand ambassadors?
Step 1: Integrate website content with your e-commerce site
Online retailers typically have a conventional website with static data and an e-commerce platform. In many cases the two sites are not integrated. It’s quite common for people to go to a company website where there’s information about products and then they have to move to another website to make a purchase. The online store pages often don’t have the same look and feel as the company’s website, which also confuses people.
That your customer sees inconsistencies in look and feel is only part of the problem. It takes functionality to create an engaging experience in your online store. Let’s face it, no matter what the e-commerce software offers, you likely always need more or different functionalities than what’s included as standard. You need to be able to integrate e-commerce and other platforms and applications like analytics, social media and digital asset management systems. These are the other pieces you need to create the kind of experience for each customer that makes them enjoy using your online store and ultimately builds trust in your brand.
Step 2: Help your content creators do their job
It’s not easy to create an engaging website, and it can be even harder if you keep asking editors to reinvent the wheel by not allowing them to access good content already stored somewhere in company files. A centralized content management system (CMS) makes it easier for editors and others to pull up content and integrate it with their e-commerce platform, which often doesn’t have the functionality to easily create and manage content or incorporate it from other sources.
Step 3: Get personal, but don’t stalk
People want to feel that you’ve listened to them and provided them the information they need when they want it, not just when they’re researching and buying, but after purchasing. But having data about customers doesn’t give you the right to stalk them.
Don’t doom your customer relationship to the spam folder by bombarding people with offers they aren't interested in. Give them the information they want, when they want it and where they want it. Every interaction with your customer can and should be an opportunity to build trust. Data and real time targeting help to make sure your messaging is reaching exactly the audience you want when it’s convenient for them.
To do that effectively, build personas about your customers and integrate that information into your CRM and CMS platforms. Doing so will allow you to provide relevant information to your customers instead of bombarding them with worthless promotions. Keep in mind people expect an e-commerce site to be intelligent enough to know what season it is and not, say, offer winter boots in the summer.
Bridges of trust, built on content
An online store with pure e-commerce functionality usually isn’t engaging enough. You need to provide good content and you should have the option of using tools that are proven to work and have the capacity for future development. This will protect the investment you’ve made and allow you to use the solutions you already have.
By offering good content to the right audience at the right time and on the right device, you can transform your touch points into trust points. When people trust you, they will give you their information so you can have a meaningful one-to-one conversation. By intelligently using Web CMS tools, smart companies can build customer trust with information that’s always relevant and welcome. The reward: customers who are ambassadors for your brand.