vintage furniture ad
Ecommerce sites currently do a great job providing information. What they don't do a great job of is solving people's problems PHOTO: SenseiAlan

Ecommerce sites — be they business sided or consumer — currently do a great job providing product information and keeping track of stock keeping units (SKU).

What they aren't doing a great job of is putting all of that information within the context of an actual buyer. 

Robust product content and information will only get businesses so far if they keep missing opportunities to gain insight on customer profiles, intent and next-move predictions.

Showing Interest, Digitally

Nate Barad, senior director of product marketing for digital experience provider Sitecore, shared these thoughts on last week’s CMSWire webinar, “Beyond Transactions: Commerce in Context.”

Barad’s thesis: In digital commerce, we need to use technology so we can emulate the in-store salesperson who truly wants to help a customer or prospect solve their problems. The current business approach more closely resembles, “We’ve got great products. Let me show you” as opposed to, “How can we truly help you and what’s your big dilemma here?” 

“Product catalogs are tremendously important. But when you’re combining that visitor persona along with those rigid product details it really becomes a powerful recommendation," Barad said. "Consumers too often feel they’ve purchased something and then they’re dumped right into retargeting. You can feel the automation happening but you also feel there is no context.”

Too many brands rely on old tactics like the classic Amazon shopping cart experience of “Customers who bought this product also bought ….”

Obviously that approach is effective, but brands can do better. In reality, it’s not targeting actual people, their motivations and what inspires them. Such product recommendations, Barad said, lack context about the individuals behind the purchases.

For instance, wouldn’t it be better to say, “Other families purchased this product along with that one” or “other bachelors found this product interesting”?

Combine 'Who' with SKU

Simply adding a product catalog to your ecommerce site leaves untapped opportunities to put customers and prospects into context. Why are they even on the site? What’s their history as a customer?

“We know when there is a new version of a phone, game or movie,” Barad said. "We do a great job of pushing things out but need to do a better job of bringing customers in and learning about them on their terms."

Brands that emphasize the “Who” along with the SKU will benefit, Barad said.

Discounts, offers and promotions are trapped at the SKU level, creating a blind spot for customer context and intent.

Marketers who successfully combine the “who” and the SKU for the best offers will help build customer loyalty and ultimately lifetime value.

Know Thy Customer

sitecore webinar

“Are we trying to find out as much as we can on the customer’s first visit to the website?” Barad asked. “Maybe a buyer is big on safety but not so much on products that keep them warm.”

Barad cited examples from Toshiba and HomeFashion Group. Toshiba not only offers a robust product catalog online but also asks questions to web visitors for insight and to ultimately craft the best personalized offers. 

Do they need new office equipment? Are they moving to a new office? Do they have current Toshiba products?

“They ask a couple of questions as they come in so they can streamline and then address that with content,” Barad said. “It goes way beyond just the transaction.”

HomeFashion Group allows customers to post reviews on their website and posts user-generated images from Instagram in an effort to demonstrate how customers use their furniture.

Putting their furniture into context helps prospective customers envision that couch or table in their lives.

“They’ve really embraced," Barad said, "the who and have learned a lot about their customers."