The Customer is not a Robot. She is Your Wife. 3 Tips on Improving Customer Experience.

David Ogilvy famously said “The customer is not an idiot. She is your wife.” back when advertising was less about media budgets and more about customer understanding and providing ads that use the type of message your customer actually wants to hear.

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Ogilvy was also famous for his approach on advertising. When all others were ignoring research he took an almost religious approach in discovering customer insights so that his ads can deliver information rather than boring or obnoxious advertising.

Years later the world has changed. 2012 meant an increase of 21.1% in global ecommerce. The total ecommerce sales have reached $1 trillion for the first time in history and are still going strong, according to eMarketer.

World's biggest in terms of ecommerce spending.
World’s biggest in terms of ecommerce spending.

The revolution is here and both retailers and customers have started looking more careful into online shopping. Yet again we find customers are still not being treated as they should be. In the world of bits and code lines we started expecting users to act like robots. Click here! If this than that! Choose now! Rather mechanic, don’t you think? That can improve and below you will find 3 tips on how to improve your customers’ experience.

1. Be relevant

Customers still like  offline stores better than online stores. Why? Basically they are more accustomed with this type of shopping experience. They’ve done this all their life and feel better about shopping offline. But we, as marketers and retailers, know that “classic retail” is just as artificial as online retail. Of course there are people around doing the same thing, you have the store associate there to help when in need but most of all you have relevant merchandise and relevant stores.

How often had you walked in a supermarket only to buy groceries and had one of the sales people jump in front of you yelling they have a 70 percent discount on a certain brand of TVs? Well you hadn’t – that would be creepy but it does happen all the time in online stores, especially those dealing with a certain not so smart selection of merchandise.

We once had a customer that dealt in fashion. They had huge success online and thought about expanding to other areas. First accessories. We thought – well a nice dress is nothing without a pair of earrings to match it. Then came travel. Mmmm… fashionable people need to … travel? Next came electronics, household appliances which was weird enough for fashion retail but the “piece de resistance” hit the fan when we noticed, standing graciously underneath a beautiful pair of shoes: a jar of pickles. On discount.

Needless to say that is NOT the best way to stay relevant to your customers. It’s hard enough to build a brand on a single industry and unless you can magically profile users like Amazon or Facebook do, you will not be able to jump wagon to another industry.

2. Be more than Online, Offline and Mobile. Be Connected Across Channels.

In a recent study by Accenture focusing on customers’ habits of shopping seamless research showed that users feel they need to be treated the same online, in store and on mobile interfaces.

Integration of  the Big Three (Product, Promotion, and Price) across channels.
Integration of the Big Three (Product, Promotion, and Price) across channels.

That is, of course, pretty intuitive. We believe that we have the right to be treated the same no matter where are we shopping. As customers we feel that we should be earning loyalty points for both online and offline.

As retailers and marketers though we find that connecting online and offline operations (usually treated as two separate divisions or even companies – as was the case with Walmart and Walmart.com) is a bit of a hassle. It’s not really easy integrating informational systems to serve the customers as they would like to be served. That shouldn’t stop us as 49% of customers expect seamless treatment across platform when it comes to promotions.  Moreover 43% have a unified account when it comes to their favorite brand and expect to use this account to shop faster across channels.

“Webrooming” (the practice of getting information on products online and than purchasing offline) has been growing steadily, with 83% of customers reporting they purchased a product in store after previously researching it online. That’s just a little part of the changes multichannel shopping brings aboard.

3. Make it Simple

How many products does Amazon sell? Probably millions. Chances are you will be seeing a tiny fraction of those whenever you feel like shopping there. Even more – those are the products you are actually interested in. How does the company do that? It keeps tracks of your purchases, visits, ratings, and a couple of other indicators you can read about here. It then matches these options with other’s to return a sorted product list that you are most likely to enjoy and buy. Presto! Simplicity.

The thing is customers are not robots. They have a very short attention span compared to what most online retailers expect them to. They need a simple way of getting to their desired products. A couple of things you can do to improve on these are:

  • track users behavior and predict their purchase intentions
  • improve search according to semantic searches (human talk – ex. “looking for a blue, casual shirt” might return all shirts that are blue, and casual)
  • hide any products that are not in user’s interest area.

As a conclusion – treat your customers as human beings. They are not purchasing machines. Facts and figures are great tools but make sure you treat your customers as you would want to be treated. Our technology has evolved a lot but our minds have not.

5 Things Online Retailers Could Learn from the Game of Thrones

The Starks. The Lannisters. Dragons. Swords. Power. Blood. Sex. Aaaand violence. I guess this pretty much sums up a slightly superficial yet short description of the Game of Thrones series.

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Now if you’ve opened up your Facebook or Twitter account today, you definitely  know something happened. Last evening HBO aired a certain episode called “The Red Wedding”. I will not spoil it for you, if you’ve not seen it yet, but it was a pretty shocking episode. Blood and death ruled the storyline and social media reactions quickly followed.

Just to get an overview of how much impact Game of Thrones had, here’s a tweet from musician Ed Sheeran that pretty much sums it up:

Yeah, things got pretty violent. Shocking actually. And that got me thinking. Not the usual things one might ponder on but something closer to my professional interests. As the credits rolled in, I found myself wondering what could online retailers take away from the GoT Universe? I pretty much narrowed it down to 5 things (there is still a certain limit one can take away from blood, death and violence). Here they are:

5. Form alliances

Some alliances are better than others.
Some alliances are better than others.

You are not alone. Of course, you might have a strong company, you may not need partners right now and yes, others can sometimes slow you down.

However, you never know when you might need to launch a new product or face a strong competitor. That’s when allies such as industry bloggers, influential community members, thematic forums or websites will prove really useful.

Develop your customer community. Grow a company blog. Sponsor thematic websites. Maybe all of these. You never know when but your allies will come in handy.

4. Always be on the watch for challengers.

Retail is a fast moving industry. Online retail moves even faster. You might be the king of the hills today only to find out your market share has dropped faster than you could say “Winter is coming”.

If you’re not the market leader you probably want to be. That’s human nature. Also – online retail nature. With hard work, creativity, and a couple of other things you too can reach the “Iron Throne” you’ve battled for. Once you’re there you need to keep an eye for certain news that might predict a strong challenger:

  • a more flexible business model
  • better products
  • better marketing
  • better team

3. Technology can save you. Almost magically.

What is your company's Wildfire

If you’ve been watching the Game of thrones you might remember season’s two finale. Peter Dinklage’s character, Tyrion Lannister leads an outnumbered army against a potentially disastrous siege. His best choice is to use the “Wildfire” – a magical substance that acts as a very powerful and persistant explosive (consider sorcery to be the equivalent of technology in the Game of Thrones universe).

With the help of the Wildfire, Tyrion manages to save his castle and his life.

Now, just like the movies, technology is probably lurking somewhere around you. Be sure to reach out and use the best available technologies if you want to stay competitive.

4. Keep a look out for the new king product.

There is probably no secret to you by now that some products perform way better than others. For a limited time. Than some other products gain your customers best favors. And than others and so on.

Keep a look out for the king product. There is always a struggle on the market and while you can marginally influence the outcome you cannot predict it. It is really not up to you to decide what your customers want but rather what they can choose from.

Be sure to treat your king product or products royally and they will repay you. How can you do that? Here are some tips:

  • be sure to make it easy for your customers to reach your king product
  • bring on new customers by advertising your best sellers
  • if you don’t have one already – create a special products category

Remember though: different customers may be on the look out for different king products. Try to customize your online shopping experience according to each customer’s needs. With the help of technology.

And finally …

5. Kill your products.Well … not all.

A fairly iconic scene in the Game of Thrones Series. The death of Ned Stark.

Just because you have a virtually unlimited storage space doesn’t mean you really have to keep all products in your catalogue.

Some products are … well … underachievers. They cannot be kings. Or queens, or barons, or soldiers. They are not wanted. Your customers don’t buy them. Maybe they don’t even want to see them.

So – test your products and clean up the mess. You can handle an limited amount of products. Your customers want a limited amount of products, curated only for them. With the rise of flash sales focused on certain types of individuals online catalogues seem to be getting smaller and more focused on customer’s needs.

Don’t be afraid to cut out underperforming products. You get more time with your king products. Do the math – more focus on the best sellers, less on the underachievers. You can only improve.