Online marketing strategies are continuing to move away from a broad-net approach. The archaic practice of ‘catching’ a wide scope of consumers with click bait ads and trying to get a few transactions out of them is a dead practice. A short-term focused business practice like this produces a low lifetime value for the customer and a minimal retention rate – meaning little to no sustainable profit coming from these customers when looking forward.
Instead, many businesses are shifting their focus to hone in on building long-term relationships with the customers.
A new-age customer centric approach to ecommerce brings customer’s needs and wants to the forefront of the business. With advanced CRMs, automation and marketing tools, the ‘traditional’ customer centricity ecommerce model on the web is out the window. Now days it takes more than just a live chat and persistent phone number on the banner of the site to consider yourself a ‘customer centric’ business.
Online customer centricity is a long-term view of the customer as a partner of the firm, rather than a single transaction. By considering the various aspects of a digital interaction and then embellishing these relations to minimise pain points and bolster customer experience your business is able to boost brand loyalty, increase lifetime customer worth, build customer retention and minimise customer turn-over rate.
Approaching business in this way is more profitable too! Bain & Co’s tests show that on average, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits anywhere from 25% to 95%.
When your business chooses to place your customer’s happiness and relationship with your brand above any other objective or KPI, then you will have a truly successful customer centric online channel (and be able to reap the rewards of it). Many readers will believe that their online businesses already do this and it seems like the business savvy choice, yet in many instances, their online channels are yet to take shape as a true customer centric sales experience.
After much discussion, debate and research I have summarised and shortlisted the 5 most important elements that are necessary to making your brand customer centric:
1. Cultural Change
To ensure your team is committed, a top-down approach to customer centricity needs to be encouraged from high-level management. Placing the customer at the centre of your online business requires an alignment of paradigms from each of the departments that will be influencing the customer’s online experience. Change is always hard, especially in business, but it is a necessity that all your employees see your customers as priority #1: if they don’t, how are they meant to honestly treat them as such?
Leading the charge from a higher managerial position will ultimately influence the success or failure of the initiative: measure up what you have, drill out your objectives and get your team on board for the best start possible.
2. Using Data to Understand the Customer
Collecting and then analysing the your traffic is essential to producing a successful customer centric experience. It helps your business:
• Identify opportunities and pain points for your customers (and then capitalise on / eliminate them)
• Recognise buying behaviour, patterns and interests
• Create helpful metrics to accurately segment your audience
Each of these collections of information should, in some way, alter the direction of your customer centric ecommerce roadmap. If you are able to understand and analyse the data, you gain the ability to mould your site’s functionality and business practices to best suit the needs of your customers, leading to more profitable online channel.
3. Creating an engaging, long-lasting experience
Many businesses now days, although claiming to be customer centric, forget one crucial element of their business: retention. Attracting a new customer costs (on average) five times as much as keeping an existing one (Provided by Lee Resources International, Inc.). So it begs the question: Why do so many retailers focus intently on gaining such a large consumer following, but limit their customer maintenance budgets?
It’s relatively easy to get a customer to buy a product, register to email or make an account, but it is important to understand how is it that you will bridge the gap and retain their status as YOUR business’s customer. Here are a few online, customer centric businesses practices which will see your company increase it’s customer retention rate:
Incentives such as sales and discount codes are a good starting point, but if you are looking at taking your customer-centric experience to the next level, you need to make these options personal.
Connecting the data from your CRM to your email marketing/loyalty program adds a personal twist to incentivising purchases from your customers. Personal information such as date of birth or account inactivity can be used for dynamic promotions such as automated ‘birthday gifts’ from your brand, or even a coupon for their next purchase (to encourage account reactivation).
Prompt Customer Service
Although I said earlier in the article customer service isn’t the only factor that creates a satisfying customer centric experience, it still must be a considered element. Good customer service should be no more than one click or dial away 24 hours per day. Think deeper than live chat and call centres – think more about who is staffing them – Do they understand your product and customer centric approach?
The fickleness of online customers is astounding – but how many times before are we guilty of leaving a site because we cannot get further information on a certain product? Your customers feel the same way. Having a friendly, knowledgable 24/7 customer call centre will seriously improve how your customer’s relationship with your business.
Who doesn’t like free things?
Your customer loves to think of himself or herself as an individual – so why not treat their ego and indulge them with a gift (or a few). The idea of earning rewards for essentially doing nothing is a great way of keeping customers coming back.
Any type of gift being given (coupons, gift vouchers, products) will be seen as a positive brand interaction to the customer and will be treated as such. It meets the ‘unspoken’ customer need for appreciation, validation and satisfaction from the brand, driving the customer to return time and time again.
4. Using the right metrics
A major key to remember when analysing the performance of your new customer centric approach is the metrics by which you measure it. You have five key metrics to measure:
- Customer retention (should be increasing)
- Customer loss (should be decreasing)
- Customer’s average order value (should be increasing)
- Lifetime value of customer (should be increasing)
- Number of active customers (should be increasing)
It goes without saying that it is important to keep an eye on other metrics like profit and revenue, but the idea of a customer centric business is long term orientated meaning there may be a longer wait to reap the rewards of your efforts, don’t be discouraged if your revenue doesn’t triple overnight.
5. Feedback for change
A final tip is to ask questions, and plenty of them, to the people that matter most in your business (your customers!). As customer centricity is meant to base your efforts and experience around your customers, it makes sense to understand what and why they like/dislike various parts of your online experience from their point of view. Your customers are your lifelines – they buy your products, they make you money – so make their journey as a customer as comfortable as possible.
Feedback is best when it comes from your angriest customers. What has upset them so much? Why did they write that scathing review? Why is Carol from customer support such a b#*$h? These questions will derive answers to some of the largest pain points in your customer’s experience and I can almost guarantee you it’s not a one off: For every loud, angry customer, there is about 10-20 more who chose not to speak up and simply move on from your site.
Ask, evaluate, adjust, test and then ask again: this method is the vital to a customer centric approach.
We all know online is where retail and the majority of commerce will be moving within the next twenty years, but it’s missing something – the human element. Truly seeing your customer as a friend and partner of your business brings about brand loyalty and retention which is otherwise often blocked by the ‘technological’ wall of ecommerce.