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Over-Communicate to Manage Customer Expectations in Digital Commerce

By Jennifer Polk | May 01, 2017 | 1 Comment

The old adage goes,

“Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em. Tell ’em. Then, tell ’em what you told ’em.” 

This is true in digital commerce more than anywhere else.

Customers coming to e-commerce site or mobile commerce apps are looking for self-service, hoping to bypass inefficiencies in traditional sales channels and customize the buying experience to their needs. From shopping at 2 am, to researching products and comparing prices across sites, to sharing a quote with a colleague.

Your job as a marketing leader with digital commerce responsibility is to enable this self-service. Enabling self-service through digital commerce is:

  • One part data and analytics
  • One part talent and technology
  • One part content and communication

…all aimed at making it easy for the customer.

Yes, using data and analytics to design and optimize the digital commerce experience is important. And, yes, investing in the right talent and technology to execute your digital commerce strategy is key. Of course, creating, curating and cultivating content to help customers make buying decisions is essential.

But…when, where and how you communicate with customers throughout the digital commerce experience is mission critical.

Be easy to find

How do prospective customers find your products and services online? Are you using search, including SEO and SEM, mobile and local search techniques to improve find-ability? Don’t stop there. Consider what appears in search results? Are you giving buyers the info they need to make decisions, motivating them to buy and making it easy for them to click through to your commerce site and learn more? Are you connecting SEO, SEM and on-site search, including site navigation and personalization?

From the moment a customer types in a search term and clicks from the search engine to your site, you have a chance to learn from every detail of their session and site behavior and to use this intelligence to improve your offering. Laggards drop customers on a home page or category page, forcing them to start the search process again and ignoring their initial signal of intent. Leaders use that signal to direct buyers to the product they’re seeking, tailor site search and navigation and serve relevant recommendations.

Remember the 4 Ps

This may sound rudimentary, but don’t forget the four Ps of marketing–price, product, promotion and place. Customers expect pricing to be real-time, transparent and consistent across channels–and they’ll know if this isn’t the case–and for promotions to be easily or automatically factored into the displayed price or applied at checkout. Rest assured they’re toggling between your site and your competitors’ and looking to quickly compare the final price, including offers, taxes and shipping fees.

Customers expect to see critical product information, but ancillary details like materials and manufacturing process, ratings and reviews and user generated photos and videos can distinguish your site from a competitor’s site–especially when customers are comparing the same or similar products across both sites. Real-time inventory availability. clear communication about low-inventory and customized search results that suppress out of stock merchandise also help customers make a better, smarter and faster choice.

As physical and digital commerce converge, place becomes more important than ever. Customers want the convenience and assortment of digital commerce, coupled with the immediacy and tactility of a physical store. This may sound like an unrealistic expectation, but retailers like Target, Gap and DSW are pushing the boundaries of reality and giving rise to even higher expectations by showing real-time inventory across channels , enabling in-store reservations and offering Buy Online Pick Up In Store (BOPUS).

Favor experience over transactions

What I’m about to say may seem controversial and counter-intuitive, but I’ll say it anyway. Be willing to lose the battle, if it means winning the war. Let me be clear. A battle is being fought for each individual transaction. But a war is being waged for the customer relationship with retention, loyalty and lifetime value at stake. You should aim to win the battle and the war, but be willing to concede the former in order to win the latter.

Be willing to lose the battles that aren’t aligned with your strategy or target. And structure your communication with that in mind. If you aim to be the cheapest, emphasize price at every touch point and be willing to lose customers looking for a high-end experience. If you plan to win on experience, promote the special touches that make your commerce experience truly world class, such as merchandise quality and assortment, sales assistance and customer service, flat rate shipping and returns and protective packaging.

Communication doesn’t supersede building a digital commerce experience–backed by talent and technology, data and content. But failing to communicate the value of the experience and not using communication to guide customers through the experience can undermine all other efforts.

1 Comment
  1. May 8, 2017 at 6:10 am
    Pauline Ashenden says:

    As well as being easy to find products, companies need to make it easy to find customer service information, such as around returns policies or shipping costs. Yet our own research found that retailers could only answer 62% of these routine queries online – forcing consumers to switch channel – or move to a rival. More on the findings in this blog post https://www.eptica.com/blog/5-key-findings-state-uk-retail-customer-experience

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