Be a Sherpa: Guiding Loyalty Through Consumer Experiences

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Author Bio

Greg Zakowicz is a senior commerce marketing analyst at Oracle + Bronto. With more than 10 years of experience in email, mobile and social media marketing, Zakowicz knows the retail industry and its challenges, staying on top of the latest trends by leveraging deep insight into the marketing spectrum. His subject matter expertise stems from his experience in providing commerce marketers — including numerous Internet Retailer Top 1000 clients — with in-depth analysis of their marketing programs, recommendations for improvement, best practice support and implementation guidance and execution.

Zakowicz is a frequent webinar speaker and presenter at ecommerce events, such as Fashion Digital New York, SIA Snow Show and ROI Revolution Summit. He has been published by top retail and marketing publications, including Power Retail and Inside Retail, and is a regular contributor to Bronto’s Commerce Marketing blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @WhatsGregDoing.

What makes a customer choose to do business with a retailer for the first time? Better yet, what makes a customer loyal to that brand? It can be a challenging question to answer because it is likely not one single thing. After all, consumers are now ever-connected. They can browse, shop, socialize, read the news, order a pizza, or hail a ride with only their finger. Not only is consumer behavior changing, so too is the online commerce landscape. Barriers for global commerce are rapidly eroding, producing even more choice for consumers.

Because of this immediacy, convenience, and immense selection, consumers expect more from retailers. Single-touch interactions are a thing of the past. Consumers interact with brands across channels. They may browse a product online, view it in-store, cart it on one device and purchase it on another. In the eyes of a consumer, this all combines to create one singular experience. And this experience matters!

This consumer experience encapsulates every interaction, including the website, email, social media, customer service policies and availability, brick-and-mortar, mobile app and what happens post-purchase. Paying attention to the user-end of these experiences can be key in determining whether you are doing your best at influencing a first-time or repeat purchase, and creating brand loyalty.

What does your experience look like? Analyze it. And then redefine it by thinking of yourself as a sherpa guiding the consumer through a frictionless and relevant experience. Here’s what you need to analyze:

Online Experience

Does your site load quickly, and is it easily navigable on a mobile device? Do searches return accurate results? Are product recommendations on your site or app tailored to the individual customer by taking in data from other sources, such as email activity, purchase and browse history? Do you offer customer reviews? If your site offers nothing to guide the user, it is the equivalent of a waiter who hasn’t tried anything on the menu. If you can’t guide, you can’t be helpful.

Email

When a user subscribes to your email program, they expect more than generic messaging. They expect emails to be helpful, especially if they provide you with additional information. Is your welcome series targeted to the consumer and does it guide them? After all, a welcome series is a personalized onboarding tool designed to introduce your brand, engage the subscriber and build consumer confidence. Find ways to differentiate messaging and personalize it for the subscriber, such as analyzing the source of the sign-up and/or click activity within emails themselves. Did they sign up on the maternity page or the men’s clothing page? Did they click on specific links in the email? These user actions should dictate the types of emails the subscriber receives.

For promotional and other lifecycle messages, continue to provide relevance at every turn. Intuitive product recommendations tucked into email messaging is an excellent way to do this, especially in today’s batch-and-blast era. Are your cart and browse abandonment emails providing relevant content to the individual shopper? You’ll want to differentiate messaging by analyzing price points or even specific SKUs.

Customer Service Value-Adds

How do your value-adds, such as free shipping and returns, compare to your competitors? Are they better, worse, or the same? Do you offer live chat, 24/7 customer service, resource videos or other tools to assist and guide customers? Have you called your own customer service to ask questions to see how helpful and knowledgeable they are? Looking for differentiators is key in determining whether you can meet your customers’ needs and provide them with the level of service they expect.

Brick-and-Mortar

For omnichannel retailers, the in-store experience presents a unique opportunity to connect with consumers. First, determine what would make a shopper want to visit your store. Make sure your staff is well-trained to assist and guide shoppers. If possible, use technology to enhance their experience, whether it be with virtual dressing rooms or associates equipped with mobile devices. If a product is out of stock, can the associate arrange delivery to the customer’s house? Find ways to bring the ease and convenience of online shopping to the in-store experience.

Social Media

Social media is integrated in most consumers’ lives, and is a great online bridge for retailers to connect with their audience. Do you actively, and proactively, engage and communicate with your customers, or are you strictly reactionary? What value do your social platforms provide for followers? Are you encouraging them to share with you, and if so, are you using that data to better customize your emails and web experiences, such as with user generated content? If you are not actively engaging your audience, you are missing a huge opportunity to foster loyalty.

What Happens Post-Purchase

Once you’ve secured a sale, what’s next? What happens post-purchase can have a significant impact on customer loyalty. How do consumers move through the purchase process, and how does that stack up against the competition? Go ahead and make purchases at your own site and that of your competition, and compare the user experience. Do it! Did the item arrive in a timely manner? Was it packaged nicely? Was there a friendly note inside? Were clear return instructions provided? How does this compare to your competitor?

How does your post-purchase email experience look? Do you send customized messages or simply more promotional emails? Is your messaging enhancing their shopping experience? If you are not providing value after the purchase, what reason would a customer have for making you their first choice the next time they are ready to purchase?

Ultimately, you want your customer to feel good about buying from you. Providing a relevant, frictionless and engaging consumer experience is critical to achieving that.

This post was originally published by Multichannel Merchant.