Whilst the act of physically shopping is still often regarded as a pastime reserved for “ladies who lunch” as they are perceived to have more disposable time than the 9-5 grafters amongst us and can ponder on all the shop assistants’ attempts to butter up and up-sell at their leisure,  we must consider the plight of the internet vendors who do not have this face-to-face privilege but are still expected to offer services as good as one would expect from Harrods or “Harvey Nics” but with time critical parameters.

Internet searchers do so for one of three main reasons, to accomplish something, learn something or go directly to a favourite site; and whilst it is not seen as intrusive for an immaculately preened clerk to offer you a squirt of Chanel’s latest offering, it is usually deemed a violation of personal time if you arrive on a website and are immediately asked to “look at this”, “click here” or “complete this” …

It’s a mindset you see, the day out to the department store is an experience full of sights, sounds and smells, and one that online retailers are expected to replicate in the fraction of time online shoppers spend looking for something.

And psychologically this is because of the environment the online shopper is in – usually their home or at work on their lunch break, but almost always on their own time which wasn’t necessarily put aside for “a lengthy in-house department store experience”.  Online shopping kills two birds with one stone and allows people to capitalise on the speed and choice the internet offers, and the subsequent effect it will have on the duration of their free time.

I digress, but nevertheless, whether you are a physical or a virtual retailer, your aims are the same but apparently the virtual amongst us have to be a little more savvy if we want to grab, keep, and nurture the attention of the time savvy online shopper.

Employing tricks of the high street is great and many sites offer the norm:

  • Free trials
  • Free samples with your delivery
  • Money off vouchers  and discount codes to be used online
  • Introductory offers
  • Free returns
  • Free delivery
  • Free gift wrapping

But how can you get the customer service upper hand with a website and create a personal experience for your shopper?

Let’s start with a simple one and something that I almost expect nowadays – a mobile device friendly website.  This is not as literal as it sounds but pretty close, a “mobile” device is  pretty much any hand-held device that can be used to access the internet – not just a mobile phone.  Your website should be compatible with this form of browsing and not freeze, have bits missing, or be so long winded it takes fourteen scroll down motions to reach the next step access point.

Is your website viewable in any browser? This is perhaps something that you have not considered, or even fully understand, but the implications a “semi-browser” compatible website can have for a visitor are missing images, error messages, illegible text and more than odd bought of freezing.  Basically, a really bad user experience that will not willingly be repeated.

So, when a user is on your site you need to offer them a good experience and a method that is becoming more and more popular is the power of suggestion.  The benefit is two-fold, by suggesting similar or complementary items you are helping the buyer build a bigger picture of what could be thus creating desire, you are also guiding them to these items making sure a) stay on your site, and, b) see them without having to conduct a potentially lengthy search.

Everyone likes to think that they are “in the know” and a great way of doing this is to pre-empt as many order queries  as possible and pro-actively contact your customers at various stages throughout the order process.  Not only are you keeping in constant contact with them but you creating a sense of reliability and trust by providing information that they would usually have to hunt or phone for. The most common, and useful, ones are:

  • Abandon basket emails
  • Order despatch emails
  • Order tracking details
  • Delivered status

And finally, here is another simple but effective way to keep spreading the love by making your customers feel special. Exclusives and updates.  Offer sneak product previews or priority sale shopping and then ask them to complete an action to be kept up to date with the exclusives.  This could be something like introducing a friend who would receive similar treatment should they purchase.

So with that said and done, next week I will look at existing customers Vs new customers, the pros and pros (obviously there are no cons to customers!)



How to personalise an online customer experience

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