Of all the bad practices that e-commerce shop operators and online retail entrepreneurs could indulge in this year, becoming complacent sits at the top of the list.
It is far too easy to develop a false sense of optimism by focusing exclusively on statistics about the staggering rise of e-commerce around the world. From time to time, it helps to consider reports that touch on sensitive consumer matters such as trust and brand loyalty.
According to a November 2017 market report published by Forrester Research, the ongoing trend of customers seeking closer interactions with brands shows no signs of stopping, but this does not always translate into positive experiences. Retail customers are paying attention to multiple aspects of their experiences with brands.
The Forrester report indicates that a significant number of e-commerce shoppers are becoming sensitive to certain aspects of their experiences; for example, when they learn that a brand is not treating its employees well, they are likely to place a temporary boycott on their interactions until they find out that things improve.
In 2019, developing positive customer experiences should be the most important business process in the minds of e-commerce shop owners. Building a strong e-commerce community is a solid step forward in this direction; it is not always an easy as most business owners would like it to be, but it is well worth the effort.
Here are some recommendations e-commerce entrepreneurs should follow when building a community around their business:
Understanding the True Meaning of Community
Few products and services are able to sell on their own merits; this is why marketing strategies are developed, but it is always easier to get shoppers interested if they can glimpse a bit of themselves in a brand.
A community needs to have common traits and interests, and this means that e-commerce shop operators must learn about these traits and interests. As long as business owners have goals that align with the characteristics of the community they hope to build, they will not have too much to worry about.
An online shop that focuses on sustainable products, for example, will likely find an attentive and appreciative audience in 2019.
Choosing Social Media as a Customer Service Platform
The massive success of online retail giant Zappos is often highlighted as a case study in the proper use of social networks. Zappos was one of the first e-commerce enterprises to make Facebook its customer service platform, a risky move that paid off for this footwear and apparel store.
Online retailers that offer customer service through social media must be prepared to experience full transparency, which means that interactions with unhappy shoppers will have the potential of being seen by millions; nonetheless, when open and honest communications are practiced with positive intentions in mind, other social media followers will certainly notice.
Encouraging User-Generated Content
Just like Zappos is the king of e-commerce customer service, Airbnb is the king of user-generated promotional content. In 2016, more than 75 percent of Instagram posts related to Airbnb rental properties and interesting destinations were contributed by users, and the results are amazing.
Airbnb landlords and renters practically compete to take the most attractive photos, particularly if they do not feature Instagram filter effects. Posting Instagram Stories from trendy Airbnb rentals is an online practice that more users are enjoying, but the most important factor is that Airbnb staff actually look for content that may not have been tagged and ask users for permission to feature posts on their channels.
In the past, Airbnb has organized photo contests with nice prizes, but the company no longer needs to do this because users are so engaged that they are just happy to share their experiences.
Drafting and Executing an Editorial Content Calendar
Shopping trends largely run on a seasonal basis. Even though customers do not necessarily need to be reminded of this, it helps to augment the experience with appropriate content.
Let’s say an e-commerce fashion boutique wants to keep shoppers engaged after the holiday season. One idea would be to create content that highlights short-lived fashion trends from the previous year and suggests why they did not last very long or whether they will return in the New Year.
When Building Your Site, Balance Form and Function
Unless an e-commerce shop owner decides to stick exclusively with a Facebook storefront, the choices made in relation to website design and development will be crucial to building a community.
Pose your product or service in an environment conducive to putting potential customers in a buying frame of mind. Whether you hand code a site from scratch, create your site with website builders like Wix or Squarespace, or implement an out-of-the-box e-commerce shopping platform, don’t forget these things:
- How it looks (not like a kindergarten art project we hope)
- Ease of navigation (confused visitors are not likely to become customers)
- An air of confidence (sleazy and scammy are not good)
In order to achieve the preceding, take your time in deploying your site. Spending less than 30 minutes making major decisions based on their own perceptions of aesthetics will likely not end well.
Your goal should be a hassle-free browsing and payment experience but with enough visual appeal to put shoppers in the right mood.
Inviting Shoppers to Special Events
Just because e-commerce shops do not operate in the brick-and-mortar world does not mean that they cannot organize events where customers can be invited.
Live podcasts and Instagram stories are just two ideas of events that e-commerce shops can hold for their customers, but if there is any way to make connections in the real, offline world, they should be pursued.
American skate shops tend to be good at connecting with shoppers in real life situations. What are they doing right?
Turns out, quite a lot. They keep an eye on skate demos, concerts and competitions where they can establish a presence through the organizers or simply by letting customers know that employees will attend.
Pick one, more, or all of the preceding suggestions to supercharge your e-commerce community in 2019. The bottom line is this. Thanks to the internet and all that has evolved from it, there has never been a better time in history to step up and compete toe-to-toe for market share with large corporations.
What you do is not as important as doing something. You’ll find out soon enough whether or not it works in your situation. If it does, good on you. If not, try something different.
According to some, all you need are 1,000 true fans to be a success online, and building a thriving e-commerce can move you incrementally towards that mark, one fan at a time.