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How to let your customers guide your digital journey: Q&A with our Head of Digital, Richard Tank

As digital marketers we often get bogged down in the day to day routine. Between all the A/B testing and coding, we can easily lose sight of what’s really making our customers click. Emotion.

As more customers than ever head online to do their holiday shopping this year, finding new and exciting ways of making an emotional connection with your customers is going to be key to recreating the Christmas feeling on your website that they’re so used to in-store.

We sat down with our Head of Digital Marketing, Richard Tank, to find out how understanding your audience and letting them guide your digital experience could hold the key.

 

This year, the Christmas rush is going to take place online for the majority of retailers, how can businesses make sure they’re ready?

There’s the obvious, which is making sure that your site is capable of handling the increase in the traffic that’s inevitably going to come your way. That you’ve tested and optimised everything to work on mobile, as well as desktop, which is especially important given 25% more shoppers are using smartphones to do their shopping. Finally, having an organic and paid search strategy in place to try and drive traffic to key product pages.  

This year, though, more than any other, it’s going to be about knowing and understanding your audience, then finding new and engaging ways of giving them a website experience that captures their imagination and really resonates with shoppers.

That’s no mean feat, though. You’re going to need to find out who your audience is and where they are engaging with your brand, is it through search or social channels, for instance? You then have to understand what’s making them click, and why they’re choosing your brand over the thousands of alternatives. With marketing resources tighter than ever right now, you’re going to need to be smart by finding ways of getting into the minds of your customers and giving them the opportunity to create that emotional content for you.

Customer feedback could be the answer, with CX surveys giving you quick and detailed insight into what your customers are thinking and feeling right now. There are also tools like Supermetrics that can help you scrape across the web to find who your best customers are and who’s interacting with your content. Once you have a clearer picture of who your audience is, where they are and what they care about, you can build personas and messaging that will hit the mark.

 

It’s going to be pretty tough to stand out from the crowd, with thousands of retailers competing for the same space. What do you think brands can do to give them the edge?

As I’ve said, it’s going to be all about understanding your target audience inside out, knowing why they come to you in the first place and finding ways to give them exactly what they’re after.

Consumers expect a certain degree of personalisation from brands now, and at least some attempt to tailor the content they’re being shown to their tastes. The more customer-focused business intelligence you’re able collect, the more you can use it to start to tailor your messaging, your ads and your promotions to your audience.

Micro-targeting has come under scrutiny in the past, but the principles of segmentation and personalisation are sound. The more you know about who your audience is, what they like and where they shop, the more money and time you can save by making sure your content is focused on who, and what, really matters.

How do you compete with the likes of Amazon when they have most eCommerce sites beat hands down on price, on delivery, in search, etc.? You need to understand what makes your brand special in the eyes of your customers, then work this into everything you do – from your marketing to your customer experience.

 

Traditionally it’s been the big brands telling shoppers what they want for Christmas. How do you think this dynamic has changed?

It’s almost flipped on its head. We’re seeing a lot of consumer-led trends and sub-cultures springing up on social media, where shoppers are literally telling brands what they like and what they expect. It’s up to you to try and listen in, capture that sentiment and build a social and digital strategy that speaks to more emotionally-charged consumers. This year it’s going to be about how you translate these emotional experience into your online journey.

A lot of brands are now finding that it’s possible to take on the Amazons of this world by playing on this emotional connection consumers are craving, to create a sense of community around their brand and their products. These tight-knit online communities of loyal customers give you a powerful way of organically growing your customer base and building an audience that have bought into your brand and want to spread the word. If you look at brands like Patagonia, for example, they’re built on a foundation of ethically-aware consumers, at the expense of high profit and growth, that bought into that brand experience and garnered tremendous brand loyalty as a result.

The more channels you open up to allow your customers to tell their story, whether that’s through reviews or a hashtag on social, the more connected they’ll start to feel with one another.

 

So, with consumers now in the driving seat, how do you suggest retailers start harnessing what their customers are telling them and building this into their online experience?

Give them a voice and a platform to tell their stories! 90% of consumers say that authenticity plays a huge part when deciding brands they like and support; and with so much choice this year online, giving your customers a spotlight to show off what they love about your brand could make all the difference.

Including user generated content, such as photo and video reviews, can even increase conversions by as much as 10% when you include it as part of your online customer journey. We’ve seen this at Feefo, with everything from retail to automotive companies leveraging their customer content across their site to give it a more human-feel and increase engagement.

Your customers will also be telling you what they love about your brand, whether that’s specific products, your reliable delivery or your customer service. Whatever it is, make it the hero of your holiday campaigns. Create offer banners for your most popular products, call out your express delivery in your search ads, include service reviews on your homepage so they’re front and centre when your customers first land on your site. Do everything you can to start building that confidence and trust in your brand from the moment shoppers come into contact with it – after all you don’t have long, the average bounce rate for retail sites is between 20-40%!

 

Once the holiday rush has died down, what can retailers do to make sure they keep on top of their online experience beyond the busy period?

Analyse, analyse, analyse! I can’t stress this enough. Take a look across the customer journey, from your very first ‘awareness’ activity right through to your customer retention comms - what was it that attracted them to you in the first place and why are they sticking around? Where did they click? How long did they stay on key pages? All of that data is going to fuel you for what lies ahead as online shopping becomes the norm for many, regardless of how the pandemic plays out.

It’s not just about the numbers though. Remember, your customer experience should be as much about how it made them feel, as it is about the practical journey of getting from A to B. Running simple customer experience surveys at key points in the customer journey can give you the insight you need to improve and adapt for next time. Basket abandonment and returns are also an increasing issue for ecommerce companies, but asking why people are leaving or returning items, and acting on this feedback can help you reduce these in the future.

With the likely increase in online orders this year, now is also the perfect time to start building up a library of rich UGC that you can leverage going forward. Asking for reviews, especially photo and video content, from all of your customers will give you plenty to use. Lean into the communities and social spaces where your brand might be thriving, engage with shoppers and start building an army of brand advocates that can start doing your selling for you.

 

This year, the customer experience you offer online could make the difference between securing the sale and a shopper heading elsewhere. We’ve heard how understanding your customers could hold the key, now it’s time to learn what’s making them click. Our latest guide will lead you through your customer journey and give you some valuable tips on how to get your online experience up to scratch in time for Christmas, as well as get the insights you need to improve for next time.

Download our “Learn What Makes Your Customers Click This Christmas” guide, now!

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