Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Daniel Matthews who is a writer with a passion for tech and business.
The customer’s experience determines how they define your business—how they view what you do. This experience, in a word, is ongoing. It starts when they first hear about you, or when they first experience you.
To illustrate: you go over to a friend’s house for dinner. Your friend has been slow- cooking pulled pork in a Crock Pot. It’s good. You’re intrigued. But first you want to research whether most people prefer Crock Pot over other brands. Your internet research backs your friend up. Being the tech type, you buy a Crock Pot online. Or, you prefer human interaction so you buy in-store. Either way, your payment experience is quick and easy. You’re satisfied.
That is the arc of a quality experience, good from the first touchpoint through to the transaction.
According to Base Creative branding strategist Woody Yip, the unique experience arc is one of the trends to watch. People are “experience hungry”, and, “Shopping is no longer restricted to either physical stores or online but is moving towards a fluid exchange that can play out in creative ways.”
Mr. Yip cites a Mckinsey study that says more than 90 percent of people will conduct online research. According to the US Census Bureau, E-Commerce retail sales went up 14.6 percent from 2014 to 2015, totaling $341.7 billion in sales.
To optimize your customer’s e-commerce experience, you should look into optimizing each touchpoint of the experience. Here’s how:
Market with style and personal appeal
Experiential branding is one exciting way to stylize your marketing and impress the consumer. Just like it sounds, it’s about creating an experience through which people interact with your brand. According to Damian Bazadona, an expert an experiential branding, brands that do this well do the following:
- Spend time with the customer in the experience—pay careful attention to their reactions, in real-time
- Value the process, not just the result—take special care at each touch point
- Value emotional appeal—when you help people genuinely feel something, they remember you
Combining audio and images, video advertising is one powerful way to create an experience. Volkswagen got 155 million views of three of its videos, and in 2014 Facebook saw a 50% increase in video views. People can watch videos via mobile, and you can even make interactive videos that give people a choice on what to see next.
Experiential marketing is not the only way to distinguish your brand. Try combining SEO and content marketing. This is about being helpful in the consumer’s research process by providing the following:
- Long-form content that provides information
- Evergreen content that sticks around because its value to readers helps to attract backlinks
- Content optimized for long-tail keywords, because people now type in search queries the way they talk
- A headline that tells people exactly what you’re up to in less than 60 characters
Combining search engine optimization and content marketing just makes sense. All in all, people will develop a positive association with your brand if they can find you easily in a search and you are providing them with reliable information.
Improve your website’s User Experience (UX)
Here again, it’s about the customer’s experience. M-commerce is really taking off. A quality UX on your site accounts for that by making sure it looks great on a device of any size.
Great UX is about more than just mobile, though. It’s about more than commerce. It’s about information. Here are the user experience basics:
- Useful—content must be actionable, delivering real insights based on credible research
- Usable—touches such as a comprehensive menu, a site search option, and highly visible links to relevant pages contribute to easy usability
- Desirable—aesthetic appeal, including a lack of clutter and high resolution, attractive images, helps make your site and brand desirable
- Findable—this is where SEO and on-site navigation tools come into play
- Accessible—anyone should be able understand your site and its content, including those with disabilities and age-related impairments (such as low-level reading skills and bad eyesight)
- Credible—information you provide should be backed up by research, with as little bias as possible
In this light, optimizing UX is not only effective for branding, it’s ethical. You’re empathizing, putting yourself in the user’s shoes and asking how you can make their time on your site worth their while.
Avoid high-pressure sales
Simply put, people don’t want to be pressured. And the internet has created an environment where people don’t have to pay attention to salespeople. According to Northeastern University’s infographic on Trends That Are Changing the Way Brands Market to Consumers, 90 percent of people are influenced by online reviews. Most would rather do research and listen to their peers than a salesperson who is obviously biased and pressuring them.
If your business employs salespeople, it’s imperative to train them with this in mind. Sales is becoming more like marketing, but with an individual representing the brand in person. Salespeople who are personable and equipped with accurate information, including info about what the reviews say, will thrive in this evolving market.
Prioritize A convenient payment Experience
Once you’ve made marketing and sales experiences amazing, you can congratulate yourself. Your funnel has done its job and the customer has made a clear-headed decision to buy what you’re selling. Now it’s time to take care of the payment experience.
Here’s how to optimize the online checkout experience:
- Provide a guide to the payment process
- Eliminate visual distractions and make the process as quick as possible
- Provide highly visible and understandable call to action buttons
- Make it easy to navigate
- Waive mandatory registration for payment
- Be up-front about costs
- Make the customer feel secure—provide information to that effect
The less hassle the buyer has to deal with and the clearer you are about the process, the better the experience.
The complete experience
Ultimately, this isn’t just about the end-game of making more money. It’s about being there for the customer throughout the experience arc. A consistent and positive experience will bring them back. It will also make them more likely to do that most valuable form of marketing for you: word-of-mouth.
Author bio: Daniel Matthews is a writer and musician from Boise, with a passion for writing on topics ranging from tech, culture, travel, business, and current affairs in the world right now. You can find on him on Twitter @danielmatthews0.