It has too often been said that ‘content is king’, and while that may be a cliché , content remains central to the online customer experience. Online shopping is now influenced and intermediated by content at every stage of the customer journey, and the quality and use of it can build or break the digital experience. As the traditional brick and mortar storefront loses its relevance, shoppers are moving from the high street to screens to complete a purchase. In fact, 40 percent of shoppers seek inspiration online prior to making a purchase.
With consumers flitting between several devices each, retailers are faced with the challenge of keeping their shoppers loyal to the brand, especially when the shopping journey isn’t joined up. As shoppers move from one device to the next, the customer’s footprint and opportunities for retailers to capture sales multiplies.
Keeping customers loyal is crucial to converting browsing into sales. While a vast range of items coupled with low prices was once appealing to shoppers, they now expect more from the shopping journey – especially the fickle millennial generation. Millennials tend to appreciate an experience rather than a product and the retailers that can meet their demands will end up on top.
Enrich the experience easily with quality content
Rich content that shoppers can engage and interact with at all levels of the shopping journey is crucial. A website that will leave a lasting impression on the user and make them eager to consume more is imperative to retaining customer loyalty. When shoppers browse products online they need as much detail as possible to envisage the real thing.
The ability to view how a product’s material hangs, how it looks in different colours, and how it can be styled are all assets that customers appreciate and will return time and time again for. Emulating as much of the in-store journey as possible whilst retaining the convenience of an online platform will give retailers a competitive advantage. By allowing customers to engage with the brand on all channels they are buying into the brand as well as the product.
However, it is the conversion of this brand loyalty into brand advocacy that will deliver the greatest value for retailers. Through engagement on social media channels, loyal followers have shown that they are keen to share their experiences with others. In this way, customers become the creators of content as they share their styling, top-tips and recommendations online.
Clever retailers are increasingly learning how to encourage and utilise this user-generated content (UGC) to drive traffic, engagement and sales. UGC can be woven into the fabric of the customer journey and become part of the user’s decision-making prior to a purchase. It can also be used at the end of the journey where shoppers are shown complete looks and complimentary products. For example, if a shopper has bought a dress they could then be shown the same dress being worn on an Instagram post with shoes and a bag to complete the outfit. After the purchase has been made the customer is likely to be impressionable and open to buying more.
Social proof is another tool that can be used throughout the online journey to boost sales. Before parting with their cash, customers turn to the experiences of others in order to validate their choices. Shoppers generally find garments that are styled and posted online by fellow-customers far more genuine and convincing than stock images displayed by models.
Continuing the conversation after the pay button has been hit
Retailers typically pour the most time and money into the minutes leading up to a sale, when the shopper is in consideration mode, as they see this part of the journey as the most critical in securing a purchase. Although this is an important stage, retailers should also consider the timeframe immediately after a shopper has placed an order.
While the checkout button marks the end of the customer journey in the short-term, retailers ought to see the moments following a purchase as a window of opportunity to make the customer feel valued and keep them coming back for more. As with an in-store purchase, if the service has been good and you came out with what you went in for, you are more likely to return. The same rules apply online.
Retailers should also seize the opportunity to make the most of the post-purchase “buzz” shoppers feel by subtly personalising the page and setting them up for their next shop. This can come in the form of banners, money-off vouchers and bespoke deals. Although more time-consuming than an automated email, retailers will reap the benefits when the customer returns. Post-purchase conversations, however basic, are the prime time for retailers to gather valuable information on the shopper, which can then be used to provide informed recommendations. However, retailers need to be tactful, as the last thing the shopper wants is to be bombarded with deals and a flurry of unrelated, self-serving emails.
The wealth of choice today’s shopper is exposed to makes it hard for retailers to form a devoted following that will return time after time. Customer loyalty is fleeting, so making the effort to engage with shoppers post-purchase with relevant content, will make them feel valued and welcome to return. Next visit, they will likely bring their family and friends along with them.
James Brooke, CEO, Amplience