E-commerce has grown significantly since the start of the decade (for obvious reasons that don’t bear mentioning), and it was massive well before that. Throw in the easy-setup nature of modern store platforms — complete with generous trials and low rates that even dabblers can afford — and the tempting tactic of drop shipping, and you have a professional pursuit bound to turn heads across industries and throughout the world. Everyone wants a piece of the pie.
But entering eCommerce is totally different from succeeding in eCommerce, and most sellers just don’t know what they’re doing. They focus on the wrong things and either don’t know the basics of retail or decide that they don’t need to care about them. This is why so many small online stores are really bad (and inevitably end up failing).
If you want to build a store that can compete in this hyper-saturated global market, you need to make your store better. You need an online store that produces happy customers: better yet, one that produces successful customers who’ve achieved the goals that led them to your store, pushing them to return time and time again. And in this post, we’re going to look at how you can build such a store. Let’s get started.
Selling a great product is just the start of an impactful customer experience. If you cease all participation there, you can’t realistically expect the kind of satisfaction we’re looking for. At a minimum, this will lead the buyer to look past your brand and concentrate on the product itself — and if the product isn’t your design (most stores source their products from suppliers) then your involvement may essentially be forgotten. You were simply a facilitator.
Worse, though, is what can happen if you don’t field customer queries. Selling electronics, for instance, can be fairly profitable, but goods in the area of consumer electronics often require configuration — and that means following instructions, something that many people just aren’t good at doing. If a buyer can’t get their new laptop working, and they can’t get the help they need from you, they’ll think less of the product and you.
Now, a customer-centric store needs to have optimized systems across the board. This is why sellers invest in hosted platforms like Shopify and Squarespace: they handle many of the basic tasks in graceful ways, allowing merchants to offer fast and responsive sites, but you need to go beyond that point. Let’s say you’re running a subscription-based business — it’s unlikely your customers will stick around if they’re forced to contact your support team in order to alter their subscriptions or payment details. In cases like this, a subscription management platform can empower your customers and allow them to execute account-level changes with minimal effort.
Online stores need to keep adapting as times change. Products rise out of nowhere, skyrocket in popularity, then fall out of favor and fade away. At the same time, designs and systems are subjected to ever-improving standards. If you get stuck in the assumption that you have what people want and don’t need to change, you’ll slowly drop in popularity.
Instead of that, then, you need to pay close attention to customer feedback (Survicate has some great tips) and iterate in as many ways as you can. No store is ever perfect, so there’s always something to work on. Use your target consumer as the core of your strategy. With every step you take, ask the same question: how will this come across to the people I’m trying to impress?
Suppose for a second that you’re selling some of the consumer electronics goods we already touched upon, and you’re offering high-end TVs for media fanatics. That’s a lucrative market, certainly, but what counts as success for your average buyer? Getting a great TV? That’s part of it, but not the whole thing. In all likelihood, they’ll want to assemble a top-notch media system in general — which means that you can make them happier by offering relevant products and tailored recommendations (Nosto has some examples) that can save them time.
For instance, you could pair a top-of-the-line TV or monitor with a set of carefully-selected products that would be perfect for high-end buyers. You’d make more money, of course, but your customers would be happier because they’d have made easy progress toward their core goals pertaining to optimizing their media systems.
It might sound counterintuitive, but a key part of building an online store with customer success at its heart is working on things outside the store: namely the things that make up your online presence in general. This is because good retail brands don’t just offer products today: they also offer advice pertaining to relevant topics, and they do this by putting out content that their current or prospective customers will want to consume.
This is why blogging is so much for big brands. They can carry on promoting their products as they always have, but they can also get many more opportunities to impress their target audiences by helping them solve their problems. A key part of earning a loyal customer is establishing your store as a problem-solver. When there’s something they need, they’ll come to you because they know you’ll be able to deliver — so if you can solve broader problems through your expertise, that’ll only add to that perception.
Furthermore, if you can engage with your customers via social media, weighing in on related topics, you can truly solidify the perception that you care about what happens to them. And given that today’s consumers want to support brands that actually deserve their custom, this can have a substantial impact on your sales.