2020 has set milestones in ways that we expected: the biggest year yet for eCommerce sales and activity, according to marketing software company Klaviyo. It also set milestones we didn’t expect, like demand spikes that were so high during the initial phase of the pandemic that even Amazon was overwhelmed. Call me Captain Obvious, but the customer is always right, and the events of this year have only proven that to be just as true as ever. If you’re going to make one New Year’s resolution for your business, make your customers happier. From the sales process to support, what are you doing to make that happen? Here are eight ideas to get you thinking.
1. Improve Your Funnel Flow
In an ideal world, every lead moves steadily through the sales funnel, from awareness to purchasing. Unfortunately, we all know that potential customers leak out of the funnel at every stage. So how can you improve that in 2021 to make your customers (and your marketing staff) happier?
The answer is optimizing each step to make the funnel flow more smoothly, instead of focusing only on the acquisition stage. When you put the majority of your effort toward acquiring new leads and then lose focus along the way, you’re not only doing a disservice to yourself but also to potential customers. By optimizing each stage of the funnel — awareness, interest, decision, and action — you can help customers self-select faster, weed out noncommittal customers, and convert leads that just need a little extra direction. And consider this: You might lose a lead that isn’t ready for your service now, but there’s a good chance they will remember you in the future and come back. An engaging marketing funnel that offers plenty of useful resources, such as blog posts and case studies, will lead to positive outcomes in the future — if not today.
2. From Funnel to Flywheel
A novel method that I just read about turns the idea of the funnel on its side. The fault of the sales/marketing funnel creates a vision with the sale as the end goal — which isn’t exactly bad, but it doesn’t necessarily prioritize customer happiness. The flywheel method instead centers the concept of customer delight at the hub of your work, and every spoke is connected to that hub.
In practice, the separate parts of the flywheel aren’t so different from the funnel. It’s just that the end goal is to make customers feel satisfied rather than just make a sale. How do you make your customers feel like they aren’t getting sold to, even when they are?
The answer is delight, which is the final phase of the flywheel before it starts again. Design a product that delights. Offer service — including the not-so-fun parts of service like returns or chat support — that is reassuring, straightforward, and comforting. Give people a reason to love your product or service so much that they refer their friends and colleagues.
3. Social Shopping
Social commerce breaks growth records every year, and 2021 will be no different. Statistics on social shopping indicate it has become much more common, and social media platforms are scrambling to make the process as easy as possible for businesses and consumers.
Interacting with your customers on social media is not a groundbreaking concept, but we’re going to see a big shift toward a truly omnichannel shopping experience for the customer no matter where they are — your website or social media. The idea is no longer to generate leads on social media and direct them to your eCommerce website, but to generate leads and convert the sale on whatever platform they happen to be using. Saving customers that extra click and expediting the purchase process for them (especially since many social media platforms now allow users to store payment information for one-click buying) makes life that much easier for potential customers.
A personalized experience is the best way to show your customers that you’re listening to what they want and you’re providing a solution just for them. Showing that you understand their needs and being clear about what you can offer them is a great motivator for conversion, and listening to them throughout (and after) the buying process is a great way to create loyal customers.
One way to maintain a personal connection is to check in with them throughout the buying process. This can range from sending a follow-up email about an abandoned cart to shipping updates to a request for feedback about the item once it’s received. It’s great to add a personal touch to this buying experience — just make sure you know the line between personal and too personal.
5. Improve Your Mobile Commerce Game
It’s almost 2021 and smartphones have been around for long enough that you would think mobile sites and apps would be the paragon of ease of use. Ha! There’s still so much work to do. Making sure that customers can buy from you while on their phone doesn’t end at setting up shops on your social media platforms — it also includes making your site mobile-friendly. As soon as next year, mobile commerce is predicted to make up a whopping 73% of eCommerce sales. So that raises the question: Why is it so hard to shop on your website using mobile?
The fact of the matter is that customers abandon sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. Having a bad mobile site can include an unappealing layout, slow loading times, and nested menus that are hard to navigate on a mobile screen. So do your customers a favor and if you have any of these problems, make it your mission to correct them and give your customers a great mobile experience.
6. Communicate Sustainability
Sustainability has become a major motivator for consumers — a global pandemic and climate change will do that. Consumers are increasingly wanting to put their money where their values are, and a major value of many consumers is sustainability. A study this year showed that two-thirds of consumers in North America care about a brand’s sustainability practices.
To rise to the occasion, consider how your brand is aligned with sustainability practices. Do you use recycled and recyclable packaging? Do you use ethically sourced materials? Communicating to your customer that you not only care about how your business affects the environment, but that you are taking active steps to minimize your impact is the first step to making the green consumer happy in 2021.
7. Improve Checkout
An incredible 70% of shoppers abandon their cart before purchasing. This means that every single one of those customers found you, went to your shop, found at least one thing they liked, added it to their cart, looked at their cart, and changed their mind. Why?
There are many reasons why eCommerce companies lose customers in the checkout process, but some of the most common ones are extra costs like sales tax or shipping, forced account creation (ugh!!), and missing payment options. When a customer gets to that point but perceives some sort of friction, they nope out, which is why the abandoned cart rates are so high. In 2021, make it your mission to audit your checkout process to make sure it isn’t making any of your customers leave prematurely.
8. Artificial Intelligence, Real Results
Artificial intelligence (and augmented reality) are set to transform the online shopping experience in the next few years. This has been in the sights of many eCommerce sellers for years, and technology has improved enough at this point that online sellers are seeing real results when using AI. From trying on glasses virtually to seeing how a chair will look in your living room, eCommerce sellers are experimenting with using AI/AR to draw in customers and close the experience gap between seeing the product in person and seeing it online. AR is proving to be a valuable experience for customers who are shopping online and can’t interact with the product physically, and we’re likely to see an increase in eCommerce sellers taking advantage of that.
Giving customers the chance to play around with VR goggles for a risk-free trial of your product seems like a great way to delight them if they choose to buy. It certainly beats having to go outside and risk getting covid at the local shopping mall (although I think most of us miss those quotidian experiences enough to take chances).
Customers are simple (sort of). They want the shopping experience to be clear, easy, and painless. They want to be delighted. Every new year presents a new opportunity to improve our eCommerce strategies so that we can make that happen for them. Whether you decide this is going to be the year that you think outside the sales funnel or finally give your website a much-needed mobile UX audit, do something that will lead to happier customers. The rest will follow.