Thanks to the wealth of information available at our fingertips, we tend to do a lot more research than we used to before buying something new. Our online research includes browsing reviews, seeing what people are saying about both the product and its brand on social media, even just googling the product name to see what comes up.
Perhaps this is what we demand as a substitute for being able to actually pick up the product, try it on etc. Perhaps it’s simply because we can, thanks to the wealth of information available at our fingertips.
With this in mind, how are retailers ensuring that their digital activities are matching up with shopper expectations?
Social media is changing the entire business of customer service. For one thing, it’s the first channel created and controlled by customers. It’s used with the expectation that businesses should adopt it, rather than the other way around.
For businesses, social media represents an additional, free-to-use platform for fielding and resolving customer enquiries. And when it’s done correctly, it can translate to tangible benefits for the brand; 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a business are likely to recommend it to others.
However, this is a double-edged sword for several reasons; one – the individual/team responsible for social media is rarely the same team responsible for customer service. Two – any complaint could be viewed by hundreds, possibly thousands, raising the stakes of resolving the problem higher than ever before. Three – the instantaneous nature of social media means that people expect a much faster response time – potentially within an hour of posting online.
To make the most of this phenomenon and avoid the pitfalls of it, ensure your customer service teams and product managers are regularly reviewing your social media channels, even if they aren’t actively contributing to its management. Your customer service guidelines need to extend to social media interactions, and similarly, the team could learn from reviewing the nature of the enquiries coming through this channel. As for your product managers, social media represents an invaluable market research tool; free insights into how your audience is experiencing your products.
Coca Cola’s head of e-commerce, John Carroll, neatly summed up a growing problem in an interview last year: “We’ve spent a lot of time and effort over the years developing great-looking packaging to really grab people’s attention at retail. The question becomes how do you take this thinking and move it to online?”
We know that people turn to search engines, social media, and online reviews while shopping. We might say that one of the reasons for this is that they’re not finding the information they want on your product pages. Including more product content on your website gives shoppers less reason to use other online sources while giving you more control over the messaging around your products.
What sort of content do we mean? Be as varied as you can within your brand guidelines – this includes video content, customer reviews, more product images, recipes, and tutorials etc. For inspiration, try using Google Search Console or Keyword Planner to get insight into common queries around your products – what are some frequently asked questions? What search terms are people using to find products like yours? As we mentioned above, monitoring conversations on social media about your products could again give you an idea of what people want to know before buying.
You’d think that this rationale would mainly apply to the really high-value items, such as buying a new TV, but even supermarkets are trying to offer a lot more information on their websites than they used to – take a look at MySupermarket, who alongside hosting customer reviews, are also trialling hosting videos and extra images for Sensodyne.
And of course, check that whatever you’re putting online about your products is mobile-friendly. Your younger shoppers are increasingly favouring their smartphones over their computers to go online, and up to 84% of your customers look up your product while in the store, again reaffirming the fact that having the physical product in front of you isn’t enough to convince you to buy it anymore.
While e-commerce accounted for 16.5% of all retail sales last year, as many as half of UK shoppers do online research as part of their shopping habits, regardless of where they ultimately buy it.
In other words, don’t think of your sales as online vs offline. Evidence shows that the path to purchase is all over the place; an online review might drive a customer into your store, just as someone walking past your shop might later go home and Google that product they saw in your window display.
We’ll help you determine the most effective digital marketing plan for your business.