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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Customer Engagement In Online Retail Requires Relationship Marketing

I am not much of a “mall shopper.” In fact, I no longer seem to know how to navigate through my local mall to find exactly what I am looking for. However, I do enjoy shopping. Thanks to the Internet I can shop from the comfort of my couch, navigating from store to store with only a click.

Online and mobile shopping has changed how consumers interact with traditional retailers. This requires a shift in company culture in order to remain customer-centric and to foster a more unified customer experience. Sales associates are now working with many customers who have already researched and fully vetted their products of interest. Associates have to read the store’s clientele to determine if a customer is in need of support and advice or if they simply need to deliver the product.

A retailer’s online presence needs to consistently facilitate the role that in-store salespeople used to primarily serve — provide product information based on customers’ needs, allow comparison shopping, and offer alternatives and complementary products based on customers’ individual preferences.

In addition to the customer experience culture shift, marketing strategies have been forced to change in order to remain competitive. Instead of marketing a product to the masses with a mass communication, companies now must target their messaging to specific customer segments, or even to individual customers. It’s not one-to-all anymore; we are moving closer to a time where one-to-one communications are a requirement. It is now about relationship marketing.

Many retail sites can ‘watch’ a customer’s online behavior and then market to him based upon that knowledge. What was on his wish list or in his shopping cart? How can past buying habits predict future behavior? Online shopping behaviors can reveal much about your customers that can in turn allow you to develop a more streamlined experience for them and a more fruitful transaction for you.

However, relying on data collected from online behavior alone can actually lead to poor targeting, resulting in customers opting out of communications. I will give you a personal example. I enjoy shopping with an online retail giant primarily for housewares, electronics and books for myself (and therefore, in my taste). However I also frequent this online retailer to purchase gifts of other types and tastes for friends and family. This retailer relies heavily on online behavioral data, so I receive a lot of communications that are irrelevant to me because I have made many purchases that are intended for someone else. This led me to opt out of their “recommendations” which could have been avoided.

In order to market accurately your relationship must be authentic. In addition to tracking behaviors, a preference center that allows consumers to create that real one-to-one experience is critical to elevate your brand above the rest. Asking your customers what they are interested in hearing about and how they want to hear about it is key. Acting upon that information from each customer consistently is a must.  

About the Author: 
Sandy Tafur is the Manager, Account Management at PossibleNOW.

1 comment:

  1. I think you've hit the spot by saying "we are moving closer to a time where one-to-one communications are a requirement. It is now about relationship marketing"

    Brands must scale up their direct engagement practices instead of simply relying on the calculated behavior of an "average user" who doesn't even exist.

    I think a great way to achieve better personal relationships is by scaling up the ability to have great conversations and actually hearing out the customers instead of bombarding them with too much data to choose from.