The importance of giving customers choice - My Small Business - Brand Discover

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The importance of giving customers choice

We are living in a time of abundant choice. Customers have a huge range of options and this can impact on the way businesses attract and grow their customer base, build high value and loyal customers and affect the way people make purchasing decisions. Offering choice is in part about meeting your customers wherever they are, and part empowering customers to make the right decisions.

As Sian Chadwick, Vice President, Marketing American Express Global Merchant Services Japan and Asia Pacific, says, “Everyone has individual tastes and preferences, and these can often change depending on a whole variety of factors such as the time of day, the season or simply a person’s mood. It’s important businesses respond to individual preference by providing customers with choice.”

That said, the ‘paradox of choice’ theory from Barry Schwartz, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College, suggests that choice can sometimes be overwhelming and even lead to not making a decision at all. So it becomes ever more important to support your customers with their choices. Whether that means implementing online tools to help customers make decisions, targeting your marketing to reach the right people and streamlining or curating the choices that you offer your customers, this will help them to feel secure in their decision.

As Olivia Ruello, the CEO of Business Chicks says, “Giving customers a choice makes them feel like they’re in control and calling the shots. But too many choices can overwhelm them, so keep things simple.” More than ever, you need to anticipate their needs before they do.

OMNICHANNEL APPROACH

With technological advances and changes in consumer behaviours (not least the amount of choice on offer) an omnichannel approach is more important than ever.

As Chadwick puts it, retailers cannot ignore that in the financial year to June 2015 Australian spent an estimated $37.8 billion online – a 10 per cent increase on the previous year.

“Globally, spending on smartphones has skyrocketed – from $16 billion in 2010 to $214 billion in 2015.  As of last year, there were 14.6 million smartphone users in Australia.  On a global scale, there are only three countries with greater smartphone penetration than Australia.  Retailers can’t ignore these statistics.  Not only do they need to ensure they have an online sales offering, but they need to ensure that their websites are mobile-optimised so that the mobile shopping experience is as seamless as possible for their customers and that they’re capturing share of this growing market,” says Chadwick.

This also means offering your customers consistent, helpful and personalised offering across all channels – online and offline – and meeting your customers wherever they are. Business that are successfully integrating online and offline shopping experiences include US department stores such as Macy’s and Tesco in the UK that are combining in-store and digital capabilities, with stores becoming pickup and return sites and distribution centres.

The Nielsen 2016 Australian Connected Consumers Report found that consumers have a wide-ranging preference for how they connect with businesses and brands. The report found that while 82 per cent of consumers ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ research a product online, they will ultimately buy it instore. As Neeraj Sharma writes in Inside Retail, “Omnichannel is all about seamlessly facilitating the interactions between consumers and retailers across all consumer moments of truth.” Offering consumers choice in the way they interact with your business – and offering a seamless experience on all channels – will build trust and loyalty.

As Nielsen puts it, “With consumers easily shifting between online and offline retail channels and demanding an abundance of information at hand, retailers and manufacturers must understand individuals’ behaviours and provide easily accessible product information and compelling offers in both environments.”

Shane Olsen

Owner- Cottage Point Inn

Cottage Point Inn

Cottage Point Inn enjoys a close relationship with American Express. Our target customer profile fits very well with that of American Express card holders. We provide a fine dining experience to discerning clients and we work very hard to not only meet but exceed their expectations. Repeat customers are very important to us. Key to ensuring this repeat trade is that every facet of a customer's visit is aimed at creating not just a meal but a memory that will live with them for a long time. After all of this hard work the last thing you would want to do is leave a bitter taste when presenting the bill. We will never charge a surcharge on American Express as we would never want a customer to take that away as the final memory of their visit.

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PAYMENT OPTIONS

The way we pay for things has changed. Whether it’s Apple Pay, Bitcoin or, increasingly, ‘tap and go,’ customers expect – and deserve – to have choice in the way they pay. Research from Nielsen found that two-thirds of Australians now use a form of contactless payment (PayWave or PayPass) with a credit or debit card – an increase of six percentage points from 2014.

As Chadwick says,“Today, thanks to incredible advancements in payment technology, customers have a choice of paying for goods with their mobile wallet or even a wearable device such as an Apple Watch, and at American Express we’re seeing strong early adoption of these payment technologies especially in Australia.

“These payment innovations have not only provided convenience for both consumers and retailers, but they’ve created enormous opportunities for businesses to engage with their customers and build loyalty.”

Making it easier for your customers to pay, and allowing them to use their choice of means, is a value-adding exercise for both your business AND your customers.

 

SPEAKING TO CUSTOMERS ON MULTIPLE PLATFORMS

Communicating to your customers is crucial, but the format this interaction happens can be incredibly varied – this is a good thing. Most importantly, follow your customers and engage with them wherever they may be – from replying to their questions and comments on your business Facebook page, Twitter profile or Instagram page, to responding promptly to emails, sending out newsletters and answering the phone.

As Jayson DeMers wrote of the positives that social media can play on your business in Forbes, “Customer service is evolving to match the rapid growth and development of new communication media, and today’s most popular social media platforms are the perfect opportunity to capitalize on that trend.”

Ultimately though, ensuring your customers feel as though they have made the right choice is on you, and the experience you offer your customers.

As Chadwick puts it, “Word of mouth and research are two of the most common ways consumers make decisions – especially when it comes to important or big ticket purchases.  With so much information now at consumers’ fingertips, it’s important that when they are researching your business that you perform well.  Consider things like search engine optimisation so that your website rankings are strong.  Also that you have a social media presence so that your customers can ask you questions and learn more about your products and the experiences of your customers.”