Making the sale often represents the completion of a deal for most small businesses and it is in the bricks and mortar world where the client leaves with the goods. Things are a little different in the world of online retail because the sale is often just the beginning of a relationship with a much longer tail.
The right package
Apple has shown that beautiful packaging is almost as important as what’s inside. It’s a key aspect of the customer experience and, done well, will positively influence how customers remember you and your brand awareness on an ongoing basis.
And given your online store probably isn’t capable of shaking a customer’s hand or giving a warm smile, the package presents opportunities to add that little personal touch. This could be in the form of a handwritten message, a sample gift or even a special offer appealing directly to the tastes of each individual customer.
Of course the product needs to arrive in perfect condition too. So if you’re selling delicate objects, that’s something to keep in mind. Also, consider the size of the object relative to the box. Leading online retail researcher, Stella Service reports much greater customer satisfaction when products are packaged snugly in their boxes.
Getting a product to the consumer in a timely manner is vitally important and many businesses do tend to rely on the established players. While speed, cost and reliability are key considerations for online merchants, it’s worth investigating further options you can add to streamline the delivery process
For example you could offer a range of flexible tracking and notification services to keep your customers ‘in the loop’ throughout the delivery journey turning the wait time into an extension of the purchase experience through fun and personal messages.
Knowing where in the chain a delivery is, and especially when it lands, can be an important tool for improving customer service too. Customers can be sent notifications congratulating them on their purchase and inviting them to check in should they have any questions.
And while some customers love the idea of having their purchase delivered directly to their door, others might appreciate the option of having that larger, more fragile and/or simply more expensive, item delivered somewhere lockable or simply where they know an actual person is there to receive and sign for it.
A pretty safe and popular choice is giving customers the option of having their parcel delivered to their local post office or a 24/7 parcel locker located in selected areas around Australia.
A sure-fire way to keep your customers happy after a sale is to stay in touch and always be responsive.
Aside from email and possibly telephone support, another option is extending online chat beyond the sales process to after sales care as well.
All the major e-commerce platforms like Bigcommerce for example have online chat. There are also many companies providing various software platforms and services around it. One popular example is Freshdesk.com.
Following all of the previous steps correctly should result in ‘happy customers’. But if they’re not, remember, they’re “always right”.
It’s worth considering providing customers with an opportunity to provide an online product review. Interestingly, while having positive product reviews on your site can help convert other browsers to buyers, it’s worth noting negative reviews are also important.
According to research undertaken by UK customer intelligence specialists Reevoo, 95 per cent of customers are cautious of sites only containing positive reviews. Moreover, four out of five customers look for bad reviews first. New York University researcher Panagiotis Ipeirotis says buyers want as much information as possible and bad reviews that are well written can actually increase sales.
So what if you get a bad review?
The best thing you can do when faced with a bad review is respond quickly.
If the review is wrong, then you need to quickly create and deliver a message correcting it. Ideally you should try to communicate with the person who wrote the review to see what you can do to change their perception, and if possible have them post about their change of position.
If the bad review is right, you need to immediately acknowledge the problem and communicate the steps you are taking to fix it.
Customers will accept mistakes, to a degree. But they won’t tolerate dishonesty or arrogance. And taking the honesty policy to its furthest conclusion, try to ‘own’ your mistakes. There are plenty of examples of successful marketing campaigns where companies have turned negative events into a positive.
Take online spectacles retailer, Sneaking Duck. They realised there were barriers to choosing the right pair of glasses online so they set up a novel solution – a ‘try-at-home’ service whereby customers get five pairs to choose from. That simple change was according to the company a “game changer”, leading to a surge in sales and winning it BRW Magazine’s 2012 award for best innovation in retail.
As Australia Post’s chief marketing officer, Greg Sutherland notes, building a successful online retail business is about “creating value” for customers.
“It’s about being great listeners and adapters to customers’ needs, even if it’s at the expense of your own short term economics,” he explains.
“Observe their experiences and use all the tools available to make their lives easier”, he concludes.