How to Build a Customer-Centric E-Commerce Store
In the modern e-commerce market, it’s all about appealing to the unique sensibilities of the customer. Every digital marketing strategy you employ, every product description you write, every communication tool you use, and ever financial decision you make needs to be geared towards the personalization and optimization of the shopping experience. Most importantly, all of these elements need to work together to create a customer-centric online store in order to boost customer acquisition and retention.
If you are to maximize the customer lifetime value of all of your loyal brand followers, though, you will need to go the extra mile to build an enthralling brand identity, and you will need to introduce automation and innovate your processes to stay relevant. With all of that in mind, here are the best practices that will help you build a customer-centric e-commerce store that will echo throughout the industry.
It all Starts with the Brand
What’s interesting about the online retail world is that, no matter how expansive the market is, and no matter how many choices people have when it comes to brands and products, customers tend to keep coming back to the brands they know and love. Think about it, with the e-commerce market value projected to surpass 4.88 trillion US dollars by 2021, it only stands to reason that the vast majority of that wealth will be controlled by the biggest, and most trustworthy brands in the industry. Now, you don’t need to build the next eBay or Amazon, as you only need a small percentage of that wealth going through your company.
To achieve this in the long-term, you’ll need to build a brand that will become a household name in your niche. Let’s take a look at some of the essentials of building a compelling brand identity:
- Brand Values. The set of values you create for your brand will be the driving force behind your compelling personality, and they will shape your entire online presence, so choose wisely. These values need to resonate with your demographic, so refrain from clichés the likes of “quality products” or “award-winning customer service”. Instead, stand up for something truly meaningful.
- Brand Tone of Voice. Almost every e-commerce brand sounds the same -- using a generic tone of voice to appeal to as many people as possible. If you don’t make your tone of voice unique and recognizable, you will fail to retain long-term customers. Tailor your tone of voice to your niche, your brand, and your target audience.
- Storytelling. Storytelling is deeply tied into the concept of content creation and marketing, but it stems from your brand identity. Unlike the majority of other online stores, you want to create interesting stories on site that will inspire potential customers to envision themselves using the products. Don’t just list features, but paint an image and create a story.
Emphasize Pricing Transparency and Payment Features
One of the biggest reasons why people choose to abandon their carts and never return is unexpected fees, as well as price comparison. Now, while your brand should incentivize them to spend a bit more because you’re trustworthy, you should be wary of the allure of your competitors’ promotions, discounts, and special deals. In other words, you need to complement your brand’s allure with your own payment features, benefits, and of course, transparency.
Keep in mind that modern business finance in the e-commerce world is all about tailoring the payment process to the needs and wishes of the customer, as well as disclosing all fees well before the “order confirmation” page. If you’re smart about your finances and understand the drivers behind purchasing decisions, then you should also include a price comparison chart on your site next to your products, in order to prevent customers from leaving -- they can already see that you offer the best deals, so why leave?
Communicating with Customers on Multiple Channels
Forward-looking e-commerce brands should understand the value and importance of brand-consumer communication. Nowadays, though, it’s not just about boosting direct communication via email, nor is it just about answering questions on your website’s chat -- it’s about creating a comprehensive omni-channel communication structure that will allow customers to enjoy seamless communication with your brand on a 24/7 basis.
To create such a customer-centric structure, consider the following communication features:
- Phone Systems. People want to talk to a brand representative. This is your chance to showcase your brand’s personality.
- Live Website Chat. Having a website chat feature is imperative in the modern e-commerce world, but having a 24/7 chat system will skyrocket your customer service and brand reputation.
- Email Communication. Email is more than just answering customer queries, it’s also an opportunity to promote your brand, products, contests, events, and more.
- Social Media Direct Messaging. Social media is not just about posting products and blogs, it’s also about engaging with your customers and boosting the sales process through direct messaging.
- SMS Messaging. Offline messaging is not dead, quite the contrary, so make sure people can send you a text any time of the day.
Invest Heavily in Content Creation
As a business leader in the e-commerce realm, you might not think that content creation and dissemination should rank high on your list of priorities. As you might have guessed, nothing could be further from the truth, as content boasts the power and potential to set your online store apart from the competition, boost your SEO game and rank you higher in the SERPs, build social proof, and so much more. But most importantly for your long-term growth, content is your gateway to the hearts and minds of your demographic.
Not all e-commerce platforms are created equally in terms of content publishing, so make sure you are using a platform that will meet your needs, especially if organic search is going to be a main marketing channel for your store.
To create compelling, customer-centric content means to write in-depth articles and fill your blog page with relevant stories and insights, to create a variety of content types (think videos, infographics and images, and beyond), and to make every piece of content a story that will move the reader and elicit the right emotional response. With that in mind, be sure to weave the magic of storytelling into every aspect of your online store, including product descriptions -- remember, it’s not about the product, it’s about the value it brings into their lives.
Optimize Your Store for All Devices
On a final note, don’t forget to optimize your store for a seamless browsing experience on every relevant platform. Whether your customers are visiting your store from their smartphones, tablets, or PCs, your site needs to boast the right UX features and design to allow easy navigation, and most importantly, to carve a clear-cut path to the checkout page.
Use Accelerated Mobile Pages to your advantage, simplify the checkout process, don’t clutter your site with cumbersome visuals, and leverage negative space to drive UX and CX. As for creating your own app, keep in mind that customers don’t want to clutter their phone with bloatware, so tend to the aforementioned problems, and leave app development for when you become the leader in your niche.
There is no denying that e-commerce is a pretty saturated marketplace. Even though there is a lot of wealth to be made, your chances of snagging your own piece of the monetary cake will only increase if you implement these best practices and focus on building a truly customer-centric online store.