Competition is fierce, whether you are bricks and mortar business or sell your products/services exclusively online. It can get even more competitive if you are selling online through a hybrid model (companies like JYSK, Leons, The Brick and many others) – these are companies that run retail stores and have an online presence. Then there are pure e-commerce merchants, like BuildDirect (home improvement industry), or Article (home furniture and decor).
So how do you set yourself apart from the competition? There are several things you need to do right when it comes to presentation:
- High-quality product that has gone through a level of quality assurance to ensure it will hold up to day-to-day use,
- Ability to view the product in detail, perhaps a 360-degree view option (including top and bottom views),
- Ability to zoom into the product to get a glimpse of the texture,
- View the product in a mock setting OR using augmented reality to view the product in your own home,
- Significant social media presence — where their customers, and advocates hang out.
There are many other ways technology can help promote your product, but let us not forget the critical element – customer service.
Merchants offer several ways to reach the consumer:
These are four of the primary sources since they are very visual — but also interactive. Customers will complain (or praise) through many methods, and brands need to be aware of where the customer hangs out.
Product reviews are also quite important, whether the brand manages their own product reviews or utilizes a service that is independent of them. There are several out there, however one that I come across often is TrustPilot. Others that I have seen are:
There are quite a few other alternatives out there. A simple Google search for “TrustPilot alternatives” will lead you to quite a few websites that offer more in-depth information on each service.
Providing support via telephone is still vital for many merchants, but not all customers want to use the phone, they want to be able to reach support through e-mail, social networks, and live chat. Of course, every channel includes an additional cost and you want to ensure that the customer care team is trained to handle these channels professionally.
Recently I have seen merchants add WhatsApp as a support option. There is an excellent article on Casengo website 11 Steps To Get Started With WhatsApp For Customer Service if you are considering this as an option.
With all these channels available, you need to be able to tie it all together so if someone complains on inquires about a product on Instagram you can follow that through if they e-mail or phone you about the product. There is also value in engaging with individuals that are inquiring about your product – same as a salesperson would in a physical location.
As I was going through some companies social channels, I noticed one thing – there is very little to no engagement by the brand. By this I mean, they are merely showing their product, and that’s it. They are not telling the story behind the product or talking with the people that are commenting. In other words, they are using platforms like Instagram like a catalog — you know, those things we got in the mail several decades ago. Are they adding value to their brand? In my opinion, no – they are not.
So what is a company to do? How can they engage their audience, so that they stay relevant and get their audience to work for them? Here is one method that I’ll share with you: engage with the social influencers.
I’m going to use a product from JYSK as an example, as I happened upon their website and Instagram and liked what I saw.
The Instagram post has a good number of likes and a few comments. However, the comments are very telling. After doing some research on the commentators, there are a couple of people that commented on the product that stood out and that I would consider great storytellers to help drive engagement and quite possibly sales of this product (and potentially others) and to also drive people to the e-commerce site.
By drafting the individuals – your consumer advocate, you will create buzz as they are sure to tell their Instagram followers (and friends) that they have been offered a free item for their honest feedback. Who doesn’t like free stuff? In turn, that may drive additional traffic to the various social channels and ultimately the e-commerce website.
As I looked at the profile of the users I wanted to see if they are open, or closed. You want to work with people whose profiles are open and public for obvious reasons. I also looked at the types of images they are posting to get a “feel” for them – very scientific, I know, sometimes you need to go with your gut.
I looked at the number of posts, the number of followers and how many are following them. Yes, an influencer can have thousands or tens of thousands of followers, but someone can have a few hundred and still be an advocate. It also helps to look at how engaged the individual is – are their posts getting liked? Are people talking about them?
What you are trying to accomplish is to determine the influencer worth. Here is an excerpt from a question asked on Quora (How many followers do you need to become or to be considered a social media influencer?):
- Number of followers
The first way to measure influence is a person’s number of followers, this is the metric you are most interested in. An influencer with 200 followers is likely to have less influence than someone with 100k followers, although that is not always the case.
Engagement can be evaluated a number of different ways. You can use common sense and ask questions like, “Does it seem like people are liking and commenting on this persons’ posts?” An influencer with 100 followers will generate far lower engagement than someone with 100k followers, naturally. If you want to gain more engagement on your twitter profile then buy Twitter retweets on your Tweets.
Reach is another important metric to consider. Reach and engagement should be evaluated together; each piece of content has the potential to reach the eyes of active, interested, open-minded consumers. For example, given campaign that reaches 10,000 people may only generate 10 clicks, while one that reaches 500 people might generate the same 10 clicks if it is highly engaging content that lands in front of the right target audience.
Another great article on the topic of influencer worth can be found on the AdWeek website. The article goes onto mention ROI Influencer Media.
Another interesting concept that I came across are micro-influencers. From the IZEA blog post on micro-influencers:
Micro-influencer marketing is the use of what many people would consider “everyday people” or “average Joes or Janes” to promote specific products on social media. Those products can range from a facial cleanser or lotion to clothing, food, or a new service.
One of the reasons why micro-influencer marketing has become an option is that surveys have suggested that people trust advice and recommendations from other people that they know and trust. For example, Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising study found that the most credible form of advertising came from other people.
About 80 percent of respondents to the study said that they trust the opinions or recommendations of family and friends. On top of that, two thirds of respondents said that they trusted the information found in online reviews and opinions.
With that in mind, I would probably trust my friend over at Delirium Tees before trusting someone else. Think about it – how often will you trust the first review you read on Amazon or elsewhere? Chances are before you buy the item you will look at many of the reviews — good and bad before making a decision.
Something that has thrown retailers and advertisers in a loop is the influence that is exerted by millennial’s and now by millennial parents. Yes, millennial parents are a thing.
InComm summaries a study released by the National Retail Federation on their blog on the topic of millennial parents and their digital experience.
From the NRF study it is noted:
“Millennial parents may be demanding consumers with strong views on who they should shop and what brands should deliver. But once you gain their loyalty, they can be your strongest advocates.”
Getting back on track, we’ve identified one or two individuals that could be great advocates for us. The next step is to reach out to those individuals with an offer to provide the item for free for their honest review/feedback and once they agree to the terms , proceed to send out the product to them. Remember your terms can’t be so egregious that they would be not willing to review your product and in fact overly zealous terms could backfire with negative sentiment.
The job isn’t done.
Track the shipment, once it is delivered send a quick note the them: “I see that our package was delivered to your home/office, I hope that it was received in good condition. If you have any questions about this product or any other, please don’t hesitate to reach out…”.
This allows you to continue following the customer through their journey and also allows you to evaluate the shipping company — you better believe that everyone evaluates the delivery, along with how the product is packaged (too much packaging, too little packaging). Quite a few e-tailers include the ability to leave feedback on packaging as part of the customer experience review process.
From the summary that InComm provided:
That last highlight may be the one to prioritize immediately. It shows the opportunity retailers have with Millennial parents. One positive or satisfying experience with your brand or product can produce not just one loyal customer, but several, as Millennial parents remain connected and share their shopping experiences with others via social media.
That makes them the ideal consumer for retailers to pursue; they can be both a consumer of and a recruiter for your store.
As you work with the influencer, stay in touch — not too much that you become intrusive, but enough so that they fulfill their role. Clearly meaningful communication is important.
Customer engagement does not stop at posts to the brands Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest profiles. It takes much more to keep your fans engaged, an investment in your social media team along with a marketing budget where you can give out freebies to get people (and potentially influencers) talking about your products.
Companies mentioned in this post are: