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So, it’s roughly the start of a New Year, and with any luck, you’ll have a new budget ready to spend on your ecommerce site. But where to start?

Now, as long as you haven’t already spent it on renewing your software contracts, or on rule-book-throwing vanity projects for your board, then you're probably trying to figure out what expenditure in e-commerce will get you the most bang for your buck.

Well, lets start by looking at the traditional model for increasing the sales coming from your website. WARNING: This is a bit dull.
Classic ecommerce Strategy

Told you it was dull. Well, apart from the “Increase Order Frequency” action. If there’s anything I’ve missed here, let me know in the comments.

This is all very well and worthy, however it’s a very dry way of tackling the subject, so I’d like to introduce three different ways of approaching this years’ projects. I can’t promise they’ll be sexy and fun, but they’ll certainly be more interesting than the chart up there.

I've labelled the three different approaches as Goodwill, Utility & Innovation. We'll cover Utility and Innovation in the next two parts, but lets start with Goodwill...

Increasing goodwill

When someone comes to your site, they have a bucket of goodwill, and this indicates their willingness to do business with you. This goodwill may be slowly depleted, topped up, completely emptied, or overflowing to the point that it starts to fill other people’s buckets of goodwill.

Lolrus wants his bucket

So how can you increase goodwill?

Recognition

Your customers crave recognition, not only from your website, but from your customer service team, their peers, and from their friends and neighbours. At first, they will try to get recognition of the warm fuzzy kind, but if that isn’t forthcoming, they will try to get recognition of the cold, prickly kind (often in the form of a highly opinionated email). Yes, it all boils down to that childhood story of Warm Fuzzies and Cold Pricklies. Never heard of it? Here, let me Google that for you.

Anything you can do to facilitate this recognition (of the Warm Fuzzy kind) will increase the goodwill of your customers to do business with you.

Here are just a few ways of increasing visitor recognition:Yoox.com Superstar email

  • Ratings & reviews (and User Generated Content in general).
    User generated content allows users to make their mark on your site, to carve out a little piece of it and make it their own. Even if your customers don’t want to write a full review, give them the opportunity to rate stuff. Let them comment on other peoples comments, give them a little area so they can see what they’re reviewed or rated, make your reviewers celebrities, feature them in your email newsletters, build a community.
  • Loyalty schemes (and VIP loyalty schemes!).
    Once, I spent enough money Yoox.com to become a Superstar – check out the email! I’m not sure that this would be enough for me to trade up to buying £2,000 coats, but it’s nice to be recognised.
  • Tailoring.
    Lets face it: you all have more money to spend than me. Which means you don’t have to while away your weekends in front of Excel creating product covariance spreadsheets. You can buy fancy software to do your product recommendations for you. It has also become possible to detect from someone’s first name (around 90% of the time) what gender they are - you should be able to know, if they’re called Jeff and they bought a floaty lace dress from you, it was likely to be a gift. Recognise that. If you like, why not send them an email entitled “Look, we just wanna check …”
  • Easter Eggs….

Easter eggs?

Easter eggs are hidden features in any media, designed to be found and reward the finder. From simple hidden tracks on CDs to a flight simulator hidden in Excel. Websites can have Easter eggs written into them as well.

Having an Easter egg not only allows you to recognise those people who find it, but allows you to do so in a slightly off-brand way, increasing your Character (more about Character later). Easter eggs can have a viral quality to them as well, which leads us nicely to….

Word of mouth

Your customers are people, not email addresses. They live in real houses and have real friends and drink real tea. They like to get recognition from their friends, to pass along a “Warm Fuzzy”. If your product or service is worth its salt, then they can do this by referring you.

When you start to think of your customers as real people, it also makes you think of other ways to involve them in the process.

ABRACADABRA!

The next time you send a customer a voucher code, or some complex password to access part of your site, why not make it a real word? A Magic Word! The customer doesn’t have to print anything off, only has a single word to remember, and it can be passed in conversation “Oh and if you go to Site X and type “Rumplestiltskin” at the checkout, you get a free five-inch sprocket!”

Sometimes, I have dreams about this working in offline retail.

The Experience Matrix

Using your website, buying your product, having it delivered, it's all an experience (if not a relationship). How customers measure that experience is based on two factors, Character & Competance.

Website Experience matrix
(I refuse to draw smileys).

How would website visitors describe your character? What comes across in your website copy, your marketing communications, your support functions? Are you caring and considerate? Or impatient and rude? Are you appropriate to your audience? Are you "what they expect" or do you empathise with their needs, wishes and aspirations?

How competent are you? Is your website an unusable mess (mentioning no names...), or is it a delight to use. Is it reliable or sometimes faulty? When you deliver, both in terms of communications and the physical product, is it timely?

It's not good enough to offer what's expected. There are five types of customer experience you can create:

  1. Enemy
  2. Sad
  3. Indifferent
  4. Happy
  5. Raving Fan

The only way you can make a Happy or Raving Fan customer is to provide an experience which is better than expected.

The extremes of this matrix are the ones you have to watch the most carefully, as these customer types are the ones who affect your word of mouth.

You can read more about this in what should really be Customer Service 101; Ken Blanchard's Raving Fans

WOW Moments

 Customer Service WOW moments at JUST LIKE Ultra Combos
Customer Service WOW moments are just like Ultra Combos in Street Fighter IV:


1)   They are difficult to pull off.
2)   The timing of each action is crucial.
3)   They are more effective when they’re least expected.

In fact, the easiest time to execute a WOW moment is when it is least expected, when your customer has had both a Poor Competence and Character experience, and are well on their way to becoming Enemies. By executing a perfect WOW moment, you might not get them all the way to a Raving Fan, but they’ll certainly tell their friends.

So, Goodwill is one approach to your ecommerce strategy for the year, but maybe you're hankering after something less qualitative, more quantitative? That's where our next approach, Utility, comes in.

Matthew Curry

Published 19 January, 2010 by Matthew Curry

Matt Curry is Head of E-commerce for online sex toy retailer LoveHoney. He spends a lot of time working on user experience and customer satisfaction is his highest priority. He frequently has to be penetration tested. You can follow him on Twitter, although he does often talk about dildos. He also has a LinkedIn profile, where he has to act professional.

19 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Elizabeth Sealey - Customer Service Consultant

It's nice to see focus on the role of customer service in ecommerce. Too many online retailers hide away from customer service, particularly the big players. I think the major area of failing that could easily be improved is the quality of after sales communication.

Sending an email checking that the product arrived, that it's the right item and asking for a review would be a great way of reinforcing your brand in the customers mind.

Elizabeth Sealey

almost 7 years ago

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Samara Zittin - eSpares

I know you from your Twitter account & work you've done with Wiltshire Farm Foods. It was a wonderful surprise to see this post on Econsultancy! I'm keen to go back and read your other articles now.

Love your emphasis that customers are real people too. To add to Elizabeth's comment above; I personally believe that marketing departments need to be involved in the customer service aspect of their organisation. It's important that the brand character portrayed in online content is also carried through to the 'live' service aspects of your business. Great website copy/functionality is very important but exceptional customer service is what really cements brand loyalty. Like you said, it's all about those 'WOW' moments.

Looking forward to seeing more of your posts.

@espares

almost 7 years ago

Dave Chaffey

Dave Chaffey, Digital Marketing Consultant, Trainer, Author and Speaker at SmartInsights.com

I didn't know that Ashley - I like the sales driver diagram even more now that I know it was used to manage the sales performance of a real organisation - yes - it's all about knowing the right levers to pull - and this shows which.

So modelling which incremental investment of say 5% will give you the best predicted return is a good way to prioritise. The type of spreadsheet model in Jason Burby's book and I have a version I need to publish.

almost 7 years ago

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