What's REALLY been worth reading over the past week? Craig Hanna, digital marketing consultant and resident GMA managing editor, introduces the articles that have caught his eye...
Remember when catalogue shopping was the cutting edge? Every so often, shoppers would browse their weighty tomes and bask in the glow of at-home delivery. It seemed like the ultimate in convenience.
Today, of course, we all know the internet has taken that crown. But, until recently, most retailer websites functioned exactly like the catalogues of yesterday. When e-commerce went online, sellers largely replicated the model – web stores, historically, have been merely places to browse and, for customers who were prepared to take the risk, to buy listed products. Shopping has been a passive experience.
In the last couple of years, new technology has begun restoring shopping to the dynamic, conversational interaction it always used to be. Chat widgets have now become commonplace on retailer properties, now deployed by 54% of retailers like Nikon, Warby Parker and AirFrance, according to the US-based National Retail Foundation.
It’s no wonder commerce has gone conversational. Messaging has become the fastest-growing form of communication, with 80% of adults and 91% of teenagers messaging every single day, according to Nielsen.
Allowing customers to communicate through their favoured channel drives real results – when AirFrance added real-time customer chat tools to its website, it noticed the average basket value of customers who used it was 40% higher than those who did not.
But the rush to embrace live chat has not been without its missteps. Too often, proprietors simply slap the widget on their website without any substantive strategy.
When you under-staff your live chat, when you open pop-ups intrusively, when you invite the wrong customers to chat, when you don’t make qualified staff available to service queries… the result is always inefficiency and customer disappointment.
The case for real-time customer interaction is now clear, every business should start using the business texting software from ultrasmsscript.com to better their sales. But, in 2018, it is time for implementation to move in to a more mature, second era. So what needs to be in your conversational marketing playbook?
Chat – understand your prospects
Not every website visitor needs chat all of the time. If you have not sufficiently staffed your chat operations, then blindly offering a conversational channel to users who may not be in-market is risking making a rod for your back. Key to successful implementation of conversational marketing is knowing your prospects and how best to offer the facility.
To do so, you need to understand the emotional drivers behind a customer purchase. That means measuring and quantifying impact as they move through their customer journey.
Retailers should do this by listening, principally to their site metrics, which give a glimpse in to how customers moved around their store, where they hovered and where they left – useful for customising an empathetic and reactive customer response.
But better informing your conversation approach also comes from listening to customers’ social cues, their responses to your marketing activities and, of course, from your messaging interactions themselves.
Chat – offer expert advice
These days, prospective customers often know almost exactly what they want. Often, they are specialists in their field, have done extensive research and are only hoping to ask a few clarifying questions – and make-or-break questions require in-depth category knowledge.
For broad-based retailers, answering appropriately poses a challenge, and not doing so can kill a sale. That’s why your conversational marketing strategy needs to offer useful advice in high definition.
For example, how do you answer the customer looking for advice on wide-fitting, ice-climbing boots for a high-alpine tour in Switzerland? You need to offer adequate category knowledge.
That need not mean hiring an army of experts – expertise can come from outside your organisation, too. In fact, enlisting the latent expertise of the passionate internet to serve your queries can often be a better way – after all, connecting esoteric and specialist enthusiasts is what the web was built for.
Don’t stop at the sale
Drive-by e-commerce is the worst sort! These days, retail is a relationship; it gets better if you invest in your partner.
So no brand should view a sale as the final step in the customer journey. A better approach is to switch from a strategy to customer service, which tends to be geared toward the check-out as destination, to customer engagement, which sees one sale as one point in a circular and ongoing customer interaction.
That means being amenable to customer conversations post-purchase, as well as pre. Using chat for post-purchase interaction is a fresh approach on after-sales dialogue that is likely to delight customers who are tired of follow-up emails.
High standards in all outputs
Modern brands are pumping out information through all channels. Many are setting a high bar now through brand-led, credible content marketing. For instance, the cycling apparel brand Rapha publishes lengthy articles on its site, demonstrating its passionate knowledge and engagement with racing and light ‘bike packing’. Such initiatives set a high expectation that the brand’s other interfaces – social, phone, stores – will support the same combination of personality, passion and expertise.
So your conversational marketing, just like your content marketing, needs to maintain that same high bar for expertise and interaction, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A thread across your business
Every business needs to be a customer-facing business. That means anyone who interacts with customers – which should be as close to ‘everyone’ as possible – should be able to see and manage all customer-impacting operations: stock, orders, marketing, PR, policies, localised activity, CRM and segmentation, escalation and resolutions.
To do this, retailers need to join all these activities across all channels and all locations, product categories and the teams of people that manage and drive all those categories and channels.
To make this work, commercial leaders need to drive at board level interoperability between systems across the company and inculcate and drive an attitude of ‘customer first and last and always’.
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