Map to the customer’s buying process

In my other posts, I’ve talked about how to get a large number of products to the web and the difficulties with that.  Reaching the customer is the ultimate goal, not getting better product data to the web.  The customer’s perspective is often forgotten in messaging and marketing literature has a tone of “Look at me!” rather than “How can we help you.”  One technique I used in product management was to create a fictional character and write the user interface scenarios from that character’s perspective.

The same technique can be used from a marketing perspective to keep the site grounded if you remember to mirror your eCommerce site to the natural buying process for a customer.  They start by learning about your products, progress to shopping, then buying, waiting for delivery, and using the product. Of course this is a general approach, but it can be adapted to other areas of focus.   Taking this further, your eCommerce site’s job is to map to that process so that when a customer:

  • Is exploring, you are pervasive
  • Is shopping, you are selling to them
  • Is buying, you make it easy to order
  • Is waiting, you are getting the product to them fast

Taking the first bullet point, when the customer wants to learn they are trying to figure out the best product for their needs.  So, they ask questions like what are the products that might work for me?  Do I trust this company? Do my friends have recommendations?  They may touch your site at this point or more likely will be browsing the internet for information.

  • Social media footprint: More and more, customers are reaching out to their trusted network first when starting the buying process.  For example, when you need a home service, the first place many people search are Yelp reviews or a Facebook network.  Next, they’ll pose a question to their Facebook page for recommendations.  For products, customers may turn to unbiased reviews or other sources.  Your job is to at least be in the conversation at this point.  A full breakdown of social media campaigns is beyond the scope of this short article – but the one nugget of advice here is to “be real”.  Customers don’t want to be sold to at this stage.  They want real information not marketing fluff, so if you get in the conversation don’t oversell.
  • SEO:  Customers are going to use the search engines in tandem with asking their social media options.  Your product info should be prominently displayed when customers are researching your products.  Again, search engine optimization is beyond the scope of eComm, but it is one of the funnels that will drive customers to your site.  And when the search engines crawl your site you need to make sure that all your pages are indexed properly and the right keywords are identified in the meta data.  Bad data or bad links will compromise your search results.
  • Affiliate sites:  When searching for your product or similar products, affiliate sites are bound to turn up.  They understand SEO much better than you will because their survival depends on it.  It’s a love/hate relationship with affiliates.  They will expose your pricing mistakes and over-publicize your secret deals, but you can’t ignore them.  You need to embrace them and provide information to them for the product exposure.
  • eTailers:  Another route to product exposure is through eTailers.  Unlike affiliates, these sites will sell your product instead of routing them to your site.  They are your coop-itition since you get paid for the sale, but give up more margin.  These sites will pop up right along your site in search results, so make sure you have the right product information and correct pricing sent to these partners.

Once they narrow their options down to a handful of products and they find your site, they’re going to ask questions like what is the best product for my needs?  What are the features of the different products?  What is the best value?  And is it available?  You’re job is to answer these questions efficiently and effectively to sell to a customer who is shopping . . .

  • Customized shopping experience:  Target different audiences by giving them their own store whether it is a personalized corporate site, a store for affinity relationships, or a public site.  Each store can share products or have their own special products that aren’t available to the public.  For those customers that span the globe, you can create individual stores for each country and share products or restrict options to the local parts.
  • International catalog:  Keep all the product information that you need to educate your customer such as product characteristics, multiple units, technical specifications, and other details in any language.  You can keep all international products in a single catalog and automatically filter products by their location, so for example customers don’t buy a German keyboard in the US.
  • Industrial strength configurator:  When your products are more complicated, allow the customer to select between compatible options to see what they cost and when they can get it.  Our configurator solves some of the world’s hardest configuration problems such as telecom equipment, but can easily deal with less complicated products, too.
  • Integrated content:  We are an eCommerce tool and realize there more effective ways to handle product literature content.  For that reason, we integrate to external tools such as Adobe that deliver educational content to the sites.
  • Faceted browse:  We make it easier for customers to find your products using faceted browse.  The technique lets customers hone in on products by selecting characteristics that are important to them, then refining the products that match.
  • Standard configurations:  If a dealer or customer has standard configurations they want to buy on their site, you can incorporate them in their catalog allowing them to use that configuration as a starting point.  Then, individuals can customize it according to their needs.  You can restrict options that are typically available on all models so they won’t be shown on standard configuration.  For example, if a customer has a standard computer they buy in their personal storefront they could use this feature to prevent Microsoft products from displaying because they have an alternative route to purchase the software.
  • Merchandise and campaign:  With campaigns you can dedicate landing pages to introduce specials.  Or, use eCoupons to target groups of people for special discounts driving them to the site.  Then, you can suggest additional products or promotions the customer might be interested in or bundle promotional products together at a better price.
  • Customized pricing and contracts:  Pricing is one of our specialties.  Our sophisticated pricing solution handles the most complex sales channels such as when there are direct sales with retail promotions, contract prices to large customers, mid-market tiers, and third party fulfillment pricing.  It is all handled elegantly in the same tool world-wide.
  • Shopping cart:  In self-service shopping, the customer can load their own shopping cart seeing their savings from different promotions and specials.

When a customer has decided what to buy, you need to make it as quick and painless to make the purchase.  Rather than questions at this point, the customer just wants to get the purchase done and the more time it takes the greater the chance they’ll abandon the purchase.  So, once a customer is ready to buy, make it easy for them . . .

  • Social sign in: How many IDs do you have to remember?  You probably use the same ID from site to site and sometimes you have to vary your password depending on the security requirements of the new site.  Make it easy for customers to log in.  Social sign in is one of the easiest ways to do that.
  • Quote:  For businesses, a customer can store their products in a quote, then route them to an approver for final purchase.
  • Checkout:  When they’re ready to buy, they want to buy with local purchasing options.  Often in the US, we assume customers want to buy with Visa, Mastercard, AMEX, or paypal, but across the globe there are different credit card options like JCB in Japan and Boletto in Brazil that allows customers to pay over time.  If you are supporting global customers, you must be able to support the most common payment options they have.
  • Third Party Checkout:  Another option is third party checkout like Amazon, Paypal, or Apple.  This reduces the friction for checkout on less frequented sites allowing the customer to utilize an existing payment process instead of re-entering their data.
  • Merchandise:  While in the shopping cart, cross sell items the customer might want to buy or have inadvertently forgotten.  One customer we work with implemented this feature and saw sales of a printer increase 100%.

Once they have bought your product, you must service a customer who is waiting.  At this point, the customer really just wants to know when the product will arrive.

  • Order Status:  When the customer is waiting, they can log in, find their order to see status and tracking numbers if it has been shipped.
  • Automatic e-mail notification:  When the status of the order changes such as when it is shipped, customers will get an automatic notification letting them know their order has shipped.
  • Order history:  If the customer wants to view their order history for an individual or business, they can search by date to see each order and in the case of a business each site and user where the purchase was made.

These points may seem obvious to those of us who are immersed in the process, but for others who are only cursorily involved it helps to list out the points so that you can have an educated conversation with your eCommerce team.  DoubleBlaze is well versed in all the processes and for a case study on how we approached this for Lenovo’s worldwide site servicing thousands of sessions daily you can read it here.

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