customer experience; ecommerce, Digital marketing, ecommerce, real-time marketing

Open Kitchen E-commerce – part 2

By  Ger van den Buijs – FiveDolphins.com

no Guts no Glory 2

This article is an extention to an earlier article I wrote on Open-kitchen e-commerce. I got fascinated by this concept, because I realized that it is quite a thing for a restaurant to have an open kitchen. It is like showing ones guts. There is no place to hide, no way to fake, no way to cheat, no way to pretend. You are 100% You and that is exactly why it is so powerful. That made me wonder:

How could openness contribute to E-Commerce?

Rational behind Openness

As a start I will recapture the two articles I refered to in the first article. They shed a light on the rational behind open kitchen restaurants. One is a study from Harvard University. The other one an article in TIME BUSINESS. I will summarize the arguments they bring forward for you in one list. I think these arguments not only apply to restaurants. You can easily apply them to other branches.

If you have read the previous version, you might want to page to the second part which is completely new. In that part I will explain how our first implementation is going to upgrade the user experience of an, yet not to name, e-commerce website.

Research data

Transparency about Safety / Hygiene An important reason for diners to prefer an open kitchen is the transparency about how the food is being prepared. The open kitchen is a guarantee to safe food.

Appetite The smell of food, the activity of the cooks, the sound of pots and pans raises the appetite. You are tempted to pick a little piece from the countertop. And a customer with a raised appetite will order less economical.

Entertainment Going out for dinner is not only about food. It’s an evening out, an event. The open kitchen is a form of entertainment. The cooks become artists. Their movements become a dance. Domino’s “Pizza Theater,”  is a nice example how this can be implemented even in the lower levels of the market.

Professionality / Craftmanship Tossing the pizza dough is more than a performance. It’s professional production. No, it’s even more. It’s a demonstration of craftsmanship, displaying love for the action, the product and it’s value. We’ll go into the role of craftsmanship in more detail in the next chapter.

Interior design and Reduced energy cost These arguments might be very specific to restaurants, but they might trigger you to reconsider some of your interior design decisions. Production no longer needs to be hidden. People go on tours to visit factories, harbors, etc, because they are interested in how things are produced. Instruments and machines have an element of beauty. Why not show that?

Interaction proofs to be more than sociable. It has an effect on consumers and producers. Consumers value the food more when they see it being cooked. More surprisingly, interaction makes the chefs perform better. The sight of enjoying diners raises their performance.

The Harvard study compared three situation. In the situation of mutual visibility consumers attributed a +17.3% higher preference to the food. The effect of one-sided vision was tested in both directions. In situations in which the chefs could see the public, but not vice versa, the public’s appreciation of the food was also raised, with no less than 10%. In situations where the public could see the cooks, but not visa versa, the appreciation of the food was no different than in a closed kitchen.

What could these values mean to E=Commerce? Before we draw the parallel to E-Commerce, I first want to explore the element of craftsmanship to a deeper level.

Economics of Craftsmanship

What defines craftsmanship? To me, the differentiation is not in the ability to create a product in great detail. Also the professional is very capable of doing that. The craftsman, however, delivers more. He is devoted to the value of his product. This is based on a strong outside-in perspective, working from the quality the customer wants. The professional works from inside-out perspective, focused to deliver with high efficiency.

The impact of craftsmanship goes beyond the production itself. When consumers look for quality they consider three elements: Appearance, Functionality and Trust. This model is however incomplete. The model is insufficient to explain for example the global market leadership of some brands.

Next to the visible rational, we need to consider the non-visible rational, the experience. In his book Strategic Pokes: The Business Jalabi, a book you should certainly read, Shombit Sengupta calls this non-visible rational the “sparkling qualities”. Non-visual quality is the assurance of the product’s functionality during its life cycle.

This intangible value is created by the craftsman who adds passion and a multi-angle approach that exceeds the obvious. To customers, these intangibles have an unlimited value. It’s non-intellectual and the value is different from person to person. When customers appreciate the intangible first, they are willing to pay a premium price and return for a repeat purchase.

Open Kitchen E-Commerce

We started off with the question whether there is something like Open Kitchen E-Commerce. Some will answer this question with Yes. They will argue that Social Media have created openness. Twitter and Facebook are podia where companies can be blamed and shamed. Some of these messages go viral, causing great negative impact on company value.

This type of openness, however, only triggers a very limited part of the values that were attributed to openness in restaurants. You could maybe argue that this is equivalent to the hygiene transparency. Question is: “do you know of a E-Commerce company  that really demonstrates the joy of serving customers “? Do you know about an E-Commerce site that delivers the entertainment and craftsmanship of creation?

Another question is: “are our service teams stimulated enough to give their best, like the cooks that can see the diners”? I think the current social media bring that at best partially. This reminds me of the presentation Mark Schaefer did for E-Consultancy about the expectations of the Social Era Customer (SEC). He draws the parallel with the medieval markets. Social Era Customers want :

Social Era Customer Analogy Open Kitchen Restaurant
To know the person behind the company Seeing who serves you, see his style Entertainment
Transparency Openness about the process of service Transparency about Safety / Hygiene
Immediate impact of communication Good service raises appetite,  bad service is devastating Appetite
Openly shared Word of Mouth

The love for the product and value will make people talk about the product and service

Craftsmanship
To feel connected.

The interaction between cook and customer creates the connection people appreciate.

Interaction

These expectations of Social Media Customers match closely with the values of the open kitchen restaurants. My view is that there is still a lot to gain in E-Commerce. Conversion ratios are dramatically low compared to retail. An open kitchen policy in E-Commerce could boost the customer experience to really make the next step. One should realize that within a webshop, a customer is always on his own. There is no atmosphere. Imagine to enter an empty restaurant. My ambition is to develop a new type of webshop that steps up from an isolated experience to a engaging connected experience. That will improve your results drastically.

Economics of open-kitchen e-commerce

Economics of open-kitchen e-commerce

Implementation

You might wonder how to achieve such an open kitchen policy. I distinguish 4 strategies to work with customers:

context marketingContext marketing: adapting the site based on what a customer is doing.

BoFu marketingBottom of Funnel marketing: building an experience based on a customer request

engagement marketingEngagement marketing: building an experience based on a shared passion

Personlization marketing Personlization marketing: allow customers to personalize your product or service.

Together with our partner we are working on the first implementation. We are going to implement the first three strategies. Our objective is to create an engaging community. In an open-kitchen experience, such a community has to be real time and open. Customers need to be able to interact with each other. We position the team as hosts, because they express and strengthen the engagement the community is sharing.

In order for a customer to be willing to participate in the community, he’ll have to had a flow experience. I’ve written an article about flow and it’s meaning in the customer journey earlier. We are going to implement a shopping experience that responds to customer activity and to the interaction a customer has with other customers. The engine will produce additional content that is context specific.

Primary to all this, we’ll need to make sure our customers feels activated. We are convinced questions can play a vital role. Our brain can easily ignore information, but it can’t stop itself from answering questions. One need to realize that questions only activate a person when they require latently known information. Retoric question or questions one does not know the answer to will not activate a person.

We intent to allow customers to participate anonimously. Research shows that customers will only give you their email address when they are 60% through their shopping process. Our intention is to capture our customers early in their orientation phase, because good retailers have proven that when a customer experiences the sparkle of craftsmanship before he dives into the product specifications, he’ll be eager to come back and willing to allow for more margin.

Elements of Open-kitchen e-commerce

Curious how our implementation will work out? Don’t miss the updates. When you send me a brief message, I’ll keep you posted.

P1070701-1 40-60--20Regards,

Ger van den Buijs

Ger is cofounder of FiveDolphins.com, the platform to facilitate customer flow within your site. You can follow me on gervandenbuijs.com, LinkedIn and Twitter (@BuijsGer)

With courtesy to Pixabay for the images.

customer experience; ecommerce, ecommerce, social media marketing

How to create engagement with customer flow

Customer Flow is like Surfing (2) klein

by Ger van den Buijs, {grow} Community member

Most articles present Customer Journey as a given fact. They presume customers are happy with their purchasing journey. I doubt that. I think there is a lot to gain for customers. I think that the overload of information has made shopping complex and a solution is needed.

Why just understand the customer journey? Aim to optimize it.

I will outline my analysis in 5 views, each with a detailed explanation. The graphics presented in this article build up to new understanding of the customer journey, what I like to call “Customer Flow.”

  1. Hygiene view
  2. Customer view
  3. Market view
  4. Customer flow view
  5. Purchasing Detour view

To read the full article, please follow this link {Grow} Businessesgrow.com where it was originally published.

customer experience; ecommerce, Digital marketing, ecommerce, real-time marketing

Open Kitchen E-commerce – part 2

By  Ger van den Buijs – FiveDolphins.com

no Guts no Glory 2

This article is an extention to an earlier article I wrote on Open-kitchen e-commerce. I got fascinated by this concept, because I realized that it is quite a thing for a restaurant to have an open kitchen. It is like showing ones guts. There is no place to hide, no way to fake, no way to cheat, no way to pretend. You are 100% You and that is exactly why it is so powerful. That made me wonder:

How could openness contribute to E-Commerce?

Rational behind Openness

As a start I will recapture the two articles I refered to in the first article. They shed a light on the rational behind open kitchen restaurants. One is a study from Harvard University. The other one an article in TIME BUSINESS. I will summarize the arguments they bring forward for you in one list. I think these arguments not only apply to restaurants. You can easily apply them to other branches.

If you have read the previous version, you might want to page to the second part which is completely new. There I will explain how our first implementation is going to upgrade the user experience of an, yet not to name, e-commerce website.

Transparency about Safety / Hygiene An important reason for diners to prefer an open kitchen is the transparency about how the food is being prepared. The open kitchen is a guarantee to safe food.

Appetite The smell of food, the activity of the cooks, the sound of pots and pans raises the appetite. You are tempted to pick a little piece from the countertop. And a customer with a raised appetite will order less economical.

Entertainment Going out for dinner is not only about food. It’s an evening out, an event. The open kitchen is a form of entertainment. The cooks become artists. Their movements become a dance. Domino’s “Pizza Theater,”  is a nice example how this can be implemented even in the lower levels of the market.

Professionality / Craftmanship Tossing the pizza dough is more than a performance. It’s professional production. No, it’s even more. It’s a demonstration of craftsmanship, displaying love for the action, the product and it’s value. We’ll go into the role of craftsmanship in more detail in the next chapter.

Interior design and Reduced energy cost These arguments might be very specific to restaurants, but they might trigger you to reconsider some of your interior design decisions. Production no longer needs to be hidden. People go on tours to visit factories, harbors, etc, because they are interested in how things are produced. Instruments and machines have an element of beauty. Why not show that?

Interaction proofs to be more than sociable. It has an effect on consumers and producers. Consumers value the food more when they see it being cooked. More surprisingly, interaction makes the chefs perform better. The sight of enjoying diners raises their performance.

The Harvard study compared three situation. In the situation of mutual visibility consumers attributed a +17.3% higher preference to the food. The effect of one-sided vision was tested in both directions. In situations in which the chefs could see the public, but not vice versa, the public’s appreciation of the food was also raised, with no less than 10%. In situations where the public could see the cooks, but not visa versa, the appreciation of the food was no different than in a closed kitchen.

What could these values mean to E=Commerce? Before we draw the parallel to E-Commerce, I first want to explore the element of craftsmanship to a deeper level.

Economics of Craftsmanship

What defines craftsmanship? To me, the differentiation is not in the ability to create a product in great detail. Also the professional is very capable of doing that. The craftsman, however, delivers more. He is devoted to the value of his product. This is based on a strong outside-in perspective, working from the quality the customer wants. The professional works from inside-out perspective, focused to deliver with high efficiency.

The impact of craftsmanship goes beyond the production itself. When consumers look for quality they consider three elements: Appearance, Functionality and Trust. This model is however incomplete. The model is insufficient to explain for example the global market leadership of some brands.

Next to the visible rational, we need to consider the non-visible rational, the experience. In his book Strategic Pokes: The Business Jalabi, a book you should certainly read, Shombit Sengupta calls this non-visible rational the “sparkling qualities”. Non-visual quality is the assurance of the product’s functionality during its life cycle.

This intangible value is created by the craftsman who adds passion and a multi-angle approach that exceeds the obvious. To customers, these intangibles have an unlimited value. It’s non-intellectual and the value is different from person to person. When customers appreciate the intangible first, they are willing to pay a premium price and return for a repeat purchase.

Open Kitchen E-Commerce

We started off with the question whether there is something like Open Kitchen E-Commerce. Some will answer this question with Yes. They will argue that Social Media have created openness. Twitter and Facebook are podia where companies can be blamed and shamed. Some of these messages go viral, causing great negative impact on company value.

This type of openness, however, only triggers a very limited part of the values that were attributed to openness in restaurants. You could maybe argue that this is equivalent to the hygiene transparency. Question is: “do you know of a E-Commerce company  that really demonstrates the joy of serving customers “? Do you know about an E-Commerce site that delivers the entertainment and craftsmanship of creation?

Another question is: “are our service teams stimulated enough to give their best, like the cooks that can see the diners”? I think the current social media bring that at best partially. This reminds me of the presentation Mark Schaefer did for E-Consultancy about the expectations of the Social Era Customer (SEC). He draws the parallel with the medieval markets. Social Era Customers want :

Social Era Customer Analogy Open Kitchen Restaurant
To know the person behind the company Seeing who serves you, see his style Entertainment
Transparency Openness about the process of service Transparency about Safety / Hygiene
Immediate impact of communication Good service raises appetite,  bad service is devastating Appetite
Openly shared Word of Mouth

The love for the product and value will make people talk about the product and service

Craftsmanship
To feel connected.

The interaction between cook and customer creates the connection people appreciate.

Interaction

These expectations of Social Media Customers match closely with the values of the open kitchen restaurants. My view is that there is still a lot to gain in E-Commerce. Conversion ratios are dramatically low compared to retail. An open kitchen policy in E-Commerce could boost the customer experience to really make the next step. One should realize that within a webshop, a customer is always on his own. There is no atmosphere alone. Imagine to enter an empty restaurant. My ambition is to develop a new type of webshop that steps up from an isolated experience to a engaging connected experience. That will improve your results drastically.

Economics of open-kitchen e-commerce

Economics of open-kitchen e-commerce

Implementation

You might wonder how to achieve such an open kitchen policy. I distinguish 4 strategies to work with customers:

context marketingContext marketing: adapting the site based on what a customer is doing.

BoFu marketingBottom of Funnel marketing: building an experience based on a customer request

engagement marketingEngagement marketing: building an experience based on a shared passion

Personlization marketing Personlization marketing: allow customers to personalize your product or service.

Together with a partner we are working on the first implementation. We are going to implement the first three strategies. Our objective is to create an engaging community. In an open-kitchen experience, such a community has to be real time and open. Customers need to be able to interact with each other. We position the team as hosts, because they express and strengthen the engagement the community is sharing.

In order for a customer to be willing to participate in the community, he’ll have to had a flow experience. I’ve written an article about flow and it’s meaning in the customer journey earlier. We are going to implement a shopping experience that responds to customer activity and to the interaction a customer has with other customers. The engine will produce additional content that is context specific.

Primary to all this, we’ll need to make sure our customers feels activated. We are convinced questions can play a vital role. Our brain can easily ignore information, but it can’t stop itself from answering questions. One need to realize that questions only activate a person when they require latently known information. Retoric question or questions one does not know the answer to will not activate a person.

We intent to allow customers to participate anonimously. Research shows that customers will only give you their email address when they are 60% through their shopping process. Our intention is to capture our customers early in their orientation phase, because good retailers have proven that when a customer experiences the sparkle of craftsmanship before he dives into the product specifications, he’ll be eager to come back and willing to allow for more margin.

Elements of Open-kitchen e-commerce

 

 

Curious how our implementation will work out? Don’t miss the updates. When you send me a brief message, I’ll keep you posted.

P1070701-1 40-60--20Regards,

Ger van den Buijs

Ger is cofounder of FiveDolphins.com, the platform to facilitate customer flow within your site. You can follow me on gervandenbuijs.com, LinkedIn and Twitter (@BuijsGer)

With courtesy to Pixabay for the images.

customer experience; ecommerce, social media marketing

5 Things E-commerce can learn from Retail: part 6

Automation

Automation designIn this blog we will cover 5 topics on Ecommerce automation and discuss what improvements can be made when you implement strategies from Retail:

  1. Automated marketing and ads
  2. Automated personalized content
  3. Automated follow up
  4. Automated customer understanding
  5. Automated interaction and advising

This is part 6 of my series on “5 Things Ecommerce can learn from Retail”. Ecommerce has had it easy till now. It was sailing with the wind and almost all companies were successful. But competition is getting tougher. Ecommerce has become like a normal trade, where some have success and others fail. It has become increasingly important to learn and improve. My vision is that retail selling strategies have a lot to offer.

The first blog on this topic covered customer education . The second one was on building customer value. The third blog was on removing obstacles. The fourth blog was on persuasion. The 5th and last blog was on the importance of showing activity to customers.

I intended to write 5 articles about my vision that Ecommerce can learn a lot from retail. Now that that objective is accomplished, I still have ideas left. There is at least one that I want to share with you, so I decided to add that to the series. This blog is about automation, a key topic for Ecommerce. To heat up the discussion right away, let’s start with a statement:

Automate as much as possible, but not more.

I have to admit I more or less copied this quote from Albert Einstein. His quote is:  “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler”.

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1. Automated marketing and ads

What is easiest to automate is advertisement. People actually expect advertisement to be automated / programmed. Advertisement can be characterized as the confrontation with a certain product without having taken action to look for that product.

Automated advertisement however has its limits. We see more and more “ad avoiding” customers. A typical example is that “ad-haters” troubled the video service Hulu so much, it decided to offer an ad-free service as an additional option.

The modern version of advertisement is content management. It is more acceptable, because the company actually gives something to the reader. But as more and more companies started to use this strategy as an alternative for advertisement, the overflow of content offered is overwhelming. People start avoiding content as well.

What’s liked best is photo and video. When offered to a customer, video also looks like a photo. Instagram and You Tube are rising in popularity as marketing media. In my vision the main reason is that a picture is the best acceptable way to communicate an unrequested message. Because of the holistic experience photo is the best medium to be catchy, fun, unique in a split second.

I like to compare this to the ads in magazines. People love the flashy magazines for their beautiful ads. The value is in the photo itself, not in the advertised product. That’s why nobody ever complained about the huge portion of advertisement in these magazines.

2. Automated personalized content

Personalization is hot in Ecommerce. There are many tools to produce content that matches the profile of the customer. Examples are:

  • presenting similar products
  • presenting complimentary products
  • presenting “other people also looked at”
  • adjusted sorting based on customer journey
  • less frequently used: special deal offers related to the customer journey

These are Ecommerce improvements that help the customer navigate through the site. It’s like a shop assistant showing you a cardigan that goes really well with the trousers you are trying on. This is really a win-win approach. It safes time for the consumer and the shop increases its conversion.

What can still be improved is collecting the feedback of the customer to the proposed products. The tools collect the click, but it would be great if the customer could actually reply something like “I like that, but it’s too expensive”. The shop assistant goes through a very steep learning curve with each individual customer. It would be great if that would be possible on internet as well.

3. Automated follow up

One of the best conversion boosters in Ecommerce is automated mail marketing. It is also widely used in retail. There are many strategies for this and all have a great impact on sales. To mention some:

  • Advice on how to use the product
  • Products that go well with the product just bought
  • Renewal of the product, at the end of the normal use period
  • Hot deals your customer might not want to miss
  • News and innovation about product, the assortment or the company
  • Congratulation at customer’s birthday.

All of these strategies build on the well known fact that it is much easier to persuade an existing customer to buy a next product from you than to persuade a new customer to buy a product from you for the very first time. It is said to be a factor 6 easier. The reason for difference is TRUST. The existing customer has experienced your service and taking that your service and product were good, he will not have to cross the trust barrier again.

We see two types of behavior here. Many consumers like these messages. This leads to the high conversion that results from these mails. But we also see ad-avoiders, who have opened free mail accounts specifically to receive these mails and trash them. Most customers will do both. Their choice of strategy depends on the relation they feel towards the company. Here Ecommerce can learn something from retail.

Ecommerce is very quick with asking for mail addresses. But when the relation is not yet build on trust, you will get many fakes. Retails spends more personal quality time with the individual customer, building the trusted relationship.  Now the customer is more likely to give his real email address and marketing mails will be much more effective. The advice would be to accompany the request with more and more personal attention, not to reduce the request for email addresses.

A second form of automated follow up is the ad banner, Google Adsense, Facebook targeting etc that are triggered by tracking the customer continously during his internet presence. Much is known about the income these advertisement generate for companies like Google and Facebook. There is also quite some information about the income it generate for the banner/advertisement hosting sites. Much less is known about the conversion they deliver to the company that pays for the ad. Of course, every situation is different, so it isn’t easy to compare. The most objective available data we found showed an average Click Through Rate of around 0.1%. That still doesn’t say anything about conversion. We have other research from SeeWhy that shows that this kind of traffic is 15 times less effective than mail traffic. Might we be looking at the cloth of the Emperor? If anyone can help me to objectively measured conversion rates of these forms of advertisement, I would be most obliged.

Might we be looking at the cloth of the Emperor?

What I do read a lot about is about people avoiding or blocking Adsense and banners. Adblockers are very popular in the App stores. Up to 35% of all ads are blocked. Google reports that less than 45% of ads are actually viewable.

My hypotheses however is that, on top of the above, most people have a trained blind eye for these banners and ads and just ignore them all together. There has been a research on the effectivity of advertisement. They let people read a newspaper with ads in between. One mayor expensive ad was tweaked. The advertised product and the brand of the product clearly didn’t match. None of the participants noticed.

4. Automated customer understanding

Now we are getting to a more difficult topic: understanding the customer. There are many companies that try to innovate in this area. Conceptually there is one problem. One customer account mostly represents one person, but not always. Possibly the account is used by the whole family, leading to different behavior. Similarly one person has different roles in his life. Employee or employer, husband, father, tennis team member, care taker for his elders, etc. Each role will also lead to different behavior. Without interaction it is pretty much impossible to understand an individual. What is easier to understand is the trend in behavior by the mass of consumers. That is where the tools in Ecommerce focus on.

When you look at this from customer perspective, you will feel little appreciation for being treated as average. Every customer likes to be treated as a unique person. Mismatching are quickly causing irritation. In this area retail clearly still has an advantage.

Retail invests in focus on the individual. A shop assistant will ask what the customer wants and what he wants to achieve with it. In this way he can understand the customer as a total person. The weak point in retail is that it is much harder to get the statistics. In Ecommerce every movement is measured and chances of follow up actions can be calculated. In retail that hardly has an equivalent.

The difference between Ecommerce and Retail can be summarized as

Ecommerce works from statistics of actions to predict the needs of one customer

versus

Retail works from their understanding of individual customer needs and tries to predict the general trends in behavior.

Ecommerce has the potential to combine both approaches, when it would be possible to interact in an open environment with the customer. This is different from the customer service chat. It should be experienced as an open interaction where the customer can act and interact without barriers.

5. Automated Interaction & advising

Ecommerce has many forms of automated interaction. You can distinguish two types, static and dynamic. Examples of the static type of interaction are the frequent asked questions (FAQ). By predicting the question, Ecommerce can give the answer on a static page. This works very well and save a lot of costs.

Reviews might be a form of personal interaction or also a form of static interaction. That all depends on the response times. When reviews are not answered or with large delay, they are a form of static interaction. The customer still gets a sense of past interaction, but he will not expect to have any interaction himself from the company. When the response follows quickly, they become a form of personal interaction.

Ecommerce also has the automated assistant. These tools allow the customer to formulate a question. The tool will then try to understand the question, may propose some alternative questions that might cover the original question and then supply an answer. Of course this is also a great cost saver. The success of these tools vary much with the complexity of the question. These tools are in a squeezed position. When the question is very simple, you could have solved it with a well organized FAQ. when the question is complex the chance of providing a satisfactory answer is very limited. Basically these tools are FAQ with a search index.

Ecommerce has since a number of years the customer service chat plug-ins. These brought a great improvement. This is a form on personal interaction that is oftentimes very effective. The customer is served personally by the service center. Mostly the name of the shop assistant is published, which gives a more personal image to the service center. What is automated is the push of the box. I personally find this highly irritating, but apparently other people have a hard time finding the plug-in.

In retail personal interaction has a much bigger impact. There are a number of elements that contribute to this effect:

  • the shop assistant is physically visible
  • eye contact between customer and shop assistant communicate the (absence of) need for assistance.
  • while communicating, the customer perceives the focus of the assistant on him.
  • Non verbal communication is added to the pallet of interaction
  • when returning more frequently, the shop assistant and customer will recognize each other. This creates engagement.
  • customers can oversee / overhear the interaction of the shop assistant with other customers and thus experience the service mentality of the company. This also creates livelihood.

If Ecommerce could implement some of these elements, the impact of interaction could further increase engagement and conversion. Going back to the statement at the start, we should automate everything possible, but not more than the possible. In my view customer interaction can not be automated adequately. At least not at this moment in history. There might be a time in the future when computers/robots will understand humans and can really interact, though I don’t like the idea of it.

What do you think?
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With courtesy to Flickre.com for the photos

customer experience; ecommerce, real-time marketing, social media marketing

5 Things E-commerce can learn from Retail: part 5

Activity

This is part 5 of my series on “things Ecommerce can learn from Retail”. The first one was on educating your customer. The second one was on building customer value. The third blog was on removing obstacles. The fourth blog was on persuasion.

The Library of Virginia 2899347424_7f9416a299_mIn this blog I want to talk about the importance of visible activity. What we mean with visible activity is the behavior your customers show to other customers.

Look at the photo of the restaurant at the top. What does it tell you about the restaurant? What emotion does it create for you as a potential customer?
Andrea Corò 14509525083_a021561731_m

Now ask yourself the same questions about the second photo. Let’s analyze the significance of the difference.

1. Easy & smart decision making

I went out for dinner lately in a town we didn’t know very well. Selecting a restaurant can be quite a challenge in such cases. What I always look for, like most people, is a busy restaurant. Why? To me, the number of customers in a restaurant is social proof that the service and food that that restaurant delivers are good. I know that a busy restaurant will most likely mean I’ll have to wait longer. But, unless I am really in a hurry and just need to grab some quick food, I will follow the advice of the crowd.

When I visit a website, I never get any impression of other customers. Some tell me how many orders they have handled or how many happy customers they have served. But that has a different impact. I just see a number, not the activity itself. It is abstract. Actually seeing customer activity happening ticks the social proof much harder.

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2. Belonging

The number of customers is just one dimension. It makes a lot of difference when I notice that other customers are frequent visitors. Frequent visitors will have more personal interactions with the personnel. They will express their preferences and the personnel will know these. This ticks the emotion of belonging. You clearly see a group and you can belong to that group as well.

Within Ecommerce you hardly get anything comparable. In Social Media some customers might give these types of feedback. Data shows however that customer interaction on Social Media is very rare. The main function of those platforms seems to be to push information from companies to customers. Because of the massive information overflow in Social Media, the customer messages will go unnoticed, unless they are extremely funny.

A second reason why Social Media and Ecommerce are not showing this type of “belonging triggers” is that most companies are afraid of personal communication. They prefer the safe professional approach. Customers however do not get attached to companies. They get attached to people. That’s why you need to empower your social media personnel to express their personal brand and the company brand in their own way. Ted Rubin is one of the people who has laid the foundation for this approach.

3. Trust

The third reason why I want to see other customers is to check the atmosphere. Does this restaurant or shop fit me? Seeing the personnel and customers tells me a lot more then the color of the site or the wall. I don’t say that design is not important and not able to communicate atmosphere. I just think that people communicate atmosphere stronger. Having a match with the atmosphere will help me to determine whether I trust this company.

4. Quality service

There is however one thing that is communicating atmosphere and trust even stronger. That is interaction. Seeing people interact gives an immediate and very strong emotion. In job interviews the first moment of interaction is crucial. The same holds for commerce. The way interaction is done, means a lot to people. In communication only 7% of the information communicated is verbal. The other 93% is non-verbal communication. For written communication that will be different, but still people will look for the non-verbal communication “between the lines”.

Within Ecommerce we have no platform to really interact publicly. Ecommerce has plug-ins to interact with customer service, which is a good facility. Unfortunately that communication is not visible to others, it is not open. Fact is that today’s customers have low trust in organizations and they are allergic to selling communication. Customers put much more trust in feedback from other customers, so you will need to work with customers on an open podium.

Social media does allow people for open communication. In practice that communication is hardly interactive. Much of the “between the lines” information is lost or misinterpreted. That might be the reason why asynchronous communication oftentimes leads to more problems instead of solving them.

This hits the second aspect of interaction. I lately read a research paper that showed that most customers using social media expect a response within an
hour, and a growing group expects a response within 10 minutes. The latter was seen as exceptional demanding.

The next story will shed a different light on that. Recently I was in our local supermarket, which facilitates self scanning of the products. I decided to buy a very expensive type of Italian pasta for a special dinner. When I tried to scan the pasta, it didn’t work. It always works, so this was exceptional. I went to the girl filling the rack to ask what to do now. She didn’t know and went to her floor manager. Without saying a word he walks off with my pack of pasta. Get the picture? How do you think I felt? And how do you think I felt after standing there for one minute?

I am certain that he didn’t stay away for more than 3 minutes, but by then I was feeling really lousy. The floor manager already anticipated that and gave me the pack for free. He knew that the waiting had pissed me off.

So let’s not fool ourselves in Ecommerce. The requirement customers have is real-time interaction. That doesn’t mean you can solve everything instantly. But they expect you to respond instantly and to get clear communication about the way forward.

A helping interaction with the customer, will grant you lifetime engagement. But when doing this publicly, this will have a huge impact on other customers as well. Seeing how your company interacts with other customers will create a lot of trust with all customers.

What do you think?

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With courtesy to Andrea Corò, The library of Virginia and Flickre.com for the photos

customer experience; ecommerce, social media marketing

5 Things E-commerce can learn from Retail: part 4

Persuasion

4893508228_9f130ce264_mThis is part 4 of me series on things Ecommerce can learn from Retail. The first one was on educating your customer. The second on about building customer value. The third blog was on removing obstacles.

Say that we have done all that, the next step is to close the transaction. The final decision is really a difficult step. Most customers are hesitant. Even when you have done everything right, your customer might still fear the moment of decision. Any distraction might make him slip away, so in retail the sales assistant works closely with the customer and puts the right pressure to help the customer to take his decision. Mind you, we only mean ethical methods. Quoting from Jay Abraham:

Presuming you’re convinced that your product solves the problem of your customer or fulfills his dream, you have the moral obligation to help him decide.

Robert Cialdini is one of the great researchers and publishers about persuasion. We selected 7 of the strategies he described in the book he wrote together with Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin: “Yes – 50 Secrets from the science of persuasion”. You will see that these are common practice in retail, but hardly used in Ecommerce.

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1.         Personal message

Research shows that a personal message will generate more response than the same message, but communicated anonymously. Cialdini’s research shows in increase in response from 34% to 69%, just by adding a personal message.

Most likely the message on your website is that you are a great vendor, offering great service and selling a awesome product. Still 98 % of visitors leave your site without a purchase. Looking at those people who put products in their shopping basket, still 70 % abandons your site. Is it a coincidence that this fraction seems to correspond with Cialdini’s 34% that acts on an anonymous request?

It is important to realize that the this game is not easily won. Research shows that real and intentional interaction will be effective. Cialdini presents research that shows that fake smiling might even deliver negative results.

Ted Rubin stresses in his marketing methodology that REAL creates TRUST. And because of that REAL wins over PERFECT. Stimulate your employees to invest their personal brand and effort in your company. Yes, that means that you will have to trust them.  In this social media era you will not be able to be successful without a trusted customer support team. Please watch this video to listen how Ted Rubin positions your employees as key assets. I want to thank Econsultancy for the production the video.

2.         Small gift

A small gift has a great effect on people’s willingness to act. Cialdini’s research shows how a small gift of two peppermints in a restaurant did increase tips by 14 %. Do the same thing in a more personal style and tips will increase even 23%.

The gift must is most effective when given unconditional. You’ll run the risk that a customer will take the gift (for free) without buying a product. But don’t worry. Research shows that an unconditional gift achieves 45% more response. Why worry about the small gifts when you can increase sales with 45%.

3.         Small Request

You want your customers to choose for you, and for your product. This is a big request. Research shows that people say yes to a large request more easily when you ask a small request first. Cialdini shows in an experiment that the number of people saying yes to a particular large request rises from 22% to 53% by asking people a small related request first.

This is in line with knowledge build up in the science of User Interaction Design. It is advised to get people to click on something in your site. Once they have clicked, they are more likely to buy. To make this effective, the click has to be an answer to a request from you, not a pure navigation click.

4.         Labeling

You are a intelligent and innovative marketer. You take up new developments fast, to stay the leader in your market. That is why you will start implementing this policy today. By attaching a label to a person, he is more likely to show behavior corresponding to the label. Use labels as ‘decisive’ and ‘fast’ when addressing customers in the shopping cart pages and you can expect them to be more likely to show decisive behavior.

5.         Active commitment

You want customers to return to your webshop. Returning customers are much more likely to buy than new customers. But how can you get people to return? Cialdini describes how people tend to act as they predicted to act. And that predicted behaviour is more likely to be social desirable. This leads to the proven conclusion that when you ask people to return to your shop they will be likely to say yes (the social desirable answer) and then act accordingly. In retail this is common practice. In Ecommerce we just say thank you, without asking for the confirmation.

6.         Relative pricing

When confronted with a price, a customer will first not really know what to think of it. He will use relative pricing to build up to a decision. Not surprisingly the Forrester research shows that uncertainty about the price is an important reason to abandon the shopping cart.

Cialdini shows that a price is more acceptable when a customer is first confronted with a more expensive product. He describes how Williams-Sonoma doubled the sales of a product by introducing a more expensive version of it. Suddenly the product became the sensible priced product. This is very helpful when the customer is hesitant. Buying the most expensive version is not easily done. Buying the second in line suddenly is a very good compromise between desire and sense.

7.         Avoid loss

People will react much stronger when faced with potential loss, than when faced with a potential gain. Whether the customer will perceive potential gain or loss is a matter of how you present the message. “Try our product at a discount” is proven to be a lot less effective than “Don’t let this bargain slip”. The unique offer and the short duration put some pressure on the customers to prevent the loss of the discount. It’ll be just the little stimulus that your customer needs.

What do you think?

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With courtesy to Seyyah Hatun and Flickre.com for the photo                   P1070688-3

customer experience; ecommerce, social media marketing

5 Things E-commerce can learn from Retail: part 3

Remove Obstacles

rockThis is the third in my series of 5 articles on things E-commerce can learn from Retail. The first blog was about the importance of educating your customers. The second blog talked about ensuring that the customer perceives value  instead of price. This third blog is about the next step. We are now in the situation that the customer has selected a product.

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Though the customer has added a product to his shopping cart, he is likely still not ready to buy. The shopping proces is not completed yet. Forrester research shows that 70 % of all shopping carts are abandoned. The number one reason (44%) I’ll share with you at the bottom of this blog. The second reason (41%) for shopping card abandonment is “not ready to buy”. Next, another 27% of customers want to compare more prices. Your customer experiences an obstacle, and that is not good for you, nore for the customer. Now what would a retail shop assistant do in such a situation? And what can an E-commerce site do?

Ultimate sales machine

The Ultimate Sales Machine strategy (Chet Holmes) for this step in the shopping process is to meticulously take the following steps:

  1. get the obstacle on the table,
  2. isolate it,
  3. resolve it.

The superstar sales person sees each objection as an opportunity, because it proves that the customer is nearly ready to buy. You should not let this customer slip. The customer has a mission, he wants to satisfy a need or fix a problem. When you are convinced your product is right for your customer, you have to help him to resolve the obstacle.

In Ecommerce obstacles were first approached in a completely different manner. Ecommerce was very busy with removing obstacles in the software and user experience. In retail terms you could compare this to making sure the paths are cleared from boxes and the products are displayed neatly. The focus was on optimizing the large stream. And many still do. Examin your own site and check what percentage of individual visitors are actively serviced?

Until about two years ago E-commerce thus ignored the individual case. The obstacles from customer perspective were left untouched. By ignoring the individual dilemma, we caused the customer to leave. That’s how we got to conversion figures as low as 1-3 % or even worse. But we have started realizing that each sale ís in individual situation, with one individual customer.

Two resolutions have been developed. The chat with customer service and (customer) reviews. We see a great impact from both tools. Expecially peer reviews are trusted by customers, though most people know that a part of these reviews are in fact faked. In my blog on Customer experience in the social media era I showed proof that “Word of Mouth” is measured to be a hundred times more powerful than a marketing campagne. People in this era put more trust in the information from peers than the information from the shop as an “institute” . The issue with customer reviews is however that they are static. The customer has to find a review that more or less answers his question. Again the customer will wander off to other sites to find the right review to answer his question. This is time consuming from customer perspective and a lost opportunity from sales perspective.

Knowing that customers need peer information to handle an obstacle in their purchase process we want to ask this question:

Can we leverage that cross customer influence much more and give it an active role in Ecommerce? P1070688-3

What do you think?
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With courtesy to Flickre and Angi English for the photo.
NB: Number one reason for shopping cart abandonment is shipping cost.