Black Friday and Cyber Monday are like the Super Bowl of ecommerce. The apex. The pinnacle. The whole enchilada of the year’s online spending. It makes sense, though. The convenience and versatility of ecommerce are primed for success during the holiday shopping season, especially as the world continues to navigate a new normal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Why drive all around town, slugging store to store looking for the perfect gifts, when you could search thousands of stores and products while swaddled in a blankie on your couch?
In 2020, total sales from both Black Friday and Cyber Monday reached $270 billion globally and $60 billion in the United States. Overall, ecommerce revenue in the U.S. was up 36% compared with sales in 2019. Even without the pandemic pushing people to shop online more, ecommerce was still forecasted to see some impressive growth throughout the year.
With such massive numbers put up in 2020, the pressure was on for ecommerce companies to perform in 2021, even with shipping costs, security, and product availability being the top three concerns for consumers going into the holiday season. People were expected to shop around for the best deals, jumping brand to brand, which made vying for attention even tougher.
However, increased competition pushed more brands to focus on what’s most important: the customer. In order to reach beyond the success of 2020, this holiday season proved that it was imperative to value the customer and create delightful experiences from first click to conversion.
Earning attention and winning sales during the holiday shopping season of 2021 was as good a reason as any for ecommerce merchants to develop long-lasting relationships with customers. After all, with more customers flooding your online shop, the more chances you had to showcase your brand’s value, products, mission, and more to drive loyalty well past Black Friday.
We were inspired to toss out some ideas for how to build those ecommerce customer relationships early and ensure they’re nurtured even after the milk is drunk, Santa goes home, and the Christmas trees are on the curb.
A Strong Customer Relationship Is Built on a Brand Promise
A brand promise is just what it sounds like – a promise a business makes to its customers about the value or experience they can expect each time they shop with that company. One study shows that 81% of consumers say they need to trust a brand in order to buy from them, and that trust often begins with a promise.
As a company, you must keep that promise to your customer, and everything you do around the brand should reinforce the brand promise. For example, if your company promises free shipping on all items purchased, then you must adhere to that promise, even as shipping costs continue to increase.
A brand can position itself three different ways when creating a promise:
- Features (e.g., shoes, makeup, technology)
- Benefits (e.g., work smarter, run faster)
- Emotional benefits (e.g., empowerment)
Your brand promise may encompass one or all the above-mentioned categories. Nonetheless, identifying a brand promise that stands out above the competition is key to building relationships with customers following the holiday rush. The final step in strengthening your brand promise is to simply do a bit of a reality check. Do your customers believe your brand promise? Is it relevant to your target market? A good way to understand the answers to these questions is listening to your customers.
Next, Humanize the Online Shopping Experience
Here’s another secret to success in coming out on top after the holiday shopping rush: Brands that humanize the ecommerce experience will keep customers coming back for years to come.
It’s not that people don’t like being talked to by robots lacking empathy and compassion and care…
Oh, wait! People hate that very deeply, actually.
So, what does it mean to humanize a shopping experience? It means customers don’t want to feel like a dollar bill—only worth kindness and support until the minute after they pay at the checkout. Shoppers today want to make a connection with the brands they buy from, and the more a customer can connect, the deeper their loyalty grows.
Imagine your local shop or corner store. These are shops that rely on the loyalty of the people who live in the neighborhood or who feel most welcomed. When the barista knows your name, you feel good. That’s a level of intimacy that can be hard to achieve on the hard surface of technology. And when brick-and-mortar stores were forced to close their doors in 2020, brands had to pivot and find creative ways to engage with shoppers online and foster a new era of humanity in ecommerce.
The first way to humanize the ecommerce experience is to simply listen to your customer. Listening instills trust that you are genuinely interested in what the customer has to say about their experience with your brand. This is not an opportunity to make a sales pitch, nor a time to push products to your customers. Instead, you need to listen to everything customers have to say—the good, bad, and the ugly—and use that feedback to make improvements to the overall customer experience.
A couple of easy ways to solicit this feedback is through customer reviews and even surveys. Platforms like Yotpo, Trustpilot, and Hotjar are focused on understanding your unique customers and building an experience that suits them best. These are also useful resources in instances where you feel like you know who your customers are and what they need, but maybe you need some data to back it up.
In addition, you can map your customers’ journeys through your website and products to build connections and humanize every touchpoint. Each online transaction will create bits of information that can be captured and analyzed. Here, you can see where there may have been hold ups or other issues for customers. Was there a product the customer wanted that was out of stock? Did they cancel a transaction once they arrived at the shipping section through the ordering process?
Studying each customer’s journey on the back end can help you improve the overall customer journey while developing a meaningful relationship that will bring people back time and time again.
Being authentic with your customers is important when humanizing their shopping experience and trying to develop lasting relationships. In fact, 86% of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor in deciding which brands they like. We discuss the challenges ecommerce companies may face when creating bonds with their shoppers in our Route Connect 2021 discussion. A panel of ecommerce pros knows a thing or two about nurturing ecommerce customer relationships all the time instead of just before the big holidays.
Better Ecommerce Customer Relationships Are Just one thoughtful touchpoint away
The holiday shopping season is the time to shine for any ecommerce company. It’s reminiscent of your mom frantically picking up laundry and hiding clutter before company comes over but with more capitalism. In short, it’s a time to deliver your very best customer experiences while more people flood your digital doors.
While Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the days leading up to New Years bring a lot of potential for revenue and acquisition, the gains are short-term. With a thoughtful and consistent brand promise, topped with humanizing experiences throughout, merchants can turn a one-time customer spike into long-lasting loyalty.
Watch the expert panel from Route Connect 2021