A lot goes into our purchasing decisions—more than we probably even realize. Is the brand you’re thinking of buying from under any scrutiny? Did they have a particularly great Facebook ad that caught your eye? Are their products unlike any on the market? It’s these internalized questions that can persuade us to either make a purchase or move on to the next store.
But more often than not, the most influential factor people consider is their experience with a brand. How many times have you abandoned a purchase because you had a negative experience with a company? Maybe you felt slighted by their employees, or perhaps they gave the impression that they were indifferent towards their customer base. Now, flip this on its head. If you own a retail store or ecommerce business, the same behaviors and expectations that weigh into your shopping habits should inform how you run your company. As a customer, you want your needs to matter; as an owner or CEO, you need to make customers the center of your business. Some tips:
1. Think like them to sell to them.
One facet of my business is helping aspiring ecommerce entrepreneurs grow and establish their brands in their desired markets. As they think about and research what items they want to sell, there’s one piece of advice I always give them: Don’t promote anything you wouldn’t use yourself.
This advice applies to every retail brand. Whether you’re selling workout equipment, fishing gear, makeup, or shoes, these items should be staples in your life whenever you exercise, fish, or go out. Suppose you believe in an item and get into that niche to sell that product to other people who share your passion. In that case, you’re thinking about what’s in the best interest of your customers, rather than hopping on the trendy-product bandwagon just to make some extra money, not caring if that product was good or not.
This is an issue with a lot of ecommerce businesses today. And I’m willing to bet the sellers behind these brands had bought an overhyped product at some point, only to be outraged when the item didn’t stand up to their expectations. Ecommerce entrepreneurs that have been through this and haven’t changed their business model to ensure this doesn’t happen to their customers don’t have the same respect for their customers as they do for themselves—and this is problematic.
2. Don’t chase trends, be a problem-solver.
Nothing is more important than giving your customers what they want. People will buy products from you if they believe these items will add value to their lives; one of the easiest ways to add value is to solve a problem. Will your product save them time? Money? Will it give them a status boost? If you show your customers how your products can enhance their lives, you’ll keep them coming back for more.
This is where your marketing becomes so important. Let’s say you are selling a brush that will help de-shed a dog’s coat. If you advertise it as a ‘dog fur brush,’ you’re not differentiating it from the hundreds of other brushes on the market. Instead, explicitly tell dog owners how it will help remove matting and decrease the amount of fur their dog sheds throughout the year.
It doesn’t matter what market you’re in; I can guarantee that it’s oversaturated with so many sellers trying to set their items apart. If you think of your brand as a problem-solver rather than a trendsetter, you will get the buy-in from your customers that will help you expand your business.
3. Listen to what they’re saying.
You can’t put customers first unless you are sincerely committed to hearing and learning from their feedback. Take notes when they call into your customer support line. Monitor all of your social media posts for any comments that come through. Read all of the reviews left on your products.
Most customers will be quick to let you know when something is wrong. If it’s an issue with a product, do what you can to fix it. If it’s an issue with shipping or delivery, be sure to address how you can improve the process. And if it’s an issue with a team member, make sure you document the situation and work to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Your customer’s feedback—the good, the bad and the ugly—is like a goldmine of information that can help you improve your business and ensure you are always listening, learning, and growing.
4. Get personal(ized) with them.
One of your goals as a business owner should be creating long-term relationships with your customers. All of the above points will help to strengthen the customer experience, but a personalized interaction is your best bet to turn a one-time shopper into a lifelong customer. One tactic I always recommend is sending customers a sincere, customized ‘thank you’ email after every purchase. Of course, this takes more time than just sending an automated message to every person that engages with your brand, but I believe success is all about being intentional. Your customers want to build connections with the brands they engage with, so show them you see them as individuals rather than as another sale.
I’d say that putting your customers first is the secret to success, but this shouldn’t be a secret to any business owner anymore. Your customers are the reason you’re able to do what you do in the first place, so they should have a front-row seat in every decision you make.