The growth of ecommerce has cultivated a new kind of consumer slowly becoming the norm. Rather than refer to them as ‘consumer 2.0’, around here let's refer to this growing persona as the ‘hyper consumer.’
What is 'hyper' about today's consumers?
Gone are the days when online retailers could reach a customer who was simply ready to buy ‘right now’. Not only has the influx of fresh content, reviews and availability of product information on the Internet groomed a more discerning consumer, all of these things have also extended the life of the buying cycle.
In short, because of the availability of product and service information online, it takes a lot longer for consumers to make a purchasing decision. And can you blame them? With all that information out there, we have a lot more to consider! As a result, in order to keep up with this evolution, ecommerce retailers need to subtly influence that decision-making process as long as it lasts.
How to cater to the ‘hyper consumer’
Online retailers are now expected to court this ‘hyper consumer’ with fresh content, readily available product reviews, buyers guides, lenient return policies and much more. There's a lot more to think about than just the shopping cart.
This post will give you the basic elements that are quickly becoming a best practice (and are critical for successful customer engagement) in the ecommerce buying cycle.
Long a core tactic in audience engagement and SEO, a focus on content is critical to the success of an ecommerce website. I doubt I have to re-visit the many reasons you should have a blog or other platform that supports consistently-updated content on your website (audience engagement, SEO, just to name a couple reasons.)
However, a strategic focus on product descriptions that provide as much engagement and information as possible are critical to a conversion rate. In addition to unique on-page content, blog content that educates and entertains over the period of a longer sales cycle is, again, a no-brainer.
I don’t know about you, but when I go to purchase something online, I make sure to read reviews if they are available in the store. Sure, reviews can make or break your sales – but if you’re selling a great product you can stand behind, you should only think of reviews as beneficial to your bottom line. Side note: If there aren’t reviews featured in the shop I am searching for, a simple Google search will take me to the information I need. So, whether you feature reviews on your website, or not, customers will leave and find them.
Allowing customers to leave reviews can also improve your customer service in the long run. For example, when I am looking at buying a pair of shoes online, I often check customer reviews to see if other shoppers have mentioned if the shoes run big or small, or if they have commented on the shoe’s comfort or general fit. If someone says the shoes run small, I select a size according to that information. This saves me the inconvenience of having to ship them back when they’re too small, and saves the online shop on return shipping and customer service time.
3- Return Policy
And while we’re on the subject of returns, let’s talk about your return policy. I am appalled when I occasionally come across a website that either does not allow returns (period) or allows returns for store credit only. I will almost never buy a product there.
Allowing your customers to return a product and receive their money back is a customer service best practice. A no-return or complicated return policy will not only discourage one sale, it probably means they won’t ever come back to your website again.
Note: There are extreme cases where a no-return policy is acceptable, including made-to-order items and clearance sales, however use caution if you decide to go this route. Online consumers expect the online purchasing process to be as seamless as it is in the real world.
4- Buyers Guides, Whitepapers and Video
Buyers guides and whitepapers are a huge part of the hyper consumer’s buying cycle. Not only is your customer taking the time to read reviews and compare prices, they are researching your product and making comparisons more than ever before.
In addition to boosting content and keywords on your website, creating your own unique buyer’s guides, whitepapers or informational videos assert your authority and knowledge. It also helps your customer comparison shop right on your website rather than leaving your website to go find out more.
These are just a handful of tactics that have emerged with the growth of the 'hyper consumer'. Are there other ecommerce best practices you think cater to this longer buying cycle? Let us know in the comments below. If you're an online retailer interested in business blogging, informational videos and more, we'd love to offer our advice. Contact us with your questions.
Image by freefotouk, and licensed through Creative Commons.
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