Even though online companies like Amazon and Texture have digitized books and magazines and changed the way we read, there are still many people out there who enjoy earmarking a page in a magazine or book. There’s something about the tangible feel of holding a book in your hands or bending that page with the recipe that you must make for later.

In retail, regardless of industry vertical, there’s a fundamental requirement for entering into a relationship with a prospect or customer — and it’s trust.

online retail customersWe recently sat down with several online retail marketers who have shifted the way companies do business by focusing on the customer experience and building those relationships with new and existing customers. For many, trust is a big issue, especially for online retail where you don’t have a tangible product or store your customer can walk into to touch and feel the product. It’s important to represent yourself well and make a strong first impression and this usually starts with your website. According to Tony Haile of Chartbeat, 55% of visitors spend less than 15 seconds on your website. That’s not a lot of time to appear to be credible, believable and trustworthy on your first impression.

However, first impressions go beyond your website. These days the savvy consumer is very visual and really picks up on visual inconsistencies online, including online advertising. A poorly executed or inconsistent design experience, for example, gives consumers an immediate reaction of whether or not to trust a company whether it be an email or a click from paid search to a landing page or a social ad. The whole online customer journey should feel like it is coming from the same brand. The bottom line is if it doesn’t feel consistent, it degrades the underlying trust.

Beyond the visual aspect, believe it or not, consumers seek out your return policy on your website. The online retailer now needs to take on more of the responsibility if they truly want a customer’s business. There’s an underlying expectation these days that consumers won’t have to pay when shipping returns from online purchases. Or, if the store has a brick and mortar component, they expect to be able to return something to the store directly. Consumers want and expect you to take the burden off of them and make it easy for them to correct a bad decision or a misinformed purchase. Is your return policy easy to find on your website? Do you offer a pre-paid shipping label? These are things you may want to consider.

Will you be at ShopTalk? Stop by our booth #1131 to learn more.

You might also like:

Making the Retail Shift to Omnichannel Marketing

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Going from Brick and Mortar to Omnichannel

Brick and mortar shift to omnichannel marketing

In the past, brick and mortar stores were faced with how to convert shoppers to buyers and increase their conversion rates. With traffic counters at the door, converting browsers into buyers was the number one goal. Now retailers are challenged with shifting to omnichannel, providing localized and customized information to the savvy shopper.

We sat down with Mark Pierandozzi who, in his 30 years experience in retail, has been a multi-unit manager four times and responsible for billion dollar revenues twice (Target and Best Buy), to get insight on how he is dealing with the shift to omnichannel.

How are you using digital to get people in the store? (e.g. local inventory ads, maps showing which store carries the item being searched for, location of closest store with item in stock, etc.)

Apps…Retail applications allow customers to see who sells what, where. Currently, the physical stores can be utilized as “hubs” to ship product globally, versus a distribution center. We can ship it directly to your house or you can pick it up at your neighborhood store.

According to Google, 71% of in-store shoppers use smartphones for research. How is digital transforming the in-store experience for you? (e.g. searches on mobile by consumers while in-store)

Many customers utilize search engines to educate themselves about products and pricing. It’s ALWAYS about the ability to say “Yes”, we can get that for you! The beauty of digital is people can research a product while they are in your store right in front of you. Sometimes they’ll pull up an image of what they want and ask you if you have it.

You’re now able to apply for a credit card on a store app now. There’s going to come a point where 25% of all sales is going to come through digital for brick and mortar stores. Black Friday is going to be a history lesson one day. It’s going to go back to being a same day sale, doorbusters for a specific time. Digital is literally impacting shopping behaviors.

How does email play a part in your omnichannel strategy? (e.g. do you send customer surveys out afterward, do you send them exclusive offers that are available in-store only, do you send birthday discounts, etc.)

Typically, customers get signed up for “loyalty” cards, and from there, receive “rewards.” The emails are personalized based on prior purchases. Customer surveys, on the other hand, are executed via receipts. We also offer incentives for people to take a survey, such as a coupon for future shopping. Customers make driveway decisions every day! For example, you can leave your home and decide to make a left to go to Target or a right to go to Walmart. You base your decision on value or brand standards/shopping experience. Our job is to make sure they are satisfied and that they’ll return to purchase from us again and again.

Consumers have a higher expectation of retailers more than ever before, what are some ways you are customizing the experience for them when they come into the store?

Certainly email blasts, via customer loyalty accounts work. At the end of the day, the biggest impact is to “engage, invite, enable” our customers by giving them a voice. Having a sales rep on the floor greeting people and inviting them into a conversation about what brought them in today or relating to something they are wearing (say a football jersey) makes the shopping experience more personal. As we strike up a conversation and ask questions about what they’re looking for and who it’s for, we can help them find what they are looking for. Then it becomes much more natural to make a recommendation of add-on items they may not have even thought of because you are being helpful.

Have you figured out how you’re measuring how much local business sales comes from digital search? Or are digital and in-store sales teams aligned with corporate goals and all that matters is the bottom line?

Brick and mortar and omnichannel dictate total revenue for a store. It’s important to realize that every interaction counts…every customer counts. For example, the ability to order a product that you don’t have in stock from your virtual inventory to satisfy a customer and offer them free shipping to their house if they order it right there, as opposed to them going home and ordering it and having to pay shipping, is a big win for the retailer.

Going to Etail West? Stop by and see us at booth 604 to find out how we can help you sell more stuff with email.

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OK, everyone! Are you a marketer? If not, please get up from your desk, stretch your legs, get a cup of coffee.

Still with me? Well, now that it’s just us marketers in the room, come closer. Shh— I want to talk about a dirty secret I bet a lot of us share.

We’ve heard a lot about the ubiquity of data and the power of personalization in marketing. We’ve admired (and maybe envied) some successful retailers or other businesses who’ve pioneered data-driven marketing and commerce. And, we all know we shouldn’t batch-and-blast our customers with unwanted email or shotgun marketing messages—but, gosh, it’s so easy.

On the other hand, cultivating a personalized relationship with a customer and giving them a reason to come back to you isn’t easy. It takes time, and it takes a willingness to pay attention to your customer as an individual. It sounds a lot like running an old-fashioned corner store, doesn’t it? Well, it kind of is. But in the online world, it also takes investment in the right sort of technology to be able to do it on a large scale.

Three things I learned about personalization 2.0

So, when we’re talking e-commerce, how do you move your marketing from batch-and-blast to individualization? SparkPost recently hosted a webinar about “Personalization 2.0” with Forrester Research’s Brendan Witcher and our own Jose Santa Ana. In the webinar, these experts shared their vision for Personalization 2.0: seamless customer engagement across an entire ecosystem of touch points.

I learned a lot listening to the webinar, but here are three particular take-aways I wanted to share about Personalization 2.0:

1. Consumers pay more for a brand that treats them as individuals.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of consumers will pay more and recommend a brand that provides a more personalized experience. That sounds like a really big number, but think back to the last brand that sent you relevant, wanted content. Chances are you’re still buying from them, right?

2. It’s all about the data.

Individualizing customer experiences is impossible without the right customer data. Investing in technologies that provide real-time access to customer data is a must to achieve Personalization 2.0. But it’s not all about spending money on the latest-and-greatest. This change is as much a mindset as it is a technology hurdle. It means designing your digital touch points right from the start with the idea of using and collecting data so as to create a more complete view of your customer.

3. Don’t boil the ocean!

But, remember, Personalization 2.0 is an end goal and a journey. It takes work—you should continually work towards it, but you’ll need to start small and build up. A good starting point is to invest in one mature, data-rich channel (hint hint: email!) and then continually integrate other channels to eventually grow into individualization.

Creating content and experiences that your customers find relevant isn’t easy. It takes a commitment to investing time and money into building out technology and processes to create a richer view of your customer—but it’s really worth it. It’s simple: when brands treat customers like royalty, customers reward brands with loyalty.

What’s been your experience with Personalization 2.0? I’d love to hear from you.

Bonus: Upcoming Webinar

And, by the way, I’d like to invite you to an upcoming webinar. Join us on January 26 for a lightning round of 2016 predictions as 10 (count ’em, 10!) email experts go head to head. It’s going to be a great chance to capitalize on what’s coming in our industry—and maybe to have a little fun, too. Register today!

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