Back in the day, creating a positive customer experience largely came down to providing friendly and helpful service when consumers showed up in-store. These face-to-face interactions played a big part in communicating a brand’s values and building customer loyalty, even in a chain retail setting.
Of course, digital retail brands generally don’t necessarily have the ability to provide these in-person one-on-one interactions. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave the customer experience to chance. By implementing a few important strategies, you can build a lifelong relationship that your customers will value and enjoy.
1. Use social media to learn about your customers
Creating a positive customer experience starts by understanding who your customers are and what they want. And social media provides the perfect platform to accomplish this.
By engaging with your target audience on social media, you can better understand their unique pain points. You can understand the messaging that best appeals to them, as well as what tactics or phrases drive them away. Starbucks provides a great example of this, responding to customer feedback on social media and directing users to leave specific ideas and requests on their website to show that these comments are truly valued.
The more you engage with relevant groups and individuals, the easier it will be to develop a strong brand persona that is in line with your niche and your audience’s expectations. This provides the baseline for the brand voice that will drive social media interactions and more.
A likable brand personality is often what draws customers to a digital company in the first place, setting a positive tone for future interactions.
2. Streamline your website
For digital brands, the website essentially fulfills the same function as a brick and mortar storefront. Unfortunately, some websites fall into similar traps experienced by many small stores. Similar to having crowded and overstuffed aisles, the website has so many different pages and navigation options that the customers feel completely overwhelmed.
While the idea of cutting out content may feel anti-creative, it can be a crucial step in creating positive customer experiences. A streamlined web design makes it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for.
When optimizing your website, focus on minimizing how much navigation is required to make a purchase. What is the fewest number of steps someone could take from your home page to finishing a purchase? The easier you make this process, the more satisfied your customers will be — and the more sales you’ll achieve.
This is especially true when you draw on customer data to deliver a more personalized web experience. For example, Klientboost was able to increase proposals by 11 percent by using gathered company information to create custom landing pages for corporate leads.
3. Provide unique content marketing materials
By 2017, 55 percent of brands on the Inc. 500 list had a public blog — a number that has undoubtedly grown since then. While blogs can certainly increase your web traffic and provide an engaging source of information for your customers, they shouldn’t become the be-all end-all of your brand’s content marketing.
Don’t be afraid to expand to other forms of media––especially if it’s visual. Infographics can present blog-style information in a more engaging format. Videos can be shared on your website and social channels to provide tutorials or entertainment. Many brands have also begun sharing content on relevant industry podcasts in an effort to reach a more highly engaged audience.
Some digital brands even produce infographics and webinars that go more in-depth on topics that are relevant to their company. Providing a rich ecosystem of high-value, entertaining content will make your brand more than a place where customers stop by for a quick purchase. It can become a go-to site each time they go online.
4. Send a personalized thank you
You collect a lot of first-party data from your customers. Use it to send personalized messaging that helps customers feel valued and appreciated.
This can go well beyond a simple email. Tools like Smilebox allow you to create customized messages using ready-made designs. Coupon templates are also available, making it easy to send your most loyal customers special offers, or even “anniversary” cards from when they first purchased from you.
Such interactions surprise and delight customers because they show that the brand genuinely values their relationship. Rather than an email that gets sent straight to the spam folder, a personalized card can make your brand stand out — especially if it comes with additional value.
5. Solicit feedback from customers (and use it)
Customer feedback matters. Online buyers look to their peers and industry influencers for social proof regarding a product or service. This means that brands need to solicit reviews and other forms of feedback, and then implement them across their channels.
For digital storefronts, enabling customers to leave reviews and ratings on individual products will give other potential buyers confidence in their purchase. Notably, industry experts have stated that for sales on Amazon, reviews matter more than brand name. Even if your brand is unknown to a customer, a number of legitimate positive reviews could be enough to get someone to make a purchase.
Customer reviews and testimonials should have a life that goes beyond individual product pages. Sharing them in marketing materials or highlighting select reviews on your home page shows customers that their comments are truly valued. It’s also important to pay attention to negative reviews, responding to them as needed, and making changes when you identify recurring issues.
6. Keep your brand consistent across platforms
After a customer interacts with your brand for the first time on social media, they expect a similar experience upon visiting your website.
If your social media account is lighthearted and fun, but the website is stiff and businesslike, it’s going to give them a brand whiplash. They may even think they went to the wrong site by mistake.
Forty-seven percent of customers will use three to five communication channels to interact with a digital brand. As part of your cross-channel marketing approach, it’s paramount that your brand persona remains consistent across platforms. A holistic experience gives customers greater confidence in your brand and its messaging. It also makes your brand more memorable and shareable.
Many companies use brand style guides to facilitate this. Maintaining a desired tone, color scheme, phrasing and more will unify the entire digital experience.
7. Use chatbots to improve the support experience
While email is useful, it doesn’t provide an immediate response — and sometimes, a customer’s decision to buy comes down to being able to get the information they need at that exact moment.
This is where chatbot implementation can make a big difference in automating select customer service tasks and handling routine inquiries. They can also automatically route a customer to a human service representative for more complex inquiries.
People are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of using chatbots. Survey data from Convince and Convert indicates that 37 percent would use a chatbot to get quick answers during an emergency, while 35 percent would use one to resolve a complaint or get a detailed answer.
More than one in four customers are now comfortable with the idea of paying a bill or making a basic purchase through a chatbot — such as this Cheapflights chatbot that helps users book flights and hotels.
Chatbot builders like MobileMonkey and TARS allow brands to quickly build conversational chatbots for their websites and Facebook accounts. These tools make it easier for customers to get instant answers while freeing up your support team for more complex inquiries.
8. Provide an online knowledge base
Today’s customers are more tech-savvy than ever, and as a result, they often expect to be able to find all the information they need without ever speaking with another person. In fact, 70 percent of customers expect brands to provide some type of “self-service” knowledge platform that lets them essentially do their own research.
This could include resources like FAQ pages, a searchable knowledge base with in-depth articles and user forums where employees and fellow customers provide answers to specific questions.
Offering detailed, helpful information will build customer trust in your brand, while also reducing the burden on your support staff. While not every digital storefront will require a robust knowledge base, it is always worth providing answers to common questions or concerns.
Build a better digital customer experience
Ultimately, your efforts to improve the customer experience should be focused on what they need at each stage of the buyer’s journey. By making the process of buying from you as easy as possible, you will go a long way in encouraging more time spent on your site, stronger sales and word of mouth growth.
You don’t need to meet a customer face to face to provide a positive and memorable experience. As you take advantage of the many unique resources available to digital brands, you will be able to provide these positive interactions at scale.
Lucas Miller is a business blogger, sportswriter, and founder of Echelon Copy, a media relations agency based in Orem, Utah.