They say that knowledge is power, and there’s a lot of truth to that, but you could say something different about the world of ecommerce: that knowledge is money. The more you know about what your customers want, how they act, and what drives them, the more effectively you can market to them, win their favor, and drive them to convert.
The big question, then, is how you can build up as much relevant information as possible. Some of it will inevitably be volunteered, sure — whatever you collect through user account details, for instance — but much of it will only be disclosed if you make an effort to acquire it.
So how can you proceed most effectively? In this post, we’re going to look at some tactics ecommerce sellers can use to learn more about their customers. Let’s get started:
Use real-world events (pop-up shops, etc.)
One of the biggest issues with online interaction in general (not merely when it concerns ecommerce) is that it can’t replicate the overall experience of being in someone’s company and having a regular conversation with them. Even if you manage a high-quality video call with superb hardware and software in line with the latest technological standards, it’ll fall short.
Due to this, there’s a lot of value in creating opportunities to engage with your prospective customers in person — and the way to do that is by using real-world events. You can host them (e.g. arranging an industry gathering) or just attend them (you could set up a stall at a market, which would also give you a chance to sell through a mobile POS system). Either way, you’d get to speak to prospects fairly candidly, which would help a great deal with understanding them.
Engage with them on social media
Another great way to communicate with your customers is to engage with them on social media. First, you must carry out some extensive research into which channels, topics and people your targets typically show interest in. Do they prefer Twitter? Facebook? Snapchat, perhaps? Do they post frequently, share existing content, or just lurk? How do they express themselves?
Once you’ve tracked them down and become somewhat familiar with how they approach social media, you should start getting involved in discussions. Ask whatever questions you think are worth asking, and if pressed on why, provide an honest answer: that you’re trying to learn more about your target audience so you can offer a better service and make more sales. No one will have a problem with that because it’s a win-win situation.
Schedule detailed post-purchase surveys
If you don’t currently have any follow-up in the post-purchase period, you’re missing out in some major ways. Firstly, it’s great for customer retention if you make an effort to keep in touch with people after they’ve bought from you: thank them for their custom, give them some kind of minor incentive to return (a slight discount on their next order, perhaps), and generally wish them well.
Secondly, it’s a great time to glean some notable insights into how your customers view you — and to do this, you should set up some automated post-purchase surveys. You could configure the first survey to go out five days after an order has been fulfilled, for instance (allowing enough time for the product, or products, to be received and tested), then send another after a month. Anyone who’s bought from you clearly sees some value in your business, so they’re unlikely to deceive you: the feedback they provide will be relevant and potentially very useful.
Interview and showcase top customers
Social proof is a big deal in online retail. Barring the occasional contrarians, we instinctively want to make decisions that others would agree with, and fear being thought abnormal in our thinking — so being shown evidence that a product is popular with others has a lot of power to convince shoppers that it’s worth their time and money. Specific testimonials can be even more impactful: reading about specifically why someone chose to purchase a given product.
But that isn’t the only reason to interview happy customers: it’s also a fantastic way to gather feedback, because it makes the customers in question feel important and valued. If they know they’re going to be featured in posts on your website, they’ll be more than willing to talk at length about their problems and why they ultimately decided to buy from you. You can use that insight to make improvements: addressing their criticisms and leaning into their commendations.
The more you know about the people you’re trying to sell to, the more you can shape every element of your operation (what you sell, how you present it, and the nature of your brand) to suit them. In the end, you need to give people what they want, and there’s really no way around that — so make a commitment to gathering the data.