Last Updated: Sep 29, 2014
Staying in touch with customers is so much easier than it used to be, but if you aren’t meeting your customers where they are online, you’re missing the boat. Here are four ways you can use the internet to communicate with your customers.
If you’re running a retail business today, you probably already recognize that customer service needs to go beyond just setting a stack of “Tell us how we’re doing” cards at the front of your store. Whether you operate out of a brick-and-mortar location, sell online, or both, you should be using your online presence to communicate with consumers effectively. Most business owners recognize this, but not all of them are making the most of the online platforms and services available to them.
Unfortunately, if you’re one of those retailers who isn’t doing much with online tools, you definitely have competitors who are—and potential customers who are choosing the company with the better online presence.
Want to better engage with customers and improve your online presence? Try these four tips.
Create content that gets people talking. No matter how sleek your website is, you can’t just sit back and expect customers to come to you. Some people might find their way to your website on their own, especially if you’ve built up a loyal brand following, but you’re missing out on other potential customers who might love your brand—if they knew it existed.
In order to bring more potential customers to your site, produce high-quality content that can be shared in a variety of spheres: think white papers, a free downloadable e-book, posts on your company blog, guest posts on high-traffic websites, and links to interesting articles shared through social media.
And keep in mind that “high-quality content” doesn’t just mean well-worded pitches for your products. You should be sharing information that benefits your readers in some way and encourages them to comment or share that material through their own social media profiles. Creating shareable content is the best way to put your brand in front of a larger audience.
Use social media for efficient customer service. Back in the pre-internet days, customers who were dissatisfied or had a question about a product usually had to resort to calling a company’s help line or revisiting the store in person. Now Facebook and Twitter have made it easy for retailers to offer quick customer service solutions online—and consumers have come to expect that just about every business will do this.
Social media is a great customer service for retailers because it makes it easier to find out about and resolve potential problems quickly. However, it’s also a lot more public than a phone call or a handwritten note—if a customer tweets a complaint at you on Twitter, all their followers and all your followers can see. Because of this, you’ll need to regularly monitor your social media profiles and respond both promptly and professionally when you get a complaint or question. Often, a quick response and an offered solution can win over even the most irate customer.
Find out what your analytics say about your online presence. Feedback from individual customers is incredibly valuable, but because not every customer is going to take the time to give you feedback, you should also use analytics to track website behavior, such as bounce rate, navigation path, heat maps, time spent on each page, and more.
This type of data can be very telling. For example, if your website home page has a high bounce rate, you know that users are finding your site but quickly deciding to go elsewhere. Your metrics and some trial and error can help you figure out how to resolve the issue. In the case above, you might try redesigning your home page so it looks more up-to-date and is less crowded with text, then check to see if your bounce rate improves.
Although looking at online analytics isn’t a means of directly communicating with customers, it is a means of determining how to better communicate with them in the future.
Manage your online reputation. Are you paying attention to reviews of your store on sites like Yelp? Other people certainly are. According to a survey from Dimensional Research, 90% of shoppers say they’re influenced by positive online reviews, and 86% say their purchasing decisions have been swayed by negative reviews.
Make sure that you’ve claimed your business name on major review sites like Yelp (otherwise anyone can claim it) and regularly check in to see what people are saying. If a past customer posts a negative review, don’t get defensive. Just like with tweets, anyone can see an online review as well as the response, and you don’t want to come across as combative and unprofessional. Respond to the negative review with an apology and, if possible, outline what you will do to make the customer’s service better in the future.
Shepard Morrow is the head of Location Traffic, an internet marketing and business consulting company in Pennington, New Jersey. He has helped many businesses increase their sales through improved retail marketing online. He can be reached at LocationTraffic.com or call 609-737-8667.