Putting your customer first isn't just good common sense – it's also the No. 1 rule for success in eCommerce marketing. The quality of your customer service can actually make or break your future sales.
For years, business gurus like Thomas J. Peters and others have encouraged going above and beyond the call of duty in order to satisfy customers. A recent Forbes article highlights why, as it reminds us that it costs seven times more to attract new business than to retain existing customers.
And that is especially true in eCommerce, where there is no face-to-face advantage of a live salesperson answering questions or touting the product in real time. Problems like lack of personal interaction and poor response time can become so magnified that three out of five customers never finish the online ordering process. So nurturing the customers you have becomes an even greater priority.
Regionalize, adapt and customize
When you factor in the challenges of doing eCommerce in an international marketplace like southeast Asia, where regional differences make it harder to employ a "one size fits all" marketing approach, it's extremely critical to know your customer and adapt your eCommerce process to local conditions.
For example, companies doing business in Vietnam and the Philippines have certain logistical considerations to contend with. When it comes to payment, since credit cards aren't as prevalent as they are in the West, cash on delivery is an option that over 80 percent of eCommerce firms offer, according to a report by Tech in Asia. Yet, at the same time, bank transfers are a very common alternative in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. The government of Thailand is pushing ePayment as part of its initiative toward moving away from cash.
Delivery methods also vary by region. In some countries like Vietnam, poor roads, traffic conditions and large distances between cities translate to more creative eCommerce approaches. In Taiwan, according to Export.gov, distribution can be either direct to home or to the large numbers of convenience stores that are typically open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The pluses of a personal touch
Beyond logistical issues, there are also best practices that can be put into place to offset the lack of direct human interaction. Forbes advises offering simple return policies and creating a more personal experience for customers, like making online recommendations based on past purchases or sending out personalized emails.
Other tips abound on delivering superior service. Inc. Magazine suggests constantly seeking feedback and giving customers "little things" when they least expect it. Thank-you notes, bending the rules, free samples, discounts and incentives for future purchases are good examples of this approach.
Be honest, transparent and responsible
Demonstrating total transparency when problems come up is another recommendation. Whether the interaction is by email, text, telephone or live online chat, tell the customer exactly how you will help them, and what you will do for them. Everyone appreciates hearing some specifics on how you're planning to handle their problem. And by all means take responsibility for any issues that arise, particularly those within your control. Don't attempt to shift blame or make another department the villain.
The customer is judging your entire company on your interaction, and for better or worse, you are functioning as the public face and voice – so whatever you say or do will be how they will remember you. More importantly, it will translate into what they tell their friends about your company and its products in the future. Good word of mouth does ultimately convert into actual sales!
Be as creative as possible
Even in eCommerce, there are always new ways to stand out from the crowd. Most sites use simple photo and text grid layouts to showcase their merchandise. But when you're selling personal things like apparel or beauty products online, customers may need some help visualizing how your product will match their own lifestyle or personality. Some clever website designers have come up with integrated apps that let you upload a snapshot of yourself, and then see how you look when wearing their product, whether it's a t-shirt or a pair of designer sunglasses. When you don't have a dressing room or mirror available, this app could be the next best thing for not only helping you to close a sale online but also encouraging return visits.