Hey everyone—Tom here again. I know it might not look like I’m here, but I am. (There is nothing wrong with your computer, do not adjust your set.) That faceless “picture” of me is there to underline a point I am about to make, or rather, a point that Brett was making during one of our recent lunches.
If you caught the first two installments of my summer blog series, Lunches with Brett, you will know that Brett covered several important landing page tips. This week he was keen to talk about something different, something you might call “the lost art of online customer service.”
Brett also wanted to debunk some myths about website personalization, including the perception some companies have that the technical challenge is too big, and the return on investment is too unpredictable, to make it worth doing. So let’s looks at the facts, as Brett sees them from his position, that is, totally immersed in website optimization.
Fact #1: People love personalized attention. Whether we are physically in a store or shopping online it makes no difference, we humans love personal attention. And yet many ecommerce sites seem content to treat each online customer like just another blank face (see image above).
Do you know of any customers who appreciate this sort of generic, unfeeling treatment? I didn’t think so. At best, this type of impersonal service will do nothing; at worst it will spurn resentment, disloyalty and possibly even permanent defection. Here are some interesting recent statistics on this very topic. These numbers are from the UK—but probably applicable in the US and other countries. For example, “More than a third of UK web shoppers would spend more money online if better customer care or advice was offered”).
Okay, now I am no longer faceless I can continue to explain what Brett is not saying. He’s not saying there are a bunch of companies that want to treat their customers as faceless entities; it’s just that the challenge of doing things differently can seem so huge it is overwhelming. The default settings are to treat everyone the same, even though you know they are not.
These companies—the overwhelmed—have undoubtedly read that site-wide personalization, adding a personal touch to every page, will improve their website ROI, but they are still asking themselves, “Is it really worth it? My IT team is already over-burdened and under-staffed—I simply don’t have the resources for any kind of personalization, much less one-to-one” …which leads me to…
Myth #1: Site-wide personalization is so hard it’s not worth it. Maybe a few years ago this was true, but today there are products available that enable ecommerce businesses to recapture a sense of personalized service, without involving IT; and effective use of these products will drive conversions—period. If you’re a retailer this is good news; an affordable path to online delivery of the professional level of customer service that you undoubtedly demand for your brick and motors stores has opened up.
Allow me to illustrate.
Let’s say that someone browsing your US-based site is from Canada and they are sensitive to high international shipping rates. With an “impersonalized” site, the shopper typically has to wait until the final stage of checkout to find out what your international shipping rates and policies are. Often the sticker shock at seeing these rates results in high cart abandonment rates.
But what if your site was personalized, even just a little bit? Then the prospective shopper from Canada might be greeted with a banner towards the top of the screen advertising the fact that your site offers “affordable international shipping.” That message can be present on each page that your Canadian visitor visits. That’s just one piece of personalization, but it can make a big difference in the percentage of Canadian visitors who complete their purchases.
Or how about differentiating between new and returning customers? As a returning customer, I don’t want to see the “10% off all purchases for first-time buyers” —that’s just annoying. But as a new prospective customer, I need to know about such promotions, as well as some of the basics, like your shipping and return policies.
Wouldn’t you agree that providing more relevant product offers through personalizing your site would likely result in increased conversion rates? From where Brett sits, watching over a broad range of commercial websites, the ROI is there. Personalization pays. It’s a no-brainer.
And it also feels good! This is the power that personalization offers: a return to the golden age of customer service, online. Differentiate yourself from the competition, start personalizing your site and increasing ROI now (you can thank me—or should I say, Brett—later).