Understanding how to communicate effectively to online shoppers is a question that every ecommerce company must ask constantly and from many different perspectives. One way to look at ecommerce communication is in terms of problem-solving. Here are seven common mistakes, along with solutions:
Mistake #1: Not communicating enough
Solution: Understandably, the work of running an ecommerce business never ends, with marketing campaigns to run and orders to ship. Communicating with customers can end up low on the priority list. Taster’s Club founder Mack McConnell told Arianna O’Dell that he learned to communicate with customers soon after they placed an order – that human interaction was particularly critical at that point.
Mistake #2: Limited channels
Solution: Expand your toolset. Part of communication is about giving people different avenues through which to talk. Key ways that you can communicate in ecommerce that you probably already have adopted or have considered incorporating, as suggested by Ajeet Khurana in June in The Balance Small Business, are:
- Email – For electronic commerce, electronic mail is essential. You want an email address as a point of contact for customers, along with a ticketing system that makes it possible to respond to numerous similar emails simultaneously.
- Phone – When you think about having support people available by phone, many think it does not justify its resource consumption. However, phone personnel are valuable in answering questions through a channel that is most comfortable for some buyers.
- Live chat – Many shoppers look for live chat so they can get questions answered immediately through your site. A wait time for live chat is generally acceptable to customers because they can keep using the computer as they wait. Like phone, live chat is resource-intensive, but it is still popular since customers often prefer it.
- Blog – Blogging gives you a way to communicate with customers and potential customers through content that is put up periodically over time, refreshing the site’s language. Your blog will keep your site integrated with the present day (because even if you are writing evergreen content, you are inevitably using sources and topics that are more recent with each piece), and it also helps you share your thought leadership and search authority.
- User-generated content (UGC) – While it is important for you to share knowledge and ideas with customers through your blog, it is also an excellent idea to build community by tapping their thoughts. People will be likelier to feel loyal toward your site if it allows them to submit their own comments, reviews, and other thoughts through forums and other channels, via text, image, and video.
- Ads – Advertising is inevitably costlier than you want it to be. Think of your ads straightforwardly in terms of “staying on message” (with an eye consistently toward communication), even as you adjust and tweak to get the best possible response.
- Product descriptions – Last but certainly not least, you want to think about how you are communicating through the ways you are describing your products. It is very important to your search-engine rankings that you change the default, stock text from the manufacturer to your own. Otherwise, it is not original content; Google, Bing, and other search engines gives significant weight to content originality. As an indication of why, the mission statement of Google states that the company intends “to organize the world’s information.” Google is in the business of information. If your site is not feeding it new information, in the form of new content, it will not appreciate your site as it does others.
Mistake #3: Failing to leverage social media
Solution: Social media is another key form of communication that deserves its own attention. It can be confusing to determine the extent to which you want to invest time and resources in various platforms, but social media generally can give you a stronger community and greater brand awareness. It also gives you an environment in which to tell your story. To be clear, though, you aren’t just opining on social media but leveraging the opportunity to spark discussion.
Four of the most common social media sites to connect with people today are Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. While Facebook is broader in its focus, Instagram in known for images, Snapchat for short video, and Twitter for shortform versions of posts. You don’t have to stick to strict use of a platform only for a certain type of content, but you can build the same messages into various formats for use on each platform. Much of the choice of focus in social platforms will have to do with the users of it. Study your audience to determine where they are, how old they are, and other demographics. Using that data, find the social platform popular with those groups.
Mistake #4: Neglecting to encourage feedback
Solution: Collecting and analyzing customer feedback is key. The data and comments they provide give you valuable insight into how people perceive your brand and how customers are discovering you. McConnell also noted that gathering information from customers allows you to know what you need to fix.
Mistake #5: Not considering storytelling
Solution: There has been great discussion of storytelling as a marketing tactic, as a way to get the engagement you need to keep people on your site and returning for more. When you tell a story about your brand, you are able to get across information about your product within an image you are controlling.
There are many ways for storytelling to become part of your communication. You can use TV or radio ads if you have the money for that. Storytelling can also be used within your blog. Whether you are centered on storytelling or more specifically on information sharing, your blog is a good place to express knowledge and create intimacy.
To integrate storytelling, use these tips from Thibult Herpin in E-Commerce Nation:
- Convey a positive image. Inspire people and get them excited by showing them testimonials or otherwise showing your products in a pleasant light.
- Be accessible. Use a story and protagonist to which your prospects can relate.
- Be emotionally charged. Help build interest in your story by using language that will stimulate emotional response from your customers.
- Get granular. You can help people see the world of your story with details. Be careful as you get granular, because you want your information to be helpful and not overwhelming.
Storytelling as it is often explained, with the creation of character and setting, is not necessary for or appealing to all companies but is certainly interesting to explore related to content.
Mistake #6: Boring standardized emails
Solution: Order confirmations, delivery information, shipping status, and other transactional messages do not have to use the same sleep-inducing text that is built in as default by the ecommerce platform, advised Richard Stubbings in PracticalEcommerce. You can customize the language to better engage with your customers. Point out your return policy details and steps they can take to solve problems. Give them tracking information, the way that delivery occurs, and consider tying in loyalty promotions or other discounts.
Mistake #7: Uninspired 404 error pages
Solution: Typically when you get to a 404 error page (also called a 404 Not Found), it simply tells you that you have reached the server but it could not find what was requested. A/B testing company Crazy Egg noted that optimized 404 pages should explain what went wrong, speak plainly or humorously, give them paths to stay on the site (such as a link to the homepage and a search bar), and should maintain the same design theme as the rest of your site. There is another way to go after the 404 issue, and that is by fixing broken links. Check for missing media and articles once monthly.
Mistake #8: Empty search pages
Solution: When you offer a way to search your site, you are also opening yourself up the possibility of sending your customers to dead ends – search results with “no results found.” Instead of accepting those dead ones, change that page so that you link to the categories to which the product belongs and/or recommend similar products as alternatives so that they can keep browsing.
Mistake #9: Standard abandoned cart emails
Solution: It is a good idea to seriously consider your abandoned cart messages and whether you believe in sending them, as indicated by Stubbings, who argued against them. If you keep sending them, measure the conversion rate from them so you know if they’re working. Also, be certain that the site did not turn down the order and the customer did, in fact, leave behind their cart. The worst-case scenario is if a shopper tries to buy from you and gets denied because their payment doesn’t work or you don’t mail to their location. If that person gets an email that says they can get a discount to purchase the same item, they would be frustrated if they again were blocked from purchasing.
Mistake #10: Complex unsubscribe process
Solution: Whenever you sent out a marketing email, make sure there is a clear unsubscribe link. If someone is thinking about leaving and finds the process easy, they may sign up again for the list. Difficult unsubscribe processes might have the following characteristics:
- When you click the Unsubscribe link, you hit a 404 error message.
- When you get to the Unsubscribe page, you have to enter your email address – in some cases a second time for verification.
- When you get to the confirmation page, it tells you that you will get an email to finish the process or that it will take effect in 7-10 days.
You do not need to slow people down when they want to exit, and it is not in your best interests. “Be as graceful as possible,” said Stubbings.
Mistake #11: Failing to focus on infrastructure
Solution: Are you wanting to communicate effectively for the strongest possible ecommerce growth? One way that you communicate is through the performance of your site. By using a powerful infrastructure to back it, you save your customers and prospects valuable time by more quickly serving them everything they request.
At Total Server Solutions, our infrastructure is so comprehensive and robust that many other top-tier providers rely on our network to keep them up and running. See our high-performance web hosting for e-commerce.