Successful ecommerce businesses realize that the ways we purchase products have changed, but the fundamental desires that drive purchases haven’t. Learn why.
What has made Amazon, Apple, Walmart and Trader Joe’s so staggeringly successful over the years? Is it…
- Their use of the latest and greatest technology?
- Their relentless expansion?
- The astounding insights of their founders?
- Their ability to always adapt to changing market conditions?
While all these things are certainly important, they’re not the primary reason these companies have achieved success.
It’s actually much simpler.
Believe it or not, shopping hasn’t changed much over the past 200 hundred years.
Whether it was a farmer purchasing a horse in the 1800s or you purchasing a new pair of shoes on Zappos.com last week, shopping has always been about the same basic things:
- Meeting needs
- Solving problems
- Increasing comfort
- Improving the quality of life
- Raising social status
- Eliminating pain points
Bottom line: even though the way we purchase products has changed, the fundamental desires that drive those purchases hasn’t.
The most successful businesses (like Apple and Amazon) are the ones who understand what their customers really want and then work relentlessly to satisfy those needs. They don’t constantly change strategies or adopt the newest methodologies. As Jeff Bezos himself put it:
I very frequently get the question: “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?” And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two.
It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, “Jeff, I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher.” “I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.” Impossible.
And so the effort we put into those things… will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.
This is great news for you.
It dramatically simplifies both your mission and long-term ecommerce strategy.
If you can determine the core goals of your customers and then meet those goals, you can create consistent, long term ecommerce growth. And if you can create a fantastic experience for your customers along the way, you’ll keep them coming back again and again.
But this is easier said and done, right? Every day, another “guru” is telling you to focus on something else. You should be doing live video. You should be implementing a chat system on your website. You absolutely need messenger bots to communicate with your customers. You should be investing in link building to increase your organic search traffic.
Along with this advice comes dozens of new products, each designed to help you implement the latest and greatest fad. But this often leads to “shiny object syndrome,” in which you’re overwhelmed and distracted by the barrage of advice and strategies and products.
You’re not sure how to best meet the needs and desires of your customers, and trying to create a seamless experience across all channels feels exhausting. And when you do try out the latest and greatest fads, you end up missing your revenue goals.
It’s frustrating, to say the least.
We’ve got some good news for you. Satisfying your customers doesn’t need to be particularly complicated.
By gathering and analyzing data, you can determine what matters most to your customers as well as how to optimize their shopping experiences so that those desires are met. This methodology allows you to create sustainable, long-term ecommerce growth which will ultimately boost your bottom line.
Having dependable growth significantly minimizes risk, allowing you to sleep easier at night.
In this whitepaper, we’re going to help you determine where to focus both your time and your resources for maximum effectiveness.
Instead of investing in dozens of different products and strategies, we’re going to help you identify the crucial few that really affect your bottom line.
What Really Matters To Your Customers
Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from your high-school psychology class? It states that every person needs food, shelter, love, self-actualization, etc.
Your customers have a somewhat similar hierarchy of “needs” (desires, actually). These desires aren’t particularly complicated and aren’t going to change over time. When it comes to online shopping, they want:
- Lower prices
- Faster solutions to problems
- Greater control over their time
- More choices
- Deeper human interactions
- Greater transparency
- Higher social status
You don’t need an expert or to commission an in-depth study to know that, at a fundamental level, everyone desires these things.
In other words, your customers want an easy, painless, even enjoyable shopping experience. The implications for your business are clear.
Instead of trying something new every month, introducing all sorts of risks, focus on these core desires. Determine which of these desires matter most to your customers, and then double down on that. As Bezos said, they’re never going to change.
If you can improve your customers’ experiences in these areas, you position yourself for consistent, sustainable growth. When we help clients optimize their customer experience, we use qualitative and quantitative data to help prioritize which areas will be most meaningful to their particular customer mix. This helps them reduce risk and inefficiencies.
Let’s dig into each of the core customer goals listed above and see how they specifically apply to ecommerce.
Your pricing strategy is going to be determined both by your product and your core demographics. Your goal is to hit the sweet spot somewhere in the middle.
If you price too low, or offer too many discounts, your product may be perceived as cheap or of lower value. Price too high and you drive away your customers.
Rolex and Timex are good examples of this. Rolex is a luxury brand, and wearing a Rolex watch is a status symbol. The company knows their customers are in the market for high-end watches and prices them accordingly. Timex is the blue-collar watch. As they famously say, “It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.” They know they’ll never appeal to Rolex’s customers and so they price much lower.
Your pricing and discount strategy will hinge on the desires of your customers. If you sell commodity items where price wars are common, your customers will probably always want lower prices as long as the quality remains the same.
But if you’re in the luxury market, low prices can decrease both the perceived quality and social status of your products. You don’t need to overcomplicate this. When it comes to prices, what do your customers really want? Once you’ve identified this, price accordingly.
Faster Solutions To Their Problems
We live in an increasingly frantic culture. Ask anyone how they’re doing and they’ll probably say, “Busy!” If you can offer your customers faster ways to get things done and solve their problems, you’ll create both loyalty and consistent growth.
It’s important to note that faster solutions don’t necessarily mean that your product solves their problems faster than a similar product sold by a competitor. This isn’t like the computer processing chip wars between Intel and AMD.
Think of the staggering lengths Amazon has gone to in order to “solve problems” fast. They’ve optimized everything on their site for ease and speed. Need to buy a new pair of shoes? That’s a “problem”, of sorts. But with two-day shipping and free returns, it’s easier to buy shoes online than go to the mall.
Annoyed at having to enter your credit card information every time you purchase? Their 1-click ordering eliminates that “problem”. Run out of laundry detergent and don’t feel like going to the supermarket… or even getting on your computer? You can order your favorite detergent simply by pushing a Dash Button.
Simply put, Amazon has eliminated as many friction points on their website as possible. They want to create a smooth, seamless shopping experience for customers. You can follow Amazon’s lead.
Using tools like website analytics, heat maps, user testing, and surveys, you can pinpoint the places on your website where customers get confused, frustrated, or abandon their shopping carts altogether. Then you can strategically deploy iterative (not random!) A/B tests to determine the best ways to eliminate those friction points.
Most ecommerce customers aren’t interested in browsing random pages on your site. They want to quickly and easily find what they want and then purchase it without any problems. By fixing problem areas on your site, you can significantly improve your conversion rate, increase revenue, and create consistent growth.
Greater Control Over Their Time
This can go two ways, depending on the products or services you sell.
If you do happen to sell a product or service that actually helps people gain control of their time, you can use time-tested copywriting methods to highlight this fact. By focusing your website copy on the problems your customers face (not enough time) and how your product specifically solves that problem, you can increase your conversion rate and overcome common customer objections.
Using Conversion Rate Optimization methods can help you further refine your copy to the point where potential customers feel like you’re speaking directly to them. But even if you don’t sell products specifically designed to help people gain control of their time, you can still solve this problem in very specific ways.
By creating a seamless, problem-free shopping experience that doesn’t require an inordinate amount of time. This is directly related to the previous point. Fewer things will drive potential customers away from your ecommerce site like a tedious, time-consuming shopping process.
On the flip side, if you can gather data and then find and eliminate places where shoppers get lost, frustrated, confused, or even bored, you can dramatically increase your conversion rate. Why? Because you’re helping them get control of their time. You’re making shopping easy for them. They don’t have to search across multiple websites to find what they want.
We live in an age of choice. If you want to watch a movie, you can go to the theater, rent a DVD at Redbox, or stream one on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, or any of the dozens of other streaming services. Your customers want a variety of choices when it comes to your products.
The more options you can give your customers, the greater the odds they’ll purchase from you. However, this must be done carefully. If you’re not careful, you can increase the cognitive load your customers feel when they shop, which can lead to them not purchasing at all. In other words, if you offer too many choices or it’s confusing to navigate between different options, you can create paralysis by analysis.
The solution? Using strategic, iterative A/B testing to determine the most effective ways to display various product options. It’s critically important that the tests be iterative, based on data (not intuition), and always building on the results of previous tests. If you randomly try adding different product options, there’s a good chance you’ll end up decreasing your conversion rates even though you’re giving your customers more product options.
Your customers do want more choices, but as every Netflix user can attest, too many choices is overwhelming. Use data to determine how to best meet this particular need.
Entertainment / Curiosity
In the movie Gladiator, after single-handedly destroying all his opponents, Russell Crowe screams to the crowd, “Are you not entertained?” This iconic line speaks to our deep desire for things that entertain us or pique our curiosity. Done right, you can leverage this desire to increase your ecommerce revenue.
Dollar Shave Club (the razor company) is one of the greatest examples of using entertainment to drive ecommerce sales. Their hilarious “Our Razors Are F****** Great” commercial immediately went viral, eventually racking up over 25 million views on YouTube. Within 48 hours of launching the video, they had received 12,000 orders and were eventually purchased by Unilever in 2016 for a reported $1 billion.
Their success is due to at least two key things they understood about their customer base. First, they knew that the people most likely to purchase razors online were young men. Second, they knew that many young men find dry, ironic, somewhat irreverent humor extremely entertaining. They combined these two pieces of knowledge to create a commercial that was incredibly entertaining and massively raised the profile of the company.
It should be noted, however, that entertainment and curiosity usually serve primarily to attract new potential customers. To get these customers to actually purchase from you, you need to have your landing pages and website optimized for conversions.
And to bring those customers back, again and again, you need to connect with them on a deep level, which brings us to the next point.
Deeper Human Interactions
Customer help lines are getting increasingly automated, forcing you to wade through dozens of menu options before you finally have the chance to speak to a real person. Nothing is more frustrating than encountering a problem and being told it will be thirty minutes before a customer service representative is available.
Companies that go the extra mile to create amazing, authentic experiences for their customers stand out from the competition. Warby Parker is an outstanding example of this. When you call their support line, a person (not a robot) answers on the first ring. While this may seem like a small thing, it creates a much deeper and more personal connection with customers and significantly increases brand loyalty.
Trader Joe’s extreme focus on customer service has become somewhat legendary, with stories of employees delivering products in snowstorms. The point is that in our increasingly digital, automated world, people value deep human connections. And when it comes to ecommerce, this is even more important since everything happens online.
To create long-term ecommerce growth, focus on creating meaningful connections with your customers. There are a number of simple ways to do this, including:
- Making it easy for customers to contact you via a variety of channels, such as phone, email, chat, etc.
- Personalizing the shopping experience as much as possible.
- Thoroughly addressing all problems that arise with customers.
- Engaging with potential customers on social media channels.
This doesn’t need to be particularly complicated. Make your customers feel like you actually care about them, and you’ll create the kind of long-term ecommerce growth you need.
It could be argued that transparency is valued more now than at any other point in history. With Facebook and Google making headlines over their lack of transparency regarding user privacy, it has been proven that transparency really matters to people.
You can use this to your advantage within your company. By being fully transparent about things like return policies, product specs, pricing structures, and even problems, you can earn the trust of your customers.
The social media scheduling company Buffer has earned a loyal following by being deeply transparent, going so far as to share revenue figures, their Net Promoter Score (even when it drops), and even their team happiness scores. This kind of openness has earned them deep respect from their customers and competitors alike. And with increased customer loyalty, their Customer Lifetime Value remains high.
The moral of the story? Be open and honest with your customers. If a problem arises, address it directly and transparently. Not only does this create loyalty with your customers, but it also increases the level of trust they feel with you.
Higher Social Status
Every brand has a particular social status associated with it.
Some brands, thanks to their transparency, product quality, strategic marketing, price optimization, and commitment to authentic human interactions, are associated with a high (or good) social status. Think Nike, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or Zappos. Other brands, due to their incompetence, deceitfulness, or terrible customer service, have a dark cloud hanging about them. I’m sure you can think of a few with ease.
By striving to meet the perennial desires of your customers, you accrue social currency for your company. A certain status is associated with your products and your customers become your ambassadors. Again, this isn’t particularly complicated.
When you work hard to create seamless customer experiences, it’s inevitable that customers will love you and rave about you to their friends. They will want people to know that they shop with you.
Some Things Never Change
Technology may be changing rapidly, but people never change. The same things that motivated them 1,000 years ago still motivate them today. It’s this reality that has allowed Jeff Bezos to create the biggest ecommerce company in the world, and to become the richest person in history.
Yes, Amazon utilizes technology to improve their website. Yes, they are constantly innovating and tinkering. But ultimately, they focus on the things that will never change.
They know that if they can satisfy the desires of their customers, they’ll constantly grow their ecommerce revenue. Don’t chase the latest fad.
Don’t constantly switch your strategy based on the lastest hot take. Give your customers what they want and they’ll come back again and again.