Business Marketing Online: How to Listen to Your Retail Customers in the Digital Age

Retail Marketing Online: Retail Customers in the Digital Age

Brick and mortar businesses have always had many ways to listen to, engage with, and solicit opinions from their customers: Comment cards, Focus groups, Loyalty programs, Mailing lists. And, of course, if you really want to know whether or not what you’re doing is working, you can just watch your sales.

The digital age, however, has added new and more effective ways to listen to what your customers are saying and influence how they feel about your products or services. Some of them have a fairly clear correlation to methods that are available in the “real” world, but others are not so obvious.

If businesses want to be taken seriously in the digital realm (which is quickly becoming even more important than the physical one), they need to become active in every method of communication available.

So how can you listen to your retail customers online?

Start a Conversation. While certain customers may go out of their way to engage with your business no matter what you do, the vast majority absolutely won’t – you have to reach out to them. This strategy is called inbound marketing. The goal is to stop chasing customers and start attracting them with quality content. You can do this by maintaining a regular blog, offering a free e-book, seeking out guest posting opportunities, and sharing interesting content on social media.

But you shouldn’t just be outputting content; your goal should be to use it to create a conversation with customers and generate leads. Listen to what they’re saying through comments, posts, retweets, Facebook messages, and the like. 34% of companies say that the biggest challenge to their digital initiatives is that there are so many different kinds of technologies out there, but staying on top of conversations occurring across multiple channels can keep your company forward-moving.

Social Media Is Customer Service. When people today go to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter (along with dozens and dozens of others), the expectation is not just that they will be able to engage with the brands that they want, but also that they will receive a customer service response at that site. Social Media Marketing is where your Brand has a voice.

And the most important thing to note is that these interactions are public. If the conversations are positive, that’s great, but often customers post to complain about negative experiences. And not knowing about (and responding to) these negative comments because your business doesn’t have an account at that particular site isn’t an excuse. Other people will read them whether or not you do, and it will harm your brand.

Your job is to closely monitor what everyone everywhere is saying and respond to it in a prompt and professional manner. NPR recently reported about a poor social media customer experience at AT&T after this tweet was sent:

Here was ATT’s response:

 Account info? The lead just said she wasn’t a customer yet. It’s likely the response was made with a bot, but that won’t matter to the regular people reading the tweet. AT&T may have a presence on Twitter – and they did respond quickly – but it’s clear that they’re still not doing an effective job using social media to listen to their customers.

Verizon, on the other hand, took the opportunity to land the sale and show that they were paying attention.

It’s not hard to guess which provider the customer ultimately signed up with – listening pays off. And the entire experience has the power to influence other social media users’ opinions of the brands.

Site Behavior Speaks Volumes. One of the great things about the internet is that people are communicating with you all the time – even if they’re not saying a word. You can get an excellent idea about how people are feeling about your brand, your content, and even individual products and services by using analytics to track page bounces, time on page, click path, heat maps, and more.

If an incredibly high percentage of people are coming to your site and then clicking away almost immediately, they’re telling you that they were expecting something different. Take a look at how they got to your site and think about how you can modify either the on-site content or the marketing that brought them to you.

Heat maps tell you where most people are interacting on specific pages so you can better design your site with conversion in mind. And time on page lets you know how engaged they are so you can focus more on content that appeals to your target demographic.

Monitor Your Reputation. The new word-of-mouth is business directory and map sites where users can share reviews. But unlike traditional word-of-mouth, you can listen in on the conversation – and respond! According to studies, 88% of companies actively monitor online feedback and 80% respond.

Every bad review or comment out there can be seen by anyone and it reflects poorly on you. Turn this on its head by making sure that you reach out to everyone you find with an issue and show the world that you truly care about your customers and value their business. In some cases, users will even take the extra step and change their review.

The web is also helpful in uncovering potential problems. Often multiple people will post questions or concerns about a similar issue. You can use these kinds of “common problem” threads to focus your efforts on solving the biggest issues first and therefore helping the most people.

Posted: 4/9/2014 3:28:48 PM by Shep Morrow