It’s not good enough to just get people to your website, especially if you fail to convert them into loyal shoppers. The trick is to provide a comfortable and reassuring environment for them to shop; and in a recession more than ever, online shoppers want to talk.
By James Critchley, CEO of cloud.IQ
Figures out last week showed online shopping grew by just 4.8% in August, the lowest increase since the British Retail Consortium started collecting the data in October 2008.
This may be an Olympics-induced blip, but nevertheless it underlines how the tough economic environment for retailers remains and emphasises how crucial it is to convert cash-strapped online customers.
Yet research by Forrester shows that for every £100 organisations spend getting customers to a website, only £1 goes into converting them. To me, this imbalance is extremely unhealthy and is symptomatic of a broader issue that the digital age has exacerbated.
Digital has done some amazing things for the world of marketing – it’s let local companies sell their products to global markets and brought about a much needed focus on metrics and measurement.
Website owners have become extremely data-driven, but in the scramble to drive traffic I sometimes feel online customers get reduced to being just another number, a statistic on a web analytics dashboard.
The popular, but quickly discredited, mantra of the early web – ‘Build it and they will come’ – has been replaced by ‘Get them there and they will buy.’ This new mantra, pedalled by hundreds of dubious SEO companies, is attractive but no more credible. In short, it forgets that that customers are people.
And people – as the old adage goes – want to do business with people. The reality is that when we’re buying stuff, particularly something that costs more than a few quid, we usually want to talk to someone as part of the transaction.
Doing so reassures us that we’re dealing with a reputable organisation, and in a recession it also give us the chance to check out if we can get what we want at a better price – the haggler in all of us comes out. Already, 40% of online sales complete offline – the figure is considerably higher for bigger ticket items – and I expect this to continue growing.
Certainly, when we recently launched a new suite of marketing Apps, we saw an enormous interest in Callback features. Callback buttons are not rocket science. They allow website owners to place a button on their site that customers can hit when they want to speak to someone, maybe because they’re experiencing issues using a site or simply want to ask some questions.
The Callback button then automates the Callback process – connecting an agent to the customer. Crucially, it will do this immediately (or scheduled for the next working day if the enquiry is out of hours) and will keep trying if the customer is engaged until a connection is made.
They ensure you respond quickly to a customer – before they get the chance to browse to a competitor site. This gives Callback buttons a major advantage over basic web forms that rely on someone manually spotting the request and having the persistence to schedule a call.
Of course, larger enterprises have deployed Callback buttons for some time, but the high cost of developing them and the complex process of integrating the automated processes into a retailer’s own systems has prevented more companies adopting them in large numbers.
The ability to offer these kinds of services via the cloud is dramatically lowering costs however, and organisations can now get a CallBack function for tens, rather than tens of thousands of pounds a month. When you consider that research consistently shows Callback buttons boost sales by upwards of 10% for online retailers, we can expect more rapid adoption in the next few months.
From me this has to be a good thing – helping to personalise online retail experiences that have become far too removed from the real word. Agents can listen to customers’ needs and concerns and tailor the pitch accordingly. People get to do business with people again. At a time when every sale really counts, the return of voice to the digital world should be welcomed.