When people are first exploring the possibility of taking their business online they often ask if providing information or selling through websites will prevent them from getting to know their customers.
However, the 2011 Big Australia Report recently found that savvy Australian businesses are increasingly using online technologies to deepen and personalise their relationships with clients. Why are they doing this? To better serve their customers, increase return business and build brand loyalty.
Going digital with your business can actually provide you with more ways to get to know your customers and help them in their purchasing decisions.
Getting to know you – capturing customer data
Customer Relationship Management software (or CRM for short) can help you to better understand your customers’ habits, preferences and wishes. With CRM you can track what your customers buy and what they like and don’t like. If you find over time that certain customers prefer a certain service or product line, you can email them to let them know when you have a special offer or are getting new stock.
Chances are, you’re already doing this with loyal customers who visit your shop or use your services. CRM makes it easier to do so both on and offline.
Depending on the level of customer information you collect, you can send personalised birthday wishes (with in-store discounts) or remind your customers that it’s time for their routine service or check-up (as my dentist helpfully does for me every six months). CRM can also let you know which customers haven’t visited you in a while so you can email them with a special offer or your latest newsletter to remind them you are still open for business! (Of course, make sure you comply with anti-spam laws, because everyone hates spam, and that you comply with any other laws relating to the collection and use of personal information, such as privacy laws.)
Put simply, CRM helps you to ‘remember’ your customers – if you remember them, then they are more likely to remember you too.
Habits and interests – website user analytics
Just like watching the ways customers wander through a shop, website analytics can help you to get a better understanding of what is and isn’t working on your website.
Frequently visited pages can give you great insight into your customers’ interests and could provide opportunities to value-add by inserting links to other complimentary products and services you think they might be interested in.
In contrast, if your customers are checking out your online specials and browsing away from the webpage after only a few seconds, your specials probably aren’t so special after all. Or you may need to improve the design of your webpage. Likewise, if your most visited page is seven clicks deep in your website you might want to move it closer to the top or insert a prominent link to it on your homepage.
By evaluating your customers browsing habits you can make it easier for them to access your products and services, making it more likely that they’ll visit you online again too.
I think I ‘like’ you – the social business
Social media provides an invaluable opportunity for business owners to directly speak with their customers, in their own home.
Social networking sites, forums, blogs, polls and online competitions all provide ways to further deepen customer relationships. They provide opportunities for customers to actively participate and provide feedback to your business. This can help you to improve your service, build trust and develop brand loyalty with your customers.
A recent contest by socialmediaexaminer.com found that the best small business Facebook pages were consistently the ones that actively and meaningfully interacted with their ‘fans’ (i.e. their customers). That is, they responded quickly to enquires, provided relevant and useful information in their posts and were personable in their communication style.
In this sense, social media is just like talking to a customer on the phone or across the counter – respond promptly and you may just get a new customer and another sale!
Let’s go steady – digital engagement works
While the digital detractors of the world may say that online business prevents you from getting to know you customer, the tools and resources described above show that they are clearly doing it wrong. Digital business provides a wealth of opportunities to better find, understand, interact and respond to customers’ needs. The fact is that using digital business tools can help build better customer relationships, and in so doing, could help you to grow your business.
By Dylan, DBCDE