E-Commerce Link: Humanizing the Web
As the playing field levels for online retailers in terms of basic transactional capabilities-e.g., fast checkout processes, accurate shipping calculators, e-mail order confirmations-how can we increase sales and build competitive advantage in the years ahead?
I believe the next fundamental shift in e-commerce is to create experiential shopping by humanizing the Web. This means using new techniques, technologies and capabilities to allow people to interact with each other, share ideas, and rate products and services. It even means allowing negative comments about your products and services to appear on your site!
By making the online experience more compelling through real and unfiltered human-to-human interaction, merchants build trust with customers, making them more likely to buy products and services and recommend the brand to others.
The Human Touch
Merchants have to communicate with customers early and often, not only through the transaction cycle, but also through ongoing community building and customer-to-customer communications. There are three primary ways online merchants can create experiential shopping.
1. Promote customer reviews, satisfaction, service and support. The functionality consumers want most on a retail Web site are customer ratings and reviews. According to the 2006 JupiterResearch study, Retail Marketing: Driving Sales Through Consumer-Created Content, 77 percent of online shoppers seek reviews before purchasing. What's more, a 2006 eVOC Insights study reveals 63 percent of online shoppers are more likely to buy from sites with ratings and reviews, and a 2007 ForeSee Results study finds reviews drive 21 percent higher purchase satisfaction and 18 percent higher loyalty.
Customer reviews let buyers rate products according to the criteria that matter most to them, which lends credibility to the site. Reviews may also help boost your search engine rankings, as spiders scan the text as relevant content.
Merchants sometimes balk at the prospect of allowing customers to define the benefits of a product-and to point out the negatives. While it may seem counterintuitive, negative reviews are essential to building credibility. According to a 2007 Forrester Research study of 4,000 reviews for 30 products on Amazon.com, negative reviews comprised just 16 percent of the total and were considered helpful by 50 percent of shoppers.