There is a real battle going on to gain your customer’s attention. If you are not using the web as an integral part of your real-life business, you are missing valuable opportunities to increase awareness and build your customer base.
The Buying Process Has Changed
For consumers, using the internet for every part of the buying process is the new normal. As businesses, what are we doing to meet customers’ online expectations? Especially in the mobile area, where in early 2014 internet usage on smartphones and mobile devices exceeded PC usage for the first time.
What are consumers doing with search and mobile? According to a recent study one in four users studied said they utilized a mobile device on the entire path to purchase, from research, to comparison, to conversion. Here are some other stats from this study:
- 60% of consumers used a mobile device exclusively to make a purchasing decision
- 29% percent of shoppers consider mobile devices the most important shopping tool
- 40% percent of consumers cited mobile as the most important media source for information Another 40% cited desktop or laptop, and only 5% cited print sources.
As businesses, we need to look at every step of our customer’s buying process and their overall experience. Have you adapted your processes to your customers’ new behaviors and expectations? You wouldn’t ignore a customer walking into your business, but it’s not that uncommon to see small businesses making these mistakes:
- Not having contact information prominently displayed on all pages of their website
- Not having a website that works on a mobile device (as of December 2013 only 6% of small businesses did)
- Not responding to customer inquiries or complaints on social media and review sites (customers expect an answer within an hour!)
- Having outdated information on your website (I visited a site this week where the home page featured an upcoming event that was held more than two years ago – are they still in business?)
- Not having a website at all (45% of businesses still don’t even have websites!)
Integrate Your Online Presence
Many small business owners feel they don’t have time for all this. And if they treat their online presence as another item on the “to do” list in addition to their real work, they’re right! There will never be enough time.
The secret is to use your online presence to improve the real work you do: customer service, sales, product information, orders. To do this you have to be willing to change the way that you do things and remove items that are no longer effective. Do you really need to send out that paper newsletter? What about that form you expect someone to print, fill in and somehow return to you? Are you still keeping track of customer requests and customer service issues on paper, or in a spreadsheet or software that is only available to a single user on an office computer?
Use these examples as inspiration to make your business more efficient and customer-focused.
- A fishing rod company made a product demo video on YouTube. Not only did sales skyrocket, but more than 100 customers spread the word by making their own videos showing how to use the product
- For one nonprofit organization, a four-part email series boosted end of the year revenue by 50%.
- One company saved over 10 hours per week responding to customer inquiries by creating an online request for information form and following up with a series of automated emails addressing their specific area of interest. They didn’t get as many requests, but the percentage of requests that converted to sales increased significantly.
- Replacing printouts of paper forms with online event registration, payments and tickets increased attendance and reduced administrative overhead for a nonprofit organization.
- One business with repeat buyers sends “time to reorder” emails customized for that buyer and increased orders by thousands of dollars with a single email.
- One restaurant using blogging, pictures, social media, and mobile to communicate daily specials, menus, and special events increased sales 25% over their more traditional print and coupon marketing.
- A technology provider uses an online booking system to boost sales by allowing new and existing customers to schedule consultation appointments online.
- Using a live chat feature on their website allowed a communications services provider to generate more leads and conversions, but also found current customers loved it as well.
- A social media tweet to a company for customer service resulted in a competitor response to fix the problem. Eventually the original company responded, but by then it was too late.
Look at your online presence from your customer’s perspective. What will you do to make sure your customers have all the necessary information to take that next step, make a purchase, or resolve a customer service issue in the way that is most convenient for them?
To grow your business, meet your customers where they are–online.