Customer Feedback is the lifeblood of a successful eCommerce Business
Old-School Good Reputation
Long, long ago in a time before the internet, consumers would frequent their local shops and markets. In small towns and villages, butchers, bakers and greengrocers would know their customers by name and shopping habits. Knowing which day individual customers every week, the size of their orders, their favourite type of cheese and how many mouths they had to feed would be part and parcel of the trade.
But in those days, the sellers were just as important to the buyers – who could risk alienating the only baker for miles? Having rapport with the local butcher would ensure the choice cuts of meat, and he in turn could cajole buyers into purchasing an additional few snags. The land where mutual trust won out and give-take respect was paramount to ensuring your trader sold a little extra every week, and you didn’t get last week’s apples. Buyers didn’t need to evaluate options because there was such limited choice.
But now that power has shifted – we live in a consumer-driven world where we want it right and we want it now. So help the sellers who can’t keep up.
Modern Day Reputation
These days’ bricks and mortar stores still fill our high streets. The only difference is now there are more high streets and more shops – and we can access their wares online from all over the world. Competition is at an all-time high –goods can be purchased from China and the order shipped directly to your door, for less than it would cost to buy in your local shop.
For this reason, local shops must be customer-focused. Supermarkets enforce policies for shop-floor staff to ask dawdling customers if they would like help and clothes retailers encourage staff to chat about the customer’s purchases, “Oh, I love this colour.” Aside for the enjoyment of browsing products in person, customers still expect to exchange pleasantries when visiting a store and so every store is aware that the opinion formed of a sales or customer service representative is projected onto the brand itself.
Word of Mouth,
Nothing beats a personal recommendation. Word of mouth recommendations are the highest ranked in terms of trust; 84% of consumers say that they either completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of family and friends, compared to 68% of trusting the opinions of online shoppers. This is a tremendous benefit for bricks and mortar traders and adds physical proof and credibility to businesses such as restaurants, bars, gyms and hairdressers. It stands to reason that if your best friend loved shopping there – you would be more inclined to visit yourself.
From a customer service point of view dealing with unhappy customers it’s easier when interacting with customers face to face as staff can read and respond to a situation. In these scenarios customers are much more inclined to adhere to social norms when faced with a problem, or risk being perceived as unreasonable. This differs greatly from the online forum, where buyers aren’t obliged to engage in reasonable conduct or even have a dialogue with the seller who displeased them.
Of course, thanks to masses of online comparison and review sites customers who visit physical stores have ready-made forums on which they can post their personal reviews for the world to see. While positive reviews are great for business, these sites also have significant drawbacks.
Unlike most online marketplaces, customers’ posts are not censored or screened, meaning that customers can post almost anything about a business, without verifying that they have actually done business with them. So regardless of (lack of) online presence, bricks and mortar stores must be vigilant in providing high standards of customer service to prevent an irremovable bad review from haunting them in the future.
This is vastly different to the world of online traders. Every e-merchant knows that feedback and seller metrics are essential for continued sales. 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision, and the figures are even higher when purchasing technology. As many e-commerce sites use the same standard manufacturer descriptions and product specifications, user-generated content is what differentiates sellers in the search results and thus influences buyer perceptions and behaviour.
For example, a woman browsing for hair-dye online can see the colour of the model’s hair on the box and she can read the product description, which promises “no more greys.” It’s probably not until she has read reviews from other buyers who are happy with their purchase (and lack of greys!) that she makes the decision to buy the product.
During this peer-driven evaluation she has placed trust in other consumers to provide her with social proof. This online social currency will also be used to evaluate which seller she purchases from, so seller ratings (as well as price) will be a big factor.
This illustrates what we already know: the importance of feedback in online sales conversions.
When Feedback Bites
Believe it or not negative feedback can be a blessing in disguise. Consistently receiving negative feedback for a specified reason gives businesses the opportunity to investigate why. Perhaps deliveries are arriving late and you need to change couriers or a product description wasn’t specific enough, and needs to be updated to avoid disappointing buyers. Either way, this can be used to evaluate your business and pinpoint areas to make improvements where necessary. Take the opportunity to learn from the most important people to your business; your customers.
Sometimes however, there is nothing which can stop a disgruntled customer from posting negative feedback, for whatever reason, for the world to see. The solution is to use it as an opportunity to impress potential customers. Use a mild and apologetic public response stating how you have taken steps to compensate the buyer, or to explain why there was a problem in the first place, without entering into a blame game, demonstrates to future buyers that you take the feedback seriously and do everything in your power to put a situation right.
Of course, on Amazon and eBay seller metrics are the difference between your stock being bought (and winning the Buy Box) and a buyer choosing a better reputed competitor. This differs massively from bricks and mortar stores in that the online is likely to be the only source of information and feedback for online sellers. In short, the lifeblood of every online business is its reputation.