In a way I am lucky, lucky enough to have lived in two ages. The age of the internet and the age before the internet ever existed.
I remember a time when if you wanted a special product you would have to search in a special product magazine to find the few sellers of such products and where they were located. You would have to phone them or if you were fortunate enough, they had a shop near to where you lived, and you could visit to make your purchase. If not, you would arrange it on the phone and send a cheque with a letter after asking all the relevant questions.
This all involved time and effort on your part, as the buyer and on the part of the retailer as adviser and seller.
Today’s internet customer is anonymous, they can look up a website, make a purchase and other than when the product goes out of the door or the money going into the bank account there is often very little interaction between the seller and the buyer.
Losing the conversation
As a retailer today you are disconnected from your customers. This is strange because we are in a hyper connected world. But think about it, in the past you would spend part of your working day speaking with customers, finding out what they were looking for, what they wanted to use your products for. You would build up a relationship with those customers, who would return time and time again as loyal supporters and advocates of your business. You had insights that would build up into a comprehensive understanding of the customer groups that purchased from your business.
Conversations today are not so forthcoming when you are trading online. Other than when a customer is making a complaint. In a recent conversation I had with a major telecoms company, I told them that I would be starting business in my new offices on a specific date and I wanted the internet and telephone services working at 9:00am that day. When this went according to plan, I sent a complimentary tweet to say thanks and well done. They were so used to criticism, they responded with a tweet asking me to telephone their help line where they could address the problem. When I responded to say I was not complaining, but paying them a compliment, they reread the original tweet. They were so pleased they retweeted it every hour on the hour for the rest of the day.
The sad thing is that their expectation of communication from customers was always negative.
How can you understand and know your customers?
A process of working out your real customers and what gets them on board is a process of analysis. By discussing the products and the needs of the groups of customers that purchase them will help to understand how to communicate with them.
Artificial intelligence has all the answers… doesn’t it?
In the technology gorged world we live in; big companies rely on Artificial intelligence and data analysis of sales and other information gleaned from the sales process. Location and other data that is collected on your customers from their activities online from the websites they visit to other purchases they make. This AI relies on the perfect scenario and does not take into consideration the imperfect human mind. It is also an expensive and time-consuming activity for smaller companies.
Over the past few years I have worked with several clients and produced personas for the companies with their sales and marketing teams. These one-day sessions have helped to identify the customer groups, the scenario of them buying one of the products supplied by the client and the path to task completion that helps to understand the customer journey. Walking in the shoes of your customers was the subject of a TED talk, I delivered a few years ago, which discusses these topics.
Facilitating these sessions has helped the teams garner a deeper understanding of their customers and the added information from their own experiences with those customers has helped to identify the types of articles and information they should be writing.
Drilling down like this, where human factors are understood by humans, is far less expensive and much more accurate than a set of algorithms that were created by a software technician who knows little about your company and even less about your customers.
The big players online have millions of customers trawling across their websites, each providing a footprint and snails trail that can be traced, documented and analysed. This data is invaluable for them to help identify what those customers are doing. It provides information on what the store needs to be stocking on their shelves and what the customers are likely to be purchasing for the coming weekend. For the likes of the big supermarkets with their millions of online and in store customers they study the data and shopping activity of the shopper. They also study the weather forecast, what’s on television and what sports activities are happening in the next few days. Other activities that go on outside the store that will influence the buying decisions of their customers. A big surprise is you do not have to employ Big Data to find out all these things.
When it comes to the small online retailer, they do not have enough customers to make the data of any value. So, an alternative approach is required.
Others’ data can provide the answers?
Now a few of you will be saying that access to other’s data can provide the information that you need. Yes, in some cases that can help. A few I would ask before investing in other people’s data are: Where did the data come from? Is the data from an identical company? Is the identical company selling into the same user group as you?
The outcomes from the persona development facilitation sessions I have had with clients has been considerable. Each one finding out for the first time who they are selling to, what and why the purchaser buys, which is often not what the client is selling.
This helps the clients to create content for their websites, social media, blog posts and advertising, creating interesting content that their customers want to read.
Get ahead of your competitors
Don’t wait for your competitors to get ahead of you, increase your sales through better understanding and engagement of your customers. Contact PelaTis Online now and arrange your Persona development session. 07989300264.
About the Author – Nigel T Packer
After 23 years working in electronics, production and mechanical engineering fields, Nigel T Packer has spent the last 20 years working in the field of business development specifically on the internet.
Being at the start of the digital economy, Nigel has adapted and applied the principles of business development to the rapidly changing scene of the internet. With it, the creation of new Digital business models that work for his online clients.
An author and digital business speaker his book “How to Get a Website that Works for your Business” has helped hundreds of SME business owners understand the principles of online success.
Today Nigel runs a digital consultancy and training practice PelaTis Online Ltd. An independent eBusiness consultancy working with retail, manufacturing and service businesses. His insights and understanding of the way the internet works and the direction it is going makes him the go to consultant for online business success.