Marketing is primarily about communication, and e-commerce communication is much more than merely a collection of words. To understand the communication process on an e-commerce website better, let us break it up into two primary categories:-
Communicating Effectively Pre-Sales
Everything about your website constitutes your communication. Think about it this way, you are expecting the customer to transfer money to you with a few clicks with nothing in return for the time being. The actual product, in the case of physical products, is delivered later. That is such a giant leap of faith that it took a few years for customers to accept that in the mid to late 90s.
You have to make sure that your communication is effective, consistent and builds confidence in the minds of the customer.
Communicating Effectively Post-Sales
The customer has already paid you money. So, you do not need to invest any serious money into communicating with them post-sales, right? Wrong!
With high expenses on pay per click, branding, and other marketing efforts, you need to develop a loyal following. Unless you have a significant proportion of repeat customers, you are not a serious e-commerce player.
Pre-sales issues such as price might be quite important. But post-sales the customer is only interested in the service she gets. This service could be in the form of:
- When will my product be delivered?
- How do I use my product?
- How do I get my product repaired?
- How do I buy accessories or consumables for my product?
Tools and Channels of Communication
As an e-commerce business, you should put in the effort to communicate the way the customers prefer. For instance, person A could be more of a telephone person who likes to talk and reach a solution. Person B could prefer to communicate only by email, while person C could much rather prefer a live chat. Which one of these three customers do you not want to sell to? Which one of them do you not want to retain?
Here are the most popular tools for communicating with your customers:
(i) Live Chat: Several customers love the live chat feature. It has the benefits of getting the problem solved right now, without the irritation of keeping a telephone receiver pressed to your ear while waiting. Even when the waiting period lasts a few minutes for live chat, customers do not complain too much as they are able to continue performing a parallel task on the same computer. E-commerce professionals have shown a lot of hesitation in providing live chat, as it is very resource intensive.
(ii) Email: Unlike live chat, which is an option, email support is an absolute must-have for any e-commerce player. In addition to providing an email address for support, it is recommended that you have a ticketing system, which allows for efficiently handling a case in case of multiple emails about the same issue.
(iii) Phone Support: Quite like live chat, phone support is also considered to be resource intensive. But the demand for phone support is so high that most e-commerce players end up providing it.
(iv) Product Descriptions: Product descriptions are the most voluminous communication between the e-commerce merchant and the customer. Though product descriptions are not personalized they influence the customer to a great extent. To avoid me-too sites, it is important that you consider the possibility of having original product descriptions written for your website. In addition to adding value to the customer, original content also assists in SEO.
(v) Advertisements: Your advertisements are one of the most expensive modes of communication. You do need to do the Math to optimize your per click spends, but do not let that cause you to oversee the basic message that your advertisements are communicating.
(vi) Blog: A blog presents an interesting platform for you to converse with your customers and prospects. In adding to the freshness of the site, a well-cultivated blog helps build credibility and trust.
(vii) User Generated: It is unanimously accepted that encouraging user engagement by permitting them to add their own content increases the stickiness of the site. This user-generated content could be in the form of buyer reviews, comments, queries, discussion boards, shared images, and videos.
There is no dearth of clichés related to communication. While on the one hand there are those who will say that the “medium is the message,” on the other there will be others who will insist that the medium is immaterial and the message is everything. I would like to stay away from that debate. But I do maintain that having a uniform, unambiguous, message permeate through all modes of communication is important.
More important is fact that you treat communication as one of the crucial building blocks of a successful e-commerce business.