“You can’t tickle a robot!”
This and other golden nuggets of knowledge are what I am surprised with on a daily basis from my 5 year old. Truth be told, you can’t really argue with his logic sometimes. He really does make a lot of sense, in his toddler way. Wouldn’t you agree?
Seriously, you can’t tickle a robot. My son is right. The main reason for that (aside from whatever engineering obstacles exist in today’s robot tickler technology) is the fact that robots are not human. As such they lack the same sensory perception that we have. Of course I have not done extensive research in robotics, but I’m assuming that’s the case.
So what in the world do ticklish robots have to do with ecommerce? Well… everything!
In some circles ecommerce gets a bad rap. Especially when it comes to the customer experience and shopping experience. Just like how you can’t tickle a robot, when you shop online it is an inherently unnatural and impersonal feeling. You’re not in a store or a mall, there is probably nobody around you, and there is almost certainly nobody there to shake your hand to greet you.
When it comes to retail, it’s all of these small elements of the shopping experience that retailers have perfected over time (well the good ones have) to create great shopping experiences.
As successful and as fast as ecommerce is growing, there is still quite a lot of room for improvement. Using technology to deliver a much more “human” experience for shoppers, is one of the biggest areas for innovation.
So how exactly can you do this? What elements can be added to an online store to improve the experience in that way? Is there an app for tickling?
Well, the best way to answer these questions may be to look at an example.
Let’s use a retailer that has not only perfected their in store experience but has used technology to really transfer many human shopping elements over to their ecommerce presence as well – Bath & Body Works.
1. Appeal to the Senses
Part and parcel of the Bath & Body Works experience in store is their products. Specifically their vast selection of smelly (in a good way) soaps and candles. For years cooking shows and TV presenters with lame senses of humor have lamented the lack of “smell-o-vision”. Well that feature still isn’t available on laptops and tablets either. So how can you fill that huge experience gap online?
Pictures! Don’t forget that there are other senses as well, and the most powerful one still available to online retailers is the sense of vision. Use big bold, and expressive imagery to display your products, so that even if customers can touch and smell them, they can still appreciate them.
2. Guide the Shopping Experience.
One of the biggest values that in-store salespeople offer shoppers is guiding them through the selection of products towards what they might want most. While it’s impossible to duplicate that one on one experience exactly, you can use your page design to fill in much of that gap.
Adding visual cues and elements to showcase popular products or bundling products together based on use case or user needs is a great way to simulate some of that in store personal touch. DOn’t just have a soap category. Try creating a “relaxing bath” category bundle.
3. Make the Most of Your Promotions
One element of the online shopping experience that is undeniable, and arguably better than the in-store experience, is bargain hunting. Because of easier access to choice and competition, as well as lower logistics costs on the retailer end, online exclusive offers can often be better than in-store equivalents. Make sure your customers know this and make these great online deals easy to find and discover.
4. See Things Like a Customer
Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes. It’s one of the oldest pieces of retail advice out there, and it applies to online as well. Don’t look at your store through the eyes of a developer. Look at your store through the eyes of a customer.
What pages do you want your customer to get to an when? What parts of the page do you want their eyes to be focused on. When it comes to online, these are the critical elements of the experience.
The great thing is there are lots of simple tools you can use to help you measure these experiences without having to rely solely on your gut instincts. Heat map and user tracking like crazy egg helps you understand exactly where your customer are going and what they are looking at.
5. Don’t Compete With Yourself
If you are a multi-channel retailer make the most of all of your assets. Remember your online store shouldn’t compete with your brick and mortar store, or vice versa. You need to provide a seamless experience across all the channels where customers can reach you. When done right each channel should enhance rather than detract from the others
Remember, one of the keys to building loyalty in your customer base is to offer a great customer experience. Whether in person or online, it’s the little details that can often make the difference between a mediocre experience, and a great (more human) experience. Do it right and you’ll be poised to grow your business, build loyalty and increase your chances of getting great word of mouth and referrals from your customers.