Recently, a radical shift in consumer behavior has been identified—triggering the emergence of a new era within e-commerce. This is the rise of human connection and transparency within online brands. When brands connect directly with consumers, they can build a level of trust that no CRM database or AI program can match. In the C2C era, conversations between consumers and brands must be orchestrated on two fronts — online and offline. From Business Intelligence (BI) to real-life engagement, here are the key strategies you’ll need to understand to obtain tangible expansion within your e-commerce brand today.
Numbers are only part of the equation
Consumers crave to be seen as more than walking advertisements and blimps within backend increased margins for their purchases. They seek to receive more than their product—a sense of belonging to a brand’s community, a reflection of their values instilled within the company, and to be rewarded for their loyalty.
Trust has evolved beyond an emotional brain state but rather an entire currency of its own. But there’s a catch—consumers will only go as far in their trust as you take them.
For your brand to not only survive but dominate this new era of symbiotic e-commerce, you must be willing to explore and expand into new territories, demonstrating your commitment to your cause and holding your intimate connection with your consumers as a priority.
Enriching e-commerce through C2C beyond the pioneer platform
Shopify dropped a major announcement recently, revealing a massive entrepreneurial, platform-specific arsenal loaded with audience and engagement tools, wallet rewards, marketplaces, wholesale models, fulfillment services, and tokengated commerce.
These are incredible weapons that Shopify has graciously armed their users with—but what about the entrepreneurs that have already begun building their empires elsewhere?
Attracting converting consumers
By far, any online presence is better than none—a website, social media profile, and appearance upon search engines through SEO utilization are the bare minimum that any brand should be actively maintaining. But it takes much more than this to thrive in the present-day, overpopulated game of modern e-commerce.
Targeting the correct online audience for your brand is a crucial step when advancing in this industry. This requires knowing your avatar in many forms: demographically, geographically, and where they source their information, but most importantly—profoundly understanding their goals, pain points, and values that they live by day-to-day.
If you’re uncertain how to define and create a personal experience for each online customer, AI has you covered. For a fully automated business intelligence and personalization feature across your platform, apps like Twik offer an ingenious method of fine-tuning your customer’s journey when exploring your brand. Utilizing various data sources and even “fingerprints”, this valuable feature tailors each experience in real-time to cater to the individual potential consumer. Based on the AI, some features tweaked with this app to fit your consumer are the order of the navigation menus, items within the product collections, and even popup content that is most desirable to the individual. Another app, Namogoo, personalizes the popups your consumer views based on the collected data, creating personal discounts (percentages, free shipping and more) based on the collected data that appeal directly to the individual’s interest.
Online consumers spend more time than ever purchasing on social media platforms, so if you choose to advertise on densely advertised social media platforms, you need to divert the consumers’ attention away from distracting competitors. To do this successfully, your brand needs to speak the language of your audience. To communicate effectively, you may use social media platforms to gain trust by creating communities amongst your current and potential customers through direct messages, comments, and shares rather than cold advertising, which does not engage your consumers to the maximum potential.
Word of mouth is a highly effective, organic way to build trust and recognition. Within various social media platforms, such as Facebook, encouraging your ambassadors and interested parties to engage with your brand’s community pages creates a sense of pride and belonging directly to your brand, ultimately developing a loyal and engaging brand following. Further yet, promoting dedicated consumers to the role of admin for your communities instills a bond of trust and encourages those consumers to continue their ongoing and committed support.
A consumer with a positive relationship can quickly evolve into an affiliate. When consumers are confident in their purchase, they not only encourage others to purchase but are also hungry for more of what your brand has to offer. As a result, happy consumers are eager to build your brand’s community while reaping the rewards through affiliate programs. Low-effort and high-reward apps exist to make referral marketing easy for brands, such as LOOX. These apps are integrated into your platform to offer your affiliates multi-platform sharing, flexible discounts and expand the reach of your brand promotion.
Merging both online and in-person presence could be seen in advertising, guest appearances, or performing your brand’s webinars and podcasts. These avenues allow for brands to build an ongoing connection with their potential consumers by putting a face or a voice behind the brand, hearing the representative speak about it, and instilling their brands’ values and goals directly, psychologically allowing for immediate or accumulating bond formation.
Your brand not only must speak your audience’s language, but directly with them on a personal level. Understanding current struggles within your consumers communities and having the ability to support them through your brand, whether this is seen as discounted rates or creating a member-specific online community, confirms a sense of trust and belonging within your brand.
Reaching your customers beyond the screen and participating in events such as exhibitions and community gatherings is advantageous in the sense that your business now has the opportunity to engage with consumers directly and affiliate the brand with a physical person rather than a static logo or catalog upon a screen. The size and stature of the event you choose determine the exposure you will receive and in which context, but regardless, you will begin developing these vital interpersonal connections. You want to seek out events that won’t break your start-up budget yet will result in conversions, either immediately or through connections (distributors, wholesalers, and representatives) that have been secured during the said event.
Last but not least, nothing beats the classic “Ma and Pa” brick and mortar physical retail store or office. Sometimes simplicity overcomes the most elaborate schemes when done correctly. Maintaining a physical presence allows a brand to directly communicate and intentionally build genuine connections with its consumers one-on-one. Even with a physical presence, it’s crucial to remember to merge your online-to-offline (O2O) data to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and your online database, segmenting the data gathered through the use of your Business intelligence (BI) programs. Although the online nudge may have been the reason they found you, it will not be the avenue that builds these intimate consumer relationships.
Retaining your consumer’s trust
With recent global events disrupting businesses and lifestyles on a massive level, the sense of a perfectly manicured life has fallen out of touch with consumers as it no longer accurately represents reality. With it, gone are the days when catchy branding designs are enough to satisfy the consumer. Instead, consumers are now seeking brands with transparency and authenticity that offer genuine connections. Therefore, successful present-day commerce requires a deeper yet spotlighted cause within your brand to align with your consumers’ values—present at every customer touchpoint.
Consumers are actively investigating the brands they choose to support; with this in mind, you must reciprocate their energy and display loudly what values your brand stands behind. For example, lost jobs and business foreclosures brought consumers to sway toward brands that represent fair wages, hire locally, or contain locally produced products. Likewise, devastating environmental changes attract consumers to brands representing an eco-friendly take on production, such as upcycling, partaking in second-hand marketing of their products, or actively donating. By researching what current and recent events have altered the world, a brand can find angles and take advantage of these events concerning fueling its brand identity and strengthening its brand values and commitments.
Get with the (loyalty) program
What makes a transaction symbiotic? From a limited point of view, it already is—the consumer receives their desired product or service, and the brand receives their desired monetary amount. This may have worked so simply in the past, but present-day consumers are after an additional something that goes beyond this.
The consumer needs to receive an emotional tie that binds them to the brand’s cause behind said product or service. This could look like an incentive that makes them believe they are a part of something bigger than themselves and their purchased product, such as an online community. For example, retaining return customers may be improved for retail brands through reward programs, in-store purchase points, gifts, or free shipping. These reward systems not only demonstrate your gratitude for their trust, but drive the consumer to spread your brand as wide as their influence reaches and as an incentive to purchase from your brand repeatedly.
Integrating apps such as Rise.ai are exciting additions to your platform as they offer management of your brand’s re-engagement activity. In addition, omnichannel loyalty rewards such as digital and physical gift cards, gifting online subscriptions, and store credit in tangible cash value are only some options offered to demonstrate why incentivizing your consumer in such a way is a no-brainer to increase your brand’s revenue.
The human brain is hardwired for a reward for a reason; it feels good. As a brand in this new era of e-commerce, you want to tickle that connection. Offering consumers to become part of your brand community can have many faces: nonfungible tokens (NFTs), VIP discounts, exclusive social media groups or chats, and brand merchandise—this part of the game is endless. The key here is that you give the consumer their desired product and the opportunity to have a slice of the brand’s pie, belong within your brand, and reap the rewards for doing so.
“NFTs tie the physical good with the digital experience in a unique way that mimics some of the popular limited-release physical good drops we’ve seen a rise in popularity. Translating that into a scarce asset is really valuable to the communities and their passionate fans.”
Nicholas Brown – Co-founder and Managing Partner, Imaginary
Mind over matter
In this instance, we are speaking about physical matter. The mindset, rather than the product, of an entrepreneur during this explosive connect-2-consumer era is what will truly set their brand apart.
Brands, now more than ever, need to think like their consumers—what do they want to see concerning the current events, what values they want to hear that the brand holds above all else, what change do they want to be a part of, and what is in it for them if they commit to your brand?
The demand for connection and transparency is booming, yet the delicate balance remains in your hands to reveal your brand’s truth while remaining iridescent among competitors. BI can take your e-commerce business further than ever before, but remaining personal and remembering that your consumers are seeking real-life, authentic connections with brands that support their own goals is what will take you to extraordinary places.
Zissu LTD – Shopify Experts is a Boutique Shopify Ecommerce Agency: A team of 18 experts with over seven years of experience assisting merchants to develop and expand their Shopify storefronts. You can connect with them at www.zissuglobal.com!