If there is just one thing that you should constantly be checking on your eCommerce journey, it’s whether or not you’re providing value for your customers.
and I mean TRULY providing value.
Once you have this worked out, it will make growing your business a thousand times easier. Things will begin to move organically and you will actually be having a lasting impact on your customers.
I must admit, i’ve started numerous eCommerce ventures where all I could see was how succesful it was going to be.
If I had of just thought to myself “is this actually of value to anyone?” I may have saved myself a lot of man hours of work.
Although I wouldn’t have learnt a valuable lesson along the way.
At its core, running a business is just an exchange of value.
You give someone your money in exchange for goods or services that you deem worth the amount of money you are handing over. If you are running a business it’s vice versa.
So if you are in a position where you are struggling to drive sales or engagement, ask yourself the question, am I truly providing value to my customers?
If you don’t know how to answer this question I will give you a methodology to help come to a decision.
1. You must know what your audience or customers want and need
That’s the first and list piece of advice you need.
I will go into further detail, but really, once you work out what your audience wants, always be asking yourself whether this content/product/service is meeting their needs.
And I know, you’ve heard it a million times, but it’s perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle that you must get right.
Consider this, you would think that a Lamborghini is an incredibly valuable item right? But it’s relative to the audience you put it in front of it.
Sure it might cost a lot to make and market, but do you think you could sell a Lamborghini to a Buddhist monk?
Maybe, (you smartass), but it would be a lot easier to sell to an affluent westerner.
My point stands, you need to know what you’re customers want.
Your product or service not only needs to be of value, but it also needs to be of value to your customers.
Now you might ask, so how do I know what my customers want?
I mean it, it can be that simple.
To cut straight to the point, I would recommend
a) Getting your customers/prospects to take a survey.
You could incentivise them to do this with a discount code, downloadable e-book, or make the survey entertaining so they want to take it (personal surveys are great people love talking about themselves).
I could go into great detail, but Ryan Levesque does it much better than myself, in fact I learn this from him.
I would 100% recommend you read his book Ask.
b) Just reach out to them
You can reach out to current customers with follow up emails or personal messages after a transaction is complete or if you don’t have customers or an audience you can find them in forums and social media easily enough.
Just takes a bit of grit to reach out to strangers to find out what they are really after.
Some people aren’t going to want to talk to you and that’s okay. Just move on if they don’t want to speak to you.
c) Use digital tools to see if there is a demand
It’s really easy to see if there is a general demand for what you are putting out there, tools like Google’s keyword planner allow you to check how many times a phrase has been searched in the last month. This is a free service but requires an account.
Mangools KWfinder and a whole bunch of other tools will allow to achieve the same thing but the other tools outside of Google’s often lock down their service pretty quickly to get you to enter a paid plan.
So if there seems to be a healthy amount of traffic looking for what you’re offering (at least 100+ searches a month – I know it seems like a small amount but there is huge rewards to be had in niching down) then people are looking for what you’re offering and that’s a great sign.
Only issue with that is that this is very general traffic, you don’t know anything about the audience and where they are.
So unless you will be advertising straight to them with Adwords, you will still have to do some work finding these people.
2. Research what’s working for your competitors or in the market
Honestly, you can come to a conclusion on whether or not you’re offering is of value just with point 1, but if you’re looking for something extra or really don’t want to reach out to your audience then this is your next best bet.
It might also be handy to do this as a cheap alternative to paying for market research through advertising or labour.
a) Check out your competitors reviews
Think of your competitor, XYZ company, who has a similar offering and type into Google: “XYZ reviews”.
This will be direct feedback from your ideal customers on what they like or dislike about what XYZ is doing.
This may be a great tool as it might reveal opportunities and allow you to fill a gap in the market that your competitors are leaving behind.
b) Check out your competitors social profiles
If they have a decent following you can look through their content and see what is landing with the audience.
This can be gauged in two ways, #1 by looking purely at the metrics, e.g. how many likes or comments a post is getting. This is your quantitative data.
Or #2 you can actually read through what people are saying and how they are responding to your competitors content or offerings.
3. Go Above And Beyond
This ones an easy grab if you already have customers – although can still be used if you are starting to get traction early on.
a) Delight your customers with something they’re not expecting
If a customer engages with you and you do what you are expected to do and it’s a smooth transaction, that’s great.
But it’s not amazing, it’s not memorable. To be remembered you will have to go above and beyond.
But to be remembered is how you will get ahead in eCommerce as you find yourself serving the same customer’s time and time again.
Try to surprise your customer, doesn’t have to be every single one of them but maybe the odd one here and there you can offer some sort of free product/service out of the blue.
You will certainly make a lasting impact on this one particular customer, but may find that over time as word and mouth starts to weave it’s magic you’ll see compounding results.
b) Show that you care by offering a personal touch
When you’re building out your mailing list, always aim to capture the contact’s first name if possible.
If you have a strong list, you can always use their first name which will really help to capture their attention, we all love hearing our own name.
It will also encourage a more personal and stronger connection with your customer’s as they feel like you are reaching out them personally by using their name.
Similarly, every now and then you could email the odd customer and just ask how they’re going and whether they’ve been happy with your service so far (using their name of course).
It can’t hurt to stack value by showing your customer’s that you know they are a human being and not a number.
c) Set the expectations at a level you can exceed
To illustrate what i’m trying to say here, I will use shipping as an example.
If someone says to you, your product will arrive in 3 days, you start to get pretty pissed off when it hasn’t arrived after a week.
But the converse of this is that if someone tells you that your product will arrive in 14 days and it arrives in 8 then you are happily surprised right?
This is expectations management.
A great quote that drives this home is “under promise and over deliver”.
With that being said, if you make a routine of ALWAYS over delivering massively, then your customers would come to expect this and it would become the new norm so you need to take this advice with a grain of salt. As with the other suggestions, it may be best to over deliver on occasion, not every single time.
It goes without saying that you should ALWAYS avoid under delivering though.
If you are shipping a product, an example of over delivering might be to just throw in an extra goodie, it could be worth literally $1, but make it something they might actually want not just rubbish.
Or maybe just a hand written note with a discount code (this ties into the personal touch too).
So remember to always check with yourself, regardless of whether you’re just beginning or an established business, whether or not you are truly providing value for your customer.
Comment below if you have anything else to add to it!
Reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you wanted any advice or someone to bounce thoughts off on your journey 🙂