It seems almost counterintuitive to say the  online shopping experience, designed to eliminate the middleman and its associated costs, needs to bring back the personal touch to the sales transaction.  The issue is that technology has inevitably set the process of globalization into overdrive in the new millennium.  Everything is so easily accessible from nearly anywhere in the world that we have focused more on growing the exposure of a brand (and therefore sales numbers) rather than its quality and strength.

However, with the spread of the internet to the furthest corners of the world and the sheer number of companies doing business online, brand exposure is saturated but customer loyalty is scarce.  Without customer loyalty to a particular brand, it is too easy to lose sales to a competitor.  So what’s next?

Maybe to move forward, it is now time to take a step back and re-learn the benefits of personalization that come with the traditional brick and mortar sale.  According to MyBuys’ seventh annual Personalization Consumer Survey, 48% of respondents said that they buy more from sellers who actively personalize their shopping experiences by taking into account shoppers’ interests and buying behavior.  This number is only growing, and begs for a look at the ultimate form of personalization – live communication.

Live communcation has 3 incredible benefits:

  • Tapping into Emotions

  • Improving Customer Loyalty

  • Leveraging Consultative Selling

Tapping into Emotions

People like stories because a good story always invokes a variety of emotions.  This is why the best sales associates are fantastic storytellers.  They can connect with their customers by reacting directly to their feelings about the product they want and the options they are presented with.  This interaction simply can’t be replicated in an online shopping experience without live human communication. Luckily, there are several ways to introduce this factor, including live chats and video chats.

Spending money can be an emotional experience, especially when buying something pricy. Talking to someone who can validate the money being spent on high quality makes the process much more comfortable.  The associate can easily react at each expression of hesitation and doubt.  Then there are those precious items like an engagement ring or a couple’s first car.  A customer looks at these sales more as milestones than a monetary transaction, so a company that can provide a more humanized experience in such a situation develops a priceless competitive advantage.

Improving Customer Loyalty

Appreciating and interacting with a customer’s emotions opens doors to creating and sustaining customer loyalty.  In a market where one of the biggest issues to overcome with online sales is the competition, being able to retain customers is a golden opportunity.  So then the question is:  Is this customer loyalty worth the money spent on adding personalized human interaction (whose elimination was one of the original advantages of shopping online)?  Will the benefits outweigh the overhead costs?  Absolutely.  According to the CMO Council, more than 50% of consumers in the United States and Canada experience a decrease in brand loyalty if retailers do not give them personalized offers and the RightNow Customer Impact Report says 86% are actually willing to pay more for a better customer experience.

Leveraging Consultative Sales

Anyone who has worked as a consultant in any field likely has a similar story.  The client knew what they wanted and thought they knew how to get it, so they demanded that it be done their way.  When the client’s way failed to yield the appropriate result, however, the consultant suddenly became deserving of the blame.  Sales is very similar in this way to a consulting position – the consumer’s satisfaction is completely the seller’s responsibility.  The most important step is to understand the end-goal of the customer and then use one’s experience and knowledge of the products to point to the best items.  Doing so successfully requires that the customer trust the seller, which becomes far easier when the seller is seen as a real person rather than an automated website feature.

Being able to share control of the browser and talking through the sale with a customer through a live interaction also allows the sales associate to move a sale forward, and even up-sell to better features and upgrades.  Another extremely valuable benefit is the opportunity to reduce bounce rate.  A site’s bounce rate is the rate at which visitors leave a website after looking at just one page.  According to Google’s statistics, the typical bounce rate is around 60%.  So this means that well over half of a website’s visitors leave after seeing just one page, a common result of brand exposure without brand quality.  With a live associate to engage the visitors and encourage them to browse, this rate can be significantly lowered.

Technology has undoubtedly brought the world closer together, but it can be argued that we are making technological advancements faster than we can adapt to them as a society.   Perfecting the process of personalizing the shopping experience will be a step toward successful adaptation, and also the next leap forward in the growth of online commerce.

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