Consider this (slightly rose-tinted) scenario. You’ve decided to buy a new laptop so you stroll toward the high street and are pulled into a shop by an interesting window display. Once inside, you seek out a sales assistant to find out more information on the type of laptop that best suits your needs and what they have on offer.
The sales assistant does an admirable job and you select a laptop and take it to the counter. In the ideal scenario, you’d go home, load it up and spend some time catching up with celebrity goings-on in the MailOnline’s sidebar of shame. Unfortunately, the world has other plans; the laptop doesn’t work. So you take it back to the store, where the helpful assistant deals with the problem and tells you to pop back anytime if you have more questions.
Pleased with the service you received, you tell all your friends and the next time they need a new computer they duly head along to the same shop. It’s what every business should be looking to achieve with their high-street presence.
You’re probably thinking: “That’s great, but I operate online. How do I offer this same level of service?” The answer is through high-quality and relevant content. When optimised effectively, content can play an important role throughout the customer cycle – from that first contact to when they become a loyal customer.
Content has an essential role to play at every point in the sales process, which he breaks down into awareness, consideration, purchase, service, loyalty and advocacy.
Taking lessons from the high street –
First comes awareness – in our real-life scenario it’s when the shopper is attracted by the window display. How can you stand out from your competitors in online search? Both search engines and potential customers prize high-quality content. Websites that feature regularly updated and relevant content will ranking more highly and are more likely to see their content shared on social media. This boosts awareness.
The next stage is consideration. Use your website content to educate customers on what you offer and why your product/service is better than that of your rivals – just like a shop assistant would. There is no need to be overly promotional. You should present the information in a way that allows customers to make an informed choice.
Next, the customer heads to the checkout to purchase. It’s rare that in-store someone would walk away from a purchase once they’ve got this far, but shopping cart abandonment is a huge issue for online retailers. For example, if a card machine breaks at the till, a shop assistant will be on hand to deal with the issue or open another checkout. You don’t have that option online and even a minor glitch can mean a lost sale. Providing clear instructions throughout the process won’t correct the fault, but could make the difference between a customer coming back in the future or simply staying away.
What also deserves a mention is the difference in the way high-street and online stores treat customers once they’ve purchased. You would expect to be able to go back into the store if you have a problem, the same should be true online.
With this in mind, providing service through FAQs, how-tos and informative product pages and guides is essential. You should make it easy for customers to find answers to their queries online, saving the time of everyone concerned.
Good service breeds loyalty. Happy customers will continue to use a service provider that impresses them, particularly when household budgets are tight. Keep your business fresh in their mind with targeted email newsletters and high-quality content so they know what they are getting out of the relationship. Social media at its heart is a relationship building tool, and is great for fostering engagement between website visits.
Loyal customers are in turn more likely to praise your brand both online and offline, bringing us round to the final stage in the cycle; advocacy. People trust the recommendations of family and friends above all else when making buying decisions and social media makes it easier than ever for people to publicly endorse your business. Awareness of your brand increases and the cycle starts all over again.
Differentiating through customer service
Superior customer service is one advantage small businesses have always had over their larger rivals. The worst thing you could do is give this up simply because are shoppers are moving from the high street to search engines.
Content marketing provides opportunities for engagement throughout the buying cycle, just as helpful shop assistants would be on hand in-store. It could be the key ingredient that stops customers leaving your site before completing that all important purchase. Creating high-quality content optimised for each stage of the customer cycle is a challenge, but you don’t have to do it alone.