Many companies that want to turn visitors into customers, and customers into local, repeat buyers, study Amazon. This huge e-tailer almost magically seems to attract and keep loyal customers. But you don't need to be an Amazon to do this; you just need to think like a customer.
I've said this many times before. This time, I was inspired by a recent blog post over at Search Engine Guide by Mike Moran. He's talking about some e-commerce innovation that came, not from Amazon, but from a site selling groceries. From the examples Moran gave, the site owners must have asked themselves what they could do to make their site so convenient for their customers that they never decide to look elsewhere.
Moran's examples are taken from Peapod. The first one works well if you have a business that sells supplies which customers need to replenish regularly. Basically, it lets a user set up a regular cart as a “standing order” for items that are sent to them at regular intervals. Other companies do this, but not as well, according to Moran: “Amazon has an ability to do a standing order for supplies so that they come every two months or whatever, but it handles each item separately and I have always found it hard to use,” he observed.
Another great feature at the Peapod site is called NutriFilter. You can choose from a variety of diets, or build a custom plan, and Peapod will sift through their products and highlight the ones that meet your nutritional goals, based on the plan you selected. Moran says that he could see take-out or delivery restaurants doing something like this. I could see it for any company that offers somewhat customized products or services based on customer needs.
Like Amazon, Peapod's goal seems to be making their customers' experience so perfect that they never think about going somewhere else. The idea is to make the experience “so easy, so trustworthy, so low-risk, and so time-efficient,” in Moran's words, that customers aren't really bothered that they pay a little more than they would elsewhere. To do this, you need to find out what your customers really want when they come to your website. What is their ultimate goal?
Amazon offers a diverse range of products. They know that some customers might not know exactly what they want, so they include information to help them decide right on each product page, along with a good search engine. If your customers know exactly what they want, you need to set up your site to lead them right to it – just as Peapod does with their NutriFilter. If they repeatedly get the same thing, make it easy for them to re-order. Your customer is probably not on your web page because they like hanging out on your site (unless you run a popular blog); they're there to accomplish some task. Make it quick and easy for them to do what they need to do, and they'll keep coming back. They'll know they can be in and out, with plenty of time left over to get more tasks done.
These days, everyone is busy. Find ways to respect your customers' time and intelligence, and they'll come back for more. Good luck!
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