The coronavirus pandemic has changed how we shop, and the trend is accelerating: The more we stay home, the more we shop online. It's convenient, but buying from home means we inevitably miss out on the human connection that happens when we visit a store.
Businesses are finding creative ways to personalize their customers' online shopping experiences during the pandemic to provide that much-needed personal touch—while giving businesses a boost when they need it most.
Make the Customer Feel Valued
A major issue with online shopping is the lack of human interaction.
"Sometimes there's a disconnect when shopping online—it feels impersonal like you're just a number in a long line of nameless, faceless people," says Rex Freiberger, CEO of The Call Of.
Online retailers can alleviate this feeling by finding ways to make their customers feel valued.
"We've taken strides to remember the kinds of things our customers are looking for and suggest similar content and items to them," Freiberger says.
Make Sure Customers Can Talk to You
A basic way to give people a personal experience is to make it easy for them to connect with you and your employees.
"I think in this age people are craving human communication," says Anthony Mongeluzo, president of PCS LLC. "If they just have options where they can speak to someone quickly, it will convert to revenue. It will pay for itself."
Brandon Monaghan, co-founder of Miracle Brand, a seller of premium sheets and towels, emphasizes the need to show customers that you understand their concerns and provide a respectful sounding board for their frustrations.
"Allow them to get it out—they will need to vent, and it starts with you," he says. "It might start tough, but in the end, the customer will appreciate the service that much more and will be more likely to return."
Similarly, Ashwin Sokke, co-founder of WOW Skin Science, a vegan beauty brand, has set up multiple toll-free numbers and SMS support, and has assigned dedicated customer support agents for various aspects of customer service such as shipping inquiries, billing concerns, and refunds and return requests.
Use Video to Connect With Customers
James Chong, founder of Top Generator, a small business that sells generators, has replaced his door-to-door salespeople with virtual demonstrations using videoconferencing software.
"This technique has been very lucrative for us—in fact, we are currently completely sold out!" he says.
Best Watch Brands, a global watch retailer, has also been arranging one-on-one video calls with potential customers upon request. The staff can demonstrate watches and advise customers about their selection.
"These video calls allow them to virtually browse our entire collection of watches, all without having to step foot outside their homes," says co-founder Adam Wu.
Naomi Morris, owner of ourkiwihomeschool.com, says that this year her team started following up after each sale with a short email thanking the customer and offering a personalized 25%-off coupon for the next purchase.
"We don't always get a reply to these emails, but those we do get are very positive, appreciative, and thankful," she says.
Consider following up using higher-impact methods, such as video. Colin Little, owner of Social Launch Marketing, sends a video thank you message after each purchase. Pairing it with a strong offer helped generate an additional $108,205 in sales from a single email.
"The results have been incredible," he says. "If you're serious about boosting lifetime value and brand affinity, you should definitely invest the small amount of time it takes to thank your customers directly through video."
Focus on the Human Element
The goal for methods of personalization is to bring human feeling to your relationship with your customers explicitly.
"I still like the human interaction," Mongeluzo says. "I grew up in the back of a bar—my parents owned a bar-restaurant. It was all high fives and hugs. You need the human element."
Even if you can't high five your buyers, you can still show them in many ways that you understand them, appreciate them, and are eager to continue your relationship, no matter what obstacles the outside world throws your way.