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The Key to eCommerce Success? Know Your Customer

In journalism, an article needs to address the five “W’s”, who, what, when, where and why in order to successfully engage readers. In order for your online store to be successful and engaging, you also need to be able to answer the five “W’s” about your customers. Most merchants (both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar) have a general sense of these answers but the more data you have about each “W” the better you’ll be able to reach out to specific target markets and engage your customers.

The “Who”

Who are your customers? This involves knowing more than just the name of the purchaser. Demographics such as age, gender, marital status, income level, education, profession, interests, activities and even political affiliation are all components of “who”. Surveys are a useful means of collecting this type of data and offering a coupon for completing this survey can be an effective way to incentivize your customers to take the time to give you this information.

OK. You’ve successfully collected the “who” data, now what do you do with it? Having this data gives you a picture of the interests of your customer, allowing you to market your product specifically to their exact interests.

The “What”

What do customers need to know about your product? Imagine yourself as the customer and ask yourself what you would want to know about the product in order to make a purchasing decision. Some questions to consider include: What does it do or what is it for? What options (size, color, model, etc) are available? What are the differences between the options? What’s the cost to purchase? What are the ongoing costs? What kind of guarantee or warranty is there? What is the life expectancy of the product?

Having all of these questions answered is crucial to your online store’s success. Your product catalog needs to be up to date and needs to include all of the details that potential shoppers will be looking for. Services such as Wiser can be used to fill in missing product information. If shoppers cannot find the answers to their questions about the product on your site, they’ll go elsewhere (and may not find their way back). Ensure that reviews, articles, blogs, and any other pertinent product information are readily accessible to keep your shoppers from needing to leave your site.

The “When”

When are customers purchasing your product? This can go a bit beyond knowing which products are seasonal and devoting extra marketing for a specific season (although that should be done as well) Are there periods of the day, or certain days that your site is more active? Are you optimizing any sales or promotions for those specific periods? Bear in mind that your customers may be shopping from different time zones, so knowing where your customers are coming from is essential data to collect.

The “Why”

This is actually comprised of two components: Why do customers purchase the product in general, and why do they purchase the product from you specifically. Does the product address an immediate need? Is the product a new trend in a specific market? Is the product something that needs to be purchased on a regular basis?  Do customers purchase from you because of Brand or store loyalty? Are they seeking the lowest price? Flexible return options? High quality? Free shipping? Knowing the “why” allows you to focus your marketing on the specific areas you know are important to your customers and deliver on what’s valuable to them

The “How & Where”

How do your customers find out about your product and where are they going to find out more? Typically, an event will trigger an interest in a product. Once there is an interest, a potential customer will go looking for more information. Customers will typically look at pictures, check for reviews, compare prices and ultimately decide where to make their purchase based on their perception of where they’ll get the best value. Customers won’t necessarily look for all of this information on your website. Your pricing is one area that can help your website stand out. With the rapidity of change in the online marketplace, ensuring your pricing data is competitive and up to date  is key to enabling your online store to compete effectively.  Repricing solutions can help you with the pricing of your entire product catalog to automatically adjust in real time based on conditions or triggers you specify – ensuring that your products will always be competitively priced.

Arie Shpanya

Arie is the former COO, Executive Chairman, and Co-Founder of Wiser, a dynamic pricing and merchandising engine for online retailers and brands. He has extensive experience in business development with a focus on eCommerce (eBay and Amazon), and is a guest blogger on Econsultancy, VentureBeat, and more.

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