If you roll through October with one thing in mind as a business owner, make it this. Whatever habits your customers create over the next six weeks, they’ll have those same habits for the next six months.
Habits are critical to everyday behavior. They’re reflexes; what we do, what we eat, what we buy, and who we buy it from are nearly subconscious. These consumer habits are essentially exclusive, too; our habits reduce our purchases to a finite list, even if that finite list provides access to thousands of options (that’s Amazon, folks, and it’s what you’re up against).
But now, with coronavirus cases on the rise in 31 US states and spiking across Europe, there’s every reason to think that the pervasive fear and widespread lockdowns of March, April, and May will be back before long. What little liberty we’ve taken during the summer months to gather (outside) with friends, pick up food (curbside) on the way to the park or beach, or even eating lunch or dinner on a restaurant’s patio, are all off the table. That means new habits and new priorities for business owners.
We’ve looked at our clients and local businesses that have adapted and thrived since March. Here are a few of the characteristics they share.
Online Transactions. Cash is dead. Waiting in line? Dangerous. On the surface, a coffee shop may not seem like the type of business that would embrace online ordering. But with strict occupancy restrictions and summer crowds, online ordering helps businesses reduce wait time and allow for contactless transactions that take a huge weight off staff. All sorts of restaurants have quickly implemented online transactions and even delivery options for the first time this summer.
What’s Next: As bad weather keeps more people at home, online transactions and continuing curbside service will both be vital in churning out regular sales. The real challenge will be developing reasons for at-home workers to leave the house. We’re expecting more and more restaurants to opt for delivery services like DoorDash this winter, as well as introducing collaborative efforts to increase the average ticket through specials. The key will be to create a habit of looking for these promotions and rewarding those who bite.
Better Customer Service. While setting up online payment or sales is necessary, the toughest part for businesses is finding a way to offer customers the same quality shopping experience digitally as they would in-person. Customer service and, more generally, customer communication is a less cut-and-dry element to a company’s online presence, but it’s just as important.
Creating systems that allow customers to ask questions as seamlessly and conversationally as they would in-store is a daunting dask, but social listening and a robust system to ensure accountability in-house is more than worth it. Every message or tweet is a sales opportunity, and it should be given the same priority as you would if someone had just walked in your front door. There’s an additional benefit, too. Creating a conversational online experience offers more opportunity to encourage repeat sales by asking for customer feedback, product reviews, or simply saying thanks.
What’s Next: Funneling customer interactions to a single platform is often the best way to handle customer service requests. Encourage users to email, tweet, or message, but create your messaging to reduce the number of direct contacts that may get smattered across your various social media outlets.
Repeat Sales. That brings us to the most critical element of building habits. The hardest sale to make is to a stranger; the easiest is to a friend. We’ve been relying heavily on email marketing to reward recent customers with coupon codes. 10% off isn’t just an incentive to buy something; it’s a way to immediately reduce a customer’s options. It works in almost every industry, too. Say you have a 10% coupon to a coffee shop. In the pandemic world, you’ll only likely venture out so often. Customers with a 10% coupon code, that can order online, and even opt for delivery, are far more likely to come back than venture in-person to pay more for the same thing and have a more stressful experience.
What’s Next: Build repeat business into every aspect of the customer experience. Online sales should gather emails, and you’ll be able to organize customers based on those sales to tailor specific offers to suit their interests and habits. Segmenting your lists is also a great way to shift habits, too. Another coffee shop example, to illustrate the point. If you have customers that only get, say, a latte, you’ll know it. Send that list an offer for a free cookie or scone. Send them that offer once a month. In three months, stop, and watch the average ticket; some of those customers will find themselves accustomed to that scone, and they’ll have no problem paying full pop for it!
In baseball, the term ‘manufacturing runs’ refers to doing the little things to move runners around the bases and get the team on the board. Sometimes it’s stealing a base, or putting down a sacrifice bunt. In business, and especially in digital marketing, the information gained from metrics allows you to do the same thing by giving a discount there, remarketing here, and turning one sale into several.
As we head into an uncertain winter, manufacturing sales and reshaping your business to new habits, and shaping your customers’ habits as well, will be crucial.
What has your company done differently digitally? Let us know and we’ll share your story.