The year 2020 has reshaped the world forever. Communication and socialization have been fast tracked to a primarily digital space and the events of the past year accelerated how humans exchange information in a virtual world dependent on access to high-speed internet. We are more online than ever and even those who resisted have been pushed to adapt to the growing digital influence.
Video conferencing has been around for decades – the first viable platform dating back to the 80’s and the AT&T Picturephone software. Apple gave its mobile users access to Facetime via Wi-Fi in 2012 which seems like lightyears in the past now that Zoom, Teams (pick your preference), and Google Meet have all entered the mobile video sharing ecosystem. Tools of the past endured a slow burn of transitioning the general population from traditional forms of communication like social media, text messaging, or even email. Social distancing and separation forced masses of people that would have been otherwise hesitant to become comfortable with existing solely in a digital space, to learn the intricacies of scheduling meetings, turning on their cameras, and creating unique backgrounds that were once reserved for TV production staff or corporate town halls streamed across continents. Many of us have recently eaten meals with family, played games with friends, or watched loved ones get married all through the lens of a smartphone or laptop. We live online now and businesses that are willing to make the effort have endless opportunity to build an unbreakable connection with their customers, if the Wi-Fi signal is good.
In the first episode of From the Frame Up I spoke with Shelby Greer, Senior Marketing Specialist at OneLocal about the Road Map of the Online Customer Journey.
A Digital Shift
The past year has altered the expectations of the customer forever. Today businesses must become more agile in terms of offering products and services online. The typical customer experience pre-COVID might have seen the average person willing to browse, try one store and another before finding what they want. But with the immediate shift to a fully online shopping experience and endless pages of Google results to choose from the need for a business to show up where the customer is going to look is paramount. This goes for every type of interaction a customer may need, regardless of what the experience looked like in your industry before 2020, its different now. Customers can buy vehicles online, schedule an at-home test drive, have their vehicle picked up from their driveway repaired and dropped off all without talking to someone on the phone or leaving their home or office. Aspects of the automotive sales and service departments that would have never been fathomable before are now value-adds for any customer and are becoming more standardized across brands in major markets. The conversation with Shelby was enlightening as she shared valuable insight about what business owners need to leverage to effectively cater to a new customer journey. Among the key points, Shelby elaborated on the concept of unseen actions taking place as customers research where they are going to make their purchase and how important it is for business to have a multi-touch solution when cultivating their online presence. Creating easy ways for customers to communicate with a business is another point that Shelby hammered home by describing her own recent experience at an automotive repair facility. Connecting with customers in the place that is convenient for them, providing timely updates through that preferred platform, and delivering on their expectations is how businesses continue to thrive in an online marketplace.
Our discussion of the customer journey allowed us to expand on several areas that are often overlooked by small to medium sized businesses in their effort to grow. Amidst turbulent economic conditions there is still a vast opportunity for success if businesses are willing to invest time and resources in the right channels. We talked about the importance of covering your bases and not being tunnel visioned in the approach to driving customers to find you. The strategy isn’t just about website, it expands to targeted ads, Google Reviews, text messaging, all catered to a specific customer’s needs.
Thinking of the customer journey as a destination is an ideal way to conceptualize the topics we need to emphasize to truly understand where businesses can leverage the most opportunity. If the awareness is the fuel for the trip, then the search aspect is the engine. We talked in-depth about the importance of being multiple in your online presence. Shelby referenced three verticals within the Google platform that should be a staple in the digital marketing strategy of every business. The targeted ad, organic search, and the Google Review. While each plays a different role in the customer’s online experience interacting with a business, none of them should exist in a vacuum. Paying for targeted ads creates a certainty when it comes to being at the top of the search result while organic search supports that effort with a transparent method of promotion that customers know is authentic. When a customer sees that a none paid result is near the top of the list, they know that the business has earned that spot through genuine customer experiences. To put this in perspective Shelby used a great analogy, “with paid ads you’re paying rent at the top of the space on Google but with SEO you’re paying down a mortgage by investing long-term for that real estate at the top of Google which is beneficial over the long run to take advantage of those organic search results.” This is such a fantastic way to view the approach from organic to paid search tactics and most entrepreneurs would agree that if given the choice, owning is preferred to renting.
The most concerning aspect of the customer journey for any business owner or marketing professional in today’s new digital age is the reputation management cycle point. This is where everything that you have done can either pay off or come crashing down based on a customer’s experience with your business. Reputation management is where businesses thrive in the online space by cultivating new and fresh reviews that frame the products and services you provide in a positive light so that the next customer or potential lead can trust that they can expect similar treatment or results. Reinforcing this concept during our discussion Shelby talked about how vital it is for businesses to keep a steady flow of fresh reviews coming in so that customers know they can trust your business today. Being active in requesting your customers to review your business and make it easy for them to do so without barriers, you can maximize on your customer’s experience by allowing them to advocate for you. Shelby elaborated on the idea of just how easy it is to ask for that proof, working the request for a review into your customer service representatives closing speech is the most effective way to prime the customer about what you are going to send them whether it be a Google review request or a customer service survey request. If you have done the work already, we can assume that you also provided timely updates or value-added communications to the customer using a customer’s preferred method of communication. That makes the request to review your business the final closing of the transactional relationship between your customer and your business much more palatable because it isn’t something that surprises them and is delivered through a channel that they have already acknowledged as the way they want to talk to you.
Marking the most important part of the journey for any business or salesperson, the conversion of the lead or the point of sale. We know how crucial this moment is to anyone who works on a commission basis or requires customers to purchase a product or service from them or their company, to make income. Everything that you do from an online marketing perspective has led to this moment, the payoff. Shelby aptly describes your businesses website as the anchor for the online journey. It houses all the relevant information your customer needs to execute the sale. That means more than just having contact information there. The best businesses, the ones succeeding in the online marketplace are thinking steps ahead by providing customers with a text message option directly on the website so that when a customer (who by every recent metric of customer satisfaction wants to interact via text) arrives at your website you have a solution for everything they want to do. This includes using an online booking tool which helps to take people out of their search and stop looking for competitors.
Perhaps the most overlooked part of the entire customer journey is the experience aspect because it comes after you made the sale and all your hard work paid off. The digital foundation that was laid supported your effort to get the customer to your business and they made a purchase. Behind the scenes though what that customer thinks about you, your business, and how they interacted with it can have a significant impact on whether they buy from you again or refer you to another customer. One of the most important and simple ways to provide a good experience is something Shelby discussed during our interview which is communicating with them in their preferred method. Interacting with customers the way they want to, not necessarily what is most convenient for the business owner, is part of a customer first approach that is proven to help elevate satisfaction scores. These days that means having a text messaging option in addition to the standard email and telephone listed on your website. As Shelby concisely put it, the experience and the product are now tied in together, they’re not two separate things. If you’re offering a great product but not providing an exceptional customer experience and customer journey, you’re just leaving business on the table.
OneLocal is a technology and marketing company that focuses on modernizing the way businesses market themselves and engage with their customers and prospects in the digital space. Their expertise lays with brick-and-mortar businesses that provide local services. OneLocal provides the technology and marketing insights needed to stay ahead of the curve and bring in more customers – an all-in-one solution driving the customer journey. OneLocal makes it easy for businesses to attract customers online, win more business, and retain them for life.
About Shelby Greer
Shelby is a Senior Marketing Specialist on the Customer Success team at OneLocal. She works closely with small businesses to ensure they are standing out online and making the most of their digital presence. Shelby works with businesses to set them up for success in the digital space, making sure that people can’t help but notice them online when they are searching for their services and that they have the tools necessary to provide an exceptional customer experience digitally! OneLocal about the online customer journey. With many businesses reacting quickly to the abrupt transition to an online only model, the way consumers navigate the digital space has changed. We break down what a positive virtual experience looks like for today’s consumer as well as some professional expert advice to provide the average business owner with a blueprint to offer a unique customer experience in the digital marketplace.