Every good general will tell you battles are more easily won when a proactive approach is taken. With this in mind, anticipating customer needs is a strategy every ecommerce merchant should employ. In the war for the hearts and minds of your customers, preemptive strikes will almost always gain you more traction. It’s one of the fastest ways to incite loyalty in customers.
Your Job Is to Solve Problems
Whatever you sell, the customer is buying it from you with the intention of solving a problem. People buy cars so they can have a mode of transportation that’s ready whenever they are, rather than waiting for a taxi or a bus. People hire babysitters so they don’t have to be home every minute of their child’s life. When a customer makes a purchase, take some time to figure out what the real problem is and what other problems they might have. You’ll be perceived as someone who cares when you present solutions before they ask.
Monitor Online Reviews
You probably already look at the reviews your company gets and respond to them in an appropriate manner. This is a good start. However, if you want to anticipate other needs your customers might have, read the reviews of your competitors. They may have encountered situations you have yet to meet. They might also be offering services you haven’t thought of. If customers are wild about something (good or bad), they’ll mention it in their reviews. Incorporate your rivals’ strategies into your game so your customers can get it from you rather than “going across the street.”
Be Gracious About Returns
The best free ecommerce websites, like those offered by Shopify, do everything possible to provide comprehensive descriptions of products. Still though, a lot of customers don’t know what they’re getting until it arrives. In many cases it will be fine, but you must anticipate the fact this won’t always be true. Accepting the return of a product when a customer expresses displeasure will inspire a great deal of loyalty. This, in essence, is allowing them to try it before they buy it. They will appreciate your efforts toward ensuring their satisfaction.
Encourage Customer Feedback
Letting sleeping dogs lie only gives their fleas more time to bite. Similarly, no news is not good news—no news is bad news. In other words, the sooner you give your customers an opportunity to tell you what they’re experiencing, the sooner you’ll be in a position to do something about it. Rather than hiding from negative feedback, use it to learn. Discovering what’s bothered other customers can position you to anticipate issues with others and do something about them before they come up.
Observe Trends and What They Mean
If you’ve been around for a while, historical data can be an outstanding tool for predicting what customers are going to need at different times of the year. This gives you the opportunity to make sure your customer service team is ready to answer questions before they come up. You can also beef up your inventory before the demand hits. If you have yet to develop institutional memory in that regard, look over at your competitors and see what they’re doing in anticipation of different seasons and calendar events.
Anticipating customer needs in this manner will place you in the same category as luxury hotels like the Mandarin Oriental, Ritz-Carlton and The Plaza in New York City . When you take every opportunity to provide what your customer might need before they need it, you’ll create a solid roster of dedicated buyers who always think the world of you.
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