Hi Jan, tell us about yourself, your background?
I’m the Chief Business Development Officer at Staylime, a Magento design and development company headquartered in Redwood City, California. I am responsible for developing and leading the sales and digital marketing strategies of the company. I’m passionate about eCommerce and Magento in particular — throughout the years my pieces have been featured on Retail Dive, Hackernoon, Chief Marketer, Mobile Marketer, TMCnet, and many others.
Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?
Arguably, the best thing that’s happened to commerce since the dawn of the internet is the ability of brands to gather consumer feedback faster, easier, and in bigger amounts than ever before through online reviews. This allowed the most proactive ones to become more agile — they now could keep a much closer eye on consumer wants and needs and quickly incorporate them into their business strategies, ultimately, being able to deliver a better purchase and product experience.
Now that the consumers are leaving more reviews, brands have more data to work with in their strive to stay ahead of trends and outperform their competition. Consumer reviews provide two invaluable insights: the quality of the buying experience and the quality of your products. While the latter should be used to make your products more appealing, durable, reliable, desirable, you name it, the former should be used to eliminate any friction points that prevent your customers from spending more or from buying your products altogether.
Besides, improving customer experience both in terms of the buying journey, and the appeal and quality of your product line will improve your further reviews. This, in turn, will drive revenue growth as researchers claim that the average Joe is willing to spend 31% more on a retailer that has excellent reviews. So I would suggest listening to what your customers are saying and incorporating this feedback as soon as possible, given it makes sense business-wise.
Jan’s tips for personalization
What tips do you have for companies that want to improve their personalization strategies?
Back in 2019 Gartner stated that focusing personalized messaging around helping consumers can yield a 16% increase in commercial outcomes, which gets the more interesting financially the bigger your business is. In a subsequent press-release Gartner also said that while spending up to 14% of their budget on personalization 80% of marketers will abandon it by 2025 due to lack of ROI. These two insights draw a depressing picture. There is strong potential for personalization but 4 out of 5 marketers spend a fair share of their budgets without doing it right and they will not give it a second shot. Hence, my tip here would be to take an experiment-like approach by starting small and scaling only once you get a grasp of what works well for you in terms of personalization and what doesn’t. That’s more reasonable than going all-in at once with one sixth of your budget.
The problem nowadays is that even the most carefully personalized and contextualized message gets lost in a huge heap of other marketing communication your audience is constantly subjected to. People’s attention has become extremely selective — they direct it only to environmental stimuli that are related to their goals, while the rest is subject to banner blindness and alike. This is why it makes sense to focus your personalization efforts on environments with little or no competition for your customer’s attention and take it from there.
Your website is the ideal starting point in this sense as all of its real estate belongs to you. While your customer is there you have 100% of their attention and full control of what they see. In fact, you are only limited by your creativity and the amount of customer data at hand. Thus, when it comes to personalization I would suggest shifting your focus to the more effective media, that is the ones that you dominate.
Do you think personalization and customer-centricity are going to become increasingly more relevant in the coming year? How so?
Everyone loves it when they get exactly what they want with as little friction as possible. It’s common sense that the more a product or service and the way they are marketed to you are tailored to your needs, the more chance there is that you will buy it. With this in mind, personalization and customer-centricity have always been key — it’s just that now that the market has become so oversaturated brands are leveraging these paradigms even more in the attempt to win the customer over.
This has become especially true during the pandemic when the whole world suddenly shifted to doing more business and making more purchases online, albeit at the cost of losing the feeling of personal attention everyone was getting out of human interaction. Thus, I think we’ll be seeing more personalization efforts in the upcoming years as a means of enhancing customer experience in order to stand out from the crowd and sell more.
Social media pages have become crucial for companies in most industries, especially in eCommerce. What’s the most common mistake you see in a company’s social media strategy?
The devil is in the details. The most crucial mistake that companies make when ensuring presence in social media is their failure to set up their accounts properly and fill all the necessary contact information, making it impossible for the prospective buyer to become their lead or customer.
The most recent occasion was yesterday when I was scrolling through Instagram. Being on the verge of moving to a new home I’m now in search of decent furniture makers and am targeted with respective ads all over the internet. One ad with a lead form caught my eye and I decided to have a look at the maker’s account before getting in touch. I clicked the logo of the maker in the top right corner, but nothing happened. I clicked the second time, but nothing happened. I memorized the name, opened the search, typed it in, but didn’t find them. I googled the name, found their website with no portfolio on it, found the Instagram icon in the bottom, clicked it, and nothing happened. It is only after I called them and told them about the troubles they were having did they send me a link to their Instagram account via a private message.
Unfortunately, as a customer I get to experience this very often — people frequently overlook the simple, yet the most important things: they forget to specify their phone number, they forget to link their account in their ads, they forget to renew their domain but keep the ads running. And the list goes on. And with eCommerce being readily accessible as a business niche to everyone these days for as low as $29 per month with Shopify Basic, I know it’s very tempting to hop on board. But if you do, please do the basics right.
What’s the most insightful book you read in 2020?
I’d say it’s ‘Storynomics: Story-Driven Marketing in the Post-Advertising World’ by Robert Mckee and Tom Gerace, that reinforced my own views on what contemporary marketing and communications should and should not be. The main idea of the book is that the push strategies no longer work and that the only way to succeed in being more effective when it comes to marketing is to tell deeper, more personal stories to customers without shoving the former into the latter’s faces.
My own experience seconds that thought — in today’s world where markets are overwhelmed with supply and competition for customer attention is fierce bombarding your audience with intrusive advertising, spammy emails with long follow-up chains, cold calls, and messages on LinkedIn just doesn’t work anymore. All unsolicited marketing and sales communications are now taken hostile; no wonder they are seeing a sharp decline in effectiveness, not to say they were ever very effective to begin with.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is inbound marketing, a term coined by HubSpot’s co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan back in 2005, meaning something along the lines of ‘creating valuable content and experiences tailored to customers’ and ‘forming connections they are looking for and solving problems they already have.’ In layman’s terms the idea behind inbound marketing is to let your audience make the first step and exercise free will in what they click, see, read, and listen to. The mastery is then to apply the Storynomics’ approach by telling them stories they will want to hear and be part of — that is how your product or service has helped others succeed. The ultimate goal is to make them think they need it too and that it was their decision to get it in the first place. The rest is sales.
It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future. How should Executives gear up to the changing times?
I would say that times have changed, and even this way of putting things is somewhat of an understatement. Those few businesses that haven’t yet geared up but are still afloat somehow will surely perish in the near future — most of the unprepared ones have done so already as the IMF estimates that the global economy shrunk by 4.4% in 2020.
The journey to recovery will be a long one and while it goes on executives have to account for the drastic change in two landscapes — workforce and trade — that are undergoing a forced digital transformation (though I very much dislike hype terms, even those that have been around for quite a while, this one has survived long enough to become a good fit to describe what’s happening on a large scale).
Humanity has quickly got accustomed to working from the comfort of their homes. So accustomed, in fact, that though the economy seems to be coming back to life, business travel is not as very few people now still require a plane ticket, a rental car, and a hotel suite to do business. Many of those opposing work from home but forced to do so a year ago will now hardly consider coming back to the office or applying for a new job that doesn’t allow them to work remotely.
The B2B segment has also shifted to doing business online and increasingly prefers e-procurement to more traditional ways of satisfying their demand. And so did the consumers — they spent $861.12 billion online in 2020, up 44.0% from $598.02 billion in 2019 in the U.S. alone according to the latest Digital Commerce 360 analysis. Hence executives should bend their efforts in aligning the customer- and employee-facing parts of their business with the current trends before they lose their business to competition in both these fields.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
The rule of thumb in business is to never ever look at a single metric only, whatever it might be. Having said that, as a results-driven marketing evangelist I’m mostly fond of metrics that demonstrate the ability of your marketing activities and assets to perform and directly relate to your revenue. With this in mind, my most favorite CX metric is conversion rate, as it inter alia reflects the impact of the customer experience on sales.
Of course, you always have to weigh it against other metrics and characteristics, especially visitor intent. Lower conversion rate numbers do not necessarily mean that your marketing efforts are ineffective — at the end of the day they might pursue goals other than generating leads or selling things, say customer education. Then, their effectiveness is of course better measured with the number of new and returning visitors, time on page and on site, bounce rate, and so on.