As this past holiday season demonstrated, US consumers are heading online to do their shopping in droves. According to comScore, an estimated 39% of U.S. holiday shopping was done via the Internet this year. Numbers from the National Retail Federation confirm this trend, showing that between November 1 and December 7, shoppers had already spent nearly $30 billion online, up 13% from the same time period in 2011. In this new "e-tail" environment, customer satisfaction is king, and Amazon.com is the perennial ruler. For the 8th straight year, ForeSee's E-Retail Satisfaction Index gave the e-tail giant higher marks than any of its peers. This is no mean feat, given that Foresee's comprehensive Index takes into account more than 24,000 survey responses from shoppers who had visited the top 100 retail websites over the holiday season.
CUSTOMER SATISFACTION IS KING
The Index's primary finding is that, though online retail sales in the U.S. are experiencing a record-breaking year, customer satisfaction is stagnant. To improve the customer experience, business leaders need to measure and understand their customers' wants, needs, and expectations.
In other words, to win over an increasingly demanding consumer base, businesses must provide a superior, customer-focused digital marketing experience.
While other companies are struggling to find their digital marketing mojo, Amazon has emerged as the model to emulate. Why should you care? According to Foresee, companies that provide an excellent customer experience tend to see increased revenues, loyalty, and recommendations.
In the Foresee Index, a larger score equates to higher levels of customer satisfaction. For example, customers who are dissatisfied with an online experience will rate a website at 69 or lower, whereas customers who are highly satisfied will rate a website at 80 or higher.
This is a critical distinction, as the 2012 Index found that shoppers who are highly satisfied with a brand's e-tail website are 71% more likely to purchase from that retailer online and 56% more likely to purchase offline. Here are some other customer satisfaction-related findings from the Index:
- Brand Loyalty - Highly satisfied holiday shoppers are 67% more likely to buy from that retailer the next time they buy similar merchandise, 65% more committed to the brand, and 61% more likely to return to the website than those who are dissatisfied.
- Brand Affinity - Compared to dissatisfied shoppers, highly satisfied shoppers say they are 61% more satisfied with the retailer overall, transcending the experience with the website alone. This information shows
- Brand Promotion - Highly satisfied shoppers say they are 69% more likely to recommend the company to a friend, family member or colleague than are dissatisfied shoppers.
As anyone who has tried to purchase or even research a product online quickly realizes, Amazon is almost as ubiquitous as Google. Given Amazon's massive size and reach, it is fascinating to note that, after eight years of tracking, the company received its highest customer satisfaction score this past year (88). It is no mean feat for a company to quickly scale and improve customer satisfaction.
LEARN FROM THE MASTER
Given that it is always a sensible practice to learn from the best, here are three digital marketing takeaways from Amazon's business model:
- Understand Your Target Audience - Though it seems obvious, knowing as much as you can about every segment of your target audience is fundamental to understanding how specific elements of your website can better impact customer satisfaction. Collecting website user data provides offers insight into your audience's wants, needs, and expectations. This data can also help you allocate finite digital marketing resources.
- Use Data to Define and Refine the User Experience - Amazon is expert at tracking shopper behavioral tendencies at a granular level to better understand each segment of its ubiquitous target audience. With the help of marketing automation software, you can take a similar approach. What products are shoppers purchasing (or not purchasing)?; what web or content pages are they clicking on?; how much are they spending on certain products?, etc. As the Foresee Index points out, getting inside the minds of your audience and really understanding their experiences and impressions can help you optimize website conversion relative to sales, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.
- Produce Content that is ART: A major element of Amazon's success has to do with its prolific content. From detailed product descriptions to user-generated reviews, the website provides users loads of content that is Accurate, Relevant, and Transparent- pure ART.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As I've noted many times before, the mass adoption of Internet, social, and mobile technologies have shifted the balance of power from the producer to the consumer. In such an environment, customer satisfaction is more important than ever.
To compete, brands must win over an increasingly-demanding consumer base by providing a superior user experience. Amazon recognized this earlier than many, and implemented a customer-centric, highly-integrated digital marketing strategy better than most.
And you can too.