By Christie Flanagan on Jan 15, 2013
We live in an always connected world. Every minute of every day, two million search queries are made on Google, nearly 700,000 pieces of content are shared on Facebook, 571 new websites are created, and consumers spend $272,000 shopping online.1 We shop, we play and we connect online, and so do your customers. There is no doubt that the online channel is often your customers’ preferred channel for conducting and managing their personal and professional business. But does the online experience that you deliver really turn casual site visitors into long-term paying customers and advocates for your brand?
If you’re part of an organization looking to compete in an increasingly web, mobile and social world, you must take care to develop and execute an online customer experience strategy that supports the entire customer journey. Your goal should be to provide an engaging, consistent and connected experience, whether you are dealing with a prospective customer who is visiting your public website for the first time, or a long time customer who has logged on to your self-service portal to look up account information or conduct a transaction.
While there are many different stages of the customer journey, there are five primary phases you’ll want to consider carefully as you develop your online customer experience strategy:
As potential customers begin to research solutions to the problems they are trying to solve, the focus of your online customer experience should be on engagement. The days when prospects could be won over by a static, one-size-fits-all web experience are long gone. Instead, you need to focus on providing prospects with personalized and interactive online experiences that are easily accessible and optimized for PC’s, tablets and mobile phones. By combining a well thought out content strategy with a dynamic web presence, you can begin to earn the trust of prospective customers and get them to seriously consider your brand.
Once you’ve successfully engaged prospective customers with a relevant and interactive experience, and gotten them to consider your organization as a possible solution for their needs, you can continue to guide and influence their selection process by making it easier for them to search for and discover suitable solutions for their needs. Depending on your business model, there are numerous approaches that aid the online selection process including the incorporation of faceted search and guided navigation, segmentation and targeting, or even endorsements from other customers in the form of comments, ratings or reviews on the web presence.
If your business model includes an eCommerce component, speeding and simplifying the purchase process is the next step in the online customer experience journey. A streamlined and efficient online purchase process is vital to preventing shopping cart abandonment. The purchase process can even become another opportunity for engaging customers and influencing them to purchase more or related products; it can also be structured to incent customers to take action now through various promotions or offers.
Once you’ve successfully converted site visitors into paying customers, you’ll want to assure that it is easy for customers to do business with you and to help them get the most out of their investment in your products or services. For certain industries, such as financial services, your online presence may even be the primary channel in which customers conduct business with you. In any case, an effective customer self-service portal can not only drive down service costs, but it can actually improve customer satisfaction at all phases of the ownership experience, from product delivery to use and maintenance.
The final phase that you should consider in your online marketing strategy is the recommendation phase, whereby satisfied customers become advocates for your brand and recommend it to others. By giving your customers opportunities to share their experiences with their social networks, and by enabling them to endorse your products and services in the form of comments, ratings, and reviews on your web presence, you help extend the reach of your brand and leverage your customers’ influence over their peers – truly one of your most powerful assets in your marketing toolkit.
Developing an effective online experience that supports the customer journey is critical to driving sales and earning long term loyalty. Customers’ needs change as they move between the research, selection, purchase, service and recommendation phases of the lifecycle, often necessitating a number of different technologies to deliver on customers’ expectations at each stage. From a technology perspective, this often means integrating web experience management, faceted search, eCommerce, or portal technologies that help support the online customer experience and unify it across all online touch points seamlessly. Be sure to check back on the WebCenter blog this week as we take a closer look at customers' expectations and needs at each of the fives phases of their online journey and the CX technologies that can enable your businesses to deliver on them.
If you’d like to learn more about how to connect the online customer experience with Oracle WebCenter, please register for our webcast on Thursday, January 17 at 10a.m. PT / 1p.m. ET. You will learn how Oracle WebCenter:
- Enables contextually relevant and interactive experiences across web, mobile and social channels
- Works with Oracle ATG Commerce and Oracle Endeca to deliver consistent and engaging browsing, shopping and search experiences across all of your customer facing websites
- Enables you to optimize the performance of your online initiatives through integration with Oracle Real-Time Decisions for automated targeting and segmentation