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How Building Strong Customer Relationships Can Benefit Your E-commerce Business

Jan 31st, 2011 by Max Tokman

Relationship marketing is a type of customer-centric marketing that emphasizes customer retention and satisfaction, rather than focusing solely on sales transactions. It recognizes the long term value of the customer and strives to broaden communication (beyond advertising alone) to enhance the overall customer 'experience'.

Let’s face it, when we go on to a company’s website, there’s so much more that goes into the experience than purchasing the product alone. There’s the look and feel of the website. Is it easy to navigate? Is it savvy enough? Too overwhelming? Can I contact customer service via instant message? Is the site easily viewed on my mobile phone, etc.? All of these elements create an overall experience which will either encourage the customer to continue using your site or turn to a competitor’s. And as consumers become more web savvy, they will only expect more from their online experience. The growth of internet and mobile platforms allows customer relationship marketers even more flexibility in reaching their customers through channels like social media.

Customer relationship marketing’s focus on extending the customer life-cycle ultimately results in increased profitability. To start, the cost of acquisition occurs only once, at the beginning, so the longer the relationship, the lower the cost. Long-term customers tend to be more loyal, and also less price sensitive. They will willingly promote on your behalf by making referrals and recommendations and passing on promotions. The key to successful customer relationship marketing is using everything you know about your customers to nurture the relationship, customize messaging and meaningfully convey just how much you value their business.

This form of marketing relies heavily on customer relationship management (CRM) systems and software to manage a company’s interactions with their clients and prospects. The information that’s collected by these systems can be used to personalize efforts to attract and retain customers.

There are several types of customer information you can use to inform your customer relationship marketing strategy. These include sales data, website usage information, call center information, and survey results. Looking at customers’ sales history and website usage patterns will give you a better understanding of how your customers use your site to make purchase decisions, the steps they take in this process, what types of promotions they respond to and other pieces of information that can help you to create a more rewarding e-commerce experience.

Call center and customer service data will tell you how often your customer is in contact, if they require more/less customer care than average, if they’re frequent users of the help desk, if they have complaints, etc. Survey information helps to fill in the rest of the gaps. Your customers can tell you directly what they find appealing or frustrating about your website and give you suggestions for improvement. This information is especially enlightening because when we’re directly involved in the creation and maintenance of a website, we don’t always have a complete understanding of the end user experience. Knowing your end user leads to a digital strategy that resonates with your customers specifically, rather than blindly implementing the newest trends.

By using actual customer information, you can make data driven decisions about communications and messaging that effectively demonstrate that you’re not using a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather responding to your customers’ individual needs and preferences. In a saturated competitive environment, this approach differentiates you from the pack by achieving mutually beneficial and long-term relationships. And it’s just another example of a very wise use of data.

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