What Customers Really Want

The Ultimate Guide to Customer Desires and Expectations

Business success is about more than just attracting customers and making the sale—these days, it’s also essential to hang on to the business you’ve already attracted by forming strong connections with your repeat customers. With so many options available to the modern consumer, businesses are faced with a major challenge: to stand out as a company the public can trust, prompting them to return to it while facing an endless barrage of promotions and online campaigns from competing companies.

Success in this arena comes from assuming that your customers are familiar with the online shopping process. Customers today already have expectations about how an online shopping experience should go, so a modern e-commerce business must meet or exceed these expectations if they want to avoid turning their prospective customers off.

What does this mean? It means that your online business needs to be easily discoverable, exceptionally accommodating, and trustworthy . . . and that’s just for starters. These factors obviously take more than a little planning, so below is a sort of checklist for entrepreneurs who are looking to take their customer satisfaction to the next level.

1.    Find out what they want

Many businesses make the mistake of assuming they understand their customers’ needs without taking the time to ask, but if you really want to know what’s on your customers’ minds, read on:

Surveys and emails and interviews, oh my! – It all starts with a forum in which you can collect information. While group panels, email surveys and in-store questionnaires/interviews are all excellent options for gathering much-needed input from your loyal customers, they do no good if only a few people participate. If you want to see a high rate of involvement, try offering something in return for their time. Discounts, sweepstakes, and customer appreciation parties/sales are great options, but free samples and “swag bags” are also a lovely idea for simultaneously promoting new products!

Ask the right answers and listen intently – When considering which questions to ask, make sure you think like the customer. Try going through the purchasing experience in your mind: imagine being in the store or on the website, and ask yourself what you like or dislike about a site. At the same time, though, make sure you’re really listening to what they’re saying, rather than looking for what you want to hear. Often, you may be surprised that they’re desires are in direct opposition with your expectations.

Maximum Difference Scaling – This is a huge consideration for companies relying on written statements for feedback as opposed to face-to-face methods. The idea here is that simply asking respondents to rate various characteristics as unimportant to extremely important does not necessarily provide you with the most accurate information. Instead, try breaking characteristics up into small groups and having respondents rate them against each other multiple times in multiple combinations. In all studies conducted, this yielded vastly different—and much more accurate—responses than were gleaned from old-school methods.

2.    Earn their trust

What pushes a consumer to make the purchase? Is there any way to guarantee that your store and site visitors will pull out their credit cards on a more regular basis? As it turns out, there is!

Transparency and integrity – Remaining open and honest about products and the production process is rated a top consideration for both B2B and B2C consumers. Try including some information about your top executives or your production process in your “About Us” section, and always update customers as quickly as possible in the case of recalls or other product issues.

Involving the customer – Involving your customers in the brainstorming or marketing process tends to yield surprising results. Asking for someone’s help automatically engenders a feeling of connection and involvement with the success of an endeavor—look for creative ways to seek your consumers’ input on future product lines, or ask them to submit photographs or videos of them using your products. Not only does this help create a stronger relationship between your customers and your product, but it also gives you the chance to take advantage of some free marketing!

Keep in touch – In addition to the customer service steps you’ll want to heed below, it’s essential that you provide the occasional opportunity for your consumers to reach out to you via email (or however else you prefer to keep the lines of communication open). Even if it’s just to check in, email your regulars on a weekly or monthly basis—and don’t worry: this is rarely seen by the customer as an imposition!

3.    Make the sale

There’s more to getting a customer to pull the trigger than flashy ads and quality products—effective marketing also includes a bit of psychology:

Narrow the selection – Recent studies have shown that it’s imperative to avoid overwhelming your customers with choices. In some cases, a huge bevy of options even results in cart abandonment. To steer clear of this issue, display the most popular options first, and do away with those that don’t seem to draw much attention.

Show the product’s versatility – Chances are that your product solves a basic human need that you have not yet considered. By adopting a practice known as “multi-attribute decision-making,” you show your product in multiple lights, allowing customers to see the myriad ways in which it might make their lives better. For a great read on this subject, check out the Harvard Business Review.

Provide social justification – Not only do we love knowing that our peers like what we’ve bought, but we also tend to let that “grass is always greener” bug take hold of us when we see a friend using a product that we don’t have. It’s incredibly easy to encourage customers to post their purchases on social media: offer incentives for doing so, or just reward customers who use your most popular hashtags often. In addition to increasing the feeling of community amongst your consumer base, you’ll also boost your online presence!

4.    Keep them coming back for more

This aspect is key to ensuring that your business stays in the black through ups and downs for years to come. Below, you’ll find the qualities that keep consumers happy past purchase number one:

Customer service – To find success here, always make sure your contact information is easy to access: list it on every page of your website and make sure it’s displayed prominently on mailings and invoices. You’ll also want to offer the chance to speak with real people, if possible. Convenient returns are also a major turn-on for most consumers, and you should make order history, status, and tracking easy to access from both a confirmation email and their online account.

Creative design – Design seems to score highly on just about every study regarding customer satisfaction in the known universe. Beautiful design makes customers happy and engenders trust in your company’s professionalism and capabilities. Solid visuals also work the same digitally as they do in a physical store: if your site is well-appointed, customers get the idea that you care about both your products and your customers.

Easy navigability – Again, this concept is not new, but there may be aspects to it that you haven’t considered before: what does accessibility mean to your customer? Find out: email surveys, online questionnaires, in-person interviews, and group forums are still your go-to means of accessing the information that will give you a leg up on website efficacy.

Speed – Cart abandonment is the least of your worries if you haven’t assessed your site’s coding for speed and efficiency—many consumers won’t even make it past your landing page to see your products if they have to wait more than 2-3 seconds for it to load. For more on how to deal with this issue, check out our previous article on website essentials for 2017.

Security – Also in the aforementioned article, you’ll see information on security. This is because no one is going to be making online purchases when they can’t be sure that some teenager 1000 miles away is scamming their credit card information. You site needs a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) if you want to function as an online business.

Product information – Customers today want to feel like they’ve really experienced a product before purchasing. This means providing accurate product descriptions and measurements, including pictures from multiple angles (and in multiple settings). Product reviews and testimonials from real customers also go a long way in creating a sense of security for customers who would prefer to try before they buy.

If your company needs assistance meeting the needs of what what customers really want, contact 10twelve today for a consultation.