Unpacking I-commerce: Engage!

It’s always tempting to calibrate your marketing by what your competitors are doing. If your rival auto seat cover company now is selling online to retailers, you feel pressure to sell online. If they push special promotions and discount prices, you plan to do the same.

If as a manufacturer you add the capacity to sell direct to consumers online, you absolutely should keep an eye on competitors in your space. But also realize that buyers shopping online are visiting a lot of commerce sites for both personal and business use. They’re doing the digital equivalent of strolling through a mall. To get to your seat cover store, they may pass a Starbucks, a Pottery Barn, and a Dick’s Sporting Goods. Those brands welcome and engage with customers in specific ways that win loyalty and collect data that helps them keep the engagement strong. In real life, sometimes Starbucks is so welcoming and nurturing, a shopper never even makes it to other stores. Online, an engaging calculator or useful white paper may also lead to a long visit that strengthens a relationship to a brand.

So online selling is not just about creating a web site and a shopping cart that looks like your competitors. Realize your site may be viewed right after a business buyer visits Travelocity and Nike, where the companies project a concern for making their customers’ dreams of sunny beaches and improved athletic performance come to life. They offer education and interesting content and interactive features, not just a digital catalog. They use high quality photography of both products and happy customers using those products. They ask you to sign up for a mailing list so you get a heads up on new promotions or sales.

My Inxeption colleague Swati Jain, our vice president of customer success, often counsels our I-commerce customers in manufacturing companies that selling online is an opportunity to gain deep insight and drive customer engagement. “There are many powerful touchpoint opportunities if you offer resources such as online chat for technical questions, automatic email updates on order status, and rapid re-order capabilities. Even before the buy decision, abandoned cart messaging with discounts promotions reinforces the manufacturer’s interest in helping satisfy the customer. Companies are seeing that when you build trust, even if something goes wrong, you can resolve it together.”

In short, don’t just make sure there is a bright red “buy” button on your site. Think about whether your online selling channel is making customers feel welcome and understood and like you truly want to provide a solution to their challenges.

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