Depending on what article you read or who you speak to, there are a lot of “fundamentals” to running a successful eCommerce business. Having a great product, having the right messaging – and don’t get us wrong, these are all important.
But there’s one element of eCommerce that, without it, your business wouldn’t exist: the customer.
If a great product that solves all the world’s problems exists, but it doesn’t have any customers, is it actually that great a product? Because if the right people who need and want this product can’t access it, what’s the point?
That’s why understanding your customers—where they are, who they are, how they access your services—is the first step to building a successful brand that can not only compete with market leaders, but thrive.
We’ve been talking a lot recently about SMEs beating Amazon in SERPs in light of our upcoming webinar, and we’d argue understanding your customer is the first stage in beating the market leaders.
Because while Amazon, on its surface, looks impenetrable in its sheer size and amount of available resources, it actually does have its weaknesses. Much of this lies in its enormity, in that it doesn’t necessarily have the capacity to specialise and craft expert brand positioning—something that’s fundamental to topping SERPs—in the way that SMEs do.
The bottom line is, there aren’t many people out there that don’t fall under Amazon’s customer umbrella. But the key to topping SERPs is having a site or content that best addresses customer queries.
And how do you specialise and hone in on the most effective brand positioning for your business so that your site best addresses these customer queries? By understanding your customers and what their queries are – specifically, better than Amazon.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at how to do just that, showing SMEs how to begin conducting killer customer research so that you can tailor your messaging, marketing and website to outrank Amazon and increase sales.
Why does customer research matter?
Like we mentioned above, the customer is everything to a business.
Knowing as much as you can about them will show you not only who they are as people (age, gender, etc.), but where they hang out and where they begin their buying journey, all of which are critical to launching successful marketing campaigns.
But most importantly, knowing your customer will massively influence your business’s brand positioning.
As we’ve discussed in past blogs, brand positioning essentially involves figuring out where your business and product fit into the market. What sort of problem does it solve? What sets it apart from other products? Why do your customers need it? When you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be in a much better position to communicate this to your customer and thus convince them to buy from you.
That said, another key area in which customer research comes in handy is in pinpointing the most effective messaging strategy for your brand. This doesn’t just include what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it.
American sneaker-slipper brand Banned Goods is a perfect example of an organisation that knows their customer and has built their web presence around them.
Their primary customer is young men and women and kids, all of which are likely on social media and use it in their buying journey – and Banned Goods’ website shows this. Banned Goods’ language is colloquial and modern, and they make prominent use of their social media channels as a means of social proof, all of which has proved incredibly effective in their sales.
But how does this all relate to Amazon? It’s simple.
Beating Amazon in the SERPs is about relevancy. The more relevant you are to people searching for your product (i.e., positioning yourself as a specialist in a particular arena), the more likely you are to rank higher.
In this case, being seen as a specialist means having a brand and content tailored to a specific audience. And in order to do this, you need to know your audience.
The good news is, there’s usually room on the first page of rankings for a specialist even for competitive terms, as you can see in the example below.
We’ll cover this in a lot more detail in our webinar. But first, let’s take a look at some of the most important questions you’ll need answered about your audience.
Steps to conducting great customer research
Who is your audience?
The first step in conducting great customer research is both pretty straightforward and incredibly crucial – you need to know who your customer is.
Start with the basic facts: age, gender and location. Google Analytics is a top tool here if you’ve already got it set up for your site, as you can look at demographics and geo reports within the “Audience” section to get a feel for your customer’s general age, gender and location. This will likely not only impact how you speak to your customers, but the imagery you use and how you set up your website.
This information obviously only helps with understanding who’s already on your site and not necessarily your target audience, but from there, you can use this information to map out other areas you might want to market towards.
Also within GA’s Audience category is information on affinity categories and in-market segments. These will allow you to learn more about what else your customers are interested in, including other topics, products and services, which you can then leverage as a means of connection.
What are their pain points?
Knowing your customers’ pain points is huge to improving your brand positioning which, as we established earlier, is key to speaking your customers’ language.
When you know a customer’s pain point, you can then get a handle on what specifically is missing from their lives and what hardships they face. From there, you can fill in the gaps with messaging detailing how your product specifically solves these problems.
To establish how businesses can effectively address customer pain points, let’s look at one that does it well.
Stasher is an American homeware brand that sells eco-friendly, reusable silicone bags that are a viable alternative to single-use plastic bags.
Their target customer will likely be eco-conscious or looking for cost-effective kitchenware. Knowing this, Stasher pushes their eco-friendly, waste-free angle prominently on their homepage, as well as their social media.
But how do you find out your customers’ pain points? By talking to them.
Roundtables and customer surveys are great resources here, as they allow you to get first-hand feedback about your company or product from the people who have real, on-the-ground experience in interacting with you. Why did your customers choose you? How can you improve? Knowing this will not only help you lean further into what you’re already doing well, but start planning and adjusting for the future.
Online reviews are also a free tool you can use to learn more about how customers are interacting with your product and whether or not it’s solving their pain points. Incentivising people to leave online reviews or respond to customer surveys with deals or vouchers can be a viable way to encourage people to do this.
Getting insight from people that ultimately didn’t buy from you can be helpful here, too. Services like Hotjar let you survey people that didn’t end up buying from you and find out why not – a lot of this is down to price, but it’s still great information to have.
Where are they coming from and how are they using your site?
Another key aspect of knowing your customer includes understanding both how they use your website and how they landed there in the first place.
Google Analytics can be useful again here – in their Technology and Mobile sections, you can see what type of device and which browser are most often used to view your site. If people visit equally on mobile and desktop but primarily purchase on desktop, for example, you’d want to ensure things like “save for later” or “email this cart” are on offer, because there’s an implication that people like to research first while on the move but buy later once they’re settled or using a more secure or stable connection (which is common for more expensive purchases or for things like travel).
It’s also helpful to look at referral traffic to see which other websites are driving traffic to your site (if any), as this can also help you to understand your audience, i.e. are they mainly finding you through social or through news and lifestyle titles, voucher and discount sites, etc.
From there, you can use this information in your marketing and digital PR strategies to help spread brand awareness and get your brand and product seen by the right people.
Customer research and web development
Unsurprisingly, how an eCommerce site functions and is structured will heavily depend on the customer.
When developing a site that’s user-friendly, businesses will have to consider not only who their actual customers are, but who they want them to be and how they anticipate those people using their site.
But let’s start with building a site that’s directed towards existing customers. To get this right, you’ll need to create a granular description of the customer, developing research through asking questions like:
- How often will customers be visiting the site? Is it likely to be a one-off or repeated occurrence?
- Where are the customers located?
- When are customers likely to visit the site?
- How will customers get to the site? Will it be through social media? Paid ads? Directly via a URL?
All of this seems like basic information, but it’ll have a massive impact on the language used throughout the site. If customers are using your site repeatedly, it’ll need to include language that reflects this. The same goes for the buyer journey – if your customers are accessing the site via social media, the site will need to reflect this in a way that’s different from if they’re primarily reaching your pages through paid ads.
In terms of functionality, so much of a site is dependent on how your target customer will use it – if the right people can’t actually access it properly or in a way that’s most intuitive to them, you aren’t likely to do well in rankings. Calls to action and their placement, whether or not you have varying navigation routes – all of this will be influenced by your customers.
Getting a site right takes practice and finesse, but don’t worry – we’ll go into much more detail about this in our upcoming webinar with ITQ Digital, an eCommerce agency that specialises in optimising webstores.
Once you have this customer research in place, the next logical step is creating buyer personas that’ll help hone your messaging and positioning even further. Expect more content on this from us soon.
And while creating customer research is a crucial step to outranking Amazon, it’s only the first one. To learn more about how this step fits into the chain and how you can get your business in the shape necessary to beat Amazon in SERPs, sign up for our webinar on 18th August 2021 here.
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