Customer Training: The Essential Piece of eCommerce

Barry Kelly
Oct 26, 2015 10:26:00 AM

eCcommerce sales are expected to grow to more than $400 billion in the next several years, with Forrester Research estimating $414.0 sales in 2018 and eMarketer estimating $491.5 in 2018.

There’s no question that online retail is a continuing rocket ship that’s constantly evolving. More and more product creators are going direct to the customer with niche web stores, on-demand offerings and same-day delivery. A multi-billion dollar industry has been established around e-commerce, providing tools, software, marketing services, and consulting, as each product seller tries to optimize and squeeze every extra dollar out of each unique visit.

There are a number of trends that the ecommerce industry is talking about—from the increase of mobile purchases to the importance of email marketing. Marketers and digital sales teams are working hard to offer customers the richest experiences that will drive their bottom line.

However, there is one key piece of the ecommerce equation that is often overlooked. It’s a natural complement to the marketing program and a proven sales generator: customer training.

Organizations that forge direct relationships between learning and ecommerce are providing value through the entire customer lifecycle from product research to repeat purchase. Here’s how a strategic learning strategy can complement and even bolster the ecommerce engine:

Turn browsers into buyers

We’re witnessing an explosion in content marketing across all phases of the customer lifecycle. At the top of the funnel, customers are demanding a greater level of detail when making purchases—they want more knowledge and to make an informed, educated decision. This offers a significant opportunity for brands to help influence the purchase decision.

Educational content such as product guides, expert analysis and webinars can help move a browser into a buyer. A great example of presale education that I like to point to is Blue Nile. The brand built an entire section that helps educate buyers. Blue Nile acknowledges that buying a diamond can be overwhelming, and so with tips, FAQs and guides they are creating a better buying experience and ultimately a savvier customer.
 

Onboard new customers and improve product adoption

While the software world has been working to refine the fine art of onboarding new customers with product orientations, customer data gathering, and start up tips, the physical product world is in the dark ages, relying on instructional manuals and for dummies books. Some have bridged the gap with YouTube videos, but those are one-click away for the nearest competitor.

Complex products can make customers feel both challenged and discouraged with the worst case scenario being a customer who struggles to get started and shortly after gives up. A new study recently showed that one in five apps is used only once. Many apps continue to be abandoned because customers don't know how to use them. The adoption curve is too steep. 
 
This holds true for any product—physical or digital. It is critical to inspire, educate and connect the new customer to a brand and to a community of others. It’s also an opportunity to answer questions and help shape their perception of the brand, product and service. 
 

Create customer loyalty and repeat customers

Repeat customers are significantly more valuable than new shoppers. An often cited Adobe study from 2012 showed that shoppers who had returned to an online store for at least the third time to place an order spent an average of five times more per purchase than a new customer. 

By integrating a customer training component, customers have an opportunity to build a stronger connection to a brand.
 
The numbers don’t lie. We are seeing incredible time on site metrics for those engaged in a customer training on their own domains—10 to 90 minutes is the average time per learning experience with time per session ranging from 5 to 45 minutes. 

This time on a brand’s domain is valuable and provides a host of additional opportunities to interact with that user and generate loyalty and connection. 

Loyalty can really only be measured over a longer period of time. However, that loyalty starts from the beginning. Adoption and engaged product usage, access to information, education and ideas on how to expand the use of the product is all critical in developing loyalty. 
 
In terms of expanding usage, think along the lines of broadening a customer’s horizons with new opportunities and ways to extend their current passion. For example, a customer who purchases a camera may want to explore close-up photography or video with their DSLR.   

So without further ado, start the conversation with both your content marketing team and your ecommerce team. If the key players see the opportunity for more engagement, increased loyalty and an increase in revenue, then there’s no question that customer education and training will become part of the ecommerce equation.

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