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THE WILD, WILD WEB

The Low-Hanging Fruit

Consistency inspires trust. Speed soothes the time-starved. Internet retailers know this, and ECPs can gain an edge with these and other hacks.

Starbucks and McDonald’s get it: consistency. Big Macs and cappuccinos taste the same everywhere, delighting devotees. Inconsistency alienates shoppers, and ECPs can fix that without much trouble to better compete with online retailers.

Three out of four consumers expect consistent experiences across channels (store, web, mobile) and 73% switch brands if they don’t get it, reports Salesforce in its “State of the Connected Customer” research.

But, while 95% of businesses create brand guidelines, only 25% follow them, according to LucidPress, which found consistency can increase revenue up to 23%. Talk about low-hanging fruit.

To explore where online merchants excel, EB tapped the e-tailing group’s president, Lauren Freedman, who pioneered online mystery shopping research that yielded 20 years of benchmarking data. She is author of It’s Just Shopping, billed as a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to e-commerce.” Here, she shares just how ECPs can compete with the wild, wild web.

NAVEL GAZE NOW.

Shameless self-contemplation is OK—indeed vital—as online competition intensifies. “Take a brand consistency test,” urges Freedman. “Are you consistent across all channels?

“Ensure your website reflects the in-store experience. If your store has a luxury feel but your website looks cheap, that’s a problem.”

Post photos of your physical shop on the website—so consumers connect your digital persona with your shop down the street. Showcase the practice’s unique services such as cutting-edge exams, low-vision specialists, or therapy pets for children.

“If you do something special, bring those distinguishing elements online,” says Freedman.

ASK NICELY. AND RECEIVE.

Add website pop-ups to collect names and emails. A one-time 20% discount in exchange for this valuable information pays for itself when paired with a year-round communications strategy.

“You have got to be in touch with people. When the time hits and they are ready to act, if you haven’t sent them something in six months, they probably have forgotten about you.”

Frame requests with engaging and breezy graphics and text like “We’d love to get to know you” to reassure consumers. “Listen, if they don’t wanna do it, they can hit the ‘X’ button” to close the pop-up window. “Get their name,” Freedman insists. “It’s valuable.”

PRIME THE PUMP.

“Bring a ‘ready’ customer into the shop,” she adds. Offer digital “try-on” tools that superimpose eyewear frames onto portrait photos—in advance of store visits—so consumers can visualize which styles complement their features. Invite shoppers to “reserve” a frame so it’s ready upon their arrival.

“It’s an efficiency play,” Freedman says.

Let customers book appointments online and via email and text. “The customer thinks: ‘You have what I want. I don’t want to wait,’’’ says Freedman. “The reason people shop online is to save time. Anything you can do to save time is very much appreciated by the busy customer.” —DENISE POWER