It’s easy to chalk up trends in your business to situations outside your control, especially during a global pandemic. If sales are sluggish, we might infer customers are tightening their financial belts and cutting expenses. But, if you’re an eCommerce or subscription based business, sluggish engagement might actually be a sign that there’s adjustments needed.
One of the most important things you can do for your business’s success is make sure you are fulfilling the promises made to customers. It might seem tough to track, but once you know to look for these hidden signs, it’s not tough to course-correct, to the benefit of your bottom line.
You’ve likely already laid the groundwork by developing your company’s mission and values and unique value proposition (if you haven’t, don’t miss our Customer Persona Download that walks you through the first steps of this important work.) And you’ve likely given some thought to how your customers develop trust with your brand. From our work consulting and running dozens of SMB online and eCommerce businesses, here are five hidden signs that indicate you aren’t holding up your end of the bargain for customers.
1. Take a hard look at the expectations you are setting.
When’s the last time you looked at your website or landing page copy with fresh eyes and really read what you are promising customers? What about the last time you read your paid advertisements with fresh eyes? Go ahead and take a close look at the message you’re putting out there. What are you promising customers? What are they expecting when they purchase from you? Does the product look like the photos? Do the descriptions ring true? Customer promise starts with the expectations you’re setting in your sales and marketing messaging. If there’s a disconnect, you’re likely overpromising and making it near to impossible to earn their trust.
2. Are your Shipping Times accurate?
This one may feel like it’s out of your control, I can assure you, the customer doesn't see it that way. You have a choice which carrier you contract with to deliver goods, and you also have a choice in how you communicate expected delivery times or shipping delays to your customers.
Nothing starts off a relationship on a worse foot than getting this one wrong: think missed birthdays or special events. Is there anything more disappointing as a first impression? Check what you’re advertising and check your transactional emails, and bonus points: make sure you have an SOP for updating shipping times, it will pay off to be able to react in a moment’s notice.
3. Are your customers coming back?
It might be easy to see Revenue coming in, but how much of that is repeat business? In an eCommerce setting that’s the kind of metric we help business owners find - either in their Google Analytics or in their subscription marketplace. It’s worth the hunt: because it’s much more telling. Once you make the distinction between new and repeat business, you’ll be able to take more meaningful action in your business. If you’re seeing an uptick in customers letting their subscriptions lapse for example, it’s a good time to figure out why they’re leaving. A single, simple multiple choice question can go a long way towards revealing hidden product issues, operational issues, or more.
4. Are you not experiencing some natural “buzz”?
I’m a firm believer that if you have a great product (and a solid business blueprint) customers will start spreading the word. If you’re solving a problem, people want to share that solution with others! This may sound elusive, but “buzz” happens and it’s all around us. It’s a beautiful thing to observe and it takes many shapes and forms:
Referral traffic to your website because people are blogging about you
Inquiries about affiliate programs because people see the promise of what you’re doing
Social media engagement because customers love sharing your product with the world!
Customer referrals are a great sign of the strength of your brand, and while it’s true you have to be strategic about inviting customers to share about you to maximize this stream of business, you should be seeing a natural “buzz” as you reach more customers. If you’re not? It’s time to dig deeper but our hunch would be there’s something amiss.
5. Are you seeing a high rate of refund requests?
Many CEOs are looking at their customer service inquiries as a measure of customer happiness and business health. Refund requests are connected - but it often takes a good P&L statement to make sure these get properly accounted for. It might seem like you only get the occasional refund request or payment dispute, but because these usually go out of the same account that your sales revenue comes into, they can easily be overlooked. Plus, not every payment dispute comes with a disgruntled customer message.
If you’re not tracking refunds well, you might see a lower gross revenue month and think “lower sales” when really it’s a major spike in refund requests, more than likely indicating a problem with your product. You do not want lingering product issues in your business.
It’s true, a lot of these hidden signs are really metrics you can be tracking in your eCommerce business front and center with the right growth strategy. But you’d be surprised how many business owners don’t track the right metrics. Learning to look for indicators - especially those related to your customer experience, and brand promise, are always worthy investments. Not only will it take some of the guesswork out of your business growth, but it will give you an edge over your competitors.
To get some support making sure your business is growing with the right strategy, one that sets you up to deliver on your promises to your customers, reach out, I’d love to have a conversation with you.
About She-Suite Boutique
I’m Casey Gromer, founder of The SHE-Suite Boutique, and I’ve seen these issues time and again with clients over my 20 year marketing career. As busy women, we get caught up in the executing and strategizing and assume that the metrics for client satisfaction are alerting us to any issues that need addressing. It takes an adjustment of the lenses through which we see our operations to start to fix this kind of problem.