Many entrepreneurs have felt the pain of getting their product to market — only to discover that their brand is misaligned with consumers’ expectations. The product that tested well suddenly fades into the background. What seems like a good market fit gives way to the reality — which is that almost every industry faces a crowded market and a highly refined niche. Consumers’ attention is split among countless brands, and they’re highly skeptical and discerning about their buying choices.

Your market research and customer avatars can only get you so far. To cement your brand and remain competitive, you must dive deep into your customers’ actual needs and desires. That means prioritizing their feedback and designing your product around their preferences, rather than shoehorning it into their lives. Here’s how to give power to your customers — and therefore boost your relevance and revenue!

Walk Through the Process

One of the top reasons that consumers abandon a brand is due to a poor experience. That entails everything from your website or UX through their buying journey to your customer service. These days, with all the technology and automation available to e-commerce business owners, there is no excuse not to refine your customer experience (CX). If people cannot easily navigate your website, place an order, and track its progress, they’ll go to a competitor where they can.

Your CX should also align with your values. If you’re advertising supportive footwear that makes walking more comfortable, your website shouldn’t be so clunky that people struggle to get through it.

The best way to identify these problems is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes, so to speak. Test every customer journey. Document any sticking points in your CX, then compare these to where your leads drop out. Often, they’re the same places: a convoluted checkout funnel, a cluttered landing page, etc.

In addition to testing your CX, spend time where your target customers do. Be a fly on the wall in any social groups, forums, or other digital spaces where they discuss your industry. You may realize that their top pain point isn’t what you expected — and adjust your customer avatar accordingly. Or perhaps you’ll discover a gap in the market, somewhere your competitor is failing where you can step up.

Embrace A Diversity of Perspectives

It stands to reason that you can market more effectively to those you understand. A feminine-care company should have women in decision-making roles. A brand that makes textured-hair products should have people of color on the marketing team. And so on. The more perspectives you have, the better equipped you are to find messages that will resonate with your target audience.

You will also avoid marketing failures such as Ink Coffee’s. This Denver coffee shop posted a sandwich board sign that read, “Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014.” As the shop was in an area where many black residents had been pushed out, this did not go over well. The owner later explained that an advertising firm had recommended the campaign as a way to celebrate a melting pot community. Had they engaged other perspectives (especially POC), they would have realized that this campaign would be offensive to their customer base.

Today’s consumers want to feel connected to the companies they buy from. With so many choices available, it’s quite easy to break up with a brand and switch to a competitor. Anything that reads as insincerity or insensitivity is off-putting to many consumers. Brands must be truly aligned with their target audience’s values and interests.

Ask Customers for Feedback

If you leave your customers to their own devices, expect to only receive feedback when they’re unhappy. Actively pursuing their feedback has two benefits:

  • You will gain valuable insights into what’s most important to your customers and how you can improve — even if customers are generally pleased.
  • You demonstrate that you care about your customers’ experience, which helps you forge stronger relationships with them.

There are many ways to request feedback, from post-purchase surveys to social engagement posts to recommendation forms. Surveys yield crucial CX metrics, including Net Promoter Scores (NPS), Customer Effort Scores (CES), and Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT), as well as qualitative feedback.

When conducting surveys, don’t be biased or ask leading questions. Keep it general, e.g. “How can we improve?” Or “What would you like to share with us?”

And of course, be sure to gather feedback from as many customers as possible. Learn from the mistakes of Coca-Cola: after releasing a new formula in the 1980s to compete with Pepsi, they were inundated with complaints. Many people felt a strong emotional connection to the original taste, so Coke’s reformulation seemed like a sell-out. The company had also not performed research in the southern U.S., where Coca-Cola was baked into the culture. Eventually, the new formula was retired as Coke listened to its customers and re-released the initial formula.

All the data is invaluable to your brand alignment and customer retention efforts. You may find that your UX needs to be more accessible to the visually impaired, or that your millennial customers would prefer to contact customer service by text. Remember: the customer is king. By prioritizing their needs and preferences, you can boost conversions and brand loyalty.

In A Nutshell

Long gone are the days when brands could push out products and simply convince people to buy them. Today’s consumers are highly discerning, skeptical, and inundated by choices. They respond most strongly to brands

that clearly align with their needs, interests, and values. That’s why it’s crucial to make customer feedback, extensive market research, and diverse perspectives a key part of your e-commerce marketing efforts. Understand your customers — and you’re much more likely to win them over for good.