“The customer is always right.” Most businesses apply this mantra to customer complaints—but what if it was core to your business? What if you shaped every aspect of your organization around what’s best for your customer?
It might surprise you to learn that a customer-centric strategy can increase sales, reduce churn rates, and raise your customer lifetime value (CLV). In their interactions with customers, most businesses focus on the ideal outcome for themselves. Every touchpoint is driving people to the sale. (“Always Be Closing,” right?)
But what if doing what’s best for your organization actually means doing what’s best for your customers?
Salesforce reports that 8 out of 10 customers say that their experience with a business is as important as its product or service. Deloitte claims, “Client-centricity is the most important factor in a successful business digitalization, since client-centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies not focused on the customer.”
If you don’t adopt a customer-centric strategy, you could lose sales to competitors with worse products!
So what does a customer-centric strategy actually look like? What would it change? In this guide, we’re going to give you the knowledge and steps you need to develop your own customer-centric strategy. We’ll cover:
- What does “customer-centric” mean?
- Customer-centric marketing and sales
- Customer-centric retention
- Tips for creating a customer-centric experience
A customer-centric strategy affects both your physical and digital interactions with customers. Since we’re all about conversion optimization and we serve ecommerce brands, we’re going to focus on the digital side. But by the time we’re finished, you’ll have a clear understanding of what it means to be a customer-centric organization, and how you can apply this knowledge to other aspects of your business.
What does “customer-centric” mean?
Being “customer-centric” means focusing on what your customers are trying to do at every stage of their journey. With every touchpoint and every interaction with customers, you start by asking, “What do they want in this moment? What’s their goal at this point, and how can we help them achieve it?”
Instead of seizing every opportunity to promote your own objectives (sales, downloads, etc.), you create clear, straightforward paths to your customer’s objectives.
When you focus on your own goals, it can make customers feel like you don’t understand them, or you’re not listening. Like when a “customer service rep” keeps trying to upsell you instead of just answering your question.
When you use a customer-centric strategy, your customers learn to trust that you have their best interest in mind, and as a result they favor your brand.
Adopting a customer-centric strategy may change how you layout your store, what you put on your website and product pages, how you use social media and advertising, and what you focus on in every interaction you have with a customer. It requires an intimate understanding of what your customers are thinking, feeling, and expecting at any given moment, where they’re at in their journey from awareness to purchase, and how that lines up with what they’re experiencing with your brand.
Since your customer-centric strategy is rooted in your customer’s point of view, it will help to have a customer journey map, or at least a buyer persona before you get started. These tools help you synthesize what you already know and gather new intel to see your marketing through your customers’ eyes.
Customer-centric marketing and sales
There are a lot of stages on the journey from awareness to purchase. A customer journey map will help you identify and understand the steps your customers have to take, but some general stages might be research, comparison, shopping, purchase. Depending on your niche and your audience, you may have more or fewer stages.
Focus on where your customers are
Many organizations try to create shortcuts from each of these stages to the purchase stage. This may increase the conversion rate of an individual email or page, but it frustrates most of your audience—because they’re not thinking about the purchase yet. In that moment, their goal is different than yours.
Speak to their goals
At the very beginning of your customer’s journey, they may not even be aware your product category exists, let alone how your product helps them. They just have a problem they want to solve. Or an aspiration they want to reach. And rather than using that as a launchpad to talk about your product or service, you should be focused on showing that you understand their goal. You might do this through thought leadership articles, white papers, videos, or simply “explainer” pages on your website.
Every interaction they have with your brand should relate to their overarching goal, not just point to your product catalog.
Help them compare their options
As your potential customers progress on their journey toward solving their problem or reaching their aspiration, they’ll learn to trust your expertise. When they are ready to start comparing products in your category, you want to be the one who gives them what they need.
You can give them tools to help make their choice easier—like ratings and reviews from retailers (which they see as unbiased third parties), Amazon A+ content to add clarity to your product pages, and ideally, direct comparison pages.
A lot of brands are hesitant to mention competitors, but the reality is direct comparisons help your customers make a choice—even when they know that comparison is biased.
Ideally, your customers want an unbiased way to compare your product with your competitors. The closest you can come to that is probably a simple table breaking down features and specs, but even a more elaborate (and biased) comparison page is more helpful at this stage than nothing, and depending on your product category, your customers may not have another way to conveniently compare their options. (In most cases, they’ll probably just jump between product pages on Amazon.)
Show them where to buy your products
Once your customers have decided to buy your product, their journey isn’t over. They still have to decide where and how they’re going to buy. At this point, they may already have a strong preference for a particular retailer.
Brands that don’t use a customer-centric strategy often risk losing sales at this stage by trying to maximize their conversion rate. They only let potential customers buy directly from them, and they act as if Amazon, Target, Walmart, Home Depot, and other major retailers don’t exist. Or they may simply make it harder to find their products by linking to the homepage of a retailer’s site, or mentioning the retailer without linking to them.
Some of your customers have compelling reasons to buy from retailers. If you don’t link to your product pages on your retail partners’ websites, you force your potential customers to decide if it’s more worth it to:
- Create a new account with you
- Try and find your product page on their preferred retailer’s site
- Just give up
Some will choose option one. But if they go with option three, you lose the sale. And if they go with option two, it can go either way. (When they search for you, they’ll be exposed to your competitors.)
By not using a customer-centric approach to the purchase stage of their journey, you’re not giving your customers what they want, and you’ve created an unnecessary risk of losing the sale.
Instead, you can use tools (like a where to buy solution) to highlight major retailers on every product page, so your customers can easily decide where and how they’d like to buy your products.
This is where most brands stop thinking of what their customers need and want. Once they’ve closed the sale, they close the door. (Or they’ll ask for a review, and then close it.)
But a sale should represent a milestone in your relationship with your customers, not the end of it. Regardless of your product category, your customers still have value to you after the sale, and they still have needs that you can meet.
They can recommend you to their friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. Or maybe they’ll buy from you again. But they’ll be a lot more inclined to do that if you consider what they need at this stage in the journey. A well-rounded customer-centric strategy should include helpful follow-up communication after the purchase.
Depending on your product’s price and complexity, it may be appropriate to make a follow-up call with your customers to see if they have any questions about installation, or how to use the product for specific functions. At the very least, you should have a series of emails that answer common questions, or show them how to use your product to solve their problem or reach their goal.
How you follow up will depend on what your customer’s goals and desires are and what’s the most relevant way to support them, but if your customers aren’t done, you shouldn’t be either.
At this point, your customers have decided that your product can help them accomplish something. But they still need to do it. They may need extra education, a demonstration, or just encouragement to break it out and finish that project they’ve been putting off. Supporting your customers in this way ensures they have the best experience with your product and your brand, but more importantly, it increases the likelihood that they’ll actually accomplish what they hoped to do.
3 tips for creating a customer-centric strategy
What your customer-centric strategy looks like depends on where your customers interact with you and what their goals are at each touchpoint. Your niche and product category will also have an impact, but here are some broad steps you can take to create a customer-centric strategy.
1. Create a customer journey map
You don’t have to have a customer journey map to develop a customer-centric strategy, but without it, your strategy will be a lot less specific. A customer journey map clearly defines the stages your customers go through and identifies their questions, goals, and challenges for each stage—along with the touchpoints they may have with you.
If you want to see every aspect of your business through your customers’ eyes, you need a way to see how every aspect of your business can hinder or enhance their experience.
2. Take advantage of ratings and reviews
Ratings and reviews provide valuable social proof, which helps people feel more confident about their choices. By displaying ratings and reviews from retailers, you’ll give your customers more data points they can use while researching their options.
But ratings and reviews are also an important opportunity for you to listen and respond to your customers. Sometimes reviews reveal a personal experience you can remedy, or an overarching problem you need to address, such as a knowledge gap. Maybe there’s something your customers wish they knew before buying. Or a use case they couldn’t figure out. Reviews help deepen your understanding of your audience’s goals so you can better support them.
If you want to employ a customer-centric strategy, you need to showcase third-party reviews on your website and make sure you’re paying attention to what your customers are saying. (Our Ratings & Reviews tool helps you do both.)
3. Streamline the path to purchase
In an ideal world for you, everyone who wants to buy your product would buy directly from you, so you don’t have to share your margins with retailers. But that’s not your customers’ ideal shopping experience.
Your potential customers already have accounts with major retailers, and there are likely perks they want to take advantage of (like rewards cards) or buying options that allow them to get their product sooner (like BOPIS). Instead of forcing these customers to jump through hoops to buy your products the way they want, transform your product pages into a hub where they can choose the path they prefer.
A where to buy tool adds a single button to your product page that lets customers see online and local retailers that carry your products. So with a single click, they can continue their journey.
Your customers’ goals should be your goals
You shouldn’t have to fight against your customers to make a sale. A customer-centric strategy recognizes that meeting your customers’ goals is actually the best way to meet your goals. Satisfied customers come back. They tell their friends about you. And they learn to rely on you (and your products!) when they need help solving their problems and reaching their aspirations.