Update: July 12, 2022 Jesse Stein Jesse has founded, operated and sold multiple Internet-related ventures over the last 20 years. As the founder of Audience.co, he is passionate about combining digital excellence with direct handwritten mail to build lasting customer relationships.

Building an Experience-Driven Marketing Strategy for eCommerce

building an experience driven marketing strategy for ecommerce

In today’s competitive eCommerce landscape, a dizzying array of driven marketing offers a cohesive experience packed with emotion. It’s more important than ever to have a strong marketing strategy that puts the needs of the customer center stage. And one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to focus on experiential marketing (often called engagement marketing) campaigns to drive brand growth. Creating a memorable experience can build loyalty, drive repeat purchases, and encourage word-of-mouth marketing. But how do you create a genuinely experience-driven marketing strategy? Here are three essential tips:

  1. Focus on the customer journey: Map out your customers’ steps from discovery to buy and identify opportunities to enhance their experience at each stage. This is engagement marketing.
  2. Think beyond the transaction: The sale is just the beginning of the customer relationship. Don’t miss out on valuable post-purchase touchpoints like product use, customer service, and follow-up communications.
  3. Focus on emotion: We all make purchasing decisions based on how we feel, so tap into emotions like happiness, fear, and nostalgia to drive conversions.

Following these tips, you can create an experiential marketing team strategy to help you win in today’s demanding eCommerce marketplace.

Now, let’s explain exactly how to make these three tips happen!

The "Killer" Experience

Define What “Killer Experience” Means To Your Company 

Let’s start with a brief story about Airbnb. Before the company was so popular, way back in the beginning, the people responsible for Airbnb decided to interview guests who’d interacted with hosts and properties. The question they asked was priceless to the company’s future results. 

The question? What does a 5-star experience look like?

Then, they expanded the question. What does a 6-star, 7-star, 8-star, 9-star, and 10-star experience look like? 

What they found was a complete experience-driven marketing strategy laid out before them. They knew exactly what to do for guests to make them feel real value and customer appreciation

How do you accomplish this with your business? Ask previous clients for feedback on their experience with your company AND ask them to share things they want to change about the experience. 

Don’t be afraid to come out and ask, “What would a 5-star…10-star experience with my company look like for you?”

These questions are at the heart of experiential marketing. You also need to learn more about your customers’ motivation!

Motivate Your Customers

Understand What Motivates Your Customers 

It drives patrons to decide about your brand, products, and services. Essentially your brand growth is at stake. It’s your responsibility to kick-start the sales journey by offering motivation to act on your call-to-action, but how?

Before changing the way customers interact with your brand, you have to convince them to interact in the first place. Here are a few reasons why customers feel motivated, and the reasons tell your company where to focus.

Customers need your product.

Likely one of the most motivating factors is need. When a consumer needs a product or service your company provides, they come to you with emotions already attached. It also means these customers likely already know what they expect from your business, product, or service. 

If need is recognized as a motivational factor in experiential marketing, make sure:

  • The product is always in stock. 
  • Product quality and performance remain high.
  • The product is supported by professional customer service. 
  • The company never promises more than it can deliver.

Reviews and testimonials, both good and bad, are addressed.

Customers should always be the number one priority, so if they need your products or services, be sure to meet their needs. 

They want to feel like they belong.

Sometimes being a part of the crowd is motivation enough to convince a patron to go with your product or service. Imagine this: WaterLife released a new line of water bottles for teens. They have unique, bright, colorful graphics. On Friday, a class sits in the gym for a period, and a few people notice all the cheerleaders have WaterLife bottles. 

After the weekend, more than twice as many people are carrying WaterLife bottles to class as there was the previous week. Why? Experience-driven actions.

The classmates sitting on the bleachers saw other students were carrying WaterLife bottles, and they wanted to be like them. Then word-of-mouth took off, and everyone wanted one. 

Sometimes customers just want to feel like they belong to any crowd, so they buy what the crowd buys.

Consumers are constantly trying to improve.

Patrons are (nearly) always looking to improve, whether your company offers eco-friendly coffee pods or all-natural toilet paper. Think of this experience-driven motivation like this:

  • Coffee: supplies energy; helps the user wake up (feel better)
  • Eco Toilet Paper: functional use, addresses the environment (live better)

The same goes for general business categories as well. For instance:

  • Food: supplies energy, supports body functions & repairs (improve/maintain health)
  • Cell Phone: connects with people via call, text & internet (safety/communication)

And some things have more than one area they can improve. Such as:

  • Coffee: supplies caffeine, may increase metabolism (weight loss/maintenance)
  • Cell Phone: shoots excellent pictures & video (keep/share more memories)

The point is – when a person buys something, it’s often driven by the need to improve. I’m hungry, so I buy food. I’m tired, so I buy a coffee. I want to lose weight, so I drink caffeine. 

They expect to reach a goal.

This motivation falls in line with the desire to improve. Only this time, it’s the end goal customers consider before deciding on your product or service. Here are a couple of examples:

Dan’s Mac Works offers repair services for Apple computers. Jane has a laptop that’s acting up, and they need to finish writing a paper for college in the next few hours. The motivation in this case? Jane wants to reach the goal of finishing and turning in that paper. That’s the only reason they chose to visit Dan at his shop on this particular day. 

This also goes for more personal goals. Imagine it’s January, and everyone is talking about their New Year’s resolutions. Jeff has chosen to join the gym this year and get his body back on track. In response, Jeff hits up a local sporting goods store for gym clothes. The gym clothes were purchased to get in better shape.  

They are working toward a brighter future.

We touched on this motivation briefly with the eco-friendly toilet paper. With changes to the climate harming the environment, many people are taking notice of brands that offer environmental & human support. An example would be Tom’s shoes. 

For every pair of shoes a consumer buys from Tom’s, they donate a pair to people in need. Customers who buy Tom’s indirectly improve people’s lives they’ve never met. That’s one reason they buy the shoes – to feel like they’re helping others. 

These companies work simply because every sale triggers an event that supports a brighter future.

They feel secure with a brand they know.

Every company strives for this with experiential marketing: brand loyalty. Loyalty convinces a shopper to spend more on your product than the competition because they trust you. The road to brand loyalty is paved with a seamless customer experience.

Brand loyalty is a powerful emotion. It’s strong enough to convince consumers to spend $500 on a YETI cooler instead of $100 for a different brand. It’s the reason people go out of their way driving home just to pick up a Starbucks coffee when they could have stopped at Dunkin’ on the way. It’s why customers stand in line for hours for a seat at their favorite restaurant.

These are a few examples of customer motivations. There are thousands more, and they all say one thing – treat the consumer right, give them a great customer experience, and they’ll reward you for it. As Greenbook shares, “Once you look through the customer’s eyes and experience your brand as they do, it will transform your decision-making.”

Identify Key Interactions

Identify Key Interactions That Need To Be Exceptional 

When does your business come into contact with the buyer where customer experience needs to be exceptional? The simple answer is every time. But let’s focus on a few key contact points, including shopping, buying, shipping, communication, and customer service. 

What are buyers looking for, and how does your company provide it?

Shopping

During the shopping experience, customers are looking for fast page load speeds, eye-catching images, easy navigation, and transparent pricing.

Pages and images need to load fast. Research shows if your website takes more than 3 seconds to load, every second you’re losing more and more customers. 

Eye-catching images need to talk to the customer. After the image captures the consumer’s attention, bold colors, shape, design, and backdrop, all draw them in with one general idea – you need this product or service.

Though we’re focusing here on online sales, experiential-driven marketing isn’t only for eCommerce. Bricks and mortar stores need to offer patrons a fantastic experience in-store. Take into consideration the air temperature, spacing to walk between displays, bright and colorful graphics, and an easy-to-navigate layout.

Buying

After shopping your eCommerce store, the visitor is ready to checkout. Cart abandonment is possible at this stage, and if the checkout process is lengthy and time-consuming, it will grow drastically. To lower the rate of cart abandonment:

  • Clearly mark calls to action and position the cart icon in a prominent place.
  • Show a progress indicator throughout the process.
  • Provide consumers with multiple delivery choices. 
  • Display product images in the cart and during checkout.
  • Offer a guest checkout option.
  • Give an easy path from store to cart and cart to store.
  • Share total order cost (with shipping) before asking for a credit card.
  • Support consumers with live chat.
  • Choose checkout forms with a basic, simple look. 
  • Accept all popular payment options.
  • Connect with a buy now, pay later service.
  • Make it easy to return or exchange merchandise.

This isn’t a complete list, but it does get you started on improving the checkout experience with small changes you can start immediately.

Shipping

The buyer made it through checkout, and the package is on the way. But, that doesn’t mean you’re done with your experience-driven marketing team. Now is when communication is crucial. 

As a business, you can send too many newsletters or sales emails, but one thing you can’t do is send too many order updates. Set up your shipping system to send updates throughout the shipping stages. There are at least five emails you need to send:

  • Thank you for your order. 
  • Your order is being fulfilled.
  • Your order is ready to ship. 
  • Your order has shipped.
  • Your order was delivered.

Then, a couple of weeks after delivery, send the 6th email offering your help if needed and asking for a review or feedback on the order. 

Customer Service

Regarding customer service, there are three Bs to consider: Be Responsive, Be Respectful, Be Objective. 

Now, let’s look at various types of customer service to see how each measures up in the B department. 

Phone: Customer service by phone has a long history, and it remains one of the top customer choices for reaching a company. With experience-driven marketing for eCommerce, the agent handles meeting and exceeding in response, respect, and objectivity. Listening in on customer service calls should be a daily task to find weaknesses and opportunities in your experience-driven marketing strategy.

There are also wait times to look at. Long wait times are horrific for customer experience. As a matter of fact, if your eCommerce business offers phone support, wait times should be one of the top priorities for your experiential marketing strategy. According to Ozonetel, the average wait time in 2021 was 46 seconds. How does your customer service compare?

Email: Within those hundreds of emails you receive each day, sometimes there will be customer service emails. Be responsive by replying to customer emails within 24 hours. Be respectful by restating the issue and offering reasonable options for resolution. Be objective by not judging the customer or assuming anything about the sale or reason for them contacting customer service. 

Social Media: The social scene online started as a way for people to communicate, but soon it was clear that customers wanted to connect with businesses. Big and small businesses responded to customer service inquiries on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and more. 

To improve customer experience, social media accounts need to be staffed by well-spoken, knowledgeable agents with response times in minutes, not hours. The agent must exceed customers’ expectations in terms of response, respect, and objectivity. 

Live Chat: Live chat follows the same general rules as social media customer service. A couple of things to focus on to improve customer experience with your live chat include:

Spelling and grammar: Live chat tends to be less formal than phone or email customer service, and that doesn’t mean spelling and grammar should be forgotten. Rest assured, if a live chat agent uses poor spelling and grammar, some customers will form a negative impression of customer service and the company. That’s the opposite of what you want to achieve with experience-driven marketing for eCommerce.

Response time: It often feels like everything’s about time in an experience-driven eCommerce market, which brings us to response time. From personal experience, waiting three or four minutes for an agent to respond is annoying. Especially to questions like, “May I have your name, please?” Of course, each live agent is likely holding multiple chats with multiple customers simultaneously. That’s where the time goes, but the customer experience shouldn’t falter when volume increases.

Improve Experiential Marketing

4 Wildly Unique Ideas to Improve Experiential Marketing

Send handwritten notes to nurture relationships.

In experiential marketing for eCommerce, communication doesn’t have to be limited to email. Statistics show that most people receive around 100 emails daily, which adds up to more than 35,000 a year. Everyone is tired of emails, and no one wants junk mail, so how do you communicate with consumers in a way that surprises and delights them?

The answer is handwritten notes – your brand advertising that helps build enduring brands. Handwritten notes are direct content marketing.

Experience marketing is just that – driven by the experience. Handwritten notes take the buyer along a journey of emotions as many won’t have received handwritten anything in the mail for years. The reader feels as if the person who signed the handwritten note reached out to them personally. It’s an almost intimate experience marketing. 

There are two types of handwritten notes to choose from: trigger-based or event-based. We’ll focus on event-based notes. 

Imagine automatically feeding your customer base into a system and sending handwritten notes based on life or world events. For instance, what must it feel like to be a buyer receiving a Happy Birthday handwritten note from the CEO of their favorite shop? Pretty spectacular, that’s how. These notes work because they enhanced people’s moods, among other changes. You can use any of hundreds of events, including:

  • Birthdays
  • Holidays
  • Anniversaries
  • Seasons
  • Months

You get the idea. Event-based marketing differs from trigger-based marketing in that trigger-based is often associated with things that happen on your website, such as an abandoned cart, an order, a return, or a refund – things that aren’t based on date. Instead, they’re based on user action.

Treat employees the way they deserve to be treated.

This is overlooked far too often in eCommerce businesses. Without employees, there would be no business, so taking care of the foundation of your company – its workers – is necessary, not optional. 

What exactly does it mean to treat employees like they deserve to be treated? 

  • Be open and upfront about company policies, benefits, and management changes.
  • Pay a fair salary based on current pay rate data.
  • Offer fixed AND earned personal time.
  • Recognize personal and professional accomplishments.
  • Celebrate employment anniversaries.
  • Allow for flexible scheduling options.
  • Provide opportunities for remote working

Indeed, this isn’t an all-inclusive list, but it touches on some of the significant benefits employees seek. 

Personalize everything you can.

To deliver capturing experiences to buyers, start using the consumer’s first name on communications. Not first and last, just first. Adding the last name takes the communication to a more proper place. For experience-driven marketing, you want conversational. You can personalize everything from the packing slip to emails to handwritten notes. 

The name is not where personalization stops. You can use location, product/service purchased, number of orders with your company, and others to customize the experience. Check out these personalized examples:

Location: “Hi Jane! We saw the weather was rainy in the midwest – hope you’re staying dry.”

Product/Service: “Hey Frank! We’re checking to see how you enjoy your new John Deere tractor.”

Number of orders: “Wow, Sara! You’ve ordered Milli’s Wicked Coffee three times this year. I bet you’d love to save money with our subscription service.”

Meet your customers where they are.

Your customers want to relate to you; they do, so you need to meet them where they are online. That means you need at least a few active social media accounts. And, by active, we suggest an account that’s updated often and consistently. 

The categories your business stretches into will affect your target age groups, so review sales data regularly to find new or adjust old targets. Once you have a list of your target age groups, get active with followers on the social media networks where they hang out.

Facebook

Based on data shared by Khoros on Facebook use,

“86% of people ages 18-29

77% of people ages 30-49

51% of people ages 50-65

34% of people that are 65+ years.”

Instagram

The data linked above showed Instagram usage as,

“67% of people ages 18-29

47% of people ages 30-49

23% of people ages 50-64

8% of people that are 65+ years old.”

Pinterest

The Khoros data mentioned Pinterest age data as well:

“34% of people ages 18-29

35% of people ages 30-49

27% of people ages 50-65

15% of people that are 65+ years old.”

Other platform data shows the most active age groups for more networks as:

  • Twitter: 18-29yo; followed by 30-49yo
  • LinkedIn: 25-34yo; followed by 18-24yo
  • YouTube: 15-25yo; followed by 26-35yo
  • Snapchat: 15-25yo; followed by 26-35yo

Now you have all the data you need to reach your target audience where they hang out to engage with them, build relationships and trust, and convert more effectively.

Rapid Fire Tips

Rapid-Fire Round: Quick Tips for Boosting Customer Experience

  • Measure marketing activities
  • Give them a reason to interact with your brand
  • Hold the consumer center stage
  • Streamline customer journeys
  • Offer personalized experiences
  • Use emotions to drive brand growth
  • Focus on user experience
Bottom Line

The Bottom Line on Experience-Driven Marketing for eCommerce

Regarding experience-driven marketing, eCommerce businesses need to think outside the box. Traditional marketing methods simply aren’t enough anymore – consumers are demanding more immersive, personal experiences that connect with them on a deeper level. 

To meet these needs, eCommerce businesses must adopt an experiential marketing approach. This means creating an experiential marketing campaign that focuses on delivering a truly memorable experience rather than simply promoting a product or service. 

With experience-driven marketing, businesses can build a stronger connection with their customers and stand out from the competition. So if you’re ready to take your eCommerce business to the next level, it’s time to start thinking about experience-driven marketing.