6 ways to Humanize Your Online Store

Online retail is always searching for ways to close the gap between the offline and the online experience – and one way to do that is to put a more human face to your e-store. The following are 6 ways you can build trust and comfort with your site, wow your customers, differentiate yourself from the competition and build customer loyalty:

1. Live chat

There’s nothing more plastic than a stock photo on your live chat prompt (especially when said stock photo appears on blogs and other business websites, ahem).

live chat avatars from stock photos

Backcountry’s live chat avatar looks like someone who actually works for the company. A great idea is to launch the real photo of each CSR (customer service representative), with the real name, and assign that CSR for all additional communication for this purchase including email follow up.

backcountry-live-chat

Honorable mention goes to Moosejaw Mountaineering for being a bit hilarious. Helps if it’s the actual baby photo of the CSR in question…

moosejaw-live-chat

2. Customer service / email

Even if you don’t use live chat, as much as possible (considering CSR turnover) keep the same person communicating with the customer when a question is asked by email or telephone. If you must assign a new CSR, introduce them by name and explain they will be their dedicated CSR from now on.

3. Staff reviews

Have trouble attracting customer reviews? Recruit your expert staff, but make sure you disclose they’re on your payroll:

Including a photo can help “humanize” your reviews – not just from staff but customers as well.

4. Staff video reviews

OnlineShoes.com and Tiger Direct both incorporate video reviews from staff on product pages:

All you need is a Flip Mino camera and a good tripod (that’s how we filmed these videos).

5. Ask and Answer tools

Ask and answer tools like Bazaarvoice Ask and Answer, Power Reviews’ AnswerBox and even the Disqus Comments application are the natural successors to ratings and reviews. These tools allow customers to ask questions, and this is a great way to show off your staff expertise (and customer service through timely replies).

6. Twitter

Of course we can’t forget Twitter. Zappos encourages the whole gang to tweet and while this likely will not have impact on conversion and revenue, it can be a way to give your company a human face in social media which is becoming more and more common. You will want to be careful what your employees tweet and have some guidelines around that.

Any other ideas how you can expose your talented staff to customers?

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14 Responses to “6 ways to Humanize Your Online Store”

  1. Iflexion says:

    I fully agree with you. Nowadays, when a huge part of the Internet is interactive with the help of social networks, microblogging, bookmarking, etc. you have no choice but make your store “alive”, to let your customers share what they think of you and ask questions.
    I’d like to add facebook fun pages to the list.

  2. Linda,
    I am glad you brought this up. I think one more way to humanize a webstore is through increased customer interaction (at least we at SmartSymbols believe that to be true :) .

    Also, if you bring the research to the your site (so people don’t have to leave to do the research), it would certainly show that you care about the products you sell (just like in your Staff Video Reviews suggestion).
    -Stas Antons
    SmartSymbols Interactive Technology

  3. Great ideas to test, Linda!

  4. Depending on the size and market for your store another effective technique is to have the owner write a personal description on the front page, ending with his/hers signature and photo.
    I have seen this lift site conversion some 8% (relative) on a small to medium sized DIY store.

  5. Brian says:

    Humanize your error pages, errors happen, take that time to make people smile. Acknowledge the mistake, don’t show a blue error screen! We show dogs in Zappos boxes when we make mistakes :-)

  6. Thanks for your additional ideas, perhaps we need a “part 2″ to this post…

  7. Kandice says:

    Great blog post, and very timely with the holiday season rapidly approaching! It seems like some of these changes could be quick and easy to implement.

    I disagree with the idea that “this likely will not have impact on conversion”, though. I attended a webinar earlier this week where the main point was about how customers like to buy from people they like and trust, and how social media plays a huge role in that.

    The reason I buy shoes from Zappos isn’t because of their tweets (although some of them are hilarious, it’s the pull of free shipping that draws me in) but it certainly doesn’t hurt!

  8. Integrate live chat with video. You get live chat support, but instead of getting text responses while looking at a still image of the staff member, you get to see and hear the staff member replying to your questions as you type.
    ;)

  9. Dan says:

    I’ve just implemented live agent on one of my e-commerce sites and was completely shocked by the amount it increased conversions by. It took some tweaking to find the best place in the customer journey to place it – and also to fill out the “question/answer” side of things, but I would definitely recommend giving it a try. I’d also recommend setting up a split test so that you can measure the difference.

  10. It’s apparent that more retailers are embracing the social web and as a result are implementing new and better technologies to foster interaction. This helps highlight a trend still in its infancy. Retailers that work now to leverage consumer-generated ecommerce solutions stand to benefit greatly from increased peer to peer interaction. Should be interesting to see what opportunities surface in the New Year. Thanks for providing this useful information and I look forward to your follow up post!

  11. [...] After All 6 Ways to Humanize Your Online Store BGF: Some good tips here.  But I thought there was an irony in the fact that some organizations [...]

  12. I like the idea of staff reviews, but only if they’re allowed to express a degree on honesty. I’m a firm believer that a company should promote it’s size honestly, so the likes of staff reviews would be a great way of reaching out to customers.

  13. Amazing ideas.I planned to make a e-commerce site for selling amazon product.Your information helps me to find the proper way to communicate with customers.

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