Monthly Archives: April 2011

Branding Your Customer’s Experience

Today’s post is the fifth in Holly Hall’s series on Building Your Brand.

Branding Your Customer’s Experience

So, what about online sales, a situation where you are unable to charm your customers with your sparkling wit and dazzling smile? If you are in business on the Internet, it is even more crucial that you offer top notch customer service. All the cute, hip, handmade products and indie street cred the world can’t save you if you don’t know how to offer an excellent customer experience.

Here is where you have one huge advantage over Target and Amazon. You are a real person who makes this item, offers it for sale, packages it, takes the order for it, and communicates with the buyer. You are in charge of every aspect of your customer’s shopping experience, and an excellent job on your part could mean great feedback, repeat business and word of mouth referrals.

In 2007 just before I opened my shop on Etsy.com, I made my first purchase on the site to get a feel for how the checkout system worked. That purchase was also my first experience using PayPal. I placed my order, paid through PayPal, and waited excitedly for my package…and waited….and waited.

A week later, I was still waiting. I kept thinking I should have at least received some sort of communication from the shop owner about what the hold up was all about. Finally, I decided that there must be some mistake and contacted the shop owner to question why my package hadn’t been shipped even though I had paid for it more than a week earlier. She responded that since I had chosen to pay by echeck via PayPal, she was waiting for my payment to clear before she shipped my order.

Well, I had no idea that I had somehow chosen the echeck option. I still don’t know how I managed that, but the experience taught me a valuable lesson in customer service. I decided then and there that I would communicate clearly and promptly with every customer that made a purchase from my shop.

Now, as a seller, within 24 hours of receiving notification of a sale, I send a short message via Etsy’s convo system thanking my customer for her purchase, telling her when she can expect her package to ship, and offering to answer any and all questions she might have.

I also attach a graphic that I made that reads, “Thanks, Dollface!” It functions as a sort of virtual Thank You card, and is one more way to make an impression with my brand. More than once, this quick message has begun a conversation with the customer that has led to additional sales or a custom order.
Once you’ve made the sale and communicated with your buyer, the next huge opportunity you have to offer exceptional service and reinforce your brand comes when you pack up your customer’s order for shipment.

An order packed with thought and care is a pleasure for your customer to open, and details do matter. Consider gift wrapping the item as a special treat for your customer to find when she opens the shipping box.

The gift wrapping doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. A sheet of tissue paper in your signature color tied with a piece of baker’s twine or pretty ribbon is all it takes to show that you’ve put thought into your customer’s experience. For some wonderful packaging inspiration, check out the Etsy Packaging group on Flickr.

Of course you will want to include a business card or two and any promotional goodies you have such as buttons, magnets, postcards or bookmarks. I always include a short, handwritten note addressing my customer by name, thanking her once again for her business, and telling her that I hope she’s very pleased with her purchase. It takes just a few minutes to take your customer’s experience with your business to the next level and make a lasting impression.

Don’t be afraid to allow your brand to evolve over time. If something’s not working or your aesthetic changes a bit, it’s alright to mix things up. Update your logo if you need to. Add or subtract some words from your guiding list if they’re no longer true to the image you wish to project.

Remember, building a strong brand takes time and dedication, but the rewards are limitless. The idea is not necessarily to make customers want to choose you over another seller, but to paint a lasting picture of yourself as the definitive expert on the sort of items that you make and the lifestyle that you promote. Live your brand, and use your brainstormed list of branding words as the guiding force in every aesthetic decision you make for your business. Happy brand building!

Holly Hall, Sweetheartville