“In today’s fast-paced world it is easier than ever to connect with online audiences to grow your customer base. Social media is a great way to connect with your customers,” – John Rampton
The advent of a raft of electronic connectivity platforms and technologies, such as the mobile Internet, smartphones and tablet devices, satellite connectivity, Internet broadband (among others) have enabled business enterprises to gain unprecedented access to local, regional, and global markets. Consequently, the online customer base has emerged as a crucial element in modern business operations and can often spell the difference between entrepreneurial success and ‘also ran’ businesses. Every business on the planet seeks to grow and expand its operations; to that end, most businesses are working to leverage their online customer base in an effort to attain corporate goals. In addition, more than ever, traditional businesses are now creating online shop fronts in an effort to tap online customers and expand the remit of such businesses. Therefore, we may note that the online customer base has attained the proportions of a significant customer segment on its own merit.
Social media represents an ideal platform for businesses that wish to reap commercial gains from an online customer base. We must note that social media platforms are not restricted by geography or national jurisdictions and are designed to afford unfettered market access to enterprises and businesses. For instance, a new business operator may choose to invest substantial time and resources to create a publicity campaign on social media. The incremental gains that accrue from such a campaign can help the business to create a loyal customer following, thereby achieving a primary business goal. Online conversations powered by social media can help the business to deepen its online customer base, build brand credibility, and increase the breadth of its customer outreach programs. In addition, the business can boost its market visibility by initiating online conversations with individual customers. We must note that these tools and techniques can be further refined in the pursuit of leveraging the online customer base of the said business enterprise.
Infrastructure and supply chains are part of the lifeblood of every business. Commercial enterprises that are serious about their future in the online domain can develop custom infrastructure dedicated to serving their online customer base. For instance, brick-and-mortar enterprises can reserve certain sections of their warehousing premises in an effort to serve online customers. We may note that this approach to segmenting merchandise and inventory should be carefully monitored, because and disruptions in downstream supply chains can mar the end-user experience. The nuts and bolts of delivering products to online customers also deserve special attention; this would enable the traditional business to refine its delivery models and consistently attain customer delight. Further, business managers must direct their energies into the creation of special offers for online customers. These methods may incentivise more shoppers to visit the online store and transact electronically. In subsequent times, the brick-and-mortar enterprise may choose to create a separate online selling division in a calibrated manoeuvre to expand business operations.
Business owners may choose to create special selling campaigns in pursuit of business objectives. The online customer base can be considered a prime target for such campaigns because the outsize returns on a well-crafted campaign can boost business bottom lines. Cross selling, upselling, bundled offers, free shipping, custom gift wrapping, and premium packaging can be the lynchpins of said campaigns. These actions signal business intent to carve a significant brand presence in the online domain. These actions also help to reassure customers that their dollars are well invested because the business intends to operate over the long term. We may note that the experience of selling to a diverse online audience can help a business to gain valuable insights into customer mind sets and decipher key motivations that animate customer behaviour. Astute business managers may choose to apply such lessons to offline business activities.
Viral marketing tactics can be applied to amplify business outcomes from the online customer base. For instance, an online business operator may encourage its customers to refer other customers to the business through a points-based system. This strategy can create considerable excitement among online customers, thereby helping the business to attain certain marketing objectives. Every successful referral can earn a participating customer a freebie, an extra discount, or some other minor privilege. The successful implementation of such strategies can generate significant marketing momentum.
Corporate social responsibility remains a watchword in modern commerce; businesses that are keen to play the role of a responsible corporate citizen can leverage the online customer base to broadcast such messages. For instance, businesses that care for the natural environment can transmit such messages to their online customers in a bid to further CSR objectives. The preservation of natural resources attracts much attention in the modern world and a suitable message that promotes such objectives can win accolades for any business. Business operators can also choose to sensitise their online audiences with such messages, thereby promoting broader awareness on the need to respect the natural environment. We may state that the online domain affords businesses an economical channel to broadcast messages that highlight a requirement to cherish our natural heritage.
Pilot programmes are often instituted by commercial operators to test a business idea on a small scale. These programmes can be designed to target the online customer base in an attempt to test the reactions from members of the general public. For instance, an FMCG operator can test the market prospects of a new alcohol-free deodorant by offering it to select sections of its online customers. Prima facie, the initiative hinges on promoting a new product that offers a distinct value proposition in terms of its chemical composition. However, the business may consider it prudent to test the new product through a pilot programme before stocking store shelves with the new deodorant. We may note that this instance illuminates an example of corporate caution and the online customer base offers itself as a valid testing ground. A favourable market reaction can boost business confidence in the new product and subsequently ease its introduction into mass markets. On the other hand, a lukewarm reaction from online customers may alert the business to the need for a re-think on said product and thus save corporate resources from wastage.
In the preceding paragraphs, we have surveyed some of the approaches that can help businesses to leverage the online customer base. These techniques must essentially be calibrated efforts designed to test the depth and diversity of customer behaviour and consumer mind sets. The world of online customers presents significant potential to modern commerce and therefore, should be harnessed to create the maximum possible impact on business bottom lines. Online conversations and customer interactions also deserve special mention because these aspects of communication can grease the rails for the achievement of customer satisfaction. In light of the above, business managers and corporate captains must devote significant effort to understanding their online constituency. That said, we note that tangible business value should always underline the formulation of campaigns targeted at online customers. This can help online businesses to gain a larger stature, enhance their brand equity, expand the customer base, and dominate the commercial competition.