Live from NEMOA: fictional customers, real-life revenue

Cambridge, MA–Creating fictional buyers can pave the way to genuine sales. So said Jen Cardello, director of customer experience services for Gomez at during her Thursday morning session at the New England Mail Order Association (NEMOA) Spring Conference. The conference, which kicked off March 20, runs through March 22 at the Royal Sonesta Hotel here.

Cardello advocated creating detailed profiles of typical and target customers–moving beyond the basic demographic information. She used as an example “Giselle,” a single professional in her early 30s who spends $2,500 a year on apparel, often on a whim but price-conscious nonetheless. Once you have the fictional profiles, she said, you need to create fictional shopping scenarios. In Cardello’s example, Giselle needed to buy shoes for a last-minute vacation. She’d seen a pair she’d liked in a catalog several weeks ago and was visiting the catalog’s Website to make the purchase.

Then, role-playing on behalf of your fictional buyer, you should review your Website to see if it meets his or her fictional needs. That, Cardello explained, is an effective way to gauge the usefulness of your site and the customer experience it provides.

This sort of analysis, Cardello noted, is especially critical now. “People aren’t investing so much in bells and whistles,” she said, “but in making what they have work better.” Cardello described the online customer experience as having four components: relationship, features, operations, and design. The ideal experience would entail a relationship supportive of both the customer and your company’s other channels; features, such as “one-click shopping” and “quick catalog shopping,” that provide convenience; efficient–in other words, quick, reliable, and accurate–operations; and an effective design. The optimal design would include appropriate guidance; for instance, if your product is a relatively simple one, you may not need Live Chat, but could instead benefit from link on the product pages to a glossary of terms.

Of course, clear, easy-to-read and navigate pages and sites are critical as well. “Data doesn’t become information until it’s well designed,” Cardello said.

While Cardello repeatedly pointed out the importance of creating a satisfying experience for the customer, she also emphasized that such an experience needs to fit within your business’s goal in order for your company to be satisfied as well. “Balance business and user needs,” she urged. “Be good to your users because it’s good for your business.”

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