Practical Ecommerce

How you can help customers going through a hard time

If your customer isn’t going through a tough time, they definitely know someone who is.

And I’m not saying this because I’m a doom’n’gloom kinda girl – if anything, I’m a bit of a Pollyanna.

Of the 774 daily – OK, near-daily – blog posts I’ve written for the past three years, the most popular single post after my home page, is overwhelmingly the one entitled, Cheer-up Gifts For People Going Through a Hard Time, receiving 4.59% of all visitors. I wrote this 29 October 2009, which was, ironically and coincidentally, the 80th anniversary of the Great Depression.

Nothing comes close to the interest in this post, with the second- and third-place post gongs going to 20 Gift Ideas for People Travelling for Holidays or Business, and Gorgeous Non-Chocolate Easter Gift Ideas To Enjoy Long After The Holidays, at 1.36% and 1.29% respectively.

Why does the first post resonate, or attract so much attention?

Everyone, somewhere, is going through a hard time and the sad thing is, there are so many ways in which people can suffer. It may be a divorce, a marriage in trouble or a nasty relationship break-up. Their hard times could be due to a job loss, unemployment, a failing business or from financial strain from heavy bills. Others may be upset by chronic illness or diagnosis of cancer. It may be a natural disaster that’s destroyed their home, car or possessions. Or a burglary. Perhaps it’s a traumatic time for someone who’s been passed over for promotion. Maybe they’re terrified of being first-time parents with no support, or a long-wished-for pregnancy has ended in miscarriage. Others may be hit by the loneliness of no family around them on major holidays while all of us experience the death of a loved one at some time.

If you’re wondering what the point of this post is to you as an online retailer, it’s this: how can you help make your customers happier? To help them forget their troubles for awhile, or to put a much-needed smile back on their faces? Or even better, to help solve one of their issues.

As online retailers we face the challenge of appealing to our customers when they have so much going on at home, at work and with family and friends and clearly, so many millions of other ecommerce merchants they can buy from. It’s crucial we think not of them as order number 500879, but as people who crave some love, happiness, hope and escape from (or even better, a solution to) their problems.

I would be amazed if there is not at least one way you can cheer up a customer, or to make them think that you could be the answer to their private problems. It could be a same-day courier delivery to get them out of an emergency. It could be a layaway scheme to make your products affordable, a “debt holiday”, or an option for multiple individuals to pay towards an item. Or a tollfree advice line. You may cheer them up with the only handwritten birthday card they receive. Perhaps you’ve got a large enough facebook, Twitter and/or Linkedin fan base to do a special shout-out for a customer. Maybe a YouTube video could help. Or it may be a well-timed phone call or thoughtful message from your customer service team, rather than an automated no-reply email. Lovingly crafted and worded copy on your website may soothe their fears away.

Imagine the wonderful impact that making a customer feel better can do for them and for your business. As my grandfather used to say, no-one ever gets enough compliments or compassion.


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