Online retailers rely on good deals and an aggressive marketing or sales approach to win online sales. But what really wins over the consumer is the personalized approach; making a deep connection with online shoppers that will keep them coming back again and again.

Why do mom-and-pop stores survive? Because they truly offer a unique shopping experience. I frequently go to the local mountain bike store just to hang out with the sales associates. Of course, I ask them too many questions during my visit because I know they have ridden the bikes and know about the performance of each one. Making a sale for a $5K-$10K mountain bike is a bit of a trick and it’s nice to have someone guide me on the journey.

Like the brick-and-mortar shop, it’s necessary for ecommerce websites to make the personal connection to make the sale. People still need the human touch. They need to feel that you are looking out for their best interests. They need to feel that there is someone who has the expert knowledge to solve their problem who is not a mindless sales person with a quota. Someone who has “been there” or “done that.”

Customer reviews are FAKE!

OK, that is a bit of an extreme statement. The real story is that there are lots of tricks to pump customer reviews to get a better rating for your product. Sometimes as a shopper it is hard to determine what is true and what is used to push the ratings closer to 5 stars.

Reviews are used heavily when making a purchase decision and many consumers will not buy a product that doesn’t have at least a 4-star rating. But this is a hollow victory for the ecommerce website who failed to make a personal connection. They may have purchased a product based on good reviews or a steep discount, but what keeps them coming back?

Unique, personalized experiences win over discounting

It’s true, I HATE string trimmers. They are the most frustrating things on the planet. Gas powered ones never start, the string, when it runs low, comes completely out, and the grass is dug up in the wrong places or unevenly cut.

I finally gave up on the big-box retailer and headed to my local lawn-mower shop. They gave me an experience I will never forget and I have been loyal to them ever since. They found the right product for me, replaced the standard string head with a custom one that never breaks and is easy to feed for free, and when I came back complaining that it didn’t start, they replaced it without another word.

I paid extra to have this experience. Sure, I could have gotten two string trimmers for my lawn at the big-box store, but I didn’t care. I wanted the personalized experience, the expertise, and the satisfaction of showing off my awesome lawn to the neighbors (in your face, neighbor!)

Online retailers not only need to move product, but they need to make the customer connection. This type of experience is difficult when there is not someone to interact with. Shoppers are left to their own devices and practices to make purchase decisions with little or no information. Or they are dependent on the bits of sales and marketing information shown them on the website.

When ecommerce sites succeed in making meaningful connections to their customers, they will make more sales, increase average order value, build more fans and advocates, and make customers for life.

AI and chatbots are still computers

I’m personally a computer nerd. I love technology and grew up marveling technological advances.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) is really an amazing thing. But its still a robot. Back to my mountain bike analogy, I don’t see many computers riding bikes. How do they know if the front shock is smooth on a rocky surface or if the tires really do keep you stable in the sand?

I’ve seen too many chatbots fail to see this type of technology do more than direct traffic or solve ordering issues to succeed at this point. It may help get people to the right places, but it will never be a trusted advisory or an expert.

Some online marketers really “get it”

I’ve never been on a cruise ship, but I’m interested in taking a cruise. I’m so inexperienced that I worry I will end up on one that doesn’t fit my personality. And I’m pretty sure my wife would take offense if I booked passage on a singles cruise.

In investigating cruises, who do I turn to? There is so much information online that is was hard to find the answers to some of my questions. Turning to Norwegian Cruise Line’s website, I found there was a chat box at the bottom of the page. Getting on the chat, the first thing I noticed was that the person on the other side of the chat was not formally an employee of Norwegian but a cruising enthusiast. She had been on over 45 cruises and I would consider her an expert cruiser.


I asked her all sorts of questions. Which cruises were good for kids? Do I need to get multiple cabins or can I squeeze my entire family into one? What excursions were the best? What should I bring for seasickness besides a barf bag? Do I have to bring my own lifejacket? How do tips work? And on and on. She clearly answered my questions, gave me great advice based on her experience, and even recommended dates and deals. She really connected with me on a personal level so that I felt confident as a shopper.

Do you have this type of experience for your ecommerce website? Is there someone to recommend products, up-sell extras, recommend services, and give expert advice? Not from a quota-based salesman, but from someone who actually uses your product?

These types of personal touches for an online customer takes them over the tipping point to make sales, increases average order size (AOV), and make customers for life.

Thanks, Norwegian Cruise Line!

Needle enables that real connection to online shoppers

What’s the secret sauce behind Norwegian’s successful online chat program? It’s Needle!

Needle connects experts, advisors, personal shoppers, and/or fanatics of your brand to your online shoppers.

When you are ready to make a truly unique online shopping experience, check out Needle. Their methodology finds and trains brand advocates so they can interact with customers. Their technology makes it easy to use, easy to track, and brings information to shoppers at just the right time.

Check out how you can make the online shopping experience exceptional and really connect to your customers at

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