If you think that aiming for Amazon’s level of customer-centricity is a utopia, you might be wrong. Jeffrey Eisenberg shows that any eCommerce business can reach high goals starting from the four pillars of Amazon’s success: customer centricity, continuous optimization, a culture of innovation, and corporate agility.

Jeffrey Eisenberg owns Buyer Legends along with his brother, Bryan Eisenberg, and they have refined a process that uses storytelling and narratives to help companies create customer-centric experiences. 

Eisenberg brothers’ book “Call To Action” was a Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestseller and the marketing industry credits them with starting the conversion rate optimization. However, Jeffrey Eisenberg says they never accepted working on a CRO project. Instead, they helped their clients find the missing puzzle – using customer narratives as a source of continuous growth.

We invited Jeffrey Eisenberg to our “Top 100 eCommerce experts” series to share his thoughts on: 

  • Misconceptions about customer-centricity;
  • How an eCommerce company can become customer-centric in 2022;
  • What role does marketing narrative play in an online customer experience;
  • How to set a strong foundation regardless of the size of your team or budget.

Misconceptions about customer-centricity

Alexandra Panaitescu: What are the biggest misconceptions around customer-centricity that prevent businesses from aligning with their customer’s expectations?

Jeffrey Eisenberg: Many people think that being customer-centric somehow is just giving the customers everything they want and working for free. That’s nonsense.

“When it comes to customer-centricity, I think that the biggest obstacle is the lack of empathy.”

If you ask a business owner, the shareholders, the executives, the managers, all of them would tell you, “Yeah, we’re really trying to give the customer what they want.” But yet, they’re caught up in seeing it from their perspective. 

Organizationally, there’re all sorts of compensation structures and motivations to do things differently. But they simply don’t see the real customer.

In our consulting, whenever we’re brought on to do marketing, the very last people we talk to in an organization are the marketers, and that’s intentional because marketers rarely have any contacts directly with clients. 

How much do marketers know about customers? Is it more than what they read in a report or see in an analytics report about customer behavior? Marketers don’t actually know what the customers want.

Learning about the “how” and the “why” is more complicated than it sounds. When we’re involved in empathetic thought, we suppress analysis, and the language of business is the language of numbers. We can’t relate to customers as numbers; we need to relate to them as individuals. 

> Read the Tim Kilroy interview and learn how to grow beyond metrics that make you look good as a digital marketing agency

Customer-centricity in 2022

A.P.: What should an eCommerce company do to become customer-centric in 2022?

J.E.: We need to think that not everything is testable, and you can’t do an A/B test for everything. We see a large over-reliance on tests that are not significant and don’t tell us the inner motivation.

Often, the hypotheses are not set to prove some motivation or things that would matter to the customer. I would recommend more user tests around the emotional life of the customer.

The behavior isn’t their feeling; it’s the response to their feelings. 

If you’re focusing only on collecting behavioral data, you’re missing the next level, which is understanding the “why.” Today’s marketers have to understand the difference between quantitative and qualitative data. They need to know not just how many people did a specific action, but rather why they did. Trying to change behavior without understanding the motivation isn’t effective.

“Customers have to find relevance in everything they do and feel confident about what they want to do next.”

In our books, we discussed a concept that we called persuasive momentum.

People have to find relevance in everything they do and feel confident about what they want to do next. So, when they click on an advertisement or a call to action on a website page, that action has to lead them to the next place that is relevant to their click.

Think about the persuasive momentum from the customer’s perspective. Ask yourself:

  • Is this relevant to me at this point?
  • Is this what I’ve expected?
  • Do I get enough details?
  • Do I see the difference between the two products?
  • If I click on X, will I see what I expected?

Most eCommerce people say it’s the least amount the click that counts, but what actually matters is the number of relevant clicks. People will continue to click as long as they’re confident that you’re getting them to where they want to go.

A.P.: What role does the software ecosystem play in improving customer experiences?

J.E.: We thought that things would change over the years. But the software ecosystem still influences how we develop experiences because technical abilities constrain us.

Today it’s indeed relatively easy to turn on an eCommerce shop. When we started, you needed a big team and many programmers. Any change was a big deal. To start an A/B test was a custom programming job, and we used to spend 3-5 months working on a tool for their particular site.

“The environment is far from ideal. We’re in 2022, and we’re not in a place where we have outstanding eCommerce experience.”

Nobody feels the way they do when going to a beautiful store and buying a suit or a dress. Some emerging technologies will change what we experience during an online shopping session.

> Do you want to use Google Ads to support customer acquisition and retention strategies? Read our interview with Brad Geddes.

The impact of marketing narratives on customer experience

A.P.: How can marketing narratives support the eCommerce companies’ efforts?

J.E.: People buy based on emotions. Neuroscience studies show that people who have prefrontal cortex damage lose their abilities to make decisions, and that’s an emotional spot, not a logical spot. You might think that we’re making rational decisions, but as you make that decision, the emotional center of your brain says, “I’m proud of myself. I made a good decision.

The purpose of any sale is to transfer confidence.

The very first question we used to ask our clients was, “if everybody knew what you know about your products or services, would you have more business than you can deal with, or would you have a problem?

“The narrative helps you transfer the confidence people need when buying from you.”

So, if you know that there are things affecting the customer experience, fix them. We have to tell good stories, and social proof is part of these stories. 

As I said earlier, analytics repress empathy. The primary thing we do with our clients is work on internal narratives. We want to know that all the people in the team understand how the customers buy, so we build deep personas who look much like movie or novel characters, having a rich emotional life.

We write a script for them, where they would be delighted, telling a story from the personas’ perspective, describing: 

  • How they navigate their purchase;
  • How they overcome the obstacles;
  • What the business does for them that makes them feel good.

The result is a game plan or a blueprint of what needs to happen to fix the experience.

I’ll give you a simple example. We’re working with a client that sells eyeglasses. When you go to the eyeglass site, you would have to put in your prescription before buying the frame. From a customer’s point of view, it was hard to upload the prescription, and 100% of the clients needed to call afterward to confirm the prescription. 

We tested a different experience and built a parallel site where customers could buy the frame with their credit cards. If the frames didn’t fit the prescription for whatever reason, they could choose another one. This experience worked much better because the company understood the customer’s story: the customers wanted to know if the frames matched their look. 

This is something that the company could never find out from a classic A/B test. If you hear it as a story, it is easier to understand what the customer wants and why the customer wants that experience. We were less focused on the data and more involved in the narrative.

> Discover Roger Dooley’s advice on using neuromarketing tools to understand customer behavior and experience.

What eCommerce companies can learn from Amazon

A.P.: In your book “Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It.” you wrote about the importance of innovation and continuous optimization. What’s your advice for companies that don’t have big players’ human resources or budgets?

J.E.:

Let’s talk about why we should optimize. We should want to be better because we care about the customer.

Everything that Amazon does is part of a virtuous circle. They’re always trying to make the shopping experience easier for the customers even though it makes it harder for their merchants, third-party merchants, employees, etc.

They care about what their customers care about, like getting their delivery quickly. They became one of the largest shipping companies globally, and their logistics are impressive. 

“The reason why you optimize shouldn’t be simply because you’re trying to make 2% more profit. Put the customer first, and you might find way more than that 2% increase.”

Spending more time thinking about customer motivation will lead to less friction and discovering opportunities that transform into significant advantages over your competitors.

Ask yourself, “What’s the innovation that we could do so more people would want to buy from us?” 

The concept of innovation is very different at Amazon than at other places. They don’t insist on using any specific technologies, so people are programming in all sorts of languages. They don’t care how advanced technology is because innovation is measured by customer-centricity. 

A.P.: What did the eCommerce industry learn about corporate agility since the start of the pandemic?

J.E.: Corporate agility was the revelation of the pandemic. Amazon made enormous investments during this pandemic and was highly agile, but even they have disappointed their customers.

We’ve reached a much higher level of eCommerce penetration because people had to make more online purchases and still want to. Companies responded to an emergency, but are they good enough to remain agile as the customer demands change? 

Corporate agility is about decision-making and the ability to act quickly instead of the old-school way of doing business. I’m seeing more people open to change, but I think that many companies will go back to the old status quo and won’t be around 10 years from now.

Takeaways

Jeffrey Eisenberg showed us that customer-centricity is not a game that large eCommerce companies can only play. You can aim for high goals as long as you’re standing on a healthy foundation built on customer centricity, continuous optimization, a culture of innovation, and corporate agility.

Here are the main takeaways from our interview:

  • When it comes to customer-centricity, I think that the biggest obstacle is the lack of empathy. We can’t relate to customers as numbers; we need to relate to them as individuals. 
  • Not everything is testable, and you can’t do an A/B test for everything. We see a large over-reliance on tests that are not significant and don’t tell us the customer’s inner motivation.
  • The software ecosystem is far from ideal. We’re in 2022, and we’re not in a place where we have outstanding eCommerce experience.
  • The purpose of any sale is to transfer confidence. The narrative helps you transfer the confidence people need when buying from you.
  • Everything that Amazon does is part of a virtuous circle. They’re always trying to make the shopping experience easier for the customers, even though it makes it harder for everyone involved in their company.
  • Corporate agility is about decision-making and acting quickly. Those companies that don’t develop this ability won’t be around 10 years from now.

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