Why online shopping is like dating – RedBalloon CEO

Head of the online gift and experience retailer reveals how gaining customer loyalty is about nurturing relationships

Just like dating, the online shipping experience is about fostering and ongoing, trusting relationship, Redballoon CEO, Nick Baker claims.

Discussing the online gift and experience retailer’s recent launch of a new digital platform and refresh, Baker said online brands should steer away from a hard sell approach. Instead, he suggested to take a slower, more relationship-building approach similar to dating.

“You don’t propose on the first date, just as we don’t expect customers to necessarily make a purchase on their first visit,” he said. “We want a site that ignites a relationship from the very beginning. The brand journey should be exceptional from the time a customer lands at redballoon.com.au, all the way through to purchasing, gifting or enjoying an unforgettable experience.”

He stressed the online relationship has to be engaging with the customer in the same way you would communicate offline, where you talk a little bit about you and gain their trust, rather than just shoot off discounts and deals.

"For too long, the online experience has been too different from offline, and it is important to bring it together,” he said. "So many sites today, as soon as you visit, have a pop up starter that says 50% off! But if I’m meeting you for the first time, I wouldn’t say, hey I’ve done this, bang, book me now!

"So in today’s world, you need a platform that has the ability to provide the same experience as the offline world, where you go into a shop and people are talking about it and you can feel the merchandise."

He agreed the online space is so competitive now that those who sit on their laurels and don’t depart from the traditional, hard sell methodology will inevitably fall behind.

“Take small, family-owned businesses, they put their life savings into things and try to showcase what they’re really passionate about, and our job is to bring those experiences to life,” he said. “So I do believe it will differentiate, particularly suppliers who have their products presented in the best way, with the most engaging stories.”

In order to provide a more engaging, trusting ‘customer dating’ strategy, Baker said you need to question how you would like to be sold to.

“You need to ask yourself do I get excited about this product, do I want to engage in the business,” he said. “You need to ask yourself, how do I do that digital handshake with somebody? How do I say to someone, welcome, I’m going to make it simple, I’m going to help you through this – and that’s why live chat enabled is often very effective.

“It’s about thinking about the offline world and how you engage with your customers, and adapting that to online, but at the same time making sure it also works in a mobile environment.”

He agreed social plays a vital role in developing that sense of trust with customers from the outset, and is an invaluable component of the ‘customer dating’ marketing model.

“Social media is all bout investment, and if you can have that advocacy, which is the most important part of any type of sales, if they can tweet, pin and post or blog what you’re showing them, then you will get a lot more people coming back,” he said. “So social is a super effective way of charging your business and leveraging advocacy.”

A traditional transactional-based sight without much inspirational content, won’t be able to give customers that engaging narrative to your story, he explained. This is why RedBalloon set out to focus on building and sharing its inspirational story and present their unique experience offerings in a new and more engaging way.

The new digital platform, created by Deepend and powered by Adobe, enables RedBalloon to create a customer experience that is intuitive, encourages exploration, is rich in product discovery and inspiration, and brings to life recommendations and great stories from customers, suppliers and reviewers.

“RedBalloon was built on providing a tech-based platform to connect customers with experiences," he said. "The challenge we posed to our digital agency Deepend and Adobe as our platform partner was to build a solution that enables us to continue to curate the best experiences and bring them to people in the most simple and compelling way, no matter the channel or the device they choose to use.

Critical to the upgrade was a move to be mobile-first, which Baker highlighted is now a must-have for any business moving forward.

“This was critical for us to get right both in the ability for it to be used and be inspired by it, as well as the ability to transact,” he said.

The new brand and logo, including the ‘Infinity Balloon’ designed by Christopher Doyle & Co, aims to be a symbol of energy, excitement and celebration. According to Doyle, the new logo wraps up the RedBalloon name and history, along with the idea of providing experiences that stay with customers for a lifetime.

“Our purpose at RedBalloon is to find and curate the best experiences and gifts for the customer, therefore the new positioning ‘Give. Share. Live’ is a key step in evolving our identity and allowing us to more accurately reflect the RedBalloon brand of today,” Baker said. “Moments that start with RedBalloon have the power to become memories that last a lifetime.”

He said the new logo and brand positioning is a timely modernisation for the brand, which he took over in March this year, and will open it up to a range of new audiences and growth opportunities in both the consumer and corporate markets.

“We know customers are consuming content at a rate never before seen, so our new site also needed to embrace this thirst for entertaining, engaging and shareable content, both product related and editorial in nature,” he said.

Founding Director of RedBalloon, Naomi Simson, said these extensive changes are an important step in the RedBalloon journey and the signal of more exciting times ahead for the brand, which has become one of Australia’s most successful online retailers since launching in 2001.

“I’m delighted RedBalloon is embarking on this new chapter, excited by Nick and his team’s vision for the business and the traction he’s already achieved since becoming CEO in March,” Simson said.

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