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What I learned from my mistakes -Customer Journey

As an entrepreneur, I always seek ideas and opportunities for business. In 2018, I decided to start a business to sell on Amazon’s FBA marketplace. I did lots of research and found a niche in body shapewear. I created a brand: ZL Shapes. I sourced from manufactures in China and listed the two products I had selected on Amazon. It was a process full of learning to delight the customers. People like to hear success stories. Today I want to share my failure story, sometimes the failure stories are more helpful. When I look back at the mistakes I made, I can see how much this experience has taught me. Those failures led me to the success I have achieved today.

Mistakes #1: Focus too much on finding the niche product instead of the value proposition.

When I started the business, I spent a lot of time and effort on finding the niche product which had high market demand and low supply. I believed that if I find the right niche product; my sales would come naturally. That is true to a certain degree. However, the competition will catch up very quickly. Searching for the niche product is not a sustainable solution to realize sales. The innovation in business is no longer the product, it is the business model. After a while, I started to understand my target customer personas. What do they like, what do they need, and what are their pain points. I adjusted my marketing pitch towards my target customer personas. That is where my sales get much more effective. This applies to other businesses as well. If you are in the position of trying to establish sales in a competitive market, ask yourself: “How does your value proposition help your target customers and relieve their pain points?”.

Mistake #2: Focus too much on marketing instead of customer experience.

The interesting thing I realized with Amazon FBA is that most sellers are sourcing from the same sources. That means, the products are similar in features, function and quality. I thought the competition is in who is selling more on Amazon platform. I invested a lot up front on the label design, listing graphics and keyword research in order to differentiate my listings from others to attract customer awareness. After a while that I noticed that I was getting positive reviews. I decided to do an experiment by ordering from my competitors and asked questions about their products. Going through the journey as a customer made me realized how little understanding I had for my customers’ feelings. The competition is not in who is selling more, it is in who provides better customer expereince! Research showed that when the products are not unique, customer’s buying decision is based on feelings. Customer’s journey of interacting with a certain brand generated a feeling towards this brand. That became the biggest factor in buying decision. Chances are, if you don’t understand the customer journey, you don’t know your customers well enough. A lot of business have became an experience-led business, which means optimizing every customer touch point to create positive customer experience.

Mistake #3: Reactive sales strategy instead of proactive sales strategy.

At the beginning, I had the mindset that once the customer reach out to me, I will do my best fulfill their requests. The result will be: happy customer, happy sales! It was a very reactive sales strategy. The sad part is that my customers were not as happy as I wished. They were not loyal at all. I was puzzled about how come my strategy did not provide me sales success and customer loyalty. It was once again customer journey mapping helped me learned that how much I could do up front to set up for happy customer, happy sales. I started to plan out my different target customer personas, identify their unique customer journey and touch points. Once a customer reached me, I quickly identified them with a customer persona I had in place, and activated the customer journey strategy. By changing to a proactive sales approach, I led my customers through a journey that I have planned. I have gained more sales and customers.

Mistake #4: Lack of consistent data collection.

With a good proactive sales strategy in place, I still did not understand why my sales go up or go down. I was focusing on the day to day operations, ignored the data collection and monitoring. When I saw my sales went flat, I desperately wanted to understand why. I started to collect data of customer, touch points & the sales on daily basis. After a while, I started to see the correlation of touch points vs. sales. My own data became my most reliable source of my sales strategy. I was able to analyze the data and make adjustments accordingly. I started to create touch points intentional to drive customer engagements. My activities became much more effective since then. First data collection, then analyze, in order to make data-driven decisions.

As an e-commerce business owner, I interacted with different customers everyday. Every customer journey started from a customer clicking on my listing to leaving a positive review. I experienced the customers interactions and feelings through every customer journey. I closed that business in the end because it does not align with my WHY. However, the learnings I had from that experience helped me shaped part of my business today. This experience has taught me a lot about sales strategy and customer journey. That is one of the tools I use in the “5-Step Method “to help business achieve their sales goals.

Walking a mile in the customer’s shoes will help you understand how much, or how little, you actually know about your customer. Put on your customer’s shoes, and start walking!