Today's empowered consumers are demanding a higher level of customized attention and service online than ever before, according to a Forrester Consulting study which was commissioned by Fusion to help businesses improve ancillary sales and customer relationships. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

The study surveyed 159 US and UK business decision makers with responsibility for ancillary products businesses, and found an interesting paradox: more than half consider ancillary sales revenue to be a key goal, but most lack the sophistication on their websites to realise the revenue potential that can be generated with targeted and customized ancillary offerings.

In a related finding, Forrester reported that very few respondents are using a detailed customer profile for ancillary sales targeting. Instead, generic offers are presented to all customers, or are related to products in their shopping cart.

Yet the research clearly demonstrated that businesses will find much greater success in online ancillary sales if they create a unique and dynamic experience for the customer.

With the maturation of web-based technology and the rise of social media channels, customers have been empowered to expect a highly personalised interaction at every website they visit.

The study suggests that ancillary sales decision makers should always:

  1. Know their customers and what they are likely to buy;
  2. Acquire ancillary products that are tailored to their customers' impulsive needs;
  3. Consider working with partners to optimise sales and fulfilment;
  4. Place ancillary offers on the same web page as the purchase path to create greater ease and convenience.

"This points to a sector that's ripe for additional revenue growth, but only if it's done strategically," said Fusion's president, Bob Dufour. "Ancillary sales excellence can help both new and established companies improve their revenues online, enhance the customer experience and deepen their relationship with their consumers, but only if it's done in the highly customised way that today's sophisticated online shopper demands."

According to Fusion, there are several industries that could potentially benefit from such ancillary sales excellence. For example, insurance companies could see a potential rise in sales from cross-selling solutions to combat the growing identity theft problem prevalent within credit card, banking and retail sales. In addition, telecommunications providers sell phone accessories and roaming Wi-Fi access, but other growth opportunities exist, such as handset insurance, extended warranty and home security monitoring. And financial services firms could also compete for a greater share of the customer's wallet by offering tax return services, estate planning and more.

"Incorporating personalisation technology into an online sales platform, identifying ancillary options, and optimising offers in the purchase flow are a few examples of personalising the customer interaction," concluded Dufour. "Consumers are clearly expecting this level of personalised attention, and will reward the online merchants who provide them with the most tailored ancillary options at the best time."