The advantages of Putting Customers first in a Highly Unregulated Industry
Written by Daniel, founder of for the Ageless
Creating a sustainable business in an unregulated industry is a challenge. There are no regulatory guidelines to follow and few precedents to emulate. This is why putting yourself in the shoes of the customer is the best way forward.
That’s what we believe at for the Ageless. We are a food supplement retailer supplying boutique CBD goods and other natural products. The CBD industry was only just beginning to bloom when we started in 2016. The general public knew very little, the Food Standards Agency and government knew even less.
Early industry pioneers in this area had to challenge perceptions and develop trusted brands that would appeal to this new market. To do this it is important to know what suppliers are bringing to market and not only what customers want, but what they actually need.
Researching, testing & selecting the best
In a market of uncertainty, customers want the best quality at the best price from someone they can trust. The best CBD suppliers built this trust by being totally transparent about their methods and products. As a retailer we choose to follow the same practice.
We entered the space as customers wanting a high-quality product and found marketplace very difficult to navigate. Suppliers had all different ways to present their products and it wasn’t easy to figure out what a 10% CBD oil in 10ml was vs. a 1500mg of hemp oil with 20% of CBD content in a 20ml bottle. Confused? Yes, we were too.
When we started one of the priorities was to make CBD content easily understood. Just like any sensible customer, we would only take products from suppliers of brands who were upfront, honest and provided all the relevant third-party lab results. However, that’s still not enough!
We must trust them and their products. We get to know the brands and personally test the products. We also ask colleagues, friends and family to give us their honest opinions. This method has resulted in the successful choice of many amazing products that get 5-star reviews from customers and lots of return visits.
We don’t choose brands by their popularity but by quality. On several occasions we have tested products from very popular brands and haven’t been impressed. When that happens, we don’t stock them, we can’t stock a product we don’t believe in even if there are guaranteed sales attached.
Understanding customer wants & needs
To understand customers wants and needs you must listen carefully to, empathise and act on what you hear. In short, you must continue to side with, think and feel like the customer.
Often if you come to natural supplementation it’s because you’ve had a long journey with other methods already. We understand that journey. We chose this industry for very personal reasons; we believe in the benefits of natural food supplements and want to share them with others.
We genuinely care enough to listen, and act on what we hear. This is an incredibly powerful practice that is more effective because it isn’t a strategy, its real, its who we are as individuals and what our business aims to be.
This is why we often make decisions on which products to continue to stock or to stop stocking based on the feedback we receive from customers.
Creating easy-to-digest resources
Build trust with your customers by demonstrating that you are totally transparent in your practices. The best way to do that is to give them unrestricted access to your knowledge to allow them to make their own informed choices.
To provide the right information, you need to cover everything in a way that is intriguing, adds value and is easy to understand. If you don’t, it may appear that you’re trying to baffle them or hide something.
Everything you share should have a clear reason and broaden their understanding. Don’t just create resources for the sake of having them.
Creating easy to digest resources that give the customer all the information does four things:
1. It provides valuable information.
2. It keeps them on our site because they don’t have any remaining questions, so, they don’t need to hunt for them elsewhere.
3. It challenges the misconceptions around CBD, it makes them realise that it is a supplement with history, it won’t get them high and it’s legal.
4. It develops trust.
Our CBD guide, for instance, contains all of the basic information we know about how to best select and take CBD oil. This is a very basic guide for those who want “to know it all” in a short time.
Opening up communication channels
Communication channels are vitally important, trends change, products change and opinions change, you must keep listening to your customer and to your industry colleagues. Therefore, you can provide the best products that relate to your customer’s needs and respond to industry developments.
If you go where your customers attention is drawn, then you will always have a popular product and a great relationship with your customers. Treat your customers as you would your family. The happiest families are the ones who communicate with each other.
We keep our lines open 24/7 and even if we’re not around, we get back to customers as quickly as possible. The golden rule is within 24 hours, but the truth is we resolve most customer queries within 10 hours. The majority of the ones we receive during the day, within 1-3 hours. We feel this is one of our biggest differentiators from the competition.
We also keep in touch with industry regulators and belong to an association that strives to keep the marketplace compliant. Any developments are acted upon at once. We, for instance, used to retail CBD products for pets, but these are now illegal in the UK as food supplements, so we’ve made sure to let our customers know after removing them from our website.
Keeping true to our core values
Once you’ve developed your brand and discovered your core values everything you do must uphold them. Keep developing as a company and moving forward, but make sure you are always listening to your customers. Get the best products and knowledge then share it in a way that suits your audience.
Never compromise when it comes to your values. All items that you stock must uphold your values. That way if someone questions the quality of a product you can engage with them by using personal experience. At for the Ageless, we’ve got a very small team but we all agree on a fundamental value: customers must go first. For us, this value which comes so naturally has also become a real business advantage.
Listening to your customers, providing high-quality products and sharing your knowledge with them, in a way they can digest, will build your reputation better than can be achieved in many regulated markets. The customer must come first because if they do, they’ll keep coming back and they may even bring their friends and family. If you think about it, there really is no difference between you and your customer, so it makes sense to dedicate the enterprise entirely to them.