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Humanizing the Online Experience

By: Cindy Engstrom
Posted: May 24, 2013, from the July 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Act like a good boyfriend and notice the small things. Well, not literally as in, “Did you just get a haircut, honey?”, but in reality, I am always struck when a business notices that I haven’t been around. Although behind the scenes that is highly mechanical to implement, it results in a human response that makes the customer feels like the company cares (or that their management is smart enough to notice). These smart companies usually offer me a gift card that is just the right amount to make me go back.

Value retention by implementing anniversary treats. How unpleasant does it feel when you see a company you love giving a fabulous offer of a major discount or special, only to see in the fine print that it’s for “new customers only”? What about me – your loyal customer? I’ve been around for years! Don’t you know that the cost to keep me is cheaper than losing me and replacing me.

Make It Fun, Make It Real

At my company, Sircle Advertising, we endeavor to make the bare necessities fun with new greeting lines that make our users smile. It makes our customers feel good to log-in and see “Hi Cindy! You’re a firework!” or something fun like “Your eye makeup looks extra fabulous today!” We communicate with them at points when they are most curious for information, such as when their product samples have been shipped.

We work hard to be considerate of timing to make sure that a product review request, for example, arrives at a preset time after the user has received the product and she has had an opportunity to experience it. Timing is key and is a great way to show that you are paying attention.

The extra miles we walk to deliver an enhanced human experience are grounded in our reward system of virtual currency. Users in our sampling programs do not use “real” currency nor pay monthly fees, but instead they earn virtual currency for participating. This is a psychological incentive to participate but perhaps more importantly, the consumers feel valued for their opinions and time. Feeling valued is one of the greatest of human feelings. At the end of the day, go through your process as a customer and think outside of the box and ask yourself, “What would I like to see here to feel good about being on this site and buying this product?”

Cindy Engstrom (@cindybetty on Twitter) is CEO of Sircle Advertising, which hosts and, both websites that enables users to earn virtual currency to trade for beauty product samples. Sircle’s program is also on an exclusive beauty and fashion blogger network called iFabbo and will soon appear on a wedding website. Engstrom studied business at Marquette University, where she earned her MBA. She also holds two patents with another pending, and Sircle Advertising is her fourth start-up company. Her blog post on humanizing the online experience can be found at