What is eCommerce customer experience?
Regardless of the field and channel, customer experience comes down to the way a customer perceives a brand based on his or her interaction with it across the customer lifecycle. It’s all about the sum of micro-experiences and the constant flow of communication between customer and business. It includes pre- and post-sale impressions and it encompasses both online and offline experiences.
We have already talked about the value of good customer experience: we have discovered that 60% of people don’t mind paying more for better customer experience. Furthermore, businesses with well-developed customer experience strategies achieve higher customer satisfaction rates, which further translate into increased revenues. Today we will focus on eCommerce and how to deliver the best eCommerce experience.
Then what is eCommerce experience? In order to answer this question, let’s start off with the basics. Shopify provides us with the best definition of eCommerce:
“Ecommerce, also known as electronic commerce or internet commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods or services using the internet, and the transfer of money and data to execute these transactions. Ecommerce is often used to refer to the sale of physical products online, but it can also describe any kind of commercial transaction that is facilitated through the internet.”
It refers specifically to the transactions we make online. We have all visited an online shop before, be it just to research some products. Doing just that has become an automatic reflex of digital natives around the world. It’s a no-brainer: we don’t think much, we just go around minding our business. And visiting an online store is an essential part of our everyday activity, it’s digital experiences like window shopping in our day-to-day lives.
Customer experience and eCommerce go hand in hand. We expect nothing less than a seamless, agreeable process that takes little time, is personalized and straight to the point. Conceiving and delivering the best online experience is not as easy as it may seem at first glance. This is why we have put together this useful guide, which will help you understand the meaning behind each concept and how to integrate it within your strategy.
Why is eCommerce customer experience important
You may have already heard that famous saying: you waste half of your advertising budget; you just never know which half. We are accustomed to the large number of advertisements and commercials which we are exposed to each day. Targeted ads on websites and social media have made it even easier for businesses to reach us and make us aware of what they offer. While they are indeed effective, one never knows why some types of content perform better than others.
It’s not the case with the online customer experience. We can easily measure the performance of our website, we can track users and their behavior and we can make improvements based on the findings. Our websites are the modern-day business cards: they tell a great deal about our vision, mission and the value we place on consumers. The experience we offer is more powerful than any kind of advertising and not without reason.
The eCommerce market is huge. In 2018, there were 1.8 billion global digital buyers. This means one-quarter of the global population is buying things online from brands and websites they like and trust. Moreover, online consumers worldwide are set to spend around $3.46 trillion in 2019 alone. This year, online retailers’ sales increased by 20.7% worldwide and the numbers only keep on growing. In fact, predictive research shows that, by 2040, 95% of shopping will be facilitated by eCommerce.
Each year, we buy more and more stuff online, from beauty products to clothes, food and other everyday essentials. Why do we do that? One reason is that we’ve gone digital. The other has to do with the implications of going digital: faster service, more customized experiences, less stress, more convenience and so on. 64% of companies with a customer-focused CEO believe they are more profitable than their competitors. Following the same line, 90% of CEOs believe the customer has the greatest impact on their business.
To improve customer experience in eCommerce is good to look at the Amazon case study. It is thriving specifically because it places a great deal of importance on its customers and their behavior. In the words of Jeff Bezos, customer obsession is by far the most important, as opposed to competitor obsession. A powerful algorithm predicting the best deals for online shoppers based on their previous orders, long-term thinking and the eagerness to invent, to set trends instead of following them: these are the things setting Amazon apart from its competitors.
Reviews and why they matter
Which brings us to the next important issue: people’s opinions. They can make or break your business, so you need to pay close attention to them. Generally speaking, negative publicity is more prevalent online: 54% of people shared bad experiences with more than five people and 33% shared good experiences with more than five people. In the age of the social web, individual opinions matter. They are landmarks across customer journeys and they guide our online behavior.
In fact, 90% of people pondering whether to buy a product of service are influenced by customer reviews. These days, a bad online review can really blow up and turn into a disaster for the business. Remember when Kylie Jenner took to Twitter to complain about a redesign of the Snapchat app? Well, following that “negative review”, their stock value dropped by $1.3 billion.
There is no better way to highlight the importance of customer experience in eCommerce. It shows exactly why one has to be preoccupied with what customers feel and need.
Value of customers – acquiring one vs. retaining one
Acquiring a customer is five times more expensive than retaining an existing one. This is why 89% of businesses “see customer experience as a key factor in driving customer loyalty and retention.” Creating a great eCommerce customer experience comes in particularly handy when it comes to creating loyal customers, that come back to buy from you over and over again.
Increasing customer loyalty by as little as 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%. Customers who had a very good experience are 3.5x more likely to repurchase and 5x more likely to recommend the company to friends and relatives than if they had a very poor experience. Focus on them and what makes their experience worthwhile.
How to create the best eCommerce customer experience?
By anticipating the needs of your audience, of course. An effective eCommerce customer experience management will help you to always deliver what clients expect from you. It starts with the strategy, moves on to implementation and analytics and ends with customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Regardless of the outcome, the experience of a customer will always teach you important lessons along the way.
eCommerce experience strategy
- Start with an eCommerce customer experience map.
We have talked about customer journey before: it’s virtually the same thing, except it applies particularly to your online store and the actions prospects take there. Study on-page behavior by using heatmaps in order to discover which part of your website performs best, where customers get stuck and where they spend more time than normal.
- Use qualitative customer data to understand the “why” behind customer behavior
“Session recordings can provide incredibly in-depth insights when used effectively. In fact, they’re often the easiest and most cost-efficient way to get into the minds of your customers.”, says Michael St Laurent, optimization strategist at WiderFunnel. Qualitative data tells you everything you need to know about customer behavior and will help you improve eCommerce customer experience.
- Create a customer-friendly website
Design the website and the entire experience based on your research about your target and the findings you mapped out during the persona creation process. Stay mindful of the pain points and try to eliminate as many of them as possible. Keep it simple and to the point, with the right amount of personalization depending on customer data and the stage of their buyer’s journey. There are usually two types of people browsing eCommerce websites: those who already know what they are looking for and those who need a little extra guidance. A visible search button with an autocomplete function powered by AI, as well as organized categories of products and services should do the trick. If necessary, you may consider integrating chatbots which help people navigate the website with more ease.
- Optimize product pages
You should do it both in order to complement your SEO efforts and provide useful information for your customers. Help people visualize the benefits of your products or services. You do not have a salesperson on-site, so the content you feature on your website will act as a guide. Moreover, according to A.T.Kearney, providing more accurate, more complete, and more consistent product information can increase conversion rates from 17 to 56%.
Clear, specific titles, rich descriptions of the products, high-resolution images with appropriate meta-descriptions and visible “Add to cart”/”Checkout” buttons are a must. Display video content wherever it is relevant. It can be product demos, testimonials, whatever you find appropriate to your audience’s preferences. As a rule of thumb, video content usually performs a lot better than any type of content.
- Introduce fast checkout options and purchase history
Let people pick up where they left from. By using cookies, you can track their presence and activity and you can deliver a more personalized experience. Help them better orient on your website by activating purchase history. Then, when it comes to purchasing, make sure everything runs smoothly and easily. After they have made their decision, allow your customers to get things done with only a few clicks. Fast checkout is a very effective way to make sure that the purchase is actually completed. Most people will find themselves discouraged and abandon the things in their cart if the checkout process is too complicated.
- Optimize your website for mobile devices
79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months. Also, almost 40% of all eCommerce purchases during the 2018 holiday season were made on a smartphone, according to OuterBox. Given our busy lifestyles and our tendency to buy things the very moment we need them, mobile optimization is more important than ever before.
- Educate and delight your customers
Quirky and engaging content, discounts for the first online purchase or special discounts on the occasion of various events. Remember that people don’t buy from one seller after the first interaction- they usually require at least 5 interactions with the brand or the company in order to take action. With this perspective in mind, you may want to include various types of educational content on your website, just to establish credibility and keep them coming.
- Go where your customers are
You may need to be present across multiple channels. No matter where your customers are active, you need to meet them halfway. Whether it’s Google, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter, your business needs to be out there. According to Social Media Today, 74% of people follow brands on social media and 96% of them interact with the brands they follow. Publish useful content, reply to their comments, reward your most active customers- do whatever people do on social media, just remember to stay dynamic and respond to online trends.
- Ecommerce customer experience analysis
Quantitative customer data will help you make sense of your efforts and what remains to be done. Analytics help you understand what works and what doesn’t.
Don’t take our word for it, let’s see what Neil Patel has to say about this:
“Having access to statistical information from all areas of your online marketing and sales activities gives you an advantage over competitors that do not have this information. Understanding trends and which marketing channels are no longer profitable allows you to maneuver as a business before damage is done to your bottom line. And, understanding shifts in consumer behavior gives you insights into the demands of your market.”
Web analytics, such as the Google or Adobe Analytics tools help you establish the funnels and adapt your efforts depending on the stage of the buyer’s journey. Use the reports to your advantage, learn at every step of the way and stay ahead of your competitors.
- Ecommerce customer experience trends you must follow
Ecommerce is a particularly dynamic field. To enhance customer experience in eCommerce, you must be aware of what’s new within your industry and what works best for your clients.
- AI and automation
More and more tasks are completed using AI. Automation makes it faster for consumers to get what they want in the shortest amount of time. As we argued earlier, our busy lives make us want more at the time that is more convenient for us. Check for the tools you need in order to ease up this process, without losing the human touch. Yes, people want everything to move faster but they do not want to lose the benefit of communication and human interaction.
- Web Personalization
Use personal information and cookies wisely. People do not mind sharing this kind of information with brands if that results in more personalized, less intrusive experiences. Personal data can be exchanged for personalized discounts and shopping experience. The key is to keep it relevant to individual consumers. Another reason for which people give away personal data is faster problem-solving. Yet if you’re solely using it for irrelevant retargeting, they will perceive it as an “invasion of privacy”. So you see- you’re in a privileged position, as opposed to marketers. Leverage it and deliver the best customer experience for eCommerce. Personal AND collective data can be used to design more engaging and exquisite digital experiences for your users.
- Social commerce is a thing
This is especially relevant for younger audiences. Of all the people aged 18-35 surveyed by Kleiner Perkins back in 2017, 55% admitted having bought a product online after discovering it on social media. This may happen because of online influencers or simply because people trust their networks of friends more. Targeted ads play a critical role in this situation as well but only highly relevant ones will see a significant conversion rate.
- Voice search will become even more important in 2020
Voice-enabled device interaction is slowly becoming part of consumers’ day-to-day lives. Half of all the online searches are predicted to become voice searches by 2020, so you may want to work more on this type of optimization for your website. Moreover, also by 2020, 30% of web browsing will be screenless and you need to accommodate this shift in consumer behavior.
- Interactive content is gaining momentum
Yes, photos and videos are cool, but users want to interact with products and brands in ways that have been unimaginable up until now. Younger audiences respond better to interesting quizzes, fun activities or the gamification of online activities. Yet this approach can captivate all kinds of users, regardless of age and background. We have an affinity towards innovative, shareable approaches and experiences. Augmented reality is the next big thing. From trying on an entire clothing line from the comfort of your own couch to exploring the universes of various brands, AR has the answers to our most ambitious challenges and desires.
Improving customer experiences based on consumer insights, visitor behavior, and customer data is more and more important and will transform your online retail store or mobile app into a successful brand. Through website optimization of product pages, shopping cart abandonment, and paths to purchase leads to increased conversion rates and better customer retention.
eCommerce is a huge part of our lives, as well as a challenge for companies worldwide. Get it right and customers will repay you tenfold. Look away for just one second and you will find yourself outsmarted by one of your competitors. This is one of the most dynamic fields around, so brands and manufacturers selling their products online need to move fast and adapt to all the new digital experiences. The job, however, is halfway done as long as you follow a well-defined strategy. Know your consumers, know your industry, know the market, stay connected to the online realities and bookmark this article so you can come back to it whenever you need to. This way you will be able to create the best customer experience for eCommerce.