We have all paid more attention to the missing pieces in our puzzle called “website” since the start of the pandemic. In our efforts to fix the most burning problems as soon as possible, we might miss the issues that cause a lot of friction in the customer’s journey. We’ve asked Steven Shyne to share his knowledge of CRO and what eCommerce businesses can do to thrive in a crowded digital world.

Steven Shyne is Co-Founder & COO at CXperts Inc, a consultancy that helps brands understand their end-users behavior and how they can better improve the value exchange. 

He has been in the CRO space for close to 10 years. He sees a lot of maturity around the entire ecosystem of usability, user experience, research, UX, design, CRO, and other related CX fields. 

The majority of companies they work with are in eCommerce, and they are known in the market as customer experience experts. They have been helping brick-and-click businesses optimize omni-experiences and several B2B and B2C clients focusing on lead generation.

We invited Steven Shyne to our “Top 100 eCommerce experts” interview series to share his thoughts on: 

Customer Lifetime Value’s importance in eCommerce 

Alexandra Panaitescu: If online store managers were to choose one company-wide success, some would say it’s customer lifetime value. Why is it important to measure and monitor Customer Lifetime Value? Should it be the company’s north-star metric?

Steven Shyne: Customer lifetime value shows that companies can’t trick consumers into purchasing their products. Maybe some brands do this through dark patterns and new UX or other means, but to sell something once doesn’t have much viability. You only will have so much finite movement within the marketplace. 

Customer lifetime value is a good proxy for building a relationship with customers. 

Because CLV is a complex quantitative component, you should also measure customer experience, customer satisfaction, or CSAT over time.

We need to blend those two because you can have customers with you for a long time. Maybe it’s with an energy utility company, and people have no other options, so their CLV is high, although customers might be very unhappy with their experience. 

Like many metrics, we need to combine qualitative and quantitative to paint an accurate picture. Customer lifetime value is a very good metric, but it needs to have complementary data points attached to it.

> Read more about the importance of customer research and emotional targeting in our interview with Talia Wolf.

Take on Customer Value Optimization methodology

A.P.: With the CLV in mind, our team developed the Customer Value Optimization methodology, which is meant to help companies build an excellent customer journey and sustain growth by keeping customers happy and loyal. What do you think about Customer Value Optimization? When should stores start thinking about applying this methodology to their business?

Steven Shyne: It definitely makes sense to me from a top-level view. It sounds like it’s more than customer lifetime value.

Often, brands think, “Oh, do we have to map out the whole customer journey? That sounds like a lot of work.” Well, it is, and it isn’t. You don’t have to do it all at once. 

If there’s a concern about slowness, focus on where you’re getting the most friction, which you can uncover through analytics, customer feedback, surveys, customer service teams. Identify where people are getting hung up the most, and start there. Start optimizing where you have that hotspot. 

The balance between acquisition and retention strategies

A.P.: Inspired by what SaaS managers do, more online stores are shifting from concentrating mainly on acquisition towards a new approach, focusing on retaining existing customers and using their knowledge about top customers to inform the acquisition strategies. What’s your message for companies that want to find their focus? Should there still be a “versus” between acquisition and retention?

Steven Shyne: We’ve all known SaaS companies who’ve been highly sales-focused. They’re heavy in the sales area and near obsessed with acquiring new users. But then once they get through the gate, there’s not a lot there, as far as support, resources, or retention efforts, and it just becomes a race.

If you have 30% churn year over year, you have to exceed that with your sales. It becomes much harder for your sales team to grow. You might have customers who were promised something on your product pages, and it wasn’t delivered. Bad news travels faster than good news, and it becomes exceedingly more challenging for teams to improve retention rates.

Before the streaming wars, it was mainly Netflix and Netflix only. They weren’t worried about retention. They acquired as many users as they possibly could. But now they’re doubling down on retention efforts and understanding why people would abandon Netflix. So, retention should have its place. It’s easier for your sales team.

> Discover André Morys‘s take on how newcomers and traditional companies approach the challenges of customer-centricity.

The greatest challenge: Better customer experience

A.P.: Online stores have access to piles of customer data. However, creating better customer experiences is still very challenging. How can a business find what needs to be fixed in the customer experience? Where do companies get stuck from research to segmentation & personalization?

Steven Shyne: We see this a lot.

In the middle of the pandemic, a large, nationally known company that sells in-store and online asked for our help, saying something like, “We know there’s stuff wrong with our website. We just don’t even know where to start. Help us, please.”

We could go in as experts, but we’re very digitally savvy. We could be looking for the wrong things. We can be overly primed, make guesses, but that’s not what an expert would do.

So we started a series of usability studies to get customer feedback on their entire journey. 

The research effort was fantastic at defining specific friction points in the consideration phases around the PDP. Certain information was missing on those pages that left people wondering if it was the right product for them. When people are not sure, they’re not going to buy.

Similarly, on the cart page, we identified a lot of friction around payment methods. Although there were several options, it wasn’t made apparent on the cart page. It wasn’t until you got deeper into checkout that you could note those options. It turned people away. 

The usability study and user feedback helped us pinpoint some areas to double down on, and we were able to make some of those quick fixes. We were also able to make more strategic recommendations around areas to follow up on, deploy A/B tests, and continue to explore the best solution for each problem. 

As a business moves forward, they start thinking about personalization.

Speaking of: sometimes, people get too excited about the prospects of personalization and just start slapping personalizations on their sites to see what happens. That’s a recipe for failure. Personalization should always be rooted in relevance:

Can we improve the relevance on the page and that value exchange?

Can we improve the value perceived and the value given to end-users by providing personalized experiences?

A.P.: From your experience, what UX elements help build trust in online shoppers?

Steven Shyne: When we say “trust,” we all think about the general things around security, compliance, accessibility, etc. When we think about UX and trust, we observed through usability studies and customer interviews that there are micro-moments that significantly impact people’s trust.

You might land on a website, and the navigation doesn’t work like you thought it would. Then, the page has some strange breakdown, and when you click a link that doesn’t lead you where it said it will. All these tiny things add up and erode trust. 

This is why it’s so important to understand and debug overall experiences. And that’s why we should pay attention to the constantly changing consumer behavior

I’m predicting that users will be less and less forgiving, able to endure only 3 to 4 bad micro-moments before they leave a store for good.

> Find out from Guido X Jansen why building a community around your brand is one of the few differentiators in today’s environment.

Expectations for 2022

A.P.: Looking at the big picture of the past two years and how the pandemic changed consumer behavior, what would be your advice for eCommerce companies in 2022?

Steven Shyne: 

There is no going back to the way things were. Consumer behavior can and has shifted for individual groups and entire populations.

We need to meet consumers where they’re at. They have become more digitally savvy. Many are working from home, changing consumption patterns, and we need to understand what those are to meet users and their needs.

We need to understand the new baselines that have been set through this dramatic shift. User experience research will be extremely paramount.

UX research salaries have skyrocketed in the past year because many companies and brands have also realized this big shift. Much activity has been put into the digital world, displaced from the physical. 

The world of UX now has a seat at the table. Ten years ago, UX was seen as nice to have, and wireframing value was questioned. I’m thankful that CRO and experimentation have a place at the table now, too.

My advice would be: to meet your end-users and consumers where they’re at by understanding them more through proper UX research, continue your efforts with UX design, and make multiple solutions to those problems through experimentation.

Takeaways

Steven Shyne showed us that companies should keep an eye on both customer lifetime value and customer satisfaction metrics to measure the success of their efforts.

For a complete picture, you need qual and quant. Usability studies are essential for capturing feedback on the entire journey and prioritizing future actions to fix problems and improve experiences. Steven Shyne encourages eCommerce businesses to embrace experimentation and create multiple solutions to the issues identified during UX research.   

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