Online retail is a competitive space and merely having a great product is no longer enough to succeed. If you want to grow your brand online, creating a first class customer experience is what will set you apart from the crowd.
Customer experience cannot be merely an afterthought. It permeates every area of your business. Your entire customer journey needs to be intuitive and engaging, creating a shopping experience that leaves customers coming back again and again.
So, where do you start? In this article, we’ll be taking a look at what you need to consider if you want to improve customer experience. But first, what do we mean when we refer to the ecommerce customer experience, and why is it so important in today’s retail landscape?
In the world of online retail, customer experience involves every touch point in the customer journey, from initial discovery to checkout and beyond.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to customer experience. Your customer experience will be as unique as your brand.
The key to creating it is in knowing your customers, understanding their behaviour and responding to their needs, so you can deliver the experience they are looking for.
As a general rule, online buyers are looking for speed and convenience when it comes to their purchases. They want a site that is intuitive, easy to navigate and gives them access to the information they need in order to make an informed purchase decision.
In addition, they value consistency - knowing they can always expect the same quality again and again from the brands they love.
And finally, today’s online buyer is looking for something more personal. The more tailored your shopping experience is to your customer, the more they feel an affinity to your brand.
If you own a high street store, you have your customers’ full attention from the moment they step inside your store. The noise of competitors is far off and you can create an engaging environment that puts the customer at ease, and immerse them in your entire product range, without the distractions of alternative brands.
Not so for ecommerce. Online, your competitors are just a click or a swipe away. Standing out from the crowd is a far greater challenge, and one that’s only been amplified by the boom in businesses moving online during the pandemic.
With an increasing number of brands fighting it out for consumers’ attention online, you want to create an experience that entertains and delights, that makes the shopping process as enjoyable as having the product in hand upon delivery. This is essential when it comes to increasing the perceived value of your band compared to competitors.
Considering how time-consuming and costly it is to acquire new shoppers, keeping those customers coming back for more is an important mission for ecommerce retailers - one that requires an excellent customer experience.
Falling short of cultivating a positive experience can lose you valuable customers. In fact, one in three customers will stop buying from a brand after just one negative experience (source).
What’s more, a customer who has had a great experience with your brand is more likely to tell friends and family about it. It’s crucial for building trust and loyalty amongst your customer base.
Not only are your customers more likely to buy from you if they have a positive experience of your brand - they are often willing to pay a premium for your products.
As the perceived value of your brand compared to competitors increases, buyers will pay a premium of 13% (or up to 18% for luxury or indulgence goods/services) if they have a great experience (source).
From improving your conversion rates to increasing average order value (AOV), customer experience has an impact across all your key metrics if done well.
To get a better look at how to improve customer experience, let's break it down into three stages, from the customer’s perspective:
Customer experience begins from the first moment someone hears of your brand. A positive experience at this stage is essential if you want them to get to the point of purchase.
Make sure your customer knows instantly who you are and what you offer. They need to understand what’s in it for them as a customer and what their options are. The more information you can give your customer about your brand and products, the more they will connect with them.
User generated content such as customer photos and reviews, like the example below from Australian hair and beauty brand Silk Oil of Morocco, can help build customers’ trust in your brand. As they witness approval from others like themselves, the brand becomes more personable and potential customers can visualise themselves using your product.
Online consumers are also becoming increasingly environmentally conscious. Successful brands are proactive in telling consumers about their company ethics and environmental policies, to give consumers confidence that they can feel good about their purchases.
There is such a vast number of potential sales and marketing channels available that it’s impossible to be present on all of them.
However, once you know where your customer base are most likely to be, creating a synchronized multi-channel strategy is key to engaging with potential customers on their terms, rather than yours.
Take care to have a consistent presence - be that your tone of voice, your promotions and visuals - across your channels, to demonstrate reliability and improve brand recognition.
A well-connected omnichannel strategy also ensures that your customer doesn’t have to start from scratch at each new touchpoint. By retaining all their previous data, you move the relationship forward each time the user comes into contact with your brand. And when they are ready to make their first purchase, they can do so from their channel of choice.
The purchasing journey on your online store needs to be as smooth and intuitive as possible. You want to craft the user experience (UX) on your site to make it easy for your potential buyers to choose their products and complete their purchase.
Abandoned carts are the stuff of ecommerce nightmares. Any potential complexity or glitch in the purchasing process could be a barrier to a completed purchase.
Be sure to do regular, thorough analysis of your store to ensure every part of the journey is optimized.
Using heat-mapping, exit surveys and data analysis can help to pinpoint where customers seem to be dropping off, and to discover and address any issues. If a product page has difficulty loading or the payment form is difficult to fill in, customers can be quick to give up and move on.
Even small tweaks can make a big difference to your conversion rate, as leading pet supplement subscription brand YuMove discovered after seeing their additional revenue increase by 150% of their initial target.
Today’s customers want a personal touch when it comes to ecommerce. Once a customer arrives on your site, they want to feel that the brand understands and appreciates them as an individual.
There are plenty of ways to personalize the customer experience. Take advantage of all the customer data available to you to learn what customers expect and desire from their interactions with your brand.
It goes without saying, the more that you know about your customer, the more you can personalize their experience on your site. YuMove offers an interactive knowledge building experience for first time customers on their site. By asking customers a series of questions about their pets and their individual needs, they are able to offer the most adequate products for the pet, educating the customer and offering the perfect solution to their needs.
For repeat customers, you’ll be able to build an idea of their preferences based on previous searches. Offering product recommendations based on search history or personalised promotions, such as exit-intent popups, will encourage future purchases and increase AOV.
Even for first time customers, basic information such as an IP address allows you to customise the user experience. Offering your website in the user’s local language and currency immediately removes potential barriers. Or you can go one step further by showing products and imagery suited to the climate in that region.
When it comes to payment and delivery, customers want flexibility.
Offering multiple payment options will remove another potential barrier at checkout, as will providing various delivery options such as click and collect. You can personalise the experience by displaying localised delivery times or click and collect locations, so the customer can immediately visualise where and when they can receive their purchase.
Make sure you are transparent about your pricing - including any tax or delivery charges. Last minute surprises could lead to an abandoned cart if a customer is not expecting additional costs.
Once the first purchase is complete, the work doesn’t stop. The real value comes in keeping customers engaged with your brand, until they make their next purchase.
Once again, a personalised post-checkout service is a great way to improve customer experience. Keep them updated with the delivery status of their order and offer future discounts and product recommendations.
It’s also a great opportunity to ask the customer for feedback. Not only will this help you improve future customer experience, it also offers a window for you to resolve any potential issues the buyer may have faced. By offering a timely solution or compensation, you could easily win back an otherwise dissatisfied customer.
Having a friendly and proactive customer service team goes a long way to improving the post-checkout experience. Once again, timely resolution of issues can quickly turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Finally, look to loyalty programs to foster long term engagement with your brand. Whether this means building a community of users on social media channels, running events, offering loyalty points and discounts or giving early access to new product ranges, there are plenty of innovative ways brands are connecting with their customer bases online.
Loyalty programs are also a great space for incentivising customers to share your brand with their friends and family. What better way to market your brand than to get your happy customers to do it for you!
US baby brand PishPoshBaby offers a variety of ways for customers to win “Posh Points” in their loyalty program. Whether through liking the brand on Facebook or referring a friend, customers can build up points towards discounts on future purchases.
We’ve seen exponential growth in the ecommerce industry lately, with retailers moving online in their droves. Amidst rising competition, and with acquisition costs rising steadily, a first class customer experience is a must-have for differentiating your brand, retaining shoppers, boosting your key metrics, and ultimately driving growth.
When it comes to improving your ecommerce customer experience, there are steps you can take at each stage of the customer journey, from that initial discovery of your brand right the way through to post-purchase. Leverage the tactics we’ve explored above to create a streamlined, intuitive, personalised experience that speaks directly to your customers!
Catherine Partridge is a Marketing Assistant and Content Writer at Swanky
Swanky is a leading international ecommerce agency, recognized with the official Shopify Plus Experts status. Obsessed with growth and driven by results, Swanky’s in-house specialists design, build and grow enterprise-level Shopify Plus stores that convert. As an integrated agency, they offer a full suite of digital solutions for brands looking to elevate their ecommerce strategy, from replatforming and app development, to conversion rate optimization and digital marketing. With offices in the UK and Australia, they are poised to help ecommerce teams around the world get ahead by delivering exceptional customer experiences.
To find out how Swanky can help unlock your ecommerce potential, get in touch with their friendly team today.