Not too long ago, product quality and pricing were the top factors that endeared customers to retailers. Although these two selling points remain critical, they're no longer enough to guarantee a steady stream of repeat purchases or loyal customers. As Tony Alessandra, the President of Assessment Business Center, aptly puts, "Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you in the game. Service wins the game."
The customer experience refers to your customer's perception of all their interactions with your company, from navigating the website to communicating with your customer service personnel to interacting with your various sales channels (including emerging channels created through headless commerce) to product delivery and post-purchase experiences. These conscious and unconscious experiences, including the ability to surprise and delight, ultimately influence the customer's decision to shop with your store again or look elsewhere for their next purchase.
The winning brands promise their customers outstanding customer experience and consistently deliver on that promise. Unfortunately, most companies have a false perception of where they stand regarding the customer experience they provide.
A survey by Bain & Co revealed that 80% of CEOs argue they provide a superior customer experience, but only 8% of customers think they're getting a great experience. If you can bridge the gap between your perception of customer experience and what you really deliver, your brand will be much better for it; driving conversions, boosting average order value (AOV), customer lifetime value (CLV), and ultimately your customer retention rates.
Why improving the online shopping experience grows your store
Another common mistake retailers make is creating customer experience strategies that mostly cater to physical shoppers while neglecting their online stores. In an age where 63% of shopping interactions begin online, having an integrated customer experience (CX) strategy is no longer optional.
Below are three major reasons why you need to pay more attention to improve your customers' online shopping experience:
More purchases being made online
As already mentioned, more people are starting to embrace the superior convenience online shopping promises. Recent projections from Statista reveal that ecommerce will make up 22% of global retail sales by 2023, compared to 14.1% in 2021.
Trends like consumer confidence in online transactions and increased prevalence of well executed omnichannel strategies are factors fuelling this growth. Neglecting your customers' online shopping experience could start revealing itself on your bottom line with time.
Ecommerce is projected to make up 22% of global retail sales by 2023, compared to 14.1% in 2021
COVID dramatically accelerated ecommerce adoption
The pandemic's impact on online shopping adoption can hardly be overemphasized. With everyone encouraged to stay at home and observe social distancing, online retail platforms became one of the most reliable and safest means of purchasing essential items.
A report from Geekwire revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic drove 42% of the US population to buy groceries online in March 2020, nearly double the figures from March 2018. Amazon alone recorded about a 50 times increase in the demand for groceries. More telling, however, is the fact that such bump is not temporary. Over half of those who bought groceries from online stores plan to continue shopping online post-pandemic.
While these stats are specific to groceries - one of the few retailers that remained open throughout virtually all of the pandemic - it's worth noting that virtually every industry offering online commerce also saw a lift, particularly those that were shuttered during peak infection periods of the pandemic. When customers were left with no physical stores to turn to, you better believe they got comfortable with online shopping, and retailers had to pivot quickly by offering more flexible returns, BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In Store), virtual personal shopping, and other services that smoothed the transition from offline to online sales.
Personalization is easier than ever before
The availability of numerous data gathering and analytics tools has made personalizing the online retail experience easier than ever before. Online retailers can now recommend the most suitable items for customers based on their characteristics and needs, accurately guess replenishment times, surface related offers that will entice them, and deliver tailored content and promotions to individual customers.
All these add to the overall customer experience and could be crucial in influencing future purchasing decisions.
Examples of great online shopping experiences
What does a great online shopping experience look like? Here are some examples of ecommerce brands offering a great shopping experience.
Rollie Nation makes great use of personalization. When customers first visit the site, they're presented with Trending products based on what's been viewed or purchased the most over a recent time period.
As you browse the site, the Trending section on the home page is then updated with the Recently Viewed products from that customer. If a user doesn’t convert on the first visit, they will receive a personalized homepage next time they visit Rollie Nation’s website, including their Recently Viewed products being displayed prominently right at the top of the page.
Gemplers has a very large number of SKUs. What makes their shopping experience great is that they make it easy to sort and filter for products based on their type. Website visitors can view each product’s reviews and information quickly to determine what works best for them.
Bicycle Warehouse is a great example of an ecommerce business blending the in-store and digital experience. With their pick-up in-store option, customers can place orders online and pick them up in a store within a few hours.
Olive + Piper
Olive + Piper provides a great shopping experience because their website clearly conveys the benefits of shopping with them. Their delivery, returns, and buy-now-pay-later information is easily accessible and makes it clear to the customer how they benefit from shopping at Olive + Piper.
The best ways to improve the online shopping experience
If you've been wondering how you can give your online shoppers the best customer experience, below are a few strategies you'll find useful.
1. Optimize for mobile
This shouldn't be a surprise. Stats from Sales Cycle's 2019 Ecommerce Year in Review revealed that mobile devices now account for about 65% of ecommerce traffic. Although the sales figure still lags at 53%, it's clear that mobile shopping is the present and future of ecommerce. Sellers need to make the most out of the traffic coming from smartphones by ensuring their website is fully optimized for mobile.
You'll need to pay attention to key user experience factors such as:
- Optimizing content layout for small screens
- Clear product images
- Easy navigation
- Fast loading time
- Concise copy
- Simplified checkout
When you put all these in place, you'll be on your way to significantly increasing customer engagement and reducing cart abandonment.
2. Create personalized experiences
Many customers prefer shopping at brick-and-mortar stores because of the personalized experiences they enjoy. They love the attendant who knows their shoe size, the experience of testing what they want to buy before paying, the cashier that calls them by their first name, among other experiences.
Although such unique experiences may not be directly transferrable to online marketplaces, you can benefit greatly from drafting and implementing a comprehensive personalization strategy. AI-powered customer data platforms can provide valuable insights on creating personalized experiences for your customers after extensive data gathering and analytics.
You'll also want to look at giving customers the opportunity to find more on their shopping journey. Cross-sells and upsells are an effective way to keep customers from hitting 'checkout' without maximizing their cart size.
3. Keep it simple with checkouts and payments
We know that most online shoppers patronize ecommerce platforms because of their superior convenience. Thus, you can expect them to abandon your store at the slightest hint of inconvenience, even if, or perhaps because, it's at the final stage of shopping.
Stores with complicated payment or checkout processes are likely to have a high rate of cart abandonment. And it's not just about having the PayPal or credit card signs on your checkout page.
Below are some practical strategies for facilitating the checkout process and ensuring better customer experiences:
- Provide a variety of payment options
- Allow customers to pay without signing up for an account
- Don't redirect your customers to third-party pages
- Where your customers make errors, point them out, and make them easy to fix
- Ask for only essential information
- Reassure your customers that their payment information is secure and private
- Do not put ads on the checkout page
- Include clear calls-to-action (CTAs)
4. Leverage reviews
Leveraging reviews and social proof is another great way to endear customers to your brand. However, to get the best results, you need to take a step further than simply posting a few words about how a customer feels about your products or service on the checkout page. Customers know that reviews can be easily manipulated, and they are no longer moved by such.
Brands these days go the extra mile by scouting social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram to collate visual stories from their customers. Thus, you should have links to everything from unboxing to how to use videos to competitor comparisons. These video reviews are much more convincing than simple text reviews, and they can even answer questions the customer may have about your product. However, it all starts with encouraging your loyal customers to make these videos, usually by providing the right incentives.
5. Make sure your website is fast
Even if you have the most aesthetically pleasing website around, your customers won't wait to appreciate the beauty if it takes too long to load. Google recommends a load time of two seconds or less for ecommerce websites. This ensures your customers won't grow impatient, and they'll be willing to explore your products as much as they can. For context, Pingdom reports that pages that take two seconds to load have an average bounce rate of 9%, while the bounce rate for pages that take five seconds to load hovers around 38%. So, even a few seconds can make all the difference.
As an ecommerce store owner, you need to be even more mindful when integrating third-party apps onto your website. Not all applications will integrate smoothly with your website's architecture. If a supposedly beneficial app or display slows your website down, your customers won't stick around to experience the added functionality.
6. Keep distractions to a minimum
Simplicity is a key element in quality web design, and your ecommerce store should reflect that, from the homepage to the checkout page. If your website is rife with superfluous images, heavy text and distracting animations, your users could become easily overwhelmed and stop paying attention to the most important things. Your ecommerce business website design should focus on usability rather than aesthetics.
The text should be as concise as possible, and it should highlight your value proposition at all times. The font and imagery should also follow the same trend. Ultimately, the purpose of your ecommerce website is to generate sales. So, keep the distractions light and let the focus be on the sale.
7. Blend in-store and digital experiences
Today's customers expect a seamless omnichannel experience from both big brands and small businesses alike. So, if you're to stay ahead of the competition, you'll need to ensure your customer experience strategy evenly cuts across all your brand's touchpoints.
An omnichannel strategy becomes even more important if you run an online store alongside a brick-and-mortar store. Even when customers come to make in-store purchases, they've probably checked for product availability or price in your online store or at your competitors'. If your website is difficult to navigate or offers a subpar experience, you could be losing customers, and you won't even know it.
If the current trend is anything to go by, brands are continually rethinking their floorspace to showcase their products rather than push sales. You could organize events such as product demos, contests, lessons, and influencer and advocate meet-ups. Even if your customers end up making the final purchase online, they'll cherish the tactile experiences exclusively online shoppers won't get.
Improve the online shopping experience with LimeSpot
LimeSpot is an advanced ecommerce merchandising suite that promises your customers personalized experiences every time they interact with your brand. The platform's numerous features and automation capabilities can drive a significant boost in your bottom line while helping you spend less time doing the menial tasks of merchandising. Below are some major ways LimeSpot can help you deliver personalized experiences, thereby ensuring customer satisfaction and converting casual shoppers into brand loyalists.
LimeSpot is capable of giving every one of your customers a unique browsing experience, whether they're assessing your website from their desktop or smartphone. It achieves this by:
- Showing customers the right products at the right time, based on their purchase history and replenishment preferences
- Personalizing every step of the customer's browsing experience, from the homepage to post-purchase recommendations
- Matching recommendations to suit each customer's specific needs
LimeSpot delivers personalized email marketing messages to all customers. First, it segments your customers based on their past relationship with your brand and allows your marketing team to tailor campaigns to suit each target segment. Furthermore, the platform gathers pre-and post-campaign launch data to give valuable insights on the success of your campaign and help you see if you need to modify your email marketing strategy. Summarily, LimeSpot can:
- Send personalized email campaigns and newsletters to each customer segment you set
- Send 1:1 recommendations to drive customers back to your site
- Seamlessly integrate with all major email service providers like Omnisend, MailChimp, Klaviyo, HubSpot, Shopify, Bronto, and more.
Powerful segmentation throughout the customer journey
LimeSpot understands that it's impossible to deliver personalized experiences without segmentation. The platform employs a variety of segmentation strategies to ensure that you deliver tailored content and campaigns to your customers based on their stage of the customer journey.
For example, you can change key messaging on the site for existing customers who are highly loyal (using loyalty program segments) versus encouraging a net new visitor to simply sign up for your loyalty program.
You probably already know that there are scores of competitors waiting to take your customers. As an ecommerce business owner, you need to be more intentional about adopting strategies that can guarantee better online customer experiences for your visitors. Even if you'll be expending more resources, you can rest assured you'll reap significant returns on your investment as long as you can get it right.