Sam Makad is a business consultant. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their businesses and overall ROI. You can follow Sam on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.
E-commerce magnitude have grown exponentially in recent years but so has shopping desertion rate, resulting in huge loss for eCommerce players. In the context of ecommerce its all about how a retail company manages the experiences and interactions a customer has across its online shop.
The E-commerce Customer Journey: Understanding the Basics
Ever heard of the e-commerce store, Keus, that dares to think out of the box or, in their case, lines? Its playful and casual website layout offers horizontal scroll features and sideways navigation. Go figure.
An out-and-out crazy e-commerce website, Studio Job, ups the "quirk ante" and sells art objects. This website has everything from in-your-face visuals and humorous content to unimaginable micro-interactions.
An e-commerce experience that's organic and conversational. That's Femme & Fierce for you.
An e-commerce shoe store, Toms, becomes a million-dollar entity by giving away thousands of shoes. How so? They hit gold by integrating audience engagement and social outreach programs into their marketing strategy.
And all these extraordinary examples are just the tip of the iceberg when transforming the customer experience. Don't believe us? Get this:
Lateral thinking. Check.
Innovative CX. Check.
Creating a dent in the hyper-competitive e-commerce universe, check.
As you may have guessed, today, we will look at how big or small brands have been enriching their customer journey from start to finish. Here are four handy tips to get you started:
1. Connecting the Dots: "e-commerce CX" with "ROI"
First things first, let's jump right into the numbers that matter and look at how e-commerce profitability gets affected due to positive and negative customer experiences:
Positive Customer Experiences:
- 2X the revenue: Billion-dollar companies can expect to earn over $700 million within a period of three years post investing in efforts that further their customer experience.
- Greater profits: Around 86% of buyers are ready to pay more for great customer experience - around a price premium of up to 13-18%.
- Increased customer retention: Happy customers will always come back for more. And that's good for the brand because research by HBR claims that "acquiring new customers is 5-25X more expensive than retaining them."
- Optimized marketing spends: Data by McKinsey claims that personalized customer experiences can deliver 5-8X the ROI on marketing spend and lift sales by 10%.
Negative Customer Experiences:
- Increased churn rates: 67% of customers mention bad experiences as a reason for refusing to engage with the brand.
- Bad brand image, increased losses: Around 39% of consumers will avoid vendors for over two years after having a negative experience. The business and profit losses this can translate to is a no-brainer - you do the math.
- Reduced time period to make "amends": As per Accenture's research, " Unhappy customers act fast — half quit doing business with a company immediately after a bad sales/marketing experience, one-quarter take to social media, and 54% start engaging with other companies."
Key Takeaway: The "customer experience-ROI" dynamics are as polarized as it is prevalent. Your brand may be, knowingly or unknowingly, experiencing "unexplained" highs and lows. If this is the case, it's time to return to the drawing board and revisit your CX strategies with a magnifying glass and laser-eye focus.
2. Mapping the e-commerce User Journey
A user's journey is how they interact with the brand before purchasing. It includes six stages that ultimately define the customer service landscape. These include:
In this stage, the customer is getting to know the brand. They'll bounce all over the place and try to gather as much information as possible about your brand.
First impressions, or "first clicks," can make all the difference. Take, for instance, Azteca Soccer’s homepage, which offers a 360-degree view of the products and combines great photography and bright colors to reel the readers in.
Why it matters:
A consistent and coherent homepage can empower customers to understand the options that are available at their disposal and whether or not they want to pursue the offering further.
You can use quantitative tools to understand buyer behavior/patterns at this stage. Also, remember that a user typically gets on your website through powerful social media campaigns or PPC advertising campaigns, so make sure the messaging and branding stay aligned.
In this stage, the customers are weighing their options so that they may get "filtered."
To help customers feel more connected with the brand and make faster decisions, provide all the requisite knowledge, offers, contact support, and deals they think the customer will need.
Bliss channels equal fun and knowledge to deliver a single-page, easily accessible website. Plus, it helps to bring the whole experience together by placing interactive images on the home page.
Why it matters:
A well-organized and super-categorized platform gives customers the freedom, space, and flexibility to choose what they like/dislike.
Typically, this is where the tectonic shift from low to high intent occurs, and the customer starts to decide. In a sense, it is an extension of the "Consideration" phase.
Consider the example shown below. Once the customer has browsed through the products and narrowed the choices to a specific one they like, they will add items to the cart. They’re now moving towards the concluding stages of the buying process.
Why it matters:
Creatively inclined online platforms that are amped up with great graphics and on-point product/service knowledge can empower customers to make an informed purchase decision. This instills greater user confidence and extends a feel-good factor throughout the purchase cycle.
This is the stage where the customer "checks out" and purchases as he likes. This is the end goal every e-commerce brand hopes to achieve with first-time and repeat buyers, that too, as seamlessly and conveniently as possible.
How positive customer experience impacts the user’s decision in this stage:
If there are instances of a customer abandoning the cart, friendly and informal emails such as this can lure the customer back to the purchase cycle.
Why it matters:
For E-commerce brands, having an inconvenient checkout process is like luxury brands selling stained bags and torn clothes at sky-high prices - unacceptable, right?
Typically, it is seen that pages that take too long to load or ones that require an infinite number of details from the customer can lead to a frustrated and unhappy on-looker. There is no point in guessing that the customer will abandon the ship sooner than later..err, we mean cart.
So, any E-commerce brand worth it's salt should conduct A/B testing and see what’s working for them, especially regarding the checkout page. Plus, sending friendly and informal emails like the example below can lure the customer back to the purchase cycle.
As demonstrated above, various factors come together to deliver an app/website that is easy to use, convenient and maximizes user satisfaction.
A great UI-UX-driven platform effectively translates a user’s emotions and attitudes relating to the product in question into the website's design and various other touchpoints that the user interacts with (Home Page, checkout page, payments page, accounts page, etc.)
All in all, a well-thought-out UI/UX with a hassle-free, preferably one-step checkout process - like Made’s clean and clear one-step checkout webpage - helps to ensure that the customer leaves the page feeling satisfied with reduced shopping cart abandonment rate.
A true customer is a returning customer. Getting first-time users to log onto your e-commerce website is great, but getting repeat customers to return for more is even better. In short, brands must focus on creating a loyal user base as organically as possible. This could be done by including an interesting and customized “Rewards Program” on the website that demonstrates to the users: “What’s in it for them?.”
One brilliant example that comes to mind is the rewards program by the brand, The North Face as highlighted below. Plus, the brand takes the program and user engagement one step further by creating a convenient app that allows customers to:
- Manage their account.
- Track the points amassed.
- Buy new products.
- Redeem rewards basis the points earned.
Why it matters:
Customer-friendly programs ensure repeat purchases, and the latter can help skyrocket profits and ensure the brand is moving toward a sustainable future. Loyalty programs, customized emails (Thank You, Birthday Discounts), etc., work wonders to ensure your user feels special and, above all, valued.
Very few brands reach the advocacy phase where users become self-proclaimed brand ambassadors and accept its offering no-questions-asked. The idea is simple. When you see customers recommending your brand to their friends and family voluntarily, the job is done. The next steps for the company should be to further expand its footprint and reach new audiences, preferably on a global scale.
Why it matters:
Sephora’s Beauty Insider’s Loyalty Program deserves a special mention here. Thoughtfully designed with a user-friendly mobile app, customers can use the loyalty card embedded in the app and redeem rewards for loyalty points earned. Needless to say, enjoying free samples and testers of new products make this program an instant hit.
That’s not all. The app and its website focus on the minute details such as "fast page loading time," sufficient inventory, useful product/service images, up-to-date and interactive content, hassle-free "guest" checkout, safe and secure payments to give the customers exactly what they want and more.
3. E-commerce CX Management: The Ultimate "Measurement" Factor
"Just because interaction with a brand takes place remotely on a personal device, the experiences customers have online are just as tangible and important for retail businesses to consider as the ones in-store." - Decibel Insight
Customer Experience Management may sound like a heavy-duty phrase, but it is deceivingly simple. Stripped down to its basics, it refers to how an e-commerce company measures and improves its interactions with the customer on its online platform.
But why should any e-commerce brand expend all that energy, effort, and resources to measure customer experiences out of all the things?
Given the rising customer expectations, here are three compelling reasons to consider:
- Data suggests that around 12 positive experiences can resolve one negative customer experience.
- 84% of customers expect to be treated like a person, not a number.
- Around 33% of Americans claim they would switch companies after just one instance of poor service.
If you wish to measure your brand's success, measure it in terms of your happy customers. To that end, it becomes imperative to understand the two most important factors that affect customer experience management and help companies to measure e-commerce customer experience. These are:
A. Qualitative factors:
- Reviews: These include customer reviews, feedback, opinions, etc. done via online surveys through mail/phone.
- Online chat interactions: Communication with the brand's support team can decode key user insights regarding motivation for purchase & emotions with products. Using the live chat feature, you can uncover valuable data surrounding a customer’s behavior from the chat transcripts. It also provides a glimpse into what the customers feel about your website/offering and whether their user experience has been satisfying thus far. Using these critical points of information, the team can deploy corrective measures and work on these insights (positive or negative) to drive the sales to funnel by helping them to move forward within the various CX stages.
Below is a classic example of how companies can use Facebook ads to redirect users so that they can converse with bots in case of any concerns/queries.
B. Quantitative factors:
- Insight-driven tools: Tools such as Hotjar help extract existing data from customer insights by leveraging innovative features like heatmaps, clicks, impressions data etc. These provide data about a user's on-page behavior, like where customers click, hover, and scroll. Plus, tools like Google Analytics can help to throw light on valuable data such as "Most-Viewed Product" sections, conversion rates, and churn rates, among other things.
Key Takeaway: Measuring Qualitative + Quantitative Insights = An Ultimate e-commerce Customer Experience that Mirrors the Customer's Sentiments.
4. Tried-&Tested Ways of Improving Customer Experience
If experience is anything to go by, there are two ways by which you can provide a stellar customer experience. These are:
A. A Long-Term Strategy, A Permanent Solution.
- Etsy: Offer a customized and personalized "Onboarding" program like the one by Internet's largest boutique store, "Etsy" to make a lasting “first impression” among e-commerce users. Its onboarding process looks something like this:
Step 1: Sign Up to get "Personalized Recommendations."
Step 2: Store "favorite" items to get better recommendations and return to buy later (if at all).
Step 3: Browse through "Editor Picks" if the "Favorites" section is empty.
- Skullcandy: Add a visible “Internal Search” section like the one on the top-right corner, complementing with smooth and familiar navigation.
- Fronks: Rethink and rework the UI/UX of the website to enhance the “user experience.” Go for simple, minimal, and fresh, like Fronks.
- ASOS: Streamline the checkout process and keep the "barriers" (sign up/mandatory registration/too much content/too many fields to fill) to a minimum. Plus, ensure that there aren't any errors on checkout, such as:
A. No sign up/login bugs.
B. No third-party payment platform failures. (A BIG TURN-OFF!).
Important: All ASOS did was remove the "Registration Process" from the page, and its checkout abandonment rate lowered by 50%!
- Whole Foods: Explore new customer support channels such as:
- An "FAQ" section.
- An integrated AI-enabled Chatbot like the one used by Whole Foods (as shown above). This Facebook Messenger Bot brings the best of recipes, ingredients, and cooking inspiration. Data suggests that the chatbot drives traffic to the website from Facebook, where people spend almost 50 minutes a day!
- Glossier: Encourage user-generated content as a beauty cult company Glossier does. By encouraging users to post their pictures on social media and leveraging the power of word-of-mouth publicity, their campaign resulted in 1,700 user-generated images and over 6,000 images accumulated over a period of one month. It also helps to crowdsource tips on future offerings and establishes a loyal fan base. In addition to using social media, you can build platforms such as forums & a community group for users to share their queries and exchange resources. Very, very powerful stuff if you ask us.
- Flipkart: Encourage e-mail marketing automation, which can be done by:
- Customizing the email template depends on the user’s purchase journey stage. It should ensure that it's in-sync with the reader as the mail from Flipkart displays (shown above). This email was sent right after Republic Day to instill a sense of patriotism among the users.
- 23andMe: Ensure continuous feedback collection:
- After every stage of user interaction, integrate the feedback collection procedure to receive more frequent views of users.
- Make an action plan for implementing feedback to e-commerce processes/offers.
- Target/Walmart: e-commerce giants such as Walmart and Target have invested in a fool-proof inventory management software that helps to:
- Reduce efforts from the shipping side in terms of multi-channel inventory management.
- Understand the minimum viable stock levels, Just-In-Time inventory, First-In-First-Out inventory, forecasting demand, inventory auditing, etc.
- Support users to get quality products at home.
- Integrate with CRM software to get an overall view of buyer persona which supports the marketing team to deliver personalized offers.
B. Leverage Customized Assistance, for "Real"
If you think real-time support is still optional today, think again. Here are the top-5 advantages of using a modern-day live chat support tool:
- Addresses query instantly and effectively.
- Provides customized and collaborative experiences.
- Facilitates seamless internal collaboration, especially between the support team.
- Ensures hassle-free routing of support requests to the responsible department.
- Helps support agents to cater to users in real time, armed with valuable inputs and past data from the dashboard.
Key Takeaway: Continuous and relentless improvements (graphic, design, user experience, support tools, etc.) in customer experience can ensure your customers become voluntary brand ambassadors of your company's growth story.
Writing is on the Cart, Umm...Wall
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” - Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
Consistent CX improvisations and technological interventions across the multi-dimensional "Brand-Customer" digital interactions can make or break e-commerce brands today.
Gartner predicts that around 60% of "Innovation-First" companies are already looking into ways to build their AI strategies. In comparison, the other 40% have already adopted automated solutions into their existing e-commerce model.
The future of e-commerce customer experience rests upon futuristic technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) & machine learning tools integrated with strategic customer experience enhancing strategies discussed above. So, if you wish to deliver meaningful value to your users to reduce churn and boost retention, try these tips and, above all, trust your instinct.
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