It started with the biggest ecommerce players, like Apple and Amazon, providing superior service, omnichannel consistency, groundbreaking products, and perks like free, fast shipping.
But what was revolutionary in ecommerce just a few short years ago is now the norm, and customer experience is something every ecommerce store, no matter their size, should be thinking about.
Competitive pricing and top-tier products are no longer enough to set your brand apart from the crowd. You need to be considering the end-to-end experience you give to your customers, and how that experience might influence their behavior and, more importantly, loyalty.
For brands who want to leave their competition behind, focusing on the customer experience can be the secret weapon that helps them get ahead. Not sure where to start? Read on for everything you need to know about using the ecommerce customer experience to your best advantage.
What Exactly Is Ecommerce Customer Experience?
Customer experience sounds like it should be all the interactions they have with a brand, from in-store visits to online shopping, app visits, customer service tickets, and more. But customer experience (for the purpose of this article, at least), is actually the perception customers create about a brand based on all those interactions.
That perception can reveal how customers feel about how your brand communicates and connects with them — which can also influence customers’ behavior. That’s why brands should pay close attention to their customer experience and make it as positive as possible.
There are two main types of customer experience:
- Pre-purchase customer experience, or acquisition
- Post-purchase customer experience, or retention
Both play an equal part in the importance of your company’s overall customer experience.
Why Does Customer Experience Matter?
In the digital age, customer experience has emerged as a critical differentiator for ecommerce brands — in fact, it’s been estimated that 2020 will be the year that customer experience overtakes price and product as the most important differentiator between brands.
That’s in large part because consumers’ tolerance for negative experiences with brands is at an all-time low. But there are other reasons it’s in a business’s best interest to try to provide the best customer experience it can.
According to Esteban Kolsky, 72 percent of customers will share a positive experience with six or more people. But when a customer has a negative experience with a brand, 13 percent of them will tell more than 15 people about it. That’s a lot of bad word-of-mouth.
The other challenge for brands is that research shows only 1 in 26 customers will complain after having a bad experience — the rest just leave. A third of shoppers say they’ll abandon a brand they love after a single bad experience, and 92 percent will refuse to ever shop from a brand again if they have two or three negative experiences.
The bottom line is that while having a superior product and competing on price are still important for today’s online merchants, they’re not enough on their own. Those factors are part of the overall customer experience, but ecommerce retailers need to be investing in every part of the experience to be better than their competition.
How Can Brands Provide a Great Customer Experience?
When deciding on tactics for creating the best possible customer experience, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you have to think omnichannel. Your experience needs to be not only high-quality, but also consistent at every touchpoint along the customer journey. For that, what you really need is the right tool — but more on that in a minute.
These tactics will help take your brand to the next level when it comes to your customer experience.
Know Your Customers
One of the most important things today’s ecommerce brands can do is know and understand who shops from them. There are many ways you should be collecting customer data, and simply gathering demographic and contact information isn’t enough. You need to give your customers avenues for providing direct feedback via:
- Surveys at the end of any and all customer interactions
- Engagement with customers on all platforms and channels you use
- Metrics from marketing tools that tell you the most effective ways to reach your customers
Make It Easy for Shoppers to Find What They Want
Today’s ecommerce shoppers expect a lot of product information, and that has the added benefit of making it easier to help them find the exact product they’re looking for.
Product pages should be rich with accurate, up-to-date product information, and products should be categorized and filterable to really help your customers see what you offer that fits exact specifications.
For this, you need product information management (PIM) software, which keeps product information centralized and up-to-date and makes it easy to distribute across channels, maintaining accuracy and consistency.
Optimize for Mobile and Other Channels
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Omnichannel consistency is the biggest key to a great customer experience.
Most ecommerce retailers already know that they need to optimize their websites for mobile users, but it’s equally important to optimize for every single channel you use. This is another area where good PIM comes in handy — when your product information is already up-to-date, distributing it to new channels as they arise becomes faster and simpler.
Personalize Interactions However You Can
As customers’ expectations for brands continue to rise, so will the need for personalized interactions. This is a great way to build brand loyalty. But while using customers’ names in communication is a great start, it’s not enough.
In today’s ecommerce landscape, part of providing a personalized customer experience is guiding shoppers toward content or products relevant to them and their interests. For example, if a customer buys a white TV stand from a furniture retailer, they might send that customer a follow-up email with personalized recommendations for white coffee tables and bookshelves that would match their new purchase.
Personalization is important, and it works. A recent OneSpot study found that 88 percent of customers feel more positively about a brand if their customer experience is personalized.
Make Checkout As Simple As Possible
Cart abandonment is a major struggle for many online retailers — some studies place the rate of shoppers who abandon items in online carts as high as 80 percent.
You can reduce the likelihood that your customers will abandon ship before checkout by making the checkout process as simple, streamlined, and frustration-free as possible. Limit checkout steps to one page, where shoppers can enter their payment and shipping information. Avoid making them fill anything out twice, like providing both a billing and shipping address if they’re the same.
And offering customers the opportunity to create an account or in some other way save their checkout information to reuse can help encourage repeat business.
Ship Fast and Free
It’s one of the biggest trends in ecommerce retail right now: Customers expect fast, free shipping. Amazon’s free two-day shipping for Prime members paved the way, and now this is just what’s expected of online retailers.
What customers don’t know, though, is that Amazon is able to meet that demand by having a network of distribution centers all over the country — something a smaller retailer simply can’t compete with. What you can do, though, regardless of the size of your store, is compare shipping methods and choose a provider who can help you ship items as fast as possible.
And free shipping is a perk customers expect — but if you have to raise prices to help accommodate free shipping, remember that many shoppers value a good customer experience over paying the lowest price when shopping online.
Offer Timely, Effective Customer Support
When people think of “customer experience,” customer support is probably one of the first things that comes to mind. This is a major area of focus when revamping your customer experience, and for good reason — rarely do customers reach out to support unless it’s because there’s a problem.
That’s why it’s so important to have customer support in place that provides timely, effective solutions to customers’ problems. This is your brand’s best chance to combat potential negative experiences, and turn them into positive ones.
Use the Right Tools
Your customer experience will only be as strong as the tools you use to provide it. In any ecommerce retailer’s arsenal, there should be a few key tools that will be invaluable for raising the bar on your customer experience.
First, you need customer relationship management (CRM) software. Ideally, this should include some automation and AI capabilities, so tickets can be handled and escalated appropriately. A good CRM will enable all your customer service representatives to manage and track feedback and relationships with customers, preventing negative experiences, building loyalty, and preventing churn.
Next, you should have tools that help you collect and analyze customer and sales data. This is necessary for providing the personalized customer experiences today’s shoppers expect.
And finally, you need PIM software to keep product information centralized and easy to distribute to channels as needed, maintaining consistency wherever you market and sell your products. The PIM software you choose should also help you analyze sales and marketing information, creating data insights that can help inform your overall omnichannel strategy.
Omnichannel Strategy Is the First Step Toward a Better Customer Experience
Before you can have a competitive customer experience, you’ll need to be as seamlessly omnichannel as your competition, and that’s no easy feat. Omnichannel best practices can drive increased revenue, improved margins, and a boom in sales, so if your business isn’t omnichannel, the time is now.
Ready to learn more? Download our free “Going Omnichannel” ebook today.