(This is a guest post created by guest post author Travis Jamison)
The link between customer experience and eCommerce success is undeniable.
The more enjoyable a shopper finds interacting with your brand, the more likely they are to:
- Stay on your site
- Find a product they like
- Complete a purchase
- Recommend your store to their friends
- Become a loyal customer
- Leave great reviews for products and your site
Your brand is likely to provide several digital touch-points for your prospective customers. Each of them plays an important role in your sales funnel. However, when it comes to facilitating the above goals, none of them are more important than your website.
That’s why customer experience needs to inform every single design component, technical feature, and interaction point that your site delivers.
If you’re intent on creating a positive experience for your (prospective and existing) customers, read our eight helpful tips.
Also, do yourself a favor and take a look at the best eCommerce platforms on the market today. Creating a great customer experience is that much easier if you choose the right tool for the job.
What Is Customer Experience
Don’t confuse customer experience with user experience. These two terms are occasionally used interchangeably, but they are very different in both definition and objective.
Customer experience is the cumulative effect of all interactions that a customer has with your business as a whole. Customer experience includes the entire support team, every product or service delivered, and even packaging and delivery.
Ultimately, customer experience is a qualitative assessment made by the customer when they think about their interactions with your business.
User experience, on the other hand, is one aspect of customer experience. It refers to the quality of interaction that a shopper has with your website or mobile app.
Some of the tips we discuss here will touch on user experience, while others will focus on the broader topic of ensuring your customers have a fantastic experience with your brand.
Let’s get to it.
8 Tips for Improving E-Commerce Customer Experience
1. Don’t Overwhelm Visitors Visually
When designing your eCommerce website, it’s tempting to pack your pages with as much information as possible.
Don’t fall into that trap. You’ll only make it harder for visitors to find the products or content they’re looking for. Add too many elements, and you’ll confuse prospective customers and increase the likelihood of a drop-off in conversions.
Keep your on-screen messaging to a minimum. Show only the essential information, buttons, messages, and triggers.
Always remember that your site exists for one predominant reason – to convert visitors into customers. As you start compiling your site’s visual building blocks, never stop interrogating the necessity of each component.
Think about every single on-screen element from a customer’s perspective. Is it something they want to see? Is it something that can help them find the information or products they’re looking for? Or is it just “nice-to-have” decoration and eye candy?
Every element on your website should be there for a purpose. If it doesn’t directly move your brand closer to making a sale, it shouldn’t be there at all.
Image source: blissworld.com
2. Address Common Concerns Head-On
A customer’s mindset makes a very real contribution to the experience they have on an eCommerce site. As a first-time visitor browses your various pages, looking for an item that catches their fancy, they’re likely to have nagging concerns about doing business with your site in the back of their mind.
This is not the mindset you want them in. To cultivate a great customer experience, you need to address some of the most common concerns as early as possible.
Use a combination of navigational cues and prominent messaging to let shoppers know that you’re aware of their worries and how you intend to address them.
Let’s take a look at three frequent shopper concerns and how a particular online store dealt with them.
General payment FAQs
Bay Alarm Medical has dedicated an entire section of their Pricing page to answering the kind of questions that are likely to pop up in a first-time customer’s mind.
Image source: bayalarmmedical.com
When signing up for a service, certain skeptical shoppers may have very real concerns over issues like:
- Insurance coverage
- Free trial periods
- Plan choice flexibility
- Service cancellation
- Refund policies
- Price stability
Every single one of these questions has a clear answer that’s expressed in simple, concise language. Bay Alarm does a great job of shining a big, bright spotlight on these issues, putting their prospective customers’ minds at ease for the duration of their shopping experience.
It’s simply not as easy to return a product that was bought online as it is to return it to a brick-and-mortar shop.
Prospective customers know that returning a product for a refund can be a tedious, unpleasant process. Especially if the online retailer makes it difficult for them.
The answer, take a leaf from Peter Christian’s book and offer a “No-Quibble Money-Back Guarantee” on all the goods sold on your site.
A policy like this helps put prospective customers at ease that their convenience and peace of mind are high on your list of priorities.
79% of respondents in a study conducted by Walker Sands said that free shipping would make them more likely to shop online.
The cost of actually getting goods delivered to them is one of the biggest concerns for online shoppers. Any eCommerce site that doesn’t take this into account is leaving money on the table.
Make it known that you’re aware of their concerns and are doing what you can to minimize them. Let them know that you’re committed to getting products they want into their hands without hitting their bank accounts too hard.
Most online retailers approach this issue by offering free shipping under certain conditions – typically an order value threshold.
If you’re willing to take care of shipping costs, make it extremely clear on as many of your site’s pages as possible. Don’t wait until your shoppers are looking at their shopping carts before telling them that you’re taking care of this concern.
No matter where you are on Bearpaw’s site, you see a floating header element that says “FREE GROUND SHIPPING ON ORDERS OVER $49”.
Clicking on this link takes the user to an “Ordering and Shipping” page that outlines the retailer’s generous shipping policy.
3. Offer Multiple Payment Methods
Offering many different methods to process a payment is a great way to show customers that you genuinely care about their experience on your website.
Not all of the visitors to your online shop have the same preferred payment methods. Some like to pay with their credit cards, while others prefer using PayPal. Some have Google Pay accounts, and others like to use Apple Pay.
By going through the effort of integrating as many of the web’s payment processors with your store as possible, you’re not just reducing the chances of losing a sale. You’re also showing your customers how much you care about their shopping experience.
This is an issue that Somnifix has gone to extreme lengths to address.
Image source: somnifix.com
The online sleep-aid retailer has enabled no fewer than 13 payment services in their store, thereby ensuring that they offer as comfortable a shopping experience as possible to the majority of their target audience.
4. Provide Customer Support Via Social Media
63% of customers expect companies to offer support through social media.
90% of all social media users have contacted a brand via one of their social media accounts.
71% of people who have interacted with a brand via their social media channel say they are likely to recommend that brand to their friends.
It’s pretty obvious what these statistics mean for your online store. Don’t hesitate to integrate your social media accounts with your support desk. Make sure that your customer service team is always on-hand to answer queries from would-be shoppers who have found your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter profiles.
These days, support via social media is non-negotiable. If your priorities are to deliver a truly world-class customer experience, you can’t afford to overlook this critical communication channel.
5. Give Shoppers a “Better Than Real Life” Experience
Online shopping enables certain functions and features that can’t be replicated in the real world.
Given how many constraints you’ll face when selling your wares online, it would be a massive mistake not to use the unique benefits to your advantage.
Technology allows online store owners to get creative when designing the interactive elements that comprise their websites.
So, if customer experience is a priority for you, go the extra mile. Give your site visitors something that they won’t be able to find in brick-and-mortar stores.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Real Thread sells custom-printed t-shirts. In the “real world,” it would be virtually impossible for a customer to get an idea of what their selected graphic would look like once it’s been printed on a shirt. They’d have to use their imagination and simply trust the printer.
Image source: realthread.com
On the company’s website, however, customers can get a realistic glimpse of what their purchases will look like. By uploading an image and manipulating its placement, customers can easily see how the printed graphic would suit various types of clothing.
6. Enable a Great Mobile Experience
More than half of your customers are likely to shop using a mobile device. So, to offer a great customer experience, you need to make your website as mobile-competent as possible.
There are plenty of techniques for adapting web pages so that they can be viewed optimally on handheld devices. Primarily, these techniques focus on usability and content readability.
If your customers can’t access the merchandise they want with a simple tap or two on their phones or tablets, they won’t be sticking around for long.
At the same time, if your store’s mobile checkout process is cumbersome and annoying, shoppers will be abandoning their carts in droves.
For an example of an online retailer that offers an unmatched mobile shopping experience, look no further than Black Diamond Equipment.
Image source: blackdiamondequipment.com
This company, which specializes in high-end adventure sports equipment, has created a mobile customer experience that’s practically flawless.
7. Be Available to Your Customers
Few things say you care about customer experience as being easily contactable in person. Sadly, this is something that many online store owners forget when they’re building their brand’s sales and support layers.
There’s a tendency to want to hide behind social media profiles or email addresses instead of being contactable by phone or an in-person chat feature. The truth, however, is that customers like having the option of speaking to someone who can give them direct advice and answer questions in real-time.
If you want your customers to love your business, they need to be able to reach at least one person who can provide answers whenever questions arise. For new websites, in particular, answering customer support queries as soon as possible is a critical part of establishing the credibility and trustworthiness necessary for a great customer experience.
Rain or Shine Golf scores a hole-in-one with their approach to customer support. The online retailer’s Contact Us page is a thing of beauty, offering shoppers more ways to get in touch than they’ll ever need.
Image source: rainorshinegolf.com
8. Make Sure Your Site Loads Quickly
This is an often overlooked aspect of creating a great customer experience. With mobile and wireless network speeds increasing, it’s easy to forget how big a role load times can (and do) play when it comes to online retail success.
If you’re still unconvinced about the relationship between load time and conversion rates, have a look at Cloudflare’s excellent roundup of statistics on the topic. The link is undeniable.
There are several ways to optimize your website for performance (as detailed in this excellent piece by Moz), with the following four being the most common:
- Enable browser caching
- Make sure images are optimized
- Enable website compression with GZIP
- Don’t use unnecessary plugins, extensions, and add-ons
If you’re interested in seeing how your site fares in terms of load times in comparison with current industry benchmarks, head over to GTMetrix for detailed performance analysis.
Customer experience and eCommerce success are inextricably linked.
It’s a super-simple concept, really. You want more of your site’s visitors to become customers and your existing customers to come back for more. So, you’ll need to give them a better overall shopping experience than any of your competitors.
Customer experience is about more than just convenience and ease of shopping. It’s about making your shoppers feel like every aspect of their journey has been shaped for maximum convenience.
If you approach eCommerce with a customer-centric mindset, you’ll be in great shape to provide the shopping experiences that customers crave.
Travis Jamison is an entrepreneur turned investor. After selling a couple of businesses, he shifted his focus toward investing. But he was disappointed by the lack of options for entrepreneurial-type investments – like buying websites & investing in small, bootstrapped businesses. So he started Investing.io to provide a home for other entrepreneurs turned investors.