No matter your product or service, you’re most likely doing business online. It makes sense. With the world more connected than ever, being online opens up a whole world of customers you wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.
By 2021 it’s projected that 4.8 trillion dollars in sales will happen online. And by the same time, 2.1 billion people will be shopping online. There’s no question whether having an online offering is important, at this point—but for many, that’s as far as they’ve gotten.
Starting an online shop is a big undertaking on its own, and having a successful online shop is even more difficult. There are endless numbers of online shops, which means there are endless numbers of competitors. So, how do you get an advantage?
In this article, we cover why ecommerce customer experience is so critical and offer some tips on how to excel in an online environment.
The Importance of Your Ecommerce Customer Experience
In our eyes, there are two ways that customer experience comes into play so heavily in ecommerce: customer retention and brand perception. Though there are many other reasons to pay attention to your customer’s experience, these are two that impact the business directly and are worth focusing on.
Firing on all cylinders to attract new customers makes sense, especially early on when a strong user base is needed to grow the business. As the business matures, however, your best chance at growing is actually through keeping your existing customers. In fact, research has shown that companies that increased spending on retention over acquisition had a nearly 200% higher likelihood of increasing their market share.
Focusing on retention efforts is smart because on average, it costs your business five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Also, existing customers contribute more to your bottom line. One study estimates current customers are 14x more likely to purchase additional products and services when compared to new customers.
In another study, 80% of respondents said that customer experience was the biggest factor influencing whether or not to work with a vendor. To further the point, consulting firm Walker found that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price as the key differentiator for brands.
Just as being online gives you access to a whole new world of potential customers, that same power is extended to those who use your product or service. The internet gave birth to a multitude of review sites where customers can leave comments to encourage, or discourage, others from purchasing from you.
Which is exactly why your customers’ online experience needs to be front-of-mind: as business writer Michael LeBoeuf puts it, “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.”
When you provide a top-notch experience to your customers, it shows a commitment to them and starts building trust. Also, positive perceptions mean positive comments and reviews for others to see. One study found that 84% of people trust an online review as much as a friend or family member’s recommendation. The same study revealed that 91% of people read some form of an online review prior to purchasing.
You can probably verify this anecdotally in your own life: How do you feel about a product that has “just” four stars, versus one with 4 ¾ stars? Those comparatively small differences in reviews add up and impact brand perception mightily.
Improving Ecommerce Customer Experience
Now that we’ve covered why ecommerce customer experience is important and what areas of your business it most effects, we’re giving you five tips to improve.
1. Invest in Self-Service Options
Not only is your business becoming more tech-savvy, but so are your customers. With an increased level of comfortability, customers want the option to solve issues themselves. A Nuance Enterprise survey found that 67% of respondents preferred self-service over speaking to a company representative.
The best aspect of self-service to invest in is virtual assistants. The same study by Nuance Enterprise found that 71% of respondents prefer a “virtual assistant” (in this context, a chat bot that uses AI to suggest answers to common issues) to having to wait for a dedicated support agent to respond. It’s important because customers may become discouraged if they’re not able to find answers quickly. Having a virtual assistant can help empower your customers to find the answer they’re looking for and also reduce the number of calls to your team.
2. Personalize Interactions
It’s tempting to think that personalizing an experience is as simple as including someone’s name in the email you send them. Though that is certainly a baseline thing you should be doing, it’s not the only step required to delight customers.
Personalization in 2019 is about sending relevant product suggestions and offerings to your customer. It’s about a curated experience. According to Segment’s State of Personalization Report, 71% of respondents are frustrated by an impersonal experience. Going the extra mile to reflect a conversational tone in customer interactions and hyper-personalizing every answer to exactly what the customer needs makes a difference.
3. Be Where Your Customers Are
Customers want to be able to contact you on their terms. Some prefer phone, some chat, and some email. No matter what their preferred method of communication, if there’s a critical mass of customers on that platform you need to be able to join the conversation where they are.
According to a Dimensional Research study, 28% of those surveyed said being able to contact a company on their preferred channel was part of a good customer experience. Furthermore, the same study found that 27% said not being able to contact a company on their preferred channel contributed to a poor customer experience.
4. Optimize for Mobile
There are an estimated 5 billion mobile devices in the world, and half of those are smart devices. Ecommerce is growing at a rate 4x that of brick and mortar stores and is being driven by mobile purchases.
By 2021 it’s expected that online purchases will be done primarily on mobile devices. To make sure you capture customers on mobile, be sure to focus on two things: page load time and ease of making their purchase.
A study done by Google found that 40% of customers will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. The same study found that 59% of mobile users have a more positive feeling about companies whose mobile sites or apps allowed them to make purchases faster.
5. Measure Customer Satisfaction
We’ve covered a few ways to help improve your ecommerce customer experience. The above tips will be useful in almost any industry, but every company is going to have different needs and every customer base may vary in what’s most important to them.
With that in mind, the last thing you need to do is make sure you’re getting feedback from your customers, regularly. What metrics you’re trying to measure will be the driving force in what tool you use, but the NPS (net promoter score) survey has emerged in recent years as one of the top ways to measure customer satisfaction.
65% of companies measure NPS making it the most widely used metric for B2B and B2C companies. Since NPS surveys are only two questions, they’re very easy for customers to respond to. Lower response times for customers mean more customers take the time to give insight that your company can use to grow and move forward
Ecommerce isn’t going anywhere—if anything, it’s growing more quickly all the time and is a given in the business world today. With that rapid growth, it’s more and more likely that even if your product offering isn’t primarily online, your customers will interact with your brand online. To make sure you’re serving them (and your business) best, you need to invest in creating a top-notch ecommerce customer experience.
As we’ve covered, your online experience can impact your brand’s reputation and customer retention. To stay ahead of the curve, empower your customers through self-service options. Personalize your interactions and be where your customers already are, optimize for mobile, and ask for feedback. If you do, you’ll be on your way toward providing an incredible customer experience that will reward your business for years to come.