Ecommerce Customer Experience: Creating a Truly Great Experience for Users in 2021
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When Exxel Outdoors’ mobile traffic started really taking off, they noticed that the revenue wasn’t following.
The amount of effort it took their team to manage the various content and commerce systems — including WordPress and their prior ecommerce platform — across seven brands made ensuring consistency across desktop and mobile devices a Herculean task.
Exxel Outdoors’ staff knew this was the beginning of a long-term trend, not a short-lived fad — so they set out to address their mobile web experience by migrating from their prior ecommerce platform.
It turned out to be a good investment, as mobile visits and purchases keep rising.
Just one year after replatforming to BigCommerce and implementing a responsive shopping experience, Exxel Outdoors’ mobile conversion rate increased 272%.
“I’m obviously very pleased with our growth and I definitely attribute it to our re-platform and our new mobile sites.”
— Cory Barnes, Digital Marketing Manager, Exxel Outdoors
The clear message to retailers? A positive mobile shopping experience is table stakes.
What is Customer Experience Management (CXM)?
Gartner defines customer experience management as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed their expectations, leading to greater customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.”
While improving the mobile shopping experience contributed to skyrocketing conversion rates for Exxel Outdoors, that’s just one piece of a much larger puzzle. As competition continues to increase for shopper attention, customer experience management becomes more and more important.
CXM is really about managing the end-to-end customer relationship across their entire journey with your brand — including all the different channels with which you choose to reach them.
To craft a good customer experience (also referred to as CX), every interaction matters — from the emails you send to the customer service software you use and from your engagement on social media to how customers experience your online store.
57% of online shoppers say they’ve stopped buying from a merchant because of a bad experience, or a competitor that offered a better one.
Luckily, you don’t have to spend tons of money on developers and applications to provide a more customer-centric experience. Read on to learn about the business benefits of providing a better customer experience throughout the buyer’s journey, as well as factors to consider in crafting your CX strategy.
Why Customer Experience Matters
According to market research firm Forrester, brands that lead in retail customer experience are growing much faster than the laggards.
Exxel Outdoors’ more than 250% mobile conversion rate increase (and a 193% mobile revenue increase) is just one example of the significant growth potential retailers can tap into by improving their customer experience.
Let’s dive into some of the additional benefits of providing standout CX.
1. Strong customer retention and customer loyalty.
An exceptional experience is a differentiator that creates brand loyalty and reduces customer churn — and it’s key to giving ecommerce retailers a competitive advantage.
The success rate of selling to existing customers is 60–70%, compared to a 5–20% success rate with new customers.
On average, 43% of U.S. customers report spending more with the brands and retailers they are loyal to.
Customers will remember, and reward you for it with repeat business and by sharing their positive experience online and with friends and family.
Another major benefit of customer loyalty is that customer retention is more cost effective than acquisition.
It can be up to five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain the shoppers you already have.
You simply don’t have to invest as much money in advertising to an existing customer base. Instead, you can engage with them organically through your social media channels and use email marketing for regular touchpoints.
2. Higher LTV.
By offering the kind of experience that keeps customers coming back to your online store, you can avoid the potential revolving door of one-time customers and get more returns from your repeat visitors.
Loyal customers offer the opportunity for much higher lifetime value (LTV), sometimes referred to as Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
Loyal customers spend 67% more, on average, than new customers.
3. Free promotion.
Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to reach new customers. Today’s shoppers are more wary than ever of retailers’ marketing messages or paid advertisements. But 81% report they do trust personal recommendations from friends and family.
Satisfied customers will talk about you and your products — to their friends and family, through store and product reviews, and on social media.
11 Tactics for a Great Customer Experience Strategy
The customer experience isn’t limited to your ecommerce storefront — you have to think omnichannel. It encompasses every touchpoint across the customer journey, from the shopping experience to checkout and on through communications about shipping and delivery.
To compete in the retail landscape in 2020, CX must be addressed as a series of touchpoints across the entire customer journey — not just discrete, disparate interactions. CX is an integral part of creating an overarching impression of your brand.
While there will always be factors outside of your control, here are 11 things you can do to make sure your customers are receiving a high-quality experience they’ll tell their friends and family about.
1. Know your customers.
Understanding customer needs isn’t something you only do in the preparation stages of building your business. Retailers have to be prepared to respond to changing trends and adjust as the ideal customer profile evolves.
Work to understand your customers better through:
- Customer engagement. If you aren’t providing them with opportunities to provide direct feedback, you may be missing out on valuable customer data.
- Watching what they do — not just what they say. Pay attention to any metrics your various marketing tools can provide, like what ads they respond best to and where they drop off in the buyer’s journey.
You can get more feedback from your customers simply by asking them how you’re doing. Include feedback surveys on your site and invite comments and questions via post-purchase email communications to get more insight on the customer experience.
2. Make products easy to find.
For a great user experience on your online store, customers must be able to find what they’re looking for — quickly and easily — from your homepage as well as your category pages. That’s where product categorization and filtering come in.
Product categories refer to groups of like products. To effectively categorize your products for your audience, you have to know how they think about and shop for the products you offer.
If you’re selling apparel, think about whether your customers search by type of clothing item or by occasion. Often, you’ll want to structure your online store so that shoppers can explore products either way, depending on intent.
This can vary even within a certain niche. For example, some brands may be particularly known for their career-oriented clothing and choose to highlight that as a category, but for other brands that might not be a useful strategy.
“Keep it simple and as user friendly as possible. If you’re struggling to organize your products and categories, ask someone you trust for feedback. I like to picture walking into a brick and mortar store and speaking with a sales rep who asks me questions and can guide me to what I’m looking for. This is what your ecommerce store should do, or you’ll risk losing a potential sale.”
— Ailsa Chibnall, CEO, Border7
Once a customer chooses a category to explore, product filtering — also known as faceted search — provides a way to further refine product results by attributes like brand, price, color and size to narrow the number of search results.
“Product attributes can still be a competitive advantage. Big department stores like Amazon will not usually have the niche knowledge to create proper product filtering experiences. For instance, Amazon falls flat on the first page when I search for blocks that fit ½” line for my sailing hobby.”
— Adam Morris, CEO, Redstage
It’s easy to experience choice overload when faced with several pages of product results. Though it may seem counterintuitive, research shows that deciding among fewer choices is often better — both for sales and customer satisfaction.
3. Build great product pages.
The best product pages will strike a balance between providing all the information customers want about the product — without overwhelming them with information. A thorough description of the product, including details on dimensions, material, weight, and color, will help customers feel like they’re making an informed decision.
Product pages are also a great place to highlight benefits based on use case to help customers determine if the product solves their particular problem. Here’s how BigCommerce merchant Skullcandy did just that:
4. Solicit customer feedback and highlight reviews.
As noted earlier, word of mouth is a boon for your business because of shoppers’ lack of trust in marketing and advertising. The same applies at a product level.
Product reviews can heavily influence buying decisions. A shopper may want to know, for example, that a product material is 90% polyester and 10% spandex. But it’s much more helpful to see reviews from real buyers with their honest opinions about the product and its performance “in the field.”
5. Educate your shoppers.
If you’re an expert in your field, adding helpful, informative content to your ecommerce site can be the difference between confusion and conversion. With a good content marketing strategy, your site can be a resource for customers researching a new product or unfamiliar category.
BigCommerce customer Revgear, a retailer selling clothing, gear and equipment for Mixed Martial Arts, maintains a blog to accompany their storefront. The blog features posts like how to choose the right strength and conditioning gear or boxing gloves for your needs.
Source: Revgear Blog
Revgear is a great example of using content to educate customers so they can make informed decisions on product purchases.
6. Optimize for mobile.
We already made the case for the importance of mobile optimization, but to reiterate: if you want to capture your share of mobile shoppers, you must prioritize a positive user experience on devices like smartphones and tablets.
Responsive design, or web design that adjusts automatically to the size of the user’s screen, ensures that customers get a mobile experience similar in appearance and functionality to that on a desktop.
7. Make it personal.
Creating a personalized experience for your customers can increase their affinity for and loyalty to your brand. One element of personalization is addressing customers by name in your email communications. That’s a great place to start, but don’t stop there.
You can tap into the information you have about your customers to guide them toward content or products that are relevant to their unique interests. For example, if you know a customer frequently buys skincare products, you can provide them with relevant recommendations for new products they may like.
“Behavioral targeting is still the most impactful and least well-executed personalization tactic in ecommerce. Many companies do this at a basic level, implementing the core triggered emails like abandoned cart and browse abandonment emails. However, behavioral segmentation is limited only by your creativity and data utilization capabilities, and luckily, there are tons of tools out there that help with this nowadays.”
Personalization works. One study found that 88% of customers feel more positively about a brand if they receive a more personalized experience.
8. Simplify your checkout process.
A streamlined checkout experience is not only exponentially less frustrating for your customers, it also reduces the opportunities (and motivations) for them to abandon their cart.
Ideally, your checkout process should be contained within one page, including a variety of payment and shipping options. Avoid making customers fill out the same information twice, like entering billing and shipping addresses separately even if they’re the same.
More than half of customers say that filling out the same information more than once is the most frustrating part of the whole checkout process.
Offering customers the option to create an account on your site can add to their convenience. Knowing that their information will be saved (but only if they wish!) for ease of checkout on subsequent visits can encourage return visits. Particularly if they’re crunched for time or making a purchase on-the-go, customers may prefer to shop a store that already has their payment and shipping information.
The Hush Puppies ecommerce site doubles down on a simple but beautiful design to provide great functionality. One thing we love about it is their innovative shopping cart.
Adding an item brings up a window that shows the entire cart, as well as shipping information, the opportunity to enter a promo code, and total cost. The button leading to the checkout page reduces the number of clicks it takes to complete the purchase.
9. Send clear emails.
The customer experience doesn’t end at “Confirm Purchase.” It’s just the beginning of another stage of the customer journey.
Despite today’s relative comfort with ecommerce, online purchases can still be stressful — especially big or particularly meaningful purchases. The payment information is entered, the final button is clicked, and … now what?
Keep your customers up to date on the status of their order with clear but friendly confirmation, package tracking, and other necessary post-purchase emails. Make sure any links are clearly labeled and any required action on their part is highlighted.
10. Ship faster.
When ecommerce first emerged, it was a big deal to be able to visit a website on the internet, click a few buttons, and receive items right to our doorsteps. Shipping and handling took time — that was the trade-off.
Today, customer expectations have soared. In a world where delivery has, in some cases, been reduced to just hours, customers are rarely willing to wait 7–10 days. In fact, in a recent survey, only 3% of consumers were willing to wait more than seven days for their purchase.
That being said, fast shipping can’t come at the expense of quality.
Sloppy packaging is a huge turnoff for customers… a beautifully packed order is a marketing opportunity.
11. Provide timely, effective customer support.
In today’s always-on world, customers expect quick answers to their questions. Offering prompt and effective customer service and support is one of the best ways to boost customer experience.
According to this HubSpot Research survey, 90% of consumers want “immediate” responses from customer support, and 72% define “immediate” as “within 30 minutes.”
To improve your ability to provide excellent customer support, you need to be aware of every touch point you have with customers — from social media engagement, to emails, to on-site chat and more.
With all of these touch points in mind, make sure your customer service team has the resources and processes they need to offer a holistic support experience.
Some of the top tactics for improving customer support include:
- Including your business contact information on every page of your online store,
- Considering integrating a chatbot to address customer questions in real time, and
- Engaging with them on your social media channels.
“We’re seeing people convert as customers because they’re able to get their questions answered right away.”
— Andrea Burg, Ecommerce Manager, Savannah Bee Company
How to Measure Overall Customer Experience
While customers’ perceptions of your retail experience can be a challenge to quantify, there are several go-to metrics that you can use. These metrics are a great start to understanding the customer’s perspective on your offerings, service, and business as a whole.
1. Customer satisfaction (CSAT).
CSAT measures customer satisfaction with a specific product or service. Through multi-question surveys, retailers target specific aspects of the customer interaction like customer support experience, shipping and delivery, or product quality.
2. Net promoter score.
Net promoter score, or NPS, refers to the percentage of your customers who say they would recommend your business. NPS is widely used as a simple, scalable way to measure customer satisfaction.
Net promoter score is calculated by asking customers to rate, on a scale of 0–10, how likely they are to recommend your business to friends or colleagues. It differs from the customer satisfaction score in that it’s better able to measure a customer’s ongoing relationship with your business, as opposed to one experience in time.
3. Customer retention and loyalty.
Monitor customer churn and loyalty to measure how you’re doing with your intended audience. Some of the metrics used to calculate loyalty, retention, and churn include purchase frequency, loyalty program participation, average order value, and purchase return rates.
2 Ecommerce Shops Providing Great End-to-End Experiences
We’ve already viewed some great CX site examples, but here are two more that shine — from beautiful product pages to valuable site content and more, for a superb and memorable shopping experience.
Take a look at these online stores for inspiration as you think about how to optimize the customer journey for your own business.
1. Sierra Designs.
An ecommerce site for outdoor enthusiasts, Sierra Designs (one of Exxel Outdoors’ 10 brands on BigCommerce) provides a beautiful and effective shopping experience across devices.
Sierra Designs’ homepage provides two options for shoppers to navigate products:
- A consistent site navigation that categorizes products into Tents, Backpacks, Sleeping Bags, Apparel, and Collections.
- Categorization by intent or use case — “Weekend Adventurers” and “Seasoned Backpackers.”
Source: Sierra Designs homepage
Sierra Designs’ product pages also hit on a lot of the best practices discussed above. Let’s walk through an example of one of their product pages.
Source: Sierra Designs product page
Here are some of the highlights of this page from a customer experience perspective:
- Site navigation: the breadcrumbs in the upper left-hand corner serve to orient the shopper and allow for an easy return to higher-level categories.
- Payment options: Just under the price of the item, shoppers are informed of the option to choose an interest-free payment plan if they prefer.
- Product images: Each of their product pages has a variety of images of the product, including showing it in different colors, from different angles, and modeled on a real person.
- Product description: In addition to a snappy description just underneath the product image, it also provides easy-to-understand bullet points detailing the product’s features (focused on the primary use case for the product), materials, and technical specifications.
Beneath these details, the retailer also does a great job of featuring customer reviews:
Source: Sierra Designs product page
Their fully responsive ecommerce site also provides consistent functionality across all types of devices. Here’s another product page example, shrunk down to mobile size:
In developing their mobile functionality, Sierra Designs clearly defined the hierarchy of information on their product pages, putting the most important information at the top and making product options and the Add to Cart button clearly accessible.
For another all-around customer experience, we’re looking at BigCommerce merchant Baskits, a special occasion gifting retailer based in Canada. Here’s what their homepage looks like:
And here are some of the highlights that contribute to a positive customer experience upon a shopper’s arrival.
- Currency and shipping information: Take a look at the black bar at the top of the page. Though the company is based in Canada, Baskits makes it clear that they offer shipping to the U.S. as well. In addition, U.S. shoppers can view prices in their local currency.
- Personalization: One simple personalization tactic is to capitalize on seasonality. This screenshot was taken in December, and you can see a prominent, attractive promotion of their holiday gift collection.
- Product categorization: Baskits also does a good job of helping shoppers navigate the myriad other products they offer. In the navigation bar at the top, customers are offered options to browse by category or by occasion.
Baskits recognizes that selecting the right gifts can be a challenge. Further down the homepage, they provide even more options for shoppers to help guide them through the buyer’s journey.
As Exxel Outdoors migrated its sites to BigCommerce, the team saw a huge improvement in the shopping experience they were able to offer. In addition to finally being mobile responsive, the site also facilitated better product discovery for users as well as easier checkout.
In working with BigCommerce partner development firm Weizen Young, Exxel Outdoors was also able to retain its brand recognition. The firm modified existing BigCommerce templates to match the look and feel of the existing Exxel Outdoors sites.
The customer experience is made up of every single cross-channel touchpoint your customer has with your brand. A more proactive approach to CXM can be a differentiator for your business and win your customers’ loyalty.
The recommendations in this article can help guide incremental improvements to your customer experience, tailored to your specific audience, so you can watch the results roll in.
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