Rewriting the Customer Experience Rulebook in E-Commerce

Creating consistent cross-platform retail experiences is one of the biggest challenges businesses face today. The expectation to deliver the highest quality content to everyone, everywhere, and in real time means brands are under continuous pressure. Inevitably, with pressure comes room for error. In this piece for RetailTechNews, Steve Gershik, CMO, inRiver, explains that getting and keeping customer attention is a constant tug of war for brands, even as a constant pursuit of information means that consumers consult multiple platforms before they make a purchase. 

Ultimately, customer experience (CX) will influence whether or not a consumer will hit the ‘buy’ button. It is imperative that this is at the very heart of the steps taken to optimise e-commerce channels. The end-to-end experience must be frictionless, from the initial search for a product right through to checkout.

Brands cannot afford to get this wrong; delivering personalised content on the right platforms in a timely manner is essential. But doing so is complex and brands are no longer judged against their immediate competitors, but compared to the very best in business at delivering an omnichannel experience. Marketers need to consider a vast number of variables: language, geography, and channel, to name a few.

According to recent research from PwC, 73% of consumers listed ‘experience’ as a top factor in their purchasing decision. Consequently, 32% of customers said a negative experience with a retailer they loved would drive them away.

When talking about customer experience, brands should look to e-commerce leaders like Amazon, Apple, or Target for best practices. Part of the success of these leading companies must be attributed to their ability to deliver seamless CX across touch points and channels. Brands need to be looking through the eyes of consumers when building and designing these programs and sometimes avoiding the following e-commerce mistakes can improve CX a lot.

So, what are some of the most common pitfalls in e-commerce and how do marketers avoid them?

Poor product descriptions

Consumers need detailed and consistent product information to inform their purchasing decisions. The online experience has to provide a level of confidence that matches, or exceeds, what retailers can offer in their physical store. Multi-view images that show context are essential. For example, furniture in a room or clothing on a model sets consumers’ expectations realistically about the product they are buying.

A lack of product information, descriptions or photos can deter a potential customer from buying. Realistically, if shoppers can’t find out what batteries a product requires, or what type of material something is made of, they’ll likely look to get that information elsewhere. Once a buyer finds better product descriptions on another website, they’re unlikely to come back.

Not optimised for mobile

Buyers are increasingly starting and ending their purchase journey on mobile devices. Google found that 73% of consumers will move from a poorly optimised mobile site to a more customer-friendly one to complete their purchase.

Still, so many images or pages don’t render correctly on a mobile device, making viewing difficult. This might also mean that pages are slow to load, navigation is difficult, or pop-up ads that are essential or helpful on the desktop version of the site, impede purchases. Buyers won’t hang around, waiting for this to improve – they will simply go elsewhere.

Poor discoverability

How can brands expect a customer to buy a product if it is difficult to find? Product content needs to be highly discoverable. Websites, landing pages, paid media, and all channels, need to be optimised to ensure that when a potential customer begins their purchase journey, they find what they are looking for – on your website and not on your competitors’.

Inconsistent cross-platform experience

Buyers often start their journey online and then purchase in-store. If they have a poor experience in one or the other, they’ll purchase elsewhere. Worse still? Brands might lose them forever.

Cross-platform consistency is key. A disparity between experiences across different media can be off-putting for consumers. Be sure to deliver the same experience and ease of use both online and in-store.

Complicated checkout

Checkout should be fast and easy. Using any information you already have about the buyer as well as clear and consistent forms help with speeding up the process. Post-sale engagements are also an important opportunity to continue the conversation with a customer. Whether this takes the form of confirmation messages, customer satisfaction surveys or offers of complementary products, the relationship is there to be harnessed.

A difficult checkout process can cost revenue. Even if the rest of the customer journey delivers an excellent customer experience, a poorly designed, slow, or complex checkout can turn buyers away in seconds.

The most successful e-commerce marketers will foster relationships with buyers, turning them into brand advocates. The sale is just one step in the process. A positive customer experience starts with excellent search, engagement, selling, checkout, and follow up and results in higher sales, increased customer satisfaction, and the increasingly elusive brand loyalty.