Customer experience has become one of the top priorities for ecommerce retailers, large and small. Mostly because consumers – specifically, younger consumers – expect the red-carpet treatment when they shop online. More than 80% of customers expect ecommerce businesses to anticipate and meet their shopping needs, and they’ll pay more for a better experience. What does that mean for online retailers? The more you focus on customer experience, but more likely you’ll see higher revenues.
What does all this mean? It means ecommerce companies need to focus on understanding their customers and improving their customer experience to keep those customers happily shopping. Here are nine ways online businesses can do that:
9 Ways to Improve Ecommerce Customer Experience
- Maintain Cross-Channel Consistency
- Use Personalized Communications
- Make Mobile a Priority
- Create a Smart and Easy Checkout
- Delight Customers with Content Offers
- Keep Customers Informed About Shipping Status
- Solve Problems with Detailed Product Information
- Share Customer Reviews and Feedback
- Adjust Ecommerce Platform Fraud Filters
1. Maintain Cross-Channel Consistency
Today’s ecommerce shoppers don’t rely on a single channel to make purchases. They may start browsing at home on their laptop and drop a few items in their cart. They might visit the store’s app on their mobile devices, and then they could see an add on social media and decide on a purchase there.
In fact, social media apps have provided an entirely new way for consumers to window shop and make purchases. Take Instagram Shop, for example.
The online store feature of the Instagram app offers customers a curated shopping experience where they can view trends, receive personalized recommendations, and take advantage of exclusive product launches.
Continuity between channels is critical – otherwise, customers get frustrated. To create a great ecommerce customer experience, businesses need to make sure the look, feel, and functionality of their online store is the same or comparable across channels.
This is especially true for newer online customers who didn’t shop online until the pandemic. In our original research, State of Consumer Attitudes on Ecommerce, Fraud & CX 2021, nearly 50% of respondents said that convenience and selection were key factors in their decision to shop online rather than in stores. The convenience of being able to find what they want without leaving their homes is hard to beat. Especially, when ecommerce companies offer a more personalized experience.
2. Use Personalized Communications
Remember, this is the customer “experience.” In the same way a sales representative is trained to welcome a customer into a store and make them feel that their business matters, a company’s online store should do the same.
To mimic that in-store experience, consider how effective chatbots and live chats with company representatives can be.
Leverage chatbot technology
If you want customers to stay on your site and make a purchase, you’ll have to provide a way for them to get their questions answered. Chatbots can do that by using natural language processing to answer customer questions in a natural manner. The chatbot market is expected to grow nearly 25% through 2028 as a result of businesses looking for ways to engage customers more efficiently.
For companies that sell into other countries where English isn’t the only language spoken, make sure your chatbot is multilingual.
But just implementing a chatbot isn’t enough for today’s ecommerce reality – it has to be customer-centric. What does that look like?
Customer-centricity is critical
A customer-centric chatbot uses real-time and historical customer behavior and purchasing data to tailor conversations to the customer’s interests, needs and purchase history. It makes accurate recommendations, delivers personalized answers to customer questions and focuses the interaction on customer needs.
This type of personalization is important to younger customers. In our original research, we discovered that the demand for personalization is especially high among Gen Z and millennial shoppers. At the same time, customer-centricity and personalization also means understanding that Gen X and Baby Boomers don’t want the same level of personalization. These demographics are less trusting of technology. They’re reluctant to share data in the first place, having been warned against it for years.
Another area to consider is mobile commerce.
3. Make Mobile a Priority
Remember when ecommerce companies were wondering if they should invest in mobile apps? It wasn’t that long ago, and look at how far we’ve progressed along the technology trajectory for online shopping.
As we come closer to the holidays, experts predict that mobile commerce, or M-commerce, will account for 50% of holiday sales in 2022. Our research shows that 40% of consumers always have their mobile phones with them when they shop online, and another 26% have them more than half the time.
Mobile is here to stay.
That means companies need to think about how to balance the need to make their mobile shopping experience easy, interesting and recognizable. Aside from making sure to optimize page load times, here are two primary ways to create a better mobile experience:
Focus on navigation that is easy to use and think about search versus filter functionality. Search options are great, but customers can get lost on your site. Side or top filters help customers identify where they are – especially less experienced online shoppers – so they’re more likely to find their way to their shopping cart.
Offer digital wallets
Digital wallets eliminate the need to key in card data and facilitate billing and shipping address auto-population. Our findings show that over 70% of consumers prefer digital wallets to card payments.
This is particularly true for younger shoppers, who typically don’t have a credit card handy when they shop. Having to find a physical card and enter data adds friction and can cause cart abandonment. With a digital wallet, the information is already stored.
Another factor is your checkout.
4. Create a Smart and Easy Checkout
A business can create a superior ecommerce customer experience … and undo the entire effort with a poor checkout experience. In fact, 61% of customers cite problems with checkout as the reason for abandoned purchases. That ease, friendliness, and personalization in the online store needs to extend right through to checkout – and beyond.
of customers abandon purchases because of poor checkout process
Offer digital wallets with links to PayPal, Amazon Pay, GooglePay, and other payment processing partners. Also include payment options that appeal to older customers, such as traditional credit cards.
We find that small ecommerce businesses tend to offer a limited number of transactions while enterprise businesses have a better understanding of what their customers want. Midsize businesses tend to offer a few too many options, which can overwhelm customers. The lesson? Find a balance.
Don’t forget to clearly spell out return policies and provide multiple ways for customers to ask questions and report issues. This not only helps create a better checkout, it also reduces the likelihood of friendly fraud and chargebacks.
Want to keep customers excited? Offer them something special.
5. Delight Customers with Content and Offers
Everyone loves to be pleasantly surprised, especially customers. Content that’s engaging, fun, and even educational makes a business’s online store more attractive and, inherently, provides a better ecommerce customer experience.
How to do this? Offer discounts for first purchases, holidays and quirky celebrations unique to the brand. The idea is to keep customers interested enough to come back, make more purchases, and rave about a business’s brand and online shopping experience.
It's important to note that policy abuse — such as gift card fraud, return abuse, wardrobing and coupon abuse — is increasing. You’ll need to make sure you have solid fraud prevention tactics to detect any uptick in those attempts, particularly during the holiday season.
Make sure you factor in holiday shipping delivery window changes as you plan promotions and set order-by dates. You may also need to adjust pricing because of shipping surcharges, but consumers may be more price-sensitive this year as inflation affects their budgets. This is another case where using data to understand your customers can help you make optimal decisions, like determining how much price matters to each segment or persona.
Speaking of shipping, let’s dive a little deeper into that.
6. Keep Customers Informed About Shipping Status
Think about the shipping issues that have plagued the ecommerce industry during the pandemic. How a business communicates stock issues or delivery delays can make or break the customer relationship. Connect inventory management data to product pages so customers aren’t unpleasantly surprised by an out-of-stock notification after they put something in their cart (or worse, after they complete their purchase).
Shipping is a little trickier, especially for businesses that dropship. Work with manufacturers and warehouses to link product availability and shipping timeframes to product and checkout pages. Keep customers up to date with tracking numbers and links to major shippers. In general, it’s not the delays that irk customers the most – it’s the lack of communication.
Now factor in cross-border ecommerce. In countries like Russia and Australia, where shipping times vary greatly and there are fewer major shipping hubs, the time it takes for a product to reach the customer may involve a best guess.
Your best bet is transparency and detailed information.
7. Solve Problems with Detailed Product Information
Customers are ultimately shopping to solve a problem or problems they have. Before a business even begins to market their products, they should know what those problems are and how their product or service solves them.
Understand how the product will be used – the use case – and describe the product in such a way that its details, dimensions, weight, color(s) and other features help the customer resolve their problem. Remember to consider how products can be filtered and featured together to solve problems. For example, by color, by size, by fit, by season and so on.
Retailers are finding themselves in unfamiliar positions — some are unable to stock in-demand products, and others are snapping up more than they normally buy when they can find them. Since the pandemic, supply chain issues have presented a challenge for businesses across the product lifecycle.
For companies whose popular products are running low, it’s important to optimize customer recommendations for in-stock alternatives. Personalized suggestions can keep the customer on the website even if the item they came to get isn’t available. Retailers who’ve gambled on stocking more product than usual because it was available can also use personalized recommendations to promote those in-stock items as cross-sell and upsell options.
It probably doesn’t matter if the recommended products are the same brand as the unavailable items. According to Oracle, 85% of young Britons, for example, say they’d rather buy a product from a different brand than wait for their preferred-brand product to arrive.
The bottom line: Customers want to find what they’re looking for or a close-enough alternative. Customized recommendations make that process easier for them.
8. Share Customer Reviews and Feedback
Customers are more likely to believe and trust the opinions of other customers over a business’ messages, so they look for that type of content when they are shopping. Businesses can improve their ecommerce customer experience by featuring reviews and feedback on product pages and throughout their site.
Recent research shows that 94% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a business that receives a positive rating. However, they need to read 40 online reviews before they believe a business’ average star rating.
: The number of reviews a merchant needs to have for customers to believe its average star rating
Businesses should make a point of soliciting reviews, user-generated photos and more from their customers. The great reviews will help customers feel more confident in their purchase. And the not-so-great reviews? They’ll provide the seller with priceless data on how to improve.
Another factor is social media and influencers.
Social commerce has become wildly popular, because it’s so highly personalized and shareable – but also due to the impact influencers can have on brand affinity. Ecommerce businesses should consider a social commerce presence that includes influencer marketing and advocacy, as well as a strategy that aligns your brand with customers’ values, expectations and goals.
9. Adjust Ecommerce Platform Fraud Filters
One of the most important ways to improve the customer experience is to prevent fraud and false declines. Gen Z is especially vulnerable to online scams that lead to identity theft and account takeover fraud – a 2021 study found that 15% of people aged 18 to 29 were victims of identity theft.
Equally concerning is the number of false declines this same generation experiences. Young consumers are subject to twice as many false declines as other age groups, according to our research. From March 2020 through March 2021, 48% experienced a decline of at least one online order, compared to 21% for other age groups.
When it comes to Gen Z and millennials, false declines cost businesses the long lifetime value of those customers. Consider that 44% of Gen Z shoppers will stop shopping with an online store after just one false decline (compared to 39% for all other ages). And 42% of them will also complain on social media about the experience. That’s almost 10% than other age groups.
So, what do most companies do? They rely almost exclusively on the fraud filters that come standard on their ecommerce platforms. Not a good idea.
While these filters can be helpful, businesses need to incorporate them into a larger fraud prevention and protection strategy to make sure those filters are not damaging the ecommerce customer experience on their site. Left unchecked, these filters can cause more false declines and reduce the number of impulse buys, which are the lifeblood of many online company stores. Instead, those ecommerce platform filters should be used as a mechanism for flagging potentially fraudulent orders.
A comprehensive fraud prevention strategy like ClearSale’s solution combines machine learning and AI technology to automatically approve nearly 97% of transactions. The orders that are flagged by fraud filters and our system then undergo secondary review by our team of over 1,500 fraud analysts who’ve successfully fought fraud in some of the most high-risk regions in the world. And the intelligence gleaned from those reviews is fed back into the system to further improve our algorithm and increase client revenues while delivering superior customer experience.
Find out how customer behavior has changed
State of Consumer Attitudes on Ecommerce, Fraud & CX 2021 Report