How Ecommerce Businesses Can Develop Great Online Customer Experiences

Image credit: Max Pixel

It’s a tough task to impress the average online shopper. By now, they’ve invariably had a taste of the finer things in ecommerce browsing, and they don’t want to settle for anything less than an exceptional buying experience with minimal inconvenience.

As a consequence, scraping by doing the bare minimum in design work simply isn’t viable — unless you happen to have an unshakeable grip on your industry, of course, which isn’t exactly the most likely scenario. The typical business faces tough competition in all aspects.

But how do you provide an exceptional buying experience? It’s a tough task, but it’s far from impossible if you make the commitment and follow it through.

In the post below, we look at how any ecommerce business can achieve outstanding user experience (UX) and keep its customers coming back for more.

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Provide strong customer support

Questions inevitably arise while shoppers browse online stores: questions like “When will this be back in stock?”, “Can you guarantee delivery before a particular date?”, or “Is there a way to get this in a different size?”.

If a store site fails to provide the necessary information, the shopper will have a worse experience, regardless of whether they choose to buy.

To combat this, a store website should anticipate questions and seek to answer them as clearly as possible, but there will still be support issues that need handling. That’s why a strong store brand needs a similarly strong level of support. 24/7 live chat support is fairly economical if outsourced sensibly, and is very reassuring for shoppers (a 2015 Zendesk study found a 92% live chat satisfaction rate, and tech has only improved since then).

Then there’s the prospect of using chatbots to make things even easier — Morph.ai is one of numerous ecommerce chatbot tools that can integrate with any modern CMS. Use the API to provide stellar customer support across all channels.

Offer robust on-site search

Even if someone arrives on a particular product page, they might not ultimately want that specific product. They might have been mistaken about what they were searching for, or have simply seen your site and found it likely that it would also stock their intended purchase.

A great ecommerce UX makes it easy for the shopper to search at any time so they don’t feel the need to return to Google and start considering other stores — and it uses natural language connections to interpret semantically-linked terms (a shocking 84% of the top 50 US ecommerce sites fail subjective search tests, so there’s a huge opportunity to excel).

It’s also important to think about other resources a shopper might be looking for. They might have just bought one of your products and be looking for a guide of some kind, for instance.

Again, you don’t want them to look elsewhere for that information: if you keep them on your site, you keep them in a position to place more orders and make you more money. A fantastic on-site search bar will get the job done, but you also have more scalable options like Algolia (or one of its alternatives) when you start to grow and your search needs become more sophisticated.

Give the shopper meaningful options pre- and post-sale

When we buy from traditional brick-and-mortar stores, we like being given tangible control over our experiences.

Imagine a rich buyer being escorted around a department store by an attentive assistant — if they want something done a certain way, the assistant will accommodate them. It feels good to be the main point of focus and get treated like a VIP. Online, a seller can’t really provide a store assistant, but they can give the shopper the power to take charge of their shopping experience.

Implement an intuitive filter so they can cut through the noise to find their ideal version of a product, include upselling and cross-selling options so they can buy more if they want to, and support as many shipping and delivery times as possible. The more customised the experience ends up, the more rewarding it will feel.

As well as customising the onsite customer experience, think about how you can use customer journey mapping to create better ads. On Facebook, advertising that matches a specific customer journey is much more compelling and likely to result in more conversions and sales.

Show comprehensive social proof

Social proof is immensely powerful. The more we’re convinced that our peers are choosing to do something, the more inclined we feel to join them — and the more popular a product seems to be with people like us, the more confident we’ll feel that it’s a worthy purchase.

It even affects how we feel about a product once we’ve bought it. Buy a 2.5-star product, and you’ll assume there’s something wrong with it, but buy a 5-star product and you’ll overlook its problems.

A great ecommerce website is fleshed out with social proof in the form of testimonials and reviews (one A/B study found that adding testimonials boosted conversions by 34%), with both summaries and in-depth accounts included (dotted with images and videos where useful). It’s easy enough to integrate this into your store (most ecommerce stores allow this functionality) and it adds hugely to the feeling of trust.

Ultimately, this makes for a more stable customer relationship; the more you believe that a store cares about selling you high-quality products, the more easily you’ll choose to buy from it again.

Speed up the checkout stage

The checkout stage of the online sales funnel is absolutely critical in various ways, and it bears noting that it decides the impression that each customer takes away with them. A store can offer a fantastic experience in general, but if the checkout is a major inconvenience, the lasting feeling will be one of frustration. That obviously isn’t a desirable outcome.

The smart move, then, is to cut out anything non-essential from the checkout, and ensure that everything is convenient as possible.

That means supporting plenty of payment gateways, providing clear information about the order progress (e.g. showing a breadcrumb so the shopper knows how close they are to being done), and following up the final payment with a clear confirmation that also sets out what the buyer can expect to happen next.

Developing a great online customer experience can certainly be complicated, but it ultimately comes down to gradual improvement. A store isn’t going to be perfected in one fell swoop. Attack the issues one by one, keep iterating, and the results will come.

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