Customer experience has become the next battlefield for brands!!

Those days are over when companies were competing solely on product, price and promotion. Brands that get this fast and right will go on to create long lasting customer relationships.  

Today, customers want brands to move one step forward and anticipate their needs. Customers look for delightful and memorable experiences when they shop online from their favorite devices. 

Based on market research, “57% of online shoppers said they’ve stopped buying from brands because of a bad experience, or a competitor that offered a better one.”

Online has taken the center stage of how customer relationships are nurtured or lost. “PwC’s survey reported that a third of customers will abandon a beloved brand after just one bad experience. But at the same time 65% of respondents said a positive experience is more persuasive than the best of advertising.”

This explains the far-reaching effect of a great customer experience.

Table of Contents

What is eCommerce Customer Experience Management?

“Customer experience management (CXM) is the management of customer interactions through each physical and digital touchpoint in order to deliver personalized experiences that drive brand loyalty and increase revenue.”  David Clarke, who was the Global Chief Experience Officer at PwC.

With reference to e-commerce, customer experience management relates to how effectively a brand manages to engage its customers across the web. This often influences their future behavior.

The first thing that comes to mind when we think of eCommerce is Amazon. 

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job to make the customer experience a little bit better,” says Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, the largest e-commerce retailer by online revenue in the world. 

Here is a great example of a great eCommerce customer experience.

Thelipbar.com

For people who don’t know, The Lip Bar was rejected in the ‘shark tank’. However, it came back with a vengeance in the form of eCommerce. They applied branding and social commerce knowledge to their online experience for success.

They started to offer an excellent customer experience with a clean and product-photo focus. They developed their website and made it look like scrolling through a social feed which is a great plus point. To make it easier they added the product reviews, social proof, comments, and ratings throughout their website. To give a great video experience, they started to add tutorial videos to show how to utilize their beauty products.  All this went a long way to create a great customer experience.

According to UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper White Paper – 

‘55% of online shoppers tell friends and family when dissatisfied with a product or company.’

 This just explains how important it is for the eCommerce industry to offer an excellent customer experience.

 Every stage in the entire online buying journey is very critical. Every step, from how customers search for their products and assess options, personalized support, informative content, influencer inspiration to buy additional items, and finally to after-purchase support, becomes important.

For instance, Clootrack has listed the top 5 features that are most essential for an online cosmetic website based on customer feedback.  It is very evident that customers want a wide range of choices, excellent delivery, and returns as part of their online shopping experience.

Why Does Customer Experience Matter?

Because 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.

We need to match rising customer expectations in the round, because what they see in one part of their lives they expect to have mirrored in another. Unless we can keep up with the highest customer expectations and the fastest movers both inside and outside of the financial services industry, we will lose out to competitors who can.” Steven Cooper, ex-CEO for Personal Banking at Barclays, whose team was overseeing the accounts of 17 million people.

For example when Clootrack conducted a consumer experience analysis for a bank, it was astonishing to see how customer priorities were changing month on month.

The top customer priorities of the first month had changed drastically within a span of 1 month. Surprisingly the ease of UPI payments which was the second top driver in the first month was no longer a priority in the second month. Whereas in the third month a new category driver, interest rates,  came suddenly out of nowhere. 

Just imagine if the bank had not undertaken a continuous tracking of the voice of the customer, they would probably have worked on priorities that no longer had the same priority for customers.

2. Continuous Customer Feedback Brings Alignment of Stakeholders’ Decision in a Data-Driven Way 

Customer experience has pushed companies to become competitive and highly customer-focused. Today, no business is denying the fact that delivering exceptional customer service is important for a company to achieve its business goals. 

But sadly, there are many eCommerce websites that do not even plan to offer the basic capabilities such as an easy website search and navigation, or for that matter clear product information. 

eCommerce brands have come to learn that customer experience matters in many ways:

  • Increases revenues
  • Strengthens brand preference
  • Deepens customer loyalty
  • Lowers costs by reducing customer churn 

No doubt, customer experience is the new path to go. And more so because – 73% of companies with above-average customer experience perform better financially than their competitors.

How COVID-19 Has Significantly Impacted Shopping Habits?

“I have always gone grocery shopping in the store, and I might use Instacart now instead to avoid germs”. 

This is what we hear from customers who were long shopping in a store.

According to Nielsen data, in the US, 

“Online sales of consumer packaged goods were up 60% in April 2020 compared to April 2019.”

 Food and drink leader Nestlé said e-commerce grew 49% in the first six months of 2020 to record a sales of 12.4% higher compared to 8.5% in 2019. In spite of having to close some of their Nespresso boutiques, they saw sales up in the first half mostly driven by e-commerce sales that offset stores decline. 

Not just in the US,  but even the European consumer company, L’Oréal has experienced high online sales – a 65% surge in sales in the first half of 2020. In May and June 2020, e-commerce sales were higher by 75% and 82% respectively. For the rest of 2020, L’Oreal has identified e-commerce as the main driving factor for its expected market growth. 

All over the world, eCommerce, across all sectors, has surged in 2020 as the pandemic-weary consumers are going online to shop for everything – from a hand sanitizer up to groceries and skincare products. 

The covid-19 crisis is triggering significant changes in consumer behavior – in the way people travel, shop, dress, and eat, and many of this will continue for a long time to come.

How Will eCommerce Look Like after COVID-19?

Very soon–hopefully, much sooner than most of the predictions – the coronavirus virus crisis will pass. However, the extreme changes brought by the pandemic will last well after we have defeated the virus. 

Steve Rowe, the CEO of Marks & Spencer says,

“High street shutdown has changed some shopping habits “forever”.  He goes on to say that the pandemic would accelerate the switch from store to the internet. Furthermore, it would trigger big shifts in how people shopped, dressed, and dined.

We can relate this to the SARS crisis in 2003. SARS is greatly responsible for kick starting eCommerce successes such as Alibaba’s. It was Alibaba that launched its online marketplace when most of the consumers were home quarantined. Similarly, JD Multimedia which is now JD.com, moved from offline stores to online mode as a response to SARS – the rest is history, JD is now one of China’s largest retailers and is called the Amazon of China. It was the SARS pandemic that triggered the buyer behavioral change, making the internet the mass medium in China.

Post-covid, companies are facing the existential challenge where digital experience will play a larger role in ascertaining which retailers survive. The extent and level of digital experience that brands provide to their customers will be directly proportional to their ability to win new customers as well as to retain current customers after the crisis has passed. 

How Customer Experience can be a Differentiator?

Arnold Schwarzenegger once said,

“The worst thing I could be is the same as everybody else. I’d hate that.” So why should brands give customers the same experience they could get anywhere else? They’d hate that. 

81% of companies view customer experience as a competitive differentiator.

With more buyers shifting to online mode, it no doubt brings more demand, but at the same time, it brings more competition. Companies might notice that there are new entrants popping up into their competitive landscape. Brands are ready to “differentiate themselves with compelling digital experiences.  

Kerry Bodine, CEO of Bodine & Co.,

“Exceptional customer experiences are the only sustainable platform for competitive differentiation.”

Brands have to step up and offer a rich and a compelling shopping experience. An experience that can hold the attention of customers and that makes them come back for more.

The likes of Amazon and Alibaba will be geared up to bite a larger share of the ecommerce pie. Brands need to differentiate themselves with carefully chosen and highly personalized buying experiences to connect emotionally with customers. The most important here is to not forget to offer an excellent search, clear communication and a smooth checkout.

As e-commerce sales grow at an exponential rate, customer experience (CX) is taking the center stage as a powerful differentiator for brands.

6 Ways to Improve eCommerce Customer Experience After the COVID-19

1) Contactless Experience

The marketplace has seen a rise of new consumer habits, expectations and fears. And the entire world is seeing a new social and economic environment that is forming a new normal – the contactless commerce.

As soon as the covid pandemic started, Instacart, an American company that operates a grocery delivery and pick-up service in the United States and Canada, launched a new feature.

‘Leave at My Door Delivery’ option was the first step in building a contactless experience. It became a choice for people who were quarantined, vulnerable, or even for people who wanted to avoid contact with the delivery staff.

The pandemic not only transformed the delivery to contactless, but it also changed the way consumers paid. Contactless payments became a preferred option for customers who wanted to be away from cash payments and contact while payment.

As per market research – Around 58% of the people in the United States are now more likely to use contactless payment methods than they were before the pandemic.

Contactless experience is here to stay. About 69% of consumers are expected to continue contactless shopping even after the pandemic subsides. An uninterrupted and contactless shopping experience is going to become a baseline expectation among consumers and important for a successful eCommerce business.

2) Focus on the search box

 “For eCommerce, site search is the primary tool for building baskets and conversion, whether they’re new or returning customers,” says Shanti Vellanki, IT Director at grocery retailer Albertsons.

The key to emerge as a successful business is the ability to make rapid changes that meet or go beyond the expectations of customers. Continuous tracking of the voice of the customers allows a  business to make key incremental changes quickly, and additionally test those changes in a short time span.

For example, see how the bank tracked its customer feedback continuously with the help of Clootrack to ensure that it addressed its highest customer priority on mobile banking. 

In the first month ease of mobile banking came on top of all other priorities. When the Bank gave enough attention and resolved its issues, and checked the changes next month, it was glad to see incremental improvements. Ease of Mobile banking had slid down to the 5th position from the number one position. Continuous tracking alone gives this kind of affirmation on the incremental improvements. 

5. Continuous Customer Feedback Tracking Helps to Take Action in the Moment of Truth

A brand has promised something and is doing very well for a long time, but later finds that there is a gap or deficiency – this comes out as a moment of truth for the brand. This can happen only when there is a continuous tracking of the customer feedback.

The search bar becomes the start of the journey for an online shopper, and an important piece of delivering a great experience to customers. A customer should be able to search and find the right product or service they are looking for –  and within no time.

 Visitors who buy are 90% more likely to use search than those merely browsing. A poor search experience can leave a customer with a devastating experience. It is proved in research that visitors who receive null-results are three times more likely to leave and, more often than not, never to return.

Many businesses consider site search as just another box to check. But when more and more consumers are turning towards online shopping, customer expectations are higher than ever. Companies need to leverage the full power of site search so that they don’t miss out.

3) Personalized Experience

“No longer will people accept viral marketing. What consumers are expecting — and craving — is a more personalized, curated experience,” says Penny Wilson, Chief Marketing Officer of Hootsuite and one of MTA’s MarTech Mavens.

“We have a mantra. Listen to your customers, otherwise, you will have none ” says Zach Hendrix, Co-Founder of GreenPal. He says “ NPS surveys were a true game-changer for their company, most accurately described as the “ Uber for Lawn Care. ”

Clootracks’ consumer insights helped the bank to identify the moment of truth.

For a long time the bank was performing well on interest rates as it offered one of the best interest rates. But when it made certain changes to interest rate, it was tracked quickly within a month as customer feedback came back sharply on the changes.

When Companies Understand Continuous Customer Feedback Tracking

eCommerce websites should go to an extent of providing on-site assistance to their visitors. By just collecting information about styles, color, size, age, budget, and gender, one can help customers to create personalized product recommendations.

An Accenture report says, 91% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies who remember them and provide relevant offers. Further, 83% of them are also willing to share their data in exchange for a personalized experience.

4) Enhance Mobile Experiences

One trend that has grown significantly ever since the pandemic started is shopping via mobile phone. As more people own a mobile these days, it has become the mode for online shopping. 

As per a research report, mobile eCommerce traffic grew by 25% across all industries in the first quarter of 2020. In the US, mobile phones represented 56% of the total order share and 71% of total traffic.

 Nate Smith,  product marketing manager for Adobe Analytics, says, “Right now, as consumers increasingly use digital methods, retailers need to ensure smooth, frictionless, and fast experiences on their eCommerce websites and mobile applications. Meeting your customers’ needs and expectations at a time like this is imperative: it could either make or break your brand.”

As parents, students, working professionals are juggling work and home, they are “on the run’ and smartphones are their best support system in a very real sense. Under these circumstances, an effective mobile experience means it is all about delivering a quick and seamless ordering experience that takes care of safety and convenience.

5) Rich Content and Product Information

According to a consumer code report,

87% of shoppers rate product content extremely or very important when deciding to buy, and 50% have returned an item they bought online because it didn’t match the product description.

Selling on the digital shelf during the Covid and post-pandemic days requires bringing products to life. It is possible only through compelling content that can narrate the story of the product using descriptions and imagery.

As per market research,

Brands who implement Rich Product Content can see conversions increase by up to 32%.

Accurate information on the product, stock, price, colors, the method to use, and more detailed information to make customer’s life easier can do much to improve the eCommerce customer experience.

Covid-19 has brought about a renewed sense of caution in consumer buying behavior. Consumers are searching for more meaningful experiences and will not be drawn to a five-star brand only because it is a well-known brand. Brands have to put in greater effort to enhance the customer experiences through rich content.

6) Fast and Free Shipping

Often online customers reach the stage of choosing the shipping and abandon the cart as there are no convenient shipping options, longer delivery periods or the delivery charges are way too high. Therefore, shipping becomes the “make or break” point of a consumer’s online purchase. Free shipping and fast delivery are often the final purchase considerations for buyers.

More people are resorting to shopping online during the COVID-19 outbreak. eCommerce websites should plan for a hassle-free shipping process.  An absence of flexibility in shipping purchase options can prove to be costly, leading to a failure in customer experience at the last hurdle.

Unlock eCommerce Customer Experience – Using Data and insights

“The secret to developing personalized campaigns that will reach the right customers in the right moments is data. In the digital age in which we live, we must live and breathe data”, says Shashi Seth, Sr. Vice President of Oracle Marketing Cloud. He discloses the significance of data and analytics in cracking the customer experience code.

Brands with a motto to improve customer experience need to deep dive into the customer journeys.  These journeys tell stories and moments of both friction and delight. Analyzing the customer data and identifying these consumer insights will turn out to become business-building opportunities.

A study by Forbes Insights and SAS found that “90% of executives worldwide who use data analytics noticed it improved their ability to deliver a superior customer experience.”

eCommerce brands that are successfully adopting customer insights are concentrating on the goal of fine-tuning every aspect of the marketing mix to offer an extraordinary customer experience. For higher achievement brands need to depend on Artificial Intelligence, machine learning algorithms that learn customer behavior based on which you can offer to upsell, product recommendations, change marketing campaigns, adjust pricing and design competitive strategies.

Great eCommerce Customer Experiences – Real Life Examples

Walks

 Walks is a tour company that was quick to read the minds of the consumers. When many people canceled their travel plans due to the pandemic, Walks found creative ways to offer a great customer experience. Walks understood that consumers still want to see the world, and it doesn’t matter if they were at home.

This foresight led the tour company to launch ‘Tours From Home’. The concept was very creative to take customers on a virtual tour across popular global attractions. Not just this the virtual tour was complemented with a $25 travel voucher for a future trip.  

Chewy 

Chewy is an online destination for pet parents. When covid hit the world, pet adoptions hit the roof and soared high. Many people were seeking comfort in a pet while being completely locked at home. Pet owners started buying food and toys online for their four-legged companions.

Chewy offered a wide range of pet products and shipped directly to the customers. Due to this timely action by Chewy,  it increased its active customers by 33% from 2019. 

Asbury Automotive Group 

We did not quite foresee car sales online. Covid has pushed everything from groceries to cars into an online mode. This switch began in order to remove contact between customers and car salesmen. Virtual tours and digital financing were quickly introduced by Asbury to take advantage of the contactless experience.

“We’re entirely focused on creating a 100% online transaction,” said David Hult, president, and CEO of Asbury Automotive Group.

Summary

The covid-19 pandemic is swiftly changing consumer behavior towards online shopping. And going by the current trend, it is likely to stick post-pandemic. 

No doubt that many companies are challenged to hold up in the short-term, but also the crisis presents great opportunities. 

Bold and daring eCommerce companies that take up timely and ambitious investments in their eCommerce business, to provide great customer experience, are slated to emerge as market leaders post-pandemic.