How to Build a Great eCommerce Customer Experience in 2021

A positive or negative customer experience can make or break the relationship between a brand and it’s customers. A massive 73% of shoppers say customer experience plays a key role in what they choose to buy.  

So winning over customers isn’t just about what you sell or how you market it. To stand apart from competitors, online brands need to maintain a top-class eCommerce customer experience too. 

What is the eCommerce customer experience?

The eCommerce customer experience encompasses every interaction that takes place between a brand and its customer. It covers all touchpoints from social media and advertising, through to live chat and email marketing.

It even extends beyond communications and covers the eCommerce user experience that consumers go through while browsing a D2C store or an Amazon product page. When a customer receives, opens, uses or complains about a product, this is all part of the experience too.

Simply put, the online customer experience begins when a consumer first discovers your brand and continues until they decide to take their custom elsewhere. All interactions come together to form a customer’s perception of your business. If it’s positive, they’re more likely to stick around.

Why is a great eCommerce customer experience important?

Before outlining our tips for creating a great online customer experience, let’s first take a look at why it’s worth devoting time and energy to.

1. It increases trust and loyalty

According to PWC one in three consumers say that they would be inclined to walk away from a brand that they love after just one negative experience? Similarly, research from eMarketer found that most shoppers will abandon a brand after just one bad interaction. Conversely, a great online customer experience gives shoppers a reason to continue engaging with your brand. This should increase retention.

Over time, this can even lead to brand advocacy, positive online ratings and word-of-mouth marketing. All of which are hugely beneficial for eCommerce brands.

2. You can charge more for your products

Greater loyalty is likely to result in increased purchase frequency, a higher average order value and a better marketing ROI. But did you know that consumers are also willing to pay more for a great eCommerce customer experience?

PwC’s survey found that 43% of shoppers will fork out more for greater convenience, while another 42% will pay extra for a friendly experience.

If you still have doubts, it’s also worth noting that most consumers think a positive online customer experience is more influential than advertising.

3. It can help you outshine competitors

In many instances, online consumers have a selection of products to choose from. Unless your brand sells a one-of-kind commodity, you’ll probably benefit from the USP that a great eCommerce customer experience can bring.

Brands can deliver value to their customers by offering exceptional service, customer-centric policies, generous loyalty programmes, free gifts, random acts of kindness or same-day delivery. These can all be key differentiators in a crowded marketplace and brands can use them to get ahead of their competitors.

6 ways to improve the eCommerce customer experience

There is no single way to craft a great eCommerce customer experience. It all depends on the needs and pain points of your target audience.

However, whatever industry your brand is in, there are a couple of core tips that can help ensure prospects and customers have an enjoyable experience.

1. Study the customer journey

To create a great online customer experience, you need to fully understand the path to purchase. This way, you’ll be familiar with every touchpoint that your shoppers interact with.

Before you can begin optimising your customer experience you’ll need to assess your customer journey. With so many marketing and sales channels, the modern consumer journey is pretty complicated. It’s important to consider a number of factors such as, how are customers interacting with your brand? Are you taking advantage of social media, newsletters and online advertising? Think about all of the marketing touch points as your customer’s journey unfolds. Pay attention to the consumer’s journey not only leading up to a sale, but also after conversion takes place.

Also, you should examine the eCommerce funnel and figure out what prospects require at each stage. You can then come up with strategies that will meet their expectations, make the process easier and bring added value to their experience. A better understanding of the needs of customers can help in bridging the gap in your online strategy and help improve your overall sales metrics.

Make sure to consult various departments when doing your research. Marketing executives, customer service agents and logistics staff will all have unique insights into each stage of your eCommerce customer journey.

2. Leverage key channels to enhance customer experience

Social media can be a powerful tool in connecting with your customers and their experiences. Glossier, a skincare and beauty brand, takes interacting with shoppers on social media seriously. Emily Weiss, the founder of Glossier, has turned connecting with consumers and creating a memorable customer experience into an artform.

Playful but informative, Glossier is known for their cult following of loyal beauty enthusiasts. The brand puts intimate customer relationships first through engaging content, conversations and a customer first approach. But how did they manage to capture the hearts and wallets of shoppers online?

  • Identify Buyer Personas – Starting off as a blog called ‘Into The Gloss’, from its earliest days Glossier was conscious of its audience. They not only identified their buyer personas but they did their research. It’s time for your brand or business to delve deep into who your target audience is, what they want and how can you give them the best customer experience possible.
  • Stay ‘On Brand’ – Be consistent with your branding. In the same way that it’s easy to identify an Instagram post from Glossier just due to the subtle pink and grey hues, your brand needs to be as approachable and memorable. Take some time to review and look over your brand strategy. In a world that is bombarded with products- are you memorable enough for shoppers?
  • Focus On Community – Throughout history community has been an integral part of our daily lives. In the digital sphere this is no different. According to Hubspot, 81% of customers trust the recommendations of friends and family over information provided by companies. With social media it is easier than ever to engage with audiences and bring them together. It’s time to get some word of mouth buzz around your brand. At the end of the day, it’s crucial that your customers have something positive to say. Customers tell an average of nine people about a positive experience with a brand, but they tell 16 people about a negative experience.

3. Put mobile first

This year, 54% of eCommerce sales are expected to take place on mobile devices. This percentage increases year after year and, now that it accounts for a majority of conversions, it’s more important than ever for online brands to take a mobile-first approach.

Brands need to make sure their product pages, images, descriptions and marketplace listings are all optimised for mobile. They should also consider setting up mobile apps which will provide extra convenience to loyal customers, as well as an engaging way to communicate with them.

4. Improve the experience with omnichannel eCommerce

Consumers no longer seek out brands. Whether they want to ask a question or buy a product, they expect to find you on their favourite channels.

To maximise sales, you need to have a presence on the channels that matter most to your key personas. As well as your own website, you’ll probably want to consider platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Amazon and eBay.

To make your omnichannel approach work, you’ll need to create a comprehensive strategy for each platform because they all offer different opportunities and features – from shoppable video through to sponsored ads.

However, you also need to make sure these channels are integrated into your overall eCommerce user experience. Communications need to be consistent across every platform. Almost a quarter of consumers say they’ll ditch a brand that shares conflicting messages.

Brands also need to provide a smooth transition between channels. Tracking pixels, remarketing tactics, a centralised CRM, ‘Where to Buy’ technology and other integrated tools can all help with this.

5. Address customer needs faster

How many times have you been inside a shop, ready to pay for your items when you see a long line? You debate, you balk at the idea of spending twenty minutes waiting in a queue of bored and frustrated shoppers. So what do you do? You put the items down and you walk away. Maybe you’ll return at a better time or more likely you’ll go somewhere less busy to purchase your items. 

It truly goes without saying that long wait times have a negative effect on sales. This metaphor is no different online than it is in store. Think about it, a long checkout experience and web pages that take ages to load do not make for a frictionless customer experience. 

Take the initiative and make the digital customer experience as seamless as possible. Leveraging an eCommerce optimization platform can help brands build a frictionless customer experience. We have helped large brands like BSH, and tado increase conversion rates by optimizing touchpoints along their digital path to purchase using ChannelSight

6. Personalise the eCommerce user experience!

Personalisation makes shoppers feel valued and heard – and this is integral to constructing a memorable experience.

Addressing customers by their name is no longer good enough. Shoppers expect personalised promotions, relevant product recommendations and other tailored content throughout the eCommerce customer journey. One study even suggests that around half of consumers are happy to hand over their personal information in exchange for these kinds of perks.

While it looks like the use of cookie technology is declining, the likes of contextual advertising and retail media offer new ways to send relevant communications to customers. Retargeting, customer segmentation, triggered messages and email personalisation will also remain crucial to eCommerce marketing in the years ahead.

As AI evolves, the potential for more effective personalisation is also growing. So brands need to watch out for new trends and changing customer expectations.

7. Provide next-level customer support

Offering fast, friendly and competent customer support is essential for brands that want to foster a positive eCommerce customer experience. Some successful brands, like Zappos and Chewy.com, are even known for making exceptional service a key part of their USP.

For convenience and efficiency, add FAQs, knowledge bases, live chat and other self-service options to your online store. A recent study showed that most shoppers prefer convenient communications like chat, because they like to find answers by themselves. 

Chatbots are great for optimising Customer Experience online because they’re available 24/7, you can seamlessly integrate them into your website and you can provide quick responses to queries in a record amount of time. AI can help you provide better and faster customer service, not to mention personalised service. It’s a win-win for your brand and for your customers. 

Duolingo has taken AI to the next level, using it to not only interact with users, but also to help them improve in the language that they are learning. 

Duolingo is using AI technology to help users learn a language, but a lot of these learnings can be easily translated into CX for eCommerce.

  • Ensure your chatbot has personality – This should go without saying but a chatbot without personality can have a negative effect. Think about your target audience and write the script for your chatbot accordingly. Make sure the script is varied enough that shoppers don’t get bored.
  • Build your chatbot around existing pain points To Bridge Gaps – As the song goes, everybody hurts sometimes. Listen to what your users have to say and find answers to their pain points.
  • Make it accessible – Make sure that your friendly chatbot is available all day, everyday. Users should have 24/7 access to your chatbot to avoid confusion or losses in revenue. Unlike a human, your chatbot won’t need coffee to stay awake all night.

When this isn’t possible, a number of options for contacting live support agents should be available too. Wait times need to be as short as possible and agents should be trained to proactively resolve issues, because their ability to help customers will directly impact your store’s retention rate.

8. Don’t forget about the post-purchase experience

Once you’ve landed a new customer, it’s important to keep them engaged. As well as providing great customer support when an issue crops up, brands also need to proactively reach out to keep customers coming back for more.

To make this happen, deliver helpful updates while they’re waiting on an order. After they receive it, check in to make sure everything is okay. You can also remind them to follow you on social media, sign up for a newsletter or register for a loyalty card.

Later on, you can share promotional offers, sales alerts, event invites, helpful how-to content and anything else that has the potential to add value to their experience. Remember, personalisation is key, so try to create curated communications based on past purchases.

Final thoughts

As research shows, the online customer experience can have a significant impact on retention and advocacy. So it’s well worth investing in.

If you want to see exactly how it benefits your brand’s bottom line, you can track eCommerce metrics like Customer Lifetime Value, purchase frequency, return rates, cart abandonment and support ticket levels. Conducting online surveys to monitor your Net Promoter Score and Customer Effort Score should also offer a clear indication of how you’re performing in this area.

ways brands can maximize eCommerce conversions