“Who here is afraid of Amazon eating up their business?” the keynote speaker asked.
Most of the merchants in the room raised their hands. You see, I was in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency, La Jolla, attending MivaCon for the first time. Throughout the conference, Amazon’s dominance in the e-Commerce space was a persistent theme.
Indeed, for many sellers investing in their own web site and brand, Amazon instills a lot of fear. The company was referred to as a dragon in many of the slides presented. How can retailers compete with such a mighty beast?
Of course, there is hope. The point is not to slay the dragon, but to ride it by the tail. Instead of worrying, sellers should focus their energies on bringing more value to their customers, in the marketplace and beyond, and in ways that Amazon cannot.
This is where customer experience comes in and how front end and backend solutions provide other types of value to online shoppers.
Why Customer Experience Matters In E-Commerce
Customer experience (CX) positively correlates with loyalty. Good CX brings in more sales through repeat orders, word of mouth and social media referrals, whereas poor CX will mean the opposite. Nothing hurts an online retailer more than negative reviews.
Many businesses have already discovered that investing in the buyer’s experience is critical to gaining and retaining customers. Marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart already do this by weeding out sellers with poor CX performance, however they define it.
The same is true in B2B and wholesale. In one study, 80% of B2B customers cited customer experience as the biggest influencer in their decision to work with a vendor.
The significance of CX is only growing. By 2020, this will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. If CX is not already part of your growth strategy, it needs to be.
Optimizing Your Front End CX: Tracking On-Site Behavior
As we say in marketing, measure everything. The same is true for customer experience. Let’s start with the front-facing side of CX, specifically on your web store where you have full control over your branding as opposed to a marketplace.
A fancy web site with lots of hi-res images doesn’t always mean a great customer experience. If your web site takes too long to load or isn’t optimized on their device, your shoppers will be annoyed. We recommend tools such as Inspectlet, Crazy Egg or Hotjar to monitor on-site behavior.
You should analyze the following to get a better image of how users are interacting with your site:
- Sessions replays: Watch user journeys on your web site to see how experiences are being played out.
- Heat maps: Aggregate all journeys and display them in a visual report.
- Form analytics: Examine how visitors are experiencing your onsite forms.
What Does “User-Friendly” Mean?
The next step is to ensure that your site is user-friendly. Put yourself in the position of a shopper browsing your site. Can they find your products easily? Do they feel secure buying from your site?
To some extent, creating a user-friendly site depends on the characteristics of your target audience and the types of products you sell. However, there are a few features that every retail site needs.
A fast loading responsive site: Customers will leave your site if it takes too long to load or displays oddly on their screen. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check what can be optimized. Sometimes you’ll need to cut down on content, reduce image sizes or remove unnecessary redirects.
Easy-to-find customer service: Shoppers today are impatient. Differentiate your brand by giving them the option to communicate with customer service during the purchase process. Make it obvious how users can contact your team, such as by enabling live chat, adding links to social media, and including your support contact information.
A seamless checkout process: Minimize the number of steps customers need to take to complete a purchase. Encourage them to create an account, but also provide them with a guest checkout option. Present the benefits of creating an account, such as access to exclusive offers. Getting their email allows you to provide more personalized experiences in future marketing campaigns.
Other Ways To Improve The On-Site Customer Experience
Ensuring that your site is user-friendly is a good start, but most users interact with many sites that have good usability every day. To keep shoppers on your site, you need to go a step further, showing them that what you have to offer is interesting and relevant.
- Emphasize story: Use strong visuals and compelling copy. Some great brands use actual customer videos that barely even mentions their product.
- Encourage exploration: Make it easy for customers to explore your offerings and related add-ons. Amazon is great if the shopper knows the product, but a web store truly shines by highlighting new or lesser known product lines.
- A/B testing: Simple changes can have a big impact. For instance, one company used A/B testing to see the impact of changing their “Add to basket” button from black to blue. After finding that this reduced abandoned carts by 50%, the company implemented the design change across its entire site.
Optimizing Your Backend CX: Why Infrastructure Matters
Now let’s talk about the backend component of CX. By backend, I simply mean the operations involving order processing, fulfillment, and support — all of which result in a tangible customer experience in the form of a delivered package.
Since this is the boring, logistical side of retail, many merchants tend to neglect this aspect of the customer experience. Backorders, stockouts, overselling, mis-shipped items, defective items and delayed orders are all symptoms of a poor backend infrastructure.
The best solution is to ensure you have a solid inventory management system to support your backend operations. A great backend infrastructure should keep your listings, orders, inventory and financials all in sync.
The next step is to provide superior customer service.
How To Manage Customer Complaints
If one customer complains about a poor experience with your brand, you risk losing that customer. But if a customer writes a negative review online, you risk losing other shoppers as well. This is not just for marketplace listings, but also for your own brand. By responding to complaints the right way, you can show that you are dedicated to providing the best possible CX.
1. Act fast: To respond fast, you need to be aware of what users are saying about your brand online. Set up alerts for mentions on social media, receive notifications for reviews, and monitor industry forums. This way you’ll be able to answer as soon as possible and avoid any complaints going ignored.
2. Empathize with the customer: Your impulse may be to go on the defensive and explain the issue from your point of view. A better approach is to empathize with the customer, whether or not you are in the wrong, and commit to resolving the problem. Perhaps it was simply a matter of wrong expectations or miscommunication, rather than a defect in the product or delivery.
3. Do your best to reverse the negative experience: Think of ways you can turn a bad experience into a positive one. Sometimes, the solution is obvious: a refund or replacement. If this is the case, ensure that all the tracking and payment reversals are done appropriately.
Bear in mind that even if it costs you now, paying it forward can go a long way to helping you retain a customer, build loyalty and even turn a user into a brand advocate.
Two Halves Make A Whole
There are many aspects involved in creating great CX that can’t be covered in one article. But examining customer journeys to develop a better front end is a good start. You then need to follow through with a stellar backend infrastructure to prevent negative customer experiences. Finally, if a customer does complain about a product or delivery, appease and delight them with great customer service.
Yes, you can ride dragons, and your customers will be amazed.
Albert Ong is the marketing manager at Jazva, an all-in-one e-Commerce platform that simplifies multi-channel listing and inventory management. When not leading content strategy, Albert spends his time listening to audiobooks, writing science fiction, and binge-watching Netflix.