Friction is an ecommerce sales killer, and retailers have room to improve: 40% of shoppers have recently struggled to complete a transaction online, according to a survey by GoMoxie. Among these customers, 62% abandoned the shopping experience and 52% went on to visit a competitor — a dangerous precedent to set in the current ecommerce-dominated atmosphere.
However, retailers have plenty of ways to fight back against frustration, provided they’re willing to examine the customer journey and understand the best practices for minimizing friction. Some key points to consider include:
- Understand both the place and cause: The best solution to ecommerce friction is to eliminate it before it happens — so understand the common pain points and work to eliminate them;
- Make sure shoppers are informed: Shoppers can save a lot of time and frustration if the path to purchase is made clear and potential problems are detected mid-journey, before they threaten the transaction;
- Don’t expect the shopper’s own Internet experience to help: Shoppers who are more comfortable online have correspondingly higher expectations, so younger, internet-savvy customers are even more susceptible to frustration; and
- Keep shoppers in-channel: When trying to save a potentially lost sale, the retailer’s primary goal should be to keep the shopper, and therefore any customer service efforts, as close to the current channel as possible.
The Where and Why are Vital to Pinpointing the Cause of Frustration
While only 26% of shoppers who struggled with a transaction contacted customer service, they still can play a valuable role in easing everyone’s frustrations. The first and best defense against friction is to not only uncover the most common problem locations, such as whether it was the product or pricing page, but also to discover what made these areas so frustrating. Shoppers who go through with contacting customer service are the perfect source of information not just for where things went wrong, but why.
From there, retailers can uncover the three or four most common causes for frustration, as well as shoppers’ preferred method to alleviate the issues, and tailor their mitigation efforts around them. Offering a multitude of different solutions can just confuse the issue further, so try to pinpoint a few effective remedies.
“The real paradigm shift is not just parking a smorgasbord of channels on the Contact Us page and hoping for the best,” said Brian Strauss, Vice President, Worldwide Field Engineering at goMoxie in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Go step by step in the journey, take a use case by use case approach, and put some forethought into what would be the best channel and the best asset to offer.”
A Proactive Approach Saves Future Frustration
The best place to catch a potential friction point is before it happens, or just as it starts becoming a problem. The survey found that 58% of shoppers expect to be provided with proactive information, while 83% expect clear information in general. Delivering on these needs can minimize the number of customer service agents required, and therefore lower retailers’ costs.
“You can avoid the agent [altogether] in a lot of instances by using what we call digital guidance or context,” said Tara Sporrer, SVP of Marketing at GoMoxie in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Get in front of the customer struggle, such as with a proactive message when someone has errored out twice on a password — before they go to lock out. The beauty of that is that you don’t need an agent to do it. You can proactively guide someone through that repetitive, frustrating struggle with just a proactive notification.”
Additionally, retailers should be prepared to deal with the fact that 83% of customers expect to easily find what they’re looking for. Few retailers can match Amazon’s one-click buying experience, but they must still recognize that it sets the standard to which their own websites are being compared. With this in mind, retailers absolutely must strive to relieve friction before shoppers even experience it.
“It starts with a realization that, depending on where you are in the journey, you may or may not be cognizant of the fact that you’re struggling,” said Strauss. “That’s really important. There’s a lot of convincing that goes into how people engage online, and one of those is that you can’t just wait for people to reach out, you can’t wait for them to struggle and then decide they need to solve it on their own. You need an approach to anticipate both hesitation and struggle.”
Familiarity Doesn’t Necessarily Relieve Struggles
One seemingly counterintuitive discovery in the study was that younger generations were actually more likely to have struggled with an ecommerce purchase than their elders. Gen Z had the highest rate at 46%, followed by Millennials at 41%, Gen X at 40% and Baby Boomers at just 33%.
While the survey didn’t dive into the details, Sporrer believes this may be a matter of expectations. Older generations experienced a rougher, less well-understood version of ecommerce in the late 90s and early aughts, but digital best practices were well established by the time Gen Z and younger Millennials came of age. As a result, these younger shoppers are less willing to put up with suboptimal experiences, and retailers need to plan around their audiences accordingly.
“They’ve had the best of the best customer experiences, and so their perceived struggle is higher,” said Sporrer. “I think those people in my generation are more used to getting through that kind of thing — we’ve had to muscle through it for 20 years.”
The Solution Can’t Interrupt the Journey
Friction is an inevitable part of doing business, and retailers should strive to keep shoppers in their preferred channel when dealing with the fallout. Shoppers said that telephone (33%), email (26%) and live chat (25%) were the top three preferred communication methods — and all three can be accessed via links on a page, keeping things simple.
“When your interactions are less urgent and you have a lower level of commitment, staying within the digital channel seems to be more successful for customers,” said Strauss. “I don’t have to go very far, so I’m still in the same web channel.”
In contrast, text/SMS was one of the least preferred methods, at 12%, due to the fact that it completely breaks from the website and involves typing into a different app. Chatbots were also unpopular at 8% — while they keep shoppers in-channel, they don’t have the breadth of information or adaptive assistance a live agent can offer.
Ultimately, the best solutions to ecommerce frustration come down to good guidance at every step of the journey. Designing sites to minimize potential frustration points and placing clear messages in front of customers may not be as big a job as it seems at first. Retailers simply need to make sure shoppers aren’t expected to navigate through confusing moments alone.
“From a retailer’s perspective, they’ve done this in stores for years,” said Sporrer. “The customer walks in, you observe their behavior, you guide them through product selection, you guide them through checkout. The absence of guidance in ecommerce has cost a lot, because conversion rates are very low on retail sites and have been since its inception. We believe this is because guidance is absent from the process, customers are forced to figure it out on their own and orient themselves with each retail experience — but they have to do this with none of your expertise.”