12 Ways to Create a Customer-Centric E-Commerce Experience

Grace Carter
October 23, 2018
Customer Success, Sales

12 Ways to Create a Customer-Centric E-Commerce Experience

E-commerce is as much about the experience customers have to interact with your brand’s site as it is about the product and price. There are a lot of options for consumers shopping online. Creating an experience that prioritizes convenience, trust, familiarity, and efficiency is key to running a successful e-commerce business.

Whether you are working on creating a new experience from scratch, or you want to revamp your current strategies, we’ve put together twelve ways to create a customer-centric e-commerce experience.

1. Give mobile the respect it deserves

People are using their mobile devices to make online purchases more and more. Because of this fact, it’s crucial to make designing your mobile experience a top priority. Your best approach is to build a mobile layout for your website and then adapt it for the desktop experience. If you take the opposite approach, you’ll find yourself having to remove features in order to fit everything into the smaller screen.

Another good strategy for creating a smooth mobile shopping experience is to let customers checkout using their social media account. Encourage your users to sign in using their social media credentials, rather than creating a whole new account on your site and manually entering details like their first name, last name, and email address. People like these kinds of convenient options. It saves time, avoids errors from clumsy fingers typing on small screens. They also don’t have to bother coming up with a new login and password for your site.

Another way to make things convenient is to allow payment through mobile gateways, generally iOS and Android, that your customers are already familiar with using. People feel more comfortable using mobile payment options they’re already familiar with, so you’ll experience less abandoned carts.

Whether or not you enable social media logins, keep in mind the limitations of a mobile device. Make your checkout forms as simple and straightforward as possible to avoid frustration. Designing a dedicated app for your store may also be a good idea, especially if you have a lot of repeat customers or frequent shoppers who would use the app regularly

2. Offer live chat support

Offering live chat is great for quickly and efficiently receiving and resolving customer questions and issues. It can also have a great ROI. It helps your people increase productivity because they can use the platform to perform many tasks, from tech support, to upselling, to answering basic questions about pricing and shipping. Further time can be saved by creating pre-written responses to some of your most commonly asked questions.

Image via retailnext.net

Companies that are already using live chat can always improve. It’s a good idea to go through logs and see if there are further opportunities for follow-up, besides the question the customer asked directly. Your customers will appreciate the personal touch, and you might be able to drive extra sales or retain a customer you would have otherwise lost

3. Be transparent about dynamic pricing

Personalized dynamic pricing is a controversial subject. Price comparison sites and tools that help consumers find the best online discount are signs of shoppers’ anxiety about the fact that different accounts will be given different prices.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with using personalized dynamic pricing, so long as you are upfront about what is actually happening. Be open and tell your visitors what prices a standard customer can expect to pay, versus what a VIP who is registered for your rewards program will be charged. If potential customers understand why certain shoppers get a lower price, then quite a few will be motivated to become loyal customers, hand over their contact info or may a membership, and get that lower price. If you don’t have a dynamic pricing strategy in place yet, but you’d like to be able to offer personalized offers, discounts, etc., check out these e-commerce personalization software products to see how they can help.

4. Consider intelligent search and what it can do

A search function is an incredibly vital part of any e-commerce website. But it’s time to take things to the next level, and that level is personalized, intelligent search. Based on a customer’s history, your intelligent search can suggest products they are likely to be interested in. Depending on past purchases, items they have viewed, and past searches, the customer will get a customized set of search results. The better your search function’s ability to predict customer intent, the more conversions you will have. The more efficient, quick, and predictive your search to checkout process is, the less opportunity there is for a customer to reconsider and leave, get frustrated, or get bored.

Some e-commerce platforms or e-commerce personalization tools enable varying levels of intelligent search, while other enterprise search providers like Inbenta have developed intelligent search point solutions specifically for e-commerce websites.

5. Quantify your customer satisfaction & use social proof

Until you measure something, you really don’t know how well you’re doing. Have a policy of sending out customer satisfaction surveys after an interaction. You won’t get everyone to answer, but the responses you get will be more than useful to your company. You can get an idea for how people are generally feeling about your customer service, and you’ll also get some valuable feedback. Negative feedback can be a good thing as well, it helps send you in the right direction. Consider whether you’d rather keep this feedback to yourselves and use it to improve operations internally, or include it on your website or in emails as social proof.

In studies conducted by Bazaarvoice and others, including reviews has been shown to increase e-commerce conversion rates significantly, and improve shoppers’ overall experience. If you’re interested in using this strategy, consumer ratings & review software can help you get going. Some e-commerce personalization products offer built-in features to drive reviews or show other social proof as well.

e-commerce reviews
Image via retailnext.net

6. Do recommendations the smart way

Buying a new camera? Well how about a nice carrying case, extra battery, or lens? Email marketing can be a great way to go about making recommendations for related products, or products that are often purchased together. Or, once your analysis has revealed that a customer makes a certain kind of purchase per month, or per week, you can begin sending them emails at that frequency asking if they’re ready to buy again. Keep in mind that these emails can sometimes come off as too aggressive so subtlety is your friend. The best way to recommend something product-related is to place it on the checkout page or create a discount for related products – in this case, create a package offer including a case, extra battery and a lens.

Research has shown social proof helps here too. If you can show why you’re making the recommendation, customers are more likely to take your suggestion and less likely to feel like you’re being too aggressive with your upsell. For example, if most other shoppers who bought a camera also bought a case, battery, and lens, don’t keep that to yourself! Data-based product recommendations and social insights are other features commonly offered by e-commerce personalization software.

7. Make product videos accessible

Videos can be very helpful before, and after, a sale. They are perfect for demonstrating features, instructions, hints, and advice for using your products and your platform. Just make sure they are placed in easily accessible spots, or you won’t even get close to their full value. (We know they can be expensive to produce and host, so ROI is important!)

Product videos can be sent via email as well. This useful type of content makes you stand out and your users are happy that they have signed up for your emails. You could, for instance, send an instructional email video a day after their purchase, or later according to average delivery times. Focus on creating assembly videos (if applicable) and some basic videos on most common problems or questions that arise when the user first starts using your product. Or, you could send videos showcasing how the product they bought is used with another product later on, as part of your recommended products strategy.

8. Automate your marketing where possible

Automation can save you a lot of time. Consider every step the customer experiences in their journey a chance for you to reach out. But you don’t always have to do the reaching out yourself, manually. If you have good data about customers and their habits, good content templates, and have set up triggers well (discounts, email reminders, etc.), you can create an extremely efficient, low-cost sales process. It can take time to get good at this kind of automation, but getting there is absolutely worth it. You will gain back all the time you spent learning and much more.

Good automation makes your job easier while not making the customer feel like they’ve received something generic. Focus on gathering more data that could help you add personalization. Some e-commerce platforms include on-page or email marketing capabilities, or you may want to check out email marketing software or marketing automation platforms that integrate with your e-commerce platform. Depending on how complex and tightly coordinated you want to be, you may want to consider e-commerce personalization tools that can collect the activity data and handle more advanced personalized marketing, in addition to running tests.

9. Keep your returns policy simple and straightforward

You are going to have returns, it’s just part of doing business online. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Take a look at your policy, and try reading it from your customer’s perspective. Is the policy in plain, simple terms, or does it have a bunch of unnecessary jargon? And if you have a hard time explaining it yourself, then it’s definitely time for a revamp. It’s a shame to lose customers because of a frustrating returns policy. The same goes for the actual process of conducting the return. Keep it as simple as you can. Your customers will appreciate your consideration. A more straightforward policy will also help employees from packing and shipping to customer service manage operations more easily.

10. Make quality writing a priority

It’s true that online shopping is a mostly visual activity. At a minimum, customers also need to know who you are as a company. In turn, they should understand product details and your shipping and return policies. If you’re selling innovative products that are disrupting the market or are a lifestyle brand, you may also have a blog with interviews or FAQs explaining why your products are important, who uses them and how, what’s different about them, etc.

Creating quality content starts with some solid writing, editing, and proofreading. Unfortunately, these skills are often ignored and not given the time they deserve. Use tools like Grammarly (a free writing assistant browser extension) to boost your writing abilities so that you don’t make silly mistakes, hire people who write for a living to help where you need it, and A/B test your creative ideas to determine which messages really resonate with your audience.

There are a whole host of A/B testing tools and e-commerce personalization software you can use to analyze and optimize the content on your site. If you do decide to seek freelance expertise from outside your organization, Upwork or Freelancer.com are platforms you can use to quickly hire copywriters for one-off projects.  

11. Honor your warranties

Sometimes things don’t turn out as planned, and that includes when a product doesn’t work properly. When that happens, the customer is going to expect you to honor the warranty they purchased from you. Warranties are not just a bonus you can check off in your conversions box. It’s important to deal with these situations the right way, and that means a quick and easy resolution to the defective product situation.

The customer might be temporarily upset, which is understandable. If the warranty is dealt with well, they may become even more loyal to your brand. Be humble and kind about it. Apologize for the problem, do as stated in your warranty and get back to the customer as quickly as possible. By making this process simple and straightforward, you will be able to earn the respect of your clients and build a better brand on the market without harming your business. The cost of replacing the product will turn out to be far less than the cost of acquiring a new customer to replace the lost business, not to mention the risk of your unhappy customer venting on social media, etc.

12. Keep an eye on new IoT technology and what the future holds

The IoT has an amazing capacity to gather data about users, and holds the potential to link smart devices, such as a fridge, to e-commerce services. It’ll soon be possible for users to receive offers and reminders, based on what the data is showing they are running low on. Start learning about this tech now, so that when it’s more widely available and accepted by consumers you’ll have some ideas about how it can help boost your business.

A better experience = more repeat customers

There are a lot of options out there for people looking to make purchases online. That’s why it is so important that you create the best customer experience possible. When shoppers are choosing where to spend their money, it’s not just about the price, or even the product. People appreciate convenience, they appreciate familiarity, and they appreciate an e-commerce site that cares about their concerns and is responsive. Follow these tips and you will be on your way to a customer-centric e-commerce experience.

About the Author

Grace Carter

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