The customer journey is no longer as linear as it once seemed. People interact with your brand at all steps of the journey and are also more hesitant than ever to immediately put their trust in your products. Not only does the customer journey need to adopt a multichannel approach to account for every touchpoint of the journey, but the customer experience needs to be put front and center.
Customer experience has become the chief differentiating factor in how businesses compete. According to Gartner, two-thirds of marketers claim their companies compete based on customer experience and expect this to be 81% by 2019. Firms are hiring CXOs and customer experience strategies are being formed and revisited periodically. Several factors go into building trust in your brand, and having a stellar customer experience that shapes the customer journey will ensure higher engagement and likelihood to purchase.
It turns out that the objectives in improving your customer experience are similar, if not identical, to building trust at each step of the customer journey. Here are the actions you need to take.
Ecommerce Customer Experience Tip #1 - Make Active Efforts to Improve User Experience, Starting With Visuals
User experience goes hand-in-hand with building trust and providing an exemplary customer experience regardless of what stage of the customer journey a visitor is at. Having a visually-appealing site is incredibly important because the graphics and overall design are often the first impression that most people will get of your brand. This is especially crucial for e-commerce businesses since a cheap-looking logo or grainy photography can instantly give the impression that your product is of equally poor quality.
An example of a well-designed ecommerce site with great visuals is Motorcycler
In addition to the images themselves, the site design should pay heed to color theory and basic web accessibility measures. Layouts, colors, and visual effects that are difficult to see or cause eye strain make for a poor customer experience and don't inspire trust that customers' needs will be met at all stages of the journey
Ecommerce Customer Experience Tip #2 - Product Information Should be Abundant in Each Listing and Easy to Find.
According to HubSpot, addressing friction in the purchasing process is one of the chief goals of a customer experience strategy. It doesn't cultivate trust to have to dig for product information in a listing, or not have it available at all. Friction can be greatly reduced by offering plenty of practical information about what the customer is looking for.
Shopping online has a drawback with customers being unable to see and touch the actual product. If they're already familiar with the product this might not bother them, but the convenience doesn't solely lie in not having to go to a store. There should be plenty of information clearly visible on the listing and utilizing a layout and design that is easy to read. Having several photos of the product in use and at different angles plus videos, specs, and usage tips and instructions also fortify product listings and can make them more attractive than a simple description.
For example, Zappos has incredibly comprehensive product listings that show different perspectives and details plus videos and what customers have to say about the individual product.
As for design, A/B testing can help determine which layouts and designs that new and existing customers find the most practical and appealing. The thoroughness and amount of information could require additional surveying.
Ecommerce Customer Experience Tip #3 - Demonstrate Social Proof by Giving Customers a Voice with Reviews, Testimonials, and Other Types of "Street Cred".
Promotional content and influencer marketing can always be construed as advertising rather than genuine thoughts on products and the customer experience itself. By integrating reviews into product listings and having an easy way for prospective customers to access testimonials and other user-generated feedback, customers are more likely to find your brand trustworthy.
Wayfair has done a great job of integrating reviews and social proof.
Internally, customers can find other customers with needs similar to theirs and see what they have to say. On review sites and social media, they can also see who is leaving "real" comments concerning their activity with a brand.
Social accounts that have high engagement and user-generated posts with hashtags that the brand kicked off are also a more powerful form of social proof than simply having great-looking posts that are easy to read.
If a poor review or comment is received, it's often tempting for brands to cover it up or make it difficult to find these pages. However, openly communicating with customers who leave bad reviews is more likely to have a positive impact than attempting to bury the negative feedback. It inspires more trust in potential customers to see brands take steps to rectify a poor customer experience.
Ecommerce Customer Experience #4 - Checkout Process Should Be Smooth
The average shopping cart abandonment rate for all types of online businesses is almost 70%. One of the most common reasons people abandon shopping carts? The checkout process is too clunky and difficult for its own good. You don't want to make it unintentionally difficult to take peoples' money.
There are several technical factors in both the shopping cart itself and the checkout page that can make or break the user experience, and thus customer experience. It's difficult to foster engagement when customers are just trying to pay for their purchase and find that they're going through more steps than they take to file taxes. Checkout should be as simplified as possible to provide both a smooth user experience and respect the customer's time. This not only makes for a better customer experience, but their confidence in your brand will soar. The layout should be free from distracting pop-ups and offer the ability to check out as a guest without any additional pressure.
Motorcycler added Apple Pay, GPay and PayPal as payment options to make it efficient.
There should be no more than three discrete pages for the delivery, payment, and order confirmation steps before the customer places the order. Convoluted checkout systems cause carts to be abandoned and customer satisfaction to plummet.
Ecommerce Customer Experience #5 - Be Consistent and Upfront With Your Policies and Promises.
The customer journey doesn't end at the purchase stage. They may have questions about how to use their product when it arrives or receive the wrong item, or perhaps return it if it doesn't suit their needs.
Nordstromrack has a free 45-day in-store return, which they prominently display on their site.
Is your return and exchange policy clearly defined on in your FAQ or otherwise easily found on your website? If free and easy returns are promised, how do you fulfill this promise to the customer? While many e-commerce businesses make customers pay for return postage and use their own packaging and labels to process returns, it doesn't fulfill a "fast and easy returns" promise if a customer is inconvenienced this way. The same goes for promising shipment within two business days of ordering, every order must meet this standard or customers won't trust your brand for inconsistency.
Building initial trust among customers is already difficult, regaining trust after breaking promises and applying store policies inconsistently is a colossal task that many brands can't execute.
Ecommerce Customer Experience Tip #6 - Keep the Feedback Loop of User-Generated Content Going
Social proof is critical for brands to show that they can be trusted and viewing feedback from other customers is an important step of the buyer's journey. Since this journey doesn't terminate at the purchase stage, the post-purchase stage is when active efforts need to be made to get that social proof.
Automated email campaigns or push notifications can go out after the customer places an order or you both have been notified that the order was delivered. These prompts to write a review add up over time, and the goal of providing an excellent customer service can tie in with this process. By respecting the reviewer's time with the offer of a discount or small store credit among other incentives, the circular process of getting user-generated content can easily continue.
The review process itself should also not fall victim to the same problems as checkout pages where it becomes too difficult for its own good. The ability to write internal product reviews should be made as simple as possible with no more than three or four attributes the customer can rate or describe in addition to their own writeup on using the product. Simplifying the review process is crucial because a system that's difficult to use will result in customers never bothering to submit reviews.
Building trust takes a long time and it's important to understand the customer journeyand the customer experience by themselves, and how they work together. By having a stellar user experience that is technologically and aesthetically sound, delivering quality and consistently across multiple channels becomes easier. Making a visually-appealing website that's easy to navigate is just one step forward, and the site layout also needs to be information-rich without compromising user experience and overwhelming the customer. Your customers' information needs to be kept secure but without also making checkout too difficult for its own good.
Since people come to your website at all stages of the buyer's journey--and this journey doesn't fully end after checkout has been completed--the customer experience and developing trust and integrity as a brand are harmoniously linked. Social proof is an incredibly important part of the customer journeyas people are doing research, and it's equally dire to solicit social proof in the post-purchase stage. Ensuring that your promises have been kept will also factor into this.