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How to create memorable eCommerce customer experiences

23 min read

Author: Rosemin Anderson

Subject Matter Expert: Ray Gerber

Creating a memorable and seamless online shopping experience is vital for developing customer loyalty and improving business outcomes. Did you know that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience? In the competitive world of eCommerce, delivering a seamless and memorable experience is key to building loyalty and boosting your bottom line. Read on to learn how to deliver eCommerce customer experiences that inspire strong brand loyalty and draw new audiences in.

What is an eCommerce customer experience?

An ecommerce customer experience is the total experience a customer may have when interacting with an online shopping brand. This includes all touchpoints from initial brand recognition all the way to post-purchase communication. From social media connections to customer service tickets, any point at which a customer and a brand intersect forms part of the eCommerce customer experience.

Your overall brand experience, your product or service experience and the support experience as they go through your customer journey all contribute to the overall understanding of your eCommerce customer experience. The more you understand about your customers, the easier it will be to transform them into satisfied customers that come back for more.

Free guide: The Essential Website Experience & UX Playbook

Why is creating a seamless, trusted eCommerce customer experience important?

As eCommerce brands predominantly do their business online, the digital customer experience needs to be seamless to effortlessly move your audience from a potential audience to loyal customers of your brand. Here are several reasons why brands should try to improve eCommerce customer experience:

It can smooth the customer journey

A seamless, welcoming eCommerce customer experience can help your customers to overcome common obstacles to completing a purchase, such as hesitancy over providing credit card details, an unwillingness to pay for shipping, or a reluctance to purchase in case returning items proves difficult. Trust is a significant part of whether a customer will make a purchase or sign up, given that they need to part with financial details and receive an item having never seen it in person.

If you have provided your audience with a positive customer experience in your online store and the process of moving through the sales funnel has been easy and even enjoyable, it’s more likely you’ll be able to persuade customers to buy, as well as increase your customer retention.

It can lead to better profitability and increased customer retention

Our past research has found that across the globe, organizations risk 6.7% of their revenue, or $3.1 trillion, from customer loss due to poor experiences. By investing in the customer experience for your online store, you’re able to focus on meeting and exceeding customer expectations, which in turn leads them to return repeatedly to your brand. With a more loyal customer base and an easy-to-recommend experience on offer, your business outcomes are much more likely to improve.

It can be a differentiator in a competitive market

The eCommerce market is thriving, and is only likely to increase in success over time as customers increasingly turn to online sources for purchases. Creating a memorably great eCommerce customer experience can often be the differentiator that persuades customers to choose your brand over others. Offering a consistent, trusted experience is likely to result in more return customers and an increased chance of word of mouth recommendations. With 95% of dissatisfied customers telling others about their negative experience, it’s worth investing in experiences that will delight, rather than disappoint.

Understanding the eCommerce customer journey

It’s vital to pinpoint the key touchpoints and customer expectations at each stage of the eCommerce customer journey to ensure you can meet needs and deliver on what customers expect every time.

eCommerce customer journey graphic

1.   Awareness

Before a customer even engages with your brand, awareness is the first stage in which you can impress a customer with your eCommerce customer experience. From third party review sites to advertising to word-of-mouth, there are multiple ways in which your potential customer might become aware of your brand.

The key to ensuring they have a stellar customer experience with you at this stage is to ensure that your proposition is clear. Do you offer simple, easy returns? Are you highly dedicated to data protection? Do your staff go above and beyond? Including information along these lines in all the potential first awareness touchpoints can set expectations and entice customers to try out your brand.

Brands can demonstrate their appeal to their potential customer base with strategies designed to engender trust and place the brand directly within the audience’s sphere. Influencer partnerships, for example, allow authoritative, recognized individuals to confer their trust for your brand to their particular audience. Targeted advertising and search engine optimization (SEO) can both place your brand’s products or services directly in the path of those who could benefit from engaging – for example, if they’re looking for a new laptop, and your brand provides great deals on technology.

2.   Research and Consideration

At the research and consideration stage, the main goal for your customer is to flesh out their knowledge about your brand, products and services to help them make an educated choice about your purchase. They might peruse your website or get in touch with your contact center to find out more information. At this stage, it’s important for their eCommerce customer experience to quickly provide what they need, such as information on pricing, return policies, ease of use, current customer reviews, industry awards etc.

Making it easy for them to access the information they need to make a decision is critical. Whether you utilize detailed FAQ sections on your websites, product/service comparison guides, live chat support or other resources, answering customer queries quickly and easily allows you to encourage them further down the buying journey.

3.   Purchase

Once your customer has decided that they want to purchase from your brand, you need to provide a smooth, trustworthy purchase process. Even if your product or service is perfect for their needs, if they experience frustration or even rage during the purchase process, they’re likely to abandon their choice. Keeping the number of steps or forms to fill at a minimum, offering assistance where needed and ensuring that everything works as expected from a technology and user experience perspective can help to keep customers on track.

Ensuring your customers feel they can trust you at every step of the journey is key for maintaining momentum as they pass through your customer experience. Providing trust signals – SSL certificates, awards won, industry standards met, customer testimonials, clear return policies – can help to reduce and eliminate any purchase hesitation.

4.   Post-Purchase

Even though a customer has made a purchase, the eCommerce customer experience doesn’t end. Getting a post-purchase evaluation and feedback can help you to improve customer experiences in future and assure customers that their opinion is valued. Offering a helpful post-purchase customer experience – such as following up with the customer on whether the product works as expected – can help to positively influence future purchases and ensure customer loyalty.

It’s also another opportunity to delight your customers. Offering discounts or incentives with thank-you emails, highlighting the benefits of your loyalty programs, and personalizing the post-purchase messaging you send can help customers to feel valued, and encourage them to return.

Key elements of a great eCommerce customer experience

A great eCommerce customer experience is the sum of many parts. From how customers feel at each touchpoint to the back end functionality of your platforms, every interaction contributes to an overall experience that will either delight or discourage. Here are some examples of areas that brands can work on to create a positive, memorable customer experience.

eCommerce experience elements

Website design and user experience (UX)

How your customer experiences your site from a technical perspective can greatly affect their likelihood to make a purchase or return. Is the site functional? Are your pages linked in a way that makes sense and is easy to navigate? Are buttons and other key elements easy to find and use? Does your search function bring up appropriate products or information?

The best way to determine if your website design and user experience are meeting and exceeding expectations is to conduct usability testing with real customers. This allows you to identify pain points and discover where there are areas for improvement. Heatmaps, sessions recordings and other similar tools can help you to really narrow down what instigates particular user behaviors, and establish new prompts that encourage customers to take actions you desire.

Mobile responsiveness

Many customers will be perusing your platforms on their mobile devices. If your site is not optimized for mobile or is slow to respond on a handheld device, it can put customers off, leading them to leave the site and abandon making a purchase. Your website should function without any issues on all devices, meaning the design has to be carefully considered. Using mobile-friendly design elements, such as larger buttons, simplified navigation, and quick-loading pages can help reduce friction and provide a great customer experience. There’s a reason brands such as Amazon have become behemoths in the market – their mobile experiences are seamless.

Clear product information and visuals

When buying from an eCommerce brand, customers aren’t able to perform the usual checks they might be able to in person, such as looking over a design, checking for flaws, and testing out functionality. It’s critical that you provide clear product information and high quality visuals for a good eCommerce customer experience. To persuade customers to make a purchase, they need as much direct information and evidence of quality that they can get.

For example, you can augment your product listings with high-quality imagery, video content, and 360-degree views to give your customers a good sense of the product without having to see or touch it in person. Detailed product descriptions, with dimensions, materials, care instructions and usage tips, help to flesh out and sell the product more easily.

Fast loading times

Sometimes, a brilliant product or service can be let down by something as simple as a slow website loading time. If your platform isn’t able to load quickly, customers can easily abandon their effort and find what they need elsewhere. According to Google, 53% of mobile users leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load, and 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. Using website optimization tools, such as Google PageSpeed Insights, can help you to identify and fix performance issues.

Accessibility for users with disabilities

All customers should be able to use your site. Providing accessibility for those users who have disabilities is a quick way to increase your audience pool and provide a great experience to all.

Rather than putting off both disabled customers and those who look for inclusivity from your brand, you can make adjustments that mean it’s easier for those with impairments to access your offering. You should follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure your website is accessible to people with disabilities, as well as conducting regular accessibility audits using tools like WAVE or Axe to identify and fix accessibility issues. Additionally, making sure that you involve users with disabilities in usability testing allows you to gather direct feedback to help you improve your customer experiences for everyone.

A seamless checkout process with plenty of options

The checkout process is often where brands fall down in their eCommerce customer experience. If your checkout system provides too many obstacles – it’s slow, or there are too many steps, or it doesn’t feel secure – your customers will go elsewhere. Optimize your checkout process to be seamless, and customers are much more likely to follow through on a purchase. Multiple payment options can also help your customers to complete purchases, and help them to feel accommodated.

It’s also worth noting that you should provide a guest checkout process. Not all customers want to provide their details, sometimes in the interest of time, and sometimes in the interest of data privacy. Offering an alternative is a good way to get a purchase or sign up, even if you don’t collect the details you’d like. Customers will appreciate the fact that they have the option.

Privacy reassurances

Customers are now more aware of the need for data protection and secure transactions, but trust can be earned in more ways than just prominently displaying your privacy policies that explain how customer data is collected, used and protected. Offering buy-and-try options with easy returns, providing multiple ways to get in touch and giving customers a consistent, trustworthy experience can go a long way to persuade customers that it’s not risky to buy online.

Order tracking and delivery updates

One of the obstacles that can prevent customers from purchasing from an eCommerce business is the fact that they haven’t seen the product and have essentially paid in trust. Providing your audience with reassurances that their money hasn’t been wasted and that a product is on its way can aid customers in feeling that they can trust your brand. Providing order tracking and delivery updates, with clear communication at checkout about delivery timeframes, means customers aren’t left wondering if their money has been spent in vain, and helps to set customer expectations about when items will be in their hands.

Personalization and recommendations

In an ideal experience, customers feel as though they are being catered to individually. Instead of feeling like just another number, a personalized experience with product recommendations made specifically to each customer’s taste or need can be the difference between abandonment and repeat purchases.

Using collected customer data and a customer experience platform, you can easily deliver personalized experiences at each stage of the customer journey. Recommendation engines can analyze customer information to provide relevant products to their interests, which you can then use to tailor your website and mobile app content to better reflect user behavior and preferences.

Tailored content and offers

It’s not just product recommendations that can be tailored to each individual customer. If a customer has bought a specific product, for example, offering them tailored content via your website or their email inbox on the use of that product can improve their experience and help to lower the rate of customer support team contact. Providing personalized offers can similarly entice customers to return to your business to make a purchase.

Customer support and engagement

Your customer support system – whether it is provided through a contact center, self-service options or both – can make or break an eCommerce customer experience. If customers are unable to get the help they need, they are less likely to return to your brand for another purchase in future.

Providing self-service solutions such as an FAQ page or knowledge base for simple issues and offering in-depth help if customers need it via your contact center can help customers to feel cared for and more amenable, even if they initially encountered an issue.

Offering omnichannel support – via chat, email, telephone, social media channels and more – allows customers to feel as though your brand is always there to help, and lets them get in touch in a way that suits their needs. This leads to more satisfied customers. Technology such as AI-driven chatbots can help reduce the burden on your support staff, as well as offering proactive support by identifying issues before they escalate.

Great product experiences

It should go without saying that your product should provide a great experience to customers – but smaller details, such as the packaging and unboxing experience, can help to really convince customers that your brand is high quality and worth returning to. Sturdy, eco-friendly or reusable packaging is a nice touch that assures quality, while offering extras such as a personalized note to discover during unboxing can be a small gesture that pays dividends.

Proactive communication and updates

Customers are often bombarded with brand communications, meaning stand-out marketing is needed to cut through the noise. Offering personalized emails and offers regularly, with proactive help provided, can make the difference. If they’ve purchased a complex product, for example, sending them an email with helpful FAQ answers can help them to feel more positive about their purchasing experience.

User-generated content

Providing evidence that other customers have had a great experience with your brand is an easy way to offer social proof to new customers. Adding user-generated content, such as reviews or Q&A sections, on product pages is a simple way to add another positive affirmation that your brand is worth their trust. This evidence that there are high levels of customer satisfaction is a simple way to prove your brand and its products are worth the risk.

Customer loyalty and customer retention programs

A great way to ensure customers feel they are investing with your brand, rather than just making a purchase, is to offer a loyalty or retention program that rewards them every time they make a significant interaction. Multiple purchases, social media recommendations, feedback survey completions and other types of events are great opportunities to reward your customers for their engagement.

Evaluating your eCommerce customer experience

Evaluating your eCommerce customer experience (CX) is crucial for understanding its effectiveness and popularity among your customers. By tracking key metrics, you can gain insights into customer behavior, satisfaction, and loyalty, which will help you make informed decisions to enhance the overall experience.

Here are some recommended metrics and methods for evaluating your eCommerce CX:

  • Conversion rates: How many visiting customers actually make a purchase? Where do they abandon the customer journey, and why?
  • Cart abandonment rates: At what stage do customers abandon carts, and is there a significant or clear motivator for this?
  • Customer satisfaction score and Net Promoter Score (NPS): How satisfied are your customers with their overall experience, or their experience at specific customer journey stages? Are they likely to recommend it to others?
  • Customer effort score: How hard is it for customers to navigate your brand experience?
  • Repeat purchase rates and customer lifetime value: How often do customers come back for another purchase? What is the average customer lifetime value, and what impacts customers’ likelihood to return?

All of the data collected should be evaluated with your customer journey in mind. For example, aligning and correlating customer feedback with customer behavior at specific touchpoints can help you to understand trends and predict future customer actions. This allows you to tailor your eCommerce customer experience specifically to your customer base.

eCommerce customer experience timeline graphic

Best practices for successful eCommerce customer experiences

Creating a superior eCommerce customer experience is crucial for building customer loyalty and driving business growth. To achieve this, businesses must adopt a holistic approach that seamlessly integrates various touchpoints, leverages data-driven insights for continuous optimization, and stays ahead of evolving customer expectations.

The following best practices will guide you in enhancing your eCommerce platform, ensuring a smooth and engaging customer journey that meets the high standards of today’s consumers.

Build a unified ecosystem

Creating an integrated ecosystem that links external touch points such as social media channels to internal points of contact is important. Collating all your data in the same place to ensure insights aren’t lost, for example, can help your teams to be more effective. On the customer side, integrating with common shipping services, for example, can make it easier for customers to make purchases and send returns.

Leverage data for continuous optimization

The best way to improve your eCommerce customer experience is to utilize data-driven insights to fuel change. Taking into account data you collect, customer feedback, employee observations and more, you can test new methods of connecting with your customers via A/B experimentation to ensure your experiences deliver every time.

Adopt an iterative improvement approach

An eCommerce customer experience isn’t a one-and-done process; it requires continuous improvement and an iterative approach to ensure that changing customer needs are met over time. For example, in future, the use of AI might mean that customers expect to be able to “see” products in their spaces, rather than it being a novel add-on.

The eCommerce trends of the future

The world of eCommerce is rapidly changing. With new technology, such as Gen AI, changing how rapidly businesses can adapt and personalize their digital customer experiences, brands need to stay on top of the latest eCommerce trends to stay relevant and top of mind for their audiences.

Ready to transform your eCommerce customer experience? Download our free UX Playbook and start optimizing your customer journey today!

Free guide: The Essential Website Experience & UX Playbook