Regardless of your industry, customer experience (CX) reigns supreme. Why? Because customer satisfaction and business longevity go hand-in-hand.
Studies have found that consumers show greater loyalty to retailers, brands, or devices that provide a frictionless and stress-free experience. And when customers are wowed by the service they receive – they’re more likely to become loyal regulars to your business rather than fleeting, one-time buyers.
In fact, one study found that businesses who focus their efforts on CX grow faster due to greater customer loyalty outcomes – ensuring a secure customer base that can weather business hardships. This may explain why industry experts tip CX to be a key brand differentiator by 2020, and why businesses are now investing time and finances into improving their methods of customer interaction.
While it would be spurious to suggest that the lion's share of organisations fail to recognize the importance of customer satisfaction, there exists a high proportion of companies – from small traders to corporate giants – that simply fail to give CX the attention it deserves.
Here we look to investigate this phenomenon and examine why CX problems seem only to magnify when put into an e-commerce context.
The Customer Experience Conundrum
The growing digital landscape has altered the trajectory of customer expectations. Where once brick-and-motor stores were the main point of contact between brand and customer, the internet has created more consumer touchpoints than ever.
In the early 2000s, m-commerce began to grow as a native platform for purchasing online, and the emergence of wide-reaching social media channels added an additional level of complexity to CX. Continuous change made it difficult to deliver a consolidated omni-channel experience – and consumer expectations that leaned towards fast service and personalisation became the norm.
As contemporary shoppers are tech-savvy and expect quick and easy service online, e-commerce businesses have had to rapidly adapt to constant changes in customer interactions. While many businesses have invested time and money into streamlining the customer journey, many aspects of CX and customer touchpoints continue to under-perform as brands struggle to keep up, causing poor e-commerce customer experience.
The Path of An E-commerce Customer
For e-commerce businesses, the quality of a customer’s journey through your website can be the make-or-break obstacle towards improving CX.
When you simplify the path to purchase with effective UX and UI design on your site, consumers are able to quickly find what they’re looking for and make easier purchasing decisions. What's more, when the customer journey is backed up by effective communications and robust customer service procedures, you can resolve queries quicker while providing shoppers with all the information they need.
However, many e-commerce businesses fail to create a streamlined and innovative customer journey. This heightens shopper frustration as customer expectations are dashed or discontented by numerous irritations, that rapidly grow to become worrisome CX problems.
Considering 47% of consumers will switch to a different brand due to poor customer service, what are the major CX blunders currently plaguing e-commerce, and how can your business avoid making the same mistakes?
How Can E-commerce Customer Experience Improve?
Online customers have more choice than ever when searching for products, so businesses need to maintain consumer loyalty while competing with their counterpart brands for attention. However, many legacy CX strategies do not utilise new technology to improve the customer journey, leaving them at a significant disadvantage.
One example of new technology is predictive personalisation software, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to provide a layer of personalisation to an e-commerce site. Machine learning can personalise each individual users' visit using the unique preferences and real-time purchase intent to streamline the purchasing experience. The software ranks search results based on user preferences (e.g. gender, size, or brand), and can infer session intent by analysing the areas of the website they've browsed – creating a fool-proof brand experience.
In a world where CX is a key differentiator, personalisation software ensures customers return for the experience, not just pricing or products alone. And, as increasing numbers of brands adopt personalisation methods across their digital interactions, customers now expect this in every online experience.
Modern day shoppers want a smooth experience when moving from one point of contact to the next, whether it's an interaction on the phone transferring to desktop or an e-mail moving to web chat. In fact, 9 in 10 consumers want a complete omni-channel service, and can become frustrated when their experience becomes disjointed.
Businesses should utilise technology that remembers and understands the preferences of returning visitors to help them feel like welcomed regulars, rather than faceless window-shoppers if they are to attract repeat business from returning customers
Additionally, personalised e-mails or notifications, contextual messaging, and basket reminders can help to unify every customer touch-point with a brand. To drive conversions, comapanies need to build a consistent personal connection through multiple channels that compel customers to keep returning for years to come, rather than leaving their interactions solely in their hands.
Navigation and site-search design are key to achieving the "findability factor" on your website. Findability refers to visitor ability to find what they're looking for quickly and is often integral to the success of any e-commerce business. When customers can't find items or products, a quick google search will instantly redirect them to a competitor, so site-search is a crucial CX opportunity.
Automated merchandising uses AI to help businesses completely re-think navigation and search. Algorithms map the complex relationships between products, and consumer behaviour is monitored through site-search tools and added to the algorithm through machine learning.
This creates the smartest site-search tool you'll ever need, one that can autocomplete search queries, return relevant and personalised results, suggests bespoke cross-selling opportunities, and learns in real-time to incorporate new words and synonyms into site-search vocabulary. This automates the back-end of website search processing, creating a cyclical search system that will only get more intelligent with time to serve important CX needs.
Attentive Customer Support
Customer support has long been essential for managing even the most basic of customer expectations. Without it, consumers are almost guaranteed to move on. Studies show that the majority of people will decide not to make a purchase due to poor customer support, while 52% will actually make an additional purchase after a positive customer experience.
Many organisations are turning towards machine learning to streamline management of customer queries, and AI-driven chat bots can assist with customer queries, recommend products, and aid customer navigation or purchases. Using machine learning, chat bots can learn from customer behaviour and react appropriately to any task instructed by a customer. This alleviates the task from internal teams, helping free up valuable time for circumstances that actually need human intervention.
Yet, it's also important to consider that while contemporary Gen Z-ers may be comfortable with automated customer support, many people still want human interactions during the customer journey. It's arguable that this is due to the requirement of CX to be personable as well as personalised, however, the obvious benefits of using AI and machine learning to manage customer support processes shouldn't be overlooked. Gartner predicts that by 2020, it will be the norm for customers to manage their relationship with a brand without human interaction, so it's important that e-commerce finds a middle-ground between people and robots.
Customer Experience is Key
Every customer interaction with your brand should be meaningful, streamlined, and memorable – for all the right reasons. Poorly designed website elements such as site-search or navigation, disjointed experiences across platforms, and lack of personalisation will leave businesses falling at the rapid-innovation hurdle. If you'd like to learn more about the methods brands' are using to stay atop of growing CX requirements, we've compiled a short list of tips to design a frictionless shopping experiences on e-commerce websites, read it here.