These valuable industry insights show how to optimise your customer experience and maximise your e-commerce potential
E-commerce has been intrinsically linked with the internet since the early inception in the 1990s, with global powerhouses such as Amazon, eBay and PayPal creating billion dollar companies off the back of it, and it continues to grow year on year.
The total value of global e-commerce sales in 2017 was $2.3T and is expected to nearly double to $4.5T in 2021
The power to buy online, without visiting the physical store can often be faster and more convenient for many customers, but can also be a source of worry and frustration for others, with concerns such as ‘how do I know I’m buying the right thing?’ and ‘am I getting the best deal?’.
Habits online are also evolving, with customers having a device in their pocket and access to a whole world of brands at the touch of a button. Worldwide, the share of m-commerce in all e-commerce is expected to rise to 72.9% by 2021 (Statista), so the opportunity to capture the eyeballs and wallets of these consumers is as big as it ever has been.
These 5 top tips are designed to make sure you stay ahead of the chasing pack with some valuable industry insights to improve the customer experience and unlock the hidden potential of your e-commerce platform.
Learn from your customers
Understanding your customers’ needs is the foundation of good customer experience and good customer experience means less barriers to purchase, so your customers are likely to spend more. On the flip side, bad customer experience means lost revenue, with 80% of online shoppers saying they will stop doing business with a company because of poor customer experience (Hubspot). Revenue is not the only thing you can lose, with social media being a simple conduit to venting frustrations, customers are likely to tell their friends about it too.
If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy in the digital world, they can each tell 6,000 friends.
Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon
Conducting interviews with real customers uncovers how they really feel about your brand and what really matters to them. Never underestimate their ability to surprise you so be prepared to have your initial assumptions challenged and remember that people’s attitudes change over time, so what customers felt about your products two years ago may no longer be relevant. First-hand and up-to-date customer feedback is invaluable and should inform how you structure content and how you market your products.
If you have an existing platform, it’s important to understand what is working well already and identify opportunities for improvement. Usability testing allows you to analyse how users complete key tasks on your website and measure the effectiveness. When running usability tests with multiple customers, trends will ultimately emerge. Understanding how customers interpret your messaging, how easy it is for them to checkout and where the drop-offs are will enable you to focus on the issues that will make the most difference to conversion. Usability testing provides the foundational insight of how things are performing now and gives you a benchmark to measure any changes you make against.
If you don’t have a platform yet and are working to bring one to market, make sure you get your product in the hands of real customers as early and often as possible, during the design process. You shouldn’t wait until your product is released to get valuable feedback, allow customers to shape the experience and iron out problems. This will minimise the risk and cost, as it is much quicker and easier to make changes before you get into code.
Make it personalised
Personalisation shows customers that you have listened to them and that you understand them, and tailoring the experience on your website based on customer behaviour is proven to increase conversion.
49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalised experience.
Personalisation should touch every facet of your platform from the homepage to the checkout, so understanding which products a customer is most interested in, and presenting them in the right place at the right time will maximise sales. The power of advanced data and analytics platforms, such as Mixpanel, allow you to segment customers into cohorts, depending on their behaviour, and then create bespoke content and journeys that match their needs.
At the very minimum, you should organise your product catalog effectively, by tagging related and relevant products, so that they can be recommended alongside each other. Listen to the data of browsing behaviour and see what products repeat customers come back and buy, then let this inform your product categorisation and recommendation engine. For large traffic and volume websites, this process can be automated using AI and machine learning tools to process big data in real time, with algorithms that are constantly optimising and improving relevance.
It’s one thing to understand your customer and personalise your offering to them, but you can take personalisation one step further with contextual relevance. Understanding their situation, you can tailor hyper-relevant products or messaging for summer/winter, weekdays/weekends, morning/evening or sunshine/rainy weather. Humans respond to the intuitive nature of being presented with something that is right for a specific moment in time, and the more human you can make it the better.
Everything travels through the path of least resistance. This is true with water cutting through landscapes and also with customers navigating the world of e-commerce. If you want to turn that customers browsing visit into a purchase, then you need to simplify everything.
On average, only 4.3% of e-commerce website visits convert into a purchase
This means that in about 20 visits to an online store, only 1 generates revenue, but this can be improved with simplification of customer journeys, content and checkout. Think about the path to purchase, how many pages or clicks does it take for the customer to buy your product and how can you streamline interactions to make it as simple as possible.
Are you selling high or value products or lower value consumables? Do customers need to buy in multiples, what options do they need to configure before purchase? All of these questions will help you to determine whether you should let users buy directly from the homepage, the product listing page (PLP) or the product detail page (PDP).
When simplifying the PDP, you need to identify the minimum information required to entice a customer to purchase, highlight the product benefits as succinctly as possible and combine them with any key variant options such as size, colour or subscription. Put this simplified information above the fold and next to the buy button. Associate those key benefits with the impulse feeling that the buy button brings. Continue to drive home 'reasons to buy' as customers scroll and keep that buy button sticky. Make your customers want it, and make it easy for them to get it.
Once the product is in the basket, you need to simplify the checkout experience as much as possible. Make it clear where customers are in the journey. Make it clear to them what's next. There's a lot of fields to fill in, with shipping, billing, payment etc, you can minimise drop off by dividing information into easily manageable bite-size steps, with clear indicators of progress as you go through it.
Up-sell and cross-sell
If a customer is already on your website, the hardest job is done. They are there for a reason, they’re interested in what you sell and the final job is to convert them to purchase. Statistics show that customer acquisition is far more expensive than customer retention.
It's 5-25X more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one
(Harvard Business Review)
So when you have a captive customer, you need to do your best to engage them with relevant content and maximise their potential basket revenue. You can do this by up-selling and cross-selling.
Up-selling is encouraging the purchase of anything that would make the primary purchase more expensive, for example, upgrading from 64GB to 128GB on that iPhone purchase. Cross-selling is encouraging the purchase of anything in conjunction with the primary product, for example adding that shiny phone case to your purchase as well. Both are effective ways to maximise revenue, and here are some examples of how to implement them in your e-commerce strategy.
First off, make sure you understand what is important to your customers and what they actually want. Also, you need to understand the benefits of your products and how best to articulate them. Customers can be turned off by shouty sales messages, but relevant benefits presented in a compelling way, with a clear reason to upgrade or add an item will appeal to your customers without annoying them.
Outside of standard product recommendations, another effective way of maximising revenue is to create bundles, by putting 2 or more products together for an all-in-one price. Amazon is great at this, batteries bundled with your alarm clock or an e-book with your kindle purchase makes perfect sense, that’s because they are relevant and connected. Think about how your products naturally fit together, think about how customers actually use your products and create an offer that is compelling and relevant, it may be less likely that someone wants to buy an umbrella with their sunglasses.
If a customer has added the product to their basket, chances are there's something else you're selling that they might like too, they just might not have seen it. You don't need to stop selling just because they’re in the cart, present them with compelling and relevant up-sell or cross-sell opportunities before they hit checkout. 'You may also like this' or ‘upgrade to subscription to save £XX' are effective ways to increase revenue, and customers are in a different mindset in the basket, feeling more impulsive. Use urgency with the language and encourage FOMO but above all, make sure the recommendation or upgrade is complementary to the customers’ initial purchase, you don't want to annoy them.
Experiment and evolve
Just because your site is live and transactions are flowing, it doesn’t mean you should stop developing and evolving. The best platforms are ones that are continually experimenting to optimise the customer experience. Adopting the experimental mindset of ‘always in beta’ will help you to learn more about your customers and keep you focused on identifying which levers you can pull to maximise revenue and grow your business.
Hewlett Packard used A/B testing with a variant of their printer category page. The new page increased success metrics by 20% and yielded an incremental $260K per quarter.
A/B testing is the most simple and effective way of testing two options side by side, and seeing which one has the most positive impact. Whether it’s reducing bounce rate, increasing click-through or driving conversion, A/B testing allows you to make data driven decisions which will inform improvements to your platform.
To run a successful A/B test you first need to pick one variable to test, it could be an alternative way to articulate benefits in your product description or positioning of the buy button on the PDP, but make sure you isolate one independent variable, so that you can be sure what influenced the results. Next, you need to identify your goal, what is the measure of success and which data are you tracking to prove or disprove your hypothesis. It could be % click-through increase to a specific page or % uplift in add to basket for a specific product.
Once you have your variable and your goal, you need to set the sample size and duration. If you are unsure of how the change may affect your sales, you could try with a lower sample size of 10-15% of customers and measure the variants side by side for 1 week to see the results. If results come back positive, you can increase to 50% of customers and measure again for another week. Make sure you are testing in minimum 1 week increments to track the results effectively and ensure you have enough users accessing the variants during that time to achieve statistical significance.
Once an A/B test is finished, analyse the data and confirm whether your success metric has been achieved. Remember, it is not a failure if it didn’t work, you will have at least learned something about your customers, and that’s great. If the change yielded positive results, roll it out to 100% of your customer base and start creating your next experiment. With this mindset, you will ensure you’re always striving to optimise the customer experience and maximise your e-commerce potential.
Delight your Customers. Grow your business.
There are many ways to increase sales and boost revenue for your e-commerce business, but the best methodology to ensure success is to balance business goals with customer needs and ensure that there is a value exchange to both sides.
Understanding and setting what the business KPIs are in your e-commerce strategy is vital before embarking on any platform improvements, identify measures for success and have a clear and achievable goal. Understanding and empathising with your customers will ensure that you focus on what brings them value too, maximising retention and creating brand advocates.
Customer experience and business growth are intrinsically linked. And when you focus on the sweetspot where those two worlds overlap, that is where the magic happens. When you delight your customers, you really can grow your business, and grow it in the right way.