Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Alex Gomez, a contributor from New York.
What makes an e-commerce business go from being a simple online store to a popular, beloved brand that gets thousands (to even millions) of unique visitors per day? Amazing customer experience, that’s what.
The key to a successful e-commerce business lies in creating a positive experience for your customers from start to finish. Good marketing is enormously beneficial, but it still isn’t enough to help you retain customers. What keeps them coming back for more is the overall experience they have with you and your company. A positive end-to-end experience is what turns casual online shoppers into avid and loyal brand advocates.
In e-commerce, the customer’s end-to-end experience encompasses everything that occurs throughout their journey, starting from when the customer is first introduced to the company’s products to when and after they have purchased those products.
Creating a positive experience throughout all these phases means streamlining and optimizing your website and all the factors involved in the process—from one end to the other.
Image Source: Moz
So what does an end-to-end customer experience entail for e-commerce websites?
The first phase involves anything that your company does to attract new customers. It is during this phase that potential new customers are introduced to you, so ensure that you make a good first impression.
Having a blog is invaluable for any e-commerce website’s marketing efforts. Blog pages are generally easier to rank than homepages, as blogs allow you to target more specific, long-tail keywords, as opposed to the branded keywords (or even highly competitive keywords, depending on your e-commerce niche) that you would have to target for the homepage.
Blogs also provide the perfect platform for content marketing. An interesting and informative blog with a strong content marketing strategy is beneficial for your potential customers, as it provides them with resources that contain valuable and pertinent information. Blogs are equally beneficial for e-commerce websites as well, and not just because of their inherent SEO (search engine optimization) advantages.
Take Adorama’s dedicated internal blog, Adorama Learning Center (ALC), for example. The blog offers informative articles and video tutorials by photography experts, and this demonstration of Adorama’s knowledge and authority greatly helps establish its credibility and trustworthiness as a consumer electronics retailer.
Image Source: Screenshot
Organic Search Results
SEO is not a new concept. In this day and age, everyone knows that having a website rank high for relevant search terms on search engines will definitely help a business gain more customers. There is not much to be said here that companies do not already know, but since we are talking about the customer’s experience, it is important to use schema markup. This turns your website’s listing on the search engine results pages (SERPs) into something much more than a meta description.
Schema markup greatly improves the way your listing is displayed on SERPs, as it includes other important information along with the snippet such as star ratings, publication dates, event schedules, and various other useful data. The more users can learn about your company or website from just looking at your SERP listing, the more likely they are to click on your site.
Google’s “answer boxes” are also a great way to improve your SERP listing. If you can provide an accurate answer to an important question (that is relevant to your business, of course) that your target demographic may be searching for online and get your website’s listing on Google’s answer box or become a featured snippet (also known as “position zero”), then you are automatically guaranteed one of the highest ranking positions on the SERPs.
Image Source: Screenshot
Also, if and when you are able to snag the answer box or featured snippet, then you are already providing great customer experience through quick and digestible information right there on the SERP.
When it comes to press, social media, and other paid or earned inbound marketing efforts, you can be as aggressive as your resources would allow. These days, effective social media marketing has become the most prominent way to actively promote your brand. Getting noticed on social media can help you gain press coverage, receive attention from bloggers, and get the ball rolling in the word-of-mouth department.
Apart from making sure that your efforts in this area of inbound marketing (such as your social media interactions) are in line with your brand message, you can also provide a positive customer experience by getting creative with seasonal sales, contests, product launches, and events.
You can also get in touch with internet personalities such as successful bloggers or YouTube vloggers, as they hold a lot of influence over consumers and can definitely help promote your company and your products. If a potential customer’s favorite YouTuber creates a glowing video review of one of your products, it automatically gives that customer a good introductory experience with you.
Getting the word out through advertising is one of the most essential aspects of marketing. For e-commerce websites, this involves online (and sometimes even offline) ads.
When it comes to marketing, less is never more—but that is not always the case when it comes to ads. Bombarding your target demographic with endless ads can turn them off from your company, as revealed in a 2012 survey on user response to online advertisement by YouGov and British digital marketing company Upstream. “More than one in four (27%) British and one in five (20%) American consumers online would stop using a product or service… if they were subjected to too much advertising,” the findings show. This does not mean that online ads are a bad idea, but it does mean that you cannot just put them out without first making the effort to find out how your target demographic would respond to them.
Here’s what you need to remember when it creating ads:
- Create catchy, informative, and well-designed ads that promote brand recall
- Avoid annoying online advertising techniques such as pop-ups and ads that load slowly
- Conduct user research and testing on ad design, frequency, etc.
- Increase or decrease your ads depending on user data
The second phase of the end-to-end experience involves the customer’s first interaction with your brand. This is when the customer is reading an article on your blog or exploring your homepage after stumbling upon it through a tweet, an affiliate link, or an online ad.
The success of this phase relies on the quality of your content (so make sure to create epic blog posts) and the look and feel of your entire website. It is extremely important to have a beautiful (and functional) website that is responsive, with stellar UX and UI design that can clearly and effectively explain your company and your products or services because otherwise, your customer will not be moving on to the next phase.
Graze, a snack box subscription service, is a great example of a website that is both aesthetically pleasing and succeeds in clearly and succinctly explaining its products and service without overwhelming the customer.
Image Source: Screenshot
During this phase, the customer begins to decide whether or not to purchase something from your website. With e-commerce, this phase happens mostly on the homepage and the product page – particularly the latter.
To convince customers to purchase your product, you need to first ensure that they can actually find the products on your website. Your website should have optimal site navigation, an easy-to-find search bar, and advanced product filters. If you already have these e-commerce basics implemented, then it is all down to optimizing your product pages. Each page must offer pertinent and useful information that your customers need to make a decision on the purchase.
Image Source: Screenshot
For instance, on a cosmetics website’s product page, a customer would expect to see product photos, reviews from other customers, and possibly ingredients list. Customers may even want to check out some color swatches, which you won’t usually see from big cosmetics websites like Sephora or MAC.
Colourpop, a popular new cosmetics brand, took it a step further by finding out what its customers needed to see to make buying decisions. It then went beyond the usual product page necessities and added helpful color swatches, which it swatched against three different skintones to show how the colors would appear on each one. For every product, the site also shows the specific color swatch alongside other shades from the same line to allow customers to compare the different shades.
The necessary product page information will vary depending on what you are selling, so the key to getting it right is to get to know your customers. Find out what they want to know about your products or services. Find out what they want to see on your product page.
Or at the very least, make sure that your product page has the following:
- Stunning, high-quality product photos (if applicable)
- Clear, concise descriptions
- Price, available colors, sizes, and other important product information
- Product reviews, testimonials, hands-on videos, tutorials, etc.
- Comparable options (other related products)
- Clear calls to action
- Page speed and responsiveness
Everyone knows about conversion. For online entrepreneurs, this is the most triumphant part of the entire process. It is when visitors become customers.
There are many ways to increase conversion rates, and most of them involve enhancements to the product page such as compelling content, time-sensitive free shipping or discount offers, prominent calls to action, and more. But while these are great for transactional leads, what about the non-transactional ones?
Oftentimes, people will go to e-commerce websites and spend a good amount of time browsing through products and adding them to the shopping cart—but never actually end up making the purchase. They would then forget about said cart, and possibly move on to a competitor to buy the same items.
E-commerce websites with good conversion rates are usually the ones that implement marketing strategies for non-transactional leads. These leads help e-commerce sites retain these visitors as potential customers. It can be an investment in retargeting ads to ensure that the visitor is reminded of you wherever they go. Or it can be a call to action to subscribe to their newsletter, which is usually made more appealing with the promise of a special promo code or VIP discounts.
If the visitor subscribed and provided his email, some websites even go the extra mile by sending an email to remind the visitor of his abandoned shopping cart. Others even sweeten the deal by offering a discount on the visitor’s shopping cart items.
Because who doesn’t love a good deal, right?
5. CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP
Once customers have converted, it is all a matter of maintaining good relationships with them to retain them. The main goal is to ensure that the customer, who just left your website feeling happy and content about his recent purchase, continues to feel positively about your company.
To keep the positive feeling going, e-commerce websites should go beyond the usual post-transactional emails (purchase confirmation, shipping notification, and delivery notification) and send new customers a “thank you” email, with a message welcoming them as new customers. This can also include a special discount or free shipping offer for their next purchase, as a way to encourage them to come back.
From there, it’s all about making sure that the customers do not experience “buyer’s remorse.” Make sure to use attractive packaging (the ideal is to package them as “gifts”), ship items fast and on time, and provide a platform (on your website) for customers to give you positive or negative feedback on their purchases.
Amazing customer service is also critical. If a customer is in any way unhappy with his purchase, he won’t likely return. But there is still a way to retain an unhappy customer, and that is by providing great customer service. When a customer complains about a purchase, you need to rectify the situation in a way that greatly benefits the customer. For instance, if any of the shipped items is damaged, you can respond by sending a replacement, as well as a freebie or a special discount code to compensate for the inconvenience.Everyone knows about conversion. For online entrepreneurs, this is the most triumphant part of the entire process. It is when visitors become customers.
At this point, all you have to do is keep in touch with customers by sending them newsletters about new products, special sales, and various other enticing offers.
Image Source: Screenshot
You can also continue the positive customer relationship by sending personalized service or product recommendations based on the customer’s previous purchases, or by sending emails notifying the customer that a product they were interested in (viewed or saved to their wishlist) is currently on sale.
CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP IS KING
“Content is king” is a popular phrase that has been around in the world of marketing for a while now. But while it may be true for some cases, it is not true for all. In the world of e-commerce, customer relationship is king.
Making great content is without a doubt an integral part of the whole end-to-end customer experience, but at the end of the day, cultivating meaningful and lasting relationships with customers is what brings e-commerce websites unparalleled success.
Author bio: Alex Gomez is a freelance contributor for Adorama, an online story that is based on New York. During his free time he reads books and play games like an average human being. You may catch him on his Facebook.com