4 creative tactics to improve the eCommerce customer experience

This is a guest post from Ryan Gould, Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing, a B2B marketing agency.

Research shows that buyers will happily pay more for a better customer experience. In fact, customer experience is becoming more and more important by the day. So much so, in fact, that brands believe it will become one of the biggest differentiators between eCommerce companies in the not-too-distant future.

The problem is, creating a customer experience that’s compelling, engaging, and keeps people coming back is difficult, especially as eCommerce competition heats up and customers have more choice than ever.

But, if you manage to create an experience that customers love (and are willing to shout about from the rooftops), you’ll stand out against the competition and build up a community of loyal followers and customers—which actually saves you money in the long run.

So how do you get started? How do you begin to improve the experience your customers have with your online shop to make sure they pick you over your competitors?

Here are four important things you should start doing right away to improve the customer experience with your store.

1. Get to know your customers

First things first, you need to find out who your customers are.

Think about it: How can you create an experience if you don’t know who you’re creating it for?

When we talk about “getting to know your customers” here, we’re talking about digging much deeper than the usual demographic criteria, like age, sex, and location. Instead, you need to go further and ask questions about your customers’ behavior, feelings, and goals. Questions like:

  • What is my customers’ biggest struggle?
  • What is the most important goal my customers have?
  • What is the one thing stopping them from getting to that goal?
  • What is the biggest objection my customers have about buying online?

The list can go on and on, but you get the picture. These types of questions can help you map out how your customers interact with your online store so you can make that experience better for them.

eCommerce are at a disadvantage here. In a physical shop, you can see who’s browsing your stock and interact with them as they’re looking. Gathering qualitative data is easy. But there are ways you can get around this in the online world.

Customer surveys are a great way to learn directly from your customers. Instead of making assumptions, you can get real-world answers to the big questions you have.

Of course, to survey customers, you have to find them. Again, you’re not in a retail location, so you can’t as easily customers in conversation while they browse. One way to find customers to survey is to use a popup offer to incentivize participation. Take this example from Fabletics, who serve a popup to customers who arrive on their site asking them a few questions about their workout habits so they can learn more.

You can also ask for customer feedback via email. A good time to ask is after a customer has made a purchase, when you can have a high degree of confidence you’re talking to the type of person you want shopping on you site. You can use an email marketing platform like Jilt to automate the process of sending these requests.

Another way to more literally mimic the in-store experience and solicit feedback from customers while they shop us using live chat. Check out this example from Revolve, which has live chat available to shoppers on every page.

2. Tap into customer empathy

Once you know a bit more about your customers, you can use that information to fuel communication, visuals, and even the kinds of products you put front and center in your store.

Emotional connection is important for consumers these days because they have so much choice. In fact, people are more likely to buy from a brand that shares the same values as them, even if it costs them more in the long run.

The quickest way to weave empathy into your customer experience is to tell a story.

For millions of years, stories have been told to encourage us to think, feel, and act, and they still do this today. When you tell a story, remember who your audience is. You want your stories to resonate with your customers, and you want them to feel almost as if you’re writing about them.

You can share stories in your advertising, on your blog, in your marketing emails, via social media, and directly on your site. Use the research you did to shape your narratives so your brand values align with the things your customers believe and care about.

3. Personalize the sales funnel

Personalization is a huge trend right now, particularly in the eCommerce world. We don’t have to look far to see personalization in action. Just look at a massive site like Amazon, which serves up product recommendations based on a buyer’s previous purchases, for example.

But you can take it further than algorithms that share relevant products. In fact, the most important part of the sales funnel you can personalize is the part that comes after a customer has bought from you.

This is the point where they’ll either decide they’ll buy from you again or they’ll jump ship to a competitor.

In this example from Beardbrand, the customer receives an email after they’ve made a purchase that is focused around the product they bought. The customer has invested in some beard oil, so the brand follows up with a guide to using it for specific skin types.

You can personalize your post-purchase emails like this, or inject some personalization elsewhere, like Very does when a shipper logs into their account:

4. Focus on solutions rather than selling

Customers are looking for something that goes beyond just a simple transaction—they’re looking for a solution to a problem they have.

For example, say sell home hardware items and you have a customer who has a broken fence. Sure, at a very basic level they’re looking for a new fence post, but they also might be looking for a solution that pleases their neighbors, that goes with their garden aesthetics, and that is simple to put up.

So, as well as offering “just a fence post”, you also want to focus on selling neighbor-pleasing posts, easy-to-erect materials, and customizable colors to go with different garden designs.

In this fence post description, it clearly states that there is no need for nails or brackets and that the securing process is “effortless.” If a customer was looking for a quick and easy solution that didn’t require expert hands, they’d probably be all over this.

When you start to think about your products as part of a process rather than the end result, you can create a better experience for customers that encompasses every step of the sales funnel, from the initial stages when they’re looking for a solution but might not know what that is, to the end stages of buying and beyond.

Think outside the box to improve customer experience

Customer experience isn’t a linear process and for every eCommerce store it’s going to be different, which makes it difficult to offer a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

This is where it’s up to you to get creative. Start by getting to know your customers so you can understand their pain points and problems and, from there, you can craft a stories that lead them to their ideal solutions.