How to Build a Customer-Centric E-commerce Store

Technology has made shopping extremely easy for customers today. Thanks to smartphones and social media, customers have access to more price ranges, product information, product recommendations, reviews, and purchase channel options than ever before.

The biggest advantage of shopping online is the ease of placing an order–just tap the screen, and your order will be delivered at your doorstep. However, the disadvantage is— it doesn’t take much for customers to switch to a different store. In physical retail, leaving in the middle of shopping experience and heading to a different store might involve the discomfort of explaining to a floor salesperson why you’re no longer interested. But on the internet, all it takes is a click.

Customer support teams play a vital role in online retail. They help customers process refunds, assist them when they’re stuck and do more to ensure that customers have a good experience. While the role of a support team is indispensable, making sure that your support team is helpful only when something goes wrong is no longer enough.

According to McKinsey, “Today’s consumers do not buy just products or services – more and more, their purchase decisions revolve around buying into an idea and an experience.”

People demand a positive, seamlessly consistent and frictionless customer experience (CX) throughout their purchase journey. Customers value a good experience at least as much as they seek competitive pricing and high product quality – if not more. And if you’re going to provide a CX that’s so good that it changes the game for your business, then you need to put your customer’s motivations at the center of everything you do. In this article, let’s take a look at how you can build a customer-centric e-commerce store.

Customer-Centricity Goes All the Way

Customer-centricity means to place positive customer experience at the heart of the entire business and to anticipate and exceed customer needs. It requires transforming the whole company to focus on customer experience along every inch of the customer journey – not just at touchpoints of customer interaction.

A customer-centric e-commerce store includes:

– complete purchase and product information
– building a relationship through educational content and personalized offers
– abandoned cart and additional product suggestions
– easy payment options, full delivery, and last mile CX
– a simple returns policy, and of course, excellent customer support.

Here are some key steps to follow to ensure that you truly put your customers at the center of everything you do.

1. Deliver a Seamless Purchase Journey

When you’re planning the customer journey for your e-commerce store, you need to remember that your customers are probably distracted, in a hurry, are on the go – or even all of the above at once. They need a purchase experience that is frictionless and fast. Here are some of the elements that will help you deliver a seamless purchase journey:

– A site that loads quickly
– A linear checkout process that requires a minimum number of screens
– Navigation that is simple, functional, and consistent
– Clear expectations for delivery, including a choice of shipping options, accurate delivery times, and ongoing delivery status updates

If your business is spread across the world, then localizing your international site removes the friction of changing currencies or product description languages. But to provide the best CX possible, truly localizing your store involves far more than translating the content. It includes offering local online payment options, adding or removing shipping options, and delivery times, and more. It’s a lot to take on, but it’s worth it.

An Italian makeup brand KIKO Milano adjusts its special offers according to different countries.  The brand offers its loyalty program customers special discounts on their birthdays, no matter where the buyer is located. However,  since Columbus Day discounts only make sense in the US, KIKO’s team organized a sale in the US region.

Adjusting timely promotions and purchase options to match the customer’s location helps your audience feel at home in your online store, even when your customer base is across the world.

Finally, returns are an inevitable part of your customer purchase experience. Make sure that your returns policy is easy to find, and written in clear, simple language. Returns should be just as frictionless as your checkout process.

2. Build Those Relationships

The goal of a customer-centric e-commerce store is to build a long-term relationship with the customer. That means focusing not just on making a sale today, but on bringing them back to your site tomorrow. Like in every relationship, a key prerequisite is good communication. You need to provide valuable content that helps enrich the customer’s life.

One great example is World Seasonings, a cooking spice blend shop that goes beyond fancy product descriptions and catchy CTAs. Their website offers recipes, high-quality videos, cooking tips, and meal inspiration posts. This makes the website a valuable resource that has readers who frequent it over and over.

Founder and CEO Travis Bullock told BigCommerce in a recent success story that his goal with the content isn’t to make more sales, but “teaching customers how to use spices to create delicious meals every single time.”

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“We wanted to become more than an online store that sells seasoning blends. We also wanted to become an online source for recipes and inspiration for healthy cooking.”
– Travis Bullock

By setting out to educate and inspire the customer, World Seasonings fosters a connection with its visitors. As Bullock puts it, this means having more than a blog. It means using different media – video, high-quality images, social media selling, and more – to communicate meaningful, useful content to your customer base.

3. Personalize the Customer Experience

Personalizing customer experience goes a long way in keeping customers happy.

You can offer personalized experiences by remembering a customer’s preferences and offering relevant content, products, and discounts based on their visitor history.

Smart search is another way to customize your site. Smart search customizes suggested products, based on customer history and predicts customer intent. Search boxes that anticipate customer interest and deliver relevant product suggestions boost your conversion rates and help your customers feel understood.

4. Optimize Your Presence for Mobile and Messaging

Consumers are increasingly using their phones for online shopping, so your e-commerce needs to be mobile-focused, not just mobile-friendly. You could even consider beginning your e-commerce store by designing a mobile site and then adapting it to the desktop, rather than going the other way around.

One advanced way to optimize your site for mobile is to shorten the checkout process. A digital brand that’s decided to implement this is SnapTravel. The online travel booking company does away with an online checkout entirely. You can instantly book your hotel rooms through Facebook Messenger or a text message.

CEO and co-founder Hussein Fazal believes firmly that delighting the customer is at the heart of his business.

“We have taken the speed and convenience of booking with an OTA, the benefits and service of booking with a traditional travel agent, and added a sprinkle of messaging magic to create the absolute best way to a book a hotel.”
– Hussein Fazal

5. Provide Excellent Customer Support

It should go without saying that a customer-centric e-commerce store needs to provide excellent customer support. A streamlined, easily-accessible self-service portal allows customers to solve simple issues easily, without reaching out for assistance.

However, when your customers need individual help, chatbots play great assistants to your support team.  A chatbot relieves the burden of repeatedly answering the same customer questions and allows your support team to focus on the more complex requests.

Freshdesk’s support chatbot Freddy responds instantly to customer queries, 24/7.

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Using machine learning, the Freshdesk support bot proactively interacts with the customer and resolves their issues by suggesting relevant resources from the knowledge base. When the chatbot is unable to answer, there is a graceful failover to the agent as the bot has already gathered the information that’s needed to resolve the issue.

This too is an important contribution to customer experience, given that 76% of customers expect the customer service agent to know their purchase, service, and contact history. Proactive, positive customer support can turn a complaint into greater customer loyalty.

Conclusion

Customers today prefer brands that deliver great CX. To be able to deliver that, your e-commerce store needs to be customer-centric.

To sum up, through mobile optimization, building a strong relationship with content, creating a seamless, personalized customer journey that is easily accessible, and providing excellent customer support, your e-commerce brand can offer a stellar customer-centric experience.