How to Enhance Customer Journey in E-commerce
Today’s consumers have more options to choose from than ever before when they’re purchasing any product. And as an e-commerce retailer, your business provides a very different shopping experience from the traditional model that dominated retail for decades.
Prior to the rise of e-commerce, most shoppers relied on local retailers for all of their purchases. They’d drive to a store in their area, evaluate the options in stock, and choose the best fit for their needs. But that’s no longer the case.
Consumers now have access to products all over the world, and they can browse their options from the comfort of their own homes. While this process is more convenient in many ways, it’s also fundamentally different from the traditional retail buying process. And as an e-commerce store owner, you should be aware of these differences in order to effectively cater to your customers’ needs.
How the Customer Journey is Different in E-commerce
In theory, the customer journey is largely the same for shoppers at traditional retailers and on e-commerce sites. After all, both involve individual consumers purchasing directly from companies. And on both, customers tend to follow the standard, three-step process of awareness, consideration, and purchase. But in practice, there are some clear differences between the buying experience that each model provides.
Consider your most recent purchase at a traditional retailer. Like most shoppers, if you had a general idea of what you wanted when you arrived, you would have gone through their selection, and (if the store had what you wanted in stock) made a purchase in well under an hour.
Now think about your most recent e-commerce purchase. Although every shopper is slightly different, the standard e-commerce customer journey looks something like this:
Though the basic stages of awareness, consideration, and purchase are still there, digital channels allow for many more touch points during each of those stages. If you run an e-commerce store, the responsibility tends to fall solely on the shopper to reach out with any questions they have. This is a significant difference from the traditional retail experience where store employees are typically encouraged to offer assistance to customers and can easily do so by approaching them as they go around the shop. Be it e-commerce or traditional retail, it’s your job to make sure that process goes as smoothly as possible.
4 Tips for Improving the E-commerce Customer Journey
Although providing great customer support is just as important for e-commerce retailers as it is for their traditional counterparts, the process of doing so often looks very difficult which requires an effective strategy and a different approach. So with that in mind, the following four tips can help you enhance the customer journey for each of your shoppers.
1. Take a Proactive Approach to Customer Support
Unlike the owner of a local store, you can’t simply approach your customers as they shop and ask if they need assistance. While this may not make much of a difference for shoppers who can easily locate and purchase the products they want from your e-commerce store, it can put you at a disadvantage when it comes to addressing customer issues. That’s because many online shoppers won’t take the time to reach out to a support team when they have questions about product specifications, availability, and other concerns.
Instead, they’ll simply turn to a competitor. After all, doing so is often as easy as performing a quick Google search. And to be clear, this issue is sometimes unavoidable. But you can minimize it by taking a proactive approach to your customer support.
For example, after a customer visits the informational section on Autopilot’s website, they send the following email to ask about their experience.
This way, if the visitor was unable to find the information they were looking for, they know exactly how to get in touch with a customer support agent for an answer.
As you work on improving the customer journey for your e-commerce store, one of the biggest challenges is simply opening the lines of communication between your team and shoppers. By taking a proactive approach, you can make sure that shoppers know you’re available and it eliminates the barriers that stand in the way of them talking to you regarding any issues.
2. Look for Ways to Get Involved at Every Stage
As you develop your customer support strategy, it’s important to consider every stage of the buying process. Many e-commerce store owners focus primarily on engaging customers during the purchase stage since it presents the clearest opportunity to generates sales and revenue. But your interactions with customers during the other stages can also have an impact on your overall success. That’s particularly true of those that take place after a purchase. Though one-time purchases certainly generate revenue, earning loyal customers is ultimately much more valuable for your business. This means that your approach to support needs to include strategies for achieving high customer retention levels.
And while there are many ways to do this, one of the easiest is to make feedback a standard part of the customer journey. A simple automated email that encourages customers to share their experiences with your brand can go a long way in helping you identify and fix issues. Plus, it can turn unsatisfied shoppers into loyal advocates for your company.
3. Embrace Omni-channel Support
If you don’t yet offer omnichannel support, incorporating it into your customer service approach is an excellent way to improve the overall customer journey. Although most e-commerce stores today give shoppers multiple options for getting in touch, such as phone, email, and live chat, the experience is often inconsistent across them.
For example, if a customer emails your business with a question about a product, receives an answer, but later has a follow-up question, they should ideally be able to ask it on any of the support channels you offer. But if they reach out via live chat and are required to explain their original question and their interaction with your email support team, this can quickly make them frustrated with your brand.
With omnichannel support, this isn’t an issue. You can provide a consistent experience across each channel you offer and make the process of communicating with your business a seamless experience at every stage of the customer journey. It’s a win for you and your customers:
Your customers can quickly get the answers they need, and you never have to worry about missing out on sales simply because your support team isn’t equipped to address shoppers’ needs.
4. Personalize the Customer Experience
It’s impossible for e-commerce store owners to be on a personal, first-name basis with their customers in the same way that a local shop owner or employee might be. But that doesn’t mean you that can’t provide a personalized experience. With the right approach to automation, it’s easy to tailor your marketing content to individual customers at each stage of the buying process.
For example, most of us have received shopping cart abandonment emails similar to this one from Everlane:
Though most consumers know that these emails are simply the product of automation, this level of personalization can still be highly effective in generating conversions. Beyond that, you can also take things a step further by encouraging your support team to add some personal touch to their interactions with customers.
For example, when customers contact the boutique marketplace Trouva about products that are out of stock, their support team not only explains why they’re no longer available but also takes the time to suggest alternatives. The company has also been known to send personalized cookies to shoppers who express that they’ve had an unsatisfactory experience. Although you don’t necessarily need to send baked goods to your customers, you can follow Trouva’s lead by looking for ways to create personalized customer experiences that are unique to your brand.
The retail landscape has drastically changed over the past decade, and the rise of e-commerce is largely responsible for these changes. Though many of today’s consumers shop at both traditional retailers and online stores, the shopping experience is very different for each. Making purchasing decisions and getting assistance when it’s needed can be more difficult with e-commerce.
Fortunately, there are many ways to make this happen. Although the buying experience your e-commerce store offers will never be the same as that of a physical retailer, these steps can go a long way toward replicating the positive aspects — all while maintaining the convenience of online shopping.