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How to measure, improve and optimize your eCommerce customer’s online experience

Alison Wiltshire

01 Feb 2024

Successful retailers continuously improve their eCommerce customer experience, knowing that positive online interactions drive sales and future loyalty. In the busy world of online retail, where sectors range from fashion to DIY and competition is fierce, defining, measuring and using tools to optimize and enhance customer experience is essential.

What is the eCommerce customer experience?

So, what is customer experience and more importantly, what makes a great customer experience? 

Its definition is simply the interaction that customers have with your brand at any point and how that makes them feel. These interactions leave a lasting impression. If they are good, you’ll likely win future sales and potentially new customers as your shoppers share their positive customer experience with others. If it’s bad, you’re likely to lose business. 

In the world of physical retail, the in-store customer experience relies on product selection, presentation and interaction, both with products and staff. Is the store easy to shop and the staff helpful and welcoming and able to offer useful advice? 

Online, the needs are the same, except that the eCommerce customer experience is an even more brutal battleground. Offering a great customer experience online is about a friction-free, seamless process that offers the help that customers need to buy and has become a top priority for eCommerce businesses looking to thrive.

Why is the online customer experience so important?

We have defined eCommerce customer experience as the interactions that customers have with your brand online. It’s about how easy it is to find products, to navigate product pages and for customers to buy products that they love, confident in their buying decisions so that their purchases stick. The customer experience matters because it is so integral to the buying decision and how the customer feels about the brand. Below are some of the key reasons why successful brands ensure it’s a business priority to measure and invest to deliver the very best customer experience:

  1. Online, it’s even easier to lose potential shoppers 

Online customer experience is even more critical than in-store because, in the eCommerce environment, it’s far too easy to lose a customer. Shoppers in a physical store have to make the effort to leave a store if they can’t find the products they are after, the assistance they need to make a choice, or they are having to wait too long to pay for their goods, for example. 

In the world of eCommerce, customers are but a mouse click away from your rivals if products aren’t presented as they should, they can’t find the help they need to support their buying decisions, or if any other part of their digital interaction with you fails to meet their expectations. 

  1. A positive customer experience drives future purchases

Your customer is satisfied. They’ve had a good customer experience shopping online with you, and when the need or desire arises, they will be happy to shop with you again. 

Only imagine if they had enjoyed an outstanding online customer experience that wowed them? The consequence of that would be a customer who is more than just willing to shop with you again, and they may even be chomping at the bit. They might spend more or buy more regularly, and they are more likely to share their positive customer experience with others – whether that’s their friends and family or strangers online via reviews or forums. That means that as well as a successful sale and future purchases, a positive customer experience online can also win you new customers, lowering your customer acquisition costs. 

  1. But a bad customer experience hurts sales and customer acquisition

By the same token, we see the impact of customer experience gone wrong. In this instance, your potential shopper is unlikely to complete the purchase with you – or if they do, they’ve done so begrudgingly and may not shop with you again. 

Worse is that a bad experience often sticks in customers’ minds more proportionally than a good customer experience. And if it’s really negative, they are likely to warn others in the same reviews and forums where they may have shared their outstanding customer experiences. That will cost you sales and customers. 

How to measure online customer experience in eCommerce

Hopefully, by now, we’ve convinced you of the importance of customer experience in eCommerce, but how do you measure it, and what metrics can you use to judge how your online website is performing and the improvements that can be made to give your customers that wow experience? 

A useful tactic is to focus on four main metrics of the online customer experience and look at how your eCommerce site performs within these. They include usability, online customer behavior, funnel analysis of where and how customers may be dropping out, and how your brand is perceived. 

  1. Usability

Looking at the analytics data of your eCommerce website can give you a clearer idea of how customers are interacting with your site. Metrics such as bounce rates and pages/sessions will indicate how long customers are staying on your site, which could show you whether customers are finding the information they need or if there are usability challenges to be fixed. This can be analysed against benchmarking data to see how your performance compares to your competitors. 

  1. Customer behavior

You can understand more about the online customer experience with tools such as Heatmaps that allow you to see where visitors on your site click, while session recording tools allow you to witness real browsing sessions, putting you in the seat of your customers to see how they behave on your site. 

  1. Funnel analysis

Funnel analysis will help you to understand how your customers are moving through your eCommerce site and at what stage are they dropping out. Are they hitting the product list page (PLP) but dropping out at the product details page (PDP)? This could suggest that they aren’t finding the information that they require or that they are overwhelmed by choice. Or they might be getting to the Basket page and then stalling, suggesting that they don’t have confidence in their final buying decision. 

  1. Brand perception 

While perception of the online customer experience is largely down to the individual, there’s no doubt that it can be influenced by external perceptions, too. Understanding how your brand is perceived online and any problems associated with it by monitoring brand mentions or customer service feedback, for example, can quickly highlight easy wins to improve the online customer experience. 

How to improve your online customer experience

So you’ve done your homework and know you need to invest in new ways to improve customer experience. Once issues around usability have been resolved, you may find that your customer experience is being negatively impacted by customers simply not finding the information that they need, being overwhelmed by product choice, or not being sure of what they are buying. Your shoppers need the assistance that they can seek from staff in-store but within the online environment. They need help with their buying decisions. How to improve the online customer experience can be a simple case of providing them with the additional tools they need to make better buying choices. 

  1. Using social proof messaging to show what’s popular with other shoppers

Using social proof messaging can help with buying decisions and, therefore improve the eCommerce customer experience. Social proof messaging uses aggregated real-time data from retailers to highlight products that are selling well or are trending, which can help customers with decision-making since they are more likely to buy what their peers are purchasing. It buys into the very simple concept of social proof – that we are influenced by the actions of others.

  1. Providing extra help with social proof recommendations 

Sometimes a shopper needs more information than simply what’s popular. Here, product recommendations can be useful in highlighting products that may suit the buying mission and is another of the many ways to improve customer experience. Social proof recommendations add the power of social proof and the wisdom of the crowd to your product recommendations, improving product discovery so that customers better understand why a product is being recommended. That improves the transparency of the customer experience as well as increasing inspiration for customers to convert.

  1. Highlighting key product features with eXtended messaging 

One of the biggest challenges in delivering a memorable (for the right reasons) customer experience online can be that shoppers are overwhelmed by product choice. The product range is too wide, or the information that they require isn’t being surfaced quickly enough. It can lead to a poor customer experience that results in basket abandonment and frustrated shoppers. Helping customers make informed decisions with eXtended messaging involves highlighting the essential product information that they are looking for and is another key tool when you are looking at how to improve customer experience in online shopping. 

  1. Reducing returns 

One of the most frustrating things for online shoppers can be returns. Even when faced with the slickest of returns processes – returns portals that offer instant refunds and sophisticated product tracking, for example – they are evidence that the buying decision hasn’t worked and the customer must now go to the trouble of returning the product and waiting for their refund, with no guarantee that they’ll buy from you again. If you are looking at how to improve the online customer experience by avoiding returns, then social proof messaging helps customers choose more wisely, thereby reducing the potential for returns.

  1. Avoiding out-of-stocks

In a world dominated by influencers and social media, products can quickly go viral, becoming must-have items everyone wants. But not everyone can bag such products when supply is limited and demand is high. Showcasing trending and bestselling products with real-time data can help improve customer experience by alerting customers to products that are selling fast and for which out-of-stocks could be a real possibility. This can be the final nudge to buy and avoid their FOMO (fear of missing out). 

Why you should consider investing in improving eCommerce customer experience

Investing in your eCommerce customer experience is no longer a nice-to-do but should be an integral part of your business strategy to grow sales and attract more customers online. Happy customers do your marketing for you, providing the ultimate in social proof to their peers. Don’t just take our word for it, however. By using our conversion rate calculator you can see for yourself how using social proof messaging in your business could improve the customer experience and the conversion rate for your eCommerce site. And it’s easier and quicker than you think.

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