Practical Insights for Increasing Sales by Optimizing your Customer’s Buying Experience
Many eCommerce merchants who are just getting started making the mistake of jumping right in and starting a store, without doing the homework necessary for success. Yes, getting a product, taking great pictures and writing amazing product descriptions are all part of the equation, but focusing on one piece of the pie without understanding what the overall objective of your store is can affect revenue.
So what is that objective? In the simplest terms possible, it’s creating a positive customer experience and that facilities conversion.
Remember, Conversions can come in many different forms.
A conversion can mean a newsletter sign-up, a click from the home page into your site, someone sharing your content on social media, a click-through on a banner ad. All of these trackable events take us one step closer to the conversion that really matters, converting a prospect into a paying customer.
All of these events and every event that happens on your store is part of the customer journey. And creating an amazing customer journey increases conversion.
When we talk about creating a positive customer journey, it’s our objective to create an experience that is as close to an “in-person” purchase as possible. Why? Because research has shown that connected experience matters. Clear product images that show products being used as a customer would use it, detailed product descriptions that connect with the customer on an emotional level, videos that put products in a positive light and show actual users using the product. All of these increase conversions and all are meant to get as close to the in-person experience as possible.
Why does this matter? In Segment’s “The 2017 State of Personalization Report”, 71% of the respondents found themselves to be frustrated with an impersonal shopping experience and demonstrated they are willing to pay more for a more “connected” or personalized experience.
An in-person shopping experience in an online shop shows the customer that you actually care about them and their preferences. It gives a human element to a platform that, though convenient, is still very much a machine.
Now, the key to providing an in-person shopping experience is understanding the different stages a customer goes through before buying something.
And that’s precisely what we’re going to do. This article’s about embarking on that customer buying journey. Going through the different phases, identifying the specific touchpoints in each one, and finally learning some optimization tips to ensure that a customer gets the personalized experience that will encourage him or her to make that purchase.
Understanding the Customer Journey
Having a full grasp of the customer journey is crucial because this will allow you to influence people’s perception of your brand and its products.
Harnessing that to your business advantage requires preparation. You need to be able and willing to shuck that business owner persona in order to see the shopping process through the customer’s eyes. Once you’ve done that, identifying the key touchpoints in your potential customer’s journey becomes easier.
The absence of physical interaction in eCommerce can prove challenging when you’re creating a plan to increase consumer-to-buyer conversions. However, learning about the key touchpoints in the customer journey will allow you to overcome barriers and achieve that level of personalized service that will have people making repeat purchases.
These touchpoints can essentially be broken down into three phases – before, during, and after an online sale. In turn, each phase has a specific set of touchpoints that need to be covered.
Before an online sale. The marketing campaign that you have in place for your online store and your specific products.
- Word of mouth
- Social media
- Email marketing
During an online sale. These are the actual informational materials you have that showcases your products. It is a crucial phase because it propels customers forward until they make a purchase.
- Product pages
- Customer service contact
- Shopping cart or checkout page
After an online sale. The action items that you have after a customer completes a purchase.
- Email follow-up
- Order tracking
- Delivery confirmation
These nine touchpoints are by no means a set standard. Each eCommerce business is different. You can add more to each phase or replace some of these specific touchpoints with something that’s more appropriate to your own business set up.
Customer Experience Optimization
Identifying the key touchpoints in the customer journey is just the first step. Once that’s done, you need to optimize each one to ensure their effectiveness. When you hook customers effectively on each touchpoint, it will be easier to move them forward to the next phase until they finally check out and pay for the items on their shopping cart.
Here are some specific strategies for optimizing customer experience.
Use incentivized sharing to boost word-of-mouth advertising.
Word-of-mouth advertising works well enough online. This is typically done by encouraging people who’ve purchased products to leave a review or getting social media influencers to review your products. There’s one trick you can use to encourage more of this type of interaction on your website and on your different social platforms. You employ what’s called as incentivized sharing. This works by getting people who’ve already bought from your online store into a referral program where they get a gift or freebie for spreading the word about your brand to others.
Increase engagement on your social media profiles.
Leveraging your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts to get more customers online is a must. However, it should go beyond posting great content several times a day. You need to constantly engage with your followers, reply to their comments and acknowledge all those likes. Most importantly, you need to be able to address any issues that people may be having with your products or the customer service you’re providing.
Go all out on those product pages.
A great strategy for optimizing customer experience in the ‘during an online sale’ phase is by jazzing up those product pages.
Product pages are crucial because these are where people ultimately convert. So they should be front and center in your optimization efforts.
Use these tips to improve crucial elements on your product pages.
- Read up on web design principles so you have an idea for the design improvements that can boost the UX on your online store. When customers encounter an intuitive and easy-to-use website, this will automatically increase your brand’s user experience. If you don’t have web design expertise, hire a professional to get the job done. The whole point of learning the above-mentioned principles is not for you to implement them yourself, but to be able to effectively communicate with the designer or developer what you want to achieve with his assistance.
- Use high-quality images. Again, this is an area where professional expertise helps. An experienced photographer knows which angles of your product to highlight in order for it to truly stand out in photos. Make sure to also showcase your products the way they would be used in real life.
- Many of today’s online shoppers gauge the quality of a product through peer reviews. Enabling on-site reviews enhances the level of control given to customers. Having honest, unbiased reviews on your product pages will also make people more inclined to buy these products.
- Disclosing product availability is also another important addition to your product pages. You want to be transparent with customers if the product is out of stock. Expectations have to be set and met so you don’t end up getting negative reviews that, if allowed to accumulate, could negatively impact the popularity of your brand. From a marketing standpoint, limited products create a sense of urgency. Items with a ‘limited time only’ stamped on them immediately increase in value because they won’t be available forever.
- Finally, details pertaining to the sale should be clear on your website’s product pages. The price of an item should be prominent enough on the product page that it could be spotted at a glance. The delivery time and add-on cost for shipping should also be detailed and easily understandable. Communicating details like this clearly will save your customer support team the hassle of dealing with issues related to shipping delays and total costs later on.
Optimize the shopping cart
Getting customers to add items to their shopping cart isn’t the end of the line. But it’s a step closer to that goal. Ultimately you want them to move on to the checkout page and pay for their purchases. With that in mind, here are some things you can do to optimize your shopping cart.
- Make it easy for the customer to get in touch with a support personnel
- Allow people to create an account on your website via their social media login
- Give customers a sense of safety by including a trust badge in your checkout process
- Ask only for the essential details when taking a payment
- Have a verification window where customers can check the details they’ve provided for accuracy
Don’t forget the follow-up email
This is the last thing that needs to be done when optimizing customer experience. After you’ve made the sale, you don’t leave that converted buyer high and dry. Once again, the goal is to have as much as of an ‘in-person experience’. So you need to re-engage that newly minted buyer with a follow-up email. Thank this person for making the purchase, tell them when they can expect the product to arrive in the mail, and most importantly, encourage them to get in touch if a question or an issue ever comes up. In doing this, you are laying the foundation for establishing a relationship with this customer, one that can hopefully lead to a repeat order down the line.
Understanding the customer journey or experience is crucial if you want to convert more customers into buyers. It’s good to know the key touchpoints on this particular journey, however; you should aim to optimize each specific touchpoint so you can provide as close to an in-person experience as possible. When you have that, repeat customers will increase and so will your revenue.
With a business degree in Business Administration in her holster, Mary set forth to study, learn and become an expert in everything eCommerce. She’s the Chief Content Officer of PinnacleCart. Outside of catching up on the latest business trends, Mary enjoys spending her time going to the beach, hanging out with friends and catching a good soccer game.