E-commerce sales are steadily rising; a recent Marketing Land article notes that “a majority of retailers” experienced double-digit growth to online sales volume in 2014, with 74 percent saying they climbed 10 percent or more compared to the year before. But it’s not all wine and roses: According to Retail Customer Experience, just 27 percent of U.S. consumers say they shop online weekly, and while 68 percent have browsed in-store to buy online, this “showrooming” is actually more prevalent in the other direction, with 73 percent browsing online and then buying in-store.
What’s the bottom line? Despite massive potential in the e-commerce market, companies aren’t doing a good enough job when it comes to customer experience. Here are the top three ways they’re ruining the online shopping experience — and how to fix them.
Fire and Forget
What is one of the quickest ways to turn off potential customers? Stuff their inbox with spam emails and then forget they exist. Seems impossible in a technology market full of data-driven insight and powerful mobile devices, but many companies eager to make a break in the e-commerce space are tempted to rapid-fire emails at every address that signs up, in hopes of landing just one loyal customer. Here’s why it won’t work:
A recent Venture Beat article talks about the problem of spam, and more specifically, the problem of trust that e-commerce vendors encounter frequently. With so many brands vying for customer attention, it’s easy to be the loudest, brashest one on the virtual block. However, in many cases this causes the opposite reaction intended — consumers simply opt out. Now, brands must find success “rooted in authentic voice and restoration of consumer trust.” In other words, if you want to make a lasting, emotional connection, content is king.
The other problem with spam? It often goes hand-in-hand with an online experience best described as “forgettable.” This happens when companies spend too much on marketing but not enough on personalizing the consumer experience. Even after a single purchase, customers expect that payment preferences and transaction histories will be remembered. There’s also growing demand for more personalized, curated content when shopping online, much like having a dedicated sales person in store. Avoiding the problem of fire and forget is simple: Flip the equation. Spend more time managing the customer experience and less time messaging.
According to a recent consumer survey from Information Age, it’s no longer enough to simply have an e-commerce website or great brand recognition: If your site doesn’t load quickly and offer the same access on mobile as desktop computers, you’re driving away customers. According to the survey, only 37 percent said they feel like they receive the best overall experience online. Major complaints include sites that don’t have the same features on mobile — such as search or even proper image formatting — or that don’t load quickly.
It gets worse: 76 percent of companies say they learn about these kind of problems when customers call to complain. There’s a double-whammy here: First, brands should never rely on shoppers for tech support and more importantly for every consumer that decided to call in, it’s a safe bet that two or three simply found another e-commerce vendor.
The fix here? Invest in design and support — make sure your site runs smoothly across devices.
Wrong Cart, Wrong Content
Want to see a frustrated shopper? Make it impossible for them to find what they want, and if by some miracle they track down the right product, make the checkout experience a nightmare. According to CIO.com, these are two of the worst missteps an online retailer can make; unfortunately, they’re all too common.
When it comes to carts, never pick the first one you see. Take advantage of any free trials offered and find out which one best suits your needs. You’re looking for three things here: Ease of use at an admin level for making changes, running sales and adding new features, ease of use and security for consumer, and solid tech support when required. Any cart that doesn’t have all three isn’t worth your time.
You also need to be careful when it comes to web content, specifically product descriptions. Too many companies copy/paste the descriptions of popular products directly from the manufacturer’s website, but that’s not what consumers want: They’re looking for your take on the item, a sense that you’ve tried it, reviewed it and found it worth selling. In effect, this content is a way to give customers insight when it comes to your brand and your message. Make sure you’re sending the right one.
Big three mistakes in the e-commerce customer experience? Treating customers like numbers, poor optimization, and skimping on cart and content. Fix what’s broken, and you’ll stand out in the crowd.
Scott Taback is the Vice President of Business Development at Highland Solutions, and has extensive knowledge of consulting and enterprise solutions services such as CRM, business development, sales, marketing automation and systems integration. Highland Solutions is one of Chicagoland’s best resources to clients in the areas of consulting and enterprise solutions, specifically in regard to customer experience solutions.