When people come and buy from you, they have certain… expectations. Things that they are looking for. Things that reassure them. Things that help them figure you out. When you are designing your ecommerce customer experience, think carefully about customer expectations and whether you are fulfilling yours. If you disappoint, you could be setting yourself up for an unhappy customer (or no customer at all). Here are six things that savvy online shoppers have come to expect. They will be looking for these, so don’t disappoint.
I read the small print
Terms and conditions are easy to neglect – they aren’t fun to write, and they can seem like a boring technicality. But actually, terms and conditions are an important part of your customer experience because they tell people the stuff that really matters (what’s going to happen to my order if something goes wrong, can I get a refund, who’s in charge?).
- The two main things customers will be looking for are your delivery and return policies. Make sure that your return policy is written in plain English and that it is unambiguous (and as generous and as you can make it). Delivery details are best laid out in a simple table – ALWAYS BE TRANSPARENT ABOUT DELIVERY FEES. It’s a customer experience nightmare to slap on high (unexpected) delivery fees during the purchase stage.
- Contact details are paramount in order to build trust (and a decent customer relationship). Make sure your phone number, email, and social media links are plastered all over your store.
So that I can get to know you a little better
Spelling mistakes, typos, content so bad an eight year old could have written it – these are instant turn-offs for people who are looking to spend their money with you. To succeed at ecommerce, you need to invest in a proper content strategy that takes into account your customers’ needs, not just your own.
- Other than just ‘competent’, try to see whether you can take your content to the next level and become a thought-leader.
- Try to find an angle, voice, or personality for your brand that makes sense for your products and that will help you develop a closer relationship with your customers. You want people to feel that they are interacting with a thinking and feeling human being, not a robotic bot.
- Vary your content offering to include video, and always include plenty of content that has nothing to do with selling people a product.
Great content is good for search engines, users, and sales; but most importantly, it helps you build a credible brand.
Out of all the stores, why you?
This one is harder to quantify, but if you aren’t offering customers value, they will leave.
So, how to offer them value?
- Make your company mission statement more than just ‘profit’. You are in the business of solving problems and selling ideas, not just products.
- People buy with their emotions. Appeal to shoppers’ instincts as well as their logic.
- Don’t demolish your competition unfairly, but you can use comparison tables to show how (well) you compare.
- Make sure that your copy is written in a benefit-led style that focuses on how your products can help people improve their lives. Here are some examples of great product copy.
- Don’t hide your value propositions under a bushel – make them obvious and compelling to anyone even just casually glancing at your home page (TOMS shoes’ “one for one” is a great example).
- Product pages should also be well thought-out and offer real insight into what people are about to buy.
Reviews, UCG & beyond
A great store looks like it’s always full – same goes for the virtual ones. Potential customers will be looking for evidence of other happy customers.
- Reviews are a great confidence builder, but you have to learn how to reward people for reviewing your products. It’s just bad manners to leave a nice review unanswered!
- Social media sharing should be built into your store – make all your posts and products shareable.
- Embedding user generated content like video and social media posts is a great way to hand over control to your customers. Could you have a blogger or vlogger take over your blog for a week? Can you invent a hashtag that will embed user photos onto your site? Something that comes from your customers is much more genuine than an elaborate marketing pitch.
- A referral program is a great way to increase the social noise levels around your ecommerce brand by getting friends to refer their friends back to you (remember how well it worked for Uber?).
Product photos that look real:
What am I really buying?
Savvy shoppers spend time literally eyeing up your products. There have been too many viral stories about people being duped by amazing looking product imagery – it’s important that yours strike the right balance between aspirational and realistic.
- There is nothing wrong with making something look nice, but think carefully about your audience before you go all-out on a high end fashion photoshoot. Are they going to find that thin model appealing? What about that cool backdrop in an industrial cellar – is that really right for your brand? Sometimes simple and honest product photography is the best – just make sure it looks professional and is well-lit. (It’s also nice to see actual humans in the photos).
- Product photos should answer questions, not prompt more (how does that work, I’m not sure that color seems right to me…). Make sure that you include a range of photos from different angles so that people can get a real feel for what you’re selling.
- Returns are often the result of miscommunication or misunderstanding – make sure that your photos make product dimensions and other key features obvious.
Speed & ease of use:
I miss it once it’s gone
Customers don’t really notice that a site is fast and easy to use...until it isn’t. Make sure that your site passes the usability muster and that you aren’t inadvertently inserting friction into the user journey.
- Focus on product discovery and product organization – it’s very important that people can find what they want on your store, and find it fast. Revisit product categories to make sure that you’ve included all your core ones and that you’re using user-centric language (and that it looks good on mobile too).
- Slow load time is a big conversion killer. Page speed problems can be down to a number of things, from coding to inadequate hosting. A hosted ecommerce platform like Shopify has the benefit of it being a high-performance environment already, but there’s always room for improvement. Make sure that all your images are compressed (especially hero images) and that you’ve formatted everything correctly. Get a developer to check if you’re not sure.
Make sure that you don’t accidentally introduce friction into your customer experience – give the people what they want. Getting the balance right between great customer experience, outstanding content, and clever marketing will make your store stand out for all the right reasons. What number one thing do you always pay attention to on new ecommerce websites?
Patrick Foster, ecommerce entrepreneur, coach & writer.