Quick- what’s your competitive advantage?
It may sound like a straightforward question…
But it’s one even entrepreneurs with a great product offered at a great price increasingly find themselves answering incorrectly.
Ready to become one of the high performing ecommerce companies that have figured it out?
In an increasingly commoditized world it’s getting much more difficult to compete and win on quality or price alone. In fact, a recent survey revealed just 14% of retailers cited quality as their biggest differentiator and just 6% cited price.
What instead do merchants see as their biggest opportunity?
The opportunity retailers are most excited about is creating memorable and shareable customer experiences. Research suggests more than half of retailers believe customer service and experience are key in differentiating themselves from competitors in the second half of the decade:
If you add personalization, which is a key component of creating improved customer experiences, the research indicates nearly two thirds of the retailers surveyed will be ultra-focused on crafting customer experiences in the years to come.
The future belongs to those who craft and compete on unique and immersive customer experiences…
Unfortunately, the majority believe they’re failing miserably.
The $4 Trillion Flaw
The majority have their heart in the right place…
But they’re not executing as they must if the customer experiences they create are to earn loyalty.
While many are focused on merging the digital and physical worlds to create unforgettable customer experiences that reduce the the time it takes to earn a second sale while simultaneously motivating customers to tell those they influence about the company’s offering, most are falling woefully shy of their objective.
In fact, research suggests 82% of companies believe their customer experience programs are failing or underperforming.
Is the customer experience you offer all it can be?
If not, it may be the first nail in your entrepreneurial coffin as research suggests nearly half of the customers surveyed here say the best time for a company to earn their loyalty is during the first purchase or service:
Still not convinced?
A poor customer experience, in part, cost ecommerce merchants more than $4.6 trillion in the form of abandoned carts last year.
How can you avoid this?
Make your customers happy by proving you value them by offering a great customer experience throughout the customer journey. In fact, happy customers are often loyal customers who are willing to spend more money with you:
Conversely, 82% of customers have stopped doing business with a company due to a bad customer experience. Even worse, 79% of those customers told others about their bad experience primarily to warn them not to do business with the company offering the poor customer experience.
In a nutshell, here’s what the research illustrates:
Happy Customers = Loyal Customers
Customer Experiences That Result In Happiness & Increase Brand Loyalty
Remember your site design, packaging, and communications before and after a sale tell customers a story. That story must include more than intelligently designed product pages and order fulfillment that keeps your brand’s promise.
The story you tell across both the digital and physical worlds must arouse emotion that triggers customers to spread your story themselves. In general, reducing the number of steps it takes for a shopper to find what they want and check out is prized.
Here’s a three-pronged strategic approach:
- Creating product pages, easy checkouts, and social proof points that earn trust and prompt customers to spend more money
- Crafting remarkable custom unboxing experiences that make your brand memorable
- Triggering invaluable word of mouth marketing by inspiring customers to become brand ambassadors and referring friends, family, & followers
But how might you achieve this tactically?
Here are four smart tips- plus a handful of merchant examples- to help you create customer experiences that leave customers happy, loyal, and willing to tell the world how great you are:
Customer Experience Tip #1: Help Customers Instantly & Easily Find What They Want
Pura Vida Bracelets, which sells bracelets handmade by artisans in Costa Rica, leaves nothing to chance when it comes to helping customers find the perfect bracelet. For onsite search, Pura Vida partners with InstantSearch+, a powerful on site search tool, to help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for instantly.
InstantSearch+ helps Pura Vida make smart recommendations by leveraging its search algorithm that analyzes user search behavior over time to auto-complete user searches and suggest more relevant searches and products.
Here’s what it looks like- notice even though a visitor hasn’t finished typing their search terms, InstantSearch+ is already making multiple recommendations:
Importantly, InstantSearch+ also helps Pura Vida boost conversion rates by making real time product recommendations as visitors are searching for items.
Customer Experience Tip #2: Uniquely Customize The Checkout
Make the checkout process as easy and fast as possible.
In fact, accelerating the speed at which the checkout process may be completed is a competitive advantage for merchants like Kopari Beauty, which sells coconut oil based beauty products.
The company helps its customers move through the checkout process faster than its peers in a competitive space. For example, Kopari speeds up the checkout process by autocompleting a customer’s shipping address based on geolocation that can auto-populate shipping address fields:
Separately, merchants are also accelerating the checkout process by offering dynamic checkout pricing and automatic discounts. For instance, Merchology, a leading provider of corporate branded apparel and accessories, uses Shopify Scripts to automate the discount process, save time, and improve the user the experience.
Discounts are applied automatically and customers can see the discounts they’ve earned right there in their carts:
Merchology also offers customers dynamic pricing at the checkout. The company built out technology that actually looks inside a customer’s cart, identifies when a customer has made a change - for instance they adjust an item’s size or quantity- and automatically adjusts the checkout price in real time.
Customer Experience Tip #3: Create a Memorable Unboxing Experience
It’s not over when an order is placed…
In fact, the customer experience is only partially complete once an order is placed.
Today’s ecommerce merchants are increasingly being judged by the experience they offer customers after the checkout process.
This is the unboxing experience…
Not only are consumers increasingly looking forward to unboxing and touching their online purchases for the first time, they’re also recording the experience and sharing it online. In fact, a recent YouTube search of “unboxing” turned up more than 53-million results.
You’re no longer being judged solely on the shopping experience, product quality, and service you provide customers but also by how you make them feel after the sale. Since the unboxing experience can have a significant impact on how consumers feel about your brand and whether they become loyal customers it’s important to surprise and delight customers.
For example, Beardbrand, a beard care and specialty grooming brand, regularly surprises customers by including a free sample of its signature beard oil:
But surprising customers with free samples can also benefit merchants. Besides future cross sell opportunities, the surprise samples you send may be paired with additional marketing collateral to enhance the unboxing experience and turn new customers into a powerful sales force willing to sell to their friends.
We’re talking about including easy-to-make referrals an integral part of the unboxing experience.
Consider that 84-percent of people trust recommendations from people they know while just 48-percent trust an advertisement they see on television. Offering your happy customers opportunities to sell their friends on your brand, as beauty product retailer Julep does, not only enhances the customer experience but can generate new sales:
Make it easy for happy customers to tell others about you by offering discounts or perks that can easily be handed out or shared online.
Customer Experience Tip #4: Reward Customers For Their Loyalty
Once your customers are happy…
It’s time to cement your place as one of their go-to brands by weaving rewards that earn loyalty into the customer experience. In fact, research suggests 69% of customers show their loyalty by spending more money with companies to which they are loyal.
Rewarding loyal customers can even create a symbiotic relationship in which customers also spend more to earn rewards they value:
You can reward customers in a variety of ways to improve the customer experience as high performing ecommerce merchants do:
- Spotlight rewards on product pages to lift conversions
- Uniquely reward customers by offering vanity referral links or for leaving photo reviews
- Integrate rewards with monthly subscription offerings which result in predictable recurring revenue
- Leverage gamification by offering rewards in return for customer quizzes or surveys that yield mission critical customer insight
NOTE: One crucial key, when it comes to improving the user experience, is weaving rewards throughout your store so it appears as native as any other page rather than a plug-in afterthought. Besides a dedicated rewards page that makes it easy for customers to earn and redeem points, consider bolstering the customer experience by making it quick and easy to redeem rewards.
For example, Kopari, the aforementioned retailer selling beauty products made of organic coconut oil, seamlessly integrates rewards with the checkout. Customers can easily see and apply their rewards when checking out on Kopari’s site. The company even allows customers to check their rewards balance and select the discount size they’d like applied to a particular order:
Importantly, happy customers must value the rewards being offered in return for their loyalty. At the same time, merchants must also only offer rewards that yield loyalty, a desired behavior, or customer insight they deem valuable.
The Future of Competition
You’re competing on experience…
No matter how great your product or how competitively it’s priced, a lousy customer experience can keep you from achieving your business objectives. To make customers happy and earn their loyalty requires a customer experience that includes:
- Instant site search capabilities that allow customers to find what they want quickly
- Customized checkout functionality that accelerates the checkout process and can automatically apply discounts
- A memorable unboxing experience that inspires customers to become brand evangelists and share your offering with those they influence
- Rewarding customer for their loyalty and proving it throughout your site by integrating rewards with product pages and the checkout
Remember, products and prices can be pilfered...
But the unique customer experience only you can create can’t. Much better to compete on something only you can create than something that can be copied by the masses.