Long gone are the days of the simple give-and-take ecommerce exchange; the modern shopper is evolving, and they're demanding a more complete shopping experience.
Incentive programs are changing the industry as 77% of consumers report that they participate in some form of rewards program. In order for businesses not to get left behind, online retailers must step up to the plate and creatively embellish their experiences without making things harder for the customer.
The first step to establishing a healthy company/customer relationship is look for ways to enhance your online store. Customers engage with experiences, and as a store your goal should be to create an experience that customers want to interact with. While it may seem difficult, improving your shopping experience is not that tall of a task. By following a few basic steps, you can make your ecommerce platform stand out amongst a crowd of competitors.
Step 1: Examine
Customers shop online to escape the traditional roadblocks that arise when shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. Shoppers want to avoid spending hours searching for the right products just to be followed by waiting in time-consuming check-out lines. Our lives are getting busier, and modern customers cannot afford to waste time waiting, which explains the continuous growth in online buyers. However, simply having an online store is not enough to please time constrained consumers. In ecommerce, similar wait-time problems can arise in the form of tedious pop-ups screens and long check-out experiences.
In order to ease wait times ecommerce merchants should streamline their shopping experiences. By creating an intuitive website flow, retailers greatly increase their sales volume and increase channel stickiness.
The first step toward a more straightforward experience is to understand your current process. Try to forget about the effort you’ve spent customizing your online store and try to examine the process as a newcomer who is seeing your website for the first time. To put themselves in the correct state of mind, merchants should ask themselves: What stands out on the website? How easily is it to find a specific product? Are there too many steps between the “I like this” phase and the “I bought this” phase?
Step 2: Minimize
Once you have an understanding of your process and its faults, you should work to eliminate extraneous steps within your process and minimize the expected effort from the customer customer. A similified shopping experience can go a long way in to fostering a positive relationship with customers.
It’s a commonly believed myth that business have to offer complex and convoluted experiences in order to attract and attain customers. And in fact, the opposite is true. Customers tend to have the best relationships with companies that have well thought-out shopping experiences, that are easily navigated and fairly straightforward.
One way to improve your process flow and make your customers happy is to LIMIT THEIR OPTIONS! Retailers are usually surprised to hear that removal of features like drop-down menus can increase sales by more than 50%. This is due to options paralysis, a complicated paradox taught in business schools across the country that can be simplified to this: people are indecisive and giving them 60 color options for the same t- shirt doesn’t seem to help. So, instead offer five (or even less) alternatives to your standard color, and you'll see increased customer purchasing rates and a more active customer base.
Another way to improve process flow is to decrease the number of pop-ups a customer has to deal with during shopping. A pop-up is the easiest way to interrupt an otherwise smooth check-out experience. Even worse, 65% percent of people identify pop-ups as the number one reason someone would decide to block a website. Pop-ups can go a long way into disrupting shopping, so retailers should make efforts to ensure new features are fully integrated into the existing platform.
Step 3: Incentivize
Once you have laid ground work by creating a pleasant shopping experience, you should work to encourage constant engagement through creative and cleverly designed incentives. Incentive marketing blends art with science, as it seeks to tailor rewards to specific customer bases while also implementing programs that guarantee positive results.
The best rewards programs offer more than just big sales and occasional BOGO deals. Programs should include incentives large enough to entice shoppers, but also feature a constantly changing offering so they don’t lose their appeal and become stale. In other words, customers need to be convinced that they can receive unique but valuable deals in exchange for their loyalty.
There are many intricacies of an effective incentives program, but ecommerce retailers should view the program as an investment, with results that speak for themselves. According to a Rosetta Consulting study highly engaged shoppers buy 90% more often and spend 60% more on average.
Step 4: Gamify
To fully develop your relationship with customers, you should leverage gamification. Gamification is the application of gaming elements into non-game systems. Gamified rewards programs require shoppers get actively engaged in order to obtain real benefits. However, customers don’t feel like they are working for rewards; gamification allows the customer to enjoy shopping, building progress, and reaping their benefits.
Contest-style incentives have a similar effect to tiered systems as customers embolden to make more purchases out of a sheer joy for competitiveness. The most important part of any game is competition because it is innately human.
Whether it’s against other players, a computer, or the gamer himself, competition makes us want to continue to play. For online shoppers, continuous play translates continuous engagement and future purchases.
For ecommerce merchants the easiest way to capitalize on our competitive nature is to add progress to a rewards program.
For example, setting up a tiered rewards program, where shoppers are given a concrete goal to aspire to. Customers are more willing to buy that extra accessory, if it pushes them closer to another higher rewards tier with better loyalty benefits.
Every successful business takes time to establish a relationship with their customer base, and more often than not, these efforts are rewarded with positive engagement and loyalty. For smaller businesses, struggling to gain traction, it's easy to recognize the challenges of allocating resources to someone with seemingly long-term benefits. However, that's what makes investments in continuous process flow and a solid reward program that much more pivotal. These easy steps can serve as key differentiators in the increasingly complex and competitive ecommerce landscape.