14 ways to create the ultimate eCommerce customer experience

14 ways to create the ultimate eCommerce customer experience
14 ways to create the ultimate eCommerce customer experience

The ultimate customer experience is the holy grail of eCommerce. With it, companies can enjoy eternal life in the realm of happy customers and repeat purchases. Much like the holy grail, as any of us who have watched Indiana Jones will know, the ultimate customer experience is not so easily attainable.

'Only the penitent man shall pass,’ mutters Indy as he prepares to take on the first task in The Last Crusade. The same could easily be said of customer experience within eCommerce. To truly understand what your customers want and how you can improve, you must step into their shoes and observe what is wrong. Witness your mistakes and only then can you work on fixing them.

But what do we mean by the ‘ultimate customer experience’? Is it good customer service? Delivering on time? An easy checkout? Honestly, it is all of the above and much more. It is wowing your customer on every level. It’s not being good, it’s being the best.

So how do you do it? Well, the key is to think like a customer. What follows is a list of areas in which customer interaction needs to be golden. Some of these may seem a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised how even the most basic things are not optimised as well as they could be.

WEBSITE

The website is the first touch point for your online consumers. Get it wrong and it won’t matter if all the steps afterwards, from logistics to customer service, are elite because the customer is lost before they get to see any of it.

1. Simplicity

Nothing ruins the online customer experience quite as much as a website that’s difficult to navigate. The filtering on many sites is often quite limited which means I have to sift through items I know I don’t want to find what I’m after.

The ultimate experience

When I’m shopping online I want to be able to refine my results to several degrees. Don’t just let me sort by colour or brand, let me put in a price range and my dress/shoe size. Allowing customers to filter on what’s out of stock will also save the disappointment of finding the perfect item that is not currently available.

ASOS are a good example of an eCommerce company doing it right.

ASOS refine
ASOS refine

2. Customer reviews

Sure, I can check out Feefo or Trustpilot but that means I have to navigate away from my current page. I want customer reviews and I want them on the product page I’m currently looking at.

The ultimate experience

The best examples I’ve seen of this are the sites that ask reviewers to provide detailed information about what they ordered. For instance, if I’m looking at a skirt I want to buy and a reviewer tells me she bought a size 10 but it came up small, I might choose to order the next size up instead.

3. Checkout heaven

Please don’t force me to create an account before I can complete my order. By all means, ask me if I want to do so at the end because if the process went well I’m more likely to want my details saved for next time.

The ultimate experience

Your end goal should always be to increase customer conversion but throwing down obstacles along the way is not going to help with that. Keeping the road to payment clear and quick will encourage more of your customers to make the sale. Express checkouts for the win!

4. Returns policy

Surdome customer returns
Surdome customer returns

Before I buy anything from a website I haven’t used before I always check out the returns policy. If it doesn’t look good to me then I’ll shop elsewhere. But what ‘looks good’?

The ultimate experience

Free returns are, obviously, always a winner. If you’re a slightly lesser-known company, however, having to pay for my returns won’t necessarily put me off. Above all, the policy needs to be clear and understandable. No tricks or hidden charges.

5. Behind the scenes

If you’ve invested in warehouse management software to improve your logistical efficiency, then why not show your customers? Every eCommerce retailer is competing with Amazon and to gain sales over them requires proof that when you say you can deliver, you really can. But how can you prove this on your website?

The ultimate experience

Try making a short, one minute video displayed at the checkout showing customers what happens to their order after they click ‘buy’. Track it through pick, pack and despatch to highlight just how efficient your warehouse is.

DELIVERY

You’ve landed my sale, now it’s time to show me how good your logistics are.

6. Choice

Amazon pick-up locations
Amazon pick-up locations

Gone are the days when it was acceptable to offer first-class or second-class. Now, we consumers want more choice than even Subway could offer. Home delivery, next-day, safe-place, workplace, Uber delivery, lockers, drones - give us choice!

The ultimate experience

The creativity at use among delivery companies shows the potential for more innovative delivery methods. Amazon, DHL and Audi have now teamed up to work on delivering orders to the boot of your car. Can it get more convenient than that? Well, there was talk in 2014 that Amazon were developing what they called ‘anticipatory shipping’ to start packing your order before you’ve even placed it. Where this project is at in terms of implementation remains unknown.

7. On time

The one thing that annoys me most about ordering online is the ambiguity of delivery dates. It wouldn’t be acceptable for companies to say ‘we might charge you between £10 and £15 for this shirt’. Nor would they say ‘we might send it in blue or red’. So why do they say ‘between 2 and 5 working days’ for delivery?

The ultimate experience

If your logistics are on point, with an efficient warehouse management system implemented, it might one day be possible for eCommerce companies to calculate how long it would take their operators to pick, pack and despatch any item in the warehouse. That way, a truly accurate delivery date could be given to the customer depending on what they’ve ordered. Blue cargo shorts? That’ll be out to you in a day. Skateboard, helmet and shin pads? Expect your order in three days.

8. The driver

The first and last touch points with a customer, website and the delivery driver respectively, are potentially the most important. The areas in between matter, but the first lands the sale and the last leaves an impression. If your delivery driver is miserable and doesn't communicate well with the customer, it could affect your brand image. On the flip side, a cheery, helpful driver could ensure that the customer returns for another sale.

The ultimate experience

No one I’ve seen yet does this better than ao.com. Yossi Erdman, Head of Brand and Social Media for ao.com, revealed at the eCommerce UK 2015 event a clever tactic they use for ensuring their drivers are always on their best behaviour. Read about it here in our eCommerce UK highlights.

9. Returns label

It is becoming quite common now for returns labels to be printed by the customer from the website. This becomes quite an issue for those, like me, who do not own a printer. I currently have a laptop case I don’t want or use because I didn’t have a printer to complete the returns.

The ultimate experience

Honestly, when it comes to returns, most customers just want it to be kept simple with little effort required on their part. If returns labels could be printed at the distribution centre by the vendor and sent out with the package, it would make the returns process much easier for customers.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

It’s within this area that eCommerce companies can really push the limits to stand out against the competition. From the basic to the extra-mile, how much are you investing to provide the ultimate customer experience?

10. Contact

Getting in touch with a company should not be a hassle. Firstly, the appropriate contact details should be clearly listed on the website. Secondly, when a customer phones up they’ll probably like to speak to a human.

I recently phoned up a mobile network provider and had to sit through several minutes of automated options and at the end I still wasn’t sure which numbers to press to get the right person. In the end I just clicked any option to get through to a human. Had I not already signed up for this company, such an issue might put me off choosing them.

The ultimate experience

Offer as many contact channels as possible. The main two, email and phone, are a given but think about a ticket raising system similar to what HubSpot use, Live Chat, Twitter or Facebook messages, texts, post, carrier pigeons. The list goes on, as it should. Lisa might prefer to send off an email but Jerry needs an immediate response making Live Chat or social sites more ideal.

Guitar riff
Guitar riff

11. Please hold

If you have any respect for the music industry, please for the love of all things aural, do not settle for an 80s guitar riff or a Beethoven symphony. There have been studies that show how different hold music affects customers’ mood, so do your customers a favour and ditch the bad tracks.

The ultimate experience

Why not give your customers a choice of music? ‘We’re sorry for keeping you on hold, which song would you like to hear while you wait?’ Or perhaps you could have a hold playlist and give your customers the option to skip a song. It might require a bit of techy input but it may just be worth the effort.

12. Follow up

So you got my email when I placed an order. A surefire way to scare me off a repeat purchase is to spam my inbox with newsletters, deals, promotions and every other form of marketing you can think of.

The ultimate experience

If I buy a pair of trainers from the Nike website, it might be good to get a follow up email with a link the the Nike+ Running app and some guides on technique. The best marketing emails are those that are targeted with unique, tailored content because it shows thought and consideration. Take a look at DotMailer’s SlideShare for more on email marketing.

Another option is to check back in with your customers a few weeks later and ask how they’re enjoying their purchase. It’s different and it creates a bond between the company and the customer.

13. Work the senses

More often than not, a customer’s senses aren’t considered when it comes to packing an order. I can’t say that I’ve ever received an order that had terribly exciting packaging to look at or touch.

The ultimate experience

This isn’t just about making the box or packet look good, though that is part of it. Think of the texture, too. What other wrapping or packing materials could you use to light up those senses? And does ‘box smell’ have to be the only fragrance on the menu? Why not try livening a parcel up a bit by adding a scent - provided it won’t damage the items at all!

14. Quirk it!

Fact: invoices are boring. As are shipping receipts. Yes, I’d like an invoice that tells me what I’ve ordered and how much I’ve paid for the item and delivery, but must it be a bland document or email?

The ultimate experience

Don’t be afraid to add a little character to the usually boring stuff. If an invoice came to me on a piece of old parchment or as an animation in my email, I’d probably be pretty excited, and anything you can do to be more memorable than the competition is worth doing.

This is clearly not a comprehensive list. There is simply so much that you can do to create the ultimate customer experience, we’d need a whole separate blog to cover any more. We can’t emphasise enough how important it is for you to use your own website as a consumer would. By doing so, you will see exactly where you’re failing (and succeeding) so that you can get your marketing team on the job.