Tips & Hints

How to improve customer experience (CX) for online retail businesses

Published on 12 May, 2021

For online retail businesses, customer experience, or CX, is critical to success. Customer experience is a measure of how customers engage with your eCommerce business through each stage of their buying journey. It is an assessment of how they perceive these interactions — from the very first impression right through to becoming loyal customers. Before you can start looking to improve CX, it is vital that you first understand its importance to your business.

CX is essentially a combination of your customer satisfaction and your sales processes. By improving customer experience, you enhance many different areas of your retail business. Customer experience has a direct impact on your sales and profits, so it is essential you have a well-thought-out strategy to improve CX.

The creation of a suitable CX strategy for your brand should pivot on three key areas:

  • Customer touchpoints
  • Digital experience
  • Customer service

In this guide, we will look at how you can improve CX by focusing on these aspects of your business.

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Improving customer touchpoints for your online business

Understanding customer touchpoints is a crucial part of any CX strategy; if you want to improve CX, you need to improve touchpoints. Taking the time to analyse your existing touchpoints and fine-tuning them is essential for enhancing your customer experience as an online retail business.

What are customer touchpoints?

Customer touchpoints are the points of interaction that every consumer has with your business. This may be visual contact through advertising, digital contact via a web page or simply talking about a brand with peers. These points of interaction make up the complete customer journey and play a crucial role in customer experience.

Customer touchpoints influence consumers during their buying journey. Getting these right can be the difference between making a sale or losing a customer. By understanding and optimising your customer touchpoints, you can capitalise on each of these sales opportunities. Touchpoints are critical interactions that define key moments in the journey of your customers and can go towards either building or damaging consumer trust.

Why are customer touchpoints important?

Customer touchpoints take place before, during and after an online purchase, and they are essential for customer experience. CX is all about the journey that a customer takes to:

  • find your business
  • make a buying decision
  • purchase your products

This journey is made up entirely of touchpoints, and they all play an important role in the success of your brand. With new technologies and new customer touchpoints being developed constantly, understanding CX is more important than ever before. Improving CX for your retail brand can help you build customer loyalty, boost sales and enhance profits.

How to improve customer touchpoints?

Before you can work to improve your customer touchpoints, you first need to identify which touchpoints your business has. When you set out to improve the customer experience for your retail business, you will identify several touchpoints that are critical to success. Here we outline some of the key customer touchpoints and how to use them to improve your CX:

  • Website: Websites were once an afterthought for many retail brands, but today they are one of the most essential touchpoints out there. To improve CX, your first stop should be your website as your company’s site will act as a hub for many different types of customer touchpoints. Your website is the central focus of your brand and identity, and it needs to project this to your audience accurately. Consider the functional and visual capability of your eCommerce site and review it consistently to ensure you are keeping up with the latest customer demands. For example, 79% of smartphone users made a purchase on their mobile in the last six months, so optimising for mobile is vital.
  • Email: Email has one of the highest ROIs when it comes to marketing channels, so while it might be a classic, email marketing is still a significant customer touchpoint. Email marketing is a proven strategy for converting browsers into buyers, and when looking to improve CX, you should always consider your current email marketing tactics. Remember, customers receive a huge number of emails every day, so it is essential that your marketing messages stand out from the competition. To improve CX, focus on email marketing campaigns that add value to your customers’ lives.
  • Chatbot: The number of chatbots you now see has increased dramatically in recent years, with more and more retail businesses adopting this technology. Most chatbots use artificial intelligence, or AI, to improve customer experience and streamline the customer journey. They are a critical touchpoint that can help convert customers from browsing your site to making a purchase. If you do not already have a chatbot in place, investing in one is an easy and effective way to improve CX.
  • Customer support: After chatbots comes customer support. Customer support is obviously one of the most popular customer touchpoints in eCommerce and any commerce. Customer support is the bedrock of CX in retail, finance, health and any sector you can think of, so it is vital to ensure you are giving customers everything they need. Whether it is a real-time chat assistant online or a call centre, improving your customer support will dramatically improve customer experience.
  • Voice assistant: This is a customer touchpoint that is rapidly developing, with customers increasingly turning to Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri when making their purchases. Optimising your website for voice search and getting your business prepared for a rise in this channel will help to improve customer experience.
  • Text message (SMS): With an open rate of 98%, text messages are a powerful customer touchpoint. While many retail businesses are yet to utilise SMS as a marketing channel, incorporating this into your strategy can be a very effective option.
  • Social media: Social media is another channel that offers many different customer touchpoints. With social channels introducing new features all the time, it is a constantly evolving part of the customer journey. To improve CX for your retail business, make sure you are using social media effectively and efficiently.

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  • Influencers: Online influencers can work as customer touchpoints and improve customer experience by establishing trust for your brand. Influencers have the ability to reach a very large, very targeted audience, and utilising them in your marketing can be very beneficial.

Reviews and feedback from existing customers are another great of improving the customer journey, creating an effective and well-received touchpoint. Product, service and rich media reviews, both on and off-site, are extremely useful for retail businesses. Start collecting product reviews and use them to improve client engagement. Reviews can also work to improve SEO by increasing engagement and getting customers to spend more time on each product page. When you integrate product reviews directly into your website pages, you create a strong customer touchpoint that improves customer experience online.
Lily's Kitchen is an excellent example of a retail business that has boosted sales and CX through product reviews. It displays a star rating and review count directly on each product page, creating a powerful customer touchpoint and helping consumers understand how others rate its products.

Enhancing digital experience for your clients and visitors

Customers have more choice than ever when it comes to shopping online, so offering a seamless digital experience is vital for encouraging sales. In today's world, if a customer can't easily and quickly make a purchase on a website, they will simply switch to a competitor that offers a better online experience.

What is digital experience?

While customer experience refers to how a consumer interacts with your business and the journey they have with your brand, digital experience is all about online interactions. As a retail company operating online, your digital experience is one of the most important parts of the customer experience. If you want to improve CX, you must first look at improving your digital experience. Your brand's digital experience is made up of your website, your product pages, your checkout process and anything else related to your website, including site speed and general functionality.

Why is digital experience important?

With online customer interactions rising from 36% to 58% in the course of a year, it is no surprise that digital experience is critical for retail businesses. While this change in consumer trends is a great opportunity for eCommerce sites, it also brings new challenges. Just the smallest amount of friction during the customer journey can turn a consumer off and send them to another brand. It has been shown that businesses in the US lose a massive $75 billion every year because of poor customer experiences online, so improving this area is crucial. A seamless and smooth digital experience can boost sales, maximise profits and encourage customer loyalty.

How to improve digital experience?

If you want to improve CX for your retail brand, you need to enhance the digital experience. Every eCommerce brand is going to operate slightly differently, but there are some areas that every retail business can focus on. Here are a few of the most effective ways to improve CX through digital experience:

  • A user-friendly website: Consumers not only prefer a user-friendly website, they now demand it. Your pages need to be easy to navigate and designed in a way that helps customers browse products and find what they are looking for quickly and easily. Simple changes such as organising products into categories similar to those you’d find in a physical retail store can immeasurably improve CX for your business. Ensure your website has a prominent search button and that everything is appropriately categorised and tagged in your ‘back end’ so all products are easy to find via search. Customers need to be able to see what they are looking for quickly; in fact, 89% of customers will move to a competitor website if they encounter a bad user experience.
  • A seamless checkout process: It is critical that you remove all friction from the checkout process, as even the slightest inconvenience can put a customer off. A seamless checkout process can cut down on the number of abandoned carts left on your site and encourage more customers to complete their purchase. One effective way of improving CX through your checkout process is to offer multiple payment options. Research shows that 56% of online shoppers want to see a variety of payment options, while a massive 73% said offering free delivery encourages them to complete a purchase.
  • A personalised experience: Years ago, personalisation meant putting your customers' names on your marketing messages. Today, it goes much further than that. Ecommerce websites have the ability to create personalised content, offers and adverts which are all relevant to specific customers. Using metrics such as product browsing history and user location can help you to make recommendations to your audience and improve customer experience.
  • Compelling product pages: Your product pages are probably the most important part of your website when it comes to digital experience, and they need to be optimised for success. Make sure your product pages have descriptive copy, straightforward navigation and impressive visual content. Clearly show your pricing, product description and photos, including photos of the product in use. This can help communicate to customers what the product can do for them and help them visualise it in their own lives.
  • Educational website content: Your website content can be an effective tool for customer acquisition by driving more traffic to your website through SEO. When you fill your website with content that is valuable to consumers, you will naturally improve organic traffic and boost sales. Set your website up to be a resource for advice and guidance in your industry and build trust with your audience online.
  • Improved website speed: A slow-loading website is one of the first things to put a user off and increase bounce rates. Not only that, Google's latest update is using Core Web Vitals, including loading speed, as ranking signals in search results. This means that a slow website will not only drive customers away from your site but prevent them from finding it in the first place.
  • Measure customer feedback: One of the most effective ways to improve CX for retail and your digital experience is to listen to what your customers want. Your customers can provide you with valuable insights into your CX and highlight the pain points for you. Things like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and feedback surveys are powerful ways to measure your customer satisfaction and understand where you need to improve.

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The importance of customer service and after-sales

Your customer experience doesn't end as soon as a customer makes a purchase. It runs through into the after-sales process and your customer service. When you want to improve CX, you need to also focus on the service you are providing to customers after they have purchased from you.

What Is customer service?

The terms customer service and customer experience are often confused and used interchangeably. It is essential to understand that these are not the same things, but they are closely related. Customer service is a part of the overall customer experience, and when you want to improve CX, you need to look at your service. Customer service refers to the assistance you are providing to your customers and is usually a more human element than other parts of the customer journey. When it comes to post-purchase, customer service is critical and can be the difference between a customer returning to your business or forming a negative experience of you. Customer service also plays an important role during the point of sale because it allows customers to ask questions before making a final decision.

Why is customer service and after-sales important for retail?

Your point of sale and after-sales service is a critical part of the customer experience. It makes up part of your non-price competition, which can add value to your customers. If you offer excellent customer service at the right times, you can encourage customers to return to you, recommend your products, and become loyal to your brand. In fact, 96% of customers said they would recommend a company to others if they had a positive customer experience. Prioritising your customer service can improve CX and lead to happy customers.

How to improve your customer service?

Improving your service at both the point of sale and after-sales is a powerful way to improve CX. Here are some of the most effective ways of boosting your customer service levels:

  • Phone access: Over 50% of all customers will make a phone call to reach out to a customer service team. This means it is the most popular channel for customer service. If you don't offer phone access, you could be dampening your customer experience. Make sure you provide a clear phone number on your website and transaction communications, and consider inviting customers to call if they need any help or advice with their new product.
  • Email: We have already looked into how email marketing as a customer touchpoint can improve CX. However, this is also crucial for point of sale and after-sales service. Sending sales sequencing emails and post-purchase review requests is a great way of boosting your eCommerce customer experience.
  • Chatbot: Chatbots are not just great for pre-purchase, they are also very effective for encouraging customers at the point of sale. Having a chatbot available during the checkout process and on your product pages can provide customers with the information they need to complete their sale. Live chat and chatbots give customers the chance to get their answers immediately, instead of waiting for a reply to an email. This faster response time and more convenient communication channel can dramatically improve CX and customer service.
  • Logistics and returns: The logistics of your delivery service and returns procedures will have a significant impact on the customer experience. You could have the most user-friendly website and best customer service around, but if your deliveries arrive late or in poor condition, customers will be put off. Consumers also want to know that returning products if they no longer want them is not going to be a hassle. Having an easy returns process in place is a great way to improve CX.
  • FAQs: Many online retail businesses focus so much on the marketing and sales process on their website that they often don't consider the CX at point of sale and after-sales. Customers might need a bit more information during their purchase or after they have already bought a product. An FAQs page on your website is an effective way to improve CX by answering all the questions that customers may have during or after a purchase.

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In conclusion

In this guide, we have looked at many ways to improve CX for your retail business. However, we realise that embarking on all these improvements is a huge task. Instead of taking on all of these points at once and including them in one huge CX strategy, it is often better to tackle them incrementally by setting priorities for your business. For some brands, it will be obvious where you need to start and you will be able to identify the first improvements you need to make. But for others, there might be pressing demands from several different areas of the business. This can make knowing where to begin with improving your CX a challenge.

Using customer reviews, online surveys and marketing metrics such as NPS is a great place to start when identifying your CX shortfalls. These can provide you with valuable insights into the minds of your customers, highlighting the areas that they like about your business and outlining the things that worry them. By understanding your customers' current experiences, you can clearly see where you need to improve CX and what you are already doing well.

To learn more about creating a winning CX strategy for your retail business, get in touch with our sales team.

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