The world of commerce has changed immeasurably over the last thirty or so years. With the ongoing evolution of the internet and tech in general, the customer journey today is almost unrecognizable to that of yesterday.
From vastly improved connection speeds to the seemingly never-ending progression and sophistication of our devices, the how and where of shopping is continually changing. The digitalization of commerce is shaping our modern world, disrupting markets and ending practices that have existed for centuries.
As if further evidence of the impact of the internet on shopping was needed, the recent lockdowns caused by the emergence of the Coronavirus served only to further highlight just how much we have come to rely on the e-commerce model. Indeed, many experts predict COVID may also have served the final death knell on the traditional high street and accelerated the mass take-up of e-commerce by around five years.
From search engine to site visit to sale – the changing shopping journey
Even before COVID, the high street had been in decline for many years. Many forward-thinking companies jumped on the considerable advantages of selling online and reaching a potential global marketplace 24/7/365. With hugely reduced overheads and ever-improving tracking tech, these firms were quickly able to offer a more personalized service to their clients (both existing and potential), offering a level of customer service that simply couldn’t be rivaled in the real world.
These days, progressive companies are integrating more and more with tech, handing over their initial client sourcing and ongoing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to automation and further improving the level of bespoke service provision they can offer their customers. These platforms far exceed what humans alone can perform and offer a previously unimaginable personalization and customer service level.
Using modern tech, the internet, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, companies can now track and monitor every stage of the customer journey – from initial search right through to ordering and final product delivery.
Making your company first choice is now harder than ever
However, with so many companies now operating online – and so much trade shifting from brick and mortar stores to e-com suppliers – it’s becoming increasingly harder for firms to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Sure, most businesses are aware of the need for a professional, easy-to-use website and the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to entice users in the first place – but how can you give your firm that competitive edge that transforms visitors to customers and keeps them coming back for more?
Many suggest the key these days is to improve the customer journey – to pre-empt what clients want and give better customer service.
Ways to improve the customer experience
Even as a company owner, you should still be more than aware of what it is to be a consumer and what constitutes good customer service. After all, we’re all continually buying goods from other stores, so being attuned to the customer experience and service should be second nature.
Nonetheless, many firms struggle with the idea of taking a third-party, impartial view of their operations – particularly when it comes to their online processes. Improving your customer experience means taking a holistic view of your firm’s web operations. Below are just a few ways you should look at which will help improve your overall customer journey – particularly from the point of view of your website.:
Is your website Responsive?
First things first, if your site is over five years old, you will likely need it redesigned. Coding, design, and web tech have changed massively in recent years due largely to the seemingly unstoppable dominance of mobile device access. Tablets and cell phones now account for over 50% of all web traffic, meaning if your site isn’t built in a Fully Responsive format, you’ll be missing out on a huge chunk of your potential market. And it doesn’t just stop there – having a non-Responsive site will only serve to alienate your users, and Google and other search engines will heavily penalize you.
Take a long hard look at the design of your site
Programming isn’t the only aspect of web production that has changed in recent years – design trends have had a marked overhaul too. Once designers were often keen to use smaller fonts and graphics, now the web is full of bold typefaces and imagery. These days we are surrounded by good design in all aspects of our lives. Whether people are consciously aware of good design’s power is, perhaps, up for debate; however, one thing is for sure – pretty much all of us can recognize bad design.
Your Call to Action
Do you provide customers a good way to contact you and purchase from you? Looking good and being responsive is great, but you need to keep the main event in mind. What do you want your customers to do? What is the goal of the website? In most cases, you are trying to get your customer to buy your product or service. This could mean making the purchase experience simple (amazon one-click) or it could mean providing many ways for your customer to contact you to ask questions or to begin the sales cycle. Adding contact information, or a way to book an appointment online with your sales team are a great way to improve the customer experience.
Try to think as a stranger
Sure, you know exactly what your firm provides, the services you can offer, and products you sell – but that doesn’t mean everyone else does. When studying your site, try to think as a complete stranger and imagine visiting your pages for the first time. Do you get a clear idea of what your firm does? Is the content clear? Are your products and services immediately obvious? Is the navigation simple to understand? How easy is it to order products or request information? Does your company send out automated order confirmations or read receipts? What about other aspects of ecommerce automation? If you think in this way, you’ll likely highlight many potential areas for improvement.
What do you do with customer feedback?
When a client leaves user feedback (either positive or negative), it can provide you with a valuable insight as to how you’ve performed – plus let you identify areas for improvement. A client taking the time to write you is a sure sign you either performed admirably or poorly – but, regardless, you need to act on it. It’s vital you first let the user know you’ve received their comments – but also that you will act upon them.
Check your site’s download speed
Slow-loading websites are an immediate turn-off for web users and will serve to drive customers away. Indeed, industry behemoth Amazon found that an increase of just 100ms in page-loading times cost them a massive 1% in sales. Use a page-loading speed tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get an idea of how well your site performs and make any appropriate changes.
Compare your customer journey to that of your favorite service or competitors
As mentioned earlier, we are all consumers to some degree, and it’s highly likely you will already have your own favorite e-commerce websites or services. Consider what makes you use these companies time and time again – what you enjoy about their provision and what sets them apart from other firms. By analyzing the tools and practices used by your favorite services, you can effectively ‘borrow’ elements of their operations to improve your own.
In truth, the customer experience goes far beyond just the function and form of your website but taking a close look at your current operations should let you identify other, subsequent areas for improvement. If you’re in any doubt about how to improve, consider hiring the services of a professional web development company that will be able to give you advice and ideas, or try customer experience management software.