To succeed in ecommerce, it’s essential to look up from the computer and see the world through your customers’ eyes. Shopping has become more than a transactional activity for consumers. It’s about being engaged and entertained.
You can have a website selling one of the most in-demand products on the market, but if the consumers navigating your ecommerce store have a poor experience, you’re losing out on valuable sales.
Instead of buying from you, they’re going to a competitor or changing their mind about making a purchase altogether.
So what can you do to make sure you’re providing a great ecommerce customer experience that generates loyal customers and maximizes conversion rates?
In this article, we’re going to discuss what customer experience management is, why you need to pay attention to your existing customer experience, and how you can make changes to ensure your customers enjoy shopping with you—even when it’s not in an actual store.
Table of contents
- What is ecommerce customer experience?
- Why is it important to have a customer experience management strategy?
- How to improve ecommerce customer experience: 9 trends for 2023
What is ecommerce customer experience?
Regardless of the type of company or industry you’re trying to market, customer experience (CX) always has to be top of mind. And customer experience management (CXM) helps your team make sure of that.
In ecommerce, customer experience management revolves around the online experience that anyone finding and landing on your website or product page goes through, from the very start of the checkout process to the post-purchase confirmation email in their inbox.
(Well, as long as the experience is seamless enough that they make it that far.)
Even the most mundane transactions can be turned into memorable experiences.
—B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, The Experience Economy
CXM looks through each part of the customer journey to ensure it’s a seamless and positive experience every step of the way.
If there’s a bug in the checkout process or a page that’s particularly difficult to navigate, your customer experience can easily be impacted—and not in a good way. CXM helps pinpoint these issues and improve them so you have nothing but satisfied customers.
Why is it important to have a customer experience management strategy?
Why does customer experience matter? Let’s find out.
Seventy-three percent of consumers say that customer experience has a major impact on their purchasing decisions. In layman’s terms, that means almost three-quarters of shoppers would likely decide not to buy from a store (whether using an ecommerce website or in-person) that provides a poor experience.
Those businesses that relegate themselves to the diminishing world of goods and services will be rendered irrelevant. To avoid this fate, you must learn to stage a rich, compelling experience.
—B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, The Experience Economy
Bottom line: If you’re not focusing on facilitating a positive customer experience from start to finish, you’re losing sales.
Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of marketers say their companies are competing mostly in the customer experience arena, which means if you don’t have a strategy for CXM, you’re going to be falling behind the competition.
How to improve ecommerce customer experience: 9 trends for 2023
To help your ecommerce business find new customers, build brand loyalty, and improve a customer’s lifetime value, you’ll need to consider implementing some of the following behaviors moving through 2023 and beyond.
1. Using AI to create automated customer services
Artificial intelligence is beginning to make big waves in customer experience. From AI-based chatbots to predictive analytics and data-driven personalization, almost half of marketers surveyed by eMarketer are investing in AI to produce a high-quality customer experience.
Due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, chatbots using natural language processing (NLP) have seen greater adoption rates in recent years—research from Glossy+ suggests the percentage of marketers using this technology has risen from 31% in 2017 to 44% in 2022.
This particular type of chatbot uses NLP (a form of AI) to learn how to have a more human conversation with customers (as opposed to using a set of pre-selected responses). The result is a more engaging and satisfying experience for potential customers.
Another area AI is helping customer experience is data-driven personalization—simply put, AI is able to sort through and analyze much larger scales of data than any human could. With access to vast amounts of data, marketers can use it to provide more effective ad targeting and product recommendations at various touchpoints.
Marketing data analytics are now so valuable that companies are using them to make decisions at higher rates than ever before. Nearly half of all marketing decisions are made using analytics, versus the 37.7% just before the pandemic.
2. Using AR to elevate the customer experience
By the end of 2021, the augmented reality (AR)/mixed reality market was worth $28 billion in the US alone, and according to The Insight Partners will reach an estimated $250 billion by 2028.
The use of AR for improving customer experience has a lot of potential in the coming years, with greater adoption in the mainstream markets. This is primarily thanks to social media apps, and Deloitte research suggests 75% of the global population will be frequent AR users by 2025 (largely discovering it through social media on smartphones).
Brands can take advantage of AR by using it in various ways, such as virtual try-ons of their products (for example, Christian Dior using Snapchat and Instagram AR filters).
In a similar vein, brands can also use it to “showroom” products such as home furnishings to help online customers see how products will look in their homes before buying them. Research we conducted last year for example found merchants who add 3D content (AR previews) to their stores see a 94% conversion lift, on average.
These AR features are improving digital experiences by delivering real-time interactions with products they’re looking to buy, resulting in less churn and better serving customer needs.
3. Improvements to the packaging and return experience
The post-purchase experience is just as important as everything that comes before—customers care about packaging as well as the returns experience.
On the packaging front, sustainability is at the forefront of customers’ minds—with 19% of Insider Intelligence respondents reporting minimal packaging for shipping is extremely important, and a further 19% saying brands taking steps to offset the carbon footprint is also extremely important.
However, packaging is not only a chance to prove sustainability values, it’s also a chance to further develop brand representation and convenience—which 65% of shoppers say is the most biggest reason they’re likely to buy beauty products online.
Even if the packaging is great, customers are still going to want to return a product, and for 31% of them, a good returns policy is the third-most important factor for shopping with a specific online store.
Moving into 2023, brands can help improve the returns experience, and inspire customer loyalty, by reframing it as a win-win for customers and themselves. To make great returns a reality, brands can incentivize customers to return products quickly to get them back in active stock, as well as offer drop-off points rather than shipping products (forcing customers to print shipping labels at home).
4 Virtual store/brand experiences
Along similar lines to improvements in the adoption of AR experiences, virtual reality (VR) is also making some headway in offering outside-the-box customer experiences. The major difference between AR and VR, however, is that customers using VR need additional VR-ready hardware to maximize its effectiveness, which slows down the adoption rate compared to AR.
Despite this obstacle, a third of consumers in PwC’s 2022 survey said they used VR in the previous six months, and 32% of those consumers bought products after discovering them on a VR platform.
One example of a brand using VR to push digital initiatives is Maybelline. The brand launched a Halloween-themed VR experience called Maybelline Virtual Loft in October, where visitors could try on Halloween makeup looks, explore products, and play a virtual scavenger hunt.
More along the lines of education, Walker Slater also threw its hat into the ring by having a dedicated VR user experience in its London flagship store where customers could transport themselves to the Scottish Hebrides and explore where the brand’s wool comes from. Graham Clark, director of marketing at British Wool (speaking to Glossy) said it’s an effective way to attract Gen Z customers.
5. More omnichannel presence
Another area driving improvements in customer experience is omnichannel presence. The concept of omnichannel is not new–it’s been a rising area of interest since the early 2010s:
However, the importance of omnichannel has become ever more apparent since the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers are now looking for more than just an in-store and basic online shopping experience. Options that were originally introduced while stores were closed, including curbside pickup, ordering via social media, and multiple return methods, have become preferred shopping methods for many customers.
The key to building an omnichannel presence is seamlessness—allowing customers to fluidly transition from one channel to another within the same customer journey. One conduit retailers can use to enable this experience is mobile apps.
Research from Insider Intelligence suggests retail apps with specific functionalities can create superior customer satisfaction. Better yet, four of five retail app features customers say are most important to them connect the physical and digital shopping experience in an omnichannel manner.
6. Better checkout and payment options
In 2023 customers expect to be able to pay in their preferred method, whatever it may be. As a result, ecommerce sites not optimizing the checkout experience with various payment options will lose out on potential sales from cart abandonment.
While it’s a given that online payment methods need to include credit/debit card options, more key players include digital wallet payments (e.g., Apple, Google, Samsung), which has overtaken credit/debit cards as the most preferred payment option in many markets, as well as buy now, pay later (BNPL) providers (e.g., Klarna, PayPal, Shop Pay).
Despite mobile wallet payments already being the preferred payment method, forecasts say its use in the North American market will double between 2020 and 2025, with the Far East and China remaining the dominant market (likely due to its population size).
BNPL options will see the greatest penetration among Gen Z, but its use will increase among all generations in the next three years, according to research from Insider Intelligence:
Point-of-sale (POS) software solutions, such as Shopify, are increasingly adopting these payment methods as default in the shopping cart, so there aren’t many excuses for not using them from 2023 and beyond.
7. Better fulfillment and delivery times
Consumers are becoming ever more accustomed to fast deliveries, with ultra-rapid delivery apps such as Glovo, Zapp, Getir, and GetFaster seeing tens of millions of downloads since 2021, raising expectations.
While these apps largely deal with local grocery-store and fast-food deliveries, Amazon has led the way for next-day and same-day deliveries in the ecommerce market. So much so, 41% of consumers in the 2022 Future Shopper report now expect delivery within 24 hours, and almost a quarter expect delivery in less than two hours.
However, the ecommerce boom of 2020 has put strain on third-party logistics (3PL) businesses to meet these high customer demands while keeping pricing competitive. Analysis from McKinsey & Company suggests a solution for better 3PL fulfillment moving forward: an integrated multi-client model.
The folks at McKinsey & Company explain the multi-client fulfillment model can help 3PL businesses to remain competitive by using technology and automation where possible, and sharing activities and resources across clients to make significant cost savings. Ultimately, these methods of fulfillment can help reduce lead times on delivery to compete with two-day and same-day deliveries offered by market leaders like Amazon.
Moving forward in 2023, ecommerce businesses can look out for fulfillment providers utilizing this strategy to help their products reach customers faster and improve customer retention.
8. Further enhanced personalization
We mentioned in the first customer experience strategy how businesses are using AI to help improve personalization efforts, but it’s a big enough area with more factors to warrant its own analysis.
In a report from Dynamic Yield, 45% of C-suite representatives surveyed (worldwide) said they were able to offer personalized experiences either well-enough or very well. In the same report, more than half of the representatives said their personalization success stories were either quantitative or inspiring.
But personalization isn’t just about the marketers’ perspectives—where 34% of B2C marketers said they always personalized their customer experiences, only 11% of consumers (in the same survey) agreed their experiences where always personalized.
Moving into 2023, ecommerce brands should seek to close that gap between how marketers perceive and how consumers experience personalization efforts. Finding strategies for doing so is critical, because 61% of consumers say they’ll stop using a brand if their experience isn’t personalized.
A cookieless (third party) data world is coming, so what brands can do to help better improve their personalization efforts is to take advantage of first-party customer data (which 85% of customers want brands to do anyway).
Some of the leading methods of growing first-party data include building email lists via newsletters, site/app visitation behavior, social media, via content marketing, and using D2C business models, as demonstrated by MarketingCharts above.
9. Increased self-servicing
The first trend mentioned in this article was improving (and greater adoption of) AI chatbots, which is one method of many self-servicing options customers want to use.
Customers don’t want to have to contact a customer service agent for every question they have about a product or service, especially for online businesses—in the fifth edition of Salesforce’s State of Service report, 59% of customers said they prefer to use self-service when they have a simple question or issue.
That’s why 74% of business executives say improving content and knowledge delivery is “important” or “very important” for growing business and improving customer experience. So what are some of the ways brands can help customers self-service common questions and issues?
Besides the aforementioned chatbot, ecommerce companies can build good customer experience by creating robust knowledge bases (with a dedicated team to keep the knowledge updated), as well as community forums where customers can help each other—this can also help build a loyal brand community, which drives consumer engagement, as a bonus.
Moving into 2023 and beyond, consumers will have great customer experiences when they can choose how to connect with your brand, whether that be through live assistance or self-service options, when they have a question or issue.
Make the most of your ecommerce customer experience
Whether you’re a seasoned retailer with a global customer base or planning to expand your operations, if you’re following the trends above, you’ll create a memorable experience for online shoppers.
Remember that the success of your ecommerce experience depends on your customers. Be everywhere they are, with convenient and seamless shopping experiences—including simplified checkout and followup. You’ll soon see the benefits of happier customers and more sales.
Ecommerce customer experience FAQ
Why is customer experience in ecommerce important?
Customer experience in ecommerce is important because it allows customers to have a positive experience when interacting with a company online. A positive customer experience can lead to repeat customers and positive word-of-mouth for the company.
How can I improve my ecommerce experience?
There are a few key things you can do to improve your ecommerce experience. First, focus on delivering a fast, smooth, and easy-to-use checkout process. Second, make sure your website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate on all devices.
What are the 3 levels of customer experience?
The three levels of customer experience are engagement, interaction, and fulfillment.
What is ecommerce customer engagement?
Ecommerce customer engagement is the process of building a relationship with a customer through interaction and activity. This interaction can take many forms, such as providing customer support, offering personalized content, or simply communicating regularly with the customer.