Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops to Build a Business Customers Can't Resist

Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops to Build a Business Customers Can't Resist

“If you want to improve your business, just listen to your customers…” or so the popular advice goes.

In theory, this is sensible. Of course, sensibility evaporates once you learn that only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain.

This is not an amazing feedback ratio, and if you’re only listening to the 1/26th of your customer base that’s willingly giving feedback when they’re ticked off, the improvements you’ll make will almost always be reactive.

Responding quickly in crisis mode is important, of course, but if that’s all you’re ever doing, it’s like saying to your spouse “I’m sorry honey, I’ll start washing the dishes more” after they’ve been ticked off about it for weeks.

Lasting change comes by seeking out subtler, softer moments where feedback doesn't need to be tense, not just by listening and responding to the loudest voices at the most critical times.

Do you think they’ll contact customer service when they’re confused by your navigation or sizing chart?

No, they’ll just leave.

70% of companies who consistently deliver best in class customer service use customer feedback to inform their business decisions according to Esteban Kolsky, CEO of ThinkJar, whereas “average” companies use customer feedback around 50% of the time with laggards bringing up the rear with 29%.

With stats like that, it’s obvious that improving or at the very least getting reliable data on your customer’s experience is critical for ongoing success.

Fortunately, getting feedback from customers is not hard. The harder question is figuring out where and when to ask. In this article I’m going to show you all of the different areas you can create feedback loops in to learn from your visitor’s digital body language.

The idea is to find answers to questions like:

  • Why didn't you buy?
  • What are you looking for?
  • What aren't you finding that will help you be more comfortable buying?

Apply what you find here to different areas of your business and customer life-cycle to improve sales, reduce support debt, and increase referrals and retention.  And don't worry, most of this can be automated and integrated at different points of your customer’s life-cycle with your business.

Defining Feedback Loops

Harnessing The Power Of Feedback Loops To Build A Business Customers Cant Resist

Image via Smashing Magazine

At its core, a feedback loop is a system that helps merchants gather customer and visitor feedback about their services/products, add their own internal hunches and insights and in the end improve the product/service they were offering in the first place.

By building feedback experiments, measuring results and extrapolating insights, the goal is to learn something specific about your visitors, customer segments, business processes, etc. and then use that new information to improve your business.

For example, by asking your first-time customers about their buying experience and how it could be made better, you’re bound to learn new things that you might not even have thought about before.

It’s also important not to limit yourself to only one area or a certain customer segment when doing feedback surveys. You should be looking to gather information at every opportunity possible.

Some user group ideas include:

  • First-time customers
  • Customers who have been with you for 3, 6, 9 months
  • Past customers who haven’t bought in a while
  • Visitors who have never bought from you (you could get their contact information through a discount offer)
  • Visitors and customers who have stopped at various stages of the checkout funnel
  • Overseas customers, customers in concrete countries
  • Segments based on their average order value
  • Haven’t opened your emails
  • Opened emails, never clicked through
  • Opened email, clicked through but never bought
  • Different age groups
  • Males only
  • Females only

Example - First Time Customers

Asking first time customers for feedback is a great way to gain new insights into how you're seen to the outside world. Questions like "Why did you choose to shop at X?" can give you great insights into why your new customers think you're great - that's valuable information that can be used when developing new marketing campaigns as well as bring out on key pages as a value proposition.

Questions like "Where else do you shop online?" will give you insights on who your true competitors are and help you differentiate your offerings from them. While a questions like "What almost made you not buy?" will give insights into what the possible pain points might be through the eyes of a new customer.

Feedback like this is best collected as close to the actual purchase as possible - the more time passes, the more inaccurate the responses can be. To achieve this, you could experiment with adding a quick survey to the thank you pages that are displayed right after a purchase. It doesn't get more immediate than that!

Example - Non-Buyer

With people who leave your online store without buying, the most important thing is to understand WHY they left without buying. Luckily with "exit intent" technology you can ask that exact question right at the time when they're about to leave.

Usually this is used to run quick win-back campaigns with offers that incentivize would-be buyers from leaving by offering a set dollar or percentage off of their next/first purchase. This same technology can be used to trigger a quick one question survey asking a simple question like - "What made you decide not to buy?".


The two examples above are just a fraction of situations where valuable feedback can be collected. The possibilities really are endless and they largely depend on what and from whom you want to learn from.

UX/UI a possible problem? Ask about customers online buying experience.

Looking to identify problems with your supply & delivery network? Launch a quick survey inside your shipping confirmation email or send an email shortly after getting confirmation of delivery.

Or you could use feedback surveys for customer persona creation, that's what Kuna did as their first step in their overall site redesign. A simple 6-question survey helped them to understand their customers and their intentions better and thus led to better design and testing options in the redesign process.

Asking more personal questions about your customers thinking process and intentions is a great way to perfect your buyer personas, while questions about the buying process can help with making that part of the process better. Both are great places to start.

Just don’t go survey crazy. As good as they are at getting real actionable feedback, sending one every other day is not a good idea. A better one is to include questions about many areas and package it all together to be sent at set intervals to concrete customer segments.

The Way to Ask for Feedback

When it comes to actually asking for feedback, the obvious and most direct option is to use email -- you already have your customers’/visitors’ contact information so why not go ahead and put it to good use, right?

Be warned though, although email seems like the perfect medium to send out surveys, there are things that you must be aware of.

For instance, local laws regarding marketing emails may require users to explicitly opt-in to receive them. Same with opting-out. Once someone opts-out you cannot contact them again, ever.

Also, no one would be happy to fill-in a detailed 20 question survey that would take half an hour to complete every week. Yes, all those questions may be important to get answers to, but it may be more prudent to collect those answers through multiple surveys over a longer period of time.

A good survey should not take more than 3-5 minutes to answer. Plus, you can always use different incentives like early access to new products, coupons and more to help you get more responses.

Formulating Questions

Question wise, there are two main types of questions you can ask:

  1. Scaled-response questions - these are questions that have a predefined answer list with options that are incrementally related to each other with the purpose of measuring the intensity to which a respondent feels toward or about something.

  2. Open-ended questions - these are designed to encourage a full, meaningful answer using the subject's own knowledge and/or feelings. Open-ended questions require a response with more depth and a lengthier response.

An example of a scaled-response question would be to ask customers to rate their experience of buying online on a scale of one to 10 with one being “Unacceptable” and 10 “Truly Exceptional.”

Harnessing The Power Of Feedback Loops To Build A Business Customers Cant Resist

Image via Signal vs Noise

While there’s nothing wrong with scaled-response questions (they work great for things like calculating NPS - Net Promoter Score), their usefulness for getting actionable data can be at best questionable.

The average score for first-time customers when they’re describing their experience of buying online is 7.3 - great. Now what?


That is why open-ended questions are a lot more useful in the context of getting data that is actionable. The same question above positioned as an open-ended question could look something like this:

Is there something that stood out or something that we should pay more attention to during the purchasing experience?

When a question is formulated like that, you’re a lot more likely to get responses that will actually help you. Sure, open-ended questions are harder to summarize and working with them will take considerably more time BUT at the same time, they provide genuinely useful information.

To help you get started on analyzing survey results, our friends over at ConversionXL have written a great piece on that very topic. After you’ve finished reading this, head over there to read all about results analysis.

Other Ways to Get Feedback

Harnessing The Power Of Feedback Loops To Build A Business Customers Cant Resist

Image via Gleam

Apart from email, there are other (and more direct ways) to get actionable feedback.On-site surveys, for example, are great for getting immediate feedback.

Functionally, they work like any other survey with the only difference being that the surveys are displayed right inside the actual browser tab with both multiple-choice and free-form responses being available.

The great thing about this method is that you can set up triggers for when a survey should be displayed. A survey can be displayed right at the second that a customer is leaving (exit-intent survey) when they’re stuck on a particular page and haven’t been active for 20/30/40 seconds and more.

Depending on the tool, you can get more specific by targeting people who have interacted with concrete product categories (handbags, shoes, jewelry etc), people who are on your email list. This would enable you to gather feedback from very specific groups of people.

For example, on checkout pages possible questions could include:

  • "What would've convinced you to complete the purchase of the item(s) in your cart?"
  • "What was your biggest fear or concern about purchasing from us?"
  • "If you did not make a purchase today, can you tell us why not?"
  • "Do you have any questions before you complete your purchase?"
  • "Is there anything preventing you from completing your purchase?"

Depending to which groups of users these questions are displayed to, you could learn a lot about how different user groups give differing answers to the very same questions and this will, in return, help you with creating better and more accurate user personas and help out with creating specific offers to all these groups of people.

Colorescience, a premium all-in-one makeup brand, recently ran a pop-up survey right after purchase confirmation asking “What one thing almost caused you not to buy today?”

The survey gathered 2500 responses with a response rate of 30.5%. Data from the survey showed that the most popular answer was “Not sure what color matches my skin.” Armed with that knowledge the company created a tool called Foundation Finder, to make it easier to select appropriate foundation color and format for their skin.

If you’re looking into running those on your own, service providers for this include WebEngage, Qualaroo, HotJar and more.

Harnessing The Power Of Feedback Loops To Build A Business Customers Cant Resist

Image via Qualaroo

An augmentation to having on-site surveys is to offer live chat.

Because visitors can ask anything in real time and speak candidly, there’s a good chance that you can learn things from this tool that otherwise would have never come up. The downside is that by having live chat available, you must have a dedicated person working on it as questions can come at any time.

There are a number of live chat apps available at the Shopify App Store. Additionally, Facebook Messenger can be used as live chat on Shopify powered shops. Messenger can do a lot more than just live chat of course, and we have written about it before.

Harnessing The Power Of Feedback Loops To Build A Business Customers Cant Resist

Screenshot via Pearly Whites Australia

Final Thoughts

Feedback loops done right can be an amazing tool for collecting insights into your visitors and buyers mind and create a feeling that you really "get" them. Additionally, it can be used to better understand how visitors and customers are interacting with your online store and thus remove any possible UX/UI issues that might occur. 

A great tool that can give you amazing insights and is relatively easy to setup, are you still not convinced that you should be using it?

About the author

Aaron Orendorff

Previously the Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus, Aaron Orendorff is the VP of Marketing at Common Thread Collective. Named by Forbes as one of the top 10 B2B content marketers, his work has appeared on Mashable, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Fast Company, Inc., Success Magazine, The Next Web, Content Marketing Institute, and more.

Check out Aaron Orendorff’s work