In 2017, more than 1.6 billion people made online purchases around the world, and e-retail sales around the world were worth more than 2 trillion dollars (U.S.). What should that tell you as a business? That more and more of your customers are shopping online. If you want to make sure your company gets the sales and attention it deserves, you need to make sure your online customer experience is absolutely exceptional.
But what makes a customer experience truly great?
The first step towards making your customer experience online great is having a website that provides plenty of information, is well organized, and can be easily navigated. Lots of auto-playing video and sound files are strongly discouraged; customers tend to flinch away from them very quickly.
Using pop-ups has become popular as companies strive to capture email addresses for white papers, graphics, coupons, and newsletters. While some companies find them very successful, they must be used judiciously; some customers will see them and instantly click away to use a different website.
At least 95% of Americans own a cell phone, and more than 75% own a smartphone, according to Pew Research. Twenty percent of Americans have a smartphone as their primary internet access point, with the demographic skewing towards younger users. Around the world, however, around two-thirds of Internet users primarily connect through their mobile phones; 3G and 4G connections are available in areas where traditional broadband does not reach.
What all of this means is that if your website doesn’t show up just as well on mobile as it does on a desktop, you’re losing customers. If your business is focused on the international market, you’re losing them faster than American focused businesses.
Shopping directly through apps is a growing business market, and companies should pay attention to the potential for growth in this area. The most well-known example might be Starbucks, which allows customers to scan a barcode on their phone to pay for their beverage and snack rather than deal with a loyalty card or other payment method. They accumulate loyalty points and get free snacks and beverages throughout the year.
But Starbucks also has the ability to catch customer attention in new ways. If customers have their phone’s GPS turned on, for example, a notification can pop up when the customer is near a Starbucks. Special deals or flash sales can also be sent through a notification. This can help integrate the brand more deeply into a customer’s life.
And this sort of approach isn’t just for Starbucks; small businesses can get in on the action, too. They can design their own apps, or work with a company that sets up the app for them with a few customized details. Either way, only a few small businesses are taking advantage of this opportunity, making it a great way for a small business to distinguish itself from the competition.
Clear and Understandable Return Policies
Customers want to know upfront what’s going to happen if they don’t like what they buy. After all, this is the great risk of buying online; everything looks great in the website or app, but the actual product doesn’t work, or is damaged in shipping, or simply isn’t the right size or shape for its intended use. What happens now?
Customers like to know before they buy that returning an item will be simple. They want to know they can bring it to a store in person and get a return, or that they will need to ship it back. Your return policy is an important part of building trust with a customer; making it clear up front will not only let them know what to expect, but will make them feel more comfortable making a purchase.
Let your customers know what shipping is going to cost long before they make a purchase. Many companies have found that offering free shipping after a certain price point is a fantastic way to encourage customers to shop more and hit that target number. It can also make them feel like they’re getting a really great deal. After all, everyone hates paying for shipping; it feels like the customer is paying for nothing.
If you do offer free shipping, make sure that the price point at which it’s offered makes sense. Also, some companies find success with a subscription free-shipping service. A customer pays a certain flat fee and gets free shipping on their purchases all year long. This can really help build loyalty with a customer, possibly even more than offering a subscription paired with a discount.
Sell Your Brand Statement
Everything about your website should match up with your brand statement. If your company is edgy and cutting edge, having a website that looks like it was designed in 2010 isn’t going to build that brand. If you sell the benefits of your customer service, then offer no way for customers to reach a support staff person, you’re failing your brand.
More and more customers are moving to shopping online. It’s convenient, it’s easy, and it’s great for companies! Online shopping makes impulse purchases easier and can increase the dollar value of what customers spend. Making sure that your customer’s online experience is great is an important way to build your company’s reputation and profits.