By Ari Weil
If retailers focus on one thing this holiday season, it should be improving the online customer experience. Anyone in customer service would probably say that this is a no-brainer, but with the past few holiday seasons focused heavily on online and mobile shopping, it seems that retailers have strayed from the heart of what makes a fantastic retailer-customer relationship: a personalized shopping experience.
To achieve this outcome, digital retail teams need to keep the customer at the forefront of their efforts. It’s not a race to have the site with the most bells and whistles. In fact, focusing too much on marketing tools and tricks can strain customer satisfaction. Following are three ways retailers can adjust their online strategy to optimize their customers’ digital shopping experience this holiday season.
Analyze your site’s performance
Today’s online shopping experience is highly reliant on rich content to entice and engage customers, but assets like photos and social media widgets often achieve the opposite. When your site is too heavy, it will load slowly, frustrating customers. According to the Aberdeen Group, just a one-second delay can reduce conversion rates by seven percent. It’s easy to see if this is happening on your site with tools like websitetest.com, to analyze load time and content complexity.
Even sites that use responsive web design are at risk. Responsive web design is great for creating an omnichannel brand experience, but sites can suffer when it’s not properly implemented. Elements that work well on desktop may not translate effectively to mobile, and lead to a poor end-user experience. Design a layout that works well on mobile first, and then make the desktop experience follow suit. After the design, confirm that the page works on all devices and on different connection speeds. This can be as simple as instructing your employees to go outside the office on their phones, turning off Wi-Fi and navigating your site on the local mobile network. See if the site loads as planned, and make adjustments as necessary.
Study those who do it better
Everyone can learn from his or her peers, and ecommerce players would be wise to turn to Amazon for a superior example of building a positive online customer experience. Amazon is a pioneer in developing a web and mobile experience that is heavily reliant on content and personalization, without hindering performance. This is possible because of their intelligent delivery strategy. Amazon serves static above the fold content quickly, to let the user’s experience begin instantaneously, while personalized assets and below the fold content loads as it becomes available. By the time the user can process what’s above the fold and scrolls down, the rest of the page is complete. Thus the long overall load time becomes moot, since the user perceives a fast experience.
This approach shows that Amazon focuses on the end-user experience, and then works backward to determine the steps necessary to deliver it, based on the user’s context in which they interact with the site. This stands in stark contrast to the older approach that uses a one-size-fits-all delivery method designed for a single device.
Make a plan for improving the digital customer experience
Committing to a positive online customer experience is the end goal, but there are many steps along the way to make this a reality. Initially, it’s crucial to employ an internal checklist for improvement. Identify key goals for your user experience strategy, review past implementation steps, choose the KPIs to track, and then determine the mix of technologies required to meet your needs and avoid implementation gaps. Gather external inputs to maximize your mobile and ecommerce experiences. What was the customer feedback? What areas create friction? Early identification of these issues will guide your strategy and put the customer at the center of each effort.
Once you’ve determined that the right business technology architecture is in place, confirm that optimization and user experience go hand in hand. Business technology that connects marketing, sales and IT teams around the central goal of superior customer service will give disparate entities insight into the operations of other departments. When achieved, each party can understand how the projects of others will affect their own, and alert managers of possible conflicts across departments.
The shopping journey may have changed significantly over the past two decades, but the desire for superior customer service has not. Your customers still need to feel valued, in order to truly engage with your brand and products. By placing customer experience at the center of your business strategy, you will please your customers and provide a quality online shopping experience during the hectic and competitive holiday season.