To build a successful, profitable, and sustainable ecommerce business, you have to invest in your customers before they enter the buying cycle, while they are in it, and long after they’ve made a purchase from your store.
You can call it marketing, you can call it CRO, but at the end of the day, what you’re really talking about is customer experience (CX). Put plainly, customer experience relates to interactions between you and your customers. It’s how your customers feel about you based on the interactions they ultimately have with you.
Why does it matter?
Because bad experiences felt by customers or would-be customers can wreak havoc on an ecommerce business. Good experiences, on the other hand, can lead to boosts in brand awareness, website traffic, social mentions, and sales.
If you want to drive more positive interactions with customers and boost sales this year, you have to work to intentionally improve customer experience at your ecommerce business.
Here are 8 simple ways to do it:
1. Start by Training Your Team
The first step worth taking when you want to improve customer experience is to train the people who interact with your customers the most: your employees. Remember: your prospective customers don’t get to see you in person. They can’t walk through your door and interact with you or your employees face-to-face. As a result, you really have to become obsessed about working with your team to ensure that anyone who interacts with your brand, on website or off website, walks away feeling like it was an amazing experience.
As a leader or manager, you need to work with your team to create a consistent voice, style, and personality that everyone can emulate when they interact with prospective customers. Everyone on your team should be involved in this training, from the person running your social media pages to the person managing your website. Consistency is key.
To build a training program for your ecommerce business, start by leveraging these resources:
- 15 Customer Service Skills that Every Employee Needs from Help Scout – help your team members understand the skills and traits needed in order to become an effective customer service representative for your business.
- The Secret Ingredient for Winning the Customer Service Battle in E-commerce from Kissmetrics – get a better understanding of where to focus your customer experience training efforts.
- The CMO’s Guide To The Next Gen Customer Experience from Influitive – Get insights from influencers about why customer experience matters and how to improve it at your company.
There are plenty of other resources out there that you can leverage, but these will help put you on the right track toward building a training program that aligns with the needs and goals of your business.
2. Send Handwritten Thank You Notes
Your customers don’t expect the same amount of attention from you that they would get if they were to walk into a brick and mortar retail store. Your job is to constantly surprise them and give them the special treatment they don’t expect from ecommerce stores. One really simple way to do this is by sending handwritten thank you notes with the packages you send to customers. Not a thank you email, not a standard printed thank you message, an actual handwritten, personalized thank you note.
Sending handwritten thank you notes may seem time-consuming, but it has the potential to make a big impact for you and your business. To learn more about the ROI of thank you notes, I recommend you spend some time reading through this blog post from Help Scout. It gives you tons of ideas on how to write compelling thank you notes, explains the ROI, and even shows a few examples from other companies.
A handwritten thank you note will show your customers that there are real, caring humans running the show behind your ecommerce store. It will create an experience that they’ll remember AND one that they’ll share with their friends and family members.
3. Create a Content Hub Full of Value
Online consumers aren’t buying products, they’re buying solutions to their problems. They go online and search for ways to become stronger, better, healthier, happier, more productive people. As an ecommerce business, you can improve customer experience by leveraging your brand as a trusted resource in the minds of your customers. The easiest way to do this is by creating a content hub full of value that relates to your products and your ideal customers.
Beardbrand does this incredibly well on their Urban Beardsman blog. They describe the blog in the following way:
“Our Urban Beardsman blog explores topics for beardsman, as well as beyond the beard, including style, grooming, travel, community, and insight from the founder.”
As you can see in the image above, Beardbrand works to create authentic, helpful content for their target audience. It’s not all about their products—instead, it’s about solving the problems they know their customers have.
If you can zero in on the niche you’re trying to serve and present them with real value, they will ultimately buy products from you. Why? Because you’ve built trust with them, and shown them that you care.
Once you have a regular stream of content going up on your content hub, the next step is to share it where your customers will see it—on product pages, in emails, on social media pages, in pop-ups, etc.
When you work to become a resource for your customers, you become more than a retailer. You become a partner, dedicated to helping them achieve their goals.
4. Engage Authentically on Social Channels
If you decide to create social media pages for your ecommerce business (you definitely should!), then you need to commit to actively and proactively participating on them. If you want to get any sort of ROI from these channels, you have to be willing to engage and communicate with prospects and customers on Facebook and Twitter. That means answering questions, sharing excitement with new customers, and yes, even responding to unhappy customers in a public setting.
The most manageable way to do this is to carve out 15-30 minutes everyday to spend communicating with your followers and customers on your social media site. Your goal should always be to respond to negative comments first. These are the comments that new visitors will see first when they land on your social media pages, and you only have one opportunity to make the right first impression. It’s up to you to show people that you are willing to listen to customers and help them when they need it. It’s just another easy way to go beyond and start building trust with people from the minute they become exposed to your brand.
For help on how to engage with customers on social media, read these blog posts:
- Building Great Social Media Customer Service from Crisp
- 14 Amazing Social Media Customer Service Examples (And What You Can Learn From Them) from Buffer
- The Complete Guide to Using Social Media for Customer Support from Groove
5. Add Personalization to Marketing Campaigns
Another way to improve customer experience is by adding personalization to your marketing campaigns. This tactic has been increasing in popularity steadily over the past few years in the ecommerce space. The concept is simple: you create custom experiences based on who is viewing your website or email marketing campaigns, where they came from, or where they are in the buying cycle.
Examples from Foundr Magazine
The goal with personalization is to remind your customers that the relationship already exists, and that you have a pretty good idea of what they want. It creates a better experience for them because it creates for them the perception that you’re thinking about them on an individual, personal level.
There are a number of tools you can use to add personalization to your website and email campaigns. Here are some recommendations:
- Use WisePops to create custom pop-ups for different audiences, based on things like location, traffic source, browser, language, operating system and device. Sign up for a free 14-day trial now.
- Use a tool like MailChimp to add personalization components to your email marketing campaigns. Go here to learn more.
- Use a tool like Boomtrain to present custom product recommendations to website visitors based on their past interactions with you.
6. Delight Customers Whenever Possible
To differentiate from competitors, go out of your way to delight your website visitors and customers whenever possible. What are some ways you can do it? We’ve already talked about handwritten thank you cards, but here are some other ideas you can try:
- Surprise customers by sending them extra goodies in packages that you ship to them. The goodies don’t need to be expensive, just something extra that they can find when they unbox your products.
- Send customers special customer loyalty offers and rewards via email. Set an expiration date and drive your best or most recent customers to buy from you again.
- Offer exclusive promo codes and deals in your website pop-ups. Help your website visitors feel excited and motivated to buy products from you now, not later.
- Feature your customers on your social media pages. Ask them for photos or stories of themselves using your products, then post the images and stories on your Facebook page or Instagram account.
- Be more playful and creative with your order confirmation copy and your receipts. These are dull documents and emails that everyone expects to get. Go out of your way to surprise them or make them smile when they open them.
- Send free swag to select customers if you have the budget for it. Everyone loves a free t-shirt or travel mug, and it acts as free advertising for your business. Remember: create a brand that people are excited to support and tell others about.
When you delight customers, they talk to other people about you. They share unforgettable experiences that ultimately make friends and family want to interact with your business and buy your products too.
7. Make Your Website Experience Seamless
Slow, clunky websites kill ecommerce sales. To improve customer experience and drive more people to convert, you need to create a seamless website experience across all browsers and devices. More people are using their smartphones to shop online than ever before, so having an optimized mobile ecommerce store is a must.
You should also work to make sure that the entire shopping experience on your website is simple and easy to complete. That means shortening the number of steps it takes to go from landing on the website for the first time all the way to order confirmation. It also means simplifying product pages and making sure you aren’t including any fluffy copy that could distract would-be customers from adding products to their shopping carts.
To improve your website experience, take yourself through the following checklist:
- Check your website speed and overall functionality using PageSpeed Insights from Google. Make development updates to improve page speed and load time.
- Use a tool like Fullstory or User Testing to get real feedback from people about user and customer experience.
- Document the number of steps it takes to purchase a product on your website. Determine if there are steps you can combine into one screen, or eliminate all together. Use feedback from Fullstory or User Testing to support your decisions.
- A/B test simple product page copy vs. long-form copy and determine which type converts better on your website.
- Make sure your website it optimized for mobile. Use the mobile tool from Google to get information about how your website performs across mobile devices.
For more user experience tips, explore this resource from Selfstartr. It offers 105 actionable tips that you can use to improve your website and get more people to buy.
8. Build a Community That’s Bigger Than Your Business
The final way to improve customer experience is to create a community or movement that is bigger than your business or brand. Online consumers want to interact with companies that support a cause, promote a way of living, or offer up a special community that they can be a part of.
When your customers are part of a community, they’re not just buying products from you, they’re becoming part of something bigger. Something more meaningful.
Here are some examples:
Chaco invites customers to join their tribe and go on adventures
Beardbrand encourages customers to support causes like No Shave November and Movember
S’well shares real photos and stories from customers who use their bottles when they travel
To build your community, start thinking about what your customers care about and how they use your products. Consider aligning with a specific charity or cause that customers can get excited about. Remember to make it about your customers, not your products.
Over to You
How else are you improving customer experience at your ecommerce store? Tell me below in the comments.