Future-Proofing your Site: How a Great Customer Experience Changes Everything

Future-proofing your site
How a great customer experience changes everything

Given the increased costs of acquisition, competition for attention share, and pressure on budgets, it’s more important than ever for retailers to make sure that every interaction counts.

Customer trust is everything when it comes to engagement, transactions, and retention. Creating that trust takes time. It starts with making it easy to shop, wherever, however, and whenever she wants, then ensuring that delivery and post-purchase experiences consistently meet or exceed expectations. So where do you start?

  • How do you balance your budget $ between shiny things (engagement) and fundamental things (friction reduction)?
  • How should you plan these final weeks and months to maximize holiday results?
  • What are the key things you should be thinking about for 2023?

Let’s prioritize.

You likely have a CX roadmap of projects and ideas too numerous (or expensive) to complete before holiday & code freeze kicks in. Sound about right? Read on for some guidance on how to narrow it down.

1. Analyze the site experience

  • Do a funnel analysis to get an understanding of where the leakage or pain points are, then shop these experiences extensively to understand what could be creating the friction. If you can, get a heuristic analysis done (analysis of the site based on best practices) to validate your assumptions.
  • Listen to the voice of the customer via your call center: Top contact reasons, comments, CSATS and net promoter scores.
  • Look at where your biggest friction points

2. Address the fundamentals

Focus first on the biggest pain points and what you can action quickly for holiday. A few recommended areas of focus:

  • Navigation and merchandising: Fine-tune and edit your navigation, filters and facets to make it easier for shoppers to find key categories, refine, and see the best product at the top. Do you allow shoppers to filter by “store availability”? We found only 50% of the retailers surveyed in the 2022 Omnichannel Retail Index do.
  • Social proof: Utilize social proof to create a sense of urgency on Product listing and Product detail pages: “20 people have this in their cart right now!” or “50 people bought this today! This can be easily implemented and is a highly effective conversion driver, yet only 14% of retailers in our study are doing it effectively.
  • Product detail page: Give your shopper enough information on the product page to make an informed decision. Make sure you have multiple image views, thorough descriptions, usage, care instructions, size charts, fabric or material content, country of origin, video, and reviews. The goal is to anticipate her questions – and make sure they’re all answered.
  • Payments: Do you offer deferred payments? Mobile payments? These are table stakes now. Add deferred payment options on PDP and cart – this is a known AOV and conversion driver and display mobile payments prominently on the shopping cart page to create a quick and easy path to checkout. Help your customer to leap ahead to order completion without taking out her wallet.
    • 74% of retailers in the Omnichannel Retail Index offer extended payment (BNPL) options
    • 83% offer PayPal, and 60% offer alternative payment options (Venmo, crypto, etc.)
  • Shipping: Free shipping and returns are expensive, but they are a customer expectation. If you can’t afford to offer this to everyone, make it a loyalty perk for your most loyal shoppers. Make sure shipment options and expected delivery dates are clearly stated on product page, cart and checkout.
    • 79% of retailers studied offer free shipping, no minimum.
  • Tech glitches: Don’t underestimate the impact of glitchy functionality on the site, and especially in checkout. Identify problem points, clarify messages and resolve errors. Make sure your error messages are clear and help the customer see what the issue is, and what to do.

This should give you a good start to optimize in the final months before peak. Your analytics will show you where to look, then shopping the site like a customer and listening to customer feedback will give you the rest.

3. Create inspiration and validation

This is where you get to add some fun and inspiration to the experience. Show your customers who you are- why it matters, and better yet- why it matters to your customers. If you are doing something to make the world a better place (please do), let’s talk about that, too.

You can do this in lots of different ways. Your content strategy should be relevant to your niche in the market, and emotional connection to your customers. Think about what makes sense for your brand, and experiment:

  • User-generated content: Campaign hashtags, TikTok Stories, Instagram Stories and Reels (Shopping & unpacking videos, testimonials, how you wear it, accessorize it, use it).
  • Events: Livestream shopping, influencers or celebs, localized store events, personalized shopping, charitable events.
  • Campaigns: Tell your story. Tell your customer’s story. Create content that’s inspiring, instructive, and meaningful to your target customer.
  • Sustainability: Recommerce, trade-ins, eco-friendly packaging, practices, production, carbon neutral offices. Shoppers care deeply about sustainability- this is a growing movement that will continue to evolve.
    • We found 64% of retailers studied in the Omnichannel Retail Index offer trade-in programs, and 24% have recommerce programs.
  • Unique product offerings: Partnerships, collabs, loyalty member perks.

Inspirational content should complement, not obstruct, the shopping path. Create destinations for it. Integrate it into your marketing strategy, so that it’s not just all about product and promo. On the site, create a splash in some places, a sparkle in others- with visual cues and links to content in relevant places.

4. Prepare customer care

Don’t underestimate the importance of your customer care team. A good experience here can make or break customer loyalty. An empathetic, empowered response to solve a customer’s problem will go far, while a frustrating experience may send your customers packing.

  • Create a playbook for your customer care team: Define the brand story and customer care approach. Start with how you want to make your customers feel. Define the policies but note where you are willing to make exceptions to keep the customer happy. Define price adjustment policies and replacement processes for lost shipments, defects, returns, and exchanges.
  • Empower your agents: Create a framework with the playbook, and then empower agents to make decisions to avoid hold times and escalations. Be sure your agents identify trends that indicate confusion or frustration around an event or promo, so the business can take action to improve the message.
  • Prepare for volume spikes: Plan for peak day volume forecasts by increasing agent coverage.
  • Make it easy for your customer to contact you:  Add live chat and SMS to your customer service communication strategy. Communicate the way your customer wants to talk to you.
    • 75% of retailers studied in the 2022 Omnichannel Retail Index offer live chat, but only 23% offer service via SMS
  • Listen to your customers: Customer ratings and reviews, CSATS and comments provide coaching for you on where you might be falling short. Take these as great learns and coach the team or adjust your playbooks accordingly.

Great customer experiences are table-stakes for high-growth companies. Getting there takes intention with consistent and thoughtful execution throughout every customer touchpoint with your company. We see it as a confluence of art, science, and empathy. When these elements coalesce, that’s where the magic happens.

This should give you a solid head-start on your customer experience strategy. Let us know how it’s going!

Jessie Jackson

Author: Jessie Jackson

Jessie Jackson is a Senior Consultant, Practice Lead in OSF Digital´s Strategy group. She has many years of experience executing strategies for brands and agencies, including system implementation, branding, copy direction, roadmap planning, analytics, site optimization, SEO, content, merchandising, and much more.