The Best User Experiences Answer the Customer’s Question Before It’s Asked

The Best User Experiences Answer the Customer’s Question Before It’s Asked

The path to delivering a frictionless shopping experience

During the 2023 Omnichannel Retail Index benchmarking, one element that stood out was how several retailers removed potential barriers to purchase by positioning key features and messaging at inflection points in the customer’s shopping path. Today, consumers have a myriad of online options across brands, retailers, and marketplace sites for every purchase. Offering an easy, frictionless shopping experience can be a differentiator, which builds customers’ affinity and earns their purchases, while the inverse can result in abandonment.

  • 26% of consumers said they stopped using or buying from a business in the past year, and bad experiences — with products or services and/or customer service — were the overwhelming reasons why.1
  • 51% of consumers said they’re less likely to be loyal to a brand if its online shopping experience isn’t as easy or enjoyable as shopping in person.

In the past 12 to 18 months, we have seen an increase in the release of innovative digital features. However, some retailers have shown a better understanding than others of where to integrate them into the shopping experience to deliver true customer benefit. The sites that are succeeding use a customer-centric approach, which considers where the customer is in their journey and the information they may need to continue to the next step.

More brands now provide rich content — such as blogs, articles, quizzes, and guides — with featured or recommended products within the content pages. This year’s Index showed that 86% of brands and retailers have adopted these practices, which is up from last year’s 77%.

It’s important to remember there is no one-size-fits-all. Successful delivery requires these features to be contextually meaningful, e.g., customized to the assortment, easy to use, and flexible based on the customer’s willingness to interact and invest their time.

The Best User Experiences Answer the Customer’s Question Before It’s Asked

When evaluating your own site, look at the core shopping experience through the lens of your customers and identify questions they have at each step in the shopping experience. Start with your core shopping pages, including the following:

  • Category Page
  • Product List Page (PLP)
  • Product Detail Page (PDP)

Here are some examples of sites that are doing this well.

The Category Page
B&H offers a live video chat feature with a category expert to help customers make a purchase decision on complex merchandise at high price points, i.e., “What’s the best product for me?” This feature stays with the customer on every step of the browsing path so the customer can seek assistance from a qualified, trusted source at any point in their session.

The Best User Experiences Answer the Customer’s Question Before It’s Asked

The Product List Page
B&H offers a request stock alert feature and expected availability date on the product list page to answer a common question for preorder items, i.e., “How soon can I get this?” This listing gives the customer several options — a date when the item is expected, a button to preorder the product, and a notification for customers seeking a more proactive reminder of availability.

The Best User Experiences Answer the Customer’s Question Before It’s Asked

The Product Detail Page
e.l.f. Cosmetics includes a Virtual Try-On feature on the PDP to answer a common question in the make-up category, i.e., “What’s the right shade for me?” This feature offers three options for the customer to be as personalized as needed to get the answer they need — try on a model that looks similar, use their photo, or try it on live for a realistic view.

The Best User Experiences Answer the Customer’s Question Before It’s Asked

A feature that 63% of brands and retailers now offer is a filter at the top of the product listing page, helping customers find what they need faster. One of the features gaining more traction is the guided selling tool, with 40% of stores surveyed in the Index now offering this, compared to last year’s 26%. Another growing feature is the ability to request back-in-stock notifications, with 35% of retailers in the study now offering it—up from 24% in 2022.

Retailers that offer a best-in-class digital experience understand the customer, anticipate the hurdles they may encounter, and provide contextual features that help the customer move forward in their path to purchase. They know how to marry innovation with merchandise to keep their customers engaged and empower them to shop with confidence.

Interested to read more findings from the 2023 Omnichannel Retail Index Executive Summary? Access the report.

Joanna Alexander

Author: Joanna Alexander, Sr. Consultant

Joanna is a Senior Consultant of OSF Digital’s Strategy group. She has 20+ years of ecommerce and omnichannel experience, delivering results through product development, process orchestration, and innovation of the digital customer experience across channels.