5 Ways to Improve the Online Shopping Experience
It’s time to talk about customer experience on the web.
If a woman is shopping for a new pair of heels and the store clerk offers her men’s loafers, she’d be frustrated and probably less inclined to shop at that store again. Online however, she brushes off the analogous experience as just another piece of irrelevant advertising. Why is our tolerance level for these poor experiences so low in person, but so high online?
The best brick-and-mortar experiences are hyper-personalized. When you walk into a store, you rarely make it a few steps before someone asks if they can assist you. These managers, clerks and servers who we interact with one-on-one are an important part of the shopping experience. Just think about why you choose the same coffee shop every morning. Maybe the lattes are good and the price is right, but you also value the great face-to-face interaction with a friendly staffer — whether it’s the person you chat with at the register or the barista who knows your order by heart.
Online, we don’t always get that same personalized help we need. Imagine if a site could actually guide you toward a shirt that fits your style or help you find that pair of shoes your wardrobe has been lacking. Here’s how to recreate the personalized, brick-and-mortar shopping experience on your website.
1. Genuine greetings
When you walk into a store, whether it’s sandwich shop like Subway or a clothing store like Kohls, you expect a cashier to welcome you. If you’re a regular, they probably know your name. Focus on welcoming people to your site the same way you would in person. To do this, you can incorporate a personalized greeting window or a banner with the shopper’s name using dynamic web personalization (DWP) tools. Any marketer can incorporate these tools into their site to proactively greet visitors right away and guide them through their web experience.
2. Smart recommendations
In-person cues provide a huge opportunity in the brick-and-mortar world. If a store clerk at Macy’s sees a customer browsing shirts, the clerk can alert him or her to the 15% discount on all button downs, or the rack of matching sweaters to drive a sale. Websites have the capability to replicate this strategy with recommendation engines. If a customer is browsing one type of item in particular, a recommendation engine can automatically alert him or her to a relevant promotion or similar product.
We’re seeing recommendations engines everywhere from Amazon to Netflix, and the results speak for themselves: Netflix estimates that recommendations drive 75% of views on its site. Netflix estimates that recommendations drive 75% of views on its site. Implement a recommendation tool to tailor content for each visitor based on their preferences, likes and dislikes.
3. Contextual awareness
Personalizing content based on user profiles is great, but we also have to be aware of context. If a 40-year-old woman is browsing the toy aisle at Walmart, it’s assumed she is buying something for the 4-year-old right next to her — not herself. And if she returns to Walmart a week later without any toddlers in tow, clerks won’t immediately escort her back to that same toy aisle. Online, that’s not the case — an irrelevant purchase in your data history can change your experience on a site. an irrelevant purchase in your data history can change your experience on a site.
Content personalization tools must be dynamic, and they have the ability to change up recommendations on your website based on a range of intelligence about a customer, as opposed to a single recent interaction. The best way to do that? Ask the customer. A pop-up window on your landing page can provide site visitors with an opportunity to share exactly what they’re looking for … and for whom.
4. Location, location, location
Naturally, a store in Florida is going to stock different items than the same store in the middle of New York City. Think bathing suits versus winter coats. But online, that’s not always the case. Brands need to make sure they use geomarketing to make smart decisions about what types of products they display on their site. Geomarketing leverages locational data to automatically serve up relevant content for users based on where they are at that exact moment.
Facebook, for example, uses this technology to target ads to consumers, and Google uses it to serve up relevant search results. Considering location is important, as things like climate, time of day and cultural norms can all change how you should target certain consumers. Implementation is straightforward: Every modern personalization application offers a geo IT database. Mobile applications can also easily become location-sensitive by accessing the device’s GPS. And again, sites can always include an opportunity for the customer to share that information.
5. Point-of-purchase sensitivity
When a customer at the register is examining a price tag or returning to the same shelf over and over, it’s easy to tell they’re hesitant to make a purchase. A store clerk can chat with the customer and get quick insights about why they are on the fence — color is wrong, the item is too big, they don’t like the brand. Online, sites can’t always act as quickly to gather data, and often lose a sale via the dreaded and mysterious shopping cart abandonment. But a recent study estimated that 63% of the $4 trillion in merchandise abandoned in shopping carts still has the potential to be sold. 63% of the $4 trillion in merchandise abandoned in shopping carts still has the potential to be sold.
Marketers can gather and analyze data about when and where site visitors leave a website and draw important conclusions about content and web design on specific site pages. From there, we can start to make meaningful changes to reduce the amount of shopping cart abandonment overall and bring consumers back to close the sale, acting just as quickly as commerce’s brick-and-mortar counterparts.
Small, personalized touches in a face-to-face shopping experience provide enormous value to consumers that persuade them to make a purchase. Digital marketers can implement the same touches into their website to increase conversions and improve the overall digital shopping experience.
Tom Wentworth is the chief marketing officer at Acquia, responsible for go-to-market strategy, demand generation, branding, positioning and communications.
This article is part of SWOT Team, a new series on Mashable that features insights from leaders in marketing, brand-building and public relations. Mashable is a leading source for news, information & resources for the Connected Generation.