Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

11 Ways To Improve Your Ecommerce Store’s Customer Experience

Every business owner loves happy customers.

Happy customers spend more, they tell their friends about you, and they leave glowing reviews.

They’re proof that you’re doing something right.

So how do you do it better?

In this blogpost, let’s systematically evaluate all of the touchpoints shaping your customer’s experience…

… and the actions you can take to make them better.

Let’s get right to them.

1. Have a fast, easy-to-navigate site that communicates your value proposition well

As an ecommerce store, your website is your flagship. Your standard-bearer.

It’s where you make your sales, and it’s where you will be judged for every imperfection and typo.

Image: Everlane
Everlane’s site embodies the same simple, minimalist principles that its products do.

A. Site speed & Navigation

Consumers are getting more impatient than ever.

They WILL bounce from your site if it’s either too slow to load, or it’s taking them too long to figure out what’s going on.

Too many ecommerce stores try to do too much and squeeze in so many things into their site that it becomes cumbersome.

The fastest ecommerce sites load in under 0.5 seconds.

  • Avoid uploading images that have excessively high resolutions – resize your images to their appropriate size before uploading.
  • Avoid using picture formats that are not optimized for web (e.g. TIF); use web-optimized image formats like GIF, JPEG or PNG instead.

For more advanced ways to reduce your webpage loading times, follow the steps in this comprehensive ‘speed up your website’ guide by 99signals.

Things to measure:

  • Check out your Bounce rate on Google Analytics
  • Check your site loading time on tools.pingdom.com
  • Look at your clickthrough rates

B: Communicate your value proposition

It’s great to have a fast, easy-to-navigate site, but all of that is worthless if nobody cares about what’s on it.

You want anybody who lands on your website to be able to quickly and easily tell what your product can do for them.

Slim wallet makers Bellroy are very good at this:

bellroy content 2
Image: Bellroy.com

To get good at this, you need to be able to answer several questions:

  1. What IS your brand’s value proposition? What exactly are you helping your customers to do? How are you different from all the other alternatives out there in the marketplace? (Check out Simon Sinek’s Start With Why for inspiration.)
  2. What’s your brand’s voice? Are you more Disney or Harley-Davidson? You’ll want to have a clear, coherent voice throughout your entire store (and all your other touchpoints!) so that your customers come away with a strong impression of who you are. It makes you memorable, which also makes you easier to talk about.

2. Have compelling product pages that convert well

Every product page has just one job – it needs to convince the visitor that the product is worth buying.

It should have…

  • Pricing, obviously
  • Great pictures in a variety of contexts to help the visitor imagine how they’d use it
  • Product details – sizing, color, material information
  • Additional descriptive information that sells the product
nisolo-product-page
Image: Nisolo

Lindsay Kolowich from Hubspot put together a nice list of 14 great product page designs that you can get inspiration from.

Her takeaways were…

  • Make it interesting and fun, especially if you have a less-than-riveting product.
  • Make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
  • Make it personal. Allow users to “build their own” product, to show them that you can meet their preferences.
  • Make it informative. Without bogging it down in detail, be sure to include the right pieces of information that will show users what sets your products apart.

Things to pay attention to:

  • Copywriting – is it informative and on-brand?
  • Visuals – are they strong and consistent?
  • Navigation – is it simple and intuitive?

Read next: 24 of the best ecommerce web designs to inspire you

3. Streamline your checkout process – make sure your site is easy to navigate

conversionxl-checkout
Image: ConversionXL

This is an entire field of ecommerce specialization called Checkout Optimization, and every ecommerce store should always be working on this regardless of what you’re selling.

ConversionXL is particularly good with this – see Peep Laja’s post on How to design an ecommerce checkout flow that converts.

  1. Make “Add To Cart” simple and clear
  2. Have the “Pay Now” button staring at them at all times
  3. Display your cart contents well
  4. Offer a guest checkout

This visual of ASOS improving the signup portion of their checkout process is particularly arresting:

asos-checkout-improvement

Also read: KISSmetrics’ 40 checkout page strategies to improve conversion rates

Offer free shipping – customers love it

asos-free-shipping-site
Image: Econsultancy

Do you offer free shipping? You should! As Anna Kegler from RJMetrics puts it, “Free shipping influences consumer behavior on a deeply psychological (and often irrational) level, adding a powerful boost to your average order value.”

It’s been proven over and over again that customers would rather spend more on the product and have free shipping, than save on the product and spend more for shipping.

For inspiration, David Moth wrote a great article for Econsultancy with lots of examples on how to talk about your free delivery service.

Make sure your “add to cart” system is super clear

Have a pop-up window saying “item has been added to cart; do you want to visit your cart, or continue shopping?”, like Cole Haan:

Cole Haan. The pop-up appears for about 5 seconds, but is easily noticeable.

Cole Haan’s shopping cart. The pop-up (highlighted in red) is easily noticeable.

Alternatively, direct users to the shopping cart page once they add an item to it, like in the case of Warby Parker or Sunpocket.

4. Have a coherent, systematic content strategy

The North Face does a great job of this. Rather than focusing entirely on their products, they use their blog as an opportunity to celebrate their customers.

tnf-blog
Image: TNF’s blog

Your customers are buying your products because they want it to help them do something. You want to talk about that. You want to help to clarify the desire that they already have.

When they associate that with you and your brand, they’re that much likelier to decide to buy your products.

Story by ModCloth is another great example to study. The blog is a great companion and destination for potential shoppers, and like TNF’s blog, there’s zero sales content.

story by modcloth blog

Blog posts cover everything from interview features with trendy individuals, occasion-specific style advice, gift guides, travel tips and advice, and even delicious recipes.

What to measure:

  • Make sure every single one of your content pieces has a job to do. You want to be clear about what that job is, and you want to evaluate how effective you are at achieving that end.
  • Search intent. Search traffic is almost always going to be your primary source of traffic – you don’t want blogposts to get a short bump of traffic from social and then die out. Make sure each blogpost targets a particular string of words that your customers would type into Google.
  • Think systems, not random acts of marketing. You want to have a regular publishing calendar, so you don’t go long periods of time without publishing anything. You want to be distributing your content on social media regularly, too.

Read next: 24 tips for ecommerce content marketing from inbound pros and 7 ways to achieve content marketing breakthroughs

5. Build a great community on social media, organically

A study from IAB found that 90% of consumers would recommend a brand to others after interacting with them on social media.

Black Milk Clothing is a great example to follow here. They have lots of Facebook groups around the world, including a massive “Sell, Swap, Buy” group with over 15,000 members.

They also feature customers’ Instagram photos on their actual product pages, which gives social currency to their happy customers AND makes it easier for new customers to see what the products look like on real people.

black-milk-facebook-community
Image: Black Milk’s FB page

Read next: Examples of community-focused marketing

6. Keep your emails bold, short and snappy

popferral-ref-email-framed

There are several parts to the email system of any ecommerce store.

  • Marketing emails you send to prospective customers
  • Abandoned cart emails you send to customers who didn’t complete checkout
  • Purchase completion emails
  • Support emails, and others

In all cases, as with the rest of your content, you want to be clear…

  • Test your subject lines. Most customers have gotten used to stale, predictable subject lines, so you want to experiment with being informal and evocative. What would get YOU excited to open an email in a cluttered inbox?
  • Measure your open rates. You could be sending tonnes of emails out, but if nobody’s opening them then you’re wasting your time.
  • Keep your emails simple with a clear, single call-to-action. It’s tempting to give your readers lots of options, but that makes it likelier that they’ll move on to the next one. Give them one specific thing to say yes to.

Read next: How to write great emails asking for referrals

7. Craft a compelling product experience

If possible, create a great unboxing experience

apple-iphone7-unboxing

Apple is probably the gold standard here, but there are lots of ordinary retailers who do this well too.

Beardbrand is one such example of a brand that manages to create a fun unboxing experience for its customers.

beardbrand-unboxing

Richard Lazzazera wrote a great blogpost about this on Shopify’s blog: How to create a memorable and shareable unboxing experience for your brand.

What if you’re selling something that doesn’t fit into a fun little box?

You can still encourage your customers to share the product on social media:

8: Post-purchase – engage with your happy customers!

dappertime-instagram
Dappertime encourages its customers to show off their watches on Instagram – social currency for them, social proof for future customers.

Your relationship with your customers doesn’t end after they hand you their cash and you deliver them your product.

Happy customers are incredibly valuable – they’re the source of your most important word-of-mouth.

Tommy Walker wrote a great post about this for Shopify: What happens after checkout?

You’ll want to find out what your Net Promoter Score is:

One of the things you want to do early and often is to collect information from your customers.

Kevin Donnelly wrote a post about this for the Shopify blog, about writing a single email to get insights from your customer.

9. Be sure to provide stellar support when things break or go wrong

Seth Godin has often written about how important and powerful it is to do great customer service, and how so many businesses get it wrong by trying to cut costs here.

A customer with a broken or spoilt product or some other unhappy scenario is going to be more emotional than a customer that’s happy or shopping around. They could leave you a terrible review or a fantastic one, depending on how you handle them. They could come away hating your brand and telling everyone to boycott you, or they could turn into a raving fan that helps you get many, many more sales.

One of my favorite stories here is of an Amazon customer service rep’s hilarious role-playing exchange with a customer, which went viral on Reddit:

amazon-customer-delight

Read next: 17 examples of companies delighting their customers

10. Ask for reviews

Reviews are already a huge part of how the ecommerce world works. It’s obvious that this is a trend that isn’t going to go backwards – consumers are going to keep wanting more and more information about products, not less. And as consumers we trust information from one another way more than we trust information in advertising.

It’s even plausible that an effective review-getting strategy might help to establish a competitive advantage. There’s a virtuous cycle there – delight your customers, get good reviews, get more new customers, get more good reviews, and so on.

skii-user-review

Read next: How to amplify word-of-mouth by leveraging customer reviews

11. Run a referral program

The Growth team at Airbnb pointed out something unique about referral programs – they’re one of the only ways for a business to reach directly to the friends of their customers.

But you only get to do that if you’ve already sufficiently delighted your customers, so make sure that you’ve already gotten some good reviews and social media feedback.

Greats referral program signup page
GREATS has had some serious success with their referral program.

Read next: An epic list of 47 referral program examples

Here’s a recap of some numbers and metrics that you’ll want to be keeping an eye on:

1. Repeat / referral sales volume. This will vary from industry to industry – people seldom buy multiple mattresses, for example. But recurring sales in general are a good sign. Repeat customers are also probably more open to giving you feedback.

2. Quantity and quality of reviews. What’s the frequency of reviews that you’re getting? You might want to use a tool like Yotpo.

3. Sentiments on social media. You want to constantly be doing searches on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and so on to see what people are saying about your business. Consider setting up a Google Alert for mentions of your brand, or even use paid tools like Mention or Ahrefs.

4. Replies to support emails. Unhappy or frustrated customers can give you some of the most valuable information you’ll ever get to make your business better.

5. Net Promoter Scores. Want to know if your customers would refer your store? Why not ask them outright?

6. Customer referrals. If you’re getting at least a hundred transactions a month, and you’ve gotten some positive mentions on social media, it’s worth setting up a referral program to see if you can get customer referrals. There’s no better proof that people love what you do.

7. Talk to your customers! This takes the most work, but can be the most illuminating. Andy Dunn from Bonobos reached out to thousands of their customers to ask them what their favorite things about the brand were, then incorporated their feedback into the branding of the store. If you have customers that you haven’t spoken to in a while, reach out for a chat.

What have your experiences been in trying to improve your business’s customer experience? Or better yet, what has blown YOU away, as a customer?

Visakan Veerasamy

Visa is ReferralCandy's Blog Editor. He also co-founded Statement.sg, a fashion ecommerce label selling witty t-shirts. He's been thrice named a Top Writer on Quora. He hopes to enjoy a glass of whiskey onboard a commercial space flight someday.

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