How many companies pull together their marketing and e-commerce teams and brainstorm ways to create “engaging customer experiences?”
They think about cool marketing campaigns, new ways to promote products and content to produce.
There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s an important step to ensure everyone works together. But there’s something that needs to happen first - and many aren’t doing it.
Not too long ago I talked with Darin Archer, CMO of ElasticPath about the challenges companies were up against when creating content-rich ecommerce experiences. But this is only one piece of the story for B2C companies. With so many choices available, consumers are picking their brands and retailers and sticking with them - assuming the experience is good enough.
Archer talked about the experience commerce sites like Amazon or Walmart provide and why so many consumers love them. It’s about reducing what he called “friction points.”
Make the sign-in experience dead simple
One of the things I love about Amazon is that I don’t have to remember my password (or store it on my laptop). Amazon will text me a code that I can then use for a one-time login, and I’m in. Easy.
Make the process of creating and managing a customer profile as simple as possible. Track when a customer is logged in and the purchases they make. If they haven’t logged in for a while, think of ways you can get them back. Archer said that good user experience isn’t just about the technology, it’s about making things as simple as possible.
Remember the customer
This one goes with the former - store your customer’s address and payment details. Maybe they want to store more than one address or credit card and select which one to use when they check out. Often a customer will make purchases for personal use or business use with the same retailer and will want to use different shipping and billing information.
Connect the dots on the purchase history across channels
A retailer who keeps track of what you ordered and recommends related items. This is something Amazon is really good at, including remembering when you come back to the site, as well as regular emails with recommendations based on past purchases.
For retailers with a physical presence, it’s also important to remember purchase history across channels. If a customer buys something online and picks it up instore, remember that. If a customer returns an item purchased online to the store or has a question about something they purchase online while they are in the store, the salesperson should be able to find that online purchase and the customer. The instore/online linkage is where many retailers fall short of expectations, and it could cost them.
Generic personalization isn’t going to work
Are you doing personalization by segmenting customers based on traffic or purchase patterns? Data shows this level of personalization isn’t going to give you the lift you need. True personalization focuses on the individual and their relationship with the brand.
Archer said that if you do the basics and you do the work to track the customer across channels and devices, then you shouldn’t have to start from scratch every time a customer visits your website or mobile app. You can welcome them back and show them the latest products they would be interested in based on their history. You can personalize the experience to their direct needs.
The growth of online retail includes manufacturers
Marketplaces are growing considerably, and while some will succeed, many more won’t survive. Archer said a marketplace needs to have a compelling customer experience to be successful. One area where they will see competition is from manufacturers.
Archer talked about how many manufacturers are looking at marketplaces to help sell their products and accessories. But what they really need is a direct relationship with the customer.
So instead of having a light go on in a furnace that says it’s time for a new filter and pointing the customer to Amazon, the manufacturer should have their own website where you can order that filter from them directly.
Manufacturers have an opportunity to build a relationship with their customers that goes beyond selling them a refrigerator or a furnace. They can increase the lifetime value of a customer by selling them supporting products as well. Archer suggested things like “subscribe and save” to encourage customers to come to them directly instead of going to Amazon.
Foundations aren’t sexy, but they are necessary
Profile management, address and payment details, tracking and leveraging past purchase history; these are all foundational elements of a commerce experience. So many retailers don’t take the time to ensure they are properly set up.
There is so much choice for where a consumer can spend their money. But it’s not impossible to build brand loyalty, not when you have that solid foundation and then build upon that with true one-to-one personalization, and content-rich experiences.
Connecting the dots has never been more important for retailers today.