It’s Not All About Mobile, It’s About Customer Experience

usabilityThere’s no doubt that mobile lived up to its promise this holiday season. But if mobile is your only focus, you might be missing the point.

The story is plastered everywhere: Mobile is driving more and more revenue for online retailers. And forecasts for the coming year’s mobile numbers are increasing—Forrester predicts that mobile commerce will exceed $142 billion this year.

But mobile alone isn’t a path to success. Technology’s real returns come from better serving the customer.

A great mobile experience is just one part of the customer-centric strategy that the smartest brands are using every day. The customer, after all, is the driving force behind all of the holiday numbers we’ve seen.

Here are some key customer experience issues that will keep customers coming back to your site on any channel.

Make Sure Your Site is Speedy

Have you checked your page speed lately? How long it takes your pages to load is a key factor in whether or not your customers will stick around on your site, and where your site will rank in search results. Test your site in Google’s PageSpeed Insights immediately. This tool is extremely helpful at identifying the elements causing the lag in load time, and at making suggestions on how to speed things up. Benchmark your page speed and monitor it on a scheduled basis.

As laptop and mobile phone performance has improved over the years, our collective attention span has dropped. Shoppers still give mobile sites a bit of a pass. They will wait five seconds for a page to load on their mobile devices and only two seconds on desktops before dropping off. Once a shopper has dropped off, they’re less likely to return.

Images are also big factor in page load times, accounting for 50-60 percent of the “weight” of a page. Your ecommerce platform should be optimizing product images. But what about other images throughout your site, including homepage features, and areas on product or category pages, and blog images? These too should be optimized for fast delivery.

Not only will current customers leave your site if it loads slowly, but you’ll have a harder time reaching new customers through organic search. Google has considered page load time a ranking factor since 2010. And while Google and other sources differ on what’s acceptable, the times are short, between a half-second and two seconds. Aim to be in compliance with Google’s standards and of course, faster than your competitors, by optimizing your site.

Sell Your Products with Excellent Photography

What keeps your customers engaged when they reach your ecommerce site are the products themselves. Treat your customers to the best shopping experience by including large, unique product photos (and videos) that really sell the products. There are a number of ways you can keep your customers in mind when it comes to photography.

Product photos should be unique to your brand (rather than reusing manufacturer photos) and should be big enough to view details of the product at first glance. Prove to your shoppers that you’re selling quality products.

Don’t be afraid to give photos the real estate they deserve, whether they are product photos on a details page, a category header image, or a homepage hero. It’s okay for images to take up a majority of the screen; your shoppers will scroll for more information if they’re interested.

Just as you should provide large, unique product photos, you should also provide a 360-degree view so your customer can explore every angle. Don’t leave anything to the imagination.

Finally, let your brand speak through your photos. Providing branded, contextual images on your homepage, at the top of a category page, or as part of a product photo gallery gives the customer a sense of the size and scale of a product.

Entice Current and New Customers with Deals

A little discount can go a long way when it comes to winning new customers. A well-timed deal can drive big returns if you do it right.

Offering a small discount to customers who sign up for your marketing emails is expected as a default. Display the offer clearly on your site and you’ll likely see subscribers increase and conversions rise – both from new customers who will scour your site (or turn to a search engine) to find a discount before buying, or current customers who aren’t subscribers.

For customers who don’t convert on the first try, include a discount in your cart abandonment program. It’s been proven that following up with a customer who’s abandoned her cart with emails or retargeting ads boosts conversions. Sweetening the deal with a small discount can further increase the likelihood of a sale.

Free shipping can also be the difference between shoppers making a purchase or abandoning the cart. The offer, however, should still be on your terms as the retailer. Setting a threshold will help keep your costs low and may also raise your average order value.

Wow Shoppers with Stellar Customer Service

Nothing takes away from a great shopping experience like a customer service snafu. When it comes to being there for your customers, communicate how you can help them and make it loud and clear through every stage of the purchase process.

Start with the first part of checkout: Give your shopper options to check out on their terms, such as logging in with social media accounts or checking out as a guest, rather than being forced to create an account.

If you have brick and mortar stores, providing the option to pick up items in-store, rather than waiting a few days, is a driver in keeping customers happy and sales strong. According to Forrester, in-store pickup has a 70% adoption rate.

During the checkout process, your customer is probably trying to justify the purchase, and experiencing some hesitation. For example they might be curious about how easy it is to return their purchase. Be up front about returns, and make them as painless as possible. Quell fears by posting frequently asked questions about the return process and provide options to ask questions via email, phone, or live chat. Help shoppers build trust and feel confident in the buying process.

After your shopper finalizes her purchase and clicks “Buy,” follow up with transactional emails that are friendly and easy to understand. These automated messages should be mobile friendly and personalized, and they should include all of the important information, from product details including size and color, to tracking information when it’s available.

As we move through 2016, make sure your customer remains in focus. After all, they’re the ones are who keep your business going. Without putting your customers first, they could leave you behind.

Darren Hill is CEO and Founder of WebLinc.

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