How to Overcome the 4 Biggest Customer Experience Challenges in Ecommerce

Jack Maden
Written by Jack Maden
February 16, 2021

Woolworths. Blockbusters. Toys’R’Us. Iconic brands known for positive in-store experiences that make us feel wistful and nostalgic – now all but wiped out of existence. Where did it all go wrong?

High profile retail behemoths are shutting up shop faster than ever before. With Banana Republic, House of Fraser, and WHSmith all announcing declining profits and store closures, is the death of the high-street retailer upon us? The headlines would have you believe so.

The blame has been heaped on (amongst other factors) low-cost challenger brands, a rise in business rates and rent, and perhaps more than anything else, the allure of online shopping – which has now been heightened by a tumultuous 2020.

With retail competition moving out of brick and mortar stores and onto digital channels, it’s never been more important to deliver the kind of online customer experiences that delight and excite consumers. It’s the difference between a single purchase and a loyal fan that will come back time and time again (often while recommending the store to a few friends.)

With digital, you can no longer rely on the virtue of a convenient store location and the knowledge that you’re the only supplier of a particular item in town. Thanks to a plethora of online options all offering products and services of a similar high quality, the smallest amount of friction can lead a potential customer to immediately click off and head to your biggest competitor.

While many enterprise retailers recognize the need for brilliant digital experiences, a great deal less are able to overcome the challenges to implementing the necessary changes. Here are the big four that you’ll need to address.

1. Facilitating consistent journeys regardless of channel

Your ecommerce website works great on desktops, but navigation becomes a real struggle on tablets. Message customer service on Facebook and you’ll have an answer in minutes. Head to Twitter however and expect to wait a couple of days.

We now expect an omnichannel experience.

Customers should not be made to suffer because you’re unable to manage a particular channel as well as an another. Whether it’s technical issues, information not being passed between departments (no one likes repeating their problem to 5 different reps every time they’re transferred) or a lack of human resources, inconsistent experiences are unacceptable.

“Customers should not be made to suffer because you’re unable to manage a particular channel as well as an another.”

Customers will explore, interact and buy across multiple screens and channels to suit their specific goals. Each time, the experience must be seamless. The appearance, responsiveness, tone of voice and technology has to feel like one cohesive brand.

Online retailers have to offer a range of channels, but each must be managed in line with the customers’ expectations. It’s more valuable to the consumer to have several available channels managed impeccably with perfect functionality than to have many channels with inconsistent experiences.

2. Finding the right balance of personalization

Personalization improves conversions. According to one study, 90% of US marketers reported that personalizing their websites and apps lead to a rise in revenues. For 48% of the respondents, the rise was 11% or more.

Personalization has also been found to increase the number of positive reviews from customers and strengthen brand recognition.

While the majority of retailers all over the world implement some level of personalization (most commonly through email communication) just a fraction of those rate their personalization strategy as advanced. An eMarketer survey conducted on senior marketers put the figure at as little as 6%.

True personalization lies in the combination of offering exactly the right information at the right time. It requires more than simply inserting a first name in communication, it’s about helping someone reach their unique goals and have an experience that feels both seamless and genuine. Customers want to feel cared about.

The main obstacle for creating personalized experiences is in managing the collection and usage of customer data. Just how much personalization is too far? Last year, Channel 4’s On Demand service All 4 introduced the world to video adverts that call out the name of the viewer. While it’s undoubtedly attention-grabbing, it can leave people feeling uncomfortable.

“When personalization works, your customer feels understood – and not as though their privacy has been invaded.”

The key is to be upfront with customers about why their data is being collected and how it will be used. As long as it’s providing true value to the end user, it’s unlikely to be an issue. When personalization works, your customer feels understood – and not as though their privacy has been invaded.

3. Leveraging actionable analytics and experience data

Quantitative and objective experience data has historically been something that’s difficult to access. Outside of directly asking customers if the digital interactions they have with a retailer are positive and engaging, how do we truly know what’s working for a brand and what isn’t?

Today, with digital experience analytics solutions like Decibel, enterprise retailers are able to see exactly how their customers interact with their websites or apps. Through the application of machine learning algorithms, these actions can be measured, scored, and classified to indicate a user’s state of mind and determine their level of engagement or frustration.

And with Decibel’s Digital Experience Score (DXS®), which automatically scores websites and apps, specific pages, and individual sessions on the quality of user experience. DXS® is the world’s first truly quantifiable digital experience metric. It takes millions of qualitative data points at quantitative scale and produces a single, easily-understood metric.

“The Digital Experience Score takes millions of qualitative data points at quantitative scale and produces a single, easily-understood metric.”

Through a combination of voice of customer data, web analytics, and digital experiencer analytics, retailers can get a rich and complete understanding of experiences across their digital properties and know where to focus their resources to make the most impactful improvements. As the saying goes, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

 4. Continuous optimization of experiences

When it comes to creating the best possible digital experiences in ecommerce, the job is never “finished.” There are always improvements to be made and new elements to test and introduce.

Retail is one of the most innovative industries and consistently strives to produce more and more immersive and engaging customer experiences. If you want to compete, you must be doing the same.

From furniture stores that allow you to use augmented reality to see how a table will fit in your home to interactive mirrors that allow you to build outfits and request assistance – retail is dedicated to crafting truly exciting experiences for consumers.

“In today’s highly competitive business environment, it’s important that businesses not only understand the need for continuous customer strategy improvement, but also firmly have in place the processes, strategies and technologies to see their initiatives come to fruition.” – Gartner and 1to1 Media CRM Excellence Awards

What makes continuous optimization a challenge for many retailers is that teams can begin operating in silos and are no longer working towards a singular goal.

When effective communication breaks down between departments, each team may well be doing good work in their individual areas, but not effectively contributing to improvements across the entire customer journey.

Our recent blog on overcoming the roadblocks in digital experience optimization is a great starting point for anyone looking to implement a culture of continuous improvement in ecommerce customer experience.

Take your ecommerce experiences to the next level

Looking to analyze, manage and improve digital experiences for retail customers? Check out our e-guide for 17 Powerful Ideas to Boost Ecommerce Conversion, Loyalty, and Sales to truly transform your customers’ online experiences.

Topics: Digital Experience, DXS, Ecommerce, Online Retail
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