In an age where technology is a major part of daily life, organizations (especially retailers) recognize the need to improve their digital presence to compete effectively in the marketplace. The catalog-driven approach of building out an online catalog for browsing products and placing orders is no longer enough to meet the needs of today’s demanding consumers. You need to build experiences for shoppers that make it easy to find the right product for the right purpose and to help them understand how to use your products.
A Shift in Customer Expectations
People have come to expect an elevated customer experience. Having rich product information and easy-to-use site functionality is important, but today’s customers want additional data such as video tutorials, product family landing pages, installation guides, customer blogs, warranties, return policies, user reviews, and online product manuals. This is precisely why we’ve seen a shift from offering catalog-driven commerce to experience-driven commerce over the past several years.
As the web has evolved, people have become accustomed to having information at their fingertips. As customers, they’ve come to expect a plethora of information to help them make a buying decision. Experience-driven commerce provides those additional resources to the customer to provide a more complete product view and improve the customer experience. It’s about understanding the needs and wants of your customer.
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, your buyers all expect a smooth and pleasant experience. If the decision to buy is time-consuming or a hassle, customers are more likely to take their business elsewhere even if it means a marginally higher price point.
1. Understand Your Customer!
The first step to delivering experience-driven commerce is to understand your customer.
- How do they interact with your brand and with your products?
- Are conversions happening online or in brick-and-mortar stores?
- Do they engage with your mobile or in-store app technology when shopping?
- Are your customers happy with their experience from research to purchase to support after the sale?
The answers to these questions will help you understand the touchpoints your customers make with your brand along their buying journey. These answers will help you develop customer personas to use moving forward.
Next, you need to know what your customers want, why they want it, and when, as well as at what points that they are unhappy with the current buying experience, the product, or your company as a whole. These answers will be specific to your business and industry, your audience demographic, and your product offerings.
While both groups want a great customer experience, there may be some differences between what B2B and B2C customers value most in experience-driven commerce. B2B buyers are more focused on understanding product capabilities, product lead-times and availability, deep product specifications and viewing order statuses. In contrast, B2C customers are more likely to engage when you provide user-generated content, reviews, testimonials, and blogs, all of which are all excellent ways to showcase your product success in a non-traditional way.
2. Improve the Customer Experience
Once you know your customers’ wants and needs, it’s time to build a plan to begin fulfilling them. Experience-driven commerce can occur online and offline, but it’s usually most powerful when brick-and-mortar and digital are combined. Customers are looking for omnichannel experiences, and experience-driven commerce aims to provide that.
Providing consistency across all your selling channels is a good place to start. Look at where your conversions are happening in the purchasing lifecycle so you can provide additional resources at those junctions. By knowing how and where your customers buy your products, you can expand your offerings more strategically. Mobile apps, in-store digital experiences, and interactive online pages are a few good examples of where you can start.
However, it’s important to remember that you have to provide the right content at the right time to the right customer. While customers expect a personalized experience, it’s impossible to provide that at every step of the purchasing cycle. You have to identify the touchpoints where personalization is possible and would make the most impact and move towards those first.
Remember that the work doesn’t end when you make a sale. Post-purchase support is an important part of experience-driven commerce. How are you taking care of your customers after they buy? Providing order history, shipping and delivery information, and easy returns or exchanges are all a part of that experience. If something goes wrong with their product, what kind of additional support can you provide? User manuals, video tutorials, and spare part resources are important to correct whatever error your customer is experiencing. If you can turn a negative customer experience into a positive one, that’s where you’ll begin to build loyalty and customer retention.
3. Continually Monitor Customer Behavior
An area that’s often overlooked by organizations is the monitoring of post-purchase customer behavior. Once you understand the customer journey and implement the initiatives they want to see, it’s important to keep updating your personas, tracking customer data, and working to improve upon the initiatives you’ve set in motion. You have to continue to evolve with your customers, which means the cycle of monitoring behavior never ends.
And what happens if you don’t make that sale? It’s important to know when your customers are disappointed or why carts are abandoned. Why aren’t buyers following through and making those purchase decisions? Understanding why customers don’t buy is just as important as understanding why they do. Perhaps shipping costs are causing shoppers to ditch their product picks in their digital shopping carts. Or maybe they found a better price elsewhere. Did negative reviews scare them off? Continuing to evolve your analytics to get a complete view of the customer from purchase to post-purchase and on to repurchase is how you can begin to answer these questions.
Technology is evolving at a rapid rate, and it’s imperative that organizations have an exceptional digital presence in the marketplace. Customers expect a positive end-to-end experience when they shop online, perpetuating the shift from catalog-driven commerce to experience-driven commerce. By building experiences for shoppers rather than just providing a product, you’re creating connections and building loyalty.
To evaluate your company’s effectiveness in creating and sustaining a compelling customer experience, check out our CX IQ Assessment.