Why Ecommerce Customer Experience Matters (and What to Do About It)

By Jon MacDonald
5 minute read | Last Updated: October 23, 2018

The best executives ensure that their company sites are built around the primary goals of ecommerce: to serve customers and sell products.

The importance of great customer experience to a brand is immense. It can create or destroy sales. Your site can either cultivate a sense of trust and create a compelling consumer experience, or it can foster frustration and uncertainty. Your choice.

The customer experience differentiator comes down to this: a proactive approach to optimizing the user experience can prevent disaster and turn underperforming ecommerce websites into sales leaders.

If you don’t take good care of your prospects, they’ll go elsewhere. If you do take good care of them and listen to their needs, you’ll grow revenue, reduce costs, and improve efficiency. At The Good, we’ve seen stellar results happen over and over again when brands deliberately listen to their customers and observe their actions. They’re often surprised to discover the site designs their creatives are giddy over don’t impress their best prospects at all.

In this article, we’re going to solve that problem by looking at why customer experience matters, and what you can do about delivering the kind of user-centered content that moves the revenue needle steadily upward.

So, why does customer experience matter?

Customer experience defines the quality of interaction between your customers and your company. The impressions your ecommerce website visitors leave with will largely determine whether they will return, how much they spend with you, and how long they’ll remain your customers.

Customer Experience (CX) vs. User Experience (UX)

Customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) are often used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, CX is concerned with the end-to-end customer interactions with a brand while UX is more specifically aimed at the usability of a website or product (and therefore an ecommerce website).

For this article, please know that we’re mainly using the broader term, “customer experience,” but most or all of what we say here is directly applicable to “user experience” as well.

customer experience

There is only one boss. The customer. #CX - Sam Walton Click To Tweet

The components of customer experience

Customer experience consists of the “fingerprints” you leave. Every customer touchpoint is felt and evaluated by those who shop with you. Poor experiences lead to losses of revenue, unhappy reviews, and lost customers. Pleasant experiences support the opposite.

Every step in the customer journey, from the first impression to repeat purchases, is significant. A grouchy customer service representative can totally wipe out the week’s worth of hard work a salesperson invested to convince the customer to give your company a test drive.

Everything from the advertisement that brings them your way to the unboxing experience when a package arrives adds to the quality of the customer experience… and to your bottom line results.

Customer service is an opportunity to exceed your customer’s expectations. John Jantsch @ducttape Click To Tweet

How to improve the customer experience

How things look and how they work aren’t separate in the mind of the consumer. Unless you’re an art dealer, they don’t come to your website to admire the photographs and illustrations. Your visitors come with a goal in mind (typically to learn about or purchase certain products or services, then to purchase/convert), and they’ll mentally rate your business according to how well you help them accomplish that goal.

Solid visual design and experience creates trust. If that trust is broken (or never established in the first place), the barrier to overcome that negative impression is significant. It forces all other areas of a brand’s site to work that much harder to rebuild trust.

Consider this list of best-practice tips we use to refocus ecommerce sites on creating great customer experience:

  1. Make sure your visual design reinforces authority, trust, and service. Strive for an effective design and be wary of over-design.
  2. Optimize your business around your best prospects. Everyone isn’t your customer.
  3. Don’t crowd your website pages with jargon and marketing. Use it to highlight products your best customers are buying, images that inspire, and content that is actually consumed.
  4. Listen closely to your customers via surveys, social media, data analytics, user testing, and such.
  5. Study your customer journey and understand your best prospects’ goals. Build ease and trust in every step. Lay out clean, user-friendly paths to purchase and lead generation.
  6. Be human. Be kind. Drop the corporate highhandedness. B2B or B2C is ultimately H2H (human to human) in successful communications.
  7. Don’t push your brand on the consumer. Good design is customer-centered, not brand-centered. Bad design is a site with a glut of branded content and self-serving messages.
  8. Use high-quality images, but make sure they’re optimized for load speed.
  9. Make liberal use of reviews and recommendations.
  10. Make it super-easy for your prospects to contact customer service or get rapid answers to their questions.
  11. Use a rigorous testing program to check your theories about the desires of your prospects against their actual preferences.
  12. Be ever-mindful of the need to capture the handful of seconds a visitor grants you. Quickly establish trust and convert that trust into an action that starts them down the path to purchase.
  13. Use smart navigation and search functions to make it simple and easy for your visitors to find what they seek.
  14. Check often to be sure your website pages are loading into the visitors’ browsers within a few seconds. Otherwise, they will click away without ever seeing your site.
  15. Focus your efforts on helping your visitors research and purchase your products.
  16. Make sure your ecommerce site reflects the look and identity of your brand, but that it serves the goals of the consumer.
  17. Don’t guess. Prove. The design you and your team love may fail miserably with your audience. User testing can save you time and money (a lot of it).

Need More Sales? Take a Close Look at Your Customer Experience

Brand sites that champion the torch of bad design emphasize videos of sponsored athletes pulling off X-Games caliber tricks on a half-pipe, a boring wad of blog posts on industry news, or rotating banners of brand campaigns front and center on the homepage.

No wonder visitors yawn and leave.

Smart executives make sure their sites are built around the primary goals of ecommerce: to serve customers and sell products.

When the day’s receipts are tallied, customer satisfaction and sales revenue are the things that really matter. Your site design is a supporting factor, not the goal.


About the author: Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes content on conversion optimization to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc. He knows how to get visitors to take action.

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