Your customer experience is your brand experience. Pretending otherwise and presenting a web experience full of brand marketing and jargon is the same as pouring water on a fire.
The easier your site is for your customers to navigate from landing page to checkout page, the better the experience is, the better your conversion rate will be, the better your revenues will be.
So forget the false argument of brand versus customer experience. They are the same thing.
Commit to providing a great customer experience by doing the following:
A little empathy for the customer goes a long way toward endearing them to a brand. Understanding the ways your customers interact with your site can reveal many obstacles to a purchase. The lessons that come from seeing what it is like to shop online with your brand can turn into the richest and most resonant brand storytelling yet.
An investment of a few hundred dollars here will pay for itself multiple times over by helping you to see where people are getting confused, distracted, or otherwise losing their patience with what feels to the brand like a slick and well-constructed ecommerce site.
Turning bad stats into good tests
Pages with high bounce rates, low conversion rates, or unusual data are prime candidates for user testing. Choose a handful of poorly performing pages, send testers to those pages, and assign goals you expect your customers to perform on those pages.
- Some generic goals for user tests that you can make more specific to your brand and products include:
- Find a product and add it to the cart
- Use search to locate a particular product
- Use the product filters to locate a particular product
- Add multiple products to the cart and attempt to check out
- Find support information for a particular product
- Attempt to make a product return
- Find answers to common questions about a specific product
Whatever you learn in a user test can be leveraged immediately. Track the results of the changes and assemble a library of data and lessons that can be leveraged well into the future. Use the lessons and data to measure the performance of new features and pages. This testing data will also help make it easier to argue for or against internal discussions about the site using real-world examples.
Optimize for success
In addition to user tests, live site testing can be an extremely effective addition to your toolkit. There are a number of services like Optimizely, Monetate, and Google Content Experiments that allow you to test almost any change or variation on your site to see how it performs against a specific goal.
These tests help you observe and assess small tweaks to links, wording, colors, and positioning of items on a page to compare how that change performs against the baseline. This is much less personal and anecdotal than a live user test, but the results are indisputable.
A few examples of site optimization tests to try on your site are:
- Display ad URLs (testing site.com/product-name versus site.com/product-category/product-name)
- Home page images
- Headline text
- Navigation bar display
- Navigation item order
- Button size, color, shape, and placement
- Button calls to action (placement and text)
- Site-wide calls to action (placement and text)
- Form field length and number of fields
- Page messaging and content
- Product pricing
- Reduced shipping costs or free shipping
- Mobile web page length
Splitting these tests up by new versus returning visitors can produce some interesting results. The simple beauty of these tests is that they are small and manageable. The lessons learned can be implemented immediately or filed away until time and budget allow.
Site personalization is becoming popular as the technology becomes cheaper and smarter. Using data from past interactions with your site, you can provide returning visitors with a personalized digital experience, similar to something that might happen in real life.
Sites that remember perform better. Sites that provide personalized experiences perform the best.
We often refer to the coffee barista as the ideal customer experience. On the first visit to a coffee shop, you make your order, get your coffee, and are on your way. On the second visit, the barista confirms your order from the previous visit without first having to ask you what you want. The third time you visit, the barista already has your order ready when you reach the counter; before you even ordered your coffee, it’s ready for you.
How does that sort of service make you feel? That’s what personalization can do for your website.
A customized customer experience is not wishful thinking. The technology exists and is relatively easy to implement and test using tools like Optimizely. Brands that want to be first-in-class should utilize their data now to create a custom experience that their competitors severely lack.
The key to providing a tailored experience is to display products and recommendations within a context relevant to the returning customer. For example, if the customer purchased a jacket on a recent visit, the website should not try to sell another jacket. Instead, offer the customer complementary products (e.g., gloves, hats, pants).
Additionally, as customers add items to their cart, the website should default to display items matching the size and colorway preference of items in the cart (or previously purchased).
Site search is another area perfect for personalization. Your website should track product searches and provide content around those products.
Focusing on the top search terms (for all visits) will also help identify which products and product categories should be promoted, discounted, or recommended to other customers. The aggregate customization data will allow you to adjust the site to surface automatically the top 20% of searched products and content to the key landing pages.
Facebook is a good example of using these technologies to tailor consumer experience. By implementing these technologies, Facebook better understands what types of ads should be displayed as users navigate around the Internet based on the way they use facebook.com.
The customer experience is your brand experience
When a customer makes a purchase, they are telling you, with their money, what they like. This is the loudest a customer can positively speak to a brand; it is clear feedback on the information and products the customer wants.
Too much time and effort is wasted on creating a brand experience customers will like. There is no such brand experience. If you want to increase conversions and increase revenues focus on creating a great customer experience.
This Insight is an adapted excerpt from our book, Stop Marketing, Start Selling.
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.