E-commerce trends reflect a society that's forever changed. Brands must focus on DTC, mobile, social as a search tool, and data.
This year’s winter Olympics have featured the performance of two female athletes who ended up with two very different outcomes. The British speed skater Elise Christie experienced a bad crash in one of the final races, risking not to be able to compete for the rest of the Games, while the Czech snowboarder Ester Ledecka reaped a premiere, unexpected gold medal in ski, a discipline that is actually not her core one.
What I found interesting is that both results came as a surprise, as if the finish-line performance was independent of the long years of preparation the athletes went through to enter the competition.
When it comes to e-commerce sales, it struck me that companies may face a similar lack of control over the downstream part of the customer journey, i.e., the conversion into a sale, no matter how much they invested into the upstream, marketing-related preparation.
Based on my daily observations, I identified three examples of make-or-break points in my experience as a customer; three moments of truth between a successfully closed sale and a lost customer, potentially to a competitor.
Sign your salespeople up for the digital race
One of the biggest threats I witness every day when it comes to customer conversion, customer retention, and providing outstanding CX is the total disconnect between online and offline sales.
There are some products, for example, cosmetics and perfumery, where live-testing is often an unavoidable step in the purchasing decision. Unfortunately, all my latest experiences in perfumery stores haven’t shown the latest “scent” of an omnichannel strategy.
The most serious shortcoming I noticed has been the complete lack of training of in-store salespeople about currently available online promotions.
To make it worse, their very sales objectives seemed to have nothing to do with the current setup of the online store, as they tried to push me to buy completely different products, even if I showed them what I wanted on the screen of my smartphone. The math was easily done: I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.
Outstanding CX: Make it easy for readers to subscribe
Another source of frustration that prevented me, several times, from completing my purchase are the subscription packages for immaterial products such as newspaper apps.
The drive to push the “purchase now” button is almost irresistible, when I am in the middle of reading an elaborate article on an international magazine. But what happens next?
I usually end up on a text-filled page, featuring an infinite array of subscription combinations and payment options, practically unreadable on the screen of a smartphone, making it impossible to compare the offers between another. Worse still, if I tried to purchase one of those, I end up with a domino effect, on another endless row of login and payment processing screens. I gave up in 3 out of 4 cases and went back to reading free news on Google.
Don’t put the victory in the hands of your adversaries
Now to the larger purchases – the ones requiring extensive pre-purchase research when it comes to providing outstanding CX.
My husband and I browsed the web for weeks on a quest for the perfect TV screen, visiting all kinds of sites that contained detailed technical product information. Interestingly, the latter exclude the large marketplaces “à la Amazon”, where product descriptions, pictures, and even assortments are often insufficient for customers to make the decision to spend such a large amount of money.
So, we screened manufacturer websites and large online electronics retail sites, found all the information we needed, and had “that one last quick look” on Amazon. And that last look did cost a sale to the initial retail site we had selected, simply because the shipping costs were lower by two-thirds on Amazon, despite the CX was way better on the retailer’s site.
Maybe retailers and manufacturers should find better agreements as far as purchasing convenience is concerned, because in our case the brand was lucky enough we retained them, but next time, the tempting “you might also like” section on Amazon could translate into a sheer lost sale.
From examples like the above, I see a dual takeaway. On the one hand, there is no doubt that companies are putting a huge effort into their e-commerce capabilities, as far as customer acquisition is concerned. On the other hand, though, they are still falling into basic traps that nullify their initial efforts by harming sales conversions.
Elise Christie crashed because she focused her attention on her closest competitor only, instead of thinking about her goal. Ester Ledecka, on the contrary, embraced a high-level approach, took competitors by surprise, and won. Similarly, when shaping their e-commerce investments, companies should keep their focus on the complete customer experience to provide outstanding CX, from the starting blocks down to the finish line – which is called, a sale.