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7 takeaways to improve on your ecommerce customer experience

We’ve been deep diving on the latest changes to retail and shop fronts as part of our ecommerce webinars, and as a focus is around optimising your ecommerce store from a customer experience point of view. While so much has changed for so many of us, a fundamental changed across the board is in customer experience.

The customer experience you have to embrace for today isn’t the one you’ve “chosen to define for your customers, it’s the one they’re actually imposing on you.”

Rachael Hooper, MessageMedia

This webinar is presented by Marketing Manager Rachael Hooper, messaging and ecommerce specialist Damien Brennan as well as our special guest this week Reload Media General Manager Marnie Witten. Watch the full webinar or read our recap of the key takeaways below. 


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7 key takeaways from innovating for a new customer experience

1. Capture new journey opportunities

Online sales have increased as much as 80% throughout the pandemic As we move through the crisis, customers are starting to think long-term with their purchases., and online shopping carts are getting much bigger than your normal bricks and mortar purchases. Damien suggests this may be down to more products being visible online and the fact that you can recommend these products. It’s essential therefore to capture every opportunity during a customer’s digital journey towards purchase.

SMAI, a home gym equipment company, has experienced 4x growth over the last few months. Working with SMAI, Reload Media helped them manage increase in demand by focusing on re-capturing purchases for out of stock items. In particular, they focused on capturing customer data on products people were interested in and sending them immediate updates when those products were in stock again.

A customer MessageMedia works with added abandoned cart messaging to their store, similar to SMAI, and immediately started getting 30% of customers coming back to purchase. Adding a simple SMS message such as ‘Hey you’ve left something in your chat!’ isn’t hard, especially when the ROI is worthwhile.

Innovating new customer experience by SMAI for Reload Media MessageMedia webinar CX

 SMAI also focused their content marketing around long-tail SEO searches such as ‘how to build home gyms’ when customers “were interested but not ready to convert.” The SMAI team then implemented running remarketing campaigns to help nurture that customer along their journey towards purchase.

2. Walk in their footsteps

In order to ensure a really great customer experience for ecommerce businesses, you must start by walking through the customer’s footsteps. It’s so easy to forget to look ‘from the other side of the screen’ and forget the steps the customer takes to reach your page or website.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What has a customer done to get here?
  • What were the steps?
  • Did they see some ads on Facebook or offline?
  • Have you done a search to get to your website?
  • What’s the information they’re looking for?
  • What’s the experience that they get once they land?

Whatever they are seeking, it’s up to our brand to support them and give them the information they need in order to improve customer experience. If items are out of stock or shipping is delayed, a customer is going to be frustrated with your customer service. Ask yourself, how can we make this easier on them? 

There are a number of solutions. Can we capture their information and remind them when stock is back in? Can we offer alternatives that we are available? Whatever it is, try taking it from their perspective. And make sure that you always ask for feedback. Only then will you realise where the gaps are.

3. Digital uptake acceleration

Because of COVID, we have fast forwarded our movement online. From what was a predominantly physical retail experience, we are now suddenly heavily leaning on online. In just 8 weeks, we have reached growth numbers that were predicted to take 5 – 7 years. 

Although this data set is from the US, we are seeing similar customer experience trends across the globe such as in the UK and China. Even those who have resisted the digital realm, are now on board, either proactively or out of necessity in order to get the goods and items that they need. In future, it is likely that retail experiences will now be blended or purely online.

Shawspring ecommerce penetration graph4. What are customers thinking about when buying

According to Reload Media’s data, customers are:

  • Embracing online. Over 40% of consumers globally now state that they’re planning to shop online once conditions are improved. Online is becoming the new normal.
  • Researching deeply. 27% of consumers expect that they’re going to be spending more time researching products than going in-store. There’s also been a massive increase in search behaviour, especially for ‘how-tos’, buying guides, product manuals and comparison searches. It’s important therefore that you help them make that decision through your brand and content by providing them with the research tools, information, guides or in-depth details about your products going forward.
  • Seeking safety. Nearly 50% of consumers have revealed they’re not likely to return to shopping centres for some time. Bricks and mortar shopping is now a ‘planned behaviour’ to minimise contact and risk. It’s up to brands to provide customers with essential information such as open hours, available stock level, parking and pick-up options. Personalise your customer experience by going an extra step and allowing shoppers to book private appointments.

All of these elements will be really critical in helping customers stay loyal.

5. Meet demand for delivery and blended retail

So, how do we drive purchases and increase our conversion rates for the new post-COVID online customer journey?

One of the key factors is free, reliable delivery. Looking at someone like The Iconic, you can see that they focus their above-the-fold top, prime real estate on availability, trading and delivery. In addition, they have further links in their navigation for customers to track their delivery, or to put through returns. Having these sorts of elements can be the real key to driving that customer and getting purchases through.

The Iconic delivery focus CX innovation webinar recap MessageMedia Reload Media

The other factor is offering a blended retail experience where you combine the online and offline seamlessly. We’ve all shopped with small businesses or retailers who have offered some of the following:

  • Click to collect groceries
  • Purchases that can be picked up curbside
  • Hotels or airlines with self-service check-ins and outs
  • Takeaway venues or web platforms with contactless delivery options.

Having a range of options gives consumers control in deciding how they want to retrieve their product or service. These types of blended retail options are becoming normalised, and COVID is setting the customer expectations that these options will continue post-pandemic. Services such as contact-free delivery, pick-up and sanitation stations will set those retailers apart.

6. Try something new vs sticking with trusted 

Two seemingly contradictory trends are emerging out of buyer behaviour during COVID.

There’s been a huge increase in customers trying new brands. Some of this has been out of necessity with everyday items, or because regular brands are out of stock, which has driven many to smaller, independent online brands. Marnie has seen a 43% increase in ecommerce purchases from new customers across their brands. Reload works with them to figure out how to make those first-time customers stick.

“Are we making sure that the experience was exceptional, so that they fall in love with the product and are able to continue buying from us again?”

Marnie Witten, Reload Media

Marnie suggests following up your customers with information on why they should continue to use your brand, and choose your products, rather than going back to their traditional retailers.

Another trend is customers staying loyal to the brands they trust. With the same set of brands, Marnie is seeing a 28% increase in orders of past customers across their current merchants. This is a huge uplift for repeat purchases. Customers that know and trust your product are more likely to come back during this time.

It’s important that if you have these customers, that you use campaigns to target them and encourage them to repurchase with special discounts or replenishment campaigns. Use customer data to see how frequently a certain product gets purchased by a repeat customer, and what drives them back. Use the channels and tools at your disposal such as email campaigns or SMS broadcasts at the right moment to prompt them to buy again.


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7. Five practical tips to adapt to changing customer behaviour

5 Practical things you can do to innovate your customer experience ecommerce

(i)         Build a welcome flow. This welcome flow will help you to onboard customers from their first purchase. Make sure there’s a seamless delivery of receipt and order confirmation through to a thank you for their purchase and introduction to your brand community, especially if you have active social channels. Use different mediums and channels such a welcome email, but SMS for more critical, essential elements such as order confirmations or ETAs on deliveries.

(ii)        Emulate touch and feel product experience. Use your product pages as a vehicle to capture and entice purchases. When we go in-store, we can feel, see, hear and even try-on products. You can’t do that online but you can attempt to create a similar experience through product shots, content reviews etc. 

(iii)      Recoup lost customers. When products are out of stock, don’t lose those customers. It’s important that you capture their information and follow up with the customer when it’s back in. Prompt them on the page about what they can do if an item is out of stock, and follow them up with an SMS or email. Alternatively, you can offer substitutions.

(iv)       Drive repeat or non-purchasing customers back to your ecommerce site. Customer journeys are not linear, and this is not their first interaction with your brand when they go to purchase. They’ve likely taken the time to think or evaluate their options before they’re ready. Targeted remarketing is one of the best ways you can make sure that initial marketing efforts are not wasted.

(v)        Go above and beyond with CX. Think end to end, from the moment they hear about your brand through to when they receive their order at home. The more seamless and enjoyable you make that process, the better your conversion will be. Think about that cherry on top of the sundae, what is yours? 

For example, is it a proactive update about their order right to your phone? Is it product imagery that shows multiple models wearing the product in varying sizes? Is it a beautifully wrapped product or handwritten thank-you note? Marnie uses the example of Adore Beauty always adding a Tim Tam in their delivery package for that ‘extra moment of delight’. What’s yours?


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Final thoughts, further reading 

COVID has changed the way we interact and deal with retailer and ecommerce stores as a whole. As a consequence, there is so much you could be adding and implementing into your digital marketing strategy and wider digital plans. At this point, we are beyond the point of COVID as a news story – it is in fact instead our ‘new reality that we’re living day-to-day.’ And that’s exactly how we have to adapt today’s changing customer experience for the CX of the future.