The brands you loved growing up practiced marketing as a collection of siloed advertising channels and methods. In the years since, fundamental shifts in technology led some companies to begin thinking differently…
One simple, yet dramatic, change altered the competitive landscape of commerce forever, and still determines life or death for brands today. The secret to success, used by emergent eCommerce leaders, is an intuitive and effective customer journey. To build this, you need to adopt a new mindset. This article will show you how.
Centralize eCommerce Operations
In the early 2000s, most marketers viewed their website as “just another marketing channel.” Sites were little more than a space for promotion, treated much in the same way billboards and magazine ads were at the time. While each channel, from email to social media, had its own nuances, a website was merely a place where customers could learn about your business.
With the advent of the eCommerce software revolution, websites became the epicenter of a business. The place where all marketing funnels lead and exchange customer data -- not only with one another, but with all other business units. As a result, the practice of eCommerce marketing itself evolved from a disjointed, fragmented series of strategies into a holistic, unified one.
Today, leading eCommerce platforms like Shopify Plus allow businesses to manage and automate every arm of operations from end to end. From finance and inventory to shipping, marketing, sales, and more, a powerful eCommerce tech stack provides an operational nexus to connect and manage every aspect of your business.
Most importantly, eCommerce technology facilitates the sharing of information across channels, departments, physical stores, office locations, and disparate systems. Once properly connected, this creates a single source of truth (SSOT) for your business data, unleashing innumerable benefits. Chief among these benefits is the newfound ability to create a truly holistic customer experience (CX). Centralization is the key.
Once you wrap your head around “CX,” you’ll be one step closer to thinking like an eCommerce leader.
What Is A Holistic Customer Experience?
A holistic customer experience means every customer builds the same unique relationship with your brand, regardless of how they interact with it. Holistic CX solidifies your brand positioning in the mind of your customer and helps them understand what to expect when they shop with you.
Whether a customer engages with your brand through your emails, SMS messages, website(s), mailers, physical stores, apps, customer service, or the almighty Google, their emotional reaction and overall impression should be consistent.
Customer experience is the reason you’re delighted when your favorite designer shoe store gives you a discount coupon for your next pair. It’s why Walmart and Instacart won 92% of the grocery pickup and delivery market thanks to their simple online ordering platforms. It’s why Ikea has a maze-like structure and Swedish meatballs. It’s why the smell of a store can make shoppers spend more.
Moreover, missing the mark on a holistic customer experience can be damning. In the golden age of retail, the Sears coupon catalog drove buzz and foot-traffic. When the company nixed it and switched to “everyday low prices,” they alienated their audience. In many ways, it was the first nail in the coffin for the mismanaged department store.
Retail Giants’ Company Value Shift (2006 – 2018)
Once you gain a clear picture of your customer, product, and inventory data (thanks to your eCommerce platform) a holistic customer experience becomes achievable. It also becomes much easier to engage customers across all touchpoints.
A rich understanding of how customers prefer to shop empowers you with insights to further entice, engage, and retain customers online and off. In turn, implementing changes that bridge these experience gaps improves sales and satisfaction.
Above all, five qualities of a customer experience separate winning brands from losers…
5 "Must-Haves" For a Winning Customer Experience:
- Empathy: Show customers that you understand their needs and feelings.
Ex. Mitchells’ online store has a chatbot feature that lets shoppers video chat with stylists at their physical stores who help them find and reserve designer apparel.
- Convenience: Make shopping as fast, easy, and enjoyable as possible.
Ex. Instacart tells customers how much time they saved shopping for groceries through their app rather than visiting a grocery store in person.
- Trust: Provide social proof of positive product or service qualities.
Ex. Flower Beauty by Drew Barrymore showcases customer ratings on their product collection pages as well as detailed reviews on each product page.
- Simplicity: Reduce shopping friction and require the least amount of effort.
Ex. Dollar Shave Club’s subscription delivery strategy allowed it to double Gillette’s online sales in only 3 years.
- Uniqueness: Something special that makes customers prefer shopping with you.
Ex. Reddressboutique.com lets customers buy the entire outfit a model is wearing --Tops, bottoms, shoes, and accessories-- all with just 1-click of their “shop the look” feature.
Are You Providing An Authentic Shopping Experience?
As you reflect on the features, comforts, and amenities you offer your own customers (online and off), it may behoove you to ask the following questions. At BlueSwitch, one of the clever ways we help clients pinpoint CX gaps is by using the acronym “A.U.T.H.E.N.T.I.C.”
Ask yourself: Is your customer experience…
A - Accessible: Able to be easily navigated by customers of varying age, ability, and language.
U - Unique: Employing cause marketing, a specialty, or shopping tools that help you stand out.
T - Trustworthy: Showcasing customer ratings, reviews, or photos/videos (social proof).
H - Helpful: Offering various methods to find products as quickly and simply as possible.
E - Empathetic: Understanding your customer’s feelings and prioritizing them above others.
N - Noticeable: Appealing to the eye across all design, imagery, content, copy, and all devices.
T - Trendy: Keeping-up with the latest styles, UX trends, and self-service shopping tools.
I - Informative: Displaying detailed content about product attributes, sizing, specs, and policies.
C - Convenient: Involving as little trouble or effort to shop quickly, easily, and delightfully.
Marketing is no longer limited to a series of promotional channels. Instead, marketing encompasses the full spectrum of the customer experience. eCommerce leaders view customer experience as a set of rules and tactics that govern a unified, holistic strategy for attracting, engaging, and retaining customers.
These criteria touch every part of your customer journey, from the design of your ads and web pages to your packaging, emails, and returns policy. Customer experience also plays a role in shipping options, payment options, customer service (in-store and online), site navigation, inventory management, and any area of business where customers may interact.
TL;DR - The Big Secret:
Modern commerce leaders adopt a substantially different mindset around marketing. Today, digital leaders must consider and refine the consumer journey as a whole, from end to end. When you understand how each part of your business impacts the customer, the next step is baking better customer experiences into major processes across your organization.
This is the big secret that’s helped companies like Dollar Shave Club dominate consumer goods giants like Gillette. It’s the customer experience mindset. It’s about collating the data you have on customers, identifying barriers to a sale (wherever they appear), and filling them quickly to delight shoppers. It’s about consistent enhancements to your business model and operations. And it’s only possible with a best in class eCommerce platform.