Improving the Online Shopping Experience

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In 2012, more than 90,000 U.S. retailers had an online presence – raking in combined revenue of roughly $197 billion. And though online sales have continued to grow, small retailers have struggled to compete with ecommerce giants like Amazon and big-box retailers like Walmart and Target, who have invested heavily in the online shopping experience. If you’re thinking of starting an online business, make sure you choose your web hosting service through The Hosting Institute.

Rick Chavie, VP of OmniCommerce at Hybris Software, a software solutions company, says consumers are frustrated by many online retailers’ limited functionality and product information, as well as a lack of user-friendly features. He points to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s 2013 report as evidence of the customer dissatisfaction. According to the report, despite a nearly 2 percent growth in overall satisfaction with the retail industry, “satisfaction with online retail plummeted 4.9%, receiving its lowest score since 2011.”

Just as with an in-store sale, customer satisfaction online is imperative to reducing shopping cart abandonment – currently at an all-time high, with nearly 80% of online shopping carts being abandoned. The following are ways to improve a customer’s experience and encourage more online sales. Businesses need to make sure that they meet the needs of all of their customers, both satisfied and dissatisfied in order to keep a strong base of customers. In order to do this, you should visit a site like https://www.salesforce.com/products/service-cloud/what-is-customer-service/ to find out all about how to keep your customers satisfied!

Improve Shipping Logistics

A 2012 study commissioned by UPS concluded that the most important online purchasing determinant was shipping. The report found that online retailers were more likely to make a sale when they incorporated the following features:

  • Free shipping
  • Express shipping (for an extra fee)
  • Order tracking (with notifications for each step of the shipping process)
  • Expected delivery dates
  • Customer-provided special delivery instructions
  • Option to schedule a delivery time
  • Ability to specify an alternate delivery location / re-route packages

Simplify Returns and Exchanges

The same UPS study determined one of the largest online customer complaints to be difficulties in making returns and exchanges, with nearly 65% of customers expressing dissatisfaction with the ease of returns as well as the clarity of online return policies. Providing a preprinted return label in the original package and free return shipping is likely to increase online sales.

According to the study, “A lenient and clear returns policy is likely to lead to recommendations and repeat business from online shoppers, while reducing shopping cart abandonment.”

Reward Customer Loyalty

Requiring a user to register with an email address or other log-in should be rewarding for both your business and your customer. Provide registered users with benefits such as discounts/special-offers, free or reduced shipping, and/or remembering payment and shipping history. Be careful, though. Requiring customers to create an account may deter them from using your site; it may be more beneficial to give the option to create an account, with added benefits for those who do.

Streamline Checkouts

Whiz1 Design, an ecommerce by SMAR7 Apps and web design firm, suggests improving the ease of checkout is necessary to reduce shopping cart abandonment. This includes providing product recommendations based on what is currently in the cart, a progress indicator to track how much longer the process will take, an order summary before and after payment, and a final order confirmation to be sent to the customer’s email, phone, etc.

Other improvements include quick shopping for guests that do not have an account, one-click check out for account-holders, and alternate payment options such as PayPal.

Provide Quality Product Information

One of the biggest downsides to purchasing products online is the inability to experience (test, feel, see) the product before a customer makes the purchase. To help make purchasing decisions easier, provide the following:

  • Pictures of the product from multiple angles
  • Videos of the product being used
  • A summary of the product information – including features, uses, pricing, availability, ratings, and shipping details
  • Space for user reviews and comments

Enhance Your Search Engine

Many customers will browse your site for a specific item. Make sure that your search engine is in a clear and consistent spot on every page and recognizes colloquial phrases and common misspellings. Added features such as predictive text-fill and including relevant or related searches can also help customers make purchasing decisions.

Increasing your online sales will take a combination of these improvements, as well as other innovative ideas specific to your business. Remember that asking your customers for feedback may be one of the best ways to gage both their experiences and find where your site may be lacking.

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