4 Tips for Optimizing the Customer Experience to Increase Engagement and Conversions
Website and customer experience optimization aren't new. Both have been slowly and steadily evolving over the past decade and have become a key competitive differentiator for many retailers, especially global brands that have created a “culture of optimization” throughout their organizations. Along with this evolution comes new tips, tricks and techniques based on the previous year’s performance to assist you in reaching the goals your company has set for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
First, what was learned from 2014 that you can leverage to improve sales this year? One surprising finding from our own internal research is that the holiday season is the only time of the year when price isn’t a customer's main concern — shipping and logistics are also key concerns. Nothing can cut short a customer relationship faster than to promise a delivery by a certain date and fail on that promise, especially during the holidays.
In light of the fact that e-commerce sales on Black Friday 2014 were the largest ever recorded, up 20 percent over 2013, you can impress the boss by exceeding all expectations for 2015 by turning lookiloos and browsers into customers with targeted campaigns that take the following four tips into consideration:
1. Optimizing for mobile is no longer a luxury: Even the most savvy marketers might be surprised to know that according to 2015 data from MoFluid, 30 percent of total purchases were completed on a mobile device. Furthermore, according to a January 2015 comScore report, 10 percent of internet users in the U.S. only access the web from their mobile devices. There isn’t any reason to believe this trend will slow at the close of 2015. If this isn’t enough to motivate you to optimize the customer experience for mobile, Google's recent initiative to rank sites by their “mobile friendliness” is expected to have an enormous impact on the ability of mobile users to find your site through a standard Google search. If consumers can’t find your site, you're missing out on the potential for your mobile channel to grow and thrive.
Bottom line: The limited real estate on a smartphone or tablet requires special attention. Cut down on windows and steps between picking a product and purchasing it to make filling the shopping cart simple and seamless. Make testing for the best “add to cart” execution a top priority.
2. Encourage and reward brand loyalty: The entire holiday shopping season is a great time to acquire new customers, but don’t make the mistake of forgetting about the customers you’ve worked hard to acquire. Identify what percentage of your traffic is “VIP” by using lifetime average order value. Also, track when shoppers make their first purchase as well as how frequently they buy to identify the percentage of your traffic that are verifiable VIPs. There's data to support giving preferential treatment to your most loyal customers. A 5 percent increase in customer retention can actually lift profitability by almost 75 percent.
Bottom line: Test special offers for your VIP customers such as express delivery and early access to sales to forge a stronger bond with them.
3. Shipping can be a sales driver: Free or low-cost shipping offers are attractive and can be attributed to a 30 percent uplift in conversions. However, it’s important to test shipping thresholds to create a balance and avoid a loss in revenues. The balance refers to the length of time it takes for customers to receive orders as well. Our internal research finds that advertising a five- to seven-day delivery date range can drive conversions down. Short delivery date ranges (from one day to three days) can be a strong selling point if communicated to customers in advance.
Bottom line: Managing expectations is key for the customer experience when it comes to shipping. If delivery dates are unclear, it’s likely that customers will cancel their orders. Early warnings and shipping notifications via text message or email can minimize frustration, especially during the hectic and stressful holiday season.
4. Leverage the "FOMO" phenomenon to motivate customers: Every year, like clockwork, we watch the in-store shopping battles at big-box retailers on Black Friday unfold. We expect it. People fighting in the aisles over waffle makers and towels discounted at low, low prices has become commonplace. The e-commerce equivalent of this is much less violent and can be a positive force in driving sales. By using proactive merchandising techniques such as urgency pointers that tell customers up front that there are only 25 of the “it” toy of the season in stock can provide a 3.2 percent lift in conversions, according to our research.
Bottom line: Dialing up tension will motivate customers to make the decision to hit the buy button now vs. later when that toy may be out of stock. Countdown clocks and sales timers are also a good call to action, driving conversions up by approximately 2 percent.
Pre-planning and preparation for Black Friday and Cyber Monday are crucial for retailers, both large and small. Retailers can expect to make 20 percent to 40 percent of their yearly sales just over these two shopping days. Doing all you can to capitalize on shopper enthusiasm will go a good long way to acquiring new customers, rewarding your long-time loyal customers and increasing customer retention rates for 2016.
Ian McCaig is the chief marketing officer of Qubit, a digital customer experience delivery platform.