The intense competition in the e-commerce market, rapid changes in consumer shopping habits, and expansion of new technologies require e-commerce businesses to reshape their customer engagement strategies to win buyers and motivate them to return.
Catching and keeping customers’ attention requires expertise in the latest customer experience trends and e-commerce technologies. That’s why forward-looking digital retailers invest in e-commerce services to modify their online stores to deliver more appealing buying experiences.
This guide highlights the value of customer engagement for online merchants and describes five key practices for keeping their audiences satisfied and loyal.
Why Customer Engagement is Important
In e-commerce, customer engagement aims to build an emotional connection between brands and their customers, boost customer satisfaction, foster lasting relationships, and encourage customers to buy more.
If an audience is engaged, it's easier for an e-commerce business to retain customers, prolong their lifecycle, and increase their lifetime value, bringing about more sales and higher revenue.
5 Practices to Engage Your Customers
1. Create an enjoyable user experience.
A poor user experience can frustrate consumers and drive them away from an e-commerce website, resulting in missed opportunities and lost sales.
In contrast, a user-friendly UI/UX lets customers browse an online store without effort and quickly find and buy their desired products. A well-designed UI/UX for an e-commerce website includes the following key elements:
- Easy navigation: Grouping products into logically clear, hierarchical categories based on similar characteristics can help customers find items quickly. In addition, businesses can arrange the categories into a horizontal/vertical bar with drop-down navigation or a mega menu to guide users efficiently throughout the catalog offering.
- Efficient search: With 79 percent of consumers likely to buy a product they’ve found in the search results, digital retailers should equip their websites with a powerful search tool that will show relevant products matching the shopper's query. On-site search engines can be enhanced with diverse filters and faceted navigation to narrow down search results and display the best match.
- Simple checkout: To remove hassle during checkout and prevent cart abandonment at the last moment, e-commerce businesses can reduce the number of checkout forms customers need to fill in and ask only for the information required to finalize the purchase. The best checkout flow optimization practices include one-page and guest checkout options.
2. Personalize shopping experiences.
According to McKinsey, 71 percent of consumers expect personalized interactions, and 76 percent become displeased when they don’t get them. Moreover, personalization can help e-commerce merchants increase conversion rates by 45 percent. Therefore, companies should prioritize their customer experience personalization efforts.
Providing personalized product recommendations is one of the most effective personalization tactics. Digital retailers can recommend products based on the customer’s demographics and purchase history. The recommendations can contain similar items to what a customer has viewed or added to the shopping cart, as well as relevant complementary products.
Merchants can also enhance their websites with dynamic layout elements and content, showing personalized shopping carts, calls to action, and pop-up notifications based on the user’s location and preferences.
3. Add interactive elements.
Depending on their product offering, companies can incorporate interactive elements into their websites to make customers feel more involved in the buying process and bring online and offline shopping closer.
An effective tactic is adding videos or 360-degree images for products to showcase them three dimensionally. By doing so, merchants can make product pages more lively and simulate the brick-and-mortar experiences where customers can take the products to examine them.
Furthermore, e-commerce businesses can integrate augmented or virtual reality features into their stores to engage shoppers with memorable, immersive experiences. For example, retailers can create virtual replicas of their physical stores for web browsers or mobile apps to allow customers to navigate the store and interact with products virtually.
4. Offer seamless omnichannel experiences.
According to Salesforce, 78 percent of customers use multiple channels to complete a transaction and communicate with companies through an average of nine channels. Therefore, catering to this demand requires integrating a brand’s different sales channels to deliver consistent, seamless buying experiences. With omnichannel commerce, customers can start shopping in one channel, switch to another, and resume shopping right where they left.
The first step in creating an omnichannel environment involves optimizing your e-commerce website for mobile devices. Customers can use mobile-friendly sites with equal convenience, whether desktop, tablet or smartphone.
If your brand is present on social media, you can also integrate this channel to leverage user-generated content.
Finally, brands can set up cross-channel customer service to consolidate support requests from different touchpoints, provide a detailed case context, and enable support reps to resolve issues quickly and efficiently.
5. Reward your loyal customers.
Another effective engagement tactic is providing value to customers in exchange for shopping with a brand. Digital retailers can reward customers for their loyalty and ensure they feel appreciated. A reward program can also open the door to new engagement opportunities and prolong consumer relationships with your brand.
As part of your loyalty initiative, you can offer customers exclusive discounts, coupons, limited-edition products, personalized gifts, or invitations to special events.
Further, consider incorporating gamification features (e.g., customer badges, reward points, or discounts for the next purchase) into your reward program to encourage customers to stay with your brand, make more purchases, and become brand advocates.
With an enormous selection of online stores, shoppers can quickly leave an e-commerce website that offers disjointed experiences and move to another one. That’s why the success of e-commerce businesses depends on their capacity to engage and retain customers.
However, designing and implementing a solid customer engagement strategy can be challenging for merchants because it requires a deep understanding of customer experience principles and proficiency in e-commerce software development.
E-commerce business owners can hire trustworthy e-commerce experts to elaborate a customer engagement approach suited for their business specifics, target audience, and growth plans as well as avoid challenges during the implementation.
Alena Kuptsova is a technology research analyst at Itransition, a software development company.