9 Ways to Boost Customer Experience and Online Engagement
The pandemic has accelerated the shift toward digital channels — and heightened the stakes. While in-store retail sales are projected to stay stagnant, e-commerce experienced a 129 percent year-over-year growth in U.S. and Canadian orders as of April 21, 2020. As a result, online customer experiences have become the battleground for businesses seeking to secure the attention and loyalty of consumers. Yet, despite the pandemic driving up the sheer volume of digital experiences between customers and brands, Decibel’s 2020 report, Digital Experience and Conversions: Industry Benchmarks for 2021 benchmark report found that overall user engagement online is low across all industries, including retail.
The benchmark report analyzed 4.1 billion user sessions throughout 2020 across 11 industries to understand what frustrates, engages and converts customers. For retail brands trying to captivate their customers — not capsize under the pressure — it’s important to know what's causing low online engagement and how to improve their digital strategies. These top takeaways will show retailers, many of whom are at least partly online today, where to focus in 2021 so they can optimize their websites and apps, improve customer experience, and drive conversion optimization rates.
Pros and Cons: Users Aren’t Too Frustrated, But They Aren’t Engaged Either
Other studies have shown that 70 percent of consumers abandon purchases due to bad user experience (UX). In this economy, brands can’t afford to lose any revenue, or loyalty, due to avoidable UX issues like a clunky checkout or confusing product page.
So, what are users’ biggest frustrations with retailers? Based on Decibel’s report, retailers’ UX is generally optimized for the customer journey and has strong navigation. However, users are less engaged overall than the industry standard. There's a high incidence of rapid scrolling per user session, which shows a low focus on images and can signal user frustration. To reduce user frustration, retailers can leverage three strategies:
- Streamline the buyer’s journey and checkout. Retailers should make sure they're delivering a seamless and unobstructed shopping experience on both their product pages and checkout page. This feat can make or break conversions. It’s valuable to use behavior detection and journey tools to identify any bottlenecks between point A and point B.
- Prioritize mobile shopping experiences. Mobile experiences can no longer be an afterthought. The keys to fine-tuning mobile are simplicity and accessibility. Retailers should pay special attention to delivering effortless navigation, clear on-page elements, and mobile-specific web page designs.
- Maximize website and app performance. A slow-loading page is a surefire way to frustrate users. Retailers should ensure their websites are highly responsive with minimal wait times between pages and clicks.
How to Drive More Engagement in Retail
While frustration considers a user’s ability to overcome an obstacle or achieve a goal, user engagement is a significant metric because it shows a consumer's interest and intent. Companies with the strongest omnichannel engagement strategies retain far more of their customers than those with poor engagements. According to the report, online retail user sessions perform slightly worse than other industries. Specifically, retail has significantly fewer incidences of reading behavior, but does perform well with responsive multi-clicks (e.g., users click through an image carousel). To help turn unengaged users into intent buyers, retailers should:
- Personalize as much as possible. One of the best ways to improve engagement is showing users exactly what they want to see. Examples of personalization include sending highly custom product offers and tailoring homepages to different audiences.
- Create compelling web content. Use detailed product videos, thoughtful landing page copy and captivating brand images to grab users’ attention. Retailers can use heatmaps to observe aggregate user behavior and determine their site’s best and worst features.
- Master web page designs and layouts. Eliminate poor interface aesthetics and functionality. Retailers need to design web pages that follow usability practices with clear call to actions, obvious on-page elements and practical layouts.
The Correlation Between Digital Experience and Conversion
The better the UX, the better chance of conversion. In fact, as this validation study for retail magnate River Island demonstrated, a slight increase in UX correlated to a predicted $4.2 million in additional monthly revenues for River Island. As retailers work to improve their digital experiences, they should pay close attention to three trends and tips for 2021:
- Take the opportunity to engage more customers. Online engagement is generally low across retail, so the brand that increases customer involvement with compelling campaigns and content could drive real results.
- Be wary that frustration is low across retail right now. As more demand shifts online, organizations need to prepare for the pressure — even those with this low user frustration now. If they don’t buttress UX, the higher traffic could lead to lower performing online destinations.
- Invest now. Online retail is on the rise. If brands want to stay ahead of the competition and grow, they must invest in digital experience optimization.
The pandemic has forced retailers to elevate their online experiences and kick complacency to the curb. In 2021, retailers that can deliver UX with low frustration and high engagement will rise above the noise of today’s highly trafficked digital channels, impressing customers, building loyalty and driving conversions.
Shane Phair is the chief marketing officer at Decibel, a digital experience analytics solution.
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