Survey Reveals Customer Experience Key to Online Success

Written by  January 31, 2009

The 11th Annual Mystery Shopping Survey from the e-tailing group is out and it suggests that leading online stores are optimizing their sites features to generate more sales.

If you follow me you’ll know this is one thing I continually say. Your site must provide the visitor with a functional and pleasant customer experience and that often starts with elements relating to design.

The merchants who are seeing the best results are focusing on executing strategies that take the online shopping experience to higher levels. They are increasing efficiency of processes and developing customer retention programs; rethinking promotions, adjusting content, and refining search. These elements along with others combine to create a sense of community that directly speaks to their target.

Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group states that e-commerce stores must consider rethinking promotions and include a variety of creative options if they want to remain competitive in a tough economy. She goes on to say that price is even more likely to be a key factor in consumer purchasing during this difficult time. I touched upon this very concept a bit in one of my recent articles Shoppers are Still Searching but Where They Are Searching has Shifted.

The trend among those successful online merchants is to structure marketing promotions that get the sale immediately. To do so they are often utilizing limited-time-only sales as evidenced by a 24 percent jump in such to 42 percent in 2008; up from 18 percent in 2007.

Here are several key findings of the survey:

  • Free shipping continues to be a promotional standard. Various free shipping models were present including free shipping with conditions. Another past article I wrote titled Shipping Promotions that Drive More Sales elaborates on this finding.
  • Reworking the on-site search to present more reliable results which get the customer to the product they seek faster is a priority. Unreliable search results, or those with products not even closely fitting the search itself can cause a poor customer experience and lead to lower conversion rates.
  • The addition of strategically thought out rich media content such as video to your product descriptions can increase the customer confidence and help make the buying decision easier.
  • Adoption of Social Media tactics to create a community around the business is becoming paramount in developing a loyal following. From blogging to bulletin boards to applications such as Facebook, successful online merchants are finding these “community nurturing” channels an important component in the success of their brand. In fact, 26% of store owners report successfully using blogs as marketing tools which is up from just 10% last year.
  • The consumers desire for unbiased peer-to-peer product insight has elevated the role product ratings and reviews plays in helping them make an informed buying decision.
  • The survey reveals that 81 percent of online store owners are embracing Refer/E-Mail a Friend features compared to 74 percent last year.

What Does it all Mean?

In short, if you are to be successful online you should consider taking a close look at how you get customers involved in your business. It’s the total customer experience from the moment they learn about your business to the moment they make a purchase which will determine if you will win or lose online. You must consider expanding your marketing reach to include Social Media as a way to build community — a vital role in building trust and loyalty.

If you need help implementing a Social Media Marketing campaign I offer a few packages that will help you get that accomplished. Contact me for more information.

From weekly blogging packages to full media utilization of Facebook, Twitter and more, I’m sure there is something for everyone. Likewise, I am available to coach store owners toward developing successful promotional strategies which increase conversion and build business as well. Just drop me a note.

To your success!

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