Guest post by Ashley Kimler
Remember when the buzzword was “responsive?” It took us awhile, but eventually most of us working in the online world caught on. Now, we realize the importance of our content being viewable from multiple devices. Now, we have new jargon to learn. Here is the foundation you need for eCommerce sales success in 2018.
What Universal Online Shopping Expectations do Today’s Consumers Have?
It wasn’t so long ago that a smile and a handshake were the cornerstones of any sale. Now, consumers want complete control over a streamlined, fully-automated experience while still being treated like a human, not a robot. According to Walker, by the year 2020, the consumer experience is expected to have a larger impact on sales than price or product quality. In a nutshell, you have some pretty big shoes to fill.
How Can You Meet the Expectations of Your Contemporary Prospects and Customers?
While optimizing the consumer experience is a chore (this isn’t a room you want to walk into blindly) there are ways to simplify your internal processes to ensure that you give your shoppers what they want. Here is your guide to meeting consumer expectations this year.
Consumer Expectation #1: Blatant Stock Information
When shoppers land on your product pages, it should be immediately obvious whether or not a product is in stock. The last thing you want is for your customer to find out after the purchase that their new [insert your awesome product here] is going to arrive late — or worse — not at all. This is an instant fail for your company. The hard work that goes into moving a prospect nearly all the way through your lead funnel is wasted.
You can avoid losing valuable customers by leveraging inventory management software. Not only will you know what’s in stock at all times, but you will also enable your customers to see when a product is low in stock or unavailable. This gives everyone a sense of greater control while automating internal processes that could take hours if done manually.
Consumer Expectation #2: Streamlined Checkout Process
Checkout is the time when you make or break a deal; it is at this point when you either gain a customer or lose a prospect. You need to provide a shopping cart flow that converts. Your checkout flow should include only four pages with trust signals and complete visibility and control:
- Login/ Registration
- Delivery & Payment Information
- Order Details Verification
- Order Placement
The smoother and more brief your checkout flow, the higher your chances of conversion.
Consumer Expectation #3: Lead Nurturing
Your potential customers are just as instrumental to your success as those who purchase regularly. Don’t forget about these guys. If you run an online store, you have already been preached to about email marketing. But, maybe you’ve avoided it until now. If that sounds like you, it’s time to get started. Learn as much as you can about eCommerce lead nurturing via email so you can lay the foundation of the relationships that will ultimately power your success. Don’t forget about social media, SMS, and all the other convenient ways you can nurture modern shoppers.
Consumer Expectation #4: Personalized Recommendations
If you’re a shopper yourself, you’ve seen the personalized recommendations delivered when you visit an online store after making a purchase. Do usually find these recommendations helpful? Why or why not? The secret to configuring a useful product recommendation engine is to be truthful about the offers you deliver.
For example, if a customer recently purchased an amethyst necklace from you, chances are they’re not in the market for another amethyst necklace. However, they might be interested in a matching pair of earrings or a t-shirt that says, “I heart gemstones.”
I once saw an ad on Facebook for a t-shirt that said, “Never underestimate a woman who watches Vikings and was born in June” — without thinking, I clicked through the link and put the product in my shopping cart. Why? Because I don’t have any clothing items that so clearly represent me. In the end, I didn’t purchase the shirt (only because I realized the psychology that was going on and that I had no need to spend $38.50 when my closet is already full).
What information do you have about your customers and how can you leverage it to deliver personalized recommendations?
Consumer Expectation #5: Helpful Content… at the Right Time
Before you can master your online sales, you must understand the buyer’s journey. Inbound methodology recognizes three stages in this journey:
- Awareness – People are just finding out about your brand or content. It’s likely that they’re seeing your content in SERPS, on social media, in paid ads, or on some other off-site content for the first time. At this stage, your content should answer questions those in your target audience unbeknown to the products you offer might have.
- Consideration (Evaluation) – At this stage, prospects have already heard of your brand in one way or another, and you should focus on lead nurturing. Give shoppers more of what they seem to like until they begin to trust you. Email subscribers and social media followers are going to see consideration stage content.
- Decision (Purchase) – RIght before a decision is made, shoppers at this stage will be reading reviews and learning about your competitors. So, make sure you offer something that provides real value. Make it easy to find out everything there is to know about your products and services — monitor your product and brand reviews to optimize your processes and facilitate purchases.
Don’t wait to implement these practices. As with all technology, eCommerce is certain to move forward more quickly than ever. Next year, you still need to be on the cutting-edge of best practices. Meeting the expectations above will lay the foundation for the success of your online store for years to come. Subscribe to the Irish Tech Newsletter to receive updates when we post more valuable eCommerce advice.
Ashley Kimler is part of the superhero team at Heroic Search in Tulsa. She’s been working in the digital marketing industry for over a decade. Follow @ashleykimler and @heroicsearch on Twitter to see what she and her team share next.