Gone are the days of mapping out a linear customer journey. With omnichannel engagements and higher customer expectations, customer journey optimization has become much more complex and multidimensional. Today’s customers are far more savvy and demanding. They expect to be nurtured throughout the customer journey, not just at individual touch points and even beyond the initial purchase. Optimizing for growth means taking into consideration multiple variables, understanding changing customer buying behaviors, and having the ability to preempt possible friction points and competitor offerings. It requires e-commerce retailers to up their game. With more people choosing to shop online, they’re also choosing to spend their money where they consistently get the best customer experience.
What’s different? Why whole customer journey optimization?
Customers are looking beyond marketing messages to influence their buying decisions. They do their own research across multiple channels referencing various sources. What others have to say about their experiences with your brand has become far more influential than what you may have to say about your products and services. Understanding this behavior is critical to driving better outcomes through the key buying stages including the product investigation and the browsing/shopping stages It also extends to the post purchase stage. If at any point in the customer journey the experience is inconsistent with their expectations, or creates anxiety or friction, customers simply drop off, and shop elsewhere - a statistic that is closely tracked called shopping cart abandonment which accounts for billions in potential revenue. If companies are not optimizing with the whole customer journey in mind, they won’t be able to create the consistency in experience that customers require.
Connections remain relevant, despite the need for social distancing. Customers need genuine empathy and understanding for their situation in the customer journey. For many people in 2020, shopping online was a new experience. They may have become accustomed to it now but they’re still looking for memorable experiences, ones that make them feel valued as a customer. The standard keeps increasing as brands are now competing online with increasingly better experiences and capabilities to make it easier for people to shop.
Contactless delivery is proving to be a major deciding factor when making online purchases. 64% of customers in the US prefer contactless home delivery, while 26% opt for curbside pickup. This again highlights the importance of post purchase customer experiences especially when website visitors are making the decision to buy based on which contactless delivery options are available.
Consistency is an even greater challenge for e-commerce because customers jump between channels and use third party websites and social media to validate their buying choices. Creating a consistent digital brand experience means understanding what’s most important to customers on a specific channel because preferences differ between channels. This was highlighted in an optimization Evolv ran for an e-commerce company to improve their customer experience and generate revenue lift across both desktop and mobile. While similar changes were implemented on both channels, the way customers responded was almost exactly opposite. The top performing ideas on mobile did not generate the same response on desktop. Similarly the optimization changes that generated the most lift on desktop were a result of a different combination of visual and design elements which were quite different from what worked on mobile.
Competition has increased significantly in e-commerce in the last year. Most retailers that traditionally focused on creating great in-store experiences have had to rapidly shift their efforts to digital channels as a result of the pandemic. They are now trying to optimize the experience and close the gap between an in store and digital experience. Prior to the pandemic, the effort of having to drive or walk to another store to get the product at a better price was far greater. Today, if a customer can’t find what they’re looking for on an e-commerce site, or if they feel it’s too pricey, it’s no effort at all for them to click away to a competitor’s site. Reports from the 2020 holiday shopping season reflect that while online shopping has increased overall, customer loyalty has declined. Retailers can no longer assume that customers coming to their e-commerce store will buy from them. Getting visitors to the site is only the start of the customer journey. To convert them to customers and keep that coming back requires a frictionless experience that ticks all the boxes.That way they won’t think of shopping elsewhere.
Change has accelerated. Keeping up to the many variables and rapid changes in e-commerce is like playing ‘wack-a-mole’. If you take too long to identify what you think is the ideal customer experience, by the time you start to target an audience with it, the relevance may already be gone. Today’s modern customer is constantly changing his or her motivations. This can be the result of a competitor introducing something that’s more appealing. It can also be the result of the customer becoming frustrated by parts of the journey and deciding to drop off.
AI to the rescue
The ability to optimize for the whole customer journey is more effective with a technology solution that has the ability to process vast volumes of customer data efficiently and serve up winning experiences quickly, while they’re still relevant. Then as customer behaviors change, more ideas can be added to the best customer experiences to ensure that the customer journey continues to be optimized, and continues to drive growth. AI has been hyped for many years but it is ideally suited for this kind of challenge and should be at the top of the list for any companies seeking to improve the effectiveness of their customer experience.