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Why Customer Experience (CX) Centricity is Essential to e-Commerce

4-minute read

In 2020, e-commerce experienced the equivalent of a 10-year growth spurt in just three months as a result of the pandemic. Businesses had to quickly scale and adapt to meet customer expectations. A year later, the e-commerce boom shows no sign of slowing down. If anything, customer expectations are at an all-time high. 

One of the strongest influencing trends on business growth is customer experience (CX) and the reality is that companies are struggling to keep up, especially amid so much competition. With the power firmly in the hands of the customer, companies won’t be able to remain competitive if they don’t focus on optimizing their CX.

Half a century ago, customers really didn’t have much choice. If they went into a shop and it didn’t have what they wanted or was more expensive than expected, they would simply have to accept it or make the effort to shop elsewhere. And it was an effort to go elsewhere so the power really rested with the businesses. 

But in 1984, that changed when the World Wide Web was invented. It was upended again when Apple launched the first true iPhone. These technology changes made the marketplace more accessible and convenient for customers and it gave them significantly more choices. Today when shopping online, if a brand doesn’t have what they want or the experience is too frustrating, an alternative is just a click away—which is little to no effort at all.

According to Martin Newman, renowned consumer champion and keynote speaker, it all comes down to customer empowerment. Honing in on what matters most to customers will drive business success. Traditionally, most marketers assumed that this was price, product availability or delivery. But customer experience has become much more complex. 

There are five lesser talked about elements of CX that are becoming increasingly important. (These five points are taken from our recent webinar, Think CX Part 14, which featured Martin Newman as a guest speaker. You can watch the full playback here.)

  1. Earning Trust

    Customer loyalty is declining, especially with the younger generations. Customers no longer put much weight in marketing messages and what companies say about themselves and they don’t give trust freely. They want to know what everyone else thinks and they turn to online reviews and social media to find out. As a result, brands are having to work much harder to earn customers’ trust. 

    Brands that are winning at earning trust are going out on a limb and providing greater transparency—even when it appears there’s no direct benefit for them. For example: Highlighting a free return policy if customers aren’t happy with their purchase. This earns customer trust because it reduces anxiety. It’s easier to buy online if you know that you can return it without any fuss. 

  2. Convenience Redefined

    Convenience goes way beyond having stock availability and free delivery. Modern customers are shopping across many digital channels. They may start the customer journey on their mobile phone, then search reviews on social media and end up actually making the purchase from their desktop. When switching channels they expect it to be seamless, and to be able to pick up where they left off. 

    Even as people start to return to brick-and-mortar stores, it’s likely their customer experience started online. Brands need to meet their customers where they are instead of making them find products. One brand with an extremely loyal following takes convenience to a new level in a very unique way: in the UK, Tesla has car showrooms in shopping malls instead of a separate outdoor lot.

  3. Purpose Before Profits

    Customers are becoming much more aware of social and environmental issues and are showing a strong preference to support brands that demonstrate genuine sustainability. Customers want to know where and how products are sourced, how they’re manufactured and, at the end of the product life cycle, if and how they’re recycled. Many companies have failed because they merely paid lip service to sustainability or social issues and didn’t put it into practice. Customers aren’t fooled and they’re holding brands accountable by only spending on items where the values and purpose resonates with them.

  4. Diversity Matters

    Like sustainability, diversity only makes an impact when it’s put into practice. The past year has highlighted many injustices and customers are expecting companies to step up and make an active contribution to finding a solution. They’re more willing to support brands that genuinely  pursue diversity and inclusion and are transparent in their efforts.

  5. Conscious Consumption

    Customers are also becoming increasingly aware of their buying impact, specifically in terms of the environment. Buying behavior is changing, as evidenced by the increasing popularity of thrift and secondhand stores. Some customers would rather make do with what they have, borrow or make their own solution, opting to buy new as a very last resort. Companies that have over the past few decades deliberately created obsolescence (e.g. technology and home appliances) may find customers are no longer thrilled with having to frequently upgrade and discard older models.

Final Takeaway

These five points highlight the many nuances that go into creating memorable customer experiences. Optimizing CX requires a clear strategy as well as the ability to keep up with changing customer preferences and market trends. Most importantly, the digital experience matters and is where companies have the greatest opportunity to make an impact—providing value, convenience, and reducing friction and anxiety. That’s the future of customer experience.

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