The e-commerce industry has been trending upward for many years, but data shows the COVID-19 pandemic has supercharged this growth.

This article is for you if:

  • You are an e-commerce merchant or considering launching an online business
  • You are looking for advice on how to make your e-commerce endeavor successful
  • You want to know how you can enhance the customer experience (CX) aspect of your website
  • You are unclear on the difference between CX and user experience (UX)

With more shoppers relying on online ordering, Forbes reports the coronavirus has accelerated e-commerce to a place it would have taken 4-6 years to arrive at. According to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index (DEI) report, which was released in May, the e-commerce industry gained $52 billion in extra online spend since the start of the pandemic. During May alone, customers spent $82.5 billion online — a 77.8% year-over-year increase.

The DEI takes a global look at the increasing buying power of digital customers, and it reveals that e-commerce shopping levels are exceeding those of the annual November-December holiday season. While profits are ripe in this space, the uptick in online sales has also presented a set of challenges for merchants. Now, it’s more important than ever for brands to evaluate the experience their customers are having online.


CX vs. UX: What’s the difference?

two-question-marks 

People sometimes use the terms UX and CX interchangeably, but it really isn’t that simple. We recommend reading this informative article by Kim Flaherty, a senior user experience specialist with Nielsen Norman Group. It goes into great detail explaining the difference between UX and CX, as well as the many pieces that make up the overall puzzle.

To summarize Flaherty’s points:

  • UX can refer to a user’s one-time experience with a brand, which takes place during what is called the single-interaction level.
  • UX extends into the journey level as well, where people work to accomplish a goal.
  • UX becomes CX at the relationship level, which considers all interactions between a customer and a company through the duration of the relationship.

To illustrate this tri-level concept, Flaherty uses the insurance industry as an example.

Single interaction level: This happens when a person purchases an insurance policy.
Journey level: This is experienced when filing an insurance claim.
Relationship level: This level is reached when a person renews their insurance policy and goes on to do more business with the company.

Because the goal for online merchants is to develop an ongoing relationship with customers, we will focus on CX in this article.

 

Why CX is more important than ever

cx road going uphill illustration

Ready or not, here it comes! (We’re referring to a surge in e-commerce sales).

While attracting more business is something merchants strive for, the unexpected outbreak of the novel coronavirus came as a surprise. As a result, many merchants have been faced with growth they were not prepared for, highlighting the importance of building a business with scalability in mind. At the same time, more competition is emerging as unemployment spikes and people lean into the opportunity to start online businesses.

Today’s unprecedented e-commerce climate is making CX all-the-more important for online businesses, and data shows small tweaks can yield some big returns. However, the flipside of this means neglecting to make important changes could also lead to devastating losses. This is something PowerSync CEO, Igor Krasnykh, said he learned during his first job as a coder, where he became fascinated with the online experience.

“I attended a training, and the teacher was presenting an interesting case for UX,” he said. “He had a slide that included eight to 10 different variations of a download button. One of the buttons saw a 200-300% conversion rate simply because it had a shadow that made it pop a little bit more. That blew my mind, and I wanted to learn more about user experience and design. That helped me build a new springboard, so to speak, into where I spent the next several years.”

Later, Krasnykh had the opportunity to work in Magento’s UX department. Simultaneously, he was starting PowerSync — a company that develops system integration and subscription management tools for online merchants.

“I thought, ‘How can I make my products so easy to use that any merchant and any customer would be able to use them? How can I make them flexible? How can I make them more scalable and so on?’”

Today, merchants must ask themselves the same questions in relation to their e-commerce endeavors. How can they ensure they are providing CX that turns shoppers into not only customers, but repeat spenders? This is accomplished by eliminating the bottlenecks that cause them to stray.


7 key CX questions to ask yourself

A group of people discussing CX.

1. Do you use SEO best practices?

Can your customers find you? If they can’t, the other items on this list won’t matter. Building a comprehensive search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is a must in today’s booming e-commerce industry. Does your competition appear ahead of your brand in online search? If so, you have some work to do.

 

2. How does your site performance stack up?

Today’s web surfers have a need for speed, and you must ensure your website has the infrastructure in place to sustain ultra-fast load times. Research from Google reveals that when a site’s load time increases from one second to three seconds, there is a 32% probability the person will bounce. At five seconds, 90% of your visitors will be onto the next website.

Responsive design is another area you must master. As of 2020, Statista reports the average person is multitasking between an average of 6.58 screens. If your website does not function properly on mobile devices, tablets and desktops, you are doing your business a big disservice.

 

3. Is it time to rethink the aesthetic?

Do you present a visually pleasing and professional website for your customers to land on? Typography, font size, your color palette, spacing and simplicity are all important when it comes to the look and feel of your website. Apple is a brand that does this well. The screenshot below advertises a hierarchy of products.

The Apple website - a good CX example

A few words automatically come to mind — clean, organized, grid-like. The use of white space creates an airy look and feel that is easy for the eye to navigate. The fonts are consistent and the colors flow effortlessly. Compare that to the example below, included in a roundup of bad web design examples.

A bad CX website example 

Ouch — what an eyesore! You don’t have to be a design expert to see the obvious difference between the two websites. This example is tacky, cluttered and very difficult to visually digest. Perhaps your website falls somewhere in between these two examples. What can you do to make it lean more towards the Apple standard?

 

4. Is your online store easy to navigate?

A professional aesthetic is something that will automatically accommodate the ease of navigation on your website. However, you must also consider if the structure of your website makes sense. How are the sub-pages linked to one another? The more products you offer, the more important this is. Here are a few simple guidelines that can make a big difference for your CX.

Believe it or not, the experience your customers have as they navigate off your site is equally as important as the experience they have as they are browsing your store. When it’s time for your customers to check out, do you offer a one-click buying option? Eliminating the need to enter payment and shipping details reduces friction and abandoned carts. We explore this and other strategies for optimizing your online shopping cart in our previous blog post. 


5. Are you set up for Buy Online Pick up In Store?

From delivery to curbside pick-up, today’s buyer is growing accustomed to having a variety of options that deviate away from shopping the old-fashioned way. Adobe’s DEI report shows that “buy online pickup in store,” or BOPIS, had a 195% year-over-year growth rate during May. The data also shows that 23% of online customers prefer using BOPIS over delivery.

Because of COVID-10, many customers who never considered the BOPIS option in the past have now tried it (and love it). We can assume the option for BOPIS will be a deal-breaker for some customers when it comes to post-pandemic e-commerce.

 

6. Do you accommodate recurring orders?

On this blog, we have written in great detail about the benefits of joining the subscription economy. The growing popularity of recurring orders has paved the way for a “set it and forget it” mindset, so they do not have to remember to restock products they regularly use.

If you are a subscription merchant (or considering becoming one), it is important to have subscription management software that accommodates a seamless and flexible experience. PowerSync’s subscription management products — mPower for Magento and Recurrex for Salesforce — are a great option because they were designed with CX at the forefront.

 

7. Do you offer a speedy order fulfillment?

If you have spent much time reading online reviews, you will notice one of the most frequent aspects people talk about is how quickly their order arrived. If you offer physical products in your online store, timeliness is something that can work for or against you in an impactful way.

In addition to ensuring orders arrive as quick as possible, does your website offer the option for customers to check the status of their delivery? Adding order tracking is something that will give your business major CX points.


Wrapping up

A good CX strategy considers all elements of online buying, from start to finish. Can customers find you? How does your website look and function? What is your checkout process like? Do you offer the convenience of BOPIS and recurring orders? Do products consistently arrive on time, and are your customers able to track them? These are all questions you must consider if you want your e-commerce business experience to generate recurring revenue from happy customers.

If after reading this you see obvious gaps in your website’s CX, don’t panic. Schedule a call with a PowerSync e-commerce expert and we will help get you on the right path.