Following the explosion of online only retailers, drop shippers and independent sellers using platforms such as Amazon and Big Cartel, customer loyalty is a premium asset that is arguably at its highest ever stock.
Indeed, with so much competition online, bad customer experiences due to poorly designed sites, slow loading pages and laborious payment processes are costly errors that can make or break businesses.
In the breakout online furniture sector, we spoke to Clare Jackson, Director of the Wooden Furniture store, for her insights on CX in 2017, how to ensure customer loyalty in age of fierce competition and how to stay ahead of rivals in the industry.
Dominic: How do you prioritise customer loyalty to ensure the greatest possible experience for the end user?
Clare: For us, it is all about customer service. Giving new customers a great experience is critical and that leads onto repeat purchases, particularly as many online only retailers in our sectors seem to be quite poor in that regard.
We’re not a household name (yet!) so I think some customers require a little more reassurance to make that initial purchase, but once they do and they see how good the customer service, delivery and products are, they come back.
We’ve had plenty of customers place a second order on the day they received their initial order. So, being helpful, available and informative in our dealings with customers is key for us.
Dominic: Touching on customer service for a minute, have you found that adding an IM chat function has boosted sales and customer satisfaction?
Clare: Absolutely – this addition to the site has really helped – customer service is key for us and this has really delivered results. We can distribute inbound queries across the team, and in peak periods it’s very easy for us to add new customer service people to ensure customer enquiries are dealt with quickly.
It has definitely lead to an improvement in conversion due to the immediacy of response – customers who use the chat function are usually ready to purchase, they just need that little bit of reassurance to proceed, and this provides that in a way that phone/email didn’t seem to.
Dominic: Mobile shopping is huge at the minute and is set to grow even more in the future. What devices do your customers mostly browse on? With regards to purchasing habits, do they purchase on the same device or switch to another?
Clare: I think our audience browsing behaviour is fairly consistent with the wider demographic in our sector – it roughly breaks down to 45% mobile, 30% desktop and 25% tablet overall.
This does vary based on the acquisition channel; in terms of paid search the proportion starting that journey on mobile is over 50%, but then they often move across devices before making a purchase.
This multi-device browsing journey means that features such as persistent baskets are important so users can start on one device but pick up their journey on another without too much disruption.
In essence, we try to make life as easy as possible for the customer. The last thing we want to do is to frustrate them with a difficult and convoluted payment process that would make them think twice about returning.
Dominic: Looking at the site right now, there is a prominent search bar at the top. Do you find that customers prefer to search for products in the search bar or navigate through the category pages individually?
Clare: Typically, we see first time desktop and tablet users tending to manually navigate the store using the category and breadcrumbs, and as they become more familiar with the product, some returning visitors begin to search more specifically by product range or name.
Mobile and small screen users tend to start and stick with the search function to help them navigate, and as mobile is over 50% of new visits, configuring search and monitoring search terms is really important.
Dominic: Site load speed has been shown to affect purchasing decisions massively, how do you ensure your site loads quick for customers?
Clare: We try to reduce the load times of pages where we can, and utilise two different CDN (Content Delivery Network) technologies on the site.
This caches much of the static content of the pages and delivers it to the user from the cloud. It means that our servers are free to render the dynamic pages faster (e.g: basket page, my account sections, checkout) faster.
We also use an image caching solution that delivers high quality, large images but that automatically re-sizes and then caches those scaled images to deliver to mobile devices. This massively speeds up image delivery across all devices.
Dominic: If you could give just two pieces of CX advice to others in the e-commerce world, what would it be?
- Measure – don’t guess. The only people who really should be suggesting what customers might benefit from are the customers themselves, so try and find out. The tools are available to gather data, and from there its quite simple to base some small experiments on.
- Keep it simple – don’t build anything too big or complicated until you can prove that things are improving. Implement a series of simple experiments, measure the results (or lack of!) and use data to make informed decisions to progress or try something different.
Dominic: Do you have any planned updates for the site this year, if so what are they?
Clare: The two priorities are making improvements to our existing user journey (based on data gathered from our user tracking software) and to implement an A/B/Multivariate testing tool so we can properly test and measure the changes we do implement.
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