Each ecommerce website is different. They are unique to the brand story and personality. But, ultimately, it serves a purpose to convert shoppers into customers.
We asked leading Shopify Plus agency, Velstar, 7 key questions about creating ecommerce websites that are both functional and attractive to consumers.
1. Tell us about yourself and the services you provide ecommerce merchants.
I’m Dan Sheard, Managing Director of Shopify Plus Partner agency, Velstar. Since starting in 2016, we’ve grown significantly and now work with some of the biggest brands across the globe, including Avon, Linda Farrow, Public Desire, Finlay and Co, and BOYY.
At Velstar, we don’t just make websites, we create exceptional digital experiences that customers love. Our team of designers, developers, strategists and creators work together to accelerate our clients’ growth. From platform migration, user experience and user interface design, to digital marketing, we push brands to the next level.
2. It’s proven that 65% of an ecommerce brand’s sales come from their existing customers. What’s your top tip for a brand looking to re-engage their current customers?
For any brand, re-engaging existing customers should be as much a priority as new customer acquisition. This is because it costs more to acquire new customers then to keep existing ones. It’s easier to sell to existing customers because you’ve already established trust and they’re likely to spend more when they shop with you.
Before a brand starts thinking about their customer re-engagement strategy they need to focus on data capture. It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many brands don’t do this effectively. Without an email address or phone number, it’s difficult to get back in front of your past customers. So a brand needs to start by planning how they’ll collect customer information. There are a few ways brands can do this. For example, by setting up a customer loyalty program or creating a customer database.
But for some brands who don’t have time to focus on data capture, I’d suggest utilizing digital retargeting techniques, such as Google tags and Facebook pixel. This will allow a brand to track traffic activity and group visitors based on which pages they visit and how they engage with the site. Then, you can display ads to those audiences using Google display and PPC ads. The process allows a brand to engage with customers without contacting them directly.
3. When building an ecommerce website, what principles do merchants have to consider to create an enjoyable shopping experience for their customers?
With 87% of consumers willing to spend more for improved customer experience it’s imperative that ecommerce businesses meet their customers’ needs.
Firstly, merchants need to ensure their online store is seamless across digital devices, including mobile and desktop. With that in mind, site speed should be a top priority! Many customers will abandon your site if it takes too long to load, and when they do, chances are they’ll go straight to your competitors.
Navigation around the site needs to be kept simple. The key here is to view the customer journey as a series of steps before they reach checkout. The customer needs to be able to move around a store with minimum interruption, whilst feeling in control of their shopping journey.
Additionally, retailers need to audit the specific behaviours of their site functionality and content presentation. For example, does content present itself that was not requested by the consumer? Or, when a customer clicks on a CTA does this meet their expectation? A common example of this is when a customer clicks a “wishlist” icon. If the customer is not logged in or doesn’t have an account, the response of the functionality is to take them to the account page. But what if the customer did not ask to be taken there? To rectify this, the retailer needs to re-engineer the functionality. Great experiences are filled with obvious actions and relevant content, where the system does not respond until the customer tells it to.
Furthermore, when it comes to creating brilliant online experiences the big focus is always on UX. The goal is to reduce interaction costs (e.g clicking, scrolling, typing, consumer confusion) and weave this into the overall customer journey. However, it’s also about balance. It’s all well and good getting a customer from product to checkout, with no distractions, but it’s boring! That’s where value creation comes in. Value creation enhances experiences by contributing to a customer’s decision-making process. For merchants to get this right they need to have a deep understanding of their customers’ pain points and translate them into content at various touchpoints. A few ways merchants can do this is with how-to-guides and product videos.
Finally, it’s imperative that merchants recognize never to approach online experience design as a once-off. Customer behavior and expectations are constantly changing and brands need to be in-touch with their customer data and continue to improve the customer journey.
4. After a merchant has attracted a potential customer to their site, what can they do on-site to make sure the shopper converts?
Optimizing conversions is key to long-term growth. Since the Coronavirus pandemic, the sense of hardship shared has increased consumers’ appetite for social good and transparency. Businesses need to send the right message by consistently and clearly communicating with their customers. From an FAQ page to product descriptions, being transparent with your customers is key to driving conversions.
Also, use personalization and loyalty programs to get ahead of your competitors. Customers enjoy being made to feel special and want their customer experience to be entirely their own. From product recommendations to personalized incentives, their customer journey needs to be tailored.
Merchants need to have a customer support system in place. For example, an on-site messaging service where your customers’ questions are answered promptly. By offering responses in real-time, the messenger resolves any last-minute hesitation a customer has, giving them confidence in their purchasing decision.
Another way to boost conversions is to leverage “exit intent technology”. By tracking user behavior you can instruct a behavioral overlay to trigger and display a targeted message to the shopper before they click to exit. For example, the overlay could offer a discount code if a consumer has products in their basket enticing them to stay.
More than ever, online shoppers expect multiple payment methods, especially for larger purchases. So merchants need to offer several different payment methods, such as Paypal, Klarna or Afterpay. You can also implement time overlays, to remind customers of particular payment integrations throughout their shopping experience to encourage purchases.
Finally, ecommerce businesses should integrate social proofing. From user-generated content (UGC) to online reviews, customers are influenced to buy products that are popular or “approved” by others. You can even embed reviews or UGC right onto the product pages. The more customers consider your products as popular, the more they’ll buy.
5. Once a customer has converted for the first time, what channels can ecommerce brands use to keep in touch with these shoppers and how can they use them?
During times like these, it’s really important for ecommerce brands to keep in touch with their customers. One way to do this is through email marketing. From greeting a customer with a welcome email to sending a happy birthday discount, emails are an effective way to show a customer you care and keep them coming back.
SMS enables ecommerce brands to communicate with their customers instantly! Today, there are over 3 billion smartphones. Customers are discovering and engaging with brands on mobile more than ever before. What’s more, texts have incredibly high open rates. Merchants can leverage the power of SMS to reinforce current offers and promotions, as well as keeping customers up-to-date with their order statuses.
Brands need to remember that social media is an extension of your business and the various platforms are a great way to communicate with customers. Consistent high quality content that speaks to your customers will keep them coming back beyond the core product.
Social media offers brands the perfect opportunity to engage in conversations with and offer advice to your customers. Having a community management strategy in place will maintain your brand’s reputation and engage your audience.
6. What metrics should merchants be keeping an eye on to make sure they’re constantly growing?
First and foremost, sales revenue is a key metric. Simply defined as customer purchases of goods minus cost associated with things like levels of returns and undeliverable merchandise. It’s great when sales revenue is going up, but merchants need to constantly review data to identify trends and how well their business stacks up against competitors.
Another really important metric is customer loyalty and retention. As discussed above, return customers are more likely to spend more often. Merchants can measure loyalty and retention through customer surveys, purchase analysis and direct feedback at point of purchase.
Furthermore, customer acquisition costs are a great indicator of growth. This is calculated by dividing total acquisition expenses by total new customers over a given period. It tells you whether your marketing investments are paying off. The idea is that over time, your cost of acquisition decreases as growth increases.
Every ecommerce business owner needs to monitor their inventory size. It’s one of the biggest indicators of success because it represents revenue generation and earnings for the merchant. For any growing online store, it’s an important area to manage effectively. So often businesses either have too much inventory (high storage costs, waste costs etc), or not enough (lost sales). It’s essential that inventory requirements are forecasted and efficient delivery systems are implemented.
7. Which brands have caught your attention lately and what can our readers learn from them?
There are so many brands at the moment doing great things in ecommerce. But for me, I’d have to say sustainable vitamin and protein brand, Personalised Co! It’s one brand taking the direct-to-consumer industry by storm. Their customer-first approach means they’ve been able to scale globally, whilst maximizing customer retention and staying ahead of their competitors. They are proof that investing in customer experience is key to ecommerce success.
This article originally appeared in the LoyaltyLion blog and has been published here with permission.