Online Shopping Experiences Sucks! and its costing brands money…

So much of what we do as humans is driven by emotions, this is epitomized in the way we shop for everything from groceries to gifts. I’m not talking about how our emotions make us want to shop or not. I am talking about how the the shopping itself can create emotions and those emotions drive us in the process. When we walk into a store, everything from the smell to the layout has an impact on how we feel and therefore how we shop. Most of us appreciate the right kind of attention. The wrong kind of attention can drive us away.

Let’s take fashion as an example. You walk into your favorite store and are greeted by a friendly sales associate letting you know that they are there if you need them. The air smells fresh and clean. Their is calming music playing throughout. The temperature is just right. It’s a peaceful oasis. As you walk through the store, you see bright color tops folded nicely on a white table. You see bottoms displayed on a perfectly shaped mannequin with a completed outfit and accessories in a style you love but would never have thought to arrange yourself. You instantly find your size in each item and head to the fitting room. Everything fits well except for the bottoms so that friendly store associate offers to get you a different size and voila, perfection. You add a pair of the coolest shoes and head to the checkout. That associate informs you of how many loyalty points you earned and offers you a free sample of lip balm. You are delighted and leave the store feeling happy about your experience, purchase, and love for the brand.

Now contrast that with an online shopping experience. You arrive at a website and you are greeted with three pop ups asking for your email and then your mobile number, and then a discount offer before you even know if the website has anything you want. Instantly you are frustrated, the doorbell rings, the dog barks, and chaos ensues. 10 minutes later, you are back on your sofa with your iPad in hand, a bit distracted and out of breath but the journey goes on. You need a new pair of black pants for an upcoming event so you click “pants” at the top of the page. When you arrive on the next page you are greeted with one more pop up that you quickly dismiss and 36 pairs of pants all laid out differently in a 2×2 image. You click on a pair that looks interesting. You peruse through several images and decide that you want to add them to your cart but you don’t see your exact size so you add one a size smaller and one a size bigger to the cart. Now you see some recommendations, 3 other pairs of pants, one top, and a scarf. You view two of the pants but can’t decide which you like better so you add them to your cart in two sizes of each. The top recommended would look good for any of them so you get excited and click. When you go to add your size, you see that they only have an XS left which leaves you extremely disappointed. You journey on over to the “top” category and go through a similar process before proceeding to checkout. The total is way more than you wanted to spend but you know that you’re going to likely return 5 pair of pants and one of the tops so you checkout and move on with your day.

This poor online experience is typical and its cost merchants opportunity and a ton of money. You don’t have the shoppers attention online as easily as you do in a store to earn it. The in-store purchase resulted in a higher AOV and the result was a happier customer. The online experience may have cost the brand more money than they made after they factor in the the round trip shipping costs, not to mention a frustrated customer. Then there is the missed opportunity of the up-sell. What could the online retailer have done better?

There is no denying that online shopping is only going to grow and the brands that will win are the ones that delight their customers through product and experience. If done right, online shopping can cost the merchant less in overhead and help them drive more sales with the proper use of technology. Here are some tips that would have made the above experience better for the brand and the customer:

  • Skip the pop-ups. Would you give your phone number or email to stranger? Get to know them first and offer them something of value to them in exchange later.
  • On entry, offer them assistance via an intelligent chatbot or even better, a real person via video. make this available throughout their journey so they can engage on their own terms.
  • Use your homepage to inspire customers. Every product is more appealing when on a model or organized in a way that highlights its features and benefits.
  • Find creative ways to display your category pages that differs from the typical flat image layout.
  • Begin to customize the user experience as you start to learn what the shopper likes in terms of style and most importantly, learn the sizes they shop for and don’t suggest items that aren’t available.
  • Provide ways to help the shopper find their right size.
  • Merchandise products the way you believe they should be worn. Don’t rely on other customers and make sure you recommend products that are in stock.
  • Do everything in your power to ensure the customer finds what they need and they don’t need to buy multiple sizes and styles, only to return most of the order.
  • Offer a loyalty program that provides value for every exchange from purchases to data sharing to referrals to reviews.

There is technology to accomplish all of this and more so don’t allow the shopping experience on your website to suck!

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