How we shop is going to change. Digital interactivity at brick-and-mortar stores, mobile commerce, and rich Internet applications are going to have a significant effect on shopper experience in the next few years.
But most of the changes to the shopper experience will not come overnight. Shoppers won’t wake up one morning to find that the local Walmart has added intelligent shopping carts that track purchases and offer extended warranties or find augmented reality-capable kiosks (a technology that Intel CEO Paul Otelli demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month) located throughout the store.
Rather, the change to the shopper experience, both in physical stores and online, will be evolutionary in nature as retailers add feature upon feature and integrate rich Internet technologies like HTML 5’s SVG or Canvas APIs, Flash, or Silverlight. To keep pace with these changes, online merchants should continue to improve their stores, one feature or one improvement at a time.
How to Improve the Online Customer Experience
Improving customer experience in a pragmatic way was the topic of a recent Practical eCommerce webinar, sponsored by Infopia. The webinar featured a panel of Internet marketing professionals describing four areas where merchants could improve the shopper experience now while laying the foundation for successive improvements over the next several years.
During the webinar, Joshua Greenough, vice president of operations at PowerReviews, discussed how using an advanced product or service review feature can dramatically improve the customer experience. For example, according to Greenough, 68 percent of online shoppers read four reviews or more before making a purchase. If your online store does not have product reviews, those shoppers have to leave your shop, go to Bing or Google, and find reviews elsewhere. It is a far better user experience to have reviews right on your site. Greenough also discussed strategies for getting more product reviews on your site.
Infopia’s Marissa Nichols, who is a brand marketing professional, briefly described how implementing improved search features can improve a shopper’s experience. For example, Wine.com, a premier wine purveyor, has set up its site search to recognize more than 30 common misspellings for the word “Chardonnay,” so that customers are taken to the proper products regardless of how well or poorly they spell. Without this feature, Wine.com might lose a lot of business.
Scott Eggenberger, a senior account manager at Infopia, used his section of the webinar to describe some of the dos and don’ts of product photography. He put special emphasis on images that may be used both in a merchant’s online store and in marketplace channels like eBay. Eggenberger also offered several examples of good and bad marketplace images.
Todd Treanor, Infopia’s senior program manager, described how engaging with customers through sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can significantly improve customer experience and actually boost a merchant’s site traffic and sales. Treanor also introduced the webinar audience to two powerful social media tools that allow a merchant to be very active on Twitter and Facebook, without having to put in a lot of time or money.
The “How To Improve the Online Customer Experience” webinar, which was originally broadcast on January 26, 2010, offered a pragmatic approach to improve shopper experience now and helped lay a foundation for future innovation.