Best practices for a seamless shopping and retail customer experience

How to create a shopping experience that your customers love and keep coming back to

Today’s shoppers have access to multiple devices, 24-hour internet connections, and advanced technologies available. And when it comes to shopping, their expectations are high, and increasing all the time. So, whether you’re a multi-channel retailer selling via many different online channels (i.e. web store, marketplace, social media), or an omnichannel retailer (i.e. online and physical stores)1, you need to deliver a truly seamless shopping experience to your audiences.

Typically, traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ stores have the advantage of being able to give customers a personal service with a level of face-to-face interaction that discourages them from going elsewhere. With eCommerce retailers, however, that level of attentiveness is harder to replicate — which brings several challenges in terms of retaining customers and ensuring a seamless shopping experience. Let’s look at some of the ways you can address this.

1 Connect with your customers across multiple channels

Shoppers often spend 3X more when they’re engaged via multiple shopping channels1— and a recent study discovered that 44% of customers are more likely to buy from an online store that offers them a personalised experience.2 You should also ensure your site is mobile-friendly, so it loads quickly and your product descriptions are easy to read on a small screen. If possible, you could also consider creating an app which your shoppers could download to their device.

Remember too, if you’re selling via an eCommerce marketplace or on social media, make sure you give potential customers enough detailed product information so they can make a decision. Your contact details should also be clearly displayed in case they need to get in touch before buying.

2 Make your shopping platform intuitive to navigate

When it comes to retail shoppers, convenience is key,1 so it’s important your products are clearly categorised and signposted and have clear, detailed descriptions. For example, nutritional information for edibles; chemical composition for cosmetics; weight, dimensions and materials for furniture; etc. Your guiding rule should be: make it as easy as possible for customers to find what they need, and complete their purchase.

3 Create the smoothest possible checkout experience

As online shoppers, we’ve all endured that eye-rolling feeling of trying to navigate through a clunky and confusing checkout experience. You may even have abandoned your cart and gone to another retailer.

With that in mind, make sure your own store’s checkout process is fast, simple and a pleasure to use.

Here are some top tips to follow:

1. Keep the process short, and include a progress bar if possible

When checkout journeys become too long, shoppers simply abandon their carts. Minimise the number of steps in the process and consider adding a progress bar so users can see at a glance how long it’s likely to take.

2. Clearly display your shipping and delivery options

For example, you could feature your shipping options as part of your top navigation bar, or down the side of the page. You’ll also need to clearly display them right after people click to checkout.

Here are some of the more common delivery options you’ll need to cover.

  • In-store pick-up, together with timings. E.g. Same day, 24 hours, etc.
  • Standard home delivery, including the fee, any minimum order value for free delivery, plus estimated timescales. E.g. same day, next day, etc.
  • Express delivery, if applicable. Be sure to mention any extra cost for this, plus estimated day/time of delivery.
  • Delivery drop off points with details and options. Again, if applicable.

3. Could you offer guest checkout?

A guest checkout option is great for shoppers who are using your store for the first time and not ready to register. It’s also handy for folks who have forgotten their password and don’t have time to go through the password resetting process.

4. Auto-fill the customer’s details

Anything you can do to prevent customers having to manually fill in forms and address details is likely to help reduce your cart abandonment rate. For example, their address could autocomplete once they’ve typed in their postcode. This would also help reduce human error, and the chances of a product being ‘lost in transit’. Another quick win is allowing customers to use their shipping address as their billing address, just by clicking a checkbox.

5. Provide a flawless pre-checkout experience

Before shoppers make their payment, ensure your checkout window answers all and any potential questions they might have. For example, when their item will arrive, whether free delivery is available, and how much different delivery options cost. You should also clearly describe your returns policy and all the different payment methods you accept.

4 Give shoppers lots of safer ways to pay

The more payment options you offer, the less chance shoppers will leave the checkout process and choose another retailer.

Here are some top tips to follow:

1. Offer multiple (and secure) payment options

For example, online bank transfer, credit card, debit card, reward card, gift card, mobile wallet, e-wallet, and cash on delivery. Whatever options you include, make sure they’re all completely secure.

2. Optimise for different devices

Be mindful of how easy your checkout process is on different sized screens (e.g. laptop vs. mobile). Optimising your payment screen could potentially help increase your revenue by 9-15%.1

3. Tailor your payment methods to each region

Customers around the world will have their own preferred methods of payment, and even entirely different debit/credit card operators — so it’s worth doing your homework to make sure you cater for this.

4. Can you offer flexible payment options?

Some customers may be more inclined to buy from you if you offer an EMI (Equated Monthly Instalment) option where they pay for the item over a set period of time. Perhaps you could offer ‘Buy Now Pay Later’, if applicable.

5. Offer a fast and reliable shipping service

During 2020, Pitney Bowes estimates2 the volume of all global parcels will surpass 100 billion. As such, you should expect shipping to play an even bigger role in your overall customer service experience in the coming years.

Here are some top tips to follow:

  • Give customers an estimated shipping time, and achieve it

Remember, 91% of consumers will abandon their shopping cart if shipping is not free or fast enough.3 Explore more about retail supply chain management via this handy guide [article to be interlinked].

  • Make sure customers are informed

Despite your best intentions, delays will occasionally happen. If they do, keep customers up-to-date via email, text message, etc.

  • Ship globally if you can

With an estimated 1.8 billion digital shoppers worldwide,4 you could be missing out on a huge potential market if you’re not prepared to ship your products abroad.

  • Create memorable packaging

Your packaging needs to hold the product safely and securely, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Think of ways to make your parcels fun and interesting, to create an enjoyable experience that your customers will love and remember you for.

5 Make exchanges and returns effortless

Two-thirds of customers will likely check your returns policy before placing an order,1 and 85% of customers are more inclined to buy from stores offering an easy returns policy.2

Here are some tips for making your exchange and returns policy even more customer-friendly.

1. Keep it simple

Establish a fair and logical process and communicate it clearly. Always give customers the option to initiate a return — for example, by completing an online form, calling your customer service team, or sending you an email.

2. Master your reverse logistics

Consider working with third parties, and aim to find the economical, sustainable and smoothest way for people to return products to you if needed.

3. Turn a return into a resale

While you’re in touch with the customer, why not ask them if they’d like to buy something else from you instead. You could even make highly-tailored recommendations based on their previous purchasing habits.

6 Customer service

Today’s consumers expect their queries, issues and disputes to be handled quickly and effortlessly, regardless of the channel. That’s why retailers with strong omnichannel strategies typically retain 89% of their customers, compared with just 33% for retailers employing a less effective approach.[^11]

You should make it easy for customers to contact you through whichever route they prefer (e.g. telephone, email, social media, etc) — but bear in mind that 79% of shoppers prefer a self-service experience to human-assisted channels.[^12] As such, consider using a mixture of both human and tech-based options, including IVR (Interactive Voice Response), Chatbots, e-mails, messages etc.

[12]: customer THINK