4 Tips for Turning Online Shopping Into a Real Experience

CMO.com recently published this article by Kavita Basdeo, Director, Solution Architecture at Rosetta. The original piece can be found here.

Most e-commerce customers are accustomed to the traditional online shopping experience, during which they browse for products, view them, add them to their carts, and check out. Amazon is the perfect example of this “direct-path-to-purchase” flow.

But some retailers have started to see that this traditional approach may not be the best for their customers, whose expectations have changed. Customers’ online interactions are now more visual, personalized, and engaging, so they expect the same from their e-commerce experience.

In this new model, rather than the traditional path to purchase, a customer might flip through lookbooks, watch a video, read an article, etc. The items “come alive,” showing customers more information and even allowing them to purchase.

This approach, known as experience-driven commerce, fosters an emotional connection between customer and brand. As the customer takes a journey to learn more about the brand, conversion occurs along the way. Instilling passion for the brand within the customer is the primary goal – and conversion is a result of that passion.

If you think that experience-driven commerce might be right for your brand, proper implementation is key. Truly understanding your customers and paying careful attention to design and execution can mean the difference between a great site that encourages customers to embrace the whole brand – not just the single item they came for – and a chaotic experience that overwhelms them.

Here’s how to get it right.

Know How Your Customers Shop

In order to design the experiences that will connect with and engage your customers, you need insight into their interests and behavior. This entails examining Web site data, social media, in-store feedback, focus group results, and more. You should already know who your customers are (i.e., personas), but here is what you need to understand for each type:

  • Are they browsing before buying or do they know exactly what they intend to purchase?
  • If they browse, how do they browse? By category, season, customer favorites, celebrity endorsement, what’s on sale, or some other set of criteria?
  • When they review a product, what information are they looking for other than price, pictures, description and sizing?
    • Rich, visual views of the product?
    • Complementary information, such as measurement guides, technical specifications, ingredients, etc.?
    • Social chatter about the product?
    • Industry accolades or celebrity endorsements?

This list can go on and on, but the point is, having data and insight into how your customers shop is vital. Our customers tell us what they want by how they interact with us on our sites, in-store, on social media, and elsewhere. Why not listen to them?

Engage Customers With Design And Content

Once you know how your customers shop and what they want, you can design the experiences that best meet their needs. This is the time to leverage experts in user experience, content strategy, and creative design. These experts will collaborate to create experiences that fit and resonate with your customer personas. They’ll also design relevant, visually appealing, intuitive, and engaging experiences, leveraging the right mix of rich media and content to capture and keep your customers’ attention without overwhelming them.

I can’t stress enough the importance of this step and its actors. If you don’t have design experts in-house, consider engaging an external agency with this specialty. Experience-driven commerce centers on the experience. If those experiences aren’t properly designed, the effort will fail.

Continue The Experience Across Devices

During the design process, be sure to consider non-desktop views given that customers today are also (maybe mostly) shopping on their tablets and mobile phones.

We’ve all felt the frustration of visiting a site on our desktop, then pulling up that site on our mobile devices only to have a completely different experience—or no experience at all. You don’t want your customers to experience that. Prevent frustration and negative brand experiences by taking the time and effort to design and build an experience that works across all devices. This isn’t the next level of customer service – it’s a standard customer expectation in today’s mobile world.

Provide Complete Product Information

As the experiences (and site) are designed, you will have to decide what customers will see when they encounter a product. Remember, you should know from step one what they want to see. If they want simple, keep it simple. If they want complementary product info (guides, specs, etc.), helpful functionality (such as inventory checks or in-store availability), or social information, then ensure that content is available.

Your technical implementation team may have to leverage multiple systems to provide all needed information. Involve them early in the process so that they can design an integrated solution to provide the required content and commerce data.

Experience-driven commerce provides a rich experience that immerses the customer in the look, feel, and personality of the brand. It is a particularly good choice for brands that have a clear point of view or an aspirational quality: Show customers a complete picture that resonates with them, and you not only encourage them to purchase additional items, you reinforce their connections with your brand.

Moving to an experience-driven commerce model can be a challenge, but for the right brands, it is well worth the effort.

For more on this topic from Adobe and Rosetta – especially for those with WebSphere Commerce installations – download this white paper: “5 Things You Should Know About Connecting Commerce And Content” (registration required).

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