Ecommerce retail has gone from a handful of people using it in the '90s to online retail sales expected to grow at a CAGR of 14.6% between 2021 to 2028. Consumers today are spoilt for choice, and in this case, what will set you apart is how they experience your website.
In a brick-and-mortar store, you have a strategically curated display and a welcoming salesperson to help you shop. In ecommerce retail, however, this is not easy to achieve unless the data available is used efficiently. Like brick-and-mortar retail stores, online shoppers don't relish just an OK experience; they expect a great one. This makes good customer experience (CX) the anchor for a successful ecommerce business.
Ecommerce CX strategies allow you to make the shopping experience better in more ways than one. Offering features like personalized product recommendations, sale and discount reminders, an expansive product catalog and category pages tailored to individual users, and banner ads for ongoing promotions can help you create online experiences that make it easy for users to shop and browse your store. Before we jump into the strategies, let's first understand what makes your customer experience memorable.
What a good customer experience means in today's ecommerce ecosystem
Online shopping is no longer about transactional exchanges with brands – it's about consistent engagement and non-intrusive assistance throughout the buying process. You could be selling some of the most valuable products online, but if you fail to offer a superior user experience, chances are you are losing out on sales (almost 25%!) and leaving money on the table.
Personalization and seamless navigation
From the time the customer lands on your home page until checkout, you must ensure that they stay engaged, browse more and eventually buy more. The most effective way to do this is by using your consumer data and search merchandising tools to personalize their experience. By doing this, you can promote products the user is more likely to buy by putting their needs at the forefront. A good CX can more than double the likelihood of a consumer wanting to do business with the brand.
An excellent example is that of Amazon – their seamless app navigation and incredibly customer-centered approach has made them a household name for shopping worldwide.
Product discovery can be a massive challenge outside the brick-and-mortar setup, primarily when businesses rely on rule-based or manual tagging-based recommendations. A robust CX means you offer shoppers experiences and recommendations that go beyond their search query.
By showing them carefully placed banner ads for promotions and offers in the search results and throughout the site, the customer is encouraged to explore more options, spend more time on your store, and eventually make a purchase.
The role of search in customer experience
More than 90% of consumers today use and depend on a search engine throughout their customer lifecycle. While this has made optimizing search data challenging, it has also made search functionality central to a successful online business. If a customer has a challenging experience finding what they need, they are more likely to leave your website and move on to another one. This leaves them with an unsatisfactory experience with a high chance of never returning back. A good search experience ensures that visitors do not leave your site disappointed and are, in fact, encouraged to spend more time discovering or shopping.
Further, one of the most essential ways for website owners to gain insights into their visitors' expectations and experiences is to collect and analyze data on how they interact with their website's search functionality. The search engine on your ecommerce website is often a starting point of your customer's journey. It is, therefore, instrumental in facilitating the buying journey and optimizing their experience on your online store.
5 search strategies to build an unforgettable online retail experience
Building an online retail experience takes work, especially with the boom we are experiencing in ecommerce. However, there are ways to ensure that your users get the best of what you offer, and they are all driven by data. Let's explore these in more depth.
1. Omnichannel search
Most customers now start their searches online, but the journey doesn't always end there. With the rise of mobile devices and voice assistants, customers increasingly use multiple channels to find the products and information they need.
Voice search is becoming more popular, so you must ensure your site's search function can handle voice queries. On average, 63% of people use voice search daily across platforms like google, Siri and Amazon Alexa. Your search engine should be able to understand natural language queries, so it can respond correctly to voice searches. Some other things to keep in mind while strategizing your omnichannel search functionality include -
- Ensure that the same search bar is present across all channels for consistency.
- Make sure that the results pages are optimized for each channel. For example, if a customer is searching on a mobile phone, the results page should be optimized for mobile devices.
- Consider using personalization in your search results to give each customer relevant and targeted results.
- Monitor your search analytics so that you can fine-tune your omnichannel search strategy over time.
2. Leveraging data to optimize experiences
Consumer data is a goldmine for building an impressive CX, mainly because it helps you tailor each user's experience. Use data from your search engine to understand what customers are searching for on your site, and use this information to improve the relevancy of your results. Constantly tweaking and testing your algorithms will help you deliver more relevant customer results, enhancing their overall experience.
You can also leverage data for segmentation, which allows you to better understand your customers' needs and preferences. Segmentation is the gateway to targeted offers, content, and, ultimately, a winning customer experience.
Personalization can go a long way in making your customers feel special and valued. Over 86% of consumers admit that personalization significantly influences their purchasing decisions. This means that both category pages and search results must be personalized to provide the customer with the most relevant and targeted experience possible.
Category pages should be personalized so that they only display products relevant to the customer's preferences. For example, suppose a customer's search history shows an inclination towards blue jeans, and they search for "jeans" or "pants". In that case, your search engine should boost the results for blue jeans over others. Using product data (such as category, price range and average customer rating) can also help customize search results to boost the search relevancy and customer experience.
4. Understand user intent
User intent tells us the meaning behind and the relationship between the user's search queries. Whether they want to purchase a product, find information on a specific topic, or contact a company for customer service, understanding user intent is essential for providing the ultimate customer experience. There are four main types of user intent:
- Navigational: Navigational intent refers to when users are looking for a specific website or page. Phrases like "Near me" or "address" indicate they are looking for a physical location.
- Informational: Informational intent occurs when users seek information on a specific topic. This could be anything from researching a purchase to reading an article on current events.
- Transactional: Transactional intent happens when users want to complete a task with an end goal, such as buying a product or signing up for a service.
- Commercial: Commercial intent generally refers to when users compare shopping or look for deals and discounts. This type of user is typically further down the funnel than others and is closer to making a purchase.
Understanding intent is a significant step in building a customer experience that eases the cognitive load associated with shopping. Studying their search patterns and understanding their language when searching for products or services on your site can offer rich insights into intent. Once you decide that, you can tailor the results shown to better match what the user is looking for.
5. Boost products and categories (Dynamic boosts)
Offering boosted results for certain products and categories can be a great way to encourage customers to purchase items that may interest them. By using machine learning to dynamically promote specific results based on customer behaviour, you can ensure that your site search always provides the most relevant and valuable results for your customers.
This approach can be especially effective for promoting clearance items or seasonal products and boosting product categories that are popular with your target audience.
Conclusion - Leveling up your site search to offer a seamless customer experience
Your search results are the front door to your brand. Making search functionality your priority is essential to give your consumers a memorable and positive CX. When you design your website with a customer-centered approach, your customers will likely respond with longer browsing times and higher Average Order Values (AOV).
Search and discovery solutions like Zevi are at the forefront of building superior search experiences for businesses. Using state-of-the-art search technologies such as neural search, natural language processing, and machine learning-led algorithms, Zevi offers advanced search capabilities, including autocorrect, synonym and typo-tolerant search, personalized product recommendations, search merchandising, and a lot more.
To get started, book a free demo with Zevi today.