The world of e-commerce can be a tricky environment in which to do business.
On one side are the customers who want to work with a website that is easy to navigate, has an engaging user interface and supports mobile devices. On the other are the vendors who want to be able to make updates to the website quickly and easily, track customer preferences and create an environment that encourages repeat purchases.
Certainly, vendor’s goals are reasonable, yet in many cases the customer’s expectation is not met, and the vendor is left trying to figure out how to ensure customer loyalty.
Another area that is critically important to the success of any e-commerce site -- from both the customer and vendor viewpoint -- is consistency. Information that is available on the website must match content that is listed in catalogs, direct mail and social media outlets. While promoting this type of consistency may seem obvious, it is much more challenging than you might think.
Striving For a Customer-Centric Approach
To ensure customer loyalty it is important to take a customer-centric approach when developing an e-commerce site. But in reality what does the term “customer-centric” really mean? Is it just another marketing term? Without getting out the dictionary, I’ll simply define it as taking an approach where all of your e-commerce interactions are designed to enhance your customer’s experience.
For example, let’s look at single sign-on. If I am shopping on a website multiple times, it would make my life much easier if I could simply provide my personal information once and not have to constantly re-enter the same information.
Sounds simple, right? Well, you would be surprised by how many sites make this a challenge for the customer. Yes, this may be considered a minor issue, but when you combine it with other features that are designed to be customer-centric, what you have in the end is a much happier customer.
Also keep in mind that, even if you think features like single sign-on aren’t such a big deal, your competitors may think it is. Companies that are known for providing a great Web experience, like Zappos and Amazon, are the ones that think about what their competitors are providing.
In fact, as Forrester Research noted in "The State Of Customer Experience," 75 percent of respondents said their executives aim to differentiate from their competitors on the basis of customer experience. And what if the Web experience is a bad one? According to research from RightNow, 89 percent of consumers turned to a competitor following a poor customer experience.
Losing customers is bad, but losing customers to your competitors is even worse. Providing an excellent customer experience is one way to differentiate your company from your competitors.
In addition, it is important to employ technology that is easy to use. Why? Using technology that allows the content providers (usually that’s the marketing team) to make updates means that content is posted quickly and the IT team can focus on work that is more technical in nature.
The importance of making sure that all aspects of your website are customer-centric cannot be understated. Companies that focus their attention on these types of minor details usually end up:
- Strengthening customer loyalty
- Increasing revenues
- Raising productivity for both the marketing and IT departments
So why all of this discussion about customer experience? Why is it so important to focus attention on making sure that your company’s website is easy to use and engaging for customers? Simple. An overwhelming majority of your company’s revenue will come from existing customers. In fact, research firm Gartner stated that 80 percent of your company’s future revenues will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers.
In addition, developing strategies to help improve your customer’s Web experience can give you a leg up on your competitors. Surprisingly, according to Econsultancy, only 26 percent of companies have a well-developed strategy in place for improving customer experience.
Generating more revenue and improving customer loyalty can be achieved by integrating your Content Management System (CMS) and e-commerce platform. The question is… where to begin? Here are five questions that should be answered about your e-commerce website before you start looking at how to integrate CMS and e-commerce platforms:
- How easy is it to make updates? Can non-IT personnel make updates or does it have to be a member of the IT staff?
- Do templates exist so that members of the marketing team can make changes?
- With the rise in global e-commerce, how easy is it to make changes to different regions or in different languages?
- Is it easy to make global updates (website, mobile, microsites, campaign-specific landing pages) only once?
- Does it have the flexibility to integrate with a variety of existing applications?
Image courtesy of Gunnar Pippel (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: Read more from this month's focus on creating better web experiences with marketing automation.