All too often, companies place the needs of marketing over the customer sales experience. It’s almost as if they don’t realize that the two are inextricably intertwined. 

The resulting digital experience — be it browser or mobile — acts to drive customers away rather than instilling confidence in their purchase.

Breaking a Really Bad Habit 

Disrupting the customer decision journey with unrelated product “suggestions” and offers is one practice damaging the customer experience — and it needs to stop. 

When a customer begins the process of selecting a product for purchase, especially when that product is a relatively costly item such as a computer, they proceed in starts and stops. A customer will search for the item in question, gather a list of potential products that suit their needs, and then ... stop. 

During that break they search for alternatives, ask for opinions, read reviews, and sometimes simply mull over their choices. The buying process resumes when they return to the site they want to buy from and either refine their choices or arrive at a single object to purchase. 

When the final act of ordering the product arrives, it is not a perfunctory step. At this point — above all others — the customer must feel the most comfortable with their choice. This moment of truth is when the real money will be spent.

Interjecting anything into this journey, including “helpful” information and ads for other products, disrupts the flow. A marketer may think these interjections nudge the customer toward a decision when, in fact, they are rushing or pushing them into one. 

Like the high-pressure car salesman of the past, pushing the customer during the journey creates more dread and may cause them to regret the decision they ultimately make. 

Think Before You Message

Carefully consider any communication with the customer, on any channel — especially when pushing offers for other products. Presenting customers with an option to purchase something else places them in a conundrum of how to spend their money. Understand that sometimes customer silence is a positive sign — a sign of serious consideration of the purchase. 

A purchase made with consideration and little interference is less likely to result in regret for the purchase and/or irritation with the brand.

Amazon.com is an example of a company that gets this right and wrong at the same time. During the customer selection process, Amazon doesn’t bombard you with alternatives or send emails saying “You’ve been looking at this product, are you ready to buy?” 

Recommendations for other products always relate to the product actively being viewed. This minimizes distractions and maintains focus on the product at hand. Amazon also provides useful information for decision making such as reviews from other people — but only on the search pages. 

All of the recommendations, reviews and offers stop once you enter the ordering stage. The one-click payment system even eliminates the distraction of trying to figure out what form of payment you want to use. The final stages of the customer decision journey are completely uncluttered.

Unfortunately, the usual barrage of product suggestions via email continues. The email suggestions for Gold Rewards, products searched for years ago, etc. disrupt the current customer decision journey with other ways to spend money. Especially intrusive are the recommendations unrelated to the current customer decision journey such as old searches. 

When an active search has taken place, and especially if something was placed on a list such as a Wish List, it’s best to be quiet on all channels.

In all fairness, determining if a search was casual, abandoned or ongoing is hard. No one would suggest you stop all communications for inactive and likely abandoned customer journeys. When Amazon figures that out (and I’m guessing it will), its ability to fine tune communications and recommendations will likely eliminate these disruptions to a minimum.

Sometimes Silence is Golden

So, along with “don’t be creepy” we need to add “don’t disrupt the customer decision journey” to the e-commerce customer experience rule book. That way, e-commerce vendors will stop pushing customers so hard that they leave before the sale and we can all enjoy a little peace and quiet.