It can be easy for businesses to obsess over the total cost of acquisition (TCA) for advertising, such as targeted (paid) Facebook or Instagram campaigns. Many become enthralled with the alternative of “free” promotion from influencers pushing their products on social media channels. In reality, influencers are rarely “free”. In fact, ‘Social Influencer’ has become a lucrative career or side hustle for many – just ask our sister company, Riddle and Bloom, who rely a lot on influencers for their campaigns.

Even though the cost per acquisition (CPA) can be high for advertising, it can be quite predictable if done sensibly – use testing and a rollout strategy that allows you to develop a formula across your channels. The challenge is when merchants focus on lowering the cost of acquisition without also focusing on the user experience once the customer is acquired. Why spend anything at all to get customers to your store if they are unlikely to convert when they arrive?

It’s Vital to Optimize the End-to-End Customer Experience

Acquiring the customer and optimizing the e-commerce customer journey through the shopping process go hand-in-hand. In the post-pandemic era – and especially with a recession looming ahead – merchants need to focus on the “in-store” part of the journey and make sure the experience is optimized for conversion.

In this first of a series of posts, culminating in the impending launch of our new Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Services Program, we’ll talk about 2 of the easiest areas where merchants can find growth:

  • Creating High Performance
  • Reducing Customer Friction.

Easy right? Well, not really. It takes dedication and follow through to address the key criteria of each. Let’s take a close look.

High Performance Measures

The typical customer journey will move across media and channels. Whether a customer is buying entirely online or show-rooming in-store with an e-commerce site of a merchants’ in their hands, customers will likely spend considerable time in digital commerce apps or websites. So here are the simplest aspects of the digital journey to focus on:

Site Speed

The impact that things like page load speed can have on your customer’s experience and ultimate conversion rate is undeniable. Use Google’s Page Speed Test to check key site pages. Pay close attention to the “Core Web Vitals” as Google’s ranking algorithms use these factors to determine how highly ranked your pages are against competitors. They are great indicators of the state of your customer experience.

Admin System Speed

Yes, check the “back-end” as well. Especially if your e-commerce site is not running on a SaaS platform. It may seem less obvious, but your e-commerce team will thank you for making it easy for them ensure products, data and content are up to date and optimized. You don’t want to find that your front end customer experience is suffering simply because your systems make it challenging to update.

Content Performance and Efficiency

Images and video files can bog down site speed. If the page test tool is sending red flags, it will provide guidance on where to focus your content optimization efforts to help speed. Ideally your team will be aware of the best practices for digital asset management and upload assets already optimized, but if not, there might be a pretty time-intensive task required to replace assets with correctly web optimized versions.

Note. This sub-topic of performance is worthy of a separate blog post. It is so intertwined with content strategy, information architecture and site architecture; it’s a major reason why headless architectures are taking off; they really help with overall performance.

Data Performance

Especially product data; bulky catalog data can slow down sites. If you have 1,000 SKUs or more, consider integrating a SaaS-based PIM like Pimberly.

Customer Friction Measures

Once you have the customer “in-store”, it’s imperative to make the experience easy and efficient. Many of the same principles that work in retail / brick and mortar also apply in the digital shopping experience.

Customers need to be able to:

  • Find products quickly and easily. Optimizing your site search, navigation and product listing pages (sorting and filtering options) so that all the possible customer journeys to purchasing products are functioning as expected.
  • Understand the purchasing options that are available to them and check out easily and quickly. Express checkout and split payment/payment over time options all remove the friction that customers might experience at checkout. It’s also important that the payment options are familiar and trusted.
  • Access customer services support. Ensure you can answer any questions that might otherwise cause your customers to decide not to purchase. Contact methods, FAQs and company policies (e.g. shipping and returns) should all be up to date and easy to find. Live chat can also be a great addition, if your team can support it.
  • Easily find and understand the content. Similar to the above, make sure key content is available and easy to comprehend. Key product details, imagery, customer reviews and testimonials, etc.

While most merchants understand that these features are “table stakes” it’s important to analyze the customer journey through each of them and to continue optimizing them over time.

Additional important areas to ensure are:

  • Personalization – if possible/appropriate
  • Accurate inventory information
  • Accessibility
  • Checkout Usability: ease of use and speed

If not included or not implemented properly and continuously reviewed, all these factors can create a lot of customer friction and significantly reduce conversion rates.

The Bottom Line

If you examine your e-commerce shopping experience and care for the performance and customer friction measures listed here, you’ll be well on your way to growing your business and increasing conversion. But be mindful that it isn’t a one-time list to complete and check off; it’s an ongoing process. Retailers with brick and mortar stores have to keep working on these important measures over time and monitor the continually evolving journey between offline and online customers.

Get in touch with us, if you’re interested in conducting an experience audit of your e-commerce website. We can work with you to create a plan for addressing everything discussed here and more.