Customer experience is the make-or-break for many ecommerce businesses. Consumer expectations are at an all time high, and with so many different brands to choose from it frequently comes down to who offers the better experience. Provide your customers with a great on-site experience, fast shipping, and high quality products, and you’ll soon gain a base of people who are loyal to your brand. However if there are any mistakes in that experience - a delayed package, slow customer service response times - then it has a major impact on how customers perceive your store and brand.
The truth is most of the issues customers run into are preventable and many aspects of your Shopify store can be automated to boost efficiency and improve the customer experience throughout their journey.
Defining the customer journey
The customer journey begins long before they make a purchase, and far beyond the point their order arrives at their door. That’s why it’s important to ensure your strategy encompasses every stage of that journey, even before they’ve discovered your brand. To simplify, the journey looks something like this:
Phase 1 - Discovery and Research
Customers in this phase are just starting to look into what brands they could make a purchase from, and this may begin on different channels such as search engines, social media, and marketplace sites like Amazon. They know they want to buy something, but they just don’t know where to buy it from. Their transactional intent is key - they might be buying for themselves, perhaps on behalf of a relative, or even a gift. Whatever the case, this is a crucial step in the journey.
Phase 2 - Purchase
They know they want to make a purchase, and they’re ready to pull the trigger. They’ll perhaps look into different variants of the product they want to buy, look at some more information on an FAQ, and look into shipping and returns info. At this stage, you want to make sure your site experience is fast and informative.
Phase 3 - Post-Purchase
The post-purchase phase is where a lot of hard work is done in order to maximize customer satisfaction and their chances of retention in the long-term. Efficient order fulfilment is the starting point, ensuring that their order is packed and dispatched correctly and in a timely manner. Transactional and order related communication also becomes vital to their experience, as well as any support they may need from your team related to their order.
Phase 4 - Long-term Retention
Once a potential lead becomes a first-time purchase, it’s time to turn that into a repeat customer. In this phase, you want to have great communication coupled with other incentives such as loyalty programs to keep them coming back. From this point on, they’ll cycle back through the purchase and post-purchase phases as they make repeat purchases. It’s important to continue to remarket to these customers over a long period of time, so as to encourage repeat purchases and foster brand loyalty.
With so much to consider, it can get tricky to manage a customer experience strategy the more your brand grows. That’s when automation becomes an invaluable asset, helping you to deliver an incredible experience without too much manual work.
#1 - Omnichannel Marketing
There’s a good chance that as well as your own store, you’re also making use of other platforms such as social media, or even marketplaces. If this is the case and you’re not making use of omnichannel marketing, then you may be losing out on sales both from potential and repeat customers. In fact campaigns that make use of three or more channels can see a purchase rate as high at 287% when compared to single channel campaigns.
Omnichannel marketing makes use of all your channels to craft an experience that’s highly personalized using individual customer data across channels. An example of this would be a customer getting an email about an abandoned cart, followed up with an ad on Facebook and later an SMS with a dynamic cart link. You can automate this omnichannel experience using store data to funnel customers into different automated workflows depending on browse, order, and abandoned cart data to tailor and personalize the message on the platforms they respond best to.
It’s about providing a seamless experience for your store across different channels. This sounds complicated, but using automation you can deliver a truly engaging and personalized store experience that captures audiences wherever they happen to spend their time online.
#2 - Email Marketing
We’ve already touched on email marketing as part of omnichannel campaigns, however there’s even more that you can do with email to boost the customer experience. It can be used as part of customer lifecycle marketing, engaging with them at different stages throughout their journey with your brand. Some examples of this include:
Automated abandoned cart emails are fairly commonplace, however you can take these to the next level with segmentation. Here are some suggested segments to elevate your automated abandoned cart flows:
Send more emails with recommended complementary products to carts with lower value, and highlight any shipping thresholds to encourage a higher basket spend. If it’s a high cart value, remind them of any thresholds they’ve met e.g. “Your order qualifies for free shipping!”, or offer higher value incentives.
Average Order Value (AOV)
Send different messaging depending on the AOV of different customers, adjusting incentives and recommendations to what they respond best to.
New customers vs repeat customers
New customers might need more info than repeat customers - send them educational content about the products in their basket, links to customer service and FAQ, and brand information. For repeat customers, they won’t need all this info so send them different content and messaging acknowledging they’re a returning customer and showing them what’s new or products that they might like based on previous orders that’d complement their current cart.
Domestic vs International
Your domestic and international customers will have very different needs, and you’ll likely want to tailor incentives based on geography. For example, you may not offer free shipping internationally but you do have a domestic free shipping threshold. In this case, you wouldn’t want to send a “you’ve qualified for free shipping” email to international customers as this would be disappointing and confusing.
The period of time after a customer makes a purchase is perhaps the most crucial when it comes to communication. Customers want up-to-date, frequent information about the status of their order. Therefore you want to have a really robust post-purchase email automation strategy in place that gives customers the info they need before they feel the need to start checking in.
Order Status Emails & SMS
Send emails and SMS messages whenever an order’s status changes in your system, as well as a couple of extra update emails even if the status hasn’t changed. For example once the item has been dispatched, send another email a couple of days later if the item hasn’t been marked as delivered with an update to let the customer know that the item is still on its way and links to relevant tracking information. Also send text messages on the day an item is due to be delivered letting the customer know with a tracking link.
“Thank You” Emails
Showing appreciation for your customers is part of building a strong relationship and encouraging repeat business. If you show you care about their individual experience, they’ll take notice of that. You should also incorporate different messaging depending on if they’re a new or returning customer.
It’s important both for your business and your customers that you ask for feedback. Positive reviews are great for building trust with new customers and strengthening your store’s SEO, and average or negative reviews allow you to see where there is room for growth and improvement within your existing operations. Asking for feedback also shows the customer receiving the email that you care about their experience.
Having a base of repeat customers is important to any ecommerce business. It’s much easier to retain a customer than to acquire a new one, and these repeat customers are often more valuable to your business. 41% of sales on average come from just 8% of customers, and these tend to be returning customers. Therefore you want to try to engage this customer base as much as possible, and this can be done with automation. Have automated flows for Lifetime Value (LTV) sending different messaging when customers pass certain thresholds such as offering rewards as thanks for their continued support.
If you want to take these a step further, you can add further personalization on top of segmentation. 74% of consumers say they hate being shown irrelevant content, so you want to make sure everything you send is valuable. Your Shopify store is packed with great data about individual customers and their browsing and purchasing habits, therefore you should take full advantage of this to make email a valuable aspect of your lifecycle marketing strategy. Personalize emails with tailored recommendations based on browsing history, showcase new products that individual customers will be interested in based on previous purchases, and offer discounts or other incentives that they’ll respond best to based on their order history. The best part is this can all be incorporated into your automated workflows, meaning your customers will always get relevant communication from your brand that they want to engage with.
#3 - Order Fulfillment
Most parts of the order fulfillment process happen out of sight of the customer, as will most automations in this area. However it’s key that this is fine-tuned as it will have an impact on efficiency, which then has a knock on effect on the customer and their satisfaction. There are a few ways in which you can automate the order fulfillment process.
Order Data Processing
A misspelled customer name here, an incorrect product variant packed there, there are lots of small details that can go overlooked in the order fulfillment process. Especially if you’re a high-volume merchant, or during key sales periods where you’re processing more sales than usual. By automating data processing between departments such as from the initial order to the courier and to your fulfillment team, you can ensure that the right information is being delivered throughout the fulfillment process. This means orders are packed and dispatched faster and with greater accuracy. This has a positive impact on a number of different areas of your business; for the customer, they get their order in a timely manner with all the correct items. For your team, they won’t have to cross-check details with different departments and they’ll deal with less customer service issues related to fulfillment.
Inventory planning and management is a vital part of an ecommerce business. From small day-to-day issues such as letting customers know when a product is due to be back in stock, to forecasting and planning for the holiday seasons to ensure you’ll have plenty of stock available. It can cause frustration for the customer if an item they want to buy is consistently out of stock - a McKinsey survey found that out of 34% of consumers who shopped with a new brand in 2020, 29% of those said that product availability was the primary reason for doing so. Having poor inventory management results in a poor experience for the customer, and means you may lose out on potential new customers just because an item was out of stock. Implementing data driven inventory management automation, you can reduce the frequency of items being out of stock and improve the customer experience.
#4 - Customer Service
Customer service plays a big role in the overall store experience, and has a significant impact on customer satisfaction. 96% of consumers say that customer service is a key factor in their loyalty to a brand, and in turn loyal customers are five times more likely to make a repeat purchase and four times more likely to recommend that brand to a friend. On the flip side, 58% of US consumers say they’d switch brands due to a poor customer service experience.
Making use of automation in customer service allows customers to get answers to common enquiries no matter the time of day instantly. The most common ways to automate customer service are by using automated responses and chat bots. Apps like Gorgias can integrate seamlessly into your Shopify store and not only improve how manual enquiries are handled but also help you to reduce the amount of time your customer service team spends on common support questions. You can create automation rules based on customer data and enquiry type so that for example if a customer gets in touch about their order status, they’ll get an automated response with exactly the information they’re looking for. Whether it’s stock enquiries, product information, or questions about shipping times, you can create a range of rules that will help them get answers faster. If an enquiry isn’t satisfied by the automated responses, the ticket can then be passed on to your customer service team who will have all the information and previous communication in front of them so they can resolve issues with greater ease.
#5 - Loyalty & Retention
Having a solid customer retention strategy is the key to a successful ecommerce business. Returning customers often spend more and are more likely to make frequent repeat purchases, and new customers can cost up to 5 times more to acquire. One of the most effective ways to maintain high customer retention is through a well developed loyalty program. According to Loyalty Lion, once a customer joins your loyalty program and uses a reward they’re up to 68% more likely to make a repeat purchase.
Using a platform such as Loyalty Lion, you can create segments based on customer data and loyalty behaviour. You can then set up custom event triggers, so that you can engage with loyal customers in a meaningful way and recapture those at risk of dropping off your brand’s radar. For example you can create a trigger once a customer moves up a tier in your program they’re sent an email to let them know what they now have access to, with personalized recommendations and information. Or if you want to catch the attention of a customer who hasn’t engaged with your loyalty program for a period of time, you can send them reminders of the program benefits along with an offer such as double points on their next purchase.
Once your program has been decided on and triggers set up, your loyalty program can become a major asset to your customer retention strategy that takes care of itself through automation. It can provide you with valuable data you can use to bolster your overall ecommerce strategy, and add value to your customer experience.
In a busy ecommerce market, it’s important now more than ever to find new ways to ensure your brand stands above the rest. Experience is a growing differentiator, and by leveraging automation throughout different stages of the customer journey you can create a store experience that will drive brand loyalty.
Want to learn more about how to use automation as part of your Shopify store? Kelly will be featuring in a webinar in partnership with Brightpearl and Shopify on Thursday June 24th 2021. Click here to learn more and sign up.