The rise in online shopping is creating competition and the demand for improving online service experience. How can eCommerce businesses make meaningful improvements to their web stores and overall customer experience?
We asked Antti Merikoski, Digital & eCommerce Business Leader and Global eCommerce Manager at Nokian Tyres, for his insights on how eCommerce can meet customers’ rising expectations, and why improving the online experience matters now more than ever before.
“To succeed, eCommerce and digital service businesses need to be at the top of their game. One of the key elements is to make continuous improvements,” says Antti. To make those continuous improvements to your online experience, in-the-moment customer feedback is crucial.
Real-time customer experience is the key to eCommerce success
Businesses are already monitoring their web stores in many ways, including heat maps, tracking mouse movement, and running A/B tests. While these measurements provide you with valuable information, they’re simply not enough. They don’t tell you about the Voice of the Customer—both the buyer and the non-buyer—nor the customer’s feeling. You can make assumptions based on website data, but you won’t understand the “why” behind your online service performance fluctuations.
“If you’re relying on raw data alone, you might make the wrong interpretations and go in the wrong direction,” says Antti. “The thing you’re lacking is the layer of customer feeling. To avoid making the wrong judgements, you need to get the real feeling feedback from customers,” he concludes.
Only with real-time feedback can you react fast and make instant improvements to the areas of your online experience that aren’t meeting your customers’ expectations.
4 tips how to use real-time customer experience insights
We asked Antti for his insights on how eCommerce companies could use real-time customer feedback to improve their online experience.
1. Engage customers to take part in your online store development
Who better to help you develop your online store than your customers? Involve your customers by inviting them to:
- Test different aspects of your site
- Provide feedback on new features
- Spot bugs and technical issues
Consumer electronics retailer Elkjøp, for example, asks all their customers to review their web store after the order confirmation and to review the service they received after a chat discussion. Through this, they’ve been able to immediately identify technical issues and bugs, get direct customer feedback on possible improvement ideas, and get instant feedback on their online customer service.
QUICK TIP: Explore leading eCommerce businesses outside of your industry scope and benchmark those for your own business developments.
“With eCommerce development, people tend to benchmark their competitors. But it would be beneficial to go to some other industry to benchmark what they’re doing,” says Antti. “At Nokian Tyres, we’ve been benchmarking for example the fashion industry, which is way ahead in the eCommerce landscape. As another example, private medical clinics are typically very good with time booking systems.”
2. Optimize the online store experience
It’s important to collect feedback at every stage of the online customer journey to pinpoint what’s working well and where improvements are needed. For example, with real-time customer feedback, Elkjøp discovered:
- Issues within the web store, such as a confusing order confirmation page
- Challenges with certain payment methods during night sales campaigns
- Extremely high customer satisfaction rates, sometimes with thanks to specific employees
Since you can adjust so many different areas of your site, it can be challenging to prioritize your action items. Antti explains that your focus points will depend on your industry and audience.
“At Nokian Tyres, we have come to learn about our B2B customers’ everyday business life. And we know our B2C customers want to get the job done quickly. They usually already have the need when they come to our online stores—they simply need new tires. This is why we’ve understood we need to emphasize convenience and make sure the consumer can buy as quickly as possible,” explains Antti.
“Or if you consider online grocery shopping, the key problem is that you have a huge amount of options, with over 100,000 items in the shop. So then you want to ensure a smooth and efficient shopping process,” he continues. “In other industries, you might want to prioritize efficient delivery, or ensure you have enough payment options. It always comes down to learning more about your customer.”
QUICK TIP: Use real-time feedback to maintain your online service levels now and prioritize improvement actions. By collecting real-time experience insights, you’re keeping a finger on the pulse of your customers’ moods and expectations.
3. Measure the overall digital customer experience
Understanding your web store experience in the bigger picture helps you improve the overall digital experience. A typical measurement point for web stores at the end of the customer journey is the online checkout. You can use that feedback data to share the results with your customers. For example, share on your site that “98% of our customers are very happy shopping online with us.”
Antti shares his tips for understanding and improving the overall online customer experience:
- Measure user experience over a long period of time to spot trends and patterns
- Use the customer feedback data to make strategic business decisions and adjust operational level plans
- Always consider the Voice of the Customer, along with website data, when making bigger process adjustments
QUICK TIP: Antti explains that when it comes to improving the overall online experience, think holistically. Focus on all three important layers of eCommerce success:
- User experience: The front end of your website needs to be strong.
- Processes: Make sure you have efficient processes in place that work well together.
- Technology: Your tech should support both the customer experience and your processes.
4. Ask people to share specific information needs
Ask your customers to provide feedback on a campaign, or your new products and services. For example, you can get customer feedback on:
- New payment functionalities
- Search logic and purchasing add-on products and services
- The functionality of campaign codes
- Collecting specific feedback will help you avoid situations where customers can’t pay how they want or find certain products, resulting in lost sales.
QUICK TIP: Ask for open feedback so customers can share additional insights.
You might find out specific challenges, like that adding a delivery address was a struggle, a discount code wasn’t working, or that pick-up wasn’t available for certain products.
Customer-centric online experiences are here to stay
Customer-centric digital experience has been trending in eCommerce and digital services for a while. In the current climate, we’re seeing online grocery shopping exploding, and new buyer groups such as seniors adopting online shopping. Downloads of Instacart, Walmart’s grocery app, and Shipt have recently increased by 218%, 160%, and 124% compared with a year prior.
Amazon plans to hire 100,000 new employees to handle the influx of eCommerce orders and deliveries. Other sectors like food and convenience stores, internet and telecommunications, delivery services, and manufacturing, are also ramping up hiring. And it’s safe to say the need for more user-friendly online experiences will only increase.
“The eCommerce growth shows that even consumers who have been hesitant to buy things online are now more easily trying it. And I’m pretty sure that some of them will stay on that path and continue using eCommerce more heavily,” states Antti. “Companies that saw online sales as a sideline will start taking it more seriously since it can substitute all offline activities. They’re starting to see the bigger impact on their business.”
- Make continuous online experience improvements to stand out from the competition
- Use real-time customer feedback to hear the Voice of the Customer and understand the “why” behind your online service performance fluctuations
- Co-create and engage your customers for online experience and online store development
- Test new concepts and ask for your customers’ opinions and open feedback at every stage of the buyer’s journey
- Measure your overall online experience by asking for feedback at the end of the customer journey