The Power of User-Generated Content

It should come as little surprise to literally everyone that the pandemic and its continued persistence has significantly shifted the buying habits of all consumers. This has left many brands scratching their heads and scrambling to find ways to get these consumers attention, bring them to their websites and turn these visits from just a casual browse to that of buying stuff.

The big question here is have the effects of 2020, and even a big chunk of 2021, fundamentally shifted and permanently changed how people discover, shop, and engage with businesses?

 

New Research is Helping Provide an Answer

A new research report from the team at Stackla offers insight into this and reveals that not only is the increase in online shopping here to stay but also, that today’s consumers want brands to provide them with a more authentic, personalised shopping experience.

The report, Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC, surveyed more than 2,000 consumers across the US, UK and Australia. It found that consumers “increasingly seek out and value the social content that real customers are creating about brands. This means that visual social proof—like user-generated content (UGC)— is more important now than ever for brands to leverage as part of their online marketing strategy.”

We’re going to look at some key findings of the report, but we encourage you to head over and download a copy for yourself. It has a ton of great information that will help you develop solid strategies when thinking about how to deal with this huge consumer shift.

 

Creating the Authentic Experience Shoppers are looking for

In the report, Stackla found that 88% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands, they like and support (with 50% saying it’s very important) and that 83% of consumers believe retailers need to provide more authentic shopping experiences to customers like them.

That’s great we hear you say but how do we do that? Well, the report can help with that too. Let’s start by looking at content.

We know content is incredibly powerful when it comes to marketing and advertising with some of the most successful businesses spending 40% of their entire marketing budget on it but is it being spent on the right kind.

Stackla Report: Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC

A strong majority of businesses are either already spending large amounts of budget on influencer marketing strategies these days or are looking to include it in their marketing strategy. However, as you can see from the image above, only 10% of consumers say influencer content resonates as authentic with them, and a mere 19% say that brand-created content is the most authentic.

The real authenticity winner, with 59% of consumers, is content created by other consumers or in other words user-generated content (UGC). It is by far and away the most authentic type of content — meaning people are 3.1x more likely to say user-generated content is authentic compared to brand-created content and 5.9x more likely to say it's the most authentic compared to influencer content.

 

And it Does More than just Offer Authenticity

UGC is clearly ticking the box for the consumer, but it also has a big impact on their decision to make a purchase.

In the report, it was found that UGC is 8.7x more impactful in influencing purchasing decisions than influencer content. 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions, while a very small 9% said influencer content impacts their purchases.

Stackla Report: Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC

And it doesn’t stop there, UGC just keeps on giving. 72% of consumers say real customer photos and videos are the content they most want to see on eCommerce sites when making purchasing decisions and 80% of consumers say they’d be more likely to purchase a product from an online store if its website had photos and videos from real customers.

It is hard to argue with those numbers. UGC is clearly an area that if you’re not currently thinking about you might want to start, and here is the reason why. 58% of consumers have left an eCommerce store without purchasing because the site didn’t have customer reviews or photos.

 

UGC is Easier than You Might Think

Consumers are happy to engage with brands that want to share their content and they’re eager for the content they create to be seen and used by their favourite brands.


Stackla Report: Post-Pandemic Shifts in Consumer Shopping Habits: Authenticity, Personalization and the Power of UGC

As you can see, consumers would grant a brand permission to use an image or video they posted of clothing or accessories (58%), a home goods product (58%), a beauty/health/wellness product (54%), a sporting goods product (53%) or a recent trip/excursion (52%) throughout their marketing.

And there are rewards for using this content outside of the ones we’ve already talked about.

43% of consumers — and 47% of Gen Z — say they would be more likely to continue engaging with and purchasing from a brand if it shared their photos or videos throughout its marketing.

 

The Full Report has so Much More

We’ve just scratched the surface of the insights in this report and again we’d encourage you to head over and download a copy for yourself. You’ll find a stack of insights on the importance of personalisation within the shopping experience and why it is so important as well as key insights at the industry level.

 

Putting it Into Action

Hopefully, you’ve seen the overwhelming benefits of including UGC into your strategy and now you’re thinking about how to make it a reality.

The Experience team at Eclipse is here to help. We can work with you to define the best way to include it in the user journey and make it part of the personalisation that your site offers. All you need to do is reach out to us and we can start talking options.


Tactics to Consider as you Prepare for Christmas 2021

You may be asking why we’re talking about Christmas in September but for a lot of businesses this may be a make or break moment for them and so far, the news has been packed with potential supply issues and price increases as a result.

What we’ve got for you in this post are some things you can do to get customers coming to the site, keep them there and make it as easy as possible for them to find the perfect gift, drop it in their cart and checkout without any worries.

 

Convenience is King

We’ve talked about this a lot, but it is super important. Customers are putting this so high on their list of reasons why they choose to shop with the stores they do, you can’t ignore it.

And when you think about Christmas it is even more important. People have several gifts that they need to buy and if the process is made too difficult for them, they go and look for an easier way somewhere else.

Some of the things we’ll talk about below will have long term benefits that will continue to pay back well after the Holiday period is over.

 

Offer Inspiration

We all know that one person who has everything and when it comes to finding them a gift, we’re left with no place to start.

Helping those customers is easy. Take the time to create curated lists of gifts that filter into different categories. It’s super easy to do and removes a step that the customer must take when looking around what you have to offer.

Think prices. Having options to see gifts under different pricing takes people right to a selection that meets budget restrictions. Create an option for Him and for Her. You could even break it down by activity. Gifts for those who love to cook or love to garden. The options are endless and will differ depending on what it is you sell but customers love it.

By creating these filter options you’re taking people straight to the stuff they’re looking for, removing things that aren’t relevant and offering a level of personalization. It removes frustration and reduces the chances of people bouncing off the website from a perception that you just don’t have what they’re looking for.

I can tell you I am one of these shoppers. There are websites that I will always go back to specifically because they have gift finders. If I don’t know where to start, they become the start. And I do this year-round, not just at Christmas. Birthdays, Easter, you name it. If I must buy a gift and I need a little help, these sites will get a visit and almost always a purchase from me.

 

Create Bundles and Make Related Buys Super Relevant

As a retailer, we’re always looking for ways to increase the average order value. Creating gifting bundles is a great way to do this.

Fashion retailers do some of this by highlighting ‘complete the look’ on a single product where the model is wearing other items. If you can do the same for your product range, do it. Make it easier by giving them the option to click a single button and add it all to the cart without the need for going to multiple pages.

This also works well with gift foods or interior décor. If you’ve gone through the hassle of creating beautiful images that create a lifestyle for people, make it easy to get everything they see in the picture.

And when it comes to related products as add-ons things like batteries, cables, and things that make the first product work are a must. Everybody hates buying something and then not being able to use it because they need to buy something else for that to happen.

Make it clear that they will need this extra item for it to function. However, be smart about this. Make sure that the original item does not have it included.

I was subject to this just after buying my new house. I had to do some renovation work in the cloakroom that required a toilet and taps. When I picked what I wanted I was given a ‘you’ll need this’ list, so I clicked them all and added them to the basket, but something got me to pause, and I went back and looked at the individual items like the taps and the basin.

I had been told you needed to buy the flex pipes for the tap and the waste for the basin, I assume because 99% of them don’t come with these extras, but the ones I had picked did include them so I would have ended up with two of everything if I had just gone with it and then I would have been left with the need to return things and a feeling of having been cheated.

You can’t always shortcut these things with a one size fits all in the back of your website. Triple check and make sure that what you’re telling people they need, they actually need.

 

Remove Doubt as Early as Possible

One of the biggest barriers to a person buying, especially over Christmas, is uncertainty around delivery and returns.

Customers want to make sure that what they’re buying is going to arrive on time and should there be an issue it can be returned or exchanged easily.

By putting this information front and centre on the website, so that it can be found easily, you’re removing this doubt. And if you keep the delivery information updated so that they are aware of the last time that they can order to guarantee delivery before a particular date, you will pick up last-minute shoppers and get those who might be on the fence to a decision point faster.

Put the messages in multiple places and if there are products that have special delivery restrictions or returns guidelines, put that info on the product pages. This kind of information can’t be over-communicated.

And if you’re offering extended return times, tell people. It might just get them to buy from you rather than another retailer.

Another thing that is important here is information about delays, should they arise. Being totally transparent about these kinds of things builds trust and should reduce the amount of inbound contact about these issues.

 

Make it Easy for People to Checkout

This is another frustration for people that are shopping across different sites whilst Christmas shopping. Having to go through a 400 step sign up process sends people in the other direction.

Having a guest checkout with the ability to turn it into an account after the purchase is a much easier way to get people through. The hook to create the account is to keep up to date with the delivery of the items but having to create an account before you can do things like see delivery costs will kill a sale.

As important as the guest checkout is the payment options you offer. Offering options such as Apple or Google Pay and PayPal Express essentially gives people a ‘one click’ checkout. It pulls all the information around delivery and billing details and sticks them right into the checkout.

I use this all the time. I never have to find my wallet to triple check numbers on cards and during the hunt for the wallet rethink my purchase.

If you don’t offer these yet, think about getting them on before Christmas shopping really kicks off. Those who shop via mobile will love you for it.

 

Create a Gifting Experience

If people are buying gifts and sending them directly to the people getting them, having the option to have something gift wrapped is brilliant. Also including the option to include a gift receipt and keep invoices out of the delivery is great too.

Gift wrapping creates a great impression not only for you as the retailer but for the person getting the parcel and for the person that bought it.

A few years back when I was still in New Zealand, I bought some gifts from Harvey Nichols and had them gifted wrapped and sent as Christmas gifts to my sisters. I was blown away by how easy it was and when I got a chance to see what had been delivered, I was amazed. My sisters loved it and whenever I need to send a gift to someone and want them to have an incredible opening experience, they’re my go-to.

Having this as an option can help you stand out in the crowd, and it is also a great upsell opportunity.

 

Together they Create an Exceptional Experience

Having all or some of these will help give your customers a great shopping experience. The easier it is for them to do what it is they want, the more likely they are to do it.

And if you’re not sure where to start with these things, reach out to us. We’re here to help and our Experience team have a bag full of tricks to give you the edge.


Want more people to see what you’ve got to sell? Google can help for free

So, it is almost an unavoidable fact that when people are on the hunt for something the first place they go is the internet. Whether it be on their mobile or via a desktop connection, they’re hitting a search engine to see if they can find what it is they’re looking for.

And in most cases, that search engine is Google.

The challenge for you as a retailer is to make sure that your product can be found when people start looking for it.

Well, we have some good news. Google is making it easier for you to do this and the even better news is that it is free.

 

Welcome to the Google Merchant Center

Google Merchant Center helps you get your shop and product info into Google and make it available to shoppers across Google. That means that everything about your shops and products is available to customers when they search on a Google property.

By adding your products to Google for free you’ll get it in front of shoppers who are using the Shopping tab, Google Search, and Google Image Search. And if you choose to, you’re also able to promote your products with ads later that can boost the traffic to your online store.

 

 

Getting Started is Easy

The team at Google have made it easy for you to get started with a full onboarding guide on the Merchant Center website and by creating this handy infographic that gives you the full breakdown in an easy-to-read format. Click the image below to open a full copy of the infographic that you can also save a copy of, so you've always got it handy.

 

You can also get to the infographic here

 

Making the Most of the Increased Traffic

Now that you’re set up and your products are featuring across Google, you want to make sure that you’re offering the best experience to those that visit your website.

Is it easy for people to find the information they need? Are they able to find answers to any questions they might have through FAQ’s or via live chat? Is the checkout seamless and does it offer all the payment options that people are looking for?

If the answer to those questions is maybe or we’re not sure, then the Experience team at Eclipse are here to help. This team of experts make sure that your website is offering the best possible experience to your customers so that you don’t miss out on any opportunity.

It’s as easy as just reaching out to us and having a chat. We can take a look at what you’re working with and see what can and should be done to enhance the experience for your customers.


Lessons on Customer Experience from Giant Brands

We talk about customer experience a bunch at Eclipse and it is with good reason. It is the thing that makes you stand out from your competitors, and it is the thing that makes the biggest difference to consumers.

To be clear, we’re not talking about customer service. That is a different thing that plays into the customer experience. We talked about this more in a previous blog 'Are you confusing Customer Experience with Customer Service?'. What we’re talking about is the end-to-end customer journey and all the things that you and your brand do that make you stand out, build loyalty, and make people come back time and time again.

 

Learning from Others

We’ve covered customer experience from the angle of what the customer wants but today we’re taking a slightly different angle. One of the best ways to get better at what you do is to look at what others are doing for inspiration.

So, we’ve looked at some of the giant brands out there that people praise for their customer experience and brought you the best of what they’re doing to help inspire you when it comes to creating your customer experience strategy.

 

Tesla

These guys have built a customer base of fans and they have an incredible reputation. Their NPS is 96 and if you’ve ever talked to anyone who owns one, they have very probably tried to convince you to buy one yourself.

So, what have they done that we can learn from? The very first thing they did was start a movement for their brand. It was something that people could believe in and as I have often quoted in the past ‘People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe’

They set their mission to ‘accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.’ It underpins what they do and how they talk about themselves and if you share that as a value, you’re drawn to get involved.

You might be thinking that this isn’t an ‘experience’ but the reason it is important is that it talks to the brand. Brand and customer experience are intrinsically linked. Most often the first time someone engages with you is through brand discovery, which is the very start of the customer journey. And as we mentioned before, customer experience is about the entire journey end-to-end.

This was a big move that drew in a lot of love from people but the biggest impact they’ve had on customer experience is around how they’re selling the cars to start with. They totally removed friction and turned the way that cars are sold on its head.

Had you told someone 15 years ago that you’d be buying your car online without having to go anywhere near a dealership you’d have been told you’re dreaming but guess what, that is exactly what Tesla did.

The “traditional” sales experience is one of the biggest frictions or annoyances in the car buying journey for customers, so they removed it. You can apply the same lesson to almost any other industry– if you want to differentiate your offering, look for the typical frictions that customers face in your industry and find a way to solve them.

 

Ralph Lauren

If you’ve ever had any exposure to their brand, you know that it creates a lifestyle for their customer base and much like Tesla, their customers are strong advocates for them.

The lessons we can learn here is around what they’ve done to shift and create a digital evolution of their customer experience. Much like everyone else in the fashion industry, the pandemic changed what they did and forced them to have to step up and step up they did.

They have done such a great job with this that Gartner Digital IQ Index recently recognised Ralph Lauren as the No. 5 luxury brand in digital, citing its robust mobile features and connected retail programs.

One of the driving principles of their reinvention was the willingness to learn and evolve. For anyone who wants to step up their customer experience game and genuinely build something that people are going to gravitate to, they need to be open to doing the same.

Ralph Lauren evaluated the brand’s digital presence to identify potential friction points in the customer journey and to find new ways to improve the experience.

Those insights inspired several performance-boosting user experience (UX) enhancements. They included more detailed category filters, a simplified checkout flow and important app updates, including improved navigation and clearer presentation of product details. These changes, which put more focus on product discovery, helped the company grow mobile orders by 34%.

It might sound obvious but if you really want to build that customer experience that customers are going to love, you should probably ask them what they want.

Another thing we can take from them is how they’ve adapted the way they tell their story.

For a brand that has prioritised cinematic lifestyle storytelling across every aspect of commerce and marketing, beginning with in-store experiences and print advertising, they have been faced with the challenge of how can you do the same thing in a way that the new consumer cares about?

In the age of digital, they quickly adapted and expanded this vision to its online experiences. This approach guided Ralph Lauren to build an elevated mobile storefront that mirrors how the company tells its story on other channels.

Because the customer experience covers the buyers’ journey, beginning to end, you must make sure you’re covering all the bases. You need to be where the customers are, offering that seamless experience, to the same level, whatever the delivery method.

 

Amazon

Surely, it’s no surprise that Amazon is being talked about when it comes to customer experience. The shopping experience they offer is pretty much unrivalled and is central to their enormous success.

One of the biggest customer experience levers they’ve firmly got in their grasp is convenience but that isn’t what we’re going to be talking about here.

The lesson we’re taking from them is a surprisingly simple one: Amazon excels at making it crystal clear what will happen when you click that button.

One of the biggest inhibitors to driving conversion is leaving customers with doubts or questions. Any chance to stop and think or creation of the need to go on the hunt for information is the opportunity for a change of mind or a quick duck out of the process.

As a result, you can go about cutting down friction in a consumer’s decision-making process by giving them all the information they need, at a glance, easing them towards conversion.

When you fail to explain things like delivery times, cost of shipping, how to track orders and what to do if you need to return something, you are putting blockers in the way of conversion.

 

The Lessons Learnt

So, to summarise the key learnings from those giant brands:

  • Create something that people can believe in and want to be a part of
  • Look for friction in the ‘normal’ way of doing things and remove it
  • Open yourself up and be willing to learn and evolve
  • Adapt the way you tell your story for a new audience
  • Give consumers the information they need and want in the easiest way possible
  • Remove doubt and make the customer experience seamless

 

Putting these Lessons into Action

Now that you’ve got some inspiration, you’ve got to decide how important these things are to you and how you can work them into your strategy.

That is where we come in. At Eclipse we’ve got an incredibly talented, multi-award-winning bunch of people ready to help you and your business. Our Experience team are experts at this stuff and can guide you or offer advice and answer questions that you might have. All you need to do is reach out and talk to us.

There’s not much that can’t be solved with a few cups of tea, some bright people and a (currently virtual) whiteboard.


Are You Ready to Meet the Needs of the Post-Pandemic Consumer?

The one thing I am sure we can all agree on is that the pandemic has changed a lot of things, in a lot of ways and by all accounts, a fair chunk of these changes are here to stay.

And we as consumers have been front and centre for most of them. Consumer habits have changed over the years and are always changing with the times, but the pandemic kind of put a rocket behind the shift and moved us all along at a rather rapid pace.

As a result, a whole bunch of us have realised the conveniences that came with some of them and we’ve decided, we’re not going back.

The challenge for retailers is to meet these new habits, which have become expectations, so they’re able to continue to create awesome experiences and grow their business with existing and new customers.

 

What are these new shopping habits?

The team at Shopify commissioned a study with over 1,000 UK shoppers to find out just how much has changed and they put them together in their new report ‘New Shopping Behaviours in Post-Pandemic UK

We’ve taken a look at the report and pulled together the key insights that will give you an idea of the kinds of things you need to take note of.

We’d encourage you to head over and download a copy for yourself. There are stacks of stats in it and it’ll be a great reference as you build your strategy for the rest of 2021 and into 2022.

 

The 3 key things you should know

At the top of the report, Shopify called out 3 key things that you need to really pay attention to. These are what we've put our focus on but the report has lost of information that sits behind them. Make sure you grab yourself a copy.

 

  1. Online shopping is here to stay, but shopping in physical retail locations will return.

It was almost inevitable that as shops started to open again, people would want to get back out and into them but their purpose in the overall buyers’ journey has changed.

For the most part, they’re being seen as ‘distribution hubs’. The concept of heading out and wandering around stores seems to be fading fast. The demand for hybrid fulfilment options like local pickup and delivery is increasing.

Another indicator of this is that consumers are doing more and more research before they visit a physical store. The research found that 47% of consumers plan to check the availability of inventory, at their local store, in advance.

Giving people the ability to do this, much like Ikea has on their site, is going to give you the edge over your competitors. The consumer wants to know that if they’re leaving their house, they’re going to get what they want. If they can’t, they’ll order it from someone who can get it to them with the least amount of effort on their part.

The consumer is willing to exchange an immediate collection of products for convenient, fast, friction-free delivery. This is why so many of us default to Amazon.

 

  1. Shopping local is top of mind for consumers.

This particular stat gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. I have personally been an advocate of the shop local and shop independent movement for years and the pandemic has given us all the same idea.

In the research, 51% of consumers indicated that they expect to shop locally more often post-pandemic than they did before with the top reasons for this change being convenience, supporting local business owners and proximity – which 68% of consumers said is an important factor when making a purchase decision.

If you’re able to combine this sentiment with the ability to check store stock online and offer a hybrid collect in-store and delivery model, you’ll be cooking with gas.

And this doesn’t mean that if you’re a larger retailer you’re going to miss out. For many, shop local means ‘within my area’ (in fact, 59% consider it to mean that) and if you happen to have a store that falls into that category, offering the same conveniences will stand you in good stead.

 

  1. Post-pandemic shopping habits and behaviours are set to change.

As we know, the one constant in life is change and things are set to continue to change beyond those habits mentioned above.

Cash is on the decline, after most places refusing to accept it during the pandemic, and demand for contactless payment options are increasing rapidly. 70% of consumers indicated that this was an important factor to them.

With this is the rise of the mobile wallet and having the ability to accept Apple and Google pay is so important, and not just in-store. People have adopted this way of paying because it is so easy for them. If your online store doesn’t offer it yet, it needs to be on your list of things to implement sooner rather than later.

Another thing that people indicated as high on their list as part of returning to stores was their need for health and safety measure to stay in place. 63% indicated that they’re still in favour of masks being worn and social distancing to remain in place.

 

Next Steps

The first thing we recommend you do is head over and download the report. There is a lot of detail that sits behind this information, and it is packed with nuggets of pure gold that’ll help you make changes where it matters.

Then it is time to start figuring out where and how these changes need to be made. This is where Eclipse comes in. We can help you develop it into a strategy that we can then help you implement. Our team are ready when you are to jump into the challenge. You just need to reach out to us and get the ball rolling.


Are you Confusing Customer Experience with Customer Service?

Customer service and customer experience are two terms that are constantly getting thrown around in business, but do you know exactly what they mean? The phrases are often used interchangeably and, in some cases, thought to be the same thing, but in reality, they are different.

To try and put it simply, customer service is one part of the overall customer experience.

Customer experience is the journey a customer takes with your brand, from gaining initial awareness to post-purchase care and support. Customer service, on the other hand, refers to a single instance when a customer reaches out for help and support during this journey.

What is important to understand is that both are equally as important when it comes to the success of your business. You can’t do one well without the other, which is why it’s so important to understand what they are and how they are different.

 

The Customer Experience

Like we said up above, the customer experience, often abbreviated to CX, is the entire journey a customer takes with your business. It is one of the things that allows you to stand out from your competitors and make you and your brand shine. And for a lot of customers, it can make or break their chances of buying from you again or referring you to their friends, family or extended networks on social media.

It’s so important that from a survey SuperOffice ran with business professionals they discovered that customers spend 140% more and remain loyal for up to 6 years when they rate a company highly for customer experience.

‍Customer experience always involves all the different customer interaction points you have on offer. It covers things like your website and your eCommerce store, your social media channels, any kind of live or video chatyou might offer, and even your in-store experience (if you have storefronts).

The key to creating an awesome customer experience, which is something we should all be trying to do, is to make sure all the different points where a customer interacts with your brand are linked up, easy to use and offer the same level of attentiveness and care. Making things seamless and convenient will pay for itself countless times over.

Offering the ability for customers to jump between channels like from your social media to your website to onto live chat, as part of an omnichannel customer experience is vital.

 

Customer Service

Where it might be hard to come up with an example of customer experience, we can all come up with an example of customer service, be that good or bad, pretty quickly.

Like we mentioned up above, customer service a single instance when a customer reaches out for help and support during their journey, be that at the beginning, middle, end or even post-purchase.

And because customer service makes up one part of the customer experience, providing good customer service is essential to providing a good overall customer experience.

Getting this wrong can be an expensive mistake. Consumers are 2 times more likely to share their bad customer service experiences than their good ones and 82% of customers have ceased business with a company because of poor customer service.

And if you think you have it right, it is always best to triple check that you have. In a survey undertaken by Bain & Company, they found that 80% of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service. When the same question is asked to customers, only 8% of people think these same companies are really delivering.

So, what can you do to get these two right?

Although they’re part of the same journey, the tactics are a little different. The biggest thing to note is that for the most part, customer experience is proactive and customer service is reactive.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared to deliver the best possible customer service at any given time by having processes in place and being timely with responses.

The one thing I can tell you from personal experience is that no communication is way worse than communication that sends the update that there is no update. People hate being left in the dark and letting them know that someone is thinking about or doing something to resolve their issue is worth its weight in that proverbial gold.

We’ve found a few tips that will help you not only develop a great customer experience but tie in customer service and make them both shine.

 

Develop a relationship mindset, not just a transactional one.

You want to be creating relationships with your customers and not look at things as a series of separate interactions that just happen to take place.

This means keeping track of what they’re doing with you and tools like Zendesk and Hootsuite can work well together and bring everything into a single place and when linked with customer purchasing and browsing history you can create a solid profile of who your customers are and the types of experiences that resonate with them.

 

Follow the data and the money will follow.

And following on nicely from that is another great tip. Customer experience is strategic, not tactical, you need to know where the value is coming from, and where you’re throwing good money after bad.

If you know what makes your existing customers both tick and run away, you can optimise to do more of what they like and less of what they hate without the need to just rely on instinct.

Invest in good data with things like user testing, A/B testing and keeping a record as we mentioned above and you’ll for sure get better and what you do.

 

Close the loop between customer service and customer experience and learn from it.

Customer service shouldn’t be a dead-end or an island unto itself. Develop feedback loops between customer service and other key departments. Every single customer service interaction is an opportunity to learn and improve and do better.

If you’re just sticking the information somewhere and patting yourself on the back for a job well done, you’re literally hiding gold. Don’t do that. Share it around and find ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

Need some help with either?

If you’ve read this and gone ‘that’s great but where do I start?’ you’re bound to not be the only one.

The answer is to come talk to us. We have a team of experts in our Experience team that do this stuff for a living, and they love nothing more than being able to share their wisdom with others.

When you reach out to us, we can have a chat about your goals or frustrations and make a plan to fix them, achieve them or absolutely smash them out of the park. Just know we’re here when you need us.


Here’s What Customers Want From Direct To Consumer UX

If you hadn’t noticed eCommerce is on the rise and has been for a while now but alongside traditional retailers finding a way to get their store online, there has been another shift taking place. It is gaining momentum and there are more and more examples of it becoming a defining point of success for businesses.

What we’re talking about here is Direct to Consumer. More and more manufacturing brands are taking advantage of the benefits of taking total control of a sales channel and selling directly to the people that are using their products.

However, along with all the benefits and just like everything in life, there are a few challenges. One of which is the expectations of your customers. You might expect that they would be the same as what they would be for multi-brand and traditional retailers. And to be fair, that is not a bad assumption to make but new research from Baymard is letting us know that this isn’t the case.

The Baymard research team spent 1,440 hours usability testing and researching Small Catalog, Direct to Consumer website features, layouts, content, and designs leading to their latest research study on Direct to Consumer UX.

The research is based on more than 217 qualitative user/site usability test sessions following the “Think Aloud” protocol (1:1 remote moderated testing).

The test sites covered smaller Direct to Consumer brands with smaller product catalogues including beauty, apparel and accessories, cookware and fitness. Some of the brands included Allbirds, MVMT & Daniel Wellington.

What they found even with testing a broad variety of smaller Direct to Consumer sites, was that users would repeatedly abandon Direct to Consumer sites due to issues with the layout, content types, or features. In fact, the users encountered 1,370+ medium-to-severe usability issues on the smaller Direct to Consumer sites.

For the report, they analysed and distilled the results into 413 guidelines found within their research study. These cover most aspects of the Direct to Consumer experience, at both a high level of general user behaviour as well as at a more granular level of specific issues users are likely to encounter.

What you'll find here is some key highlights that’ll help when you’re working toward getting a Direct to Consumer offer into the market.

 

Things To Consider When Making Direct To Consumer A Success

 

• Customers Want to Get to Know You First

One of the things that Baymard discovered during the research is that where customers of traditional B2C businesses are likely to be looking at the product price, variations and returns policy, for example, when making buying decisions, consumers are rarely making buying decisions based solely on what they think of the brand itself.

In stark contrast, users on Direct to Consumer sites typically want to “get to know” the brand and products at a deeper level before they make a purchase decision. In fact, many users want to feel like the site shares their tastes, values, and goals.

And this is supported by research from Diffusion. They found that perception is driving purchasing with 44% of consumers believing Direct to Consumer brands produce a higher quality product at a lower price point than traditional competitors and nearly a quarter (23%) perceive Direct to Consumer brands to be an authority of what’s cool and on-trend.

All this dictates the type of information you need to provide on your Direct to Consumer site beyond just “the basics”. That being what is expected by users on almost all e-commerce sites. Things like product titles & images of the products. But it also changes where and how the information is presented.

 

• The Homepage is More Important Than You Might Think

What Baymard found during the research is that when consumers are visiting Direct to Consumer sites, a first step for them was to spend more time exploring the homepage than what’s typically observed or expected of users during general B2C testing.

As an example, consumers on more traditional B2C sites like John Lewis or ASOS, will often start by going directly to the search bar or the main navigation, to quickly drill down into the site to begin finding products of interest.

But, during their Direct to Consumer testing, consumers tended to first scroll through the homepage, considering the highlighted content, to determine if they should spend any more time on the site.

 

• They’ll Dig Deeper to Find Information Before Buying

Another thing that came out during the research was that consumers spent more time digging deeper for particular pieces of information. This included heading to About Us pages and for lists of faqs so that they could answer not only basic questions but also more specific ones.

Our tip here is to 1, make sure the information is on the site and 2, it’s easily accessible. This should help entice consumers to stay around longer. If they’re able to answer a question with a piece of information either about your brand or products it could pique their interest and engage a buying motivation.

 

• How the Site Looks is Just as Important as What is on it

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder and the devil may be in the detail but there is one thing that the research found that, for me, has always been a suspicion.

When it comes to big retailer websites, the ‘industry experts’ can point out the differences all day but to the standard end-user, they’re much the same. While some aspects of design differ, for most users the design aesthetics of larger e-commerce sites rarely have much impact on their decision whether or not to purchase from the site. For them, usability is much more of a driver.

However, when it comes to the smaller Direct to Consumer sites, users tend to want to feel like a site is representative of their own individual taste, or at the very least that the site’s design aesthetics aren’t offensive to them.

And take note of this little insight. The research found that some users during testing were observed to abandon sites solely due to their dislike of the design aesthetics — not even venturing off the homepage to support their decision.

Now, what nobody would ever advocate is trying to cater to every individual user’s personal design-aesthetic preference because frankly, that is an impossible task. But pulling in some of the more eccentric design decisions and going for a simpler but still, bespoke approach was observed to perform well for most users.

 

Final Thoughts

Direct to Consumer sites have many challenging tasks facing them when it comes to perfecting the user experience.

There is no one size fits all approach, and each brand is going to face a slightly different set of challenges, but the good news is that the research is out there to help and even more importantly, there are experts out there that have made this their business and passion.

One of those businesses is us. At Eclipse we’ve got a team of experts in the Customer Experience team that can design, implement, test, optimise and further develop the customer experience for your business and drive continued growth through conversion rate optimisation and a long-term optimisation strategy.

Through user testing and experience testing, directly with the types of people that buy your products, the research and data help remove emotion and gets to the core of creating a great customer experience.

All you need to do is reach out to us and have a chat. We’re here to help you build, test, develop and optimise your Direct to Consumer channel.

And if you’d like a copy of the research, you can get access to all 413 DTC UX guidelines, available today via Baymard Premium access.


Is This the Future of Returns for eCommerce?

Shopping is one of the great British past-times and we love it, but sometimes we buy things that just don’t fit the bill and we’re put into what can feel like an arduous task, returning them.

As much as the eCommerce experience has increased hugely and it has become easier to get the stuff we want, the thing that to me feels like it has been forgotten about is the other end of the process. We ultimately don’t set out to buy stuff to have to return it, but it can be unavoidable.

If you’ll allow me a moment to get onto my soapbox, I’ll share a recent experience of mine.

 

The Returns and Exchange Process Right Now

Having recently returned to the UK it now just happens to be the case that my mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day fall in the same month, literally days apart. As I always do, I headed online to buy up some gifts to make sure she would see how much I appreciate her.

The Mother’s Day gift was an easy pick, I knew what I was getting would be perfect and would do the job nicely. When it came to her birthday gift, I wanted to push the boat out and bought something that was size reliant.

It arrived and the big day came and although I had picked her size, the item came up a little small. ‘No worries, I’ll get them changed for you’ I tell her. She decides that she would prefer a different style and maybe we should go up a size ‘just in case’.

Thankfully the sale came with a returns label in the box, and I was to tick a box and drop the paperwork back in with the product and get it sent back. Of course, before we had completed this we had been online looking for the new items we wanted to exchange the product for.

I kept thinking to myself ‘Why can’t I pick the item I want so that when they get it back and declare it fit for return, they can just send me the new ones?’ This wasn’t an option, so I followed the process, sent it back and waited for the refund, before buying the replacement.

Whilst we waited, I thought to myself ‘Maybe there might be a better deal out there or something else she might like instead?’ which of course left me browsing the internet on several different retailer’s websites looking at other things. I ultimately decided not to buy something else and to go back and get the original chosen replacement, but I wondered how many other people in the same position just would not bother, resulting in a lost sale for the retailer.

For those of you who are wondering, the replacements did arrive but being a different style meant the size up was a bad idea so we had to go through an exchange process again but with the stores opening up again decided to go in-store in the hope that we could simply change the size.

The lockdown meant that most of the stock you’d expect in the store was not there due to older stock having been left to float around but we were able to change them and get new ones sent to the house without having to do the refund/repurchase dance.

 

There Has Got to be a Better Way

This wasn’t the first time I had dealt with this type of thing and it always plays on my mind when I buy something from a new store or a new brand. The risk of having to wade into the process of returning things can sometimes overwhelm the excitement of buying them in the first place.

I couldn’t get the idea of being able to pick the item I wanted in exchange before sending it back out of my mind. Surely this wasn’t radical thinking? Someone must have thought of this before and surely, I wasn’t the only one wanting it as an option when shopping.

The answer to those questions came to me during a google news search. I spotted an article on Adweek ‘Affirm to Buy Returnly for $300 Million as Ecommerce Returns Spike During the Pandemic’ and it caught my attention.

I hadn’t heard of Returnly before but another quick google search got me to their home page and I’ve got to say what I found, brought absolute pleasure to my heart.

 

The Better Way

Self-described as ‘a return experience like no other’, they give customers the ability to pick the right item before sending back the wrong one. This is exactly what I had talked about when I was going through the returns process. Putting control of the experience in the hands of the customer is what good customer experience is all about.

I should point out that we’re not affiliated with Returnly but after having discovered them, I felt it was worth letting retailers know that they should be taking a serious look at what they’re offering.

Allowing customers to exchange for size, style or a completely different product directly from the return’s portal is brilliant customer experience. Returnly pays for the order on behalf of your customers, so they can get the right item before returning the wrong one.

And if the customer is not in the market for an exchange you can give customers a smooth return experience that automates the return and refund process altogether, so your team can focus on more valuable work.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Returnly can offer both you and your customers and as a customer myself, if I was to purchase from a retailer that offered this level of refund and exchange it would almost certainly become a driving factor in whether I chose to make a purchase from other retailers I came across in the future.

Retailers work so hard to get people onto their stores and to get them shopping with them, so why would you put any level of risk around them not coming back because of an old or broken return and exchange process.

Working to retain relationships with existing customers should be as important, if not more so, and it appears that sometimes businesses can forget that. Paying attention to the entire lifecycle and making sure the customer experience is seamless and well-designed can only be a good thing for everyone.

Go take a look at what Returnly has to offer and see if it could work as part of your offering to your customers. I’m sure both you and them would benefit from an enhanced post-purchase journey.

And if you'd like help enhancing your customer experience across your entire site, we can help with that. Our Experience team are experts at enhancing and creating design, UI, UX experiences and developing and implementing conversion rate optimisation strategies across eCommerce. Come talk to us about your site and let's make a plan together.


Understanding the Ecommerce Life Cycle is Vital to Your Business Strategy

Businesses are not one-size-fits-all. The same cannot be said for the eCommerce strategy life cycle. To succeed, you must understand the importance of adapting your eCommerce strategy to each phase in its life cycle.

In the beginning phases of a business's life, their focus is usually on gaining traction and recognition. Once they have done this, their next goal will be reaching more customers by expanding into new markets or finding innovative ways to increase revenue.

But before we get too far into the life cycle itself, it is important to understand that your eCommerce strategy should evolve throughout its life cycle. The different phases of the life cycle are filled with ups and downs, trying times, and successes. Each phase may require drastic changes to stay afloat and make progress.

It's hard enough running a business but if you do not adapt as necessary during each phase of the eCommerce strategy life cycle, you will find yourself floundering or even worse - out of business altogether. Coming to terms with the fact that change is inevitable and required to continue to grow and adapt is a fundamental starting point and getting used to the idea of change will make the planning easier, allowing you to adapt the strategy to each phase of the eCommerce life cycle.

Now back to the life cycle itself. At Eclipse we've done a bunch of research and distilled it down to three phases, which are an adaption and amalgamation of the lifecycle growth phases for all businesses and align to what we’ve seen for eCommerce companies, as they move along their journeys. These are:

 

Phase 1 – Launch to market & rapid growth

Phase 2 – Slowing growth

Phase 3 – Renewed growth

 

Each phase may take vastly different amounts of time and within each phase, you may have multiple versions of your strategies to align to outward forces such as the economy shifting and unprecedented situations like the Covid-19 pandemic we've all been facing. The goal is to understand where you are and what you need to do to achieve the next phase.

 

Phase 1. Launch to market & rapid growth

Almost all new eCommerce businesses will be subject to an early period of rapid and in some cases unanticipated growth. This is usually due to the popularity of the product being sold or market demand rather than the implementation of their eCommerce platforms.

Many businesses will choose a platform from a group of the most popular for start-ups such as BigCommerce, Shopify or Adobe Magento Commerce. It’s important that your business stays agile and responds quickly to change but also think a little to the future and builds in the ability to grow with the chosen platform and not create a handbrake for yourself.

The phase is filled with experimentation and making adjustments to stay afloat. If you're in this phase, your company is most likely a start-up or experiencing fast growth. However, you may be a long-established 'traditional' business, but that experience won't always equate to eCommerce success. This venture should be treated as a start-up and with that mindset, you'll be prepared for the fluctuating environment and need to adapt quickly.

Often times it's necessary to pivot, completely change your product offering or adopt a new customer experience methodology to stay on top of trends within eCommerce. Sometimes these changes are drastic and take time, but they must be made if you want success later on down the line.

You don’t want to get too deep into creating overly complex processes. You and your business could take advantage of this quick impact in this early phase, before you start to see your growth slow, being restricted by an unseen force. This sees you moving into the second phase of the eCommerce lifecycle, slowing growth.

 

Your Strategy in Phase 1.

When it comes to developing the strategy in this phase it is about building brand profile, experimenting with the way you sell your product, working toward building a unique customer experience, working to build trust with customers developing them into brand ambassadors.

This is the time for experimentation. Mistakes can be easily forgiven at this phase and you need to use them to learn as much as you can.

 

Phase 2. Slowing growth

Many businesses reaching this second phase of the eCommerce lifecycle head straight for panic and look for quick-fix solutions to perceived issues. It's important to understand that it’s natural for there to be a levelling off of growth after the early spike.

All growth has to slow down eventually. You need to figure out how you’re going to stop it from turning into decline and have a conversation with your customers about what you plan on doing next.

Your business will have made inroads in your market space, people are starting to recognise your brand and are hopefully sharing it with others. It’s time to reflect on your progress. Now it is time to go through an evaluate your earned data and gather insights so that you can start to implement well thought out and deliberate enhancements to your eCommerce store and your marketing efforts. This may be through user research, implementation of conversion rate optimisation programmes for your eCommerce store and looking to use the loyalty you have developed from your customers through referral programmes.

It’s important for you as a business owner to assign plentiful time and resources to research. None of this time will be wasted and it is the best way to figure out what is required to reach the next level and start growing again.

 

Your Strategy in Phase 2.

You'll want to maintain the work great work you've done with your original strategy's that have gotten you to this point and it is now time to 'grow up’ and mature the operation.

As we've mentioned above it is about analysis and making measured movements but staying true to what got you to where you are in the first place. It's moving beyond just going by your gut and backing it up with real-world data that can be the difference between luck and deliberate success.

 

Phase 3. Renewed growth

Business owners think that the solution to the issue of slowing growth is a quick fix or a huge swing and change of direction, which could be a new eCommerce platform, the recruitment of an in-house specialist or throwing a huge budget at risky and potentially untested advertising paths. This is not necessarily thinking strategically.

A shift of platform might indeed be the answer – perhaps to a more advanced or modern eCommerce platform, but you need to make a clear business case before deciding to migrate platforms. It is never as quick, easy or perhaps as cheap as you might think it is.

The challenge is how to kick start the renewed growth and come out fighting, which means creating an action plan beforehand and implementing this carefully – considering both product range and marketing strategies, along with customer service or financial decisions.

In this third phase of the eCommerce lifecycle, it is so important that any and all attempts to reinvigorate your company’s momentum and growth should always be strategic.

 

Your Strategy in Phase 3.

A solution to slowing growth will most likely require realigning your business goals with changing customer trends, keeping up to date with new technology and channel strategies. It will need you to double down on the initiatives first started in phase 2.

Research and analysis are required to optimise processes and improve the customer experience. This will steer your strategy. This means more user testing on the customer experience, further optimisation of your conversion mechanics to make sure that you're taking advantage of every visitor and continuing to spread the message of what makes you different and what customers should pick you.

Research may reveal issues and you could find you need to re-platform, but there needs to be comprehensive analysis behind decisions to implement technology and tools.

 

Putting it into action

Getting to know these phases of the eCommerce lifecycle is key for your strategic planning and will help you visualise your brand’s growth as a recurring process, identify critical questions to ask at each phase and understand why an agile approach to eCommerce strategy is so vital to lasting success. This eCommerce process deters you from attempting to solve issues with quick fixes and quick wins, instead focusing on regularly revisiting and refreshing your eCommerce strategy for long-term success.


Poor Product Discovery is Losing You Business. A Lot of Business.

We all know how frustrating it can be when we can’t find what we’re looking for. It doesn’t matter whether it is something you’ve lost at home or something you want to buy in-store or from an online retailer it doesn’t take long before you’re at the end of your tether, and ready to give up. And the research tells us this is exactly what people are doing.

And as much as you’re able to send in support for in-store visitors, it is much harder to do online and once they’re gone, they’re gone. The key is to make it easy for people to find what it is they’re looking for.

New research from AI-powered discovery technology, Klevu, found that a majority of eCommerce websites fail to deliver results when processing complex search queries, which account for 17% of all searches, causing £8m of lost revenue.

 

Complex Search Queries or Just How People Shop?

The research by Klevu into product discovery methods on retailers’ websites reveals that there are usability and accessibility issues with the search experience on 80% of UK eCommerce websites. And yes, you read that right. 80%!

The main issues are around the ability for these sites to process complex or natural language phrases such as those involving price range or product attributes, or even to handle misspellings.

In the most critical cases, 26% of eCommerce websites couldn’t process simple misspellings and were unable to return relevant results and 30% showed zero results when faced with a query such as ‘mens jacket under £100’. This signifies that a vast majority of retailers are unprepared for the future of product discovery, including voice search, bots, and other zero interface interactions.

The eCommerce Discovery Report by Klevu also showed that 17% of all searches are considered complex, using three or more words costing retailers with poor UX £8m per year.

The data is based on an average number of sessions per month, average order value online in the UK, typical search-led sessions are around 20% of all web traffic, and conversion rate from search is often 5%, bringing potential lost revenue per month to £671k and £8m annually.

It highlights a lack of understanding of how people are looking for products and information. Long-tail search or ‘complex queries’ have become the standard way people use Google. And in most cases, Google is presenting related search results to users in the long tail format and as a result, people expect all websites to be able to do the same.

 

The eCommerce Discovery Report

These results are from the Klevu Ecommerce Discovery Index which includes a comprehensive review of 50 major UK retailers over 40 criteria including mobile search, voice search and natural language processing, personalisation, product recommendations and more.

Retailers covered in the research include a selection across sectors and using a variety of enterprise eCommerce technologies including Oracle, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, IBM, SAP Hybris and more.

You can head over to here and download a copy of the report if you want to dig a little deeper into the results.

 

Next steps

The first thing to do is to identify if the issue exists for you. It isn’t hard to perform a couple of searches on your site to discover if it is leading people straight to the exit.

If you think there might be a problem, come talk to us. We have experts in UX who can help you assess the extent of the challenge and if we think it needs some fixing, we can help you connect to Klevu and enhance the search experience for your customers.