Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Marketers weave web of loyalty

Many multichannel merchants are investing in the e-commerce customer experience as a way to drive results even as economic pressures force them to cutback in other areas. These retailers are also delving further into the connection between online customer experience and customer loyalty.

While most areas are being cut, and online efforts are not immune, retailers see the online experience as an investment which can increase sales through better conversion rates and decrease costly customer service calls.

In general, retailers understand that a good user experience will enhance loyalty. Companies are just starting to really explore how to merge channel behavior with loyalty programs. Major retailers are considering giving good customers a coupon for the e-commerce Web site after an in-store purchase is made as a way to stimulate multi-channel behavior. 

For now, most retailers are focused on ensuring that customers can find what they are looking for without encountering problems. A smooth shopping experience that keeps them coming back and encourages them to recommend the site to others is the goal. These efforts run the gamut from site optimization to bells and whistles such as product recommendations, video product descriptions, live chat and customer reviews. 

There's a high degree of correlation between good customer experiences and consumers' willingness to make subsequent purchases from a company, according to the recent Forrester Research report The State of Customer Experience, 2009. 
One of the key areas for improving online customer experience is relooking at product landing pages; Often, consumers come to a 
product page through a search engine, so the product page becomes a default landing page. This requires many firms to rethink content and layout of pages.And as companies put more content and functionality on their Web sites, it has become harder for customers to find what they are looking for.

Retailers are looking into what are the barriers to buying online and trying to address these. Whether it's a new customer or an existing one, the goal is to make it easy for people to shop, transact and keep coming back to the site. The issue is similar to what retailers face with their offline stores. If a shopper has to wait online or can't find what they're looking for in a bricks-and-mortar store, they're not going to come back or recommend the store to someone else.

Live chat is also being used to improve the customer experience online. In a recent survey by live chat software company BoldChat. Sixty-two percent said they are more likely to buy again from the site because of the live chat interaction.