COVID-19 has forced shoppers to shift from buying in-store to making their purchases almost exclusively online. For e-commerce teams, it’s like Black Friday has arrived six months early – only this time, we didn’t have the usual months of preparation.
For many e-commerce managers, coronavirus has been the digital equivalent of opening the store’s doors to a crowd of shoppers a few hours before opening time – we just weren’t quite ready yet. There’s still stuff to do, things to test, tweaks to make – but now we’re in a position of having to do all that innovation at an accelerated pace, because the onsite experience has never been more critical.
You could argue that there’s little point in putting time into the onsite experience when times are hectic and unpredictable, but this would be a short-sighted view. As we speak, brick-and-mortar stores are re-opening, and consumers can just as easily return to their old habits rather than remain loyal e-commerce customers. According to Oracle, poor customer experience leads 89% of consumers to shop elsewhere – and that’s reason enough to do the work.
At Yieldify, we’ve been working with hundreds of e-commerce companies and helping them innovate their on-site experiences through this crisis, as well as supporting their preparation for life after COVID-19. Here’s what we’ve learned.
1. Start with analytics (but keep it simple)
First things first – don’t even think about making any changes without looking at your analytics. There are a million-and-one different things you could do to optimise your onsite experience, so prioritisation is critical – the first step in your journey is to base your decisions based on data.
During times of crisis, consumer behaviour can change rapidly. What used to be true about your customers two months ago may look very different now – it’s important that you consider both sets of data in determining what to do next.
An important caveat: we know you’re busy, and we’re not suggesting that you need to do any kind of deep-dive right now. The key thing is to keep things simple and look for the quick wins and fires to fight – prioritise the points in the journey where there are the biggest opportunities to move the needle.
2. Get feedback
Instead of relying only on quantitative data, try to fill in the gaps with qualitative data from your customers. There are plenty of tools that allow you to create surveys and forms with just a few clicks, so it’s worth getting into the habit if you’re not already.
Questions to consider revolve around consumer motivations and desires, as well as overall feedback on their experience. From there, you can combine data from web analytics and your customers to get a more complete image of the specific changes you need to make to optimise the customer journey.
3. Review your site for clarity
Data in hand, it’s time to start seeing where improvements can be made. A good first step is to look at your site with fresh eyes and see just how clear you’re being.
Communicating with your customers clearly is more important than ever in times of rapid change. Offer relevant, clear, and concise information; adjust your messaging to reassure your customers and address their most pressing concerns.
For example, they need to know whether you’re still operating, how you’re following any new government requirements, and if it has impacted your standard business operations in any way. Updating key information like product and shipping pages could be essential for engaging with customers.
Little Box of Joy has unobtrusively communicated changes by introducing a banner that pops up on the top of their website. In only a couple of sentences, they’ve addressed both safety concerns and how their shipping has changed:
Sock It To Me provides another excellent example of effective communication. They’ve created a separate landing page that explains their COVID-19 response. Not only did they answer any concerns customers may have about shipping, health, and protection, but they also stated how they’re contributing to the community:
Crises send us all into uncharted territory. Establishing trustworthy, transparent, and regular communication is a critical baseline to prioritise.
4. Trust us, now is actually a GOOD time for personalisation
Many ecommerce marketers will baulk at the idea of trying new things during times of crisis, when it’s actually the best strategy for survival. Personalisation is no exception to this rule.
If you’re working on the assumption that personalisation means that you need months of set-up and a complex data architecture ready for machine learning, you’d be wrong. You can start a LOT simpler than that, and it’ll help you make your onsite experience more powerful within days.
Start with fairly broad segments like new users vs returning users – this is an ideal time to do so when you’re likely getting lots of new traffic. With tools like the Yieldify Conversion Platform you can do this purely based on cookies, and thereby ensure that your returning users aren’t bombarded with the same coronavirus info that they might have seen ten times already.
We recommend using banners, notifications or overlays to start with, before you start integrating content into your page itself. As a bonus, these tactics can allow you to get new messages onto your site without having to go through your dev team, which can help with speed.
5. Experiment with chat functionality (if you can)
During challenging times, customer service is likely to be overwhelmed. No matter what issue your customer is experiencing, waiting for a response will be frustrating. Customers want to be assisted within five minutes, an expectation that is hard to meet.
Introducing chatbots is a simple way to tackle these problems without sacrificing personalisation and quality of service, even as your business is scaling up. Chatbots are an investment, however, and during difficult times you’ll need to look closely at your cash flow and their potential impact before putting chatbots into action.
6. Review the efficiency of incentives
If you’re lucky enough to have plenty of traffic flooding in as a result of lockdown, then you may well be questioning whether you need to add further incentives in order to get that traffic to convert.
The answer is that this depends on your goal – and your analytics should help you come up with the answers. For example, if you’re seeing floods of new users that are yet to convert, you may want to deploy a first-time buyer discount or a discount in exchange for a newsletter sign-up.
On the other hand, you may have plenty of stock to clear – in this case, discounting is a clear way forward. Coast is offering 50% discounts off everything, with some items as much as 75% off:
If offering site-wide sales is too much, you can always offer specific discount codes. MeUndies is offering a one-week discount for particular items. The brand has positioned their offer as a show of support, looking to ‘make comfort a little easier’.
7. Evaluate the expression of your values
Retail guru Mary Portas was recently quoted as saying “at the other end [of the pandemic], there is going to be a growth in people buying and wanting brands that reflect their values”. The question is whether yours come through on your website.
Recently, our clients at Milk Makeup ran a perfect example of ‘walking the walk’ when it comes to their values. The brand donated 100 percent of online sales made on April 10 to the NYC COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, gaining huge respect from consumers and the media, making a $106,261.31 donation.
Similarly, our clients at Crocs have taken it upon themselves to help healthcare workers by providing 10,000 free pairs of shoes every day:
But how does this serve the bottom line? Think of expressing your values as making an investment in customer lifetime value: engaging your new customer on a more profound level increases the chances they’ll keep coming back even when the high street is open again. Lockdown isn’t going to last forever, so it’s wise to keep an eye on the long game.
During these times of crisis, e-commerce retailers can’t afford to be purely reactive. The onsite experience has been thrust into the limelight and that means we need to innovate at the same time as keeping the day-to-day wheels turning.
The important thing to remember is that innovating and optimising doesn’t have to be a huge, demanding project. If you put the work into successfully identifying what to prioritise, you can approach each task in turn and keep your projects simple to start with, building on them as you go. And when your work is done, you’ll have a newly-grown customer base that keeps coming back long after the high street re-opens.