The founding fathers of e-commerce, Ebay, and Amazon, rose to power based on the principle of complete buyer autonomy.

As a customer, you have unencumbered power to buy anything you want at any time. But like all transformative or revolutionary changes to consumer trends, there are some that adapt, and others that do not.

For example, Kodak was first to develop the digital camera, but chose to shelve the product for fear of cannibalizing film. Eventually, in the year their patent ended, companies like Fuji Film used digital to erode film’s pedestal standing. That same year, Kodak went bankrupt.

Ironically, successful e-commerce businesses are tapping into the very resource that originally distinguished them from their brick-and-mortar competitions: personal customer attention.

Whether your business is online or in stores, businesses cannot avoid the importance of exceeding the incredibly high new standard of customer service and interactive expectations. Online shopping experiences now require as much customer-centric attention as a shopping attendant would give at a traditional brick and mortar store.

Not only is client engagement crucial for first putting your brand on your potential customer’s radars, but it should be implemented through every step of the customer purchasing experience to improve sales conversions.

E-commerce businesses should prioritize customer engagement through every logical step of the customer’s interaction with their company from start to finish.

What will you find in this article?

Social Media Engagement
Website User Experience
Effective Product Page
Streamlined Checkout Procedures
Post Purchase Engagement
Final Thoughts

Sounds good? Let’s get started.

Social Media Engagement

Active social media channels are imperative for the success of an e-commerce business: they are your first line of offense in customer acquisition and last line of defense for customer retention.

Since e-commerce businesses do not have the luxury of foot traffic and window shopping like brick and mortar stores, social visibility through content, shares, and hashtags is crucial for putting digital businesses on potential customers’ radar.

The interactive nature of social media creates opportunities to reinforce your business: solidifying your brand and developing brand loyalty by creating a digital community.

The interactive nature of social media creates opportunities to reinforce your business: solidifying your brand and developing brand loyalty by creating a digital community. Click To Tweet

In fact, many e-commerce based businesses can directly attribute their success to the cult-like following and community they have cultivated through their social media engagement with customers. For example, the most world-renowned fitness apparel e-commerce companies have championed leveraging social media as the underlying engine of their businesses.

For example, Gymshark established itself as one of the fastest growing retail stores in the United Kingdom in 2016 and surpassed 100 million pounds in sales in 2018 by almost exclusively using social media-based marketing.
Gymshark and their customer acquisition through social media
GymShark breaks down its customer acquisition metrics by percentage from its respective social media channels. (Source)

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Taking advantage of the thriving health and fitness social climate, Gymshark employed an army of well-known fitness influencers to rave about to their loyal followers, bringing their brand legitimacy and public trust of product. Gymshark continued to prioritize customer engagement through every outlet of their marketing strategy:

  • Consistently feature customers in their apparel across social accounts

Gymshark and their hashtag on instagram that shows customer engagement
#GymShark66 reflects one of its successful trending campaigns to highlight its customers by sharing their participation in its sponsored fitness challenge. (Source)

  • Produce interactive content like work out videos and healthy lifestyle tips
  • Sponsor challenges and giveaways for their followers to participate in, incentivizing them to share their personal affiliation with their brand on social channels
  • Provide opportunities for customer feedback and input

Gymshark engaging their customers through a twitter poll
Gymshark frequently uses its social channels to use follower feedback to influence its future products and designs
Gymshark was also one of the first major e-commerce brands to transform their digital business model into a unique in person experience. Gymshark has held several pop-up shops around the world where their customers can not only physically shop collections, but can also meet the famous faces behind the brand and community.
Gymshark influencer team
Gymshark’s famed influencer team can be found at all their pop-up shops to interact with their fans. (Source)
Another thriving e-commerce fitness brand, Alphalete, has used similar social tactics to establish its brand’s notoriety, but has gone a step further to merge their digital community into real-life experiences. In addition to holding meet-ups in major cities around the world to connect fans with the brand, Alphalete has extensively used its YouTube platform to create personal content for customers to engage with and see the brands influencers on a more intimate level.

Alphalete also created a permanent venue for the digital community to physically interact with the brand by opening a full-service warehouse style gym in Texas. The gym culture heavily focuses on bringing the brand closer to its followers: visitors are often highlighted on Alphalete’s social networks or featured in the brands influencer’s YouTube vlogs.
Alphalete gym in Texas
Guzman’s Alphalete Gym in Houston, Texas. (Source)
Additionally, Alphalete offers its gym members and attendees exclusive offers of products that can be sold at the front desk. This small but profitable brick-and-mortar platform brings in great additional income that can easily be tracked through its gym software.

Website User Experience

In addition to your website to be aesthetically appealing and representative of your company’s brand, every function of your website MUST prioritize user experience. Your page speed must meet the high customer expectations that have resulted from digital hyperconnectivity. In fact, if a page load time exceeds three seconds, it will lose over half of its original visitors.

In addition to your website to be aesthetically appealing and representative of your company's brand, every function of your website MUST prioritize user experience. Click To Tweet

User experience (UX) is essential to the livelihood and ultimately the success of an e-commerce business. Website UX is extremely important when it comes to stabilizing on-page metrics like bounce rate, visit duration, and number of pageviews. With good on-page UX, metrics that weigh on google’s ranking algorithms will improve and increase search visibility.

To engage your customers, your website must be:

Simple to Navigate

Simple navigation on auchandirect
Easy item selection and “add or remove” from cart options, as seen above, are crucial for online UX. (Source)

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Due in large part to the digitization of society and screen addictions, the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds on average. With this in mind, if users cannot simply and easily find what they’re looking for on your web site, they will look somewhere else. Not only should your website be intuitive and easy to maneuver, but should offer helpful user tools like easy navigation bar, breadcrumb links, and simple subfolder hierarchy.

As far as website design, less is more. Keep it simple. Often times, elaborate website design crowded with text, pictures, and links will result in confusing the user.

As far as website design, less is more. Keep it simple. Often times, elaborate website design crowded with text, pictures, and links will result in confusing the user. Click To Tweet

Mobile Friendly

As consumers are increasingly moving to mobile searches rather than desktop, compatibility for mobile commerce website is a necessity.
Mobile e-commerce statistics
Projections indicating continued growth of E-commerce purchases through mobile devices. (Source)
Statistically, it is more likely that your users will interact with your e-commerce website with a smartphone or tablet than with a desktop computer. In fact, In the US alone, online purchases via mobile made up for 27% of total e-commerce sales.

Great UX also demands that your e-commerce website is easy to navigate and conduct purchases on from any device. At the minimum, make sure your mobile site loads quickly, provides simple responsive Call-To-Action buttons, and avoids pop-ups or sidebars.
High-converting mobile page by asos.com
Simple and concise mobile platforms directly lead to higher conversions. (Source)

Effective Product Page

Your product pages are your most effective tool to push conversion. They are an excellent opportunity to bridge the unavoidable physical gap between customers and your products.

Therefore, your product descriptions should be very detailed, including:

  • multiple high resolution photos of the product
  • detailed sizing information (if applicable)
  • product materials
  • product use instructions

One of the most booming verticals of the e-commerce industry in the past several years has been makeup and cosmetic companies. The leaders of this field have innovatively equipped their product pages to provide their customers with creative color matching capabilities to help them select the proper products to complement their skin tones.

For example, reigning queen of the e-commerce cosmetic world, Kylie Jenner, provides detailed shade visuals, pictures, and descriptions with her products to help customers find their proper tones.

Kyliecosmetics and their effective product page
Color matching tools have been instrumental in helping the cosmetics e-commerce market solidify its place as one of the most competitive and profitable verticals of online businesses. (Source)
For other cosmetics that do not need to be perfectly matched to skin tone, like lipsticks or eye shadows, the website provides vivid pictures of the product on diverse models so customers can gauge how the particular product will appear on them.
Kylie Cosmetics features high-resolution pictures on product pages
High resolution product visuals are crucial for customers to engage. (Source)

Provide Product Reviews

Product reviews not only empower your customers to give valued feedback, but are equally important in helping prospective buyers make more informed decisions before purchasing.

The power of product reviews on an e-commerce web site cannot be understated. In fact, 91% of consumers agreed aged 19-34 trust online reviews as much as personal reviews.

To complement the detailed product images and descriptions, Kylie Cosmetics lists reviews from verified shoppers to provide further information about the product to prospective buyers. Crowd sourced reviews not only fill the gaps of needed information customers crave before buying, but also provide unbiased perspectives on the products that the client feels he or she can trust.

Kylie Cosmetics feature reviews on product pages
Client product reviews of Kylie Cosmetics ensure as much transparency about the products as possible, bridging the gap between buying online vs. in-person. (Source)

Streamlined Checkout Procedures

There are many reasons that contribute to why users tend to opt out during the checkout process, commonly known as shopping cart abandonment. Referring back to the continually dissipating human attention span of eight seconds, a complicated or time consuming check out process will deter customers. Optimizing checkout flow and simplifying the purchase process is a mandatory first step to winning sales.

Many of the most common ones can be negated through customer engagement.

The most common reason for cart abandonment results from lack of consumer trust in the website or feeling like their payment details could be compromised. Despite the prevalence of e-commerce business, individuals are still more hesitant to complete purchases online than they are in person.

To alleviate this, your website should:

  • Provide secure payment verifications or social proof during the checkout process. Especially for businesses that offer global sales, secure and verified payment gateways are imperative for client trust.

Stanlice showcases USP
Providing additional incentives to purchase, like discounts, are great for customer acquisition and conversions. (Source)

  • Highlight clear and flexible buying incentive options, like free shipping or free returns. Users cited in a study conducted by Walker Sands’ The Future of Retail 2017 that free shipping (80%) and fast shipping (54%) are the top motivators to make more online purchases. Additionally, recent studies indicated 90% of customers were willing to wait longer for delivery if free shipping is offers.

Various and safe payment options on Stanlice
Varied and numerous safe payment options should cater to as many customers as possible. (Source)

  • Provide flexible payment options (numerous credit card providers, paypal, google pay, etc) to make sure as many buyers as possible are accommodated.

Post Purchase Engagement

While facilitating a smooth and stress-free delivery process and product satisfaction are obvious to earn repeat buyers, e-commerce businesses can also go the extra mile to impress customers with delivery and service beyond.

For example, using custom packaging or adding small bonus “gifts” in orders can go a long way in terms of resonating with customers. The attention to details does not go unnoticed by customers; in fact, these small gestures can be the most impactful in terms of client retention for future purchases.

Thank you note on a package
Even something as simple as a small note thanking your customers for their purchase can be the difference maker that establishes your company as one that truly cares. Any company can automate a “thanks for your purchase” email, but a small hand-written note expressing gratitude can cultivate an authentic relationship with the customer they will not soon forget, or more importantly, come back as a repeat customer.

ChasinUnicorns adds a thank you note inside the package
Cosmetic and lifestyle brand ChasinUnicorns leaves a personal touch in all packages with individualized and thoughtful notes.
Finally, you can still stick with the traditional post-purchase discount incentive. You can distribute special promotional offers in the packages or via email collected at the time of payment. If by email, embrace a “nobody likes too much of a good thing” approach. Meaning that while offering discounted prices to customers is great, nobody likes feeling overwhelmed by sales pitches, which would lead your customers to unsubscribe.

Final Thoughts

The trajectory for any change in consumer behavior inevitably hits a growth curve–not only in terms of business growth, but the growing pains that come along with it in adapting to strong consumer demands. In terms of e-commerce, convenience is now the currency of customer loyalty.

Having a unique product-driven value proposition coupled with simple UX and effective customer engagement goes a long way in today’s consumer-first society.

Author Bio:

Laura is a Marketing Specialist for Perfect Gym Software.

She is a native born Los Angeleno recently relocated to Warsaw, Poland who spends most of her time at the gym, on an airplane, or online shopping.

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