Broken customer journeys in e-commerce

Jonas wera

Digital Marketing Consultant

The tremendous growth of e-commerce, both worldwide and in Belgium, has prompted companies to adapt their business models and take full advantage of these new opportunities.

In more recent times, we have seen companies move to more mature levels of e-commerce, with well-established business models, yet there still are certain hurdles that even those established business models struggle with.

In this first blog post, we will cover hurdles in the awareness, consideration, and purchase stages of the customer journey; in a second blog post, we will write about hurdles in post-purchase stages. 

The Belgian e-commerce landscape

E-commerce is on the rise all around the world and Belgium is no different. According to a recent study, and based on data from PSPs (Payment Service Providers), e-commerce transactions in Belgium grew by 20% in 2018. Moreover, the basket value is increasing year-over-year with the average basket value rising just over €100 in 2018.

A notable difference in the past few years is that e-commerce businesses have been around for quite some time now. Where e-commerce once served a niche market, or was a side business for many organizations, it has become the primary sales channel of many large corporations. These organizations have tailored their business models around this new way of doing business.
However, as with any other business, there is no model that will last. E-commerce is changing more rapidly than most other (traditional) business models and this creates the need to be more agile than ever before.

This article will cover some ways in which innovative companies are trying to stay ahead of the competition by constantly adapting themselves to new trends. Note that the one thing they all have in common is the primary focus on the customer journey. In the end, e-commerce, like any other business, is about your customers. If you can add value for your customers, if you can offer them convenience where others cannot, you are a winner.

The digital customer journey
Source: Metrillo

We built a store but have forgotten the front door

Having a successful online e-commerce business starts, just like any other business, by attracting people to your store. It’s a key step in the awareness and consideration stage. While there are many blogs and books on SEO and how to drive (quality) traffic to your website, little has yet been said about voice search optimization.

Some predict that by the early 2020’s, roughly half of all searches online will be through voice search.

Shockingly, only very few e-commerce websites are being optimized for voice search. Having an e-shop without optimizing it for voice search queries will soon be virtually the same as having a brick-and-mortar store without a front door. No matter how appealing your assortment, potential buyers embarking on a voice search-initiated customer journey won’t find you in the first place. Maxence, one of our Digital Marketing Consultants, has recently written an interesting read on voice search optimization.

The second front door: social selling

Another front door you might want to consider building, is the social shopping door. For those of you who haven’t heard of social selling before, I would recommend to go and check out this Hootsuite video on social selling. In a nutshell, social selling is building relationships with potential buyers through social media, nurturing and hand-holding them throughout the entire customer journey until a deal has been closed. People expose their likes, dislikes, interests, and desires in a very open way on social media. So, for them to engage in social shopping, you need to build authentic, one-to-one relationships with them in order to gain their trust and ultimately sell to them.

Broken customer journeys: abandoned shopping carts

Imagine a local supermarket where roughly three quarters of all customers leave without buying anything. Would you enter such a store? Sadly, this is a brutal reality for most online stores. A staggering 77% of online shoppers abandon their carts before completing a purchase. Such a tremendous loss in opportunity is mostly due to a poor customer journey. Online shopping does add convenience by not having to leave your house, but it takes away a very important part of the experience, i.e. feeling and touching the product.

When people have physically touched a product, they acquire a sense of ownership over the product which makes their likelihood to buy go up significantly. Psychologists often refer to this phenomenon with the concept of endowment effect, or in economic terms, the willingness to pay to acquire something is typically lower than the willingness to accept to give it up. It’s the reason car dealers insist on a test drive and apparel retailers really want you to try on that jacket. The moment you touch and experience the product, you acquire a certain sense of ownership and are no longer willing to give it up. Check out the below video to get a better understanding of the endowment effect.

This lack of physical contact with the product is one of the major shortcomings of online selling and can in part explain the extremely high cart abandon rates. A few ways to address this issue is by means of brick-and-mortar stores and/or virtual reality (VR).

Brick-and-mortar & virtual reality to the rescue

Historically, companies set up an e-commerce website as a side business to their brick-and-mortar stores, or to serve niche markets. Later, companies that moved into a more mature stage, often reduced or shut down their brick-and-mortar stores and went all digital.

Nowadays, we see the opposite trend: digital stores (companies that were founded as an online-only business) are opening brick-and-mortar stores to give customers the real experience and overcome one of the most major hurdles of online shopping. It allows customers to touch and feel the products and give them a sense of ownership over an item before they buy it. Now, the price the customer is willing to pay is no longer the willingness to pay, but becomes the willingness to accept to give up, which is significantly higher.

If you want to go the extra mile, you might want to consider virtual reality. VR can play a pivotal role in creating a sense of product ownership by the customer. Technology has evolved to the extent that we are now able to build virtual (online) showrooms. FCA-owned Jeep is a good example: in certain areas, when you land on their website, a pop-up will appear with, amongst other options, the option to video-call a salesperson. He/She wears smart glasses or a camera-equipped smartphone and can show you the vehicles and talk you through the features in real time. You can call in from any internet-enabled device, from anywhere in the world without having to come to the dealership. Most importantly, by seeing the product in such details, you acquire a certain sense of ownership and the price you are willing to pay is no longer the willingness to pay but the willingness to accept to give up, which – again – is significantly higher.

In a follow-up blog post, we will cover more hurdles, in particular those in the post-purchase stages.

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