- Your customers want better search, discovery and navigation, clear product/service information and features, social proof, purchasing flexibility and great post-purchase support
- Invest in all these areas. Invest in what your customers want, not what you think they want
- Work with a trusted partner if your organization does not have the time or resource to create great digital commerce experiences
- Inspiring and original digital commerce experiences are the best way to surpass your competition
- They are also the core of a solid, long-term business continuity plan (BCP)
- You have milliseconds to make an impression. Make it count
For decades digital channels have been maturing for all types of consumers and businesses. But the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed digital to the forefront. While it could be argued that this shift may have happened anyway, the change has been aggressively accelerated. Instead of digital being a support function in the customer journey, it’s now the primary touchpoint.
Behaviors have totally changed due to the lockdowns and social distancing measures that are needed to control the spread of COVID.
It’s the biggest shake up since the initial dot-com boom. And it’s affecting everyone. Not just consumers but also B2B buyers.
So it’s vital that all organizations understand that investing in better digital experiences right now will provide not only short-term benefits during the pandemic. But also long-term benefits that can help businesses adapt and survive.
This article will take a look at how investing in better experiences provides security and growth beyond the short-term.
Let’s dig in.
What Customers Actually Want
Before deciding how to invest in digital channels, it’s important for businesses to actually determine what their customers want. This is not as simple as it sounds. Behaviors have changed drastically in 2020, so specifics may vary quite wildly in different verticals. This is especially true in the B2B sector, which has tended to be more of an offline channel until very recently.
But with two decades of digital commerce awareness and data we can make some broad conclusions about the capabilities customers value most. According to a recent Bloomreach report compiled in conjunction with Forrester Consulting, these can be grouped into different categories.
Search, discovery and navigation
- Simple, clear and easy site navigation
- Helpful search results
- Advanced search capabilities
Although it’s not a customer concern as such, discovery begins in search engines. So providing a consistent experience for customers at every touchpoint is essential. So there are some SEO implications to consider.
People do not have time to use slow and confusing sites. Especially when there are many alternatives out there. So a simple site navigation structure and search functionality that gives customers what they want are vital components of a great digital commerce experience. Your business has 17 to 50 milliseconds to make a good impression. Not much time, so make it count!
Product/Service Information and Features
- Product images
- Clear pricing
- Product availability information
- In-depth product information
Product information and pricing has become more important for many B2B buyers, now they have shifted more towards online self-discovery when they are making purchases. For B2B buyers in complex sectors like healthcare procurement, clear and in-depth information is a must-have in the purchase funnel.
Supporting tools and social proof
- Third-party company ratings (Clutch, TrustPilot etc etc)
- Customer reviews
Social proof helps consumers to trust brands and companies that they may not have heard of. It’s a vital part of a customer’s digital experience.
In the B2B space reviews on platforms like Clutch can really help to establish whether a company can fulfil their needs before reaching out to them.
Purchasing flexibility and support
- Flexible payments
- Click and collect or rapid delivery
- Good customer service support
Flexible payment options are very important to B2B buyers and are a must for B2B marketplaces. For B2C businesses, an O2O strategy built around “click and collect” functionality is useful for both customers and the business. As it can increase footfall to retail locations and is likely to result in additional purchases.
What happens if you don’t deliver what customers want?
Most of the above seems fairly obvious. But the Bloomreach report found that 65% of consumers and 79% of B2B buyers face challenges when researching or purchasing online.
Not meeting customer needs is costly.
Things get even worse if your business is serving an especially poor digital commerce experience. 80% of customers report having abandoned their purchase, or switched to another merchant, due to a poor digital experience. And they are very likely to tell other people all about it. Either through online reviews or by word of mouth.
Knowing what customers actually want, then giving them what they want, is the foundation of creating great digital commerce experiences.
Where are businesses investing?
According to the Bloomreach report, there are some differences between where businesses planned to invest pre-COVID and what their investment goals are now.
Pre-COVID priorities highlighted by decision makers:
1. Connected products
2. Using third-party online marketplace
3. AI capabilities
4. Conversion optimization and A/B testing
Investments accounting for COVID:
1. AI capabilities
2. Advanced search capabilities
3. Direct-to-consumer models
4. Using third-party online marketplace
5. Commerce platform
Although around 45% decision makers in Bloomreach’s survey indicated that improving customer experience is a “critical priority”, the stated investments do not really match up to that aim. They don’t address what customers actually want, advanced search capabilities aside.
This shows that many businesses have a lot to learn about what makes a great digital commerce experience.
Customers want experiences that deliver on their priorities. Businesses need to realize that creating digital commerce experiences that deliver on these priorities is a must. Otherwise customers will find another provider that will give them what they want.
Business continuity benefits
The pandemic has affected businesses differently based on their level of digital maturity. Organizations that treated digital as a “nice to have” and focused more on offline activity were affected more than organizations who placed digital at the heart of what they do.
Most decision makers, even in offline focused businesses, knew they would have to transform.
But COVID has seriously accelerated these plans.
This brings the business continuity benefits of having a fully mature digital channel into sharp focus.
Although there is cause for hope with the vaccines being rolled out, no one really knows when lockdown measures will end in most countries. Particularly in the E.U and U.S. We also don’t know how stringent measures on pandemic prevention will be in the future.
Having a fully mature digital channel, with great commerce experiences, should be a key component in any business continuity plan. It will ensure your business can adapt rapidly and survive.
Competitive Benefits – Stand out from the crowd
It’s a no-brainer that if you offer a better digital experience to your customers than your competitors, customers will look at your brand favorably. In fact the Bloomreach report discovered that nearly half of customers would pay more for a better experience.
This is a game changer for many businesses. If your competitors can, for example, beat you on price, if you offer a better experience then you can still win and grow.
But to deliver this type of experience to customers, most businesses have to totally rethink how they do things. To deliver experiences that go beyond a mere transaction is not something most companies have the resources or knowledge to achieve.
Digital commerce experiences that move people from consideration to action are the ultimate investment any organization can make. Regardless of whether your B2C or B2B or even in a challenging technical sector, people’s core needs are the same. And giving people what they want is the best way to beat the competition.
How MAQE can help
Customers need support in every step of their digital journey. From inspiration and discovery in search all the way through to support after purchase. This is where MAQE can help you. We can help you to rethink how you connect with your customers and how to give them what they really want.
If you need help creating inspired digital commerce experiences and journeys then talk to us via firstname.lastname@example.org.