Minor changes can significantly affect conversion rates. Here are five ways to meet digital shoppers' demands and ensure a smooth customer experience from shopping cart to delivery.

Matthew Furneaux, director of location Intelligence at Loqate

Consumer appetite for online retail, which surged during the peak of the holiday shopping in December, has not subsided. Instead, it’s more intense than ever. Online shopping grew by 32.4% last year and observers expect it to continue expanding as competitive pricing, ease of use and affordable shipping become ubiquitous in the retail sector.

In today’s digital-first retail environment, it’s clear that the checkout process is critical as businesses compete to make it simple for customers to reach that coveted “thank you” screen.

Minor changes can significantly impact conversion rates for retailers looking to optimize their online sales efforts. Here are five ways merchants can meet digital shoppers’ demands and ensure a smooth customer experience from shopping cart to doorstep.

1. Know your buyer

Just as diverse types of customers crowded yesterday’s malls, today’s online shoppers are also unique. Some visit online stores to purchase a specific product while others are browsing, deciding whether to buy an item, and when. Some surf the web just to kill time.

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While every element of an ecommerce site is important for its success, businesses rely on unique characteristics to convert shoppers’ interest into sales. Identifying different user types can help design teams ensure that they build a usable and useful shopping experience. Following is a list of common buyer types and the design considerations that typically appeal to each:

  • Product-focused shoppers: Prioritize clear product descriptions and images.
  • Browsers: Engage buyers with new, popular, and on-sale products.
  • Researchers: In addition to clear product descriptions, define unfamiliar terminology and offer user reviews written in easy-to-understand language.
  • Bargain hunters: Display sale items alongside full-priced inventory and provide easy coupon redemption processes.
  • One-time shoppers: Ensure clear site navigation, complete product descriptions and concise, trustworthy company information.

Knowing your buyers allows you to develop an online experience uniquely suited for your primary customer types.

2. Prioritize fast, frictionless checkout

The checkout process is often the moment when shoppers decide to make a purchase or walk away. The average global cart abandonment rate is nearly 71%, and many shoppers identify a lengthy checkout process, including excessive information fields, as the primary reason for abandoning a potential purchase.

While frustrating for shoppers, this creates an opportunity for retailers to provide a fast, frictionless checkout experience by reducing form fields, simplifying the checkout steps and implementing guest checkout.

Although collecting information with a registration process seems like an opportunity to build better customer relationships, many resent the obligation. One major ecommerce site put this proposition to the test, removing the “register” button with a “checkout as guest” option. The number of shoppers who converted to buyers increased by 45%, adding $300 million to the company’s sales in the first year.

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3. Guide users to checkout

For many shoppers, online checkout is an arduous journey entailing a lengthy process complete with personal information input, lengthy disclaimers and disinviting messaging. This is why providing visual guide marks, such as a progress bar, is a great way to give the customer a view of the end goal.

REISS and Dollar Shave Club both deploy this process at checkout, allowing customers to easily purchase the desired product without feeling trapped in a time-consuming process. Similarly, Ralph Lauren pairs a simple, single-line address validation with small green checkboxes that indicate when an address field is complete and verified. That approach gives shoppers confidence that they’ve entered the information correctly and demonstrating progress toward completing their purchase.

4. Optimize for mobile

Today’s shoppers are increasingly reliant on their phones for browsing and buying items online, and they expect a seamless shopping experience. To meet this demand, retailers must optimize for mobile. This includes:

  • Creating clear, readable form labels and text.
  • Minimizing the need to input text.
  • Opting for single-page checkout.

Together, these features streamline the checkout progress, making it easier for mobile shoppers to complete purchases without error or added friction.

5. Make sure packages reach the doorstep

In the Amazon era, buyers demand fast, accurate shipping from online retailers. Unfortunately, one out of twenty online orders never reach its destinations. Since 57% of consumers say they would avoid using a retailer again if they had a negative delivery experience, ecommerce companies must reliably deliver purchases to the customer’s doorstep.

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Shipping problems are often attributed to challenges in volume management at USPS, UPS or FedEx. While shipping companies are indeed managing soaring delivery numbers, many failed deliveries result from incorrect addresses collected at checkout.

In other words, the checkout process has a lot to do with optimizing delivery success rates. Confirming and verifying addresses in real-time will reduce the potential for missteps. Simultaneously, optimizing checkout to support curbside or locker pickup can create a smooth customer experience.

Conclusion: Optimize the customer experience

Online shopping is continuing to expand for the retail industry. Whether shoppers want items shipped to their house or want to participate in curbside pickup, shopping online has become a bigger part of our retail landscape.

In a competitive digital environment, meeting customer demand is a bottom-line issue separating stores ready to thrive from those falling behind. Regardless of the approach, optimizing the customer experience from item view to delivery is the key to success.

Loqate provides location intelligence and address verification technology designed to make sure orders get to their intended destinations. 

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