Ecommerce websites constantly evolve as customers’ needs change. What was once cutting-edge may not cut it anymore, and retailers must find new ways to drive sales and conversion. Plus, web design has become much more than creating a visually stunning, easy-to-use website. The customer’s experience shopping online is becoming a bigger priority, especially when shoppers are frequenting physical stores less amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, features like augmented reality (AR) and 3D imaging are becoming vital ways retailers bring the in-store experience into consumers’ homes via technology on their mobile devices or desktop computers.
13.0% of the top 100 retailers ranked in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 have virtual reality (VR) or AR capabilities on their ecommerce sites or in their apps, according to Digital Commerce 360’s analysis of site visit data conducted in October 2020. And other retailers in the Top 1000 are adding this function as the need for shoppers to visualize or try on products at home instead of shopping in-store becomes more of the norm.
Tenth Street Hats implemented augmented reality vendor Vertebrae’s try-on technology in September 2018. Tenth Street Hats is the ecommerce site for hat wholesaler and distributor Dorfman Pacific Inc. Since implementing it, the online hat retailer has increased its conversion rate by 115% and increased its revenue per user by 110% for those shoppers who engage with the tool, says CEO Carson Finkle.
Additionally, Tenth Street Hats has more than doubled its revenue growth in October 2020 year over year, he says. Finkle credits some of that lift to the AR functionality, as 43% of site visitors engage with the AR tool.
“AR definitely plays a hand in it, but I don’t think it’s the sole reason why we’ve grown,” Finkle says. “But we’re continually finding a way to create a good experience online, which gives us a good bump.”
Enhancing the virtual customer shopping experience
AR technology is just one way retailers can help shoppers re-create the in-store experience. But it might not be enough. Some shoppers need that extra help via customer service. According to the Digital Commerce 360 conversion survey of 105 retailers conducted in early 2020, 37% of retailers rated integrated customer service as especially crucial for improving one’s conversion rate. And 41% said customer experience is an important investment to make to drive online conversion.
Retailers attempt to provide excellent customer service by adding such things as live chat and virtual appointments to their ecommerce sites to assist shoppers more efficiently. 49.2% of the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 retailers use live chat to advance the shopper experience. And 73 of the top 100 also have added the functionality, as of our website visits in October. However, just 25% of retailers in the top 100 of Digital Commerce 360’s Top 1000 offer virtual appointments or consultations.
“A strong customer experience can serve as the foundation for improving conversion as both initial experience and retention prospects both matter,” says Lauren Freedman, senior consumer insights analyst at Digital Commerce 360.
Home improvement retailer Coburn Supply Co. was able to remain open during the start of the pandemic as it was deemed an essential business because of its B2B functionality. But it chose to enhance its online capabilities by adding a virtual showroom to its ecommerce site to allow shoppers who did not feel comfortable coming to the showroom to still shop and purchase with the help of an associate.
“We understood the importance of these customers seeing the products they were interested in for their kitchen and bath projects,” says Jessica Stelly, web operations manager for the retailer.
Each category showroom—such as kitchen, bath, HVAC—has its own landing page with a form the shopper can fill out to set up an appointment. An associate then walks them through the showroom to view products and helps them complete their purchase online.
“Although most customers like to come inside to touch and feel the products, the option of virtual appointments was very helpful to keep our customers’ showroom appointments more personalized during social distancing protocols,” Stelly says.
The retailer chose to enhance its ecommerce capabilities mostly due to the pandemic, but also because it experienced a 55% increase in ecommerce sales from 2018 to 2019, and a 40% increase in contractor sales originating from its website and mobile app. Stelly says this trend will continue in 2020.
“Our customers see us evolving to make it easier to do business with and we are meeting them wherever they are on their technology journey,” she says.
The 2021 Web Design & Customer Experience Report includes new insights into the web design and features retailers are using, the online shopping innovations many are making, and consumer perception of website functionality while shopping online. Here’s what’s included in the report:
- Data on the web features and functions used by Top 1000 retailers.
- Customer service trends that retailers include on their website, including live chat and virtual appointments.
- How COVID-19 has driven retailers to add new site features to better connect with shoppers.
- Analysis on ecommerce site visits to the top 100 retailers.
- Consumer insights on online shopping preferences.
- Interviews with Top 1000 retailers on what is working in web design.
- More than 20 detailed charts and graphs.
The 2021 Web Design & Customer Experience Report can be downloaded now as a PDF for $399. Digital Commerce 360 Gold and Platinum Members receive a complimentary copy of this report as a part of their membership.