Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mastering eCommerce Optimization: Engaging Customers

Platforms / Strategy / Technology

*Check out Dale’s previous post in this series: B2B eCommerce Leaders: It’s time to Optimize your B2B Customer’s Path to Purchase

This post will focus around the next section of Episerver’s eBook A Guide to Mastering Ecommerce Optimization - best practices to Engage your customer.

We at Rightpoint believe that any digital experience must revolve around your customer. To create a user experience that meets their needs and leads to a completed order, you must understand your customer, their roles,  personas, and their path to purchase. Any online store you deploy must support that unique customer journey. Other digital and offline touch points should also support that same journey. This can be a challenge for manufacturers and distributors with diverse channels and well established business processes.

As a result, too many B2B sites reflect the business practices and desired path to purchase of the seller, not the buyer. Here are a few examples:

· Navigation that represents the product taxonomy of the seller. Products may be listed by product type or family, when in fact customers want to shop by a specific solution or package of related products.

· Standard product descriptions and specifications straight displayed are straight out of the ERP system with little enrichment. Customer’s may need much more information and different buyers or personas may be looking for different types of content to assist in their purchase decisions.

· Searches are supported by specific product names or SKUs only. In reality, customers may not know the name of the product or part number. They expect the search engine to be smart enough to map a generic name to the seller’s product that best matches the query.

· A single image may be presented to represent the product. Customers may be looking for a full 360-degree view of the product, the ability to zoom in, see different color choices, et.

· Complex products may not be available for online ordering because the seller believes customers must talk to a sales rep. In fact, buyers may want to configure and price solution as part of their research before then engage with a sales rep. As buyers are becoming more comfortable ordering online, they expect to be able to purchase those items online through the use of a configurator or some type of guided selling.

· A very traditional path to purchase (aka old school) that consists of adding individual items to a shopping cart from a product category list or product detail page. Instead, many buyers are looking for a way to quickly place an order by typing in a part number and quantity. They may even just want reorder from a previous order or from a saved shopping list

· Sellers may force buyers to request a quote directly from a sales rep. This quote may be generated and delivered via email or through a separate quoting system used by the seller. In reality, the buyer wants a populated shopping cart with the adjusted price so they can simply checkout in the same manner they do for other orders.

· Inventory quantities may not be shown. In many implementations, a final order price is not provided because customer specific pricing, promotions, or freight are not made available online at the time of checkout.

There are many more examples as well. All of the examples above negatively impact your online revenue, customer satisfaction and loyalty.

B2B sellers need to fully understand their customer including all market segments, buyer roles, and even personas. A digital commerce strategy should be created to support the customer journey. Building a UX to meet your customer’s need requires that deep level of knowledge.

Outputs of this digital commerce strategy will include:

· A digital roadmap for online stores, supporting touch points, and required technologies to support the customer journey

· A visual representation of digital and offline touchpoints and how they influence the purchase.

· A content strategy to support those touch points. This includes specific content for each market segment, role, and persona. Information architecture and search and navigation. A content analysis and resulting gap report will inform the data schema, and product enrichment. It will identify new content and attributes that need to be created. This includes both product and marketing or informational content to support the specific buyer’s journey.

· The User Experience and Visual Design will be developed to align to the customer journey leveraging the content strategy and personalization components will be created to target the content by context and persona.

Sounds like a lot of work and investment? It certainly can be, but without it you risk building an online store that will ultimately fall short of your goals.

With a clear strategy you will be in a much better position to execute the plan to create a UX aligned commerce journey as Episerver suggests. Specifically, their eBook focuses on:

· Combining content and commerce to provide a seamless user journey. As Episerver points out, content is becoming a key differentiator for B2B sellers. Personalizing the content for specific contexts and personas drives higher conversion rates. Using the same personalization and content in other digital touch points such as email or retargeting ads improves results as well.

· Smart site search: key features to engage customers. As previously mentioned, search is critical to meeting your conversion objectives. Synonyms and fuzzy searches are critical. Allowing customers to use their own part numbers for generic products is also helpful. Images, SKUs, and short descriptions in a type ahead search lead to better results.

· Create a browsing experience aligned with goal/task completion. Navigation is a key here. Provide relevant site navigation to support the buyer. Include appropriate filtered/faceted navigation to find the desired products. Know a persona’s path to purchase allows you to build merchandising and order assembly solutions to meet their needs. Guided selling, quick orders, configurators, product family orders, save and shared shopping carts and list all contribute to an improved goal completion.

· Adding value through product enrichment. This includes specific content for different personas or markets. Creating multiple images of products, including related items, accessories, and substitute products. Leveraging videos to tell a story or testimonial. Adding all related spec sheets, repair manuals, installation manuals and so forth.

· Tailoring merchandising to individual users. Beyond specific marketing or product content, this includes Presenting related items, cross sells, upsells, just in time promotions and so forth based on the persona and context. A researcher may want to understand all the product options you offer and be able to compare them. But, they may not care about price or promotional offers. A senior buyer may be looking for a quantity price break and not care about related products. Make sure you align content and promotions to the persona. Beyond that, product comparisons, list/grid views, product family views and cross sell/upsell presentation must support their needs.

Please read A Guide to Mastering Ecommerce Optimization for many more great ideas.

Key takeaway – do your homework and understand your markets and customers before you start building an online presence. Invest in a digital and content strategy.

Buyers are too sophisticated and digitally savvy today to buy from a “one size fits all” online store that supports the seller’s objectives instead of the buyer’s