Retail & Merchandising

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Ecommerce Customer Experience Curation

Three best practices for ecommerce companies regarding curating/creating a best-in-class customer experience are producing thorough product pages that are loaded with details, creating a website that is mobile-optimized (and not just mobile-friendly), and providing the most-possible customer support options (live chat and a portal for self-service are must-haves).

FINDINGS

best practice 1 — thorough product pages loaded with details

  • One best practice for ecommerce companies regarding curating/creating a best-in-class customer experience is to create thorough product pages packed with detail.
  • Thorough product pages need much more than a picture, price, and product name. For each product, there should be multiple photos that are high quality and the product description should be detailed. The level of detail provided should be such that a customer can have full confidence that the product is exactly what they're looking for.
  • Producing thorough product pages is a best practice because it is described as such by industry sources ShipStation and CMSWire (which states that "fantastic customer experiences start with great product content").
  • Research shows that providing thorough product pages pays off because (1) "87% of consumers" surveyed said that product content is either very important or extremely important when mulling online purchasing decisions, (2) "millennials are 40% more likely than adults to say product content is extremely important to their [online] purchasing decisions," (3) 98% of consumers have decided against purchasing an item online due to either incorrect or incomplete product content, and (4) 76% of consumers said that product specifications is the content category they most value.
  • Leading U.S. companies that are employing this best practice include Adidas, REI, and Home Depot.

best practice 2 — mobile-optimized (not just mobile-friendly) websites

  • A second best practice for ecommerce companies regarding curating/creating a best-in-class customer experience is offering a mobile-optimized website.
  • Mobile-optimized websites are different than the desktop sites, as they are specifically created to accommodate consumers accessing the sites on their phones. As such, mobile-optimized websites are different than mobile-friendly, which just means the site can be accessed on mobile and not that it's designed with mobile users in mind.
  • Offering a mobile-optimized website is a best practice because it is described as such by industry sources ShipStation and Software Advice.
  • Research shows that mobile-optimized websites are extremely important with regard to success metrics, as (1) "the bounce rate" (percentage of consumers who leave a website) increases 90% when the time to load a web page increases "from one second to five seconds" and (2) there is a 53% bounce rate when the load time for a web page exceeds three seconds. Mobile-optimized websites are known for having faster load times for web pages, thus reducing the bounce rates and increasing the chances of converting sales by keeping consumers on the sites.
  • Leading U.S. companies that are employing this best practice include Zappos and Etsy.

best practice 3 — offer multiple customer support methods (live chat & a portal for self-service are must-haves)

  • A third best practice for ecommerce companies regarding curating/creating a best-in-class customer experience is to offer customers the most customer support methods as is possible (and definitely more than one support option in total).
  • As the data below will show, live chat and a self-service support options are really valuable for ecommerce companies to have.
  • Contact methods enable customers to ask questions, provide feedback, or get help throughout their ecommerce shopping experience. The five common contact methods that ecommerce retailers offer are a portal for self-service, email, phone, live chat, and social media.
  • Offering as many contact methods as possible is a best practice because it is described as such by industry sources Quick Sprout and ShipStation.
  • Research shows that of all the customer support methods, live chat yields "the highest customer satisfaction level" (73% were fully satisfied).
  • Research also shows that offering a self-service customer support portal is critically important, as (1) 70% of consumers surveyed expect "a company’s website to include a self-service application" and half of consumers surveyed said it's important for them to resolve ecommerce service/product issues on their own.
  • Leading U.S. companies that are employing this best practice specifically with regard to social media customer support include T-Mobile, Nike, Spotify, and Xbox.

YOUR RESEARCH TEAM APPLIED THE FOLLOWING STRATEGY:

To identify best practices for U.S. ecommerce companies regarding curating/creating a best-in-class customer experience, we first looked for articles about such. Of the articles we looked through, the two most directly applicable and detailed articles were published by industry sources ShipStation and Zmags, both of which list such best practices. We ensured that each of the best practices we included are indeed best practices by finding each listed or described as such by at least one other reputable industry source. Some of the sources we used to confirm that the best practices we included are indeed best practices were CMSWire, Quick Sprout, and SmallBizClub. These sources, among others, provided details about each best practice, which we have summarized above. Together, this research process provided us with the information we sought about best practices for ecommerce companies regarding curating/creating a best-in-class customer experience.
Part
02
of three
Part
02

Ecommerce Online / Search Relevance

Searching for solutions to search engine and e-commerce result relevance is overwhelming. Many of the resources end up being repetitions of previously written articles, and others are hopelessly out-of-date. What follows are four hand-picked, data-backed solutions to increase search engine relevancy for e-commerce websites.

Utilizing User Created Content

Keyword Friendly URLs

  • A keyword friendly URL includes unique information about the product right in the actual URL. An example would be http://www.readanybook.com/ebook/harry-potter-and-the-prisoner-of-azkaban-65. This URL contains the book name right in the site address.
  • Including keywords in the URL allows the customer to know exactly what they should expect when going to the link.
  • When other websites include the link to the store or product, the keywords have an increased likelihood of being included as anchor text, which ultimately leads to higher rankings in the search engine results.
  • Search engines crawl these URLs and will create results based on these links. If the keywords are missing or wrong, this will lead to higher bounce rates, which leads to a loss of sales.
  • Macy’s is an excellent example of a website utilizing keyword friendly URLs. Macy’s links to many of their products through several URLs. However, they specify in their HTML code a special “rel=canonical” for each of their redundant URLs, and this results in all SEO value being funneled into a single URL version.

Applying structured data

  • Utilizing structured data is critical because this is the way that Google and other search engines read the website information. This type of data appears as the “rich snippets” in search engine results. These rich snippets provide more details for customers on search engine result pages and ultimately equates to generating more clicks and revenue.
  • Google states that rich snippets do not increase page rank on their search engine result pages. What they do, however, is allow a potential customer to fully understand what is on the page and to see a portion of that content.
  • Possible items to include in rich snippets are products names and id/part numbers, pricing, ratings and reviews, and key takeaways for the products.
  • Overstock.com is a stellar example of applying structured data to their website. The company uses a modified schema.org structuring system for its e-commerce page data.

Using unique title tags for products / not relying on manufacturer descriptions

  • Many times, product descriptions are overlooked when considering SEO. Adding the description directly from the manufacturer (a direct copy/paste) can even get the website banned from search engine results due to the inclusion of repeated/unoriginal material.
  • The rule for product descriptions is always to create unique content. Duplicate content, whether from another web page, or the same title or tags on a single shopping site, reduce a website’s visibility in search engine result pages.
  • It is recommended to keep title tags under 70 characters.
  • Additionally, polling customers as to what words they use when searching provides an advantage as these keywords can then be incorporated into the page titles and body of the web page to provide unique content.
  • Luna Sandals contains a 500+ word description for each of their footwear items. This ensures their content is unique from their competitors and gives search engines plenty of data to index and show to users.

Research Strategy

Your research team weeded through the massive forest of similar SEO and search engine relevancy results to isolate three reliable resources that provide not only the best practices for search engine optimization in 2019 but also provide real-world examples of companies utilizing these strategies. Neil Patel has established himself as the go-to authority when it comes to marketing and SEO. SEM Rush is considered an essential part of any SEO professionals workflow toolkit. Finally, Olga Gabdulkhakova has been writing for Link-Assistant for six years, and covers a variety of topics in optimizing enterprise and e-commerce search engine practices.

None of the aforementioned resources provide metrics in the form of percentages or statistics as to how a website's performance is impacted by these best practices. This is mainly due to the way search engines index results. There are far too many variables to ever give an apples to apples comparison of any one website to another. Instead, the most reasonable approach to utilize methods that are well-documented to increase an e-commerce website's visibility on search engine result pages. We have reviewed the best practices from each of the experts previously mentioned, and they all state similar practices. Therefore, we have assembled the above list of four best practices based on the combined suggestions from all three industry experts.
Part
03
of three
Part
03

Ecommerce Personalization Trends

Three current ecommerce retail/merchandising personalization trends are the use of machine learning, social retargeting, and the inclusion of a resume shopping feature.

findings

trend 1 — the use of machine learning/artificial intelligence

  • One current ecommerce retail/merchandising personalization trend is the use of machine learning/artificial intelligence.
  • Machine learning/artificial intelligence helps to personalize ecommerce retail/merchandising by predicting what customers are looking for, want, or might need help with.
  • Customers' desire for more personalized shopping experiences and related communications are key factors that are driving the trend.
  • From 2019-2022, there is projected to be a 63% increase in the use of machine learning/artificial intelligence by chief marketing officers for purposes that include personalized ecommerce.
  • Amazon is a company at the forefront on the trend, as it's listed among three companies that defined what personalized consumer interactions looks like.

trend 2 — social retargeting

  • A second current ecommerce retail/merchandising personalization trend is social retargeting.
  • Social retargeting helps to personalize ecommerce retail/merchandising by featuring products that are/might be of interest to a specific customer based on their previous brand interactions, compared to featuring a generic social media advertisement that might be totally irrelevant to that customer.
  • Social retargeting can also yield an advertisement on social media for the exact product that a consumer had previously been looking at elsewhere.
  • The amount of time that people spend on social media is driving the social retargeting trend, as the average person now spends 135 minutes each day on social media.
  • A research survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers found that retargeted ads have a 76% greater chance of being clicked on than other ads and that 75% of consumers notice ads that are retargeted based on products they had previously looked at.
  • Some companies at the forefront of the trend are ShopBop, Best Buy, and Expedia, as they are listed among companies that produced "Super-Creative, Crazy-Effective Retargeting Ad Ideas" (article title).

trend 3 — including a resume-shopping feature

  • A third current ecommerce retail/merchandising personalization trend is the inclusion of a resume-shopping feature.
  • A resume-shopping feature helps to personalize ecommerce retail/merchandising by remembering the products that a customer was last looking for on the site.
  • Such feature enables ecommerce retailers to display the same/similar products when the customer returns to the site and/or save any items the customer placed in their online shopping cart (but didn't yet purchase).
  • The online shopping cart abandonment rate is driving the resume-shopping/save cart trend, as 70-80% of such shopping carts are abandoned without completing the transaction.
  • A research study found that 60% of the 40 top websites for ecommerce (United States, as determined by most site visits) now have a feature that allows shoppers to save their online shopping carts.
  • Test experiments conducted by industry company Growth Rock found that positive results nearly always come from including a feature to save the shopping cart. This feature is particularly effective when an option stating "save your cart for later by creating a free account" is included. In such instances, 250% more accounts were created when the aforementioned option was included on the ecommerce site.
  • Nordstrom is a company that is at the forefront of the trend, as it was highlighted in the article for such.

YOUR RESEARCH TEAM APPLIED THE FOLLOWING STRATEGY:

To identify current trends for ecommerce personalization trends in the U.S., we first looked for articles about such. Of the articles we looked through, the most directly applicable and detailed article was published by industry source CMO, which lists personalization trends in ecommerce. We ensured that each of the trends we included are indeed trends by finding each listed or described as such by at least one other reputable industry source. The sources that we used to confirm that the trends are indeed trends were Entrepreneur, MarTech Advisor, Beamer, and Growth Rock. These sources, among others, provided details about each trend, which we have summarized above. Together, this research process provided us with all the information we sought about ecommerce personalization trends.
Sources
Sources

From Part 01