Your buyer experience can make or break your eCommerce business. Loyal customers are the lifeline of every strong brand, and a good buyer experience creates more repeat shoppers, five-star reviews, and word-of-mouth recommendations.
Shoppers no longer look for cost, convenience, or delivery speed, but all of those things together. In order to keep customers coming back, you need to develop your sales, nurturing, and fulfillment process to tick all the boxes and deliver an excellent buyer experience.
11 Keys to unlock an exceptional buyer experience
In the U.S. alone, the number of online shoppers is set to hit 266.7 million in 2022. With so many people shopping online, how can you make sure your brand stands out from the rest?
The secret is to create an unforgettable buyer experience.
Here’s how to prioritize the buyer experience at every stage of the customer journey.
- Pre-purchase: Find a great product and ensure quality.
- Making a sale: Be clear about what you’re offering and make it easy to find what they’re looking for.
- Post-purchase: Deliver on your promises and make it easy to return items.
Your buyer experience begins long before someone visits your eCommerce site. The very first seeds of the buyer journey starts with a merchant finding the right product to sell.
Invest in research and development
If your brand doesn’t innovate, it’s going to fall behind. Research and Development (R&D) helps you find out what your customers want empirically. Some ways this can be done include:
- Conducting market research
- Analyzing competitor activity
- Diving into audience insights
- Talking directly to your customers, sales team, and customer service teams
Investing in R&D will allow you to develop products that you know your customers want and need. It also helps you continuously improve your product offerings to boost your reputation in the industry.
Test for quality
Henry Ford famously said, “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.”
This rings true for your buyer experience. Shoppers want to know the products they’re paying for are the highest quality possible.
Work with a variety of manufacturers in the early stages of product development. Analyze their production quality to make sure they can deliver consistent quality, reliably. It’s best to have a network of both local and international manufacturers you can draw on when necessary.
From a business perspective, “quality” could mean adhering to best practices or standards. However, from a customer point of view, quality gets more subjective — brands must take both POVs into account.
According to the Customer Experienced Product Quality (CEPQ) index, buyers typically evaluate quality across the following metrics:
- Ease of use
Before releasing new products, order samples and test their quality against the CEPQ metrics. Knowing which quality metrics matter most to your buyers will allow you to release high-grade products that raise customer satisfaction and improve the buyer experience.
Prioritizing product quality can reduce customer complaints and returns — two factors that are key in creating a positive buyer experience.
Equip buyers for success
Before you even begin to sell items, you should consider what knowledge or information your future buyers will need to fully utilize your products.
No one wants to feel lost, confused, or frustrated with a new purchase. Equip buyers for success by developing clear, professional, multi-platform user manuals for your products.
The quality of your user manual goes hand in hand with perceived product quality and customer satisfaction. In essence, a well-developed user manual can improve the buyer experience.
User manuals come in many shapes and sizes. You’ve got instructional manuals for how to build flat-pack furniture, user guides for how to play video games, installation manuals for setting up devices — just to name a few.
Prioritizing the quality of your user manuals will help bridge any information gaps users may experience and ensure your customers enjoy the full value of the product.
Craft an excellent user manual by covering everything buyers need to know to get the most out of your product.
When creating user manuals, be sure to include:
- Plain, easy-to-understand language
- A table of contents
- Step-by-step instructions
- Visual illustrations to support written instructions
- Logical information flow
- Good design
- Links to where they can find further resources, information, or support
- Frequently asked questions or common problems (and how to fix them)
- Information focusing on solutions
- Best practices for product usage
Consider as well what format works best for your buyers. For example, should you include a physical manual with their product, or would a digital guide be preferred? How you present your manual is equally as important as what goes inside it.
Essentially, your user guides and manuals should be created, designed, and presented in a way that’s most helpful to your buyers.
2) Making the sale
Creating a product that people want is only part of the buying process. You also need to make it easy to discover, make a decision, and purchase products. Let’s talk about what goes into making a sale and how to improve your buyer experience from acquisition to purchase.
Tailor your messaging
Consider how customers find your product listings. Have you made it easy for them to find you on the channel that makes the most sense? Have you tailored your messaging to fit with those channels for maximum impact?
First impressions matter, which means they’re a critical part of your buyer experience.
Look at the different acquisition channels that your customers discover your brand through. Some examples are organic search and SEO, referral programs, brand partnerships, social media, and influencer marketing.
Is your voice on those channels aligned with your brand? Do you deliver on your promises? Is your messaging clear? Do you have custom landing pages to match your different campaigns?
For example, unique landing pages improve the buyer experience by making it easy for shoppers to find exactly what they’re looking for. Your business wins because you’ll sell more products, and your customers win because they’ll be able to buy what they want.
Knowing which channels bring traffic to your online store is key to knowing how to maximize your ROI and ensure shoppers find what they’re looking for.
Review your acquisition channels for opportunities to:
- Drive more relevant traffic to your product listings
- Create a smoother user experience
Create clear product listings
A well-designed product page can mean the difference between conversion and churn.
Your product listings must answer every question a customer has, address every concern, and accurately represent your items.
Here are a few ways to do that:
Use a succinct title that hits all the key points (brand, color, size, measurements, specs, etc.).
Invest in professional high-res product photos that capture your items from different angles, on a plain background, and in action.
Summarize your key benefits in your description, and include an FAQ or more detailed product specs beneath that for shoppers who want to learn more.
Utilize seller badges
You can also use your product pages to call out value added benefits and demonstrate credibility.
Some common seller badges call out listings that offer fast delivery, free shipping, locally-made goods, and certifications (such as organic or fair trade).
If you sell on marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart.com, eBay, and more, there are also custom badges that are often reserved for premium sellers who provide a quality experience for their customers.
These badges help to set expectations when making a purchase, and enhance the buyer experience by boosting trust in your product and process.
Answer all their questions
Many shoppers have questions during the research and purchase process, so make it easy to get in touch. Keep your contact info in prominent areas of your website, such as a contact page, your footer, and even a phone number in your main menu. Add a livechat to your website in strategic places, such as your checkout page (in a pop-up window to ensure it doesn’t interrupt the checkout process).
You can also preemptively answer any questions potential buyers may have across your listings, website, and social platforms. Add product-specific FAQs to your Instagram reels, write detailed product descriptions, and share user reviews that include how they used your product.
Tip: Research reviews of similar products to see what kind of questions buyers are asking. What complaints do they have that you can address in advance? Use this information to guide your product descriptions and FAQs.
Use social proof
Existing customer feedback can be a strong determining factor for potential buyers deciding whether or not to buy your product.
Adding product reviews to your listings provides shoppers with a clear idea of the product before they buy it.
Shoppers can use the experience of others to imagine how the product fits into their lives, and whether it will truly be useful or not.
The post-purchase stage of the buyer journey is key for leaving a strong last impression (aside from the product use itself), and helps with customer retention.
Your post-purchase experience includes everything from order confirmation emails to shipping, packaging, post-purchase support, and returns.
Nailing your processes for each of these stages will create a buyer experience that shoppers feel confident recommending to their friends.
Fast, reliable shipping
Offering fast and reliable shipping enhances the customer experience. In fact, shipping issues were determined to be the most compelling reason why people disengage with top retail brands online.
Upon purchase, keep your customers informed of their package. Send update emails and/or texts that share tracking numbers, estimated delivery times, and other delivery updates.
Work with a quality fulfillment partner to make sure customer orders are packaged to perfection and delivered quickly.
Along with optimizing shipping, you should also prioritize the returns process. While a poor returns process can negatively impact your business, it can also frustrate your customers. When shopping online, buyers want to be able to return unsuitable items without hassle.
Make the returns process easy by having clear returns instructions and including a return slip with customer orders. If possible, offer free returns. This simple change can be the advantage that makes customers choose to shop with you over your competitors.
Don’t ghost your customers after you have their money. Nothing is more transparent than companies that are only after the cash, and serve ad after ad to shoppers only to disappear once a buyer has made a purchase and has a question.
Invest in a good support team that addresses customer concerns even after purchase. Answer questions and resolve problems quickly and professionally to reassure your customers their choice to shop with you was a good one. Word spreads quickly, positive or not.
Tip: Want some inspiration? Check out these 20 Awesome subscriptions to brighten your day
Wrapping up — Crafting a buyer experience that keeps customers coming back
For your eCommerce business to succeed, you need to create an unforgettable buyer experience.
Investing in the buyer experience at every stage of their purchase journey — pre-purchase, making the sale, and post-purchase — will boost customer satisfaction and increase the likelihood of buyers shopping with you again.
Everything you do to improve the buyer experience sets your brand apart and keeps it front and center when customers are ready to shop again. In turn, crafting an unforgettable buyer experience can increase your customer lifetime value (LTV) and your ROI.