Customers are looking for companies that make their shopping experiences seamless and emotionally engaging. Likewise, companies know that every interaction a customer has with their brand needs to be consistent and enjoyable. Often, this leads companies to focus on consistent messaging, personalization and channel integration as their primary optimizations to the shopping experience.
These advances are great for business, but sometimes miss lower-hanging fruit in pursuit of those upgrades. Specialty eCommerce shopping features — often already built into your platform — are simple and effective ways to strengthen your customer relationships.
Here are five to consider.
1. Flash Sales for Engagement
Flash sales typically last less than 24 hours, sometimes even shorter. Flash sales draw customers in because these discounts create a sense of urgency — customers have to act quickly to take advantage of deals that they might miss out on.
Flash sales are practical for businesses when overstocked items aren’t selling quickly enough. Businesses can use this inventory challenge as an opportunity to give customers an exciting emotional experience, which helps build brand awareness and engagement.
Carolyn Nye, Director of the Digital Interactive Group at Acxiom, says that new and enticing sales like these can be a way to re-engage dormant email subscribers. It’s a way to shake the dust off your standard marketing approach.
To build brand awareness and connection with customers, flash sales must be executed well.
Caroline Forsey at Hubspot offers some key insights to keep in mind when designing an effective flash sale:
- Set goals as the foundation of the sale. Which items do you most want to reduce in inventory, or which target audience do you want to connect with?
- Keep the sale simple.
- Promote the sale ahead of time on major channels (social media, email campaigns and website) to give people time to research products.
- Offer free shipping and shipping that can arrive quickly, when customers want it.
Some businesses have built their entire business models around flash sales. Bogdan Rancea, founding member of Inspired Mag, says this is a mistake and has been the downfall of several eCommerce businesses. A short-term increase in sales does not equal long-term profitability. Companies must use flash sales sparingly; engage customers, but don’t treat this tactic as the foundation of the relationship.
2. Social Shopping for New Levels of Reach
Social shopping is where eCommerce meets social media in a practical way for consumers. Social shopping is an emerging way to streamline social media marketing material and consumers’ desire for an efficient shopping process.
“Consumers are drowning in choices,” write John Maxwell, Denise Dahlhoff and Claire-Louise Moore at strategy+business. “To make sense of the many options they have for purchases, they increasingly turn to people they know. Consumers pay more attention to social media, personal networks, and blogs than to branded publications.”
Different social platforms offer different shopping features that companies can integrate with their stores. Instagram released its eCommerce shopping features in 2017 and quietly added a native payment feature. Now, users don’t have to leave the platform to make a purchase. Mukund Ramachandran at Adweek writes that this technology has huge potential to “create more immersive experiences for consumers.”
Ramachandran points to the fact that social media already impacts how consumers make purchases. One survey found that 74 percent of participants said there was a link between videos they watched on social media and their purchasing decisions.
Sig Ueland at PracticalEcommerce also thinks that social shopping is becoming more widely accepted among consumers. He points to the the luxury social commerce platform Threads, which raised $20 million last year, as an indicator of where eCommerce and social media are heading.
Integrating social media and eCommerce only seems like a natural progression of how consumers interact with a brand’s various touchpoints.
3. Wish Lists and Save-For-Later Capabilities
Wish lists are common features for eCommerce stores. Still, many brands underestimate their ability to add value to a customer’s experience.
Wish lists — and save-for-later features in general — differ from cart items because shoppers know they aren’t ready to buy the wish listed items yet. These are “maybe someday” purchases that the customer can come back to when they want to mull the decision or perhaps ultimately buy.
David Hoos, Director of Marketing at The Good, writes that the wish list should be taken seriously as part of your marketing and design strategy. This feature can boost shopping experiences and be used for marketing research. To implement a wish list feature effectively, it must be simple and enjoyable for consumers to use.
Wish lists are also popular because they are a way for consumers to share desired items with friends and families. This can come in handy around holiday seasons or when consumers celebrate special occasions.
4. Gift Registries
Gift registries are a perfect way to engage with customers during exciting moments of their lives — weddings, babies on the way, graduations, etc.
Connecting with customers on an emotional level is one of the most effective ways to build a larger customer base. Syed Balkhi, CEO of Awesome Motive, writes that evoking emotions in consumers will connect them to your brand. “Whether that purchase is your favorite candy bar or your dream car,” Balkhi writes. “We don’t always weigh the pros and cons before buying an item; we’re just lead by our feelings.”
Customers are already excited to be getting married or moving into a new home. Why not use gift registries as a tool to be a memorable part of customers’ happy moments?
This feature is also a great way to encourage customer advocacy. When a customer uses a gift registry, they are saying to friends and family members that they align themselves with your brand and what that brand stands for. A socially conscious couple might choose a fair trade registry platform, or a couple with especially sophisticated taste might request gifts from Harrods.
Gift registries are an opportunity for you to walk with customers during special moments. If they choose your brand to help facilitate these happy moments, it sends a message to their communities that your company is valuable.
5. Product Comparison Charts
Product comparison charts are another feature that can make customer experiences more seamless. They allow customers to see different products while adding meaning to more technical features. Charts can help customers, often paralyzed by too many options, narrow in on products that most fit their needs.
eCommerce consultant Pamela Hazelton says product comparison charts make the buyer journey easier. Customers who might not know which similar products to consider in the first place are presented with a few popular options. This helps them identify which features they value most and explore which products will fit their needs.
Companies implement these charts differently. Fitbit allows customers to select the top features they are looking for in their ideal fitness watch and then lets them select the devices they want to compare from the devices that fall into those categories. Apple lists their Mac models on one page. To narrow the list, customers can select two different models to compare side by side.
Above all, Hazelton says the formatting should be clear and simple. Bulleted lists read easier than wordy explanations. The differences between products should be clearly marked and made easier for the customer to understand.
Comparison charts are especially useful for customer journeys when customers are comparing high-ticket items. Unless customers are going off social recommendations and know what they want right away, they will need to put a lot of thought and research into big purchases.
“The problem is that comparison isn’t a particularly fun activity on the web,” writes Vitaly Friedman, eCommerce consultant at Smashing Magazine.
That’s why comparison charts are useful for improving the customer experience. They put all the important details customers want to know about different products in one clear, comprehensive list. Friedman says that small improvements to the customer experience ultimately lead to improved customer loyalty.
Improved customer loyalty, in turn, is sure to solidify customer relationships. Offering these specialty eCommerce shopping features can be the first step in the process.