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Delivering frictionless e-commerce: what brands can do to delight users

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Roast on creating a frictionless e-commerce experience to rival retail giants such as Amazon

Frictionless e-commerce is all about using data and insight on consumer behavior and preferences to help design simple, seamless buying experiences. The ultimate end goal is to enable users to buy your product or service within as few clicks as possible, hence removing any friction.

With the dominance of Amazon across the pandemic period, consumers have become accustomed to one-click, same-day delivery purchases. While Amazon has become the e-commerce benchmark because of this level of service, e-commerce platforms such as BigCommerce and Shopify have boomed by being able to offer similar e-commerce functionality out-of-the-box that most consumers now expect as standard.

Importantly, non-Amazon brands are managing to compete and win in this space due to their own optimized user journeys and their capacity to innovate to create memorable experiences that act as a point of differentiation vis-à-vis their competitors.

Brands looking to tackle frictionless e-commerce must first understand where points of friction exist within their own customer journeys, then look to new technologies and experience design to help them improve on those journeys.

Emerging from the global pandemic, we recognize that consumer behavior and preferences will have changed, so now is the optimal time to pause, reflect and gauge where the next opportunities may lie.

During one of our recent ‘Kitty Talks’ webinars on the topic, Ian Scarr, head of sales at Klevu, explained: “Having relevant products and a rich personalized experience means that shoppers are three to five times more likely to purchase something that’s relevant. Amazon has given accessibility to many products and provides a reasonable user experience, but technology is enabling others to beat that.

“Ultimately, you’ll never be able to take Amazon on toe-to-toe because of the breadth of [its] offering, but you can emulate and beat [it] from an experience perspective.

“Give your customers a really good and frictionless path to purchase, and take advantage of personalization technologies that Klevu and others provide, and you’ll delight customers and have them return.”

A recent product discovery test conducted as part of Klevu’s eCommerce Discovery Report demonstrated that 56% of all websites failed the product discovery test, representing lost opportunities for conversion.

When does personalization work, and when does it fracture consumer trust?

Consumer behavior has changed a lot in the last year; consumers who may have been slower to adopt new technology have grown more accustomed to shopping online. Meanwhile, privacy fears that were prevalent pre-pandemic have decreased and consumers appear to be more comfortable with data-value exchange. This has opened the gateway for being able to collect more granular first-party data from consumers, ultimately meaning that artificial intelligence (AI) and any other technical solutions powered by data will be able to work harder and perform better for your brand.

In terms of platform solutions and options available, we would always suggest that you start at the end and work backwards. Think about your experience design as a starting point, then review the available technologies and data you need in place to help underpin this.

Deploying the right AI heavily leans on the need to test, learn, optimize and test again. The better you can plan out the testing, the better your results will be. Allow the AI to prove or disprove your theories, and start with a proof of concept if it’s easier to win hearts and minds. Continually measure the incremental impact of every test so you can tie it back to results further down the line. Consider things such as statistical significance, fallow control cells and perhaps even a ‘winner stays on’ approach.

As consumers look to have the same experience on their mobile, in-store and at home, how can brands maintain an omnichannel user journey that is smooth and accurate?

The pandemic has accelerated change in consumer behavior over the past year due to its unprecedented nature. As a result, a key consideration moving forward will be cross-device user experience (UX).

At the start of the pandemic a lot of brands had to pivot and adapt to new consumer behaviors, leaving little time to think about experience design. Simultaneously device usage shifted, with the advent of working from home meaning journeys have become increasingly dynamic – for example, starting at the tablet, possibly moving through a smart TV or voice assistant, and then on to desktop.

For brands forward planning from a journey optimization perspective, one of the most important tactics they should employ now is to audit their cross-device journeys and work to really understand any points of friction within them. A good starting point would be to start collecting and interpreting any data and insight around current user behavior and transition rates between each stage of each journey, then start deriving any hypotheses to test against.

Then you’ll want to start testing and measuring against the basic principles of UX. We suggest taking an ‘always on’ approach to A/B testing, either through CRO to test small incremental changes, or standalone UX/UI design sprints for larger innovation projects.

It’s critical to measure, assess, understand and plan ahead before jumping into redesigning your e-commerce experience. This will ensure you remove any guesswork from the process so that you take a data-driven approach, meaning the results will ultimately be more impactful.

What does it mean for brands who don’t want to overwhelm consumers with AI and personalization?

We will over time see a more human element to digital customer experience (CX). The luxury sector has forged ahead in this respect, where they’ve brought the physical world to the digital world, creating rich experiences where you can browse in-store from the comfort of your own home.

Customers will also want to interact more with brands, expecting even more convenience, ease and speed, with a human touch still integral at the core of their experience. I think we’ll start to see the ability to browse and interact with brands through voice a lot more, as well as the trend of conversational commerce coming to a head.

Ultimately, technology will lead to support these hybrid online-offline shopping experiences. So my advice would be to build your own brand and vision, be inspired by Amazon rather than compete with it and, critically, create frictionless and memorable journeys that ensure users will have an optimal experience with your brand that keeps them coming back, by prioritizing and refining your CX efforts.

Ruby Mellor, customer experience director at Roast.

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