12 ways to improve the customer experience for online shoppers

Digital marketing, usability and customer relationship pros share their top tips for how to ensure that when customers visit your website they enjoy the experience -- and will buy from you.

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6. Use color psychology. “Pay attention to color psychology when planning your color scheme,” says Leah Preston, marketing coordinator, Enclave Hotels & Suites. “For websites that utilize booking engines, try using green for the checkout or payment button. Green stands for ‘go,’ just like a traffic light, and will have a positive association in the customer's mind.”

7. Let customers know if an item is in stock, or what the backorder date is, right on the product page. “If you’re selling a tangible product, make sure your shoppers know early on about stock availability and delivery options,” says Risek. “There’s nothing more frustrating than doing the work of finding just the right rug or shoe or garden hose and then finding it is back-ordered or discontinued, or not available for delivery to your location.”

8. Make it easy for customers to contact you, get a quote or sign up for email. “Make it easy to find contact information on your website,” says Marilyn Suttle, president, Suttle Enterprises, a customer experience training company.

“Customers have short attention spans, and have no patience when it comes to hunting down your phone number or email address.” Moreover, “their impression of your business drops dramatically when their time is wasted searching for something that should be easy to find in seconds,” Suttle says.

“If you want customers to call you to make an appointment, put your phone number front and center,” says Mays. “If you want customers to sign up [for email] or request a quote, make it obvious [and easy to do]. You'd be surprised how often we see websites for established companies missing an obvious call to action,” he says, and not providing an easy way for customers to contact or interact with them.

9. Offer live chat. “One of my top tips for improving the online customer experience is to allow customers to real-time chat with you,” says Aalap Shah, cofounder, SoMe Connect, a social media agency. “We've successfully installed live chat software on a number of our B2B and ecommerce clients, [which has increased] conversion [rates] as potential customers [now] have a method to more easily connect and ask questions [about products] without [having to] pick up the phone or wait for an email reply.”

Live chat can also provide businesses with real-time feedback on products, price and how well your website is working, he adds.

10. Provide a self-service option or FAQ page. “According to Aspect research, 73 percent of consumers said they should have the ability to solve most product or service issues on their own,” says Joe Gagnon, senior vice president & general manager, Cloud Solutions, Aspect Software, which provides contact/call center software solutions. “Over two thirds of them also said that they feel really good about both the company and themselves when they are able to answer a question or solve a problem without having to talk with a customer service agent.”

So if you can, offer customers a self-service option, or at least include an FAQ page.

11. Make checking out simple – and allow shoppers to save their carts. “One of the most important [things] that most online retailers fail to do, which greatly affects CXM, is not [making] the cart process streamlined and easy,” says Justin Emig, search marketing manager, Web Talent Marketing, an Internet marketing company. “People are trying to give you their money. Make it easy for them to do that with a straightforward and easy-to-follow checkout process,” with a small visual letting customers know where they are in the checkout process.

“Make it as easy as possible to access the shopping cart or the final checkout area,” says Preston. “Attention spans are getting increasingly shorter online, so you want the user to be able to access the final destination in no more than two or three clicks. If it takes too long to [complete a purchase], your user may get frustrated and give up.”

“For customers who aren't yet ready to buy, offer them the chance to save items to a wish list,” suggests Rob Garf, vice president of Strategy & Insights, Demandware, an enterprise cloud commerce solution provider. “And, if possible, consider extending your cart life since many shoppers may choose to return later to complete the transaction.”

[ Related: 6 Ways to Anticipate, Deliver and Measure Customer Satisfaction ]

12. Offer free shipping. Customers love free shipping. “As long as you can absorb the cost, offering free shipping is a must to stay competitive nowadays as an online store,” says Nima Noori, founder & CEO, TorontoVaporizer. “With free shipping, customers don't need to worry about hidden costs,” he explains. “This makes the buying process more [transparent], and customers will be much happier with the shopping experience.”

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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