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How to Plan and Deliver a Superior Pre-Purchase Customer Experience in eCommerce

The overall experience you provide to customers in your eCommerce business is simply a summation of the different stages that they must get through in their journey with you. The pre-purchase phase is one of such crucial stages and will most likely be at the forefront when planning out the entire customer journey. This stage is when you’re attracting new leads, showing off your online store, and trying to convert potential buyers into paying customers.

But what really matters to customers at this stage? And how can you deliver a pre-purchase customer experience in eCommerce that not only motivates customers to keep coming back but also compels them to purchase more products? This guide provides a roadmap with actionable information that you can replicate in order to give your customers the best shopping experience online.

What We Mean By Pre-purchase in eCommerce

Here at FenixCommerce, we believe that pre-purchase in eCommerce encompasses everything that takes place before a person converts into a paying customer in your online store. It is the customer’s journey before and during the process of finding out about your products or business in general. It first starts with a lead getting to know that your brand exists and then progresses through a series of events until they get through checkout. 

An effective pre-purchase funnel would not stop at them just knowing that your store exists. Instead, you want to be able to present your brand in the best light possible that amps up their interest and increases the chances of them making that journey with you and eventually making a purchase.

Understanding customer behavior in the pre-purchase journey 

To get it right with planning a shopping flow that delivers the best shopping experience online, it makes sense to first visualize how customers typically act during this stage. To illustrate this, imagine an individual named Sam.

Sam realizes that he needs a particular product, so he begins to search for and gather as much information as possible about that product in order to reach the right buying decision. He researches different brands and checks for product quality, prices, differences, risk, style, reviews, and possible alternatives. His search for the right item could either be immediate or go on for a long period. He might also find the right product incidentally while going about his normal life.

But one thing is certain: throughout his search for the best product, Sam uses his experiences and needs (as well as his interaction with ads, marketing content, family, and friends) to build information until he finds what he wants and then makes a buying decision.  

Sam’s case is typical of every individual since most customers will decide to buy from you only after a series of multichannel interactions across different locations, devices, and media forms such as blog posts, videos, and organic searches. With these touch points continuously increasing today, it is pertinent to understand the eCommerce customer journey from their point of view. 

Putting yourself in the shoes of your customers will help you to detect crucial areas in the pre-purchase flow that they value the most and where communication or service could fail easily. Mapping the customer journey will expose certain pre-purchase pain points that can result in a low frequency of sales for first-time shoppers and reduced repeat purchases for already-existing customers. These pain points could be anything from poor store navigation and bad product search UX to long page load times and a lack of complementary product recommendations. 

Practical Ways to Create a Superior Pre-purchase Customer Experience in eCommerce

Providing a delightful pre-purchase eCommerce experience in your store today goes beyond offering the lowest prices. Throughout the shopping flow, you want to demonstrate to shoppers that you care about their needs and want them to find the right products without any friction. It is mostly about implementing an optimized user experience (UX) strategy where all possible customer pain points have been identified and eliminated. Getting the overall UX strategy done right is how you make your brand shine. 

Two crucial factors that you want to keep in mind at every point during the process of planning the pre-purchase flow include:

  • Clarity: Make sure you’re providing a way for customers to find all the information that they need to reach informed buying decisions. Making all the necessary elements available is how you prove your transparency and trustworthiness to potential customers.
  • User-friendliness: Your on-site interface should be easy to navigate because the ease with which visitors can find their way around your site will have an enormous impact on the customer experience.

Now that we have the basics covered, let us dive into practical ways to design and improve the overall pre-purchase experience on your website in a way that meets customer expectations, motivates them to make purchases, and encourages retention and repeat buys.  

A. Build a high-compatibility database first

If customers have no way to easily browse your categories to easily find products that are compatible with something they may already have or intend to buy, they’ll end up having to scroll through an endless list of irrelevant products until they get to what they want. Can you imagine how frustrating such a negative experience can be for shoppers? According to a Clutch survey, 94% of customers consider easy navigation to be the most important feature.

Creating an intuitive database based on product inter-compatibility is the bedrock on which you can implement other features to enhance the eCommerce customer experience in ecommerce during the pre-purchase phase. Many products today gain relevance by being compatible with or related to another product that users may already own or intend to purchase.  They could be gadgets, clothing, accessories, etc. For example, a customer may need a specific replacement battery for their laptop. No matter how appealing your design, prices, and specs are, the customer will lose interest if the product isn’t what they want (compatible or relevant).

So use the product compatibility principle to create catalogs and sub-categories with accurate and up-to-date specifications just like Gittigidiyor was able to do. Product definition and listing should also be fast and seamless based on the product category structure.

B. Improve on-site search usability

Search is a necessary feature of any eCommerce store but most retail brands end up delivering a subpar on-site search experience. A Baymard Institute research revealed over 700 search usability problems on online stores relating to sorting, filtering, and product lists.  You can fill that gap and gain the upper hand over your competitors by providing a superior search experience to customers. Here is what you can do:

  • Provide a good search and filtering experience that allows customers to see only products that they are interested in based on style, type, attributes, or features. Your filters should be vast enough to allow customers to key in precise features and specs that they consider important. Some websites with great filtering experience include Amazon, Macy’s, and Wayfair.
  • Ensure that customers can filter your product list beyond general attributes like user ratings, price, and brand. They should be able to filter using attributes that are specific to a particular category. A good example here would be to filter a list of food processors based on capacity (measured in cups usually). This is something that some eCommerce sites fail badly at. As you can see in the picture below, there is no way for customers to filter by capacity even though the capacities for all processors are displayed.
customer experience in ecommerce
  • Provide compatibility filters for compatibility-dependent products such as gadgets and accessories. This allows the customer to key in generic specifications regarding attributes like size and capacity, or even specific model names and numbers.
  • Use thematic filters that are relevant to your website and the context of the products you offer. Some thematic filter examples cut across conditions of usage (indoor, underwater, outdoor), style (modern, vintage, casual), and buying conditions (premium, low-cost, value for money).

C. Improve product detail page (PDP) design

The goal for your product pages should be to design them in a way that makes customers assured about your products to an extent that they are willing to buy even if they haven’t seen them yet. Provide informative product descriptions that carry all the relevant pieces of information customers need to make informed decisions on whether to buy or not. That is something Edloe Finch (an online furniture store) is doing already. You can see how they have included a clear product description and high-quality photos, and also went on to add a video. This should give customers a better idea of what the sofa looks like.

customer experience in ecommerce product detail page

They also went a step further to allow previous customers to post photos of how they are using the product in order to inspire new customers. Edloe also uses dynamic upselling to recommend additional products to customers.

You might need this: How to design an irresistible website product page that drives sales.

D. Enhance customer support quality

From 2016-2020, companies lost over 40% of customer business due to poor customer service, according to data from Statista

customer experience in ecommerce
Source: Statista

No shopper likes to get stuck with doubts, queries, and questions. With the help of tech and tools such as automated chatbots, you can proactively attend to customer problems around the clock. The bot will do things like answer queries or act as a personal shopping assistant, thereby enhancing their experience with online shopping. Consider making live chat support available and create an FAQ page if it fits your business. It also makes sense to include phone and email support which is pretty much the basic requirement.

E. Personalize everything

Personalization is something today’s consumers demand but retailers seem to not be paying keen attention to this pain point. A lack of personalization is the genesis of a subpar customer experience. eCommerce personalization can boost sales and improve customer retention. eCommerce personalization is all about using unique data from customers (device, purchase history, browsing history, demographic info) to show them dynamic content.

When done right, personalization can increase customer satisfaction by 20% and boost sales by 10-15%. Here are some personalization best practices to enhance the customer experience in eCommerce:

  • Leverage dynamic upselling and cross-selling on your product pages to suggest higher price products to customers similar to the ones they already want. Also, recommend items that complement the products they need, thereby encouraging them to add more items to their carts.
customer experience in ecommerce
Source: iHerb
  • Introduce user-generated content by allowing customers to post written, photo, and video reviews so visitors can understand more about how your product works in real life. Peer opinions are influential in helping customers reach buying decisions.
customer experience in ecommerce
Source: iHerb
  • Take a leaf from the book of streaming platforms like Netflix by introducing the “continue shopping” feature. This feature saves the history, preferences, and selected items of shoppers, allowing them to pick up from where they left off, making it easier to proceed to checkout

F. Display accurate delivery dates on the product, cart, and checkout pages

Customers want retailers to provide a better shipping experience that offers transparency and certainty. According to research from ShipStation, more than 85% of buyers demand to know everything about the shipping timeline before they hit the buy button. The real reason behind this expectation is that customers want their items delivered faster, so they want to know how long it will take their order to arrive. Providing vague delivery timelines that read “ships in 5 to 7 days” is now old-fashioned and will result in a bad customer experience in eCommerce, eventually leading to more abandoned carts and lower conversions.

customer experience in ecommerce

Instead, start displaying more accurate delivery date estimates for every product across your product detail pages and cart. You can even take it up a notch to provide date-certain delivery dates at checkout along with multiple shipping options and real-time shipping rates. Doing so will encourage your customers to select the option that best fits their needs and eventually get through checkout. A shipping platform like FenixCommerce allows you to do all of these things with ease. Retailers who use FenixCommerce have seen up to a 40% increase in conversions and a 38% reduction in cart abandonment.

Learn More: Estimated Delivery Dates (EDD) FAQ

G. Eliminate hidden charges; Customers hate them

Most customers are trying to make buying decisions around a budget. So they hate it when they proceed to checkout only to find that the total price has risen due to extra charges like shipping surcharges and taxes. This can lead to frustration and is the leading reason why nearly half of customers abandon their carts.

customer experience in ecommerce
Source: Statista

Don’t scare away customers who have almost completed the pre-purchase journey. Total transparency is the way to go here. Make sure to expose all the additional costs early in the buyer’s journey, preferably on the purchases page, and inform customers of extra charges before they get to checkout. There are three things you can do to manage this pain point and make sure you’re delivering the best shopping experience online: 

  1. Absorb shipping costs into the price of the products and offer free shipping
  2. Use tax software to help customers understand calculations and charges
  3. Use a Carrier Rate Shopping software like FenixCommerce to evaluate shipping prices across all the carriers you use and then select and display the best rate to reduce shipping costs

Ready to Start Delivering the Best Shopping Experience Online?

Delivering a superior pre-purchase customer experience in eCommerce is no walk in the park. It requires detailed planning and careful execution to ensure no hiccups in the customer’s end-to-end journey. This guide has provided a roadmap to help you create a solid user experience in your eCommerce store that motivates shoppers to not only buy from you but also keep coming back for repeat purchases. We hope you found it helpful. 

If you’ll like to learn more about how FenixCommerce can help you enhance the overall customer experience, get more customers through checkout, and optimize your shipping operations, we’ll like to hear from you. Get in touch with us!

Pre-Purchase Customer Experience in eCommerce FAQs

What is pre-purchase in eCommerce?

Pre-purchase in eCommerce encompasses everything that takes place before a person converts into a paying customer in your online store. It is the customer’s journey before and during the process of finding out about your products or business in general.

What is customer pre-purchase behavior?

During the eCommerce customer journey, customers in the pre-purchase phase will decide to buy from you only after a series of multichannel interactions across different locations, devices, and media forms such as blog posts, videos, and organic searches. That is because the customer is gathering as much information as possible in order to make an informed buying decision.

What is the eCommerce customer journey?

The eCommerce customer journey describes how a customer moves along your sales funnel while interacting with your online business. The journey starts from when they first discover your business and products up until when they eventually decide to buy from you.

How do you deliver the best shopping experience online?

  • Build a high-compatibility database first
  • Improve on-site search usability
  • Improve product detail page (PDP) design
  • Enhance customer support quality
  • Personalize everything
  • Display accurate delivery dates on the product, cart, and checkout pages
  • Eliminate hidden charges

How does carrier rate shopping enhance the online store experience?

Watch here.

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