As the founder and CEO of eHouse Studio, Aaron Quinn has seen the transformation of customer expectations over time from a unique vantage point. The agency, which focuses on creating meaningful ecommerce experiences on Shopify Plus through UX design, strategy, technology, and analytics, recently celebrated 18 years in business.
In an interview with Aaron, he shared his insights on the evolution of customer expectations over the last year and opportunities for optimizing the customer journey, as well as how voice commerce ties into the future of ecommerce.
Setting customer expectations
We know that 2020 was a monumental year for ecommerce—one that has required many brands to adapt in significant ways. One example? Online retailers now must own the customer experience end-to-end rather than sharing that responsibility with a local shop.
The bottom line: All eyes are now on the ecommerce purchasing experience. As Aaron puts it:
“If the experience is painful enough, no matter how much [the customer] likes the product, they will stop buying it.”Aaron Quinn, Founder & CEO of eHouse Studio
Now more than ever, it’s key for online retailers to help their customers get the right product on the first try—be it the correct size, fit, flavor, or color—to save them time and energy in their search. This also helps reduce the risk of cumbersome returns, which have become particularly challenging over the last year with increased awareness on shipping speed, delivery speed, and the overall delivery experience.
Aaron’s recommendation: that brands focus on properly setting consumer expectations with the digital experience in mind. Invest in UX storytelling to give customers a clear understanding of the product experience, and make the value propositions of your products and brand clear from the getgo.
Additionally, think about features like better sizing technology, try-before-you-buy options, and even artificial intelligence technology like virtual fitting rooms. These can all help facilitate guided purchasing experiences that will help streamline the overall shopping experience.
Finding products in the digital storefront
Another step Aaron recommends brands take to work towards a seamless purchasing experience is improving product findability. This is particularly important for retail brands that offer many similar products with slight differences among them.
Optimizing your product search and filtering experience can go a long way here. Make the differences among your products immediately apparent so customers can quickly understand why they’d choose one over another. It’s also important to ensure that searching and filtering for products doesn’t require a lot of time or back-and-forth, and that consumers can’t filter down to zero search results.
“Ultimately, if they can’t find it, they won’t buy it,” says Aaron.
Empowering customers through flexibility
“Nothing is consistent in [the customer’s] world, and especially right now…. Make that subscription as flexible as their life is, whether it be changing flavors, getting more, getting less, pausing for a moment and coming back… That overall just extends the life of the engagement with the brand and keeps [the customer] in the game.”Aaron Quinn, Founder & CEO of eHouse Studio
Customers want flexibility—and that desire is only intensifying in today’s unpredictable world. This can include flexibility in terms of product options, like swapping products and adding on one-time purchases, or flexible checkout options, like allowing customers to skip a delivery or change its frequency.
Meeting their needs by empowering shoppers to make these changes themselves has enormous benefits for both your business and customers. It saves both sides valuable time, and frees up resources like customer service on the business side. It’s also a powerful tool for increasing average order value (AOV) and revenue, and for strengthening the customer relationship and building customer loyalty.
Adding value, beyond the discount code
Discount codes have become an increasingly common tactic for ecommerce companies when thinking about adding value for the customer—particularly in the subscription space. To stand out, Aaron recommends that brands consider other ways of adding value for their customers. For example, subscribe-and-save subscription brands can think about turning their recurring products into a membership, with added benefits like access to early-release products, special features, and expedited or free shipping options.
Another major value-driver opportunity for merchants: creating thoughtful content. This has enormous benefits for helping drive brand loyalty, facilitate engagement, and foster a relationship between brands and customers.
For certain verticals that might benefit from an educational angle in order to maximize benefits for their products (like health and wellness) a focus on content can be particularly valuable. As Aaron puts it:
“People that are interested in improving their health are interested in results. So how do you help them get closer to those results?”Aaron Quinn, Founder & CEO of eHouse Studio
Delivering value-adding content, like clear guidelines on how to consume purchased items in a proper regimen, not only helps merchants get their customers closer to their desired results—it also establishes those merchants as leaders in their industry and enhances trust in their brand.
Voice commerce and the future of ecommerce
Voice commerce—the ability to interact with retailers and make purchases through vocal commands on a compatible device—is a hot topic these days, with many tech companies and retailers investing more in the technology. But is voice commerce really the future of the direct-to-consumer space?
“We’re not there yet,” says Aaron—people aren’t used to shopping through their smart speakers just yet. But as usage of these devices continues to increase, he predicts that consumers will start opening up to voice commerce more and more, just as they did to shopping on a mobile device.
No matter what the future holds, Aaron points out that many of the strategies that ecommerce companies can use to optimize for voice commerce will also benefit their business in other ways. Things like leveraging Q&A and FAQ snippets, creating longform content, focusing on long-tailed keywords, improving website speed, and building a database schema for products all have enormous benefits—not only for voice commerce, but also for SEO, conversions, and more.
“Ultimately, what I do feel confident in saying is it’s not going to be effort wasted,” says Aaron. “It’s always going to be effort put in the right place.”