Avalara > Blog > Ecommerce > Design an online store experience, not just an online store

Design an online store experience, not just an online store

  • Jul 21, 2020 | Gail Cole

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The ecommerce field is crowded. To rise above the fray, retailers must provide an unparalleled customer experience. But what do customers want? What does a stellar online customer experience entail?

Avalara commissioned business intelligence platform PSFK to find out. After gathering feedback from Avalara customers, partners, and thought leaders, PSFK identified five critical customer experience (CX) stages in the digital path to purchase:

  • Discovery
  • ‘Store’ experience
  • Shopper education and assistance
  • Payment and tax
  • Fulfillment and tax

We explored the discovery stage in Help your ecommerce store stand out in the vast online universe. This article delves into store experience and design.

How to turn an online store into an outstanding store experience

It takes more than a sleek webpage to convert browsers to buyers. Today’s online shoppers seek a streamlined experience offering curated, secure shopping. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and social shopping can all lead to increased consumer engagement.

Augment reality with virtual reality and augmented reality

One of the main benefits of brick-and-mortar retail is that it enables shoppers to touch and try on products. While that’s not possible for ecommerce stores — at least not without shipping delays — VR and AR offer the next best thing. Plus, they're new and fun.

Indeed, consumers increasingly expect online sellers to provide the opportunity to virtually try on clothing, glasses, and more. If nothing else, people expect a 360-degree perspective of products. The more streamlined the technology, the better the experience. Nothing ruins an online shopping trip like clunky technology.

Personalize deals with AI

Consumers tend to appreciate salespeople who understand their preferences and can make thoughtful recommendations: 78% of consumers prefer retailers that provide a more personalized experience. That doesn’t disappear when retail moves online — especially these days, when many people shopping online would prefer to be in brick-and-mortar stores.

Offering digital promotions based on customer preferences is one way to show consumers you understand and appreciate them. AI technology enables ecommerce stores to quickly make thoughtful recommendations based on past orders and exchanges. These can be continuously updated based on new purchases; if a customer changes their preferences, new deals can reflect those.

Any online store can benefit from AI: clothing retailers, grocery stores, even restaurants. Consumers like to be noticed and appreciate being rewarded for loyalty.

Turn shopping into a social experience

With social-distancing measures still in effect in much of the country because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), people are relying on social media and technology to connect with friends and family. Retailers can tap into the zeitgeist by using live-streaming platforms that enable shoppers to converse with a disparate community or participate in digital shopping parties. It’s an investment that could pay off: One in five customers that click to view a product through live streaming end up making a purchase.

Live-streaming platforms can also enable consumers to connect with sellers in real time, offering the ultimate personal customer experience. If you can’t be in the store talking face to face, talking through Zoom or other platforms is the next best thing. Given social distancing and mask requirements, it may even be the best experience.

Offer the same technology across all platforms

Brick-and-mortar stores with multiple locations strive to create a seamless shopping experience from one store to the next. Ecommerce sellers should do the same across all platforms: desktop, mobile, tablet, etc. For example, customers accustomed to using VR when mobile shopping will expect to be able to do the same from their laptops. Consistency is key.

Exceed customer expectations

The most successful online sellers today provide an unparalleled customer experience, exceeding customer expectations rather than just meeting them. This is perhaps truer today than ever, given COVID-19 and its effect on our social interactions and buying habits.

Gain a deeper understanding by reading the Digital Commerce Playbook

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Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail Cole is a Senior Writer at Avalara. She’s on a mission to uncover unusual tax facts and make complex laws and legislation more digestible for accounting and business professionals.