Why Building Engaging Experiences that Foster Loyalty Is the E-Commerce Priority that Matters Most

Why Building Engaging Experiences that Foster Loyalty Is the E-Commerce Priority that Matters Most

Authors: Erik Laurenceau, VP, Client Solutions, ArganoUV & Oscar Gonzalez, Managing Director, Commerce and Enterprise Solutions, ArganoUV

Magical moments in e-commerce always look deceptively simple. They happen when the experience is so streamlined that it’s seamless, requiring just a few clicks. But they’re also engaging enough that they form a true connection with customers. They provide an experience that’s sticky without moving slowly, memorable but without distractions and satisfying without being self-serving.

It calls for a deep understanding of the customer journey so that every step of the shopping process–from initial exploration to checkout to delivery–serves up not just a single sale but the path to future purchases.

But getting there is hard. Often, companies are stuck on questions they can’t fully answer on their own. They want to know how they can better brand their e-commerce experience so it doesn’t feel just like their competitors. They know they need stronger key performance indicators. And, they struggle with uneven technology, and lack systems that are interoperable across the entire customer life cycle. Most of all, they know they lack insight into how customers are engaging with their platform.

Too often, companies try to solve these challenges with purely technical responses. But once they begin to answer the bigger questions–not just “How can my website function more seamlessly?” but “How can we deliver exceptional experiences that build loyalty?’–they start to understand. To us, this is a crucial moment in their digital transformation journey.

They recognize that while a bogged-down site may be the one thing users won’t forgive them for, a mediocre experience is a missed opportunity. If the best-performing site offers an experience that feels generic–and too many do–they may still make a sale. But they’ve lost the chance to deepen connections and encourage loyalty.

That’s because so many companies are getting better at e-commerce all the time, raising customer expectations. People want speed and convenience. They want what they want in five clicks or less. But that’s not enough. They want the experience to feel friendly, with a bit of human touch (even if it’s from a bot.) And they respond best to experiences that feel original, not generic–they crave a sense of the retailer’s brand and what it stands for.

The pandemic has intensified those changes. A recent report from McKinsey finds that some 75% of consumers have switched up their buying habits in the last 18 months, sparking a historic shakeup. Close to 40% say they have chosen different brands or retailers, and 79% plan to keep exploring new options. An EY survey found similar results, with 43% of that survey saying they continue to shop more online for products they formerly bought in stores, even after more than a year into the COVID-19 landscape.

These changes are even more profound among B2B customers. McKinsey found that up to 80% of those buyers now prefer digital self-service or remote human interaction to face-to-face sales.

As a result, businesses are getting more serious about their plans to improve the experience they deliver, with EY’s latest survey saying that over 75% of CEO’s plan to fundamentally change how they engage their customers.

Increasingly, they’re replacing the focus on each customer experience, or CX, with the business of experience, or BX. They’re re-organizing their companies to deliver nothing but exceptional service, leveraging that difference as a growth engine. And companies that do that, Accenture finds, are six times more profitable than their counterparts.

Complex strategies for simple solutions

If creating these memorable experiences sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Even as companies pour billions into shoring up their digital architecture, the underlying data technology is hard to get right. It calls for optimizing for metrics, such as conversions and basket size. It demands the ability to integrate marketing platforms to drive efficiency. And it means constantly minimizing the friction that stems from disparate systems, which slow down what should be seamless experiences.

Argano’s goal is to apply complex integrated strategies to create solutions that seem simple to users. That means providing all the logistical and engineering support they need to accomplish their e-commerce tasks. But that’s not enough. We then help them build the toolkits they need to translate that engineering excellence into beautiful, compelling, brand-building experiences.

Typically, clients say they are coming to us to drive more revenue. They’re looking for operational efficiencies. They are eager to fully engage their audience and increase conversions. Often, they’re also struggling with their current engineering teams–either internal or external. And many are also wrestling with the realization that previous technology investments, sometimes even the most recent ones, already need updating.

These are growing pains. While it’s human nature to want to believe some solutions solve tech problems once and for all, there aren’t any permanent answers. E-commerce platforms are organisms that continually need to evolve and adapt. They demand nurturing and thoughtful, continuous investment and monitoring.

Five steps to loyalty-building experiences

All companies can take core steps to create better e-commerce experiences and build loyalty, building a digital foundation that is agile, adaptive, and responsive.

  1. Sharpen segmentation Most companies believe they’ve adequately segmented their potential audiences, but we often find that they aren’t as well defined as they need to be. Beyond those that are your biggest customers, which groups represent the most growth potential? Why? Which are the most engaged? The least responsive?
  2. Draw a roadmap We start by helping companies follow the paths on each platform throughout the ecosystem, taking into account as many customer segments as possible. Every customer’s journey is different, and by visualizing every route, organizations can shift their focus. Loyalty is about long-term relationships and longevity, not short-term fixes. We quickly push clients to bigger-picture planning. If, for instance, they’ve come to us with the request for an app, we help them step back and ask why they think they need it. How might it impact sales in the next three to six months? Next year?
  3. Reconsider KPIs Of course, conversion is essential. But other KPIs matter, too, and need to be adjusted based on growth goals. For some, it may be as simple as getting more products into the cart and checking out as fast as possible. For others, it’s about cross-selling, signing up for a subscription program or warranties.
  4. Switch on your strategy This is where the magic starts. Once companies have come this far, they likely have the right tools and are integrating them throughout the ecosystem. So they’re ready to turn their attention to bringing their strategies to life.  Throughout the organization and across all silos, conversations about improving experience become more contextual and more colorful. While minimal clicks define frictionless experiences, how can that be done without looking like a cookie-cutter solution? How can it be simpler? Stronger? What can be added to take it from adequate to exceptional?
  5. Prioritize experience metrics As companies improve experience, they learn to analyze the data it generates. Knowing what customers actually do on their site leads to continual adaptations and enhancements. That’s what a transformed organization does–evolves and grows as it learns more about its customers.

Using engaging customer experiences to build loyalty is the way forward, and it’s true for all companies, no matter how big they are. It is just as powerful a tactic for companies that only recently switched from physical to digital sales as it is for established e-commerce players, reinventing online operations to accommodate scale. These experiences don’t just boost today’s conversions. They build relationships that will generate growth into the future.

If you’d like to talk with Argano about the many ways our complex solutions can help you create simple, compelling experiences that build loyalty, contact solutions@argano.com.