The past few years have seen Canadian ecommerce activity grow, and the expectations of shoppers have risen alongside it, setting retailers on the path to reinvention. Adapting to shifting circumstances has become a defining characteristic of survival and success, with the lines between online and offline marketing, retail, fulfillment and distribution continuing to blur as retailers are called upon to offer seamless experiences from end-to-end.
So, what does it take to offer an excellent and consistent customer experience – wherever your customers are ready to engage? We’ll explore how to:
- Evaluate your Canadian customer experience
- Master the basics
- Learn what makes a positive customer experience
- Integrate all your channels
- Enhance your customer experience
- Make enhancing your customer experience a priority
We asked Reilly Stephens, Director of Insights at Retail Prophet, where growing businesses should start. Her advice? Before you think about standing out, you need to evaluate your current customer experience and master the basics because the giants nail them – and they set the standard.
To evaluate your current customer experience, ask yourself:1
Does your product have good reviews?
What other people think matters to shoppers – when looking to learn about new brands and products, 45% of Canadian shoppers often or always consult customer ratings and reviews.
Is help available if customers need it?
In a recent study, 67% of shoppers say that they will choose to shop with retailers that set expectations throughout the experience. Keep your customers informed and manage expectations by ensuring you’re available to help.
Do you have a great returns policy for your Canadian customers?
81% of shoppers will choose a retailer that has a hassle-free returns policy.
Do you offer free shipping for Canadian customers?
87% of shoppers will shop more often with a retailer that provides free shipping.
Knowing how your current online shopping experience stacks up can help you understand how best to meet – or exceed – the expectations of your Canadian online shoppers.
Evaluate your current Canadian customer experience to identify any gaps. Most shoppers don’t want to pay anything for shipping, so try to offer free shipping and free returns on their orders. Shoppers also care about delivery speed and can be a little impatient when it comes to waiting for their orders, so offering fast shipping and/or a choice of delivery speeds is key. Some customers are willing to pay for shipping if they can receive their packages faster. Need to choose between offering fast or free shipping? Go with free – it continues to be the most influential factor when shoppers are deciding who to shop with.
Explore the consumer trends that will shape ecommerce this yearView top trends
In-store interactions are no longer the only touchpoint for shoppers as Canadian consumers now engage with retailers across multiple touchpoints. This shift has changed what a positive and seamless shopping experience looks like. Positive customer experiences drive customer loyalty. To provide exceptional experiences from afar, U.S. retailers need to anticipate and respond to the changing expectations of their Canadian customers.
Build customer loyalty by focusing on the 6 forces that drive it
Ipsos’ research has indicated that the following 6 forces drive customer loyalty and strengthen customer-retailer relationships:
Enjoyment: Make customers lives easier.
Belonging: Help customers feel like they belong and that you care about the greater good.
Certainty: Make customers feel that things are clear and transparent.
Fair treatment: Offer customers a fair exchange in their relationship with you.
Control: Help customers feel like they’re in the driver’s seat.
Status: Make customers feel valued, respected and worthy.
When it comes to providing a unified shopping experience, channel integration is essential.
If you have a large business that relies on many channels, channel integration can be a challenge. Start by building an omnichannel sales workflow that will make all your product data easily accessible for your retail and ecommerce teams and customers. Include data on:
- What’s in stock, in real-time
- Product images
- Product dimensions
- Product uses and information
- Product accessories
Providing your customers with a seamless experience is only possible when everyone can see the full picture.
It never hurts to enhance your customer experience. A happy customer is more likely to become a loyal customer. You might not realize that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one – returning customers tend to spend more with your business than new customers and are more likely to shop with you more often. They may also refer friends and family to your business. Investing in retention is wise because even a miniscule 5% increase in customer retention can increase company revenue by 25% to 95%.
Not sure how to enhance your customer experience? Here are a few places to start.
Listen to your customers and gather high-quality data
Lands End was able to weather the challenges of the last few years better than many retailers. What’s their secret to success? Playing to their strengths, listening to their customers and enhancing their customer experience to keep customers content.
The key to truly enhancing the customer experience is good data. The better you understand your customers’ expectations and behaviour, the better you can serve them. Lands End has made considerable investments in technology in order to get to know, and better serve, its customers. This investment directly impacts the company’s bottom line.
Lands End has also used their customer behaviour data to enhance their mobile customer experience. Their data revealed that their customers were shifting their shopping preferences to mobile. Knowing that, Lands End set out to enhance their mobile experience by increasing the speed of navigation, checkout and payment options.
Try new technology like AR
To really make an impression, seek out new technology your business can use to take your customer experience to new heights. Be picky about the technology you incorporate. Consumers won’t use what doesn’t serve them, so it’s important to strike the right balance between enhanced experiences and frictionless journeys.
Augmented reality (AR) can enhance the online customer experience, serving up product visualization in real-time. The technology has been embraced by the likes of IKEA, Sephora and Dulux. Done well (for example, 3D holograms) it can transform shopping experiences and increase conversion rates. Mobile Marketer found that offering 3D product models can increase conversions by up to 28% on retailer websites. AR must serve a purpose and not just a desire to be cool.
Jewelry brand Kendra Scott introduced a practical augmented reality try-on feature for their virtual customers during the pandemic, making their ecommerce channel mirror the experience of an in-store experience as best as they could. The feature allows customers to compare looks on mobile devices by sampling several products at once in live motion. They can also use the tool to shortlist and add items to their cart. “This technology helps solve the problem of wear-testing by allowing our shoppers to preview how a new style will look on them, without leaving the comfort of their home,” said Kendra Scott in an interview with JCK online.2
Make the most out of AR tech
- Make user experience (UX) your baseline for exceptional AR.
- Use AR to create personalized, seamless shopping journeys.
- Provide shoppers with convenience and certainty.
- Don’t overload the experience.
- Test before you launch and put yourself in the users’ shoes.
- Be consistent across all channels.
- Build flexibility into your fulfillment and delivery systems.
Canadian ecommerce holds a ton of potential for your business. eMarketer reported a 148% growth in Canadian ecommerce sales from 2019 to 2022, with a 60% increase in average online purchases compares to 2019.3 You need to master your ecommerce customer experience to tap into that potential. With so much to gain, there’s no better time to make enhancing your ecommerce experience a priority.
To provide a great ecommerce customer experience for Canadian shoppers, be sure to master the basics, evaluate your end-to-end experience and recognize any shifts in consumer behaviour across all your channels. Examine your blind spots, understand shifting consumer expectations and identify gaps. Position yourself with purpose and integrate your channel experiences. No matter where or how it’s done – shopping with you must be easy, efficient, responsive and worth recommending.
1Phase 5. Canadian Online Shopper Study, May 2022.
2Amy Elliott, JCK online. How Jewelry Brand Kendra Scott Is Pivoting During the Pandemic, May 2020.
3eMarketer. Canada Ecommerce Forecast 2022.
Transform your customer experience
We can help you attract and satisfy Canadian customers.Contact an expert