Delivering both a top-notch customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) to your target audience is crucial to your success as an ecommerce company.
I know: Stop traffic, right?
Of course, it’s important to provide excellent experiences to your users and customers. Even if you aren’t familiar with the terms, UX and CX are at the center of many improvements you make.
That said, a clear and comprehensive understanding of what both entail is needed to:
- Deliver the best possible experience to your users and customers, and
- Generate the best possible results for your business
In this article, we’ll discuss what ecommerce UX and CX involve, how they are related — and how to optimize both.
Let’s dive in.
User Experience vs. Customer Experience: A Quick Overview
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s make one thing clear:
The terms user experience and customer experience are not synonymous.
While it’s not uncommon to hear even experts use these terms interchangeably in certain contexts, they are two separate terms that refer to two separate concepts.
- User Experience refers to the experiences an individual has while actually utilizing a brand’s products or services. The goal of optimizing UX is to enable users to accomplish tasks as intended — and to empower them to take further steps toward success.
- Customer Experience refers to the cumulative experience of being a patron of your brand. Optimizing CX is also about enabling and empowering your audience — both in the immediate, practical sense and over the course of their relationship with your company.
Note, then, that delivering an optimal UX is essential to delivering an optimal CX: Your audience needs to be able to engage with your offerings on a practical level before they can experience the deeper value your brand brings to the table.
So, UX is actually a part of CX, in that changes to the former have a direct impact on the latter. Similarly, when making improvements to your customer experience, your UX should always be one of the key factors considered.
Again, our focus today will be on how all of this applies in the world of ecommerce. Check out this article from User Testing for a more universal discussion of UX and CX.
The Ecommerce User Experience
As a consumer yourself, think of all the things you typically do when shopping online.
You browse different sections of your favorite sites. Search for new products — by name or description. You engage with and digest various on-site content. Additionally, you make purchases and facilitate returns. And you submit questions, comments, and service-related queries.
(And the list goes on…)
Regardless of the company, niche, or industry, these practical tasks are all pretty universal. And the modern ecommerce consumer expects to accomplish all of this with minimal effort on their part.
That is the crux of the ecommerce user experience.
As we said, optimizing your ecommerce UX is about enabling and empowering your site visitors in a practical sense at every touchpoint.
How to Optimize the Ecommerce User Experience
Using the examples above, this might mean:
- Creating a logical and intuitive site structure
- Providing accurate and user-friendly search functionality
- Optimizing content accessibility, presentation, and interactivity
- Streamlining transactional processes and service requests
- Minimizing points of friction (e.g., slow site speed, broken links, etc.)
Ideally, your user experience should also exceed your site visitors’ expectations in numerous ways — based specifically on what you know about their practical needs when using your site.
Depending on the circumstances, this may mean:
- Offering dynamic search features with AI-powered suggestions
- Providing seamless omnichannel functionality for all aspects of your site
- Automating simple tasks, such as filling out forms or making repeat orders
Optimizing ecommerce UX allows your visitors to go from Point A to Point B as effectively and efficiently as possible. Making it happen requires zooming in on these individual touchpoints and user journeys to determine what, specifically, needs to improve.
An effective way to do this is to identify where your site visitors face problems along their journey. This is usually where they decide to abandon their visit altogether.
(Unfortunately, the nature of ecommerce UX is that you don’t necessarily get anything “extra” for providing a top-notch experience — but failing to do so will almost certainly cause you to lose business.)
- Excessive scrolling or time on page
- Confused or redundant navigational paths
- Form or cart abandonment at critical moments in the journey
Your customer service request history will also give you more concrete guidance as to where to dig in here.
Once you identify these areas, you can then work to determine what went wrong and how you can fix it. Again, beyond “fixing” the immediate issue, the goal is to enable and empower visitors at these crucial moments to ensure they can get what they need from your brand whenever and however they engage with you.
Learn more about optimal UX research processes from The Good!
The Ecommerce Customer Experience
Now, stop and think about some of your favorite ecommerce brands — and the experience you’ve had as their long-time customer.
To do this, you’ll need to think of both your immediate engagements with the company and of the impact the company has had on your life on the whole.
This is the crux of the ecommerce customer experience.
That said, improving your ecommerce customer experience requires taking a more holistic view of everything you offer your audience — and of the value it all brings to their lives. Moreover, it involves seeing your customer’s journey with your brand as an ongoing continuum — not a series of isolated engagements.
To make this process a bit more manageable, ecommerce CX is typically broken up into three subcategories:
- Site and Product Experience: Your customers’ direct experiences using and engaging with your site, product, and other value-added assets at various touchpoints along their journey
- Service Experience: The amount and quality of support your customers receive throughout their journey with your brand — whether via automated or human means
- Brand Experience: The unique qualities of your brand — from the aesthetic to the practical — that shape your relationship with your customers
Still, the ultimate goal is to bring all this back together to better understand your customers’ perception of your brand, and of the role you play in their lives.
Check out this (much) deeper dive into ecommerce customer experience from The Good!
Connecting Ecommerce UX and CX
To reiterate, providing a top-notch user experience to your site visitors is a key part of providing an excellent overall customer experience.
However, UX being a “part” of CX doesn’t mean you only have to consider it part of the time. On the contrary, optimizing your user experience at every touchpoint is key to delivering experience and value to you customers.
As we touched on earlier, the implications of this are two-fold:
For one, enhancing your overarching CX in any way will almost always impact your user’s experiences at multiple touchpoints. Failure to understand this can ultimately cause surface-level user issues that disrupt the individual’s “big picture” experiences with your brand.
It’s also important to understand that even minor tweaks made to your user experience do, in fact, have an impact on your customer’s overall experience with your brand. Keeping this in mind will ensure that every user-level change you make is not only immediately practical for the customer — but also serves to strengthen their perception and connection to your brand as a whole.
How Does Your Customer Experience Stack Up?
Here’s a phrase we repeat to clients at least 3-5 times a week:
“You can’t read the label from inside the jar.”
When you’re (justifiably) busy managing your brand’s day-to-day operations, it can be easy to have unrealistic assumptions about how customers view your work.
Even though you’re constantly tweaking and improving your site, your customers might find those fancy design elements distracting, confusing, or annoying. Conversely, you may think your multi-step checkout is damaging your sales, but it’s really a lack of social proof or a compelling value proposition.
We’ll pair you with real people in your target market and ask them the questions you need to get answered so that you can make your decisions based on information, not just intuition.
Ready to get clarity around your customer needs and frustrations? Start your project today.