All online businesses know the value of converting first-time customers into loyal, long-term fans of the brand who return to make purchases again and again. Put simply, businesses that retain customers have a regular source of recurring income. Those who don’t generate much loyalty are constantly struggling to attract new business, with all that implies in terms of marketing costs.
And any improvement in customer retention goes straight to the bottom line. One of the most frequently quoted statistics in this regard comes from a survey carried out by consultancy Bain and Co, which found that an increase in retention of just 5% results in a jump in profitability of between 25% to 90%.
Nurturing the return customer
So what prompts a customer to return again and again to a favourite site? Well, price is undoubtedly a huge factor but arguably the experience of the customer plays an even more significant role in generating loyalty. Think of it this way. A customer may be initially attracted by good deals, but if the experience of dealing with the site isn’t good then he or she is likely to look around for alternatives next time round.
Good and bad experience
Well at one level, experience tends to be defined by the good and bad things that happen after a transaction has taken place. For instance, “good experience” is the punctual delivery of a fully functional product that is exactly what the customer ordered in terms of colour and specifications. And if something is wrong – say a faulty switch on a tablet computer – a customer might also praise the ability of the business to provide a replacement or a refund quickly and with the minimum of hassle. Multiple delivery/collection options might please the customer.
Bad experience, on the other hand, is late delivery and lousy service. These are the things that get praised or slated on social media. And arguably these aspects of the customer experience are the easiest to assess. It’s a simple enough equation. A high customer satisfaction rating means people like what you have to offer. Mounting complaints mean you need to improve your level of service and quickly.
But this is far from the whole story.
The hidden experience
But what about the equally important aspects of customer experience that you don’t hear about quite so often – in particular the experience of customers as they proceed through your site after arriving at a home or landing page?
Let’s compare and contrast two sites selling an almost identical range of products and services at broadly comparable prices. One site is easy to navigate, the search programme is well configured and any software components are intuitive and functional. In contrast, visitors to the other site find it just a bit more difficult to locate the products they’re looking for and the online registration forms essential for purchase are confusing to some. Added to that, when rendered on a mobile screen, certain key functions such as the “add to cart” button can only be found by scrolling down.
The problem for the second site is that customers often don’t complain about minor or sometimes major obstacles that make it harder to buy a product. Instead they press on regardless but try another site next time, or else they simply drop off. The short term hit is the loss of a sale. The longer-term effect is a lower rate of repeat business.
So how do you unlock this often hidden face of customer experience?
The simplest way is to record and play back customer journeys, using UserReplay’s suite of tools. It’s a simple principle. UserReplay records all journeys, page-by-page and click-by-click. If the site log or real time analytics suggest there might be a problem with a certain page or section of the site, selected journeys can be replayed.
These replays allow you to experience the site just as your customer does. You can, for example, see at first hand if customers are struggling with an online form or finding it difficult to find the buy now button on a smart phone browser. You can also assess the impact of the problem in terms of, say, abandoned shopping carts or drop offs from the site and this in turn enables you to prioritise remedial action.
In other words, by replaying customer journeys, you are unlocking the hidden customer experience and empowering marketing and technical staff to quickly address the problems that can lose you short-term business and damage customer retention prospects.