How to Get Online Shoppers Through to Checkout and Improve E-Commerce Conversions

Today’s shoppers crave instant gratification and hiccup-free transactions, abandoning carts at the very first signs of friction. With these heightened expectations, retailers must be able to deliver a seamless online journey that increases conversions and offers a superior digital experience. Given this reality, there’s never been a better time to think about improving both your customer journey and your e-commerce capabilities.

In this article, discover how brands are boosting e-commerce results with optimized digital touchpoints. Readers will learn:

  • How to create VIP experiences for both customers and employees
  • Ways to personalize the customer journey
  • Best practices to properly handle high-speed transactions

How to Get Online Shoppers Through to Checkout and Improve E-Commerce Conversions

This article will equip brand leaders with guidance to boost customer experiences and conversions, without incurring wasteful expenses or undue burden on internal e-commerce or marketing staff. You will learn the importance of:

  • Properly handling high-speed transactions
  • Treating employees and VIPs to private sales events
  • Implementing personalized, made-for-me experiences
  • Delivering global experiences that truly feel local

Content Summary

High-velocity transactions that won’t crash your site (or reputation)
Sell global, feel local
Treating employees, VIPs to private sales events
Personalized, made-for-me experiences
Unlocking sustainable wins

Made-for-me, completely seamless, lickety-split experiences: Today’s shoppers crave instant gratification and hiccup-free transactions, abandoning carts at the first signs of friction. Brands that fail to enable those experiences will see profits sink, researchers say.

Easier said than done, of course.

  • How do you enable hundreds of orders per second without technology snafus?
  • How do you gate private VIP sales and counter fraudulent behaviors?
  • How do you deliver local experiences to global shoppers from San Francisco to Singapore?
  • How do you get personalization right?

Hence the goal of this resource: to equip brand leaders with guidance to boost customer experiences and conversions, without incurring wasteful expenses or undue burden on internal e-commerce or marketing staff.

To that end, we’ll focus on four e-commerce use cases — each with unique dynamics, pitfalls and opportunities to fuel revenue with the kinds of experiences consumers want to share and repeat.

“The future came early,” reports McKinsey. In 2020, 76% of consumers changed stores, brands or channels. “Given the impact of digital shifts on the customer journey, how can you upgrade your e-commerce capabilities and rethink your store network?”

High-velocity transactions that won’t crash your site (or reputation)

For customers who’ve waited with bated breath for a hot product to drop, slow-loading pages, malfunctioning promo codes, oversold stock and site crashes can quickly turn brand excitement into brand loathing. High-velocity transactions — think 350 orders and account creations per second — take a special approach and technology infrastructure.

Done right, high-velocity flash sales can generate millions of dollars in just minutes. Below is a snapshot of opportunities unique to flash sales and potential tripping points that can drain your resources and sabotage sales.

43% of consumers participated in product drops, flash and private sales in January 2021. – PYMTS/Scalefast

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Fuel brand excitement and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in consumers.
  • Create liquidity for aged products before new arrivals.
  • Build loyalty and lifetime value in best customer segments with early access and VIP experiences.
  • Infuse cash flow by capitalizing on trends while they’re hot.

PITFALLS

  • Site outages, tech glitches and user experience hiccups trigger bad press and negative word-of-mouth.
  • Slow reporting of stock levels can lead to overselling beyond available inventory, frustrating customers.
  • Shipping capabilities don’t align with what you’ve promised shoppers.
  • Trends fade or competitors jump on the bandwagon because it took you too long to launch.

There’s no denying the value of flash sales or coveted product drops. But without adequate capabilities, software bugs or hardware issues can do lasting damage to a flash sale. Jeff Hesemann, director of e-commerce and marketplaces for FLIR Systems — the world’s largest producer of thermal cameras — recalled lessons learned from a less-than-ideal launch. “You’re immediately getting two-star reviews that will crush you going forward. It’s tough to get out of that hole once you’re in it,” he explained.

Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast also felt that pain. In the past, the brand’s release of Magic: The Gathering card games attracted a traffic surge that disrupted inventory controls on their e-commerce platform. Within five minutes, demand had oversold supply by nearly 500%, requiring refunds to more than 30,000 collectors.

Next time around, Wizards of the Coast tapped Scalefast, a next-gen enterprise e-commerce solution, to set up an immersive experience website with games, continuity marketing, and expanded global reach with international shipping and local currency options. In two years, the brand launched nine high-volume, high-velocity flash sales, selling more than 270,000 units.

“Scalefast’s pre-configured data and infrastructure enable high-velocity events quickly and inexpensively, without disrupting day-to-day operations,” said Dan Wallace-Brewster, senior vice president of marketing at Scalefast. “Just as valuable, our no-code platform means brands can build a specialty or flash sale site in as few as 15 days so they can respond quickly to market trends,” he added.

“Customer experience leaders renovate, not just decorate,” reported Forrester. The research firm predicts 25% of brands will achieve statistically significant advances in customer experience quality in 2021.

Sell global, feel local

Wish you could deliver a local experience to customers in different countries? Good news: You don’t have to duplicate your core market’s entire e-commerce structure for each new market. Rather, it’s possible to launch multiple native stores reflecting the local language, currency and payment methods without the risks and costs of setting up shop overseas.

Brands that succeed in delighting international consumers without sacrificing efficiencies or regulatory compliance have one thing in common: They don’t try to do it all on their own.

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Market expansion and new-customer acquisition.

PITFALLS

  • Mismanagement of taxes, import/ export duties can create large liabilities and poor customer experience.
  • High cost of establishing local inventory and local payments ahead of actualized revenue.

From the viewpoint of an international shopper, the greatest reason for cart abandonment is payment failure, said Scott Wagner, former CEO and board member at GoDaddy. “Either it’s an unacceptance on the merchant side of the local payment type or the authorization system in a particular geography isn’t as good. In any case, the payment fails,” Wagner explained. Bad user flow, experience breakdowns and the inability to interact in the customer’s primary language also add up to failed conversions, he added.

On the merchant’s side, there’s the matter of taxes, regulatory compliance, fraud protection and all the bureaucracy that follows exports. Many brands opt to outsource those pains, letting Scalefast shoulder the burden as their merchant of record. “Scalefast has preestablished local distribution and fiduciary positions in major international markets, so our client brands are free of those responsibilities,” Wallace-Brewster said.

FLIR has plenty of experience with exports, yet it sought out Scalefast to boost international sales conversions. “How do we marry our export experience with Scalefast’s sales capabilities? We’ve had much success with a hybrid approach where we don’t have a localized website, but we do have in-country fulfillment,” Hesemann said. Using a headless e-commerce solution, FLIR integrates Scalefast’s platform and cart with its ERP, CMS, existing front-end store and SSO.

As needs and opportunities emerge, Hesemann noted the ease and speed of adding e-commerce capabilities with Scalefast. “An internal product line owner might say, ‘Hey, can we capture serial numbers during checkout so we can sell extended warranties?’ That idea would’ve never occurred to me, but every little enhancement adds up and helps our growth,” he explained.

“Either it’s an unacceptance on the merchant side of the local payment type or the authorization system in a particular geography isn’t as good. In any case, the payment fails. Bad user flow, experience breakdowns and the inability to interact in the customer’s primary language also add up to failed conversions.” – SCOTT WAGNER, Former CEO and board member at GoDaddy

Treating employees, VIPs to private sales events

Leading consumer brands often treat employees, suppliers and other VIP segments to exclusive specialty sales. More than feel-good events, private sales are highly effective in growing rapport and revenue in one swoop.

But without adequate boundaries, private sales are also magnets for party crashers and fraudulent resellers looking to score luxury goods at deep discounts. Role-specific passcodes, timed entry, order limits and fraud validation are some of the automations that ensure rewarding experiences — both for the brand and guest shoppers.

OPPORTUNITIES

  • A bespoke experience for valued segments.
  • Ability to implement preferred or restricted return and service level agreements depending on price points and promotion types.

PITFALLS

  • Security measures fail to stop resellers from abusing private sales.
  • Potential for alienating core customer and wholesale relationships if below-market prices are exposed.

“We’ve refined technical and service nuances of private sales events to deliver an elite experience for a select audience without compromising the brand’s relationship with the broader market.” – DAN WALLACE-BREWSTER, Senior vice president of marketing at Scalefast

France-based L’Oreal Group, a global leader in cosmetics and personal care products, offers an annual friends and family sale every fourth quarter. The event is an employee perk and additional revenue source ahead of the holidays. To make its specialty sale effective, L’Oreal needed a seamless, full-service regional platform that could be built quickly and scaled to handle high sales volumes. The online store also had to be gated to limit purchases to one order per user.

L’Oreal partnered with Scalefast to launch the specialty sale site within 60 days, equipped with password protection, timed entry and role-specific passcodes so employees could shop ahead of suppliers. A simplified cart and checkout also helped to capture sales. The event surpassed sales goals by more than 23%, exceeding order targets by more than 85%.

“We’ve refined technical and service nuances of private sales events to deliver an elite experience for a select audience without compromising the brand’s relationship with the broader market,” Wallace-Brewster said.

Personalized, made-for-me experiences

There’s no shortage of evidence on the effect of personalized buyer experiences. And yet, creating compelling personalization remains a beast many brands struggle with. Blame shoddy customer data and misguided notions of what and how to personalize experiences.

In Wagner’s view, personalization is an overused and misconceived buzzword. Merchants get stuck trying to nail the perfect offer based on past behavior data, he said. A better approach: Creating a differentiated level of service. “If I’m a high-value customer, I’d love to see a snapshot of next year’s line, preorder things or be offered something unique,” Wagner explained. “The next wave of personalization is an intimate, ongoing relationship with consumers. That’s a different slant on personalization, delivering more value than a transactional offer.”

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Identify and prioritize opportunities to reduce friction in the buyer journey by microsegment.
  • Reduce wasteful or counterproductive work in the development queue.
  • Increase conversions and revenue that can be reinvested in product and customer acquisition.

PITFALLS

  • Data overload leading to analysis paralysis.
  • Overwhelming development teams.
  • Incomplete picture of customer behaviors from fragmented or disconnected data sources.

While 100% of retailers cited personalization as a top priority, only 15% have implemented it across all channels. – McKinsey

Removing friction is a big part of “made-for-me” experiences. With that in mind, Scalefast client brands apply Air360, a user experience analysis tool, to identify friction points with even the smallest user segments. “Insights are rooted in comprehensive, historical tracking of on-site behavior that can be retroactively measured,” Wallace-Brewster said. “Brand owners can access multiple layers of analysis to identify revenue threats and opportunities, then drill down to root causes.” Armed with that insight, merchants can continuously banish or alleviate obstacles that hurt shopper satisfaction and keep them from completing a purchase.

“What Scalefast is doing is allowing brand owners to create a different experience for select segments that almost feels like an exclusive site, club or inventory to cultivate strong relationships,” Wagner said.

“What Scalefast is doing is allowing brand owners to create a different experience for select segments that almost feels like an exclusive site, club or inventory to cultivate strong relationships.” – SCOTT WAGNER, Former CEO and board member at GoDaddy

Unlocking sustainable wins

Where do you start in clarifying next steps and building the right conditions so you can respond quickly to changing consumer preferences?

First, define the online experience you’ll offer, Wagner advised: “Is it your own site and mobile app? Is your brand syndicated into various social channels? How does that interplay with physical retail?” Once you map those experiences, walk in your customers’ shoes through each of them. “You might find it’s a lousy, average or mediocre experience in many cases. Remove every bit of friction, all the way to fulfillment.”

Next, push yourself and your team to create real distinction. “Where’s the real delight? How do you create distinctive interactions that can nurture your relationship with customers over time?” As an example, Wagner recalled when Starbucks added a preorder function to its mobile app years ago — an elegant solution to the pains of standing in line or being short on time.

Speaking of experiences, keep an eye on Amazon, Hesemann said: “I’m not saying Amazon does everything perfectly, but it does set customer expectations that raise the bar for those wanting to stay competitive.” Like many brands, FLIR has sought to match those expectations, such as free, twoday shipping. What else is Amazon doing, and how can you compete with those capabilities?

Finally, adopt e-commerce systems built for speed, ease and flexibility. Many e-commerce platforms still reflect stacks of legacy code that are hard to wrangle and require armies of engineers or consultants to manage. “They feel heavy and onerous,” Wagner said. Instead, “I’d push brand owners to find light, API, scalable platforms that will give them control of their brand experiences,” he said. Flexibility is a must: 18 months from now, the market will be different, Wagner cautioned: “You’ll need to control buying experiences without armies of people and slow, long processes.”

Whether brands choose to sell via social media, partner retailers or other distribution networks, the most successful brands will continue to invest in their own experiences because direct interactions with consumers are their best chance to create lasting, fruitful relationships, Wagner said.

“Tick-tock; time’s ticking for brand owners. You need to make progress on your e-commerce capabilities within the next 12 months,” Wagner concluded: “You’ll miss enormous opportunities otherwise.”

“Tick-tock; time’s ticking for brand owners. You need to make progress on your e-commerce capabilities within the next 12 months. You’ll miss enormous opportunities otherwise.” – SCOTT WAGNER, Former CEO and board member at GoDaddy