One of the quickest ways to get a true insight into how to increase your online sales and revenue is to act as if you are your own customer. When you work in the business, the way you view your e-commerce website is completely different from how your visitors and customers experience it. Where you see an efficient purchasing process, your visitors may be having an entirely different experience. In their reality, it may well be preventing them from re-purchasing or even purchasing anything in the first place.
This is our top tip for discovering how to get more people to buy from your website as seeing things from a customer’s perspective identifies hidden opportunities and uncovers useful Conversion Rate Optimisation insights. Some key opportunities can only be seen from an external viewpoint. When you experience these customer frustrations for yourself, it becomes immediately obvious what needs to be fixed.
This may sound like a lot of hard work, but the good news is that “walking in your customer’s shoes” is easier to achieve than it might appear, especially if you have an e-commerce businesses
Follow our step by step guide to being your own customer and discover a world of insights that you can turn into profit by optimising your e-commerce conversion rate
The benefits of using your website as a customer – not an employee
The aims of this process are to:
- Establish the stumbling blocks that may be stopping your visitors from becoming paying customers
- Identify stumbling blocks post-purchase that may be stopping customers from returning to your site and purchasing again
- View your website as part of the overall customer journey, not a standalone entity
A step by step guide to walking in your customer’s shoes:
There are five simple steps to take. These are, essentially, what any customer who orders from your site actually does. The only difference is that you are observing yourself at each stage and recording both what actually happens and your feelings towards it.
Step One: Navigate to your website:
Don’t just click on your bookmark to go straight to your website. Do a popular search on Google to replicate the discovery process that your visitors go through. Review the search results, Which one(s) stand out to you? If you were a potential customer where would you choose to start your search? Open a few competitors’ tabs – that’s how your customer are shopping and you’ll get to see what you’re up against.
Step Two: Place an order on your website:
Ask yourself how easy this process is in terms of finding the product you want and placing the actual order. Is the process as straightforward as it can be? Was it clear where you were in the process? Were the call-to-actions easy to find and did they adequately explain the next step? Did anything pop up or distract you during the process that would have prevented you from completing the purchase?
Are there questions you have that the product copy or FAQ section doesn’t answer? If you have a helpline number, or live chat, ask a typical customer query to see how it’s handled. How confident are you about when the delivery will arrive and how efficient the returns process will be if the purchase is not to your satisfaction?
Step Three: Review order communications:
What type of post-purchase communications do you receive? What is the frequency of the communications and are you as the customer kept informed of key points in the delivery process, such as dispatch date and estimated date of arrival? Does the tone of the communications reflect the business brand and is it customer friendly?
Is there any follow up if you placed items in your basket but didn’t order?
Step Four: Accept delivery:
Record how long the product takes to arrive. Examine the packaging and its content and determine whether it matches the description on the website. Note if anything else is included in the package, such a promotional flyers, free gifts or brochures.
Step Five: Product returns:
Neglect this area at your own peril. While you may think that closing the sale is most important, or good enough, we consistently find that returns is one of the factors considered most by prospects when making a buying decision. Is the returns process straightforward? Are there additional costs to returning a product? How good are communications relating to product returns and are you kept informed of when you will receive a refund? Is the tone of communications customer friendly?
How does your competition match up?
Once you have completed this process, you should have a much better understanding of potential areas to improve in your customer buying journey. Now go back to the competitors you selected from Google and go through the same process on their site. This allows you to compare how the experience on your website stacks up against the competition.
Be ruthlessly honest about where your strengths and weaknesses lie compared to a similar experience on your competitor’s website. Does it feel better or worse purchasing from your site or from a rival site? Are your competitors doing anything that you could try?
Bonus Conversion Rate Optimisation Tip:
Placing an order on your website is just the start of how being your own customer uncovers hidden opportunities on your website. In today’s multi-channel world, your website is not a standalone entity; visitors are likely to be using it alongside your other sales channels, such as your brochure or store. Why not replicate these different customer journeys to get an overall view of the role your website plays in the buying process?
After you’ve become your own online customer, we recommend repeating these steps via your other sales channels. Place an order over the phone, get the latest brochure delivered through your letterbox, subscribe to your email newsletters and, if you have a store, go in and make a purchase. The more you embrace the customer journey, there more you will learn.
And don’t forget to do the same with your competitors. After all, if your website visitors aren’t buying from you, they must be buying from your competition. It pays to keep a close eye on them.
So take off your employee hat and take a walk in your customer’s shoes to ensure you are offering your visitors the best e-commerce experience. It’s one of the most valuable things you can do for your business.
If you want to achieve double-digit increases in your sales for your e-commerce website, A/B split testing is a powerful and profitable tool when used as part of a complete Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) programme. Download our guide to A/B Testing here: