Thanks to ecommerce platforms, anyone who wants to run an online store can. In fact, the number of new Shopify stores created between March 30 – April 20, 2020, alone jumped by 62%.
And while ecommerce growth has been incredible, the sheer volume of online stores means everyone has to get creative with customer experience. As the industry evolves, we’re starting to see inevitable crowding. But we’re also starting to see that—while anyone can start a store, not all stores become brands.
Differentiation has become critical. This is why, at Shogun, we’re all about enabling exceptional ecommerce experiences.
But what does this mean?
We’ve all been shopping online, but what makes for an exceptional experience? What are leading brands doing differently to stand out, and why is an investment in your entire customer experience, so worthwhile?
#cta-paragraph-pb#Note: This is the first in a five-part series. Each week, I’ll share one of the five foundational pillars of exceptional ecommerce experiences and show you how to apply these principles to your business. Subscribe to our blog to be notified when the next in the series drops!
Why brands need to invest in exceptional
I believe we’re seeing a shift where brands are starting to pay much closer attention to the experiences they’re crafting. And it’s because once customers encounter something remarkable, it’s easy for this to become their new standard.
The difference between high-caliber online shopping and something more commonplace is clear. An exceptional ecommerce web presence transcends templated, average, or anticipated. “Exceptional” bears equal weight on the fine details as it does the core functionality of the site.
In short, when people interact with and purchase from your store, they should feel like they’ve had an experience.
The Apple brand comes to mind for me. When you walk into a physical Apple Store, the brand makes its introduction. From the sleek store esthetic and the minimal (yet beautiful) product displays to Apple Geniuses helping you pick products from an iPad, it’s an experience. Intentionally crafted from start to finish.
Just by participating, you almost seem to take on the qualities of the Apple brand and benefit personally, somehow. This same branded feeling carries through from retail into their web presence. No matter where you shop for Apple products, you get an ‘Apple-esque’ experience.
Brands that elicit powerful feelings consistently like Apple, Nike, Under Armour, Spanx, and Tesla — have become the gold standard. They’re household names. “It” brands.
But now, direct-to-consumer brands are aspiring to deliver these higher-end experiences, too. And for good reason.
Because as you scale, your customers (the ones who know and love Nike, Tesla, and Apple) have learned their shopping preferences from theseepic retailers.Shoppers now build expectations about what an ecommerce website should entail based on world-class online experiences. Now it’s up to you to apply these expectations to your site in big and small ways.
When you start to focus on creating the best possible customer experience, you foster repeat customers and legitimacy. Yourbrand becomes the product.
Think about how many times you refer to tissue paper during flu season as the popular brand name “Kleenex” instead of a “tissue.” Or, in the case of Apple, when people ask, “How do you like your new Mac?” instead of “How do you like your new laptop?”
Brands become the product via engaging customer experiences and smart, personal, and consistent interactions.
If customers know what to expect from you (i.e., they feel validated in their purchases thanks to the emotion your brand has conjured and have enjoyed shopping on your site) it’s safe to say they’ll be back for more. You can become their go-to.
“Exceptional” matters extra for high-quality brands
As Shogun delivers on more headless commerce builds, we’re noticing that brands offering luxury goods perceive a differentiated experience as mission-critical. If you sell a high-end product, you need the flexibility to design your site the way you want.
Take lifestyle goods brand, Nomad, for example. As Director of Ecommerce, Reese Hammerstrom, said of one of their reasons to invest in a headless commerce storefront:
“It really allowed us to imagine the next true evolution of our storefront and, what we believe to be, the future of ecommerce.”
As brands scale, there’s now a focus on creating something that signals legitimacy and growth. Something less like the cookie-cutter lemonade stand available to every merchant on the block.
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The 5 pillars of an exceptional ecommerce experience
Now that we’ve explored why brands are investing in exceptional experiences, let’s define exceptional.
At Shogun, here’s how we see it:
#cta-paragraph-pb#We believe an exceptional ecommerce experience is: a functional, esthetically pleasing online store that evokes a sense of wonder in customers. It’s highly performant, and—ultimately—drives purchases. Particularly great online shopping is rooted in convenience and attention to detail.
To create these experiences, it’s handy to have a framework.
Here’s how we see the blueprint for an exceptional online store:
- It’s beautifully functional
- It features dynamic, rich merchandising
- It delights with real-time personalization
- It’s extremely fast-loading
- It contains consistent, high-quality brand visuals
Let’s look at the first pillar in more detail.
An exceptional ecommerce store is beautifully functional
An ecommerce website that toes the line of both striking design and functionality is ideal. An excellent example of this is from the clean, natural hair care product brand, Briogeo.
Not only is the site stunning to look at (stellar product photography, layouts, on-brand look), but it’s intuitive and functional, too.
Briogeo’s product collections pages stand out as a way to simplify the shopping experience. While shopping on collections pages in and of itself isn’t necessarily a unique experience these days, Briogeo makes it one by designing an experience as functional as it is easy to navigate.
Here’s what I mean:
When customers hover over the “Shop” tab in the top navigation bar, they can shop products based on their unique needs, like damaged hair or supplements for wellness. After clicking through to a collections page, they can browse all associated products and add items to their cart or start a product subscription—all from this page.
When customers move their mouse over different products, they see another product image—one that shows a zoomed-in look at what’s inside the packaging—for added context. And if they see something they want to buy, it’s quick and easy to add items to their cart or to start a subscription for a product with buttons placed directly below each product.
What makes Briogeo’s site exceptional, is also its consideration for customers who aren’t sure what they’re looking for yet.
For this, Briogeo introduces their Hair Quiz, featured in the top navigation bar and throughout the site.
This quiz is not only a nod to personalization done well (product recommendations tailored to my unique interests!), but it helps customers discover new Briogeo products, increasing the likelihood of purchase. Helpful and high-converting. Simple but genius.
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CEO and co-founder of Shogun.