Customers demand frictionless cross-channel experiences, from search all the way to purchase.
The explosion of eCommerce is wholly transforming the way retailers and consumers do business. In fact, eCommerce sales jumped more than 16 percent in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the year before.1
It’s not unusual for a customer’s shopping journey to bridge multiple channels. Today, she might start by researching a product on the internet, then visit a brick-and-mortar store with a mobile phone or tablet in hand to evaluate the item, search for deals and make real-time price comparisons. Any points of friction she encounters on the way to making her purchase significantly increase the odds of taking her business to a merchant that makes the shopping experience easier.
“The best businesses today — and the ones that will succeed tomorrow — are the ones that are creating consistent, compelling customer experiences through seamless integration across all channels,” says Derrick Carpenter, executive vice president of integrated payments, digital commerce & marketing at Bank of America Merchant Services.
Now that websites, made-for-mobile apps and social media have made shopping faster, easier and more convenient, two points along the purchasing journey are presenting as particularly critical: search and payment. Consumers are most motivated to buy when they search for an item on a retailer’s website, so it’s essential to deliver accurate, useful search results. Likewise, the payment process must also be fast and seamless or consumers will simply abandon their shopping carts — both in stores and online.
“The best businesses today — and the ones that will
succeed tomorrow — are the ones that are creating
consistent, compelling customer experiences
through seamless integration.”
Many companies create unwanted friction in their online search functions. Failing to meet customer expectations in this area can be especially costly, since one third of U.S. online adults say they’re less likely to visit a store if they can’t find product information beforehand.2 For this reason, improving search capabilities presents a huge opportunity for growth and differentiation.
“If you haven’t optimized the search experience from start to finish, you’re missing out on higher conversion rates and greater customer loyalty,” says Carpenter.
It’s no surprise consumer search expectations have been shaped by Google. Google’s universal and fluid search effectiveness lies in its ability to deliver personalized, relevant results that understand the searcher’s context. By contrast, many retailers’ site-search functions confuse, and ultimately frustrate, customers. For example, a search for “washer” might bring up both washing machines and dishwashers, while a search for “khakis” might deliver results for khaki-colored shirts as well as pants.
A recent study found that 40 percent of the top 10 retail websites had poor onsite search functionalities and results.3 The most prevalent issues included broken search forms and logic, and inadequate search queries.
Retailers need site-search technology that interprets consumers’ needs and delivers relevant results. Such technology used to be prohibitively expensive or difficult to implement, but in recent years, relatively inexpensive cloud-based eCommerce search engines have emerged that can be added to merchants’ websites and apps via an application programming interface. These tools are easy to customize and update, and deliver personalized, appropriate results that drive conversion rates and loyalty. Implementing smarter technology can also help retailers retain business. Nearly 60 percent of shoppers are more likely to buy from brands that offer customized products.4
Just as important, cloud-based systems allow merchants to create seamless search experiences across a variety of platforms. Consumers searching from their laptops at home will experience the same level of quality and convenience as shoppers performing mobile searches from a store. In an optimized system, the search interface will be intuitive and satisfying, and relevant results will be paired with personalized recommendations based on prior searches, user location and other data points. If consumers want to buy something, they can do it with the click of a button.
Payment, like search, is trending toward less friction and greater speed. Yet the proliferation of new payment options can be difficult for both merchants and consumers to navigate. Mobile apps let consumers order a coffee — or a car — hours in advance, and make invisible, cashless payments on their mobile devices. Digital wallets let shoppers make purchases at a store or on mobile devices; contactless POS terminals make payment as easy as swiping a phone; and tokenization silently increases purchase security by substituting sensitive data with non-sensitive information.
“We’re still in the early days of frictionless payment,” says Gunter Pfau, chief executive officer of Stuzo, a digital product innovation firm. “A variety of different companies are jockeying for position, and it remains to be seen how it will all play out.”
But the benefits for consumers are clear: more convenience and faster transactions. Companies benefit not only by remaining relevant and reducing swipe fees, but by creating a more personalized experience that increases customer loyalty and drives additional transactions.
“The forms of digital payment that will win out are the ones that provide the most value to customers,” says Pfau.
As consumers grow more sophisticated and demanding, retailers must keep up with their evolving expectations. That starts with aligning the consumer experience across multiple channels — from the moment someone searches for a product to the moment they decide to buy it.
“The forms of digital payment that will win out are the
ones that provide the most value to customers.”