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As internet shopping popularity grows, online customer experience needs to improve

Feb 11, 2013 Dave King

Most companies have discovered by now the need for some form of electronic payment processing, but too many are ignoring how much the online customer experience can impact their sales numbers. As Jeremy Sokolic, senior vice president of marketing at LivePerson, noted, these strategies are extremely important because consumers don't have much patience when it comes to shopping online.

"With consumers becoming more adept and familiar with digital channels, they have come to expect the same levels of help and customer service as they would in a physical store," Sokolic said. "To drive conversions and really impact customer loyalty, online businesses need to be able to derive insights from consumer behavior, identify the type and level of engagement that consumers require, and respond accordingly."

A recent LivePerson study revealed that 40 percent of consumers already spend as much on internet purchases as they do physically in stores. However, 83 percent of respondents said they feel as though they would benefit from additional support during their online shopping experiences. To compound the issues, more than half of consumers said they give up within five minutes if they can't figure out how to make a purchase.

Improving the customer experience
One method that companies can use to improve the online customer experience is to offer more platforms to deliver service. Nearly 60 percent of respondents to the LivePerson survey said they would like more ways to contact company representatives, with 51 percent saying they would be more likely to make a purchase if they received immediate responses via live chats.

In a recent blog for Practical eCommerce, Dale Traxler, owner of eBusiness Vision, suggested that companies do their best to personalize the customer experience. Because online shopping allows businesses to track an individual's shopping history - typically by using sales and search history - they are able to develop comprehensive customer profiles. These profiles can be used to cater more specifically to what a consumer is interested in.

Traxler suggested customizing certain aspects of the online shopping experience, including:

- Social media: Social networking sites, from Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest, are becoming common platforms of communication between customers and business representatives. Therefore, these interactions should be as personalized as if the shopper were physically in the store.

- Loyalty programs: If a customer has been an avid buyer of certain products, offer them future deals to keep them coming back.

- Every device: Anything that is available on a company's website should also be available on mobile devices.