How do the best brands turn first time shoppers into loyal, returning customers? We’ll look at the customer life cycle from first visit to brand evangelism and examine what turns a good shopping experience into a great one.

First Impressions Matter.
Your site must look good, load fast, and be usable across desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Imagine you’re shopping at mall and you go into a store where the salespeople don’t greet you and the whole place is dirty and disorganized. You don’t know where to start, and nothing is on display. You’d turn around and promptly leave, right? After all, it’s easy enough to just walk into the store next door and get what you need. The same goes for an eCommerce storefront, except, it’s even easier to leave a store and find a new one, and because of that, merchants need to keep these key elements in mind:

• Your site should load quickly and work well across all devices.
• Once it does load, make sure you have great product merchandising.
Clear navigation, quality search, and filtering are all a must.
• On item pages, make sure to feature good photography, accurate specs, and product reviews.
• At checkout, make it simple:

– Offer “wallet-less” payment options like PayPal, AmazonPay and ApplePay.
– Reduce unnecessary fields.
– Give the shopper options to create an account, or checkout as a guest.
– Offer Free Shipping! Even if it’s after a certain dollar threshold. (I never pay for shipping and will absolutely abandon a cart if that’s my only option.)

Inviting Them Back
When shoppers on your site for the first time, you want to plant the seeds for a return visit. By that I mean, you’ve got to give them something to come back for:

In-Stock Notifiers bring consumers back to sites for items that we unavailable during their previous visit. Check out the custom notifier EY built for Pink Coconut Boutique.
• As mentioned above, My Account features allow people to save addresses, card information, etc. all of which allows them to complete future purchases with ease.
• The ability to create Wishlists or “Favorite” items to purchase later.
• Offer a Rewards Program that gives people points or discounts to redeem in the future.
• Continually connect with them through regular newsletters and social media outreach.

Make the Unpleasant Stuff Easier
Don’t forget that it’s not just about selling people stuff. It’s about an ongoing relationship and keeping people satisfied. Many times, the deal breaker between a few purchases and a long-time consumer is how returns and customer service issues are handled. While a satisfied customer might tell a few of their friends, an unsatisfied customer will tell an average of 10 PEOPLE. Yikes.

For returns, make it easy and pain-free for customers to return items they’re unhappy with.

• Consider a My Account feature that will allow consumers to start the return process online.
• Offer FREE returns and the ability to print return labels from your site. Free shipping and free returns makes the purchase very low risk to the consumer, and will almost guarantee a higher order value.

Make sure customer service is readily available, friendly, and helpful.

• While you may not be able to provide 24/7 support, make sure you’re well-staffed during business hours at least, and the customer service hours are clearly posted on your site.
• Consider multiple channels such as a 1-800 number, email, live chat, etc.
• Make sure your customer service staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and has the autonomy to make decisions about refunds, discounts, etc. without escalating every decision to a manager.

Remember that any poor experience can be turned around and made a positive one with great customer service.

I’m a big fan of the meal delivery service Hello Fresh and have been using it for months now. I recently received a box where one of my packs of raw chicken had leaked out of the box, getting all over the counter and everything else. I was disappointed to say the least and emailed them the next morning to let them know how my package had arrived. Within minutes I had an apology and a full refund for that meal. How great is that? Not only was I happy with the result, I came in to work and told my coworkers about the positive experience.
Through moments like this, they’ve evolved me from a repeat customer to a brand evangelist. I post pictures of my recipes to social media and I tell all my friends and family about how much I enjoy the service.

With a quality product, easy to use site, and a strong customer service team, you can turn more of your first-time visitors into repeat customers.

Interested in having your site’s overall user experience reviewed? Want to add any of the features or functionality we’ve mentioned above? Reach out to us at 888-429-4803 or email us at