The Marketing < > Analytics Intersect, by Avinash Kaushik
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TMAI #266: It's not eCommerce, It's experienceC. (Uno.)

Almost all retailers are worried Amazon is going to eat the eCommerce world. Data seems to suggest they are not entirely wrong to worry.

The pandemic seems to have permanently changed user behavior in many ways (
my tweet with data), and one of the clear patterns that has emerged is the surge in all kinds of eCommerce - from delivering bananas to massages.

eCommerce is sexy again is what I’m saying.

: )

With this opportunity comes omg, what do I do now, what do I do next, how can I get more money out from this opportunity, and so on and so forth. 

Too many things. Too little time. Too much Amazon hovering over your consciousness.

When I have the opportunity to transform how companies think about the business they are in, I say:

It is not eCommerce, it is experienceC.

If you want to stand out, stand apart, as a retailer - small or big - you need to be in the business of creating incredible experiences. The commerce piece is just an attachment that happens to make you money.

The reason for this shift in emphasis is that with Google as a starting point -- or Bing or Baidu or Seznam -- the entire world is my retail store. If all I wanted is fulfillment, there are 1,000 retailers who will do it cheaper than you and with just as much pain as your user experience.

So. Why you?


If I really wanted to browse a website that has an absolutely atrocious experience but will sell me everything in the world, there’s always Amazon.

You can temporarily stand out, and stand apart, with cheaper prices or a slightly unique product or inventory or other such variables.

If you want to stand out over the long-term, to be able to outmaneuver Amazon and the other large gorillas, I offer the thought that your only option is to deliver incredible experiences.

Your business as a retailer is not eCommerce. It is experienceC.

Money’s still important; your primary worry just shifts from little bits of money now to good chunks of ROI over time.
What’s experienceC?

A crucial part of the user experience is your website and mobile app. We have to get this absolutely right. It also happens to be the easiest one to fix.

How simple is your checkout process?

How easy is it for me to decide which of your products to buy? 

This is the product page for Shure earphones. Other than price, how easy is it to figure out which ones are right for you? Note: The page is slow to load, until it loads you'll see "No results found." Be patient. Wait for it to finish loading.)

Does the landing page have anything to do with the ad/page/link that brought you to the landing page?

Does the product page have all the information you need to make a decision, but nothing else?

1,000,000 more things.

experienceC also includes associated experiences: 

What does your order confirmation email look like? 

What is your order cancellation policy? 

How painful is your product/service return policy? 

Do you offer Support via chat? (And, is that person remotely competent?)

What happens if you miss your promised delivery date for the order?

These are all feelings-generating moments.

Example: Our family is insanely loyal to Costco (real-world) or Amazon (digital), it is not because of their size or prices. It is because in two decades of shopping there we have never had a single negative product return experience. If there is a problem, they just take care of it. They are magnificent at the feelings-generating moments. Then, our family is forgiving that Amazon has among the least good site experience on the planet.

What feelings are your experiences currently generating?

experienceC stretches into the most critical bit, product experience:

How was the product you received?  Well packed? Easy to open? Did it have the needed batteries?

How do you feel about the product two weeks later?

Did you need a user manual to figure out what that knob did?

When you get an email alert from General Motors that one of your two Chevy Bolts is low on tire pressure, does it tell you which car clearly? (It does not!)

I know that as a Marketer you can’t control parts of the associated experiences and the product experience.

I still encourage you to be curious about these two because they will drive lower lifetime value for customers that you, the Marketer, delivered. Hence, for better or for worse, (usually latter) you need to care.

Your differentiation vs. Amazon is not inventory or pricing or ease of returns. It is experience. I dare say it is possibly the only competitive advantage you can create when it comes to eCommerce. (Sadly, they've captured lots of other elements.)

Focus on experienceC.
Seven Winning experienceC Recommendations.

Because I hold exceptionally high standards for companies to meet when it comes to user experience, it does not take a lot to tick me off when it comes to bad user experiences, I’ve dedicated a fair amount of my time sharing tips/fixes with you on Occam’s Razor, and of course here. (Ex: TMAI #179: UX Frustrations | A Gmail Tip)

Today, a collection of tips I’d recently shared in a short story about experienceC in a recent keynote. If you have these issues, I hope you’ll fix them. My intent is for them to serve as a trigger to get you thinking about the unique aspects of your experience that you can find and fix.

To keep this email within a manageable size, I'll cover three recommendations today and four more in next week's Premium edition.

1. Leverage parametric search.

Every shoe website has 48,000 shoes to buy.

Unless you know exactly the brand and shoe name you want, shopping for shoes can be a giant pain. Even “Shoe Finder” type recommendation engines can be a pain.

Hence, I’m a fan of parametric search. Here’s one example:
Parametric search: Shoes

My #1 narrowing strategy is color. I like red shoes. It makes me weird. But. I like red shoes.

How odd is it that I can do Feature (helpful), Fit (meh), and Style (what’s that?), but not a ton more attributes that are surely in this company’s ERP database about every shoe?

Why is color not an option in the parametric search experience?

Nordstrom currently has 5,701 Men's shoes for sale on their site. 

They also have an amazing parametric search experience.
I choose red, size 10, and, on sale. In 1.5 seconds I have 13 to choose from.
Parametric Search: Shoes | Nordstorm

So good.

It takes me less than five minutes from landing on the site to figure out if there is anything for me.

Your product databases, your retailer feeds, your ERP system has a ton of data about your products and services. Give me access to it. Let me use it. Please.

You don’t need to create a hideous experience. Copy Nordstrom. Or, put it in a tab called Filter. Give me a choice. I’ll convert at a higher rate. 

That’s winning with experienceC.

Try this: Go to Expedia. I want to take our family on a snorkeling vacation. I have no idea where, someplace nice. See if you can do this on Expedia. It is a parametric search problem - one that is, how incredible is that in 2021 it is not a solved problem on Expedia. experienceC.
2. Provide above and beyond service.

In context of eCommerce it might seem odd that I'm focusing on customer service. Recall the reason for our family's insane loyalty to Costco & Amazon. Exceptional service. The secret behind our high conversion rate.

Let's do an experiment: Assume you are a Verizon customer.

Here’s their support page: 

Pick any product/service you might need support for. Try to get that help.

How easy is it for you to figure out how to get the answer/help you need?

I’m confident for most of you, it’ll be frustrating. Because Verizon makes it hard, if not outright painful.

They are a big company.

Let's try a competitor: Assume you are a Mint Mobile customer.

Here's their support page:

The whole thing is a page and a half, has text answers, has video answers, and the page ends with this:
Mint Mobile support experience.
They are doing something so obvious and stuffed with common-sense. Yet. I weep with joy at the experienceC of the support philosophy on display above.

Mint, as a smaller business, has worked hard to stand out in a department where its larger competitor would have difficulty expressing agility and humanity.

That is taking advantage of experienceC.

Don’t forget your pre-sales Support experience.

I was on a website recently where I found a red hiking shoe (yea!). Sadly, it was in the Women’s section.

This is a smallish company. I noticed in their footer they have a any questions, email us at [email protected]. This surprised me, and made me happy. Most companies don't have this option!

I immediately emailed them: 

What is the difference between men’s and women’s shoes? On your site you have a $129 women’s size 10 red hiking shoe, will it fit me (a man)?

I’ve been waiting for a response since May 18th, 2021. :(

Yesterday, my money went to a different smallish company.

Another pre-sales Support example: When I was looking for a new ESP provider for TMAI I tried to get my new customer questions answered by 17 companies. Constant Contact. MailChimp. AWeber. GetResponse. SendinBlue. Moonsend. And more. 

Heartbreakingly, only four companies replied. Four.

Only one replied with what felt like an intelligent human at the other end: EmailOctopus - they power TMAI, and I'm very happy with them.

How hard is it to just have someone in your Support team be there to answer a few simple  new customer questions like migrating mailing lists, templates, etc. and get a paying customer for a decade or more?

Apparently, too hard for most Email Service Providers!

Not experienceC. 
3. Obsessively super clear - customer centric - return policies.

Order returns are a subset of customer support policies, but I wanted to call it out because so many people screw this up.

In an age where every single product on Amazon seemingly carries a “Prime & Free Returns” label, can you imagine how high the stakes are for you? 

An illustrative example.

I’d purchased a hoodie from a smallish company that makes great products with premium materials (at a deserved premium price).

Sadly, it turned out that size M was way too loose for me. I decided to return it for a refund.

When I went to their Returns page, this greeted me (company anonymized to protect them):
Retailer returns page | Original

I read it three times and I could not figure out what the heck to do. There is even a question there can I make a return and the answer is clear as mud.

All it does is make me worry with their implied threads of issues like opened briefs and lost in transit.

Oh, and guess what’s the #1 question I have about doing a return? Who pays for the return shipping?

Not clear at all.

It was upsetting.

(It felt worse after discovering that the RMA form was a PDF and I needed to find a pen in our home to fill it out by hand. I’m not proud of this, I’m not sure the last time I had to write something by hand.)

This broke my heart so much, I decided to give them a gift and write them a new, customer-centric experienceC, Returns page:
Retailer returns page | Improved
While I am not a returns specialist I hope you’ll agree that my version is significantly simpler and customer-centric to boot.

It makes clear the customer pays for all return shipping.

There is a GDoc version of the form I can fill on my computer.

It promises that the company will write to me after they get the return, and that if it is an exchange that they will ship the replacement free to me.

None of this is clear in the original.

That is not experienceC.

There is no bigger moment of truth than being there when something goes wrong.

It is truly a high Lifetime Value or low Lifetime Value moment.

How does your eCommerce experience show up in this moment of truth?
Bottom line.

If you as an eCommerce merchant - small or big - are scared of Amazon, it is entirely reasonable. As they say: Only the paranoid survive

If you want to stand out, stand apart, as a retailer - small or big - you need to be in the business of creating incredible experiences. The commerce piece is just an attachment that happens to make you money.

It is not eCommerce, it is experienceC.

That’s your mindset for building a long-term, high customer lifetime value, business.

Are you up for doing the obvious?

I’m rooting for you.


PS: In next week's TMAI Premium edition... Four more actionable experienceC recommendations for eCommerce retailers.
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