The new breed of customer is driving brands to create, adopt and leverage e-commerce solutions that redefine customer experiences. Customers’ perceptions of their interaction with a brand occur on three different levels forming the customer experience pyramid coined by Forrester. The base of the pyramid is formed by the basic needs of the customer. Do you provide superior customer support? Do you have free return shipping? The middle layer consists of ease. How easy is it to purchase an item in your online store? Do you provide intuitive navigation? The pyramid peaks with enjoyment. Do you offer social engagement for your customers? Have you thought about out-of-the-box and deep personalization strategies to draw your customers in and sustain their interest? A global study conducted by LivePerson found that online shoppers would leave an online store if they didn’t receive the right customer experience and turn to a competitor who meets their needs instead. As brands vie for customer attention, the key is to engage them throughout their online journey, both pre- and post-purchase. There are excellent examples of innovative brands doing just that. Here are three of our favorites that got it right.
ModCloth: At Your Service
ModCloth is a dream success story. The online retailer of vintage clothing and accessories has hit it out of the park and into the stratosphere. ModCloth continues to rack up impressive numbers and accolades with its focus on customer service, leveraging social media and building its vibrant online community.
At the start of 2013, The Next Web reported that ModCloth ended 2012 with 1.2 million orders shipped. It saw a 50 percent YOY growth in employees and a YOY increase of 52 percent for holiday orders. They also saw traffic from smartphones double and tablets triple YOY. Fast Company ranked ModCloth at number 19 on its 2013 “World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies” list and number 14 for “Most Innovative Social Media Companies.”
ModCloth leveraged technology successfully to deliver a great online shopping experience. Their ‘Be the Buyer’ programs allows customers to vote on style samples thereby giving them a voice in the merchandizing process. Depending on the number of votes, the samples are then sown and sold exclusively on its site. Vintage fashion can be notoriously difficult in terms of sizing. ModCloth’s size and fit guide is another great feature making it incredibly easy to find the right fit. Their fit models correspond to a size chart for a standard size Small and Medium. They try on every garment and, based on how each item fits, help determine if it runs true to size, small, large, or has an oversized fit. What’s more is that they also consider fits for different builds and body types! The ModCloth community feels empowered to leave reviews of items with their own sizes and pictures wearing these items so others get a better sense before making purchasing decisions. They even have an online ModStylist to answer questions about products and provide styling tips. The sky is the limit for this e-commerce innovator.
Nike: Customized Control
Nike has just been doing it for more than 35 years! Constant innovation is synonymous with the iconic swoosh. In 2010, Forbes reported that just the brand alone was worth $10.7 billion, crowning it the world’s most valuable sports brand.
Nike’s NIKEiD completely changed the way shoppers thought about the depth of customization. It took personalization to another level and brought self-expression into sportswear. For example, say a shopper wants to buy the Lebron X P.S. Elite iD basketball shoe. She can choose the “Swoosh” color, the upper shoe color, underlay color and flywire color. This is just the start. Then she can add additional custom features including a two-tone paint speckle design, select the type of sole for in or outdoor courts, and even add her own inspirational phrase to be custom printed on the shoe collar.
Nike’s e-commerce technology then allows her to rotate the completed custom shoe to get a full 360-degree view and zoom in for a closer look. Using the power of social media, it lets the customer take a snapshot of the finished shoe to share with her friends on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and get their opinions on the custom design before purchasing the shoe. Each NikeiD product has different customizable features letting each customer assert his own individuality. Nike’s innovative e-commerce technology makes every customer a part of the creative process. It delivers a great brand experience from start to finish and wins unparalleled customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. We see Nike continuing to “Just Do It” for years to come.
Warby Parker: Turning an Industry on Its Head
A company comes along and completely changes the way people buy a particular product or service. For years, the prescription eyewear industry was controlled by the giants that kept prices artificially high and reaped huge profits from helpless consumers.
In 2010, friends and co-founders David Gilboa, Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt and Jeffrey Raider set out to change this model. They cut out the middleman by designing, producing and selling eyewear directly to customers through their online store. Their mission was simply: to create boutique-quality, classically crafted eyewear at revolutionary price points.
Warby Parker has been greatly successful in bridging the online and in store experience. They have effectively created an overall omni-channel strategy for the new consumer who expects to use many outlets interchangeably. While Warby Parker began by selling completely online, their e-commerce model mimics the physical store experience. Free of charge including shipping both ways, the company sends a customer up to five pairs of glasses to try on at home for five days. This is even better than an in-store experience in which trials are limited to minutes and opinions have to be formed quickly on something that will change how your face and personality seem to others!
Their “Virtual Try-On” app lets customers see how any model of eyeglasses would look on them by uploading a photo or using one of Warby Parker’s several eyeglass models. Once the glasses are placed on the customer photo, it can be saved and shared on Facebook to get feedback from friends on the look.
In April, Warby Parker opened a brick-and-mortar, full-service flagship store in Manhattan. It is not just any retail store but a space where technology and humans meet face to face and ogle at each other in a pair of stylish frames. The store uses sensors and other new tech gizmos to understand how people use its retail space and make purchasing decisions. This data is married into its online sales trends and other critical projections. Take a peek inside their flagship store with Fast Company’s photo gallery and be prepared to be blown away! On a special note, this July Warby Parker reached its deeply personal milestone of distributing 500,000 pairs of glasses to people in need through their Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program! Now that creates real customer satisfaction. It’s not only about retail therapy, it’s about retail philanthropy!
ModCloth, Nike and Warby Parker have implemented out-of-the-box e-commerce solutions and strategies to create unprecedented customer experiences. At Smartgift, we’re excited to see how these and other brands continue to wing themselves with new technologies and innovative business models that set new standards for the retail industry.