SMEs need to place user experience at the heart of their digital strategy

SMEs need to place user experience at the heart of their digital strategy

As online sales continue to rise, businesses must sharpen customer online experience to ensure retention

When taking their small business digital, retailers need to invest in a tech stack that’ll be able to support the business’s needs in order to run smoothly. However, factors such as cost or the size of their company mean they’re often unable to access the resources they need to develop alongside their competitors.

This can set SMEs back and ultimately means they lose out on the valuable insights that would allow them to develop the way they service customers online. So, what should retailers be taking note of in the next 12 months when it comes to growing their business? And more importantly, what will they miss out on if they don’t develop the way they do business? Business Matters spends some time with Jonathan Newman, CEO at Motive, to delve into the issue further and find out how online SMEs can turn the situation around …

It’s all about the customer experience

While the integration of tech with traditional practices has created a whole new experience for customers, there are elements of in-person experiences that could be better replicated online. Take the merging of eCommerce within the retail industry. When shopping in person, you are usually met by a helpful shop assistant, who helps you navigate a well-presented store with well-organised products on display, and clear direction on how to find what you’re looking for.

However, the online retail experience can sometimes feel like a downgrade, despite it sometimes being the only option available to customers. Customers often click through page after page trying to sift through the vast options available, before giving up feeling overwhelmed and frustrated that they were unable to have a pleasant shopping experience. One solution SMEs often overlook is the power of Search. 69% of shoppers use the search bar while they shop, meaning SMEs can risk missing out on catering to the majority of their customers if they don’t have an enhanced onsite Search experience.

This is the functionality that allows a customer to use keywords to find products within the eCommerce shop’s product catalogue. If you think about well known brands such as ZARA, or a supermarket such as Tesco, what do they all have in common? Impeccable search results. The success that these brands see is no coincidence. A significant majority (68%) of customers would refrain from revisiting a website that offers an unsatisfactory search experience. Onsite search is an extension of in-person browsing, and should be a critical priority for SMEs who want to see an improved customer experience. Thanks to filters for price, size, colour, and many more categories, customers can see tailored recommendations to products they’re looking for, including products they hadn’t considered previously.   

According to a Forrester report, 43% of customers go directly to the onsite search function upon entering a website. By implementing a specialised eCommerce onsite search engine, you are able to provide customers with relevant search results instantly. This will not only give you a competitive edge, but separate your site from those that complicate the shopping process with the hassle of needless trial-and-error. For example, Mundoalfombra, one of Spain’s largest online rug brands, recently increased its mobile search rate by 400% and reduced shopper bounce rate in its mobile search by 500%.  It did this by acknowledging that many of its customers started their search on mobile, and investing in an eCommerce Search platform that was intuitive and mobile-intuitive, meaning customers had a much smoother experience.

Search and discovery are like trusted companions that uncover hidden treasures and reveal valuable insights. They help businesses understand shopper demand, identify trends, and make informed decisions. They compliment each other well, with Search supporting the finding of specific things that the customer knows they are looking for, and the Discovery element using the menu and navigation elements to see what else is available to them.

Investing in enhancing onsite search can create significant benefits to a company’s bottom line. These tools can help SMEs tailor the shopping experience to customers accordingly, creating an increase in sales and a continued build of customer trust and loyalty.

What’s happening in the sector right now?

With the digital age came a seismic shift in the way consumers shop and interact with businesses, and the rise of eCommerce, social media, and mobile technology has only amplified this. Unfortunately, many small retailers venturing into the eCommerce space for the first time may lack the resources and expertise to keep up, resulting in missed opportunities and decreased customer engagement. Crucially, the COVID-19 pandemic has created one of the biggest disruptions to the retail industry ever seen, forcing SMEs to pivot their business models and adapt to new ways of operating.

The rise of eCommerce will only continue, and onsite search is a critical tool for businesses seeking to enhance their website’s performance, cultivate tailored user experience, and effectively engage with customers. By harnessing the capabilities of search, retailers can significantly improve the discoverability of their products, align consumer needs and intent with the most suitable offerings, boost conversion rates, drive sales growth, and increase customer satisfaction.

The long grass: achieving sustainable growth

Effective use of search and discovery can improve the customer experience and build trust without compromising privacy. According to the Next in Personalization Report by McKinsey, 78% of consumers are more likely to make repeat purchases from companies that can provide personalisation. But what is personalisation? Increasingly, the consumer expectation is that shopping experiences are personalised based on an understanding of the intent and context of the current shopping session much like they expect in a physical store.

SMEs can also achieve these results by harnessing a hybrid semantic search and keyword search approach. By employing this strategy, businesses can create search results that are finely tuned to adapt and optimise based on the intent expressed by shoppers during their browsing sessions. This approach emphasises understanding the context and meaning behind search queries, rather than relying on personal data collected from various sources. In doing so, SMEs can deliver tailored and highly relevant results, ensuring a personalised shopping experience without compromising user privacy. Shopping experiences based on this approach allow SMEs to match their expert product knowledge with the real and current intent of the shopper.

It’s time…

It all comes down to understanding the value of search and knowing the best way to utilise insights in order to achieve the long-term business goal of growth, and ultimately, success. This is done by elevating the customer’s experience online and nurturing returning customers by consistently offering a relevant and helpful experience.

With technology, retailers are able to stay one step ahead of their competitors. Those willing to embrace the power of search will be the ones reaping the rewards with consistent business growth, whilst others inevitably follow in their footsteps, albeit five paces behind the ones who decide now is the time to take it to the next level.


Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.

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