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The New eCommerce Customer Journey

Why It's Longer and More Complex Than You May Realise

November 10, 2021

A Featured Interview with Raymond Wright Co-Founder at ufurnish.com

There’s no question that eCommerce has changed a staggering amount in the last year and a half, and it continues to evolve with each passing month. One of the most drastic shifts is the types of items that people are more readily purchasing online. Now more than ever, people are making purchases through eCommerce channels that would more commonly be reserved for a physical location. Things like mattresses, furniture, and other products that customers prefer to look at and feel in person. 

For some businesses, this is working out very well, and they’re seeing a new market share of online buyers emerge. But for many eCommerce brands, they haven’t been able to make the transition into this new trend.

We spoke with several brands to understand how they are approaching this. Raymond Wright-- Co-Founder at ufurnsh.com -- the UK’s market-leading search and comparison website for home furniture and furnishings. The website brings together 100+ leading retailers and over one million products, all in one place. As a purely digital business, they faced this exact challenge. The furniture industry had long been a product that was seen as an “in-store experience.” 

To stand out in this hyper-competitive market, brands need to be innovative in their product offerings. Everyone has different priorities, considerations, and expectations, and though personalisation is on the rise, it's rarely personal. Retailers need to put strategies in place to tackle these challenges. 

The challenge we face is that physical locations are actually a perceived need. What customers are truly looking for is the focus on personalisation and user experience that they get in a store online.

In this interview, Raymond shares the approach the brand has taken to overcome this. Read on to learn more about the new buyer's journey, and how you can adapt to it.

Why It's Longer and More Complex Than You May Realise
Why It's Longer and More Complex Than You May Realise
November 10, 2021

Personalisation and Customer Experience

Q: Purchases in the home and furniture category have boomed since the pandemic. I imagine that this has also resulted in you adding a wider range of retailers. With such a catalogue of products and suppliers - how do you support shoppers navigating such an array of products?

A: The home and furniture category was actually starting to boom pre-pandemic which is why we created ufurnish.com to start with. As tragic and difficult as the pandemic has been for so many people, it’s actually driven furniture retailers into action when it comes to digitising their business. This has accelerated our business growth at a rapid pace. We now have over 150 retail partners and 1.4m products on ufurnish.com across 540 home furniture and furnishing categories. It’s vast!
Our mission is to help people find the perfect products for their home in the easiest way possible. What’s key for us is driving a really robust search experience for shoppers that allows them to be as broad or as specific as they want to be and narrow down to the select few products that really fit their criteria. It’s fascinating what you learn about shopper behaviour when creating this experience and the one thing we’ve learned is giving them choice is crucial. We’ve done well so far but there’s a lot still to be done to innovate the experience further.

Takeaway: Use conversation to help customers find all the help they would get in a physical location right in the comfort of their homes. Through live chat, you can make the customer feel just as confident in their purchase online as they would in a store.

Q: In an era of personalisation and customer experience. How does Ufurnish compete with trying to achieve both of these, and how do you achieve this at scale?

A: There are a number of ways we approach this at ufurnish.com with the first being you have to understand what kind of customer experience people want to have. Our business is purely digital yet we operate in an industry that has long been a physical experience when it comes to buying furniture so in order deliver customer experience we:
  1. Step through the physical experience and look at ways that we can replicate that in a digital experience.
  2. Define target user personas and journeys/ experiences we believe they would be interested in having.
  3. Run focus groups and feedback sessions to learn about people’s pain points and needs. We use these as an opportunity to pressure test the digital experiences we would like to create.
  4. Build out MVP (minimum viable product) digital experiences and test them with live users.
Once we roll our digital experiences we then track and monitor these super closely to look at what the data tells us about the user experience. Did they engage with it, did they not? We want to know what success looks like and define success criteria. That success criteria and the data from actual users tells us whether we can/ are delivering the right experiences at scale and what we should further develop.

Takeaway: In a brick and mortar store, customer interaction is analogue and untrackable. But with a digital experience, you can shape the exact customer journey, and measure and monitor it every step of the way. It’s challenging to “tweak” an in-person experience because the metrics are intangible in many ways but if you look at what works online, you can improve and adapt infinitely. 

Q: Basket abandonment is a well-known challenge in the eCommerce space. How do you currently overcome this to help convert shoppers and support them in their purchasing journey?

A: Monitoring user behaviour is so important in this area to ensure we quantify what abandonment means in the first place. It’s important we place clear criteria on what might be determined abandonment so that the engagement actions are correct. A few tactics we use to manage this are:
  1. We encourage users to sign up to ufurnish.com so we can communicate with them directly and deliver a more personalised shopping experience.
  2. On the website we have implemented technology that monitors the users behaviour and detects if it looks like they may abandon a shopping journey, we then pose a question to them with a call to action to keep them engaged.
  3. We are able to capture user behaviour which means we are able to re-engage them with product suggestions be that via personalised emails (if they are signed up as a member of ufurnish.com) or via social media/ digital retargeting where we’ll aim to keep front of mind with them to resume their shopping journey with is.

Takeaway: True, meaningful personalisation is a key to solving basket abandonment issues. Using website analytics and other tools to watch how users behave before abandoning their carts is key. Attempt to identify patterns in customers who abandon their baskets, and then customise and personalise to combat it.

The Importance of the Post Sale Experience

Q: Many brands are focused purely on customer acquisition, with little emphasis on the support/experience post-sale. What techniques/approaches does Ufurnish adopt to deliver an excellent post-sale experience? 

A: Yes, your statement is true here that in the commoditised world of ecommerce brands have focused heavily on the transaction and I actually believe that’s driven by how many of them measure their marketing investments.

For us, what’s crucial is shoppers consistently using our website over time and trusting that we are the destination to find everything they could ever want. What brands need to understand is that their product extends beyond just a website, it’s how they communicate and how they show up through all channels. In post-sale experience we believe it’s crucial that brands use mediums like email to confirm how the user experience performed, check in on the shopper’s satisfaction and ensure they have everything they need. 

Then, begin the journey of understanding what else they might need and making suggestions on what you can offer. Shoppers don’t want to be bombarded with communications but they do like a recommendation or offer. It’s the little communication touches that count.

Takeaway: The sale is only the beginning. The new customer journey is a longtail endeavour, and the only way to navigate it successfully for you and your customers is to focus on the post-sale experience with as much attention to detail as you would the pre-sale experience. 

Q: The Covid-19 lockdowns accelerated digital shopping adoption, and many of these behaviours are here to stay. What trends are we likely to see for 2022 - any insight you can share?

A: There are a few points that appear to be clear trends:
  • Shopping will predominantly start digital-first now. In furniture and furnishings 90% of shoppers start online.
  • Shopping on mobile is booming. Doesn’t necessarily mean people will purchase on their mobile but they certainly will start there.
  • Shoppers will probably want a physical shopping experience in the journey (at least with furniture) so it needs to be considered how that can be facilitated.
  • Given physical shopping experience needs, shoppers will look for digital ways of mimicking this if possible. Live chat and a way of engaging in shopping and understanding their needs quickly is one such way of achieving this. Ultimately people want to feel informed.
  • Imagery is key to shopping experiences online/ digitally. How can people be sure what they are looking at really meets their wants? The evolution of image based shopping continues and it’s growth will accelerate eCommerce further. 

Takeaway: Remember that shopping begins online, so you need to stand out from the competition early on to be considered as an option. Focus on an incredible mobile experience and understand that purchases are taking place on phones more than ever. Deliver live chat and other facets of what people have come to expect in person. 

What Will 2022 Look Like for eCommerce?

If you enjoyed this interview by Raymond Wright, you’ll be pleased to know that we conducted several more and compiled some of the most important pieces into this easy-to-digest eCommerce report.

Even though we use the word “report” this is a toolkit, survival guide, and checklist you can use to equip yourself and future-proof your eCommerce strategy. Don’t have a strategy? Contact us and we can help you. 

Get the guide now to hear from even more incredible brands. (It’s absolutely free.)

Download this report and you’ll have access to:

  • Exclusive interviews from leading eCommerce experts sharing their secrets
  • A hitlist of the biggest eCommerce challenges with solutions
  • Tips, tricks, and trends on increasing your revenue online 
  • Strategies for upselling, driving impulse purchases, and customer retention
  • Trends and predictions for 2022 so you can stay ahead of the curve
  • And much more…

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