Online shopping is taking over the retail world as more and more shoppers this year will forgo the annual mall trip to shop from the comfort of their living room. In fact, ecommerce is expected to grow 61 percent over the next three years, from a $2.8 trillion market in 2018 to $4.5 trillion in 2021. But some retailers stand out from the rest for the customer experiences they provide online.

It’s just not enough anymore to provide an online catalog, without using all of the intelligence you have from their purchasing history, context, and more. It allows you to put a “personal touch” on all of your communications with your customers and empower them with the information they need at every step of their customer journey. Simple and effective strategies for using context lead to “wow” moments for your customers.

We wanted a better idea of what constitutes a “wow” moment in the eyes of your online customers, so we reached out to people who live and breathe contextually driven and personalized online experiences every day: our employees. We asked when a retailer was able to “wow” them, and collected their responses below.

 

Being an avid yogi, I recently reached a point where my hot yoga towels absolutely needed to be renewed. Conscious about the eco-friendliness of the materials used in the fabrication of those items I use, I wanted to find towels that would be both highly efficient and as ‘’natural’’ as possible. After reading a couple of articles on the best products currently available on the market, I noticed that the vast majority of them were available both on the brand’s online store and on Amazon. As a consumer, I am not “wowed” by Amazon in terms of looks and design. However, I do highly appreciate the fact that it gives me access to so many brands from one unique shopping cart by being the vast marketplace that it became over the years. When I shop on Amazon, I feel like the platform instinctively knows my needs. My experience is smooth and easy, and I can efficiently compare products and find what’s truly best for me. The personalized experience Amazon enables me to live is what makes me come back to them over and over again!

 

There’s a Quebec-based company, Bonlook, a true omnichannel company,  that understood my pain of shopping for a new pair of glasses! My recent glasses purchase experience was top-notch. I went to the store to see their selections, and the store associate recommended some based on my taste. She created an account under my name and added the ones she suggested. She uploaded my prescription and measured my pupillary distance. Once I was home, I just had to log in to my account on bonlook.ca and all the pairs she suggested popped out, and I was able to make my decision and place an order from the comfort of my couch! A few weeks later, Bonlook sent me an email with some suggested sunglasses based on my preferences. I was able to purchase the sunglasses with fewer than five clicks – a great experience overall.

 

As a frequent traveler, I’ve been delighted with the whole experience of hailing a ride, either from Uber or Lyft. However, Lyft has been quietly adding new features to its app, that have been delightful, and made my travel a whole lot more predictable. On-demand ride-hailing, pioneered by Uber, used to lack the predictability of being able to pre-book an early-morning ride to the airport.  I’d have the usual troubled sleep the night before a trip, worrying if the taxi driver would show up. Lyft introduced pre-booked rides, and solved the problem. But the completeness with which they deliver on that experience is what struck me: it’s easy to select a narrow time and date window for pick-up. The ride is confirmed immediately, and 30 minutes before, you’re notified who’s picking you up, where they are, and when they’ll arrive. Text messages continue to alert you ( or wake you up) as your rider approaches. And you have full visibility of their progress. Problem solved, and sleep uninterrupted.

 

I recently ordered some new tires for my wife’s car from tirerack.com. I was just about to text my wife for the correct size when the phone agent told me that wouldn’t be necessary. To my amazement, he already knew the vehicles we drive and the size of tires required because my phone number is associated to our online account and previous order history. I’m a tirerack.com customer for life now. Even if they are more expensive, the added price is well worth the convenience. It’s time more vendors realized the benefits of using contextual knowledge to provide their customers with a personalized and effortless experience!

 

Buying makeup feels like a huge task when you are not the makeup connoisseur and you have sensitive skin. Sephora is one of my go-to retailers for makeup because I can find them everywhere, online and in-store, but also on Pinterest and Instagram. Since I have sensitive skin, there are brands I avoid because of bad experiences but also, I avoid brands that test on animals (I have a dog at home!) because they contain more harsh chemicals than others and my skin doesn’t react well to harsh chemicals. Sephora is able to provide an online community where we can freely express reviews and feedback on products and we can filter those reviews by skin color, skin type, age, etc. What I like the most is how connected the entire experience is; they link their Instagram account to their website so you can see all the customers who’ve tried the product, which makes my buying process so much easier. Normally, I look at a product on their website then get the product in-store because their “product finder” in store is so accurate, or have it shipped at home if I don’t need to try it. So easy!

 

For me, Spotify “wows” me with their service every step of the way. I know, I know – it’s not the traditional definition of retail. But think about it: this company has to convince me over and over that I need to not just buy it once, but buy the premium subscription 12 times over the course of a year. I have one bad or frustrating experience and I start looking at one of the many competitors Spotify has. Where Spotify really shines is their “Discover Weekly” feature. They look at the bands I listen to and recommend other bands, and not just because they both fit into the genre. They really look at what other users are listening to who fit into my same profile and recommend music. For example, I had never heard of this band, “The Darker the Shadow, the Brighter the Light” until Spotify recommended them after watching my habits for a few weeks. Seeing what band Spotify has recommended is something I look forward to every week now.

 

Anyone that knows me will tell you how much I love Apple. As a matter of fact, I’m a proud owner of the iPhone X, Apple Watch, MacBook Pro and iPad Pro. One of the things that I love about Apple is how easy it is to buy their products online; every time I shop, I have the feeling that I’m in Apple Store on my iPhone. As soon as I go on their website, they are able to recognize me and recommend an article according to the product that I own. For example, I recently purchased an iPhone X and I didn’t know what to ask to Santa for Christmas. But Apple recommended me a wireless charging Pad to charge my iPhone, and now I just can’t wait for Christmas!

 

As the holiday season is fast approaching, I find myself as usual stressing about getting it all done in time. As a mom with a career this is not always easy. However recently it has gotten a bit easier with online shopping being my ‘go-to’ resource rather than battling lines at the stores and braving our Canadian winter weather to physically get from one place to another.

I think the benchmark in terms of our expectations for our online retail experience has been really set my Amazon. They are usually my default first place of consultation in terms of online shopping. There are a few reasons that this is the case: the sheer quantity of products they distribute, their ratings system and comprehensive source of customer feedback for each item as well as their easy return policy. However, what really amazes me time and again is how they can suggest other merchandise that complements in some way what I initially searched for. On many occasions I’ve been able to find new gift ideas that I would not even have considered. This is especially helpful when Christmas shopping for my kids – it’s hard to keep up with all of the cool and trendy toys, gadgets and electronics. So when you search for one thing and then discover a bunch of other potential gift ideas then it’s a great bonus! Oh and let me not forget the most important – I am then considered a really cool mom by proxy because well I knew to buy the exact right trendy thing!

 

So, bike owners have that n+1 syndrome, they always need just one more. And as a bike fanatic enthusiast myself, I can’t refrain from shopping online for new parts (so that I can finally get that King of the Mountain on Strava). What impresses me the most about some online stores is that they associate the bikes I own with the next parts I need want. They even recognize that I own multiple bikes and that I ride them in different conditions. I will get suggestions for the lightest wheels for my track bike, the most durable crankset and cassette for my touring bike and the best winter tires for… my winter bike. I told you I was crazy for bikes.

What online experiences have “wowed” you this year? What will it take for a retailer to “wow” you? Tweet us @Coveo to let us know!

 

About Rachel Schultz

Rachel Schultz is the Content Marketing Manager at Coveo. She blends her background in journalism seamlessly with her B2B marketing expertise and obsession with data to create compelling content for the Coveo community. When she’s not working, you’ll find her reading (strictly non-fiction), hanging out with her puppy or taking in all NYC has to offer with her husband.

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