E-commerce business models are undergoing a dramatic shift. Initially, businesses relied on consumers to do the heavy lifting to discover the product and to make the purchase decision.

The vendor’s role was to ensure that the product was discoverable and, most importantly, available at the geographic location where the transaction potentially would take place. But the new e-commerce business model is optimised by driving the consumer to subscribe to an “experience”.

The focus of moves from a warehouse experience to more of a personalised and curated one. Mobile experience is another key aspect, but it is very difficult to present a great mobile experience. The sheer number of screen resolutions that have to be considered can be a stumbling block.

Retailers need to go back to the drawing board if they want mobile to succeed as much as it can for their business. Consumers are much pickier about the apps they download in the first place. Hence, online retailers need to make sure their apps provide consumers with a seamless experience.

A consumer will not bother visiting a retailer’s site when sitting at his or her desk at work, or take the time to visit an offline store. They would rather browse the app of a retailer. A poor mobile experience impacts on brand loyalty across all channels.

There are many reasons why conversion rates in e-commerce are so low. The customer could, for instance, feel deceived when the store adds shipping charges on the checkout page. The website may fail to prominently display their policies relating to refunds, exchanges and returns. Or, the product description may simply fail to answer questions that the customer wants answers to.

One common thread running through all these various reasons is poor digital customer experience. Shopping online should be seamless and intuitive.

* Real-time chat

While clearly formatted product descriptions and FAQs (frequently asked questions) help improve customer experience, they may not be enough. There are always dozens of other questions that may have not been answered in your product description. In the absence of an avenue to get these answered, a buyer may start looking up your competitors. This is effectively a lost sale.

The importance of an interactive live chat widget thus cannot be overstated. Having a live chat agent to engage with a potential buyer ensures you help your customer with all their questions, quickly and efficiently.

* Feedback monitoring

Millennials love feedback and rely a great deal on recommendations for their purchases. More importantly, they seek validation from their peers.

* User-friendly visuals

It is no longer enough to simply take a high–resolution product image. Your image must also set the context and provide a reason for the customer to choose the product. Let us take an example of a store that replaces product images with interactive sliders to market their artificial eyelashes.

From a customer’s perspective, the product image should be able to explain the product value much better than a text could.

* Revolution in advertising and loyalty:

Traditional advertising and loyalty programmes will transition from being push-driven to pull-driven, meaning consumers will pull in the advertising and loyalty programmes of their choosing rather than have them pushed into the experience. This will fundamentally evolve advertising and loyalty towards a more consultative experience, where consumers will find advert and recommendations a useful contribution to the purchasing process.

As advertising becomes more personalised, retailers will leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and data science to personalise discounting. Discounting will take on a more dynamic, market-driven approach where demand signals what influenced the extent of the discount.

Data science will help to identify why someone wants to buy a product and whether that entails adjusting a discount accordingly. This will lead to discounts following an elasticity of demand — and, more importantly — change consumer experience to provide more discounts to items consumers are interested in and offer less discounts for those that are less wanted.

It is important to go beyond metrics such as conversion rates and website traffic, to identify parameters to measure your online visitor experience. Not only does this directly influence conversion, it is also crucial to build brands with a loyal customer base.

(Ulugbek Yuldashev is the CEO of AWOK.com.)