Understanding and shaping the customer experience is absolutely critical for online businesses.

With buyers taking any one of an infinite number of different paths to purchase, it’s important to consider the entire customer experience (CX) in a holistic way–to shape how customers perceive your brand and then how well their interactions align with those expectations.

For evidence of how critical CX is to consumers, look at this infographic from Solvvy:

customer experience solvvy

As you can see, the overall CX is shaped by five main building blocks and drives consumer behavior in a number of ways.

Some key takeaways for eCommerce companies:

1. Customer experience starts with the brand

Branding and brand building is a huge part of shaping the overall CX. Solvvy’s infographic points to the fact that 91% of consumers would rather buy from an “authentic” brand than from a “dishonest” one. This tells us about the importance of building the brand. But what is the return? According to the data, 55% of customers are willing to pay higher prices for a better experience. So, in short, you can charge higher prices and expect to sell more products by investing in improving your brand perceptions in the market.

2. UX drives CX

One of the most significant elements of the customer experience is the user experience of your website or buying process. Consumers often have a short attention span and little or no patience for friction or confusion. But, more importantly, just one bad experience on your site or with your brand and customers may be gone and never return. Data show that almost 40% of consumers will avoid a specific vendor for up to 2 years following a single poor experience with that brand. To drive home the point, contrast that with one ¼ of consumers who say they would actively seek out a vendor after having had a positive experience. This means that the potential harm of a lousy experience heavily outweighs even the benefit of a good one. In other words, delivering a good user experience on the first shot is an absolutely essential part of building your business.

3. Reduce friction, resolve issues

Try as you might, things won’t always go according to plan. Sometimes, things break. Systems go down. Bugs happen. And human error is always part of the equation. Luckily, most customers are likely to give you some small chance to resolve issues that do arise throughout the course of their interaction with your brand. This means that it’s not only important to reduce friction, but to also invest in support or other necessary mechanisms to resolve issues–immediately, or as close as possible–as they crop up. Your customer may be willing to ask a question or look for help before giving up, but if they have to wait hours or day for a response, there’s a good chance they’ll just give up on the transaction and move on (remember, 40% will avoid your company for up to 2 years!) Even if you can’t afford a full-time staff of customer service agents, you can use self-serve and technology-assisted solutions to help customers resolve issues quickly and easily.

4. CX is omnichannel

Lastly, keep in mind that CX isn’t about tweaking things here and there. At least not in the beginning. It’s about taking stock of the entire experience from the perspective of the customer–looking at the big picture. Then, understand which levers and knobs you can adjust to improve that experience and create something that’s consistent. In the digital era, there’s no one, single path for a customer to take. So it’s important to focus on consistency across all possible channels and touchpoints, building a strategy for how to ensure that the experience a customer receives is the same no matter the time, day, or device.

While you may not have millions of dollars to invest in fancy tools or full-blown teams to think about CX all day, you can spend the time to understand the customer experience and then take steps to improve it.

If you don’t have a good handle on the state of your customer experience, chances are pretty high that it needs some work.

Does your online store need help with its customer experience? Add your CX questions to the comment section below… we’d love to help!

Guest author Prateek Agarwal is a digital marketing strategist who specializes in content marketing. In his free time, he enjoys reading and watching movies. You can find him on LinkedIn.