Digital Body Language: The key to online customer experience?

Since the earliest ecommerce sites went live online, journalists, retail pundits and internet commentators have spoken about the so-called “death of the high street”. But with two decades having passed since those early days of the internet, the vast majority of retailers are still yet to see a complete transition to online shopping.

By Geoff Galat, CMO at Clicktale.

While ecommerce may not yet have forced all traditional retailers out of business, there is no denying that the high street is in a sharp period of decline. According to the latest ONS retail statistics, high street shopping is at a near all-time low, with online sales rising by 21% in the last four years. Seeing this decline, retail commentators predict that half of the UK’s shop premises will have disappeared by 2030, forcing ever more retailers – and customers – online.

Faced with this migration into the digital space, retailers must begin to look for ways to provide their customers with the same standards of experience that they have come to expect in more traditional high street stores.

Simply focusing on converting browsers into customers is no-longer enough. Businesses must now look to understand their customers’ digital experiences – tailoring their approach to individual mindsets, personas and buying moods. The “success” of an online store cannot be measured by mere conversion rates alone, it must be defined by customer experiences, incorporating insights from consumer behaviours, shopping trends and long-term browsing habits.

So how can brands meet this demand and get on board with the digital shift in order to create better customer experiences? Here are five ways that businesses can get started:

1. Be open minded and accepting of change

Brands must work hard and be willing to make changes to keep up with their competitors who are already making a shift. It will not be a simple, one-step process; a brand cannot merely update the surface layers of its website, as customers are more complex than that. Their needs have the potential to vary and fluctuate from day to day and each interaction will require something different to suit them. Understanding how to adapt will allow for a greater long-term improvement to the end customer experience.

2. Utilise and learn from body language

To understand and interpret customer needs, brands must reflect on information received from their ‘digital body language’. In our day to day lives we obtain information from others around us; non-verbal clues, facial expressions and gestures. In a traditional high street store, this body language can be vital in deciding how and when to approach a customer or to tailor their experience for the best possible results. In an online environment however, the inability to read a customer’s body language can make it extremely difficult for retailers to tailor their experiences.

This is where digital body language comes in. Through the use of Experience Analytics  retailers can anonymously analyse subconscious online behaviours such as micro-signals and gestures – helping to gain an understanding of the customers’ happiness or displeasure, then adapting accordingly.

This layer of insight is advantageous when creating tailor-made digital experiences for customers visiting the retailer’s online store. Instead of being given a one-size-fits-all interaction, they will have an experience better suited to their personal needs, with the path to purchase becoming more linear and ultimately providing a better business outcome.

3.  Problem solving

Regardless of the data available to them, retailers cannot change the mind-sets of the customers arriving on their websites. What they can do however, is use their insights to create a better environment around these customers.

By analysing a customer’s digital body language, retailers can begin to bridge the gap between customer expectations and the realities of online shopping. Taking on the role of a salesperson on the shop floor, such insights can be used to aid a confused customer, resolving potential issues instantly and preventing them from happening again. Each time a problem is resolved, there is potential for the customer journey to improve – a rewarding outcome for both customers and brands.

4. Be flexible and willing

Just as an in-store assistant would tailor their approach to different customers, an online retailer must also be able to adapt to new situations when customers arrive in its store. Just because one customer behaved a certain way on their first visit, does not mean that they will act the same way on visit two.

Online retailers must learn to accept that every customer is unique, with personality traits, moods and different ways of browsing online environments. The process of understanding digital body language must be carefully achieved over a period of time, as each customer provides something original and valuable. By tracking visitor patterns and clicks, and using visualisation tools such as heat-maps, brands can uncover a wealth of rich ‘body language’ data that traditional analytics would never uncover.

5. Understand the value of data

For many retailers, digital body language remains a new and largely unexplored concept. In reality however, it is only the tip of a much larger trend – the shift towards big data and Experience Analytics.

Once a retailer has developed enough data about the digital body language of its customers, it can begin to cross examine that data, finding patterns and trends across the brand’s entire customer base. As these insights develop, customer archetypes can be narrowed down and filtered into detailed categories which can become increasingly refined over time. These in-depth insights can prove crucial for understanding the different states of minds that customers experience when they shop.

Over time it will become clear how important it is to understand digital body language and have customer experience embedded at the very heart of online retail brands. The ability to construct an extensive database of customer knowledge gives retailers scope to build rapport with customers, allowing both parties to ultimately benefit from this improved relationship.