More and more of the customer journey is taking place online. But according to findings in a new report published by online brand management firm Yext, brands, retailers, and their agency partners face difficulties when it comes to creating an effective on-site experience. As a result, customers often abandon the e-commerce funnel before the conversion stage, and crucial CRM data goes uncollected.
At a moment when the customer journey is becoming overwhelmingly digital — and increasingly omnichannel — solving those challenges has never been more urgent. The report looks at the challenges CPG and DTC brands are currently facing and what changes they should be focusing on to improve the on-site experience.
Customers and brands are struggling with on-site search
- For brands and retailers, a hefty plurality of product research now takes place on-site.
- Off-site search engines, social media, and third-party retail sites all take a back seat.
- 43% of practitioners said most pre-conversion product research took place on the company’s own website — significantly more than any other channel.
- On-site search is now a crucial part of the customer journey and closer to the top of the funnel than it’s ever been.
- However, only 41% of survey respondents reported that their website search experience was good or excellent.
Improving on-site search is all about sales, customer experience, and data
- Brands understand that improving the on-site search experience will ultimately yield positive benefits for customers and for their own businesses, and many are already taking steps in this direction.
- Their motivation is to grant customers a smoother experience and an easier time discovering products. They are also aiming to turn these website experiences into a critical phase in the customer journey.
- Brands also explicitly state that their efforts to improve on-site search entail driving on-site conversion.
- 37% of respondents say that on-site search improvements will drive off-site e-commerce.
- 30% of respondents say that it will drive conversion at brick-and-mortar resellers.
CRM data is an increasingly critical consideration
- 56% stated that collecting CRM data is a prime goal when it comes to improving the on-site search experience.
- Experts say that on-site search data is in a different class from data collected on any other platform.
- It goes straight into the brand’s CRM and tells a unique story about customers’ relationships with the brand’s specific products and offerings.
- Brands own this data outright and can use it to gain a three-dimensional understanding of customer intent and preferences to bolster hyper-personalized ad targeting and product recommendations.
- But in reality, many brands are finding it difficult to measure on-site search data. Only 68% of respondents evaluated themselves as proficient or very proficient when it came to using on-site search data to measure customer intent.
- The findings also show that brands that were born and bred with a digital-first mindset recognize the value of on-site data, and rely on it more.
- According to Rob Smolarski, VP of e-commerce at the agency Reprise Digital, as quoted in the report, “Legacy brands that have leaned heavily on their relationships with retailers and joint business planning, it’s all been about sell-through in stores. But many of these brands, which have now seen a huge organic influx of shoppers on their DTC sites, are beginning to change their tactics and revise their assumptions.”
- While CPG and DTC brands have wildly divergent histories when it comes to on-site customer experience, CPGs are beginning to take great pains to improve the on-site experience, in large part to collect better data.
DTCs are still ahead of CPGs when it comes to on-site search but the differences are eroding
- The biggest differences between how CPG and DTC brands have approached on-site search can be tied to their respective histories with customer engagement.
- For top-of-the-funnel exposure, CPG brands have historically relied on traditional media. And for conversions, they’ve relied upon a wide variety of resellers.
- DTC brands, meanwhile, have been selling directly to shoppers for many years. Not surprisingly, they’ve come a bit further when it comes to building robust on-site search experiences. They have also mastered the art of leveraging SEO, social, paid search, and paid social tactics — not to mention organic search and influencers — to drive customers to their own platforms.
- The data shows that the most glaring deficiencies in on-site search are coming from CPG brands. No CPG brands rated their experiences as excellent.
- 78 % of CPG brands rated their on-site search experiences as fair or poor.
- However, DTC brands who have focused on their e-commerce and website experiences for decades, rate their on-site product search experiences more favorably.
Companies are still overcoming roadblocks to improvement
- While companies recognize the need to improve their search experience, many cite infrastructure, personnel challenges, and technology deficiencies as major roadblocks.
- Brands have yet to be convinced that they can find the right partners to make such an infrastructure lift manageable and to help educate those in their organizations who will be tasked with implementing the changes.