In which we take a look at the experience of searching for a product, clicking-through to an ecommerce store and purchasing the item, all from a customer’s point of view.

Much like previous investigations on UK retailers John Lewis and Halfords this explores the customer journey in a nutshell, looking at visibility, relevancy, ease-of-use and speed of experience.

This time however we’ll be looking at a retailer through its US search results and ecommerce store. In this edition: Apple.

Search

Apple has absolutely no problem dominating organic listings in the SERP for its various products and to be absolutely 100% confident in its dominance, Apple is a constant presence in the paid-for listings.

Searching purely for the generic ‘iPhone’ term serves up the above ad from Apple, replete with subheadings that all lead to their relevant pages. ‘Buy Now’ indeed leads to a product landing page, and ‘Cameras’ leads to a page detailing the phone’s camera functionality.

When specifying a model, by searching for ‘iPhone 6’, the ad that appears is minimalist to say the least.

“Bigger than bigger”. It’s quite the assumption that this will be enough to encourage click-throughs. “Learn more” however clearly tells unsure searchers they will be able to find out more information on the phone via this link, and the retention of the ‘Buy Now’ link also clarifies that you can buy one here too.

Apple can also be confident in the strength of its own brand that searchers will naturally gravitate towards its own ad. Which means that other retailers bidding for the same term have to work a lot harder in their ad copy.

As you can see below, Best Buy has gone all out with day-specific Cyber Monday messaging, Free shipping information and the offer of store pickup.

When it comes to refining the search to ‘iPhone 6 Plus’, Apple doesn’t bother running a PPC ad at all.

If you do some keyword analysis in Google AdWords you’ll see the average monthly searches for ‘iPhone 6’ and ‘iPhone 6 Plus’…

With 5.8m searches a month less for ‘iPhone 6 Plus’, it’s clear why Apple doesn’t bother.

Landing page

For the search term ‘iPhone 6’ a searcher will click through to a relevant landing page, full of product information for the phone.

It’s a beautiful, responsive page, absolutely full of massive images and clearly presented technical information. The price of the phone and link to compare models appears at the bottom of the page, however a blue ‘buy now’ button remains at the top right of the screen as you scroll down.

It’s a very persuasive page that either takes a customer on a journey to learn more about the product without a hard sell, or for the already knowledgeable there is quick and easy access to buy it straight away.

For the search term ‘iPhone’ a searcher can click straight through to the product page from a ‘Buy Now’ link in the ad.

It’s a gorgeous product page that’s a pleasure to navigate. As you click your way through the numbered options in order, the image alters accordingly.

As this is a product with many variations as well as options for different carriers, I thought this would be an understandably detailed and possibly complicated page. It’s not. It flows really smoothly, in a logical and simple to understand way.

Once everything’s completed, a final total appears at the bottom along with a green ‘select’ button. You’ll notice the wording avoids the phrase ‘buy it now’, again Apple takes the soft, subtle approach.

This is also where Apple states its free shipping and pickup services. If there’s one criticism about the page, it’s the small text of the free shopping message at the top of the page. 

It’s on the next page, where you can add accessories to your phone where you can ‘add to cart.

All of the accessories and insurance plans are automatically checked ‘none’ so you don’t have to worry about any nasty surprises in the checkout. If you need assistance, there is also a live chat tool. 

Cart and checkout 

Cart is straightforward and distraction free, with clear buttons to ‘continue shopping’ and ‘check out’.

Next you’ll see that a guest checkout is in full effect. 

The page is very clear page with an option to sign-in if returning. There’s no forced registration, as creating an Apple ID is presented as an option.

Forcing users to register their details before they checkout is an unfortunate way to lower your conversion rate. Once a customer is ready to buy, they don’t want to have to fill out pages and pages of personal details and create an account before they can make a purchase.

Especially as I’m currently looking at this experience on Cyber Monday (a peak day of pre-Christmas online sales), a faster checkout is necessary for customer satisfaction.

The following personal details form has autofill turned off, which would have saved a little time, however the beauty of the final page in the checkout is that it’s all done on a single screen.

Single page checkouts not only provide an uplift conversion, but also improves the experience for mobile users.

In conclusion…

Apple’s paid search strategy is faultless, appearing exactly where it should be in the listings and providing relevant landing pages, optimised for the user depending on their search term. 

The ecommerce experience is a joy, with progression fluid, logical and best of all quick. It also works for multiple devices and screen sizes. Without sounding too gushing, this is a masterclass in providing a brilliant customer journey.