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.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 2 December, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (5)

John Fox

John Fox, I help public bodies to be more effective and efficient at delivering their services through digital transformation. I'm currently assisting the government of the States of Jersey. at Muckle Flugga Services Limited

I really like your 'critical friend' reviews of a typical customer journey on well known brand websites. Different views and experiences combine to improve one's own approach as highlighting site features that might be adapted for a different website. How about inviting people to nominate a site for a future customer journey review?

almost 3 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@John - By all means, be my guest....

almost 3 years ago

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Leonardo Reyes Acosta, Data scientist at Profusion

It was indeed an interesting read. I would have liked to have a bit more behavioural take, and maybe analysing (not in depth I guess) other journeys. What about people landing in the apple page and going somewhere else to catch a better deal?

I would really like to see a piece in which a more 360 degrees view is taken by putting several elements of the journey possibilities in context (consideration, impulses, latency, etc.). Obviously at a topline level for a blog piece, but it can be very informative.

I would like to nominate an insurance journey!

almost 3 years ago

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Lars Petersen, Head of Business Optimization Services at Sitecore

Hi Christopher,
Thanks for the post - good review of the journey from Search to checkout through one session.

I work with creating connected Customer Experiences, focusing on the experience throughout the different channels and beyond the buyer’s journey. Recently I have been using Apple.com as an example of a dis-connected experience, here's why:

As I love technology and gadgets, I was also determined to get the new iPhone 6 - so September 13, I went to Apple.com from my old iPhone - surprisingly the site wasn't optimized for mobile commerce, so after a lot of zooming and shrinking, I managed to pre-order the new iPhone (I was determined - others might have dropped off because of the lack in supporting mobile here).

90 min. later I went to Apple.com, using the same device I just used to buy the new iPhone - the content I see is all focused on selling me the iPhone 6 (they have forgotten all about me).

When I opened my order email confirmation and clicked, I can see details on of my order on Apple.com, when I click to the homepage, they are promoting me to buy the new iPhone 6 (even though I have just looked at my order).

Most disappointing was it when I September 19th received an email, promoting me to buy the new iPhone 6.

As a consumer, this is very disappointing and very irrelevant (don’t they know me?)!

From a business point of view, Apple is missing a great opportunity to connect with me and serve me the best relevant experience, they could have shown content related to cool iPhone 6 accessories after my purchase, send me emails about new capabilities (“take the perfect selfie with your new iPhone6” etc.), use my data to highlight best Apps that are most relevant for me (based on other Apps purchases) and maybe I would have bought more.

Data and personalization are key for a connected experience and in my experience with Apple.com, they aren't using either.

BR
/Lars Birkholm Petersen

almost 3 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Lars - that's an incredibly thorough evaluation, and one I can't argue with. Although it looks as if it's a responsive site, Apple's product pages are optimised poorly for mobile. As for the use of data and personalisation, the store is entirely geared up to sell one product once to one person. It doesn't respect a user's history or preferences. I shall look at this and other examples more closely for a follow-up.

Thank you.

almost 3 years ago

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