In the early days of ecommerce customer acquisition and retention largely focused on selling products at the lowest possible price.

Now businesses have accepted they can’t win a price war with Amazon they’ve turned their attention to providing the best possible customer experience as a means of differentiating from the competition.

So if everyone is focused on the customer experience, how can companies stand out from the crowd? What criteria help to elevate the shopping experience above the norm?

A new report from Econsultancy and Sitecore investigates the digital experience, comparing customer expectations with marketers’ priorities.

The research, titled ‘Digital Experience: Are Brands Meeting Consumer Expectations?’, also looks at the key differences between industries and how well sectors are performing in the areas that are perceived to be important by consumers.

The methodology

There were almost 1,500 respondents (353 marketers and 1,122 consumers across nine verticals) to our Digital Experience research request, which took the form of an online survey in 2014.

We used a statistical technique called maximum difference scaling (max diff) to understand the level of priority respondents place on each of the attributes tested in the survey. 

This technique for determining ‘importance’ yields much better results than conventional market research approaches based on simply asking respondents to rate importance on a scale. 

‘Extra mile’ attributes

For many companies mobile apps or mobile-optimised websites are a necessary component of a media or ecommerce strategy, given the shift to mobile has been rapid and universal across audiences and customers. 

However, looking across the results for all industries, ‘website works well on smartphone’ and ‘website works well on a tablet’ are both considered to be ‘extra mile’ attributes. 

One could construe this as a poor indictment of the current state of mobile optimisation among consumer brands, i.e. expectations are so low that a decent mobile site is considered to be going the extra mile. 

It also tells us that mobile is still very important because it’s a crucial factor in enabling brands to provide an ‘excellent experience’. 

However on the plus side, marketers faced with limited budgets can potentially make mobile a lower priority if it compromises investment in some of the ‘must have’ aspects discussed further in the Digital Experience Report.

A number of these ‘extra mile’ aspects are also geared towards personalisation, such as ‘brand predicts your needs’ and ‘website integrates well with other touchpoints’. 

The age of big data has enabled personalisation in a way that wasn’t possible a few years ago and this is an area where marketers can make distinct gains. 

This is underlined by a recent survey of marketers for Econsultancy’s Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing

According to the results, 59% agreed that the ability to personalise content was fundamental to online strategy.