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Why has Online Shopping Become so Unpleasant? CRM Pros, You’re Missing the Target

When customer success communication is siloed, when pop-ups don't seem to have any reasoning behind them, when ads don't relate to the browsing history, and other missed steps. Optimove's VP Revenue just wanted to furnish his new London flat, and his customer journey inspired 5 quick tips to take your retention marketing strategy forward

I’ve worked in the CRM realm for many years, and it sometimes feels like most CRM organizations and professionals are still dipping their toes in the shallow end of the pool. As teenagers, they are more excited about features (quick fixes) than substance.

It may sound harsh, so let me explain. A few months ago, I relocated to the UK with my partner to head Optimove’s London office. One of our favorite aspects of the move was that we decided not to bring most of our belongings with us, mainly our furniture and odds and ends. We thought we’d enjoy shopping in the best stores London has to offer – strolling down the city streets, visiting the markets and discovering hidden places. But one thing we didn’t take into account was the fact that in all this relocation stress and piling workload, we wouldn’t have the time nor the will to take the tube to Shoreditch at 7PM to check out the latest posh and stylish home design stores. What we did have is an hour on our computer late at night, in our jammies. This became our routine for the first few weeks in London; Work, work and more work, followed by a quick dinner and an hour of browsing and purchasing online before bedtime.

The one thing I can tell you for sure after this experience is: Online shopping has become annoying, stressful, and unpleasant. What happened?

Whenever I take off my marketer hat and become a fully-fledged consumer again, I encounter multiple faux pas on a daily basis. What should have been common practice by now—like cart abandonment emails and (the sometimes so annoying) registration popup—is ignored. Many companies aren’t utilizing these popups to show customers what they’re missing out on, the newest deal, or remind them about that item they left all alone in their cart.

Inside the Amazon world

You’ve probably read many words about how Amazon’s changed the way we shop nowadays. It’s so easy to put your trust in a company that became the world’s most valuable brand by putting customers’ needs first. Former Amazon executive, John Rossman’s book, Think Like Amazon, provides 50 ½ tips on how to succeed in the digital age. The main idea that caught my eye was about the importance of creating ‘customer obsession.’ Everyone in Amazon is expected to be obsessed with knowing about and enhancing the impact of what they do for the customer. CEO Jeff Bezos announced this in a letter to shareholders back in 1997.

Yes, Amazon is great, but what can a consumer do when he’s passionate about buying directly from a vendor to support small, local, artisan business and their owners? And what can you do when the online shopping experience from such business is far below the Amazon standard? Brands must acknowledge that the game has changed. We’re now leading with a data-driven, relationship marketing approach. A brand without Amazon’s resources competing against the competition? That’s no excuse! Very few have those kinds of resources. But a better customer experience doesn’t have to start with an overly zealous obsession, it works using something much more basic – like insisting on a customer-data mindset.

“Better customer experience doesn’t have to start with an overly zealous obsession, it works using something much more basic – like insisting on a customer-data mindset”

Let’s refer back to my first few weeks in London. Some of you may read this and say, well, empty cart notifications, pop-ups for registration, that’s Marketing 101. Perhaps. But it’s still common practice. And there are more. Here are the top 5 blunders that caught my eye.

1. Data is still not connected

Remember “connect the dots”? Customer experience depends on it. I had a couple of bad experiences that resulted in calling Customer Support to return and refund my order. It seemed no one informed the CRM team they had an unhappy customer. There’s no better way to lose customers than by sending them a promotional email right after they finished a long call to complain about the product, or send them an email congratulating them on their purchase the day after they returned the merchandise.

Brands need to understand that customer success is part of the CRM and customer journey, the customer success communication shouldn’t and mustn’t, be siloed.

2. Browsing should be a breeze

It happens to all of us when we walk into brick-and-mortar stores. Right away a sales associate approaches you and asks if you need help. But imagine walking into that store, and before asking if you need help, they offer a discount for registering to their loyalty program. Immediately on the spot. Sounds a bit weird, right? There’s a reason this usually comes up during the payment phase. Why should it be different online?

I always like to visualize my journeys with online shops as if they were physical stores. If you think about it, what works for you in real life will work online as well. You don’t want a person to pop up 10 seconds after entering a store with a discount offer, right? Then you won’t like experiencing this interaction on a site as well.

If you are using pop-ups on a website, make sure to use them wisely and avoid interrupting the customer experience.

3. All Messages Unite

This happened so many times I can’t even count. Even though I browsed from the same laptop each time and never cleaned my browsing data, the social media ads I was targeted with didn’t match the email content. Neither were aligned with my purchasing. Multichannel marketing is a term everyone in this business takes for granted, but it’s still a challenge for many brands today.

By using multiple channels, marketers maximize the relevance and value of customer interactions, but this needs to be done in a coherent, unified way.

4. Special Offer Strategy

Discounting can be a great way to start a conversation with a customer. But discounts should serve a larger purpose. Always consider the target customer. When you discount a customer’s first purchase, it affects their future interactions (and transactions) with your brand.

“Customers who purchased something discounted by 5% to 20% are likely to return, but customers using larger discounts of 30% or more won’t return for items unless they’re discounted”

We found that customers who purchased something discounted by 5% to 20% are likely to return to the brand in the future, but larger discounts of 30% or more, tend to bring in what we call ‘cherry pickers’ – especially during the holiday season. These customers won’t return for items unless they’re discounted, which means, big deals can have a negative effect on the buyer. So, when discounting, even when competing with giants like Amazon, be strategic and don’t sell yourself too short.

Large discounts may lead to a one-off sale, but they’re less likely to provide a source of long-term revenue. Always consider how this will affect the customer’s purchase propensity and their relationship with the brand.


This is a one-liner: Always, always save the items a customer placed in the cart. It’s not just a matter of basic convenience and UX, it’s also a good conversation starter. I still own a car keychain to a car I don’t drive, because the “CEO” (No, I don’t fall in these traps), sent me a $2 coupon with a cool refreshing email reminding me to complete the purchase a minute after I abandoned the cart. And when I went back, this coupon code was already in place, I just needed to click. And I did. Need some email tips to remind your customers about their abandoned cart? Check out this great blog we wrote.

In conclusion

These five meek examples may seem like basic marketing, but they’re way more common than I expected.

There were a lot of simple, yet annoying errors I encountered – like the time I was targeted with offers for women’s clothing, or the time an email was waiting in my other account, one I didn’t share, or just basic mistakes of content marketing – emails that are too long, too scrambled, or too personal.

These days, brands shouldn’t fall victim to such errors when the competition for every customer is fierce, and consumers expect the best possible experience. Granted, not all brands are Amazon, but it shouldn’t prevent them from embracing the same line of thinking – always aspiring for a better relationship with their customers.

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Moshe Demri

Moshe Demri leads Optimove’s global revenue team and is focused on helping clients optimize their customer retention plans and their use of the Optimove software. Moshe has vast experience consulting clients as a data scientist, analyzing their customer data and revealing actionable, data-driven marketing insights. Moshe holds a BSc in Industrial Engineering and Management, specializing in Information Systems.