Stop alienating customers with inconsistent e-commerce experiences | Maru Group

A man and woman looking at a laptop.
Consumers over 35 want an e-commerce platform that is vested in them now and in the long term.

The pitfalls of third-party platforms

Many companies had e-commerce facilities before the pandemic, but they often produced only a small portion of their sales. As pandemic-shuttered consumers turned to online shopping in exploding numbers, and more companies turned to third-party fulfillment partners, the issues with e-commerce became exponentially apparent. E-commerce is a complex fulfillment system which can encompass warehousing, search, selection, payment, delivery, and returning of goods. Issues in this multi-channel customer experience (CX) can and do arise as the service relays with third parties occur. Brands need to understand the end-to-end customer journey, including the various touchpoints, and any gaps or customer pain points that detract from a satisfying experience. It’s not enough to offer online ordering. That experience must be seamless to foster loyalty and repeat business. With third-party providers, brands cannot control the CX which erodes their equity.

Third-party direct-to-consumer (DTC) platforms

DTC platform services can give you an instant route to customers and fulfillment at a time when you need an e-commerce solution quickly, but they have their downsides.

Protect your equity

Instacart, the San Francisco-based online grocery and merchandise platform started by a former Amazon employee, has extensive reach in the U.S. (over 60 retailers) and Canada (over 40 retailers). What happens though when a problem occurs with an online order? Do customers blame the retailer, e.g., Walgreens or Staples, or do they blame Instacart where the problem occurred? In the eyes of the customer, blame lies with the retailer whose site they ordered from. They’re often not even aware that they’ve been redirected to Instacart. This erodes brand equity for retailers.

An online discussion Maru hosted with a group of senior consumer goods marketing professionals echoed these sentiments. There’s no denying the convenience of online shopping, but do brands harness the power of scale through a third party like Amazon or Instacart, or do they build their own DTC platform? This is a question many brands are contemplating. Those without strategic thinking see e-commerce as a cost rather than a long-term investment. Failure to make the right long-term investment decisions can result in loss of control and you may end up locked into short-term partnerships that have vested interests not aligned with your goals. A question plaguing companies trying to build the best e-commerce solution is, “How do you make the right investments?” Data is part of the answer. It’s a superpower in e-commerce, but many retailers are not using it. Besides suggestive selling, data is crucial for product movement and category management.

Emotional Signature for online customer experience

Pictures explaining what six emotional signatures are: content, stimulating, nurturing, happy, cooperative, and energetic.
Qualities consumers look for in an e-commerce site.

Creating the ideal CX people seek

How do retailers create that e-commerce yellow brick road? They give the people what they want. Maru’s Emotional Signature, a proprietary System 1 (unconscious) measurement, uncovers the deep-rooted feelings about how an e-commerce experience should ideally feel versus how customers are left feeling after the experience. Ideally, shoppers under 35 years of age want an independent and uninhibited experience that gives them more opportunities to curate their own experience. They want the tools and features to choose what they want whenever they want it, which in turn energizes them. The online shopping experience should leave them feeling empowered. This includes smart, predictive search functions, trackable purchases, and the same experience across devices — desktop, tablet, mobile. Consumers 35 and over, lack confidence using the online tools and find the experience foreboding. Their ideal experience is nurturing — a platform that is vested in them now and in the long term and people who will always be there for them. This means getting support or help along their online purchasing journey that will give them confidence in what they are doing and make them feel they have the skills to accomplish their goals (be capable). It translates into helpful, knowledgeable associates and customer service personnel, and a smooth online experience.

Two graphs showing the current customer experience versus the ideal customer experience for 18–34 year-olds, and those 35 years of age and over.
How e-commerce sites make consumers feel versus how they ideally would like to feel.

A winning e-commerce strategy

Loved brands have mastered a consistent, positive experience, which involves investing in a branded look and feel, living up to messaging, user-friendly online platforms, a strong service culture, knowledgeable staff, a helpful tone that employees take with customers, quick resolution of issues, and responsiveness through social listening. Their digital contact is quick and responsive.

A thumbnail of the white paper titled Defining the extraordinary digital customer experience.
Maru’s e-commerce study



Maru helps its clients make informed decisions in real-time by combining proprietorial software, deep industry experience, and unique IP in system 1 apps.

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Maru = Software + Advisory Services

Maru helps its clients make informed decisions in real-time by combining proprietorial software, deep industry experience, and unique IP in system 1 apps.