Empathy in E-Commerce: Improving Retail CX

By Guest Author | e-commerce | February 16, 2022

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for digital businesses. As the year of social distancing and quarantines sparked a massive online shopping boom, e-commerce brands found themselves faced with more direct competition — even from businesses that once exclusively operated as brick-and-mortar stores.


On top of changes in supply and demand, the year 2020 brought about major societal changes that are affecting the way consumers choose businesses. Under the weight of social movements, health struggles, and financial challenges, customers are increasingly choosing brands that align with their worldview and embrace their values. Taking a stance has made many brands feel more human.

So what does this all mean for digital businesses? For companies that don’t offer a face-to-face experience, an empathetic customer experience (CX) holds the key to standing out from the competition. As the world shifts toward e-commerce, the online brands that succeed will be the ones that fully connect with their customers and understand their perspectives and needs.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into why empathy is so important, then explain ways for you to implement empathy in your CX. 

Why Is Empathy in E-Commerce Crucial?

Having a good product or service is no longer enough to get customers to stay loyal. In a world where consumers have endless options — and therefore, the power of choice — shoppers are no longer settling for mediocre experiences. Modern retail customers expect businesses to meet their psychological needs, not just their transactional ones. While your product or service can offer a solution to one problem, empathetic CX can make customers’ lives easier in many noticeable ways — for instance, by decreasing checkout times.

When you understand your customers — from how they navigate your website to what purchases they prioritize — an interaction with your e-commerce store can feel as personable and meaningful as a conversation with an in-person sales rep.

Empathetic CX helps e-commerce stores unlock the same emotional connection that customers make with brick-and-mortar businesses. In the same way that customers feel at home when they smell coffee brewing at Starbucks or walk through the aisles of their local Target, a consistently empathetic customer experience can create a sense of familiarity, trust, and loyalty.

How to Make E-Commerce CX More Empathetic

Making your e-commerce CX more empathetic starts with understanding what your customers want. Craft detailed customer personas, which are profiles that represent different segments of your target market, to understand their perspective in full. Within these personas, answer questions like:

— What does this customer’s day-to-day look like?
— What are the core values that this customer holds?
— What hobbies or topics interest this customer?
— What problems does this customer face, beyond the one my product or service solves?
— What motivates this customer to take action or make a purchase?

These questions will help you get a comprehensive look at who your customers are, and not just in relation to your service. Consider getting customer feedback (perhaps through surveys or focus groups) to get the most accurate picture of your clients.

Once you have a more detailed understanding of your target market, think about ways that you can improve your CX to meet their broader needs and desires. For example, if you find that many of your customers struggle with reading disabilities, you can shift from a text-based customer onboarding campaign to a video-based one. If customers are motivated by instant gratification, consider building a loyalty rewards program that offers points or small rewards with every purchase.

Set aside extra time to shape your website, which is where the bulk of most e-commerce companies’ customer interactions occur. Think about where customers are most likely to abandon carts or what content drives them to make a purchase. Consider where you can offer incentives or coupons on a pop-up or revamp your web pages with better product photos to keep clients on your site, all the way through checkout.

Pairing Empathetic CX With Empathy-Centered Marketing

Your empathy shouldn’t be limited to your brand’s interactions with your customer base. Rather, your empathy should extend to your marketing, too. When you give every potential customer a taste of your empathetic customer experience, you give members of your target audience reasons to become leads.

Brainstorm ways to answer your target market’s questions or alleviate the stress of shopping as they research products like yours. For example, since many customers turn to Yelp or Google Reviews in the research process, you can place customer reviews on your website to help shoppers save time.

You can also make your marketing more empathetic by using human spokespeople who align with your clients’ values to promote your brand. For example, you can create a brand ambassador program that enlists influencers to bridge the empathy gap between online businesses and their audiences.

Always make sure your marketing is never overstated. Your marketing and CX leads should work together to ensure your empathy-centered marketing is a natural lead-in to a satisfyingly empathetic customer experience, rather than a mere sales strategy. 

Boost Empathy in E-Commerce

Empathetic is the new transactional in the e-commerce world. If you want to stand out from the increasing number of competitors in the digital world and build a loyal customer base, you need to fully understand your customers’ needs and motivations, as well as align with their values. Start by creating detailed customer personas, then use your findings to improve all of your customer touchpoints.