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Best Ecommerce Platforms

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best ecommerce platforms

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What would you do with an extra $1,500 a day?

With a bit of work and the right ecommerce platform, you can create an online store that generates that kind of revenue (and more).

Shilpi Yadav is an excellent example. She quit her job to start an online clothing store based around her Indian heritage.

Despite all the risks, the brand now makes more than half a million dollars a year (averaging around $1,500 per day).

She built her online store using Shopify, one of the best ecommerce platforms on the market. However, there are a ton of different options to choose from depending on what you need.

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And the most significant thing standing in the way of your own $500k success story is deciding which ecommerce platform is right for your new store.

In this post, I’ll break down the major aspects to consider in choosing the right platform for your current situation. Then we’ll take a close look at seven of top options available today.

#1 – Wix Review — The Best for Flexibility and Customization

Wix splash page for Best Ecommerce Platforms

Wix is a great option if you’re looking for an affordable and flexible ecommerce platform. It’s famous for it’s drag-and-drop interface with complete design freedom to create anything you can imagine.

Instead of having to write code, you can use the visual building tools to get your site looking just the way you want it.

With Wix, you also get access to more than 500+ prebuilt website templates and plenty of customization options. Or you can create pages from scratch with complete design control.

The Wix template selection is really helpful for launching a new online store. Instead of having to mess with settings, you can plug your products into a framework that’s going to look great every time.

People visiting your store will think you spent days getting such a professional look, but it takes hardly any time at all with Wix.

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Furthermore, they have a robust mobile app so you can make changes and manage your store from anywhere in the world.

Wix also includes a wide variety of marketing features, like emails, Facebook ads, and social media posts right from your account dashboard. You can even sell directly via social media.

Their ecommerce plans include powerful features, like:

  • Support of 90+ languages and local currencies
  • 250+ apps to add extra functionality to your site
  • No additional transaction fees
  • Custom product pages
  • Worldwide shipping and taxes
  • Coupons and discounts
  • Advanced sorting and filtering
  • Product collections
  • Customizable checkout
  • Recurring payments

Plus, if you already use Wix, you can upgrade to an ecommerce plan in just a few clicks within your account dashboard.

Wix offers four ecommerce plans for online shops of different sizes, including:

  1. Business Basic — $23/month
  2. Business Unlimited — $27/month
  3. Business VIP — $49/month
  4. Enterprise — custom pricing

This is an excellent option if you have a small store or special design requirements. However, If you expect a high order volume and large range of products, you’re better off with BigCommerce or Shopify instead.

Try Wix for freetoday.

#2 – Squarespace Review — The Best Ecommerce Platform for Creatives

Squarespace examples for Best Ecommerce Platforms

Squarespace is well-known as a website builder, but their higher-tier plans also include ecommerce functionality.

The design templates are fairly easy to work with, but you’re not just coloring inside the lines–there’s a lot of potential to create a unique shopping experience for your customers.

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Some of the other easy-to-use platforms are a little limited with what you can do. Squarespace gives you a lot more artistic freedom.

Install and customize multiple templates at a time to see which one you like best. And switching between templates takes just a few clicks.

Aside from beautiful templates, Squarespace offers a variety of ecommerce features, including:

  • Subscriptions, digital products, and in-person compatibility
  • Built-in tax tools for automatic tax calculations
  • Discount codes and gift cards
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Mobile-optimized checkout
  • Mobile store management
  • Rich product listings
  • Quick view capability
  • Inventory management
  • Real-time shipping estimates

Furthermore, Squarespace integrates with most of the popular email marketing and social media platforms so you can sell and market your products like a pro.

And they have fantastic 24/7/365 customer support ready to answer your questions and help you get things set up the way you want to.

Squarespace offers three ecommerce plans:

  1. Business — $18 per month + 3% transaction fees
  2. Basic Commerce — $26 per month + 0% transaction fees
  3. Advanced Commerce — $40 per month + 0% transaction fees

As you scan their pricing options, you’ll see a Personal plan for $12 per month. This is great if you want to build a website, but it doesn’t come with any ecommerce features, so it’s not going to work if you want to set up an online store.

They also have an enterprise plan with a dedicated account manager, SEO consultations, and prioritized technical support.

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And while the Business plan offers ecommerce capabilities, I highly recommend choosing Basic Commerce to start. It’s the cheapest plan with no transaction fees, plus it includes other essential features like, customer accounts and ecommerce analytics.

Learn more and get started at Squarespace.

#3 – Bluehost Review — The Best for Hands-Off WooCommerce Store Setup

Bluehost stores for Best Ecommerce Platforms

I really like WooCommerce. And, fortunately, I’m comfortable enough with WordPress to install, customize, and manage the WooCommerce plugin and the additional plugins that really make it shine on my own WordPress sites.

But I know many folks who would rather not have that responsibility, whether because of a lack of familiarity with WordPress plugins or just a lack of time to self-manage WooCommerce.

Bluehost gets that, too—that’s why they’ve rolled out an easy, turnkey solution to getting a WooCommerce store up and running in no time, for anyone.

With Bluehost’s package for ecommerce powered by WooCommerce, you get a handy guided store creator, plus:

  • Built-in SSL and Jetpack for security
  • Unlimited product listings
  • Payment processing
  • Customer reviews
  • Coupon codes
  • Manual order creation
  • One year free of CodeGuard Backup Basic, for daily site backups

And that’s all in the Standard Plan. The built-in SSL certificate is really helpful because it encrypts information customers enter on your website (like credit card numbers or login credentials), and protects everyone from hackers. All you have to do is click a button and your set with Bluehost–this can be much more challenging if the host doesn’t manage SSL certificates for you.

What I think is most convenient, though, is that Bluehost has preselected the top 20 store plugins that your WooCommerce store will need. Not only does that save you the headache of researching and installing plugins on your own, they’re included at no extra charge.

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That’s huge. Some of these plugins cost around $200 a pop to install.

Take it one step higher to the Premium plan and you’ll also get:

  • Online appointment scheduling
  • Subscription-based ecommerce
  • Advanced product customization
  • Local tax management
  • Free domain privacy
  • CodeGuard Backup Basic, included for free

Pricing is based on your initial term commitment. Choose from month-to-month billing, a one-year contract, or a three-year contract.

The Standard plan starts at $12.95/month for a three-year commitment, while Premium starts at $24.95/month for the same.

Both plans renew at the standard month-to-month rate after the term is completed—$29.95/month for Standard and $49.95/month for Premium.

So, if you want to get a WooCommerce store up in no time with no hassle on your end at all, head over to Bluehost today.

#4 – BigCommerce Review — The Best for Medium to Large Stores

BigCommerce splash page for Best Ecommerce Platforms

BigCommerce is an all-in-one ecommerce website builder specifically for large online stores. It includes more advanced ecommerce features suitable for managing high volumes and a large number of products.

With a customer base of 100,000+ stores, including some big names like Ben & Jerry’s and SkullCandy, they’re a smaller player in the industry.

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But that doesn’t make the platform any less powerful.

BigCommerce plans include access to powerful, industry-leading features, including:

  • Customer accounts for faster checkouts
  • Mobile-optimized checkout
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Google AMP and Akamai
  • Advanced product filters
  • Coupons and discount codes
  • Advanced inventory management
  • Customer groups for personalized shopping
  • 65+ payment gateways with no extra transaction fees
  • Built-in shipping management

Plus, all of their plans include unlimited products, file storage, bandwidth, and staff accounts.

And you can choose between 12 free mobile-responsive design templates or opt for a paid template to make your online store stand out from the crowd without touching a single line of code.

BigCommerce offers four paid plans (with a 15-day free trial), including:

  1. Standard — $29.95/month with a $50,000 annual sales limit
  2. Plus — $79.95/month with a $180,000 annual sales limit
  3. Pro — $299.95/month with a $400,000 annual sales limit
  4. Enterprise — custom pricing

If you’re just getting started, BigCommerce is overkill for your online store. However, if you’re an established business or plan to sell high volumes, it’s an excellent choice.

#5 – Shopify Review — The Best All-In-One Ecommerce Platform

Shopify splash page for Best Ecommerce Platforms

Shopify is an all-in-one ecommerce website builder that powers more than one million online stores, making it one of the most popular choices on this list.

However, it’s not as customizable as Wix. But it offers more advanced ecommerce features because it’s built specifically to host online stores. Plus, it’s easy to use with just the right level of flexibility.

It’s also incredibly versatile, powering micro to large stores, and everything in between. Shopify plans include access to an incredible suite of ecommerce features, including:

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  • Point of Sale for brick and mortar shops
  • Real-time carrier shipping rates
  • Abandoned checkout recovery
  • 100 different payment gateways
  • Automatic tax calculations
  • Customer accounts and profiles
  • Fulfillment centers
  • Advanced inventory management
  • Unlimited products
  • In-depth analytics

Plus, with 70+ professional themes (nine of which are free) and 4,100+ apps, you can create a beautiful and highly functional ecommerce store without having to start from scratch. Or write a single line of code.

Combine that with award-winning 24/7/365 customer support and you have an excellent ecommerce platform.

Shopify offers five plans for businesses of all sizes, including:

  • Shopify Lite — $9 per month
  • Basic Shopify — $29 per month
  • Shopify — $79 per month
  • Advanced Shopify — $299 per month
  • Shopify Plus — custom pricing

Shopify Lite is a great option if you want to embed products and “buy” buttons onto an existing website. However, it doesn’t come with the all-inclusive website builder.

Keep in mind that Shopify has its own payment processor. They charge 2.4% – 2.9% + $0.30 depending on the plan you choose. They also charge additional fees (0.5% – 2%) if you use a separate payment processor like PayPal or Square.

#6 – WooCommerce Review — The Best for WordPress Websites

WooCommerce splash page for Best Ecommerce Platforms

The recommendations thus far are all-in-one website builders. WooCommerce, however, is not. It’s a WordPress plugin built to add ecommerce functionality to existing WordPress websites.

WooCommerce powers approximately 30% of stores online today. And with 80+ million downloads, it’s one of the most popular ecommerce platforms on this list.

Note: if you don’t already have a WordPress website, I don’t recommend going this route. Stick to an all-in-one ecommerce platform, instead.

WooCommerce is a lightweight plugin that adds ecommerce capabilities like accepting online payments, configurable shipping options, product listings, and more. But you have to have an existing website to use it. So, it’s a great option if you already use WordPress.

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It includes powerful ecommerce features like:

  • Plugin extensions to increase functionality
  • Rest APIs for developers to create custom platforms
  • Extensive tutorials and documentation
  • 140 region-specific payment gateways
  • Support of subscriptions and deposits
  • Automated tax calculations
  • Real-time shipping rates
  • iOS and Android mobile apps
  • Physical and digital product capability
  • Endless product variations
  • Public support forum

And the best part? It’s free to download, install, and use. Forever.

However, some of the extensions aren’t free so watch out for that if you start digging into those.

With the power of WordPress behind it, your customization options are only limited to what you can imagine. So, the sky is legitimately the limit with WooCommerce.

But with that said, it’s not the easiest or most intuitive ecommerce platform. So, I don’t recommend it if you aren’t already using WordPress and 100% comfortable with it.

#7 – OpenCart Review — The Best for Selling Digital Products

Opencart splash page for Best Ecommerce Platforms

OpenCart is another open source ecommerce platform, much like WooCommerce. However, it’s not limited to WordPress websites. But you do need to have an existing website to use it.

Over 300,000 online stores use OpenCart to confidently sell products of all shapes and sizes online. Plus, most web hosting companies offer one-click installation or will install it for free, so it’s incredibly easy to set up.

Note: I only recommend going this route if you already have a website up and running.

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While you can sell products of any kind, the no-fluff interface (and free price tag) makes it an excellent option for selling digital products to make more money with your online business.

All without adding an extra monthly expense because it’s 100% free forever.

OpenCart offers a powerful set of ecommerce features, including:

  • Simple and centralized admin dashboard
  • Advanced user roles and access controls
  • Manage multiple stores from a single dashboard
  • Limitless product variables and variations
  • Built-in affiliate management and rewards system
  • Discounts and coupons
  • Unlimited products
  • One-click digital downloads
  • Product reviews and ratings
  • 36 built-in payment methods
  • Recurring payments

Plus, with 13,000 modules and themes in the marketplace, you can add any functionality you can imagine including service integrations, conversion modules, email marketing, and more.

Keep in mind that not all of OpenCart’s extensions are free. You may have to pay for more advanced capabilities.

And they don’t currently offer support for free, either.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for on their community forum, you have to pay for dedicated help. Dedicated support starts at $99 per site per month or $99 for a one-time fix.

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#8 – Ecwid Review — The Best for Integrating With Your Current Platform

Ecwid splash page for Best Ecommerce Platforms

Like OpenCart and WooCommerce, Ecwid is an ecommerce platform you can use to integrate with your current platform, regardless of what you’re already using.

It integrates with platforms like Weebly, Wix, WordPress, Squarespace, and more. So, if you already have a website set up and want to add ecommerce functionality, Ecwid is an excellent choice.

With that said, they also offer an all-in-one ecommerce website builder if you want to start from scratch. However, there are better website builders to use.

So, I only recommend Ecwid if you want to integrate ecommerce into your existing website.

This ecommerce platform includes a wide range of features, like:

  • Multi-channel selling (social media, marketplaces, in-person, etc.)
  • Integrated email marketing and advertising features
  • Centralized inventory and order management
  • No transaction fees
  • Fully responsive designs
  • Built-in POS integrations
  • Customer accounts for easy checkout
  • Real-time shipping rate calculator
  • Poduct variations
  • Digital product capabilities
  • 40 payment options

The biggest downside is that you can’t manage your store from inside your website account dashboard. You have to log in to Ecwid instead. So, you need to manage two separate accounts.

But the good news is that you can start on the limited free forever plan to try it out before making any investments.

The free plan only allows up to ten products, so you have to upgrade if you need more. Ecwid also offers three paid plans, including:

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  • Venture — $15/month (up to 100 products)
  • Business — $35/month (up to 2,500 products)
  • Unlimited — $99/month (unlimited products)

This is the price if you pay month to month. If you are willing to sign a contract for a year, the price is a little lower.

As a stand-alone store builder you might be better off with other options (like Wix and Shopify).

But if you already have a website and want to add an ecommerce store, Ecwid is a great alternative to WooCommerce and OpenCart.

What I Looked at to Find the Best Ecommerce Platform

The best ecommerce platform for your business depends on several factors like your experience level, your customization requirements, and the type of products you want to sell.

But choosing the right platform can feel overwhelming because there are countless options to choose from.

It may help to start with a list of requirements and the features you need. From there, you can narrow down your choices based on the following criteria.

Physical vs Digital Products

Digital products are a booming market. Online courses, music, art, and podcasts are just some of the digital products netting new businesses tons of cash.

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But selling and delivering digital products isn’t the same as delivering a physical product to someone’s doorstep.

If you want to sell digital products, Shopify is a really great option, but some ecommerce may not support digital products at all. So it’s important to understand which type you plan to sell before you make a decision.

Deployment Options

What do you need to do to get your ecommerce platform up and running?

There are a few different ways to deploy your platform depending on where you are starting from and where you want to go.

If you already have a website, the best option is integrating an online store rather than creating a brand new website on a new platform. This way, you build on what you’ve already done. OpenCart is ideal for this use-case.

For people with WordPress sites, you can add ecommerce functionality via a plugin like WooCommerce. This is super simple to set up and easy to manage.

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If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll want a website builder and other tools to help you design your platform.

In this case, going with solutions like Wix and Squarespace makes a lot of sense. They bundle everything you need to get started at a really affordable price.

Day-to-Day Management

Order management, product creation, tracking orders, and dashboard navigation are important factors of day-to-day ecommerce management.

Choose a platform that’s easy to use and manage on a daily basis. It shouldn’t feel like a struggle to create new products, check the status of an order, or update the pages of your website.

It’s all about finding the right balance of flexibility, customization, and ease of use. The more a platform can do, the harder it is to manage.

You can simplify your workload by choosing a platform that offers just enough flexibility without going overboard for your specific needs.

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Design Capabilities

Some ecommerce website builders (like Wix) are truly drag and drop, meaning the customization options are endless. If you can imagine it, you can build it. But, that freedom also makes the platform more difficult to use.

Other platforms integrate into your current site, taking the look and feel of your existing website with very few customization options. For some users, this is perfect.

But others may want more control.

If you’re just starting out, simple designs and ease of use are more important than design flexibility.

However, if you already own a physical store or an established brand, design is more important so you can create a cohesive aesthetic from one touch point to the next.

Advanced Ecommerce Features

Do you want to be able to offer discounts or accept payments through different payment processors? Maybe you want to send visitors a reminder email when they exit your website with something in their cart.

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Perhaps you’re interested in creating customer profiles and analyzing advanced analytics.

Other advanced ecommerce features include:

  • Email marketing integrations
  • Memberships and recurring payments
  • Gift cards and discount codes
  • Partial payments or payment plans
  • Shipping and fulfillment management
  • Product variations
  • Product categories

Think carefully about what you need and what would be nice to have. Then, you can use your list of requirements to narrow down your list of choices.

Summary

Finding an ecommerce platform does what you need is a breath of fresh air. After using dozens of different options over the years, I’m confident with my selection of the top options available:

  1. Wix – Best for flexibility and customization
  2. Squarespace – Best ecommerce platform for creatives
  3. Bluehost – Best for hands-off WooCommerce store setup
  4. BigCommerce – Best for medium to large stores
  5. Shopify – Best all-in-one ecommerce platform
  6. WooCommerce – Best for WordPress websites
  7. OpenCart – Best for selling digital products
  8. Ecwid – Best for integrating with your current platform

My #1 recommendation for most users is Wix. It’s great for users of all experience levels. Plus, it’s easy to use, highly customizable, and affordable as well. But if Wix is too customizable for you, Squarespace is a fantastic alternative.

For large stores, I highly recommend BigCommerce or Shopify.

However, if you already have a website, WooCommerce, OpenCart, and Ecwid are excellent choices depending on what you need.

If you have a WordPress site and want an easier way to set up your WooCommerce store on it, you can’t go wrong with Bluehost’s WooCommerce Online Stores.

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Only 6% of global marketers apply customer insights to product and brand

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Only 6% of global marketers apply customer insights to product and brand

While many brands talk about focusing on the customer, few do it. Less than a quarter (24%) of global brands are mapping customer behavior and sentiment, according to Braze’s 2024 Customer Engagement Review. What’s worse, only 6% apply customer insights to their product and brand approach.

“At the end of the day, a lot of companies operate based on their structure and not how the consumer interacts with them,” Mariam Asmar, VP of strategic consulting, told MarTech. “And while some companies have done a great job of reorienting that, with roles like the chief customer officer, there are many more that still don’t. Cross-channel doesn’t exist because there are still all these silos. But the customer doesn’t care about your silos. The customer doesn’t see silos. They see a brand.”

Half of all marketers report either depending on multiple, siloed point solutions to cobble together a multi-channel experience manually (33%); or primarily relying on single-channel solutions (17%).  Only 30% have access to a single customer engagement platform capable of creating personalized, seamless experiences across channels. This is a huge problem when it comes to cross-channel, personalization.

The persistence of silos

The persistence of data silos despite decades of explanation about the problems they cause, surprised Asmar the most.

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Screenshot 2024 02 27 140015
Source: Braze 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review

“Why are we still talking about this?” she said to MarTech. “One of the themes I see in the report is we’re still getting caught up on some of the same stumbling blocks as before.”

She said silos are indicative of teams working on different goals and “the only way that gets unsolved is if a leader comes in and aligns people towards some of those goals.”

These silos also hinder the use of AI, something 99% of respondents said they were already doing. The top uses of AI by marketers are:

  • Generating creative ideas (48%).
  • Automating repetitive tasks (47%).
  • Optimizing strategies in real-time (47%).
  • Enhancing data analysis (47%).
  • Powering predictive analytics (45%).
  • Personalizing campaigns (44%). 

Despite the high usage numbers, less than half of marketers have any interest in exploring AI’s potential to enhance customer engagement. Asmar believes there are two main reasons for this. First is that many people like the systems they know and understand. The other reason is a lack of training on the part of companies.

Dig deeper: 5 ways CRMs are leveraging AI to automate marketing today

“I think about when I was in advertising and everybody switched to social media,” she told MarTech. “Companies acted like ‘Well, all the marketers will just figure out social media.’ You can’t do that because whenever you’re teaching somebody how to do something new there’s always a level of training them up, even though they’re apps that we use every day, as people using them as a business and how they apply, how we get impact from them.”

The good news is that brands are setting the stage for the data agility they need.

  • 50% export performance feedback to business intelligence platforms to generate advanced analytics.
  • 48% sync performance with insights generated by other platforms in the business.

Also worth noting: Marketers say these are the four main obstacles to creativity and strategy:  

  • Emphasis on KPIs inherently inhibits a focus on creativity (42%).
  • Too much time spent on business-as-usual execution and tasks (42%).
  • Lack of technology to execute creative ideas, (41%).
  • Hard to demonstrate ROI impact of creativity (40%).
Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952

Methodology

The 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review (registration required) is based on insights from 1,900 VP+ marketing decision-makers across 14 countries in three global regions: The Americas (Brazil, Mexico, and the US), APAC (Australia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea), and EMEA (France, Germany, Spain, the UAE, and the UK).

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MARKETING

Crafting Effortless Sales Through ‘Wow’ Moments in Experience Marketing

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Crafting Effortless Sales Through 'Wow' Moments in Experience Marketing

Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing

In an era where consumers are bombarded with endless choices and digital noise, standing out as a brand is more challenging than ever. Enter experience marketing – a strategy that transcends traditional advertising by focusing on creating immersive, memorable interactions. This innovative approach leverages the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity to forge strong emotional connections with customers, making the sale of your core product feel effortless. But how can businesses implement this strategy effectively? This guide delves into the art of crafting ‘wow’ moments that captivate audiences and transform customer engagement.

The Basics of Experience Marketing

Experience marketing is an evolved form of marketing that focuses on creating meaningful interactions with customers, aiming to elicit strong emotional responses that lead to brand loyalty and advocacy. Unlike conventional marketing, which often prioritizes product promotion, experience marketing centers on the customer’s holistic journey with the brand, creating a narrative that resonates on a personal level.

In today’s competitive market, experience marketing is not just beneficial; it’s essential. It differentiates your brand in a crowded marketplace, elevating your offerings beyond mere commodities to become integral parts of your customers’ lives. Through memorable experiences, you not only attract attention but also foster a community of loyal customers who are more likely to return and recommend your brand to others.

Principles of Experience Marketing

At the heart of experience marketing lie several key principles:

  • Emotional Connection: Crafting campaigns that touch on human emotions, from joy to surprise, creating memorable moments that customers are eager to share.
  • Customer-Centricity: Putting the customer’s needs and desires at the forefront of every marketing strategy, ensuring that each interaction adds value and enhances their experience with the brand.
  • Immersive Experiences: Utilizing technology and storytelling to create immersive experiences that captivate customers, making your brand a living part of their world.
  • Engagement Across Touchpoints: Ensuring consistent, engaging experiences across all customer touchpoints, from digital platforms to physical stores.

Understanding Your Audience

Before diving into the intricacies of crafting ‘wow’ moments, it’s crucial to understand who you’re creating these moments for. Identifying your audience’s pain points and desires is the first step in tailoring experiences that truly resonate.

1709033181 544 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 544 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing

This involves deep market research, customer interviews, and leveraging data analytics to paint a comprehensive picture of your target demographic. By understanding the journey your customers are on, you can design touchpoints that not only meet but exceed their expectations.

  • Identifying Pain Points and Desires: Use surveys, social media listening, and customer feedback to gather insights. What frustrates your customers about your industry? What do they wish for more than anything else? These insights will guide your efforts to create experiences that truly resonate.
  • Mapping the Customer Journey: Visualize every step a customer takes from discovering your brand to making a purchase and beyond. This map will highlight critical touchpoints where you can introduce ‘wow’ moments that transform the customer experience.

Developing Your Experience Marketing Strategy

With a clear understanding of your audience, it’s time to build the framework of your experience marketing strategy. This involves setting clear objectives, identifying key customer touchpoints, and conceptualizing the experiences you want to create.

  • Setting Objectives: Define what you aim to achieve with your experience marketing efforts. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, boosting sales, or improving customer retention, having clear goals will shape your approach and help measure success.
  • Strategic Touchpoint Identification: List all the potential touchpoints where customers interact with your brand, from social media to in-store experiences. Consider every stage of the customer journey and look for opportunities to enhance these interactions.

Enhancing Customer Experiences with Surprise, Delight, and Reciprocity

This section is where the magic happens. By integrating the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity, you can elevate ordinary customer interactions into unforgettable experiences.

1709033181 790 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 790 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing
  • Incorporating Surprise and Delight: Go beyond what’s expected. This could be as simple as a personalized thank-you note with each purchase or as elaborate as a surprise gift for loyal customers. The key is to create moments that feel special and unexpected.
  • Applying the Principle of Reciprocity: When customers receive something of value, they’re naturally inclined to give something back. This can be leveraged by offering helpful resources, exceptional service, or customer appreciation events. Such gestures encourage loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.
  • Examples and Case Studies: Highlight real-world examples of brands that have successfully implemented these strategies. Analyze what they did, why it worked, and how it impacted their relationship with customers.

Best Practices for Experience Marketing

To ensure your experience marketing strategy is as effective as possible, it’s important to adhere to some best practices.

  • Personalization at Scale: Leverage data and technology to personalize experiences without losing efficiency. Tailored experiences make customers feel valued and understood.
  • Using Technology to Enhance Experiences: From augmented reality (AR) to mobile apps, technology offers myriad ways to create immersive experiences that surprise and engage customers.
  • Measuring Success: Utilize analytics tools to track the success of your experience marketing initiatives. Key performance indicators (KPIs) could include engagement rates, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction scores.

Section 5: Overcoming Common Challenges

Even the best-laid plans can encounter obstacles. This section addresses common challenges in experience marketing and how to overcome them.

1709033181 656 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 656 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing
  • Budget Constraints: Learn how to create impactful experiences without breaking the bank. It’s about creativity, not just expenditure.
  • Maintaining Consistency: Ensuring a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints can be daunting. Develop a comprehensive brand guideline and train your team accordingly.
  • Staying Ahead of Trends: The digital landscape is ever-changing. Stay informed about the latest trends in experience marketing and be ready to adapt your strategy as necessary.

The Path to Effortless Sales

By creating memorable experiences that resonate on a personal level, you make the path to purchase not just easy but natural. When customers feel connected to your brand, appreciated, and valued, making a sale becomes a byproduct of your relationship with them. Experience marketing, when done right, transforms transactions into interactions, customers into advocates, and products into passions.

Now is the time to reassess your marketing strategy. Are you just selling a product, or are you providing an unforgettable experience? Dive into the world of experience marketing and start creating those ‘wow’ moments that will not only distinguish your brand but also make sales feel effortless.


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The Current State of Google’s Search Generative Experience [What It Means for SEO in 2024]

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The Current State of Google's Search Generative Experience [What It Means for SEO in 2024]

SEO enthusiasts, known for naming algorithm updates after animals and embracing melodrama, find themselves in a landscape where the “adapt or die” mantra prevails. So when Google announced the launch of its Search Generative Experience (SGE) in May of 2023 at Google/IO, you can imagine the reaction was immense.

Although SGE has the potential to be a truly transformative force in the landscape, we’re still waiting for SGE to move out of the Google Labs Sandbox and integrate into standard search results. 

Curious about our current take on SGE and its potential impact on SEO in the future? Read on for more.

Decoding Google’s Defensive Move

In response to potential threats from competitors like ChatGPT, Bing, TikTok, Reddit, and Amazon, Google introduced SGE as a defensive maneuver. However, its initial beta release raised questions about its readiness and global deployment.

ChatGPT provided an existential threat that had the potential to eat into Google’s market share. When Bing started incorporating it into its search results, it was one of the most significant wins for Bing in a decade. In combination with threats from TikTok, Reddit, and Amazon, we see a more fractured search landscape less dominated by Google. Upon its launch, the expectation was that Google would push its SGE solution globally, impact most queries, and massively shake up organic search results and strategies to improve organic visibility.

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Now, industry leaders are starting to question if Google is better off leaving SGE in the testing ground in Google labs. According to Google’s recent update, it appears that SGE will remain an opt-in experience in Google Labs (for at least the short term). If SGE was released, there could be a fundamental reset in understanding SEO. Everything from organic traffic to optimization tactics to tracking tools would need adjustments for the new experience. Therefore, the prospect of SGE staying in Google Labs is comforting if not entirely reliable. 

The ever-present option is that Google can change its mind at any point and push SGE out broadly as part of its standard search experience. For this reason, we see value in learning from our observations with SGE and continuing to stay on top of the experience.

SGE User Experience and Operational Challenges

If you’ve signed up for search labs and have been experimenting with SGE for a while, you know firsthand there are various issues that Google should address before rolling it out broadly to the public.

At a high level, these issues fall into two broad categories including user experience issues and operational issues.

Below are some significant issues we’ve come across, with Google making notable progress in addressing certain ones, while others still require improvement:

  • Load time – Too many AI-generated answers take longer to load than a user is willing to wait. Google recommends less than a 3-second load time to meet expectations. They’ll need to figure out how to consistently return results quickly if they want to see a higher adoption rate.
  • Layout – The SGE layout is massive. We believe any major rollout will be more streamlined to make it a less intrusive experience for users and allow more visibility for ads, and if we’re lucky, organic results. Unfortunately, there is still a decent chance that organic results will move below the fold, especially on mobile devices. Recently, Google has incorporated more results where users are prompted to generate the AI result if they’d like to see it. The hope is Google makes this the default in the event of a broad rollout where users can generate an AI result if they want one instead of assuming that’s what a user would like to see. 
  • Redundancy – The AI result duplicates features from the map pack and quick answer results. 
  • Attribution – Due to user feedback, Google includes sources on several of their AI-powered overviews where you can see relevant web pages if there is an arrow next to the result. Currently, the best way to appear as one of these relevant pages is to be one of the top-ranked results, which is convenient from an optimization standpoint. Changes to how attribution and sourcing are handled could heavily impact organic strategies. 

 

On the operational side, Google also faces significant hurdles to making SGE a viable product for its traditional search product. The biggest obstacle appears to be making the cost associated with the technology worth the business outcomes it provides. If this was a necessary investment to maintain market share, Google might be willing to eat the cost, but if their current position is relatively stable, Google doesn’t have much of an incentive to take on the additional cost burden of heavily leveraging generative AI while also presumably taking a hit to their ad revenue. Especially since slow user adoption doesn’t indicate this is something users are demanding at the moment.

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While the current experience of SGE is including ads above the generative results now, the earliest iterations didn’t heavily feature sponsored ads. While they are now included, the current SGE layout would still significantly disrupt the ad experience we’re used to. During the Google I/O announcement, they made a statement to reassure advertisers they would be mindful of maintaining a distinct ad experience in search.  

“In this new generative experience, Search ads will continue to appear in dedicated ad slots throughout the page. And we’ll continue to uphold our commitment to ads transparency and making sure ads are distinguishable from organic search results” – Elizabeth Reid, VP, Search at Google

Google is trying to thread a delicate needle here of staying on the cutting edge with their search features, while trying not to upset their advertisers and needlessly hinder their own revenue stream. Roger Montti details more of the operational issues in a recent article digging into the surprising reasons SGE is stuck in Google Labs.

He lists three big problems that need to be solved before SGE will be integrated into the foreground of search:

  1. Large Language Models being inadequate as an information retrieval system
  2. The inefficiency and cost of transformer architecture
  3. Hallucinating (providing inaccurate answers)

 

Until SGE provides more user value and checks more boxes on the business sense side, the traditional search experience is here to stay. Unfortunately, we don’t know when or if Google will ever feel confident they’ve addressed all of these concerns, so we’ll need to stay prepared for change.

Experts Chime in on Search Generative Experience

Our team has been actively engaging with SGE, here’s a closer look at their thoughts and opinions on the experience so far:

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“With SGE still in its early stages, I’ve noticed consistent changes in how the generative results are produced and weaved naturally into the SERPs. Because of this, I feel it is imperative to stay on top of these on-going changes to ensure we can continue to educate our clients on what to expect when SGE is officially incorporated into our everyday lives. Although an official launch date is currently unknown, I believe proactively testing various prompt types and recording our learnings is important to prepare our clients for this next evolution of Google search.” – Jon Pagano, SEO Sr. Specialist at Tinuiti

“It’s been exciting to watch SGE grow through different variations over the last year, but like other AI solutions its potential still outweighs its functionality and usefulness. What’s interesting to see is that SGE doesn’t just cite its sources of information, but also provides an enhanced preview of each webpage referenced. This presents a unique organic opportunity where previously untouchable top 10 rankings are far more accessible to the average website. Time will tell what the top ranking factors for SGE are, but verifiable content with strong E-E-A-T signals will be imperative. –Kate Fischer, SEO Specialist at Tinuiti

“Traditionally, AI tools were very good at analytical tasks. With the rise of ChatGPT, users can have long-form, multi-question conversations not yet available in search results. When, not if, released, Google’s Generative Experience will transform how we view AI and search. Because there are so many unknowns, some of the most impactful ways we prepare our clients are to discover and develop SEO strategies that AI tools can’t directly disrupt, like mid to low funnel content.” – Brandon Miller, SEO Specialist at Tinuiti

“SGE is going to make a huge impact on the ecommerce industry by changing the way users interact with the search results. Improved shopping experience will allow users to compare products, price match, and read reviews in order to make it quicker and easier for a user to find the best deals and purchase. Although this leads to more competitive results, it also improves organic visibility and expands our product reach. It is more important than ever to ensure all elements of a page are uniquely and specifically optimized for search. With the SGE updates expected to continue to impact search results, the best way to stay ahead is by focusing on strong user focused content and detailed product page optimizations.”  – Kellie Daley, SEO Sr. Specialist at Tinuiti

Navigating the Clash of Trends

One of the most interesting aspects of the generative AI trend in search is that it appears to be in direct opposition to other recent trends.

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One of the ways Google has historically evaluated the efficacy of its search ranking systems is through the manual review of quality raters. In their quality rater guidelines, raters were instructed to review for things like expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (EAT) in results to determine if Google results are providing users the information they deserve. 

In 2022, Google updated their search guidelines to include another ‘e’ in the form of experience (EEAT). In their words, Google wanted to better assess if the content a user was consuming was created by someone with, “a degree of experience, such as with actual use of a product, having actually visited a place or communicating what a person has experienced. There are some situations where really what you value most is content produced by someone who has firsthand, life experience on the topic at hand.” 

Generative AI results, while cutting-edge technology and wildly impressive in some cases, stand in direct opposition to the principles of E-E-A-T. That’s not to say that there’s no room for both in search, but Google will have to determine what it thinks users value more between these competing trends. The slow adoption of SGE could be an indication that a preference for human experience, expertise, authority, and trust is winning round one in this fight. 

Along these lines, Google is also diversifying its search results to cater to the format in which users get their information. This takes the form of their Perspectives Filter. Also announced at Google I/O 2023, the perspectives filter incorporates more video, image, and discussion board posts from places like TikTok, YouTube, Reddit, and Quora. Once again, this trend shows the emphasis and value searchers place on experience and perspective. Users value individual experience over the impersonal conveyance of information. AI will never have these two things, even if it can provide a convincing imitation.

The current iteration of SGE seems to go too far in dismissing these trends in favor of generative AI. It’s an interesting challenge Google faces. If they don’t determine the prevailing trend correctly, veering too far in one direction can push more market share to ChatGPT or platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

Final Thoughts

The range of outcomes remains broad and fascinating for SGE. We can see this developing in different ways, and prognostication offers little value, but it’s invaluable to know the potential outcomes and prepare for as many of them as possible.

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It’s critical that you or your search agency be interacting and experimenting with SGE because:

  • The format and results will most likely continue to see significant changes
  • This space moves quickly and it’s easy to fall behind
  • Google may fix all of the issues with SGE and decide to push it live, changing the landscape of search overnight
  • SGE experiments could inform other AI elements incorporated into the search experience

 

Ultimately, optimizing for the specific SGE experience we see now is less important because we know it will inevitably continue changing. We see more value in recognizing the trends and problems Google is trying to solve with this technology. With how quickly this space moves, any specifics mentioned in this article could be outdated in a week. That’s why focusing on intention and process is important at this stage of the game.

By understanding the future needs and wants SGE is attempting to address, we can help you future-proof your search strategies as much as possible. To some extent we’re always at the whims of the algorithm, but by maintaining a user-centric approach, you can make your customers happy, regardless of how they find you.

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