Towards excellent customer experience in e-commerce - Investigating the e-commerce journey from customer perspective

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
International Design Business Management
A high percentage of consumers now shop online. As popularity of online shopping is increasing, so are customers’ standards and expectations towards online consumption. Competition on the retailer side is also intensifying. Therefore, it is becoming critical for online merchants and service providers to understand customer perspective and create good customer experiences to be successful. This study explores the e-commerce experience throughout the purchase journey. Previous customer experience research in the e-commerce context has mainly focused on investigating the website interaction, amounting to an incomplete understanding of the total experience. The e- journey extends beyond the online interaction including the waiting period, delivery and possible product return. Thereby aim of this research is to take a holistic approach and create a deeper understanding of the entire e-commerce journey. More specifically, this study investigates what drives negative and positive experiences, and how are online (website) and offline (physical) fulfillment processes connected from the customer point of view. By doing this, the goal is to identify gaps and opportunities for retailers and logistics providers to develop their services. The study was conducted using qualitative methods: a semi structured interview and a customer diary. The diary method consisted of participants to self-document real e-commerce journeys during an actual purchase experience. The subsequent in-depth interview helped to access the most relevant information from the consumers’ viewpoints. The final data consists of 7 diary reports and 12 interviews. The findings of this study provide several insights on how customers experience the e-commerce journey, and how it could be improved. In terms of the website interaction, stores that are able to create a fun and engaging online interaction and that clearly communicate delivery information on their website, positively stand out for consumers. The findings also highlight the importance of delivery for the overall experience. Optimally, delivery options should fit well with the product and brand of the merchant. The strongest negative responses of online customers in this study were related to the feeling of not being in control of the delivery process. This highlights the importance of high quality and timely delivery updates. The results also indicate that poor delivery experience does not ultimately affect the image of the e-retailer, but positive delivery experience does contribute to a positive impression of the retailer. The unpackaging moment is a significant, but often underutilized touchpoint. Particularly positive and memorable experiences were linked to stores that had carefully designed it by instilling a personal touch, and or included complimentary gifts. The findings also indicate that the experience cuts off along the journey: customers do not usually feel connected to e-retailer at the moment of opening their order. This might be a cause for why customers often find after sales communications, such as review requests, intrusive and annoying.
Thesis advisor
Hilden, Elina
Eloranta, Ville
e-commerce, customer experience, last-mile delivery, customer journey, online shopping
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