6 Examples of Companies That Provide a Great Digital Customer Experience


By Tricia McKinnon

In 2019 according to eMarketer, total retail sales in the US are expected to grow by 3.3% to reach $5.529 billion and eCommerce sales are expected to grow by 15.1% to reach $605.3 billion.  That translates into an eCommerce penetration rate of 11%.  Although the share of sales that take place online is still low in the US most companies are focused on eCommerce as a pathway to success.  As stated by Brian Niccol, the CEO of Chipotle on a recent earnings call: “I don’t think new menu news is the primary unlock.  I think it plays a role. But I think the digital access, removing friction ... is a big unlock for the Chipotle business.” 

When it comes to digital most organizations are still trying to figure out exactly what mix of technologies and innovations provide a better customer experience.  To understand where eCommerce is heading and what innovations may work well within your organizations take at these examples.

1. Chipotle. In an effort to drive more digital sales Chipotle launched an initiative last year called Chipotlanes. Instead of ordering at a drive through window or by punching an order on a kiosk located outside, customers using Chipotlanes order using Chipotle’s app or through the company’s website.  Once a customer has placed an order they drive up to the drive through window at a specified time to pick up their order.  These special drive throughs are being tested at ten Chipotle stores. Speaking about the initiative, Chipotle’s CEO Brian Niccol has said:  “it’s clear that customers appreciate the added convenience, because these stores generate digital sales far above the national average.” 

Chipotle’s commitment to bolstering its digital sales is paying off with fourth quarter 2018 digital sales up 65.6%.

2. Domino’s. It is hard to keep up with the number of ways customers can place a Domino’s order.  Take Twitter for example.  To order by tweet customers must first create an online account with Domino’s and save their favourite Domino’s order.  Once complete customers can order by tweeting @dominos the pizza emoji.  Upon receipt of the tweet Domino’s tweets back confirmation and the order is placed.  

Domino’s was also the first pizza and quick service restaurant to allow customers to order digitally using voice commands, via Amazon’s Alexa enabled devices such as the Echo. If a customer says “Alexa open Domino’s” then the customer is led through the ordering process. The company also launched an initiative last summer called Domino’s hotspots where customers can have an order delivered to locations that do not have an established address like a beach.

Customers can also order via text, Facebook, Facebook Messenger Slack and their Apple Watch.   Domino’s investments in technology have paid off. More than 60% of Domino’s orders come through digital channels and it surpassed Pizza Hut in sales for the first time in 2017. 

3. Starbucks. One of the key reasons people do not use payment apps is because there is no clear value proposition.  In a 2016 survey by Pew nearly 30% of generation X and nearly a quarter of millennials said that they do not understand the benefits of mobile payments.  Starbucks on the other hand offers users of its app very useful benefits.  For example, in 2014 Starbucks rolled out mobile order and pay. Customers using this feature can skip (most of the time) line ups in store by placing their favourite order from the most convenient location whether that is at home or on the way to work.  It is a built-in feature that entices customers to pay using the app in order to access the convenience.  

Starbucks’ app is also tied to its loyalty program. With one quick scan of the app customers can make a payment and accumulate rewards towards discounts on Starbucks’ purchases. The lure of quickly and easily accumulating rewards creates a habit as well as an incentive to use the app on a regular basis. This value has enabled Starbucks to achieve the number one spot in terms of total proximity mobile payments users in the US ahead of Apple Pay.

4. ThirdLove. Customers shopping with ThirdLove, an online bra and underwear retailer can take a fit finder quiz online to find their perfect bra size.  The quiz provides a bra recommendation in as little as 60 seconds.  Afterwards customers can choose a bra from one of three styles that they can try on at home as part of the company’s “try before you buy” service.  Once a customer receives their bra, ThirdLove says customers should: “Wear it. Wash it. Live in the bra for 30 days”. Bras that customers try on but don’t keep are cleaned then donated by ThirdLove to charities that focus on women in need.  Returns and exchanges are free within a 30-day period. If a customer decides to keep the bra they are charged $68.00.  This is a great way to reduce friction in the shopping process for an online retailer by allowing customers to try on the merchandise and ensure they like the product before purchasing it.

In 2016, a year after the try-before-you-buy program launched, 75% of ThirdLove’s new customers were generated from the program, that number has now fallen to only 10%.  ThirdLove has also found that 75% of customers end up keeping the bra they are sent through the program demonstrating that the program has been effective not only at attracting customers but at retaining them as well.

5. Sephora’s innovative mobile app contains a Virtual Artist. The Virtual Artist uses facial recognition technology to allow customers to digitally try on products.  Customers scan their face using the app.  Then they can try on different shades of makeup using the app. If a customer likes their simulated look they can quickly and easily buy the products through the app.  Within the app customers can also take makeup tutorials.  For example, if a customer takes a contouring tutorial the app will overlay the contouring look on the customer’s face digitally.  It is an excellent example of personalization at an individual level.  The app has been downloaded by tens of millions of customers.

6. ASOS also makes shopping easier with a visual search feature on its app called Style Match. Customers using the feature take a picture of an outfit, upload the photo to the app and then similar items sold by ASOS are returned in search results.  The database underlying the visual search has more than 85,000 items and more than 5,000 items are added each week.  The ability to quickly upload a screenshot of a little black dress from Instagram, for example, into Style Match and get back related items makes shopping easier than ever.  ASOS has a tech team of 900 with plans to add 200 more.  Speaking about the visual search functionality, Jason Gregory,ASOS senior product manager, said: “searching using images through Style Match offers a more frictionless experience – the customer doesn’t need to think about how to describe what they are seeing, and instead we can connect them straight to products that are visually similar.


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