User experience (UX) is becoming an increasingly important consideration in web design, with a potential to impact everything from conversion rates to SEO. And nowhere is that impact seen and felt more directly than with ecommerce sites. When your site is a direct portal (if not the only direct portal) for sales, solid UX design can quite literally be the difference between a visitor clicking “buy” or clicking “X” in their browser window.
Not to overstate it or get all dramatic, but for an ecommerce business, that is life and death (for the business).
Now that I’ve got you properly terrified – first, breathe – then, let’s take a look at some of the most crucial elements of UX design for ecommerce sites specifically, that those in the non-ecommerce world may tend to overlook.
So much of what’s important when it comes to online shopping is a customer’s ability to sort through all products in a catalog, and easily find the item that they are looking for. Proper organization into categories and/or collections is crucial, as is a well-functioning search box that gives clear results. The other must? A filter.
The best, most intuitive organizational scheme in the world isn’t going to be much good once a customer has narrowed down what they are looking for. So, you need to give them the ability to change what they are looking at and filter out all of the products that they aren’t actively interested in. You may want them to look at all of your products so they can see how great your lineup is, but customers will appreciate the ability to find the thing they are already interested in quickly and efficiently.
If filtering can help improve the experience of customers who have an idea of what they want, product suggestions are for those who have no clue. Imagine shopping in a clothing store where you pick off the rack a t-shirt you think is interesting – and then the rack immediately hands you five other t-shirts it thinks you might like. That would be one incredible clothing rack. I’m going to get to work on inventing that.
In the mean time, though, what you basically have in your ecommerce shop is a hyper-intelligent clothing rack (or smartphone rack, or cleaning product rack, or… you get the idea). Including suggestions or related items on your product pages is not only something your customers will appreciate as they browse through your store, it’s also a great opportunity for you to increase sales and exposure for your full array of products.
Okay, everyone needs useful content. It’s the backbone of any decent content marketing strategy. But this isn’t a post about marketing or SEO, this is about UX. Well, guess what? Your content is a perfect (and necessary) opportunity to improve your user experience.
Say you want to help your users figure out what size to look for in the store – sounds like a great topic for a blog post. Say you get a lot of questions about the best way to take advantage of a specific feature of one of your products – I bet your customers would really appreciate a how-to video.
But beyond dedicated content, your product descriptions, about page, even your banners and sale/promo ads are all content. And from a UX perspective, your users want that content to be just as engaging, consistent and generally awesome as they want your blog posts to be.
The Fastest, Easiest, Securiest Checkout
I know, I know, “securiest” isn’t a word. But maybe it should be. It’s catchy.
The point being, your checkout process might be the most crucial, fragile, and often overlooked aspect of your UX design. According to the Baymard Institute, people abandon their online shopping carts at a rate of nearly 69%. If people abandoned real shopping carts at the same rate they do online ones, we’d have some pretty jammed up aisles to slog through.
The third most common reason for cart abandonment was specifically that the checkout process was too long or complicated. But that doesn’t even account for hidden costs that pop up, unwanted account creation, or a lack of payment methods. Just look at this chart from that Baymard study:
Almost every reason for cart abandonment during checkout has something to do with a preventable complication. Users wants speed, simplicity, and to feel like they can trust you with their valuable personal information and credit card information, which it seems like basically everybody is trying to steal these days. You have to earn that trust not just after the purchase, but beforehand too.
It’s not enough to have a “good” checkout process, you have to make it great – even if that means making up a word.
After your customers make a purchase, they should continue feeling like they are in good hands with timely confirmations, the ability to accurately track shipping, and a friendly return policy. They should also have no confusion or lack of understanding about where and how to contact your customer service team should they so desire. All of this information and these potential interactions are still part of your site’s user experience.
Beyond the purchase though, you need to cultivate your relationship with customers who you want to bring back for another purchase, or who left your site without ever making a purchase in the first place. Part of creating an effective user experience for your store is re-engaging with those customers in a natural and inviting way what entices them to come back. This can be done with email marketing (if you captured their email address), social media promotions, contests, and even be including special content or discounts along with email receipts.
When it comes to ecommerce, the user experience extends beyond the site itself. We’re also talking about the overall purchase experience. From the moment they land on your site, users need to come across well-organized, easy to find products, great content, and be made to feel safe and secure through the checkout process and beyond. That’s what a great ecommerce user experience looks like.
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