Ecommerce, or electronic commerce, is the buying and selling of goods or services through the internet. Ecommerce businesses don't function the same: there are B2B (Business to business), B2C (Business to consumer), C2C (Customer to customer), and C2B (Consumers to businesses). Ecommerce owner's goal is to have has higher engagement and conversions, lesser bounce and cart abandonment rates. They want to help visitors buy whatever they want, as many times and as easy and as pleasing as possible. One of the main things that will help you achieve that is applying the User Experience (UX) best practices for ecommerce.
UX in a Nutshell
UX (User Experience) is not UI (User Interface) nor Usability. UI is all about the actual interface with which the user interacts, while usability is all about how easy to use a site is. UX on the other hand is all about the feeling that a user has when using a site. For example, slow-to-load websites make users impatient, frustrated, and wanting to leave. It goes without saying that done right, a good UX can help to boost conversions. The opposite is true also: if your customers don't feel comfortable with how your website looks and works, they won't stay and won't buy. So, how can you increase the chances of making your online store successful?
How to Improve Online Stores
1. Ensure Brand Consistency
Your brand is like your business' reputation; how people see it. Businesses that are serious about what they do, take branding seriously. To ensure consistency you must have defined color palettes, typefaces, and tone of voice used across all touchpoints. When choosing these elements of your brand make sure they match your brand personality. Not having a consistent branding, can make a difference between your audience trust you and not.
2. Pay Attention to Homepage
You only have few seconds to get your users to decide whether they want to stay on your website or not. Your homepage is like your online store's front window, so it's important that you get your homepage right.
It's true that everyone visiting your site enters through the homepage, but for those who do, your homepage must clearly communicate who you are, expose the main products that you sell, how you're different from competitors, and enable shoppers to start shopping.
The homepage is to a website what a front-window display is to a physical store: the more items crammed into the window, the lower the overall perceived value (more clutter often means lower quality). And those items in the window better be a good representation of what’s available inside the store, if you want to capture all potential customers.- Nielsen Norman Group
Keep in mind a simplistic homepage will ensure that your visitors undestand clearly the message you're trying to convey and are not overwhelmed. How can you achieve that?
- Clearly highlight your unique selling point (USP);
- Make sure your essential or main product categories a easy to see;
- Keep it clean, simple and only include the necessary;
- Keep the CTAs (call-to-action) to 2 at maximum to avoid confusion.
3. Navigation Must be Clean and Clear
Customers rely on your navigation to move around your website. Poor navigation can take users longer to find what they are looking for and frustrate them. This can make them leave your site and go to your competitors.
Navigational options and product categories must be clear with labels that make sense to your target users. They need to easily understand each category and how it differs from the others. One way to help shoppers find what they're looking for is to use polyhierachy, a structure in which at least one child has more than one parent node. Polyhierachy would allow a certain item to be available in more than one category. For example, if you're selling electronics, you can have accessories under its own tab and under each main category.
Navigation must be clear with labels that make sense to your target users.
To nail your navigation, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Structure your navigation and highlight things according to your target audience;
- Start with your top menu categories. Eg. If you're selling for men and women use those as labels for main categories;
- Keep different shoppers in mind and give each one what they need;
- You can use filters to help users find what they are looking for. (color, size, date, etc).
4. Make Product Pages Effective
E-commerce shoppers rely on images and product descriptions to have an idea of the products you're selling. The quality of your images will influence the customer's impression of your products (and ultimately your company). Low-resolution images can make them feel like the product is low quality too.
Always use high-resolution images and clear product descriptions.
Use product descriptions to help visitors by anticipating and answering questions they may have, provide reviews, and enabling comparison. Visitors need to make an informed decision, so give them what they need in a simple and clear way. If your product pages are not well designed and structured, shoppers won't be able to decide if the product meets their criteria. This leads to cart abandonment or they would buy a wrong product which results in unhappy customers and returned products. Neither is good for your brand.
So, when choosing images and writing product descriptions make sure of the following:
- Only use optimized, high resolution images that depict the product well;
- Using professional photo retouching can help. But when doing this, make sure that the image continues to represent the actual product;
- If possible and appropriate, include a short video too;
- Use descriptive product names;
- Price and any other additional charges specific to the product;
- Clear product options such as size, color and model and product availability;
- Make it easy to add it to the cart and let user know when done; and
- Remember to make them responsive them responsive.
5. Forms and Registration
Forms are one of the main ways to collect pieces of information from customers. But people don't like filling forms. Besides, people are normally suspicious and uncomfortable to share their personal information with people they don't trust, and with good reason. How would you feel if you were asked for your personal information right when you are entering a store? suspicious, right? The same principle applies in your virtual store. So you want to delay the sign-ups to when they're are really necessary.
Don't force your visitors to signup in order to checkout, you must give them the option to checkout as guests.
Let your visitors browse your store, the more they stay on your website the higher are the chances of converting them into buyers. You can give them the option to sign up at the checkout. Just make sure it's quick and smooth. One way to do this is by streamlining the sign-up via social login. Don't force your visitors to signup in order to checkout, you must give them the option to checkout as guests.
So, in order to make your forms more efective, try the following:
- Keep them short. Remember that users hate filling forms;
- Only ask for information that you need;
- Ask for the right information at the right step;
- The for fields must be large enough for a comfortable click with a finger in case of mobile devices;
- Make them responsive.
6. Take Costumer Feedback Seriously
Designers should base their decisions on data. So if you want to know what should be improved, don't guess, ask for user's feedback. Customer feedback helps to get an idea of how your customers feel about your brand, the products you're selling and the way you do it. Why is customer feedback important?
- In a study by cone, about 80% of customers reported that they decided not to buy something after reading a negative review;
- More than 95% of respondents in a study by Zendesk said that bad customer review changed their buying behavior;
- This study by Spiegel Research Center found that a product with a handful of reviews is 270% more likely to be purchased than a product without.
Needless to to say that customer reviews play a vital role in your business and you can't afford ignoring customer feedback. How can it benefit your business?
- Listening to and acknowledging your customers show that you care and humanizes your store. This can help build loyalty and increase retention rates;
- Measuring the satisfaction rates throughout the whole customer journey Improves costumer experience, since youll be in a better position to know what are their pain points and address them;
- Addressing well customer reviews can help create superfans, loyal customers who are willing to recommend and talk about your brand to others. When they talk about your brand to others and share it on social media, they generate more brand awareness and sales for your business;
- Customer feedback can help improve product development.
How can you improve the way you collect and handle customer feedback?
- Automate the process to send survey emails after first purchase or after certain periods of time. Just remeber to give the user the time to receive the product and use it;
- Give incentives, like dicount cupons, for custumers who give feedback;
- If you get bad feedback, make sure to follow up with the customer to acknowledge that the issue is being fixed;
- Examine user activity on both your website and social media;
- Make reviews easy to leave;
- Publish good and bad reviews. Lots of positive reviews can be too good to be true so the occasional negative comment adds credibility and asures customers that their review will be published if they take time to write one.
7. Provide a "Save for Later" Feature
Not every customer has the same buying behavior. Some know exactly what they are looking for while others don't. And since there's an increasing number of options of eCommerce websites to shop from, your visitors will want to do some research before comminting to a purschase. Throughout this process, they might want to select and save certain items of interest and save them for later. It's true that some use the shopping cart to accomplish this, but the right way to do it is by using a feature called "Favorite", "Save for Later".
According to this study by Nielsen & Norman group, the label "Wishlist" is not recommended since it 'implies to users that its primary purpose was for sharing gift ideas with others; many thought that doing so will be perceived as greedy or inappropriate, and neglected to consider other uses for wishlist'. Either way, the point here is to make sure that you make it easy for your customers to be able to save items for later. Things to keep in ming include:
- Make sure to include an option to save items for Later using labels other than "Wishlist";
- Make this option discoverable;
- Do not block access to it by forcing users to register.
10. Offer Social Proof
What others do, can influence the behaviour of other people. This is called social proof, a psycological phenomenon in which to guide their behaviour, people reference the behavior of others. This happens because we all want to behave correctly no matter what we're doing. So if other people want it, then we tend to think that it must be good. By showing the actions, advice and the beliefs of the crowds in our designs, designers can influence the users. This can be achieved through reviews or any data that can show support from others can boost their trust in the product. Two of the benefits of adding social proof in your website are:
- Remove decision-making Uncertainty: Since users do consider how other perceive products and services offered online, by adding something that indicates how other people like the product or service can increase credibility;
- Encourage Subscription: Showing that you already have a large number of subscribers or follower on social media, can increase subscriptions because it shows that others like your content.
Like many other types of digital designs, an ecommerce website is a "living project". The work doesn't end when you publish. Its important to evaluate and make changes to improve it as time goes by. Remember to:
- Make your brand personality consistent throughout the whole website;
- Design a simple and clear homepage;
- Label your navigation in a way that makes sense to the users;
- Images and product descriptions must be helpful to your shoppers;
- Delay sign-ups as much as possible and use them only when needed;
- Take customers feedback seriously;
- Enable shoppers to save items for later.