When shopping in person, customers tend to expect well organised, easy to browse products with tills clearly marked for a simple purchase process, and expectations often surpass this for online shopping. Although in the contemporary world shoppers are drawn to eCommerce sites for a smoother shopping experience that can be carried out anywhere at any time, there are several mistakes that designers and developers of these sites can make that poorly impact the shopping process and thus the likelihood of customers making a purchase. This includes:
In 2018, 87 per cent of retail purchases (excluding grocery shopping) were made online, so as online shopping continues to grow, it is important that the standard of eCommerce UX (user experience) design is of suitably high calibre to ensure customer satisfaction and sales.
Here are some tips, old and new, to help you improve the UX of your eCommerce site in 2019:
With the low attention spans and the high expectations of online shoppers, an eCommerce site only has a matter of seconds to make a good impression. It has been found that 38% of people will leave a site if its content and/or layout is unsightly1, and therefore, streamlining the navigation of a site, keeping the content engaging yet professional and uncluttered, using high-quality images and graphics, and including company information all play significant roles in garnering the essential trust and approval of customers needed to convert site visits into sales. Conversion rate optimisation is an ideal way to uncover any areas putting the brakes on users converting.
For mobile eCommerce (or mCommerce), tab-based navigation is currently a popular way for web designers to easily direct site visitors to where they need to be and keep pages organised. This approach also avoids the suppression of information that can come about with the hamburger style as the information held within the hamburger structure remains unknown unless clicked, whereas tabs are more indicative of the information you will be granted when clicked, and therefore the click rates within tab-based sites tend to be higher.
The best eCommerce sites provide the perfect environment for customers to make purchases with ease, and there are a variety of ways to streamline the checkout process.
For example, saving cart items for customers who have left the site without purchasing the items in their cart simplifies the process of revisiting the site and placing their order without having to remember and add each item to their cart all over again. Having to do this could put shoppers off going through with their purchase altogether, so saved cart items can improve the user experience as well as promoting sales.
Implementing PPC remarketing could also help encourage shoppers to return to your site as ads can be targeted to users who have already visited the site. This is a service we offer at Blue Frontier, and can really boost conversion rates - find out more here.
To go the extra mile to satisfy your customers and to secure sales you could otherwise lose out on, offering a choice of payment options beyond credit or debit card is certainly worthwhile. For instance, some people may only be comfortable making PayPal payments, and if you do not take that payment method, they might look for a similar product on a competitor site that does2. It is also worth including the logos of providers like VISA and Mastercard on your site to reassure customers that you use the most reputable payment methods.
The appeal of online shopping is enhanced further when eCommerce sites are designed for mobile/smartphone use. In fact, according to eMarketer, mobile eCommerce sales are projected to make up 54% of total eCommerce sales as of 2021. So by designing a site with the mobile-first approach, you can ensure your site is fully accessible and functional on mobile devices and you can capitalise on the increasing use of smartphones for shopping.
Mobile devices have the most restrictions in terms of design, including a much smaller screen, so designing your eCommerce site according to these constraints encourages a more succinct approach to content that can actually be beneficial as only text that best entices and informs the customer is used. Desktop versions of eCommerce sites tend to include more pages and potentially more content, and a mobile eCommerce site may display images differently (e.g., vertically as opposed to horizontally) and cut down on unnecessary text (using bullet points instead of paragraphs), but with the aim to meet mobile users’ needs, all items displayed on the desktop site should be readily available to browse and purchase with ease on a mobile device.
Other factors worth considering when designing an eCommerce site for mobile includes enlarging touch targets3 (e.g. hyperlinks and buttons) to suit the size of a fingertip to optimise the user experience and avoid the frustration of your site’s visitors not being able to click the right touchpoint or doing so by accident. Android’s Material Design Guidelines suggests a size of at least 48 x 48 dp for touch targets.
Personalising the eCommerce experience for customers has been gaining a lot of traction recently. From Amazon’s featured recommendations of products you may like to Google offering ads based on previous searches, retailers can use algorithms to analyse customer activity to determine their preferences and deliver a better service. Adding a personal touch to your site and the content displayed to customers has huge potential to increase customer purchase rates, as such features as a ‘Recommended for You’ section allow people to avoid items less suited to them and helps them find products more closely matched to their taste.
Personalisation of eCommerce content also tends to give the impression that the retailer cares and this helps customers feel valued and catered for (potential building a sense of brand loyalty).
Integral to the user experience is customer service and the way in which an eCommerce site offers support to its users. A growing component of online customer service is the deployment of chatbots. A chatbot is an AI-powered program that can interact with customers and offer them advice, and in some cases, take secure payments. Chatbots can offer round the clock support as they are not restricted to the same working hours as human customer service agents. Chatbots and their messaging windows often sit in a bottom corner of a site’s pages in order for customers to quickly click onto it and seek the help they require. For eCommerce websites with ready-to-use chatbots, customers can usually communicate with a chatbot via a hovering window featured on most pages of the site without having to open a separate window or being redirected away from their current page.
Chatbots can be created to answer frequently asked questions, but may not be able to assist with more complex issues that they have not previously been exposed to. Chatbots are not a replacement for more traditional means of customer service (i.e, via telephone), but they do provide an automated method to respond to customer queries in a quick and efficient way that can maintain a degree of customer support at all hours.
With the increasing utilisation of augmented and virtual reality technologies in eCommerce, such as Ikea’s AR app named Place, allowing customers to interact with products (e.g., by seeing how they look within their homes) without having to be in the store has considerable potential to make online shopping even more user-friendly. With Ikea’s Place app, shoppers can use their smartphone camera to overlay items of homeware from Ikea onto their environment, so they can see how the furnishing would appear in their homes4. Although this is an app rather than a feature on their site, sites can either direct customers to an app to use AR technology or embed the function within their mobile site, which would allow for the use of smartphone cameras in a way that isn’t as easily achieved on a desktop site.
In 2016, a survey found that 71% of consumers would be more willing to shop with an online retailer regularly if they were to provide AR services. This is understandable as the technology allows customers to better plan their purchases according to how they look within certain spaces. This could also help decrease the need for returns.
When building an eCommerce site and curating its content, it is important to have completed competitor research to determine the best keywords to use in order to achieve a high listing in search engines as well as ensuring the appropriate audience will be reached. For example, if your eCommerce site sells used textbooks with a target audience of students, it is important to use relevant keywords related to the products and audience, such as ‘Textbooks for Students’.
Another technique worth implementing is accounting for grammatical and spelling mistakes. For example, when searching for sterling silver earrings, people might make mistakes such as, ‘sturling’ and ‘sliver’, so it is important to include misspellings in your list of targeted keywords.
Enriching the eCommerce user experience can be achieved in a variety of ways, whether this is by applying tried and tested techniques of keyword targeting to create more visibility for your site, or whether you are willing to embrace newer technologies like chatbots and AR to give more flexibility and options to customers. In 2019, it is worth staying on top of the trends in order to decipher what approaches to eCommerce design and development best work for your business and customers.
Every year there are new ideas and ways to design sites for online shopping, so to keep yours up-to-date and in keeping with customer expectations (or even surpassing them), checking out competitor sites and doing some research into current or projected trends is the perfect way to stay on top of the eCommerce game.
If you wish to outsource eCommerce web design and development, our expert team have an extensive background using all major platforms to produce highly functional and responsive sites perfect for online shoppers. With our designers and developers on-board, your site will be in excellent hands.