Some of the biggest ecommerce and online retailers in the business are so successful because of how much they offer their customers in regards to the user experience. A lot of it has to do with the way we shop.
In today’s landscape, people aren’t shopping during conventional times or even situations. Many people will browse online sites and shop via mobile devices, and a lot of times it happens while they’re doing something else. They might be commuting to work, for instance, or maybe they’re on a lunch break.
Whatever the case, this new realm of possibility means consumers demand certain things from the ecommerce providers and sites they do business with. What is it exactly they want from their favorite online stores? How can you ensure you are meeting their demands?
1. An Easy to Use Interface & Design
Ever visit a store that is messy, disorganized and tough to walk through? You’re probably not going to spend much time inside, if any at all. The same is true of online and digital storefronts. They can’t be messy in the sense that products are littering the floor, but they can certainly be disorganized and tough to use.
Almost half of consumers agree that usability and responsiveness are the most important elements of an ecommerce website.
Convenient functionality and positive user experience are paramount to a successful ecommerce website. Does it load fast? Are the navigation elements easy to find, and are they responsive? Does the portal work seamlessly across all devices?
The Bliss website is the epitome of intuitive and friendly design. It’s simple to see what products they have and to get more information about each.
2. Must be Responsive or Mobile Friendly
Whether or not you need to provide a brand or proprietary app is another argument entirely, which we’ll leave for another time. But every ecommerce website must provide either a mobile-friendly experience or a responsive design.
Responsive design means the site and its visual elements will adjust accordingly based on the user’s device resolution. A mobile device, for instance, provides less screen real estate than a laptop or desktop, so the onscreen elements are restructured in a way to meet the smaller form factor.
This is nothing new. Mobile devices and smartphones have been around for decades now. It is important to point out, however, that 51 percent of all Americans make purchases from their smartphones or mobile devices.
3. Customer Reviews Are a Must
Pew Research revealed that 40 percent of U.S. adults “always” check online product reviews when buying something for the first time. Another 42 percent claim they “sometimes” check reviews.
The numbers are even higher when you look at younger shoppers between the ages of 19 and 29. A sizable 53 percent claim they “always” check reviews, while 43 percent “sometimes” do.
What’s the takeaway? Integrated customer reviews on any ecommerce site are necessary to maintain a healthy influx of new customers. Without them, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of your potential audience.
4. Clear, Accurate Product Descriptions
Selling products and services online introduces a new hurdle for most businesses. Customers do not get the opportunity to review or see the item in question before buying. It means they’ll need a clear, in-depth description of the product to help them make up their mind.
Unfortunately, 49 percent of consumers say they have avoided purchasing goods online because sellers didn’t provide a good enough sense of what the product would look or feel like in person.
You must be able to demonstrate what the product does, what exactly it can be used for, what it looks like and what it all means for the consumer. Not including accurate dimensions for an item that looks small online, but is quite large in-person can have detrimental effects — and the reverse is also true. People won’t just stop trusting your business and brand. They won’t buy from you at all.
5. Visible Prices
A particularly silly tactic that some online businesses use is to hide a product’s price behind sign-ups, mandatory cart adds and similar obstacles. Whatever the reason may be, and sometimes it can seem like a good one, you’re doing your business a disservice.
Customers want to see the price, clear as day. Over 60 percent of consumers will look at the prices of items on multiple sites when shopping online, and 85 percent think the option to compare prices is either “extremely” important or “somewhat” important. But when you lock the prices away behind a barrier, it makes that practice nearly impossible. It also encourages customers to just look elsewhere for a price, which probably means they’ll buy from someone else, too.
Walmart does a great job providing item prices, especially when they’re on sale. Not only is the price one of the first things you see on a product page — as it should be, but it also stands out compared to the other elements on a page. You’ll also notice a clear indication of shipping options, as well as the earliest arrival date.
6. Helpful On-Site Search
Any marketing team is going to be sure to put the spotlight on the most popular and desired products, right on the front page. That’s excellent, and it will surely have a good return for your sales. But you also have to understand that sometimes that’s not what people are visiting for.
A whopping 71 percent of shoppers say they regularly use the search tool on ecommerce sites to find what they are looking for.
More importantly, search results must be helpful and relevant. Imagine trying to use the search tool on Amazon to sift through the thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of products available on the marketplace. Things could get downright confusing and frustrating fast.
Notice how Schuylkill Valley Sports tackles this concern. Some of their best products and services are featured on the landing page, but the search function is also clearly visible — not to mention accessible right at the start.
7. Getting Checkout Right
Even after customers have added items to their cart and are ready to complete the checkout process, there’s a lot that can screw up the overall experience, such as:
- Unexpectedly-high or unclear shipping costs
- Limited payment methods
- Locking purchases behind free memberships — a simple guest option can alleviate this
- Taking too long to complete with complicated steps
- Bugs, errors, timeouts and website crashes
- Poor performance or long loading times
It’s crucial that you work to eliminate any distractions or negative events — like crashes — to optimize the checkout process. You must also offer ample payment options to customers, beyond a single payment channel or type.
If you can’t do these things, customers are going to abandon their carts, maybe even for good. Cart abandonment costs e-marketers about two to four trillion dollars per year.
Optimize It, and They Will Come
At one point, it may have been as easy as creating a simple online storefront or portal and opening up shop, but that’s no longer the case. Of course, it doesn’t mean you need to have an incredibly complex or complicated storefront. It just means you need to optimize the experience as much as possible for your potential audience.
Is the website easy to navigate and browse? Is your product information clearly visible and easy to read? Can customers quickly complete a purchase after adding an item to their shopping cart? Is the site viewable on both mobile and desktop devices?
All of the questions you see here address the overall optimization of a site and its experience. Focus on providing the fastest and easiest shopping process, and you’ll see immense success.
Special thanks to Bruce Mars for the featured cover photo!