The competition is fierce when it comes to eCommerce. The popularity of online shopping has grown and with the convenience of modern eCommerce platforms, launching an online shop has become easier than ever. There are nearly 24 million eCommerce sites worldwide, meaning there are likely to be thousands of sites in your specific niche.
The average conversion rates for eCommerce sites is currently around 3 percent. When consumers have so many options, and competitors are available in the next website tab, differentiation is vital. The single most powerful tool you have at your disposal to make your site optimised for conversions is to provide a good user experience to prospective customers.
An engaging, useful and good quality user experience encourages customers to spend time on your site and make purchases. A study of 500+ online shoppers revealed that 60% would leave a site for a competitor if the user experience is poor. Over 70% of CEOs are now viewing user experience as a competitive differentiator.
What is User Experience?
The user experience or UX is the overall experience and perception any user has when they visit and interact with your website. This includes the emotions and attitudes that your site triggers in your users, how they understand its functioning, how it meets expectations, and how they feel when using it. The UX influences the overall perception users have of your website and products, helping them form opinions. The opinions users form of your eCommerce site will then influence their purchasing and viewing behaviours.
Although the experience and perception of the user is subjective to an extent, and can be influenced by personal moods and factors, there are a few major influencing factors. These include site speed, page layout and design, navigation, checkout speed, and more. A slow site with cumbersome navigation and lengthy checkouts can discourage users to the point where they will not return, regardless of you revising the UX.
A good UX results in positive associations with your eCommerce site, encouraging purchase, repeat purchase and possible promotion amongst friends. A bad UX, on the other hand, influences a negative association, increasing the chance of site abandonment and negative reviews. When it comes to new users having a good UX is especially important, since the first impression is often the last, unless you undertake significant marketing efforts.
UX and eCommerce Platforms
For an eCommerce site, the platform you are using for your business will decide the potential for your user experience. Every aspect of UX such as speed, performance, layout, features, checkouts, is dependent on the eCommerce platform. The degree of customisations and flexibility that can be incorporated in your site will also be contingent upon the platform used. Some of the top eCommerce platforms currently available in the market are Magento, BigCommerce and Shopify.
Considering the impact of the eCommerce platform you use on your UX and business success, it is important to make a suitable choice. There are plenty of platforms available in the market, but not all would be suited to your business needs. For a well-informed decision, it is recommended to take guidance and help from professional eCommerce developers. This way you can avoid future regrets and having to completely redesign or rebrand an existing eCommerce site.
Why is user experience important in eCommerce?
In the early days of eCommerce, there were less demands from online stores, and the primary goal was to purchase desired products. With the massive growth in the number of eCommerce sites in the market, UX has become a differentiating factor.
Demands from UX have expanded to include having an impressive layout, being enticing and interesting, while still having full functionalities. As you cannot personally see and tend to each customer, the UX of your site does the customer care for you, and represents your brand. A positive UX has been found to lower costs of new customer acquisition, increase market share, decrease support costs, and increase customer retention.
The reasons behind the importance of user experience in eCommerce are:
The fundamental purpose of an eCommerce site is to encourage and increase conversions, turning visitors of the site into purchasing customers. One of the most important factors influencing conversion rates is the user experience. Strategic improvements to user experience have been found to have the potential of boosting conversion rates by a maximum of 400%.
A good UX and fast site speed encourage users to spend more time on your eCommerce site and make purchases. Users should be able to understand your site, find the desired products and pages, and complete the payment and transaction process in a simple manner. An unappealing UX results in high bounce rates and can compromise all other conversion efforts. The goal should be to make it as easy as possible for users to purchase from your eCommerce site.
- Customer Retention
Gaining new customers is an important part of online selling, however, customer acquisition is not enough for business growth if you do not focus on customer retention. By building a loyal base of customers, you can improve sales significantly, both in terms of sales volume and cost. Returning customers are more likely to have larger average sales volumes as compared to new customers. There is a 60-70% chance of selling to returning customers as opposed to 5-20% for new customers.
User experience has a significant impact on customer retention, as customers are much more likely to return to an eCommerce site with a positive UX. Most customers prefer repeat orders on tried and trusted eCommerce sites, rather than looking for a new site each time. An effective UX can help you capitalise on this preference, by offering customised segmentation, instant checkouts, specialised pages, and customer loyalty programs.
For sustained business growth and expansion, branding is necessary, so that your business becomes known by your brand name, stands out from the crowd and is distinguished from competitors. Branding is especially important for eCommerce businesses as there is extensive competition in the market and eCommerce sites run the risk of looking similar. Good quality UX results in positive associations with your brand, helps build brand trust and generate a loyal following.
The user experience is a representation of your brand and will become synonymous with your brand image. For branding purposes, the appearance of the eCommerce site is an important factor, in addition to the usability. A visually appealing eCommerce site with memorable designs and logos, supported by adequate usability is a great starting point for branding. Supplementing the site with unique elements further helps in creating a memorable UX and strong brand image.
Elements of Good UX
When it comes to eCommerce sites, the overall term user experience refers to a vast range of elements. It is the combination of a variety of aspects of your eCommerce site that will deliver the final cohesive user experience to your customers. If you are lagging behind in any of the important elements of UX, that might become the point at which customers turn away.
Here are the important elements of a good UX:
1. Site Appearance and Usability
Initial eCommerce sites often glossed over the importance of the appearance of the website, believing that products and service were enough. For modern consumers, the appearance of a site has a greater impact. Nearly 38% of online shoppers are likely to leave a website if they feel the site design is unattractive. An eCommerce site should be attractive with fast loading images to increase the visual appeal. The design and layout should be different from popular eCommerce sites to make it more unique. Navigation should be simple and straightforward so that customers can easily browse and select products.
Along with an attractive website, it should also support excellent usability. The eCommerce site should be fast loading, as users tend to leave a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load. There should be adequate security so that users feel safe while browsing and purchasing. Offering a knowledge base on your eCommerce website is a useful option, for example a blog or resource centre. A knowledge base is great for content marketing and also serves as a single point answer to any questions a user may have.
User experience is all about building a relationship with customers, and offering adequate customer support is a part of gaining trust. Based on your capabilities, offer multiple means of support that the customers can access. These can include online FAQs, email response, and live chats. Be sure to indicate accurate response times for emails and live chats, so that customers know what to expect. Having the option for product reviews and ratings can help customers gain confidence on purchasing products.
2. Promotions and Offers
Promotions and offers are always attractive for users, and are an effective way to generate a positive user experience. They have a significant impact on conversion rates. A survey found that nearly two-thirds consumers admit to making purchases not originally planned due to promotions and offers. In addition, 80% of surveyed consumers claimed that promotions encouraged them to make a first-time purchase with a new brand. Setting up clearly explained general offers, discounts, and promotions on the homepage, product pages, banners, and at the checkout is a useful way to bring attention to them.
Beyond generic promotions, personalised offers and shopping experiences are an even better way to improve the UX, by making the customer feel valued and understood. With the aid of AI and machine learning, your eCommerce platform can generate dedicated recommendations for customers, in real-time and over email. Tailor-made recommendations have a significantly higher rate of success and can be used for promotions, product recommendations, upselling and cross-selling.
For an ideal user experience with promotions and offers, it is ideal to go with a mix of generic and personalised promotional offers. By supporting general offers, you can target new users for whom you might not have personal data, and even existing customers may find new items of interest. Personalised offers, on the other hand, are more focussed on existing customers. Regardless of promotions and offers, personalised product recommendations can be used full-time, boosting your sales without cutting into any profits.
With the prevalence of social media, having social media sharing capabilities is an easy and useful way to increase visibility and popularity, especially for any current promotions. Supporting social media sharing with pre-formatted links helps with publicity and customer engagement.
3. Product Availability and Logistics
When shopping online, users expect to be able to easily find accurate details about the available products, associated costs, availability and shipping. It can be discouraging for customers if they like a product, click to purchase and find out it is not available or cannot be shipped to their destination. To promote sales and conversions, build trust with the customer, and offer a positive UX, always offer utmost transparency.
The eCommerce website should always include accurate and real-time information on product availability and shipments. Indicate these details directly on the product page and so customers can make their decision before adding to cart. If possible, you can also include date of availability for out of stock items, or email notification options. By including email notification, you gain contact details and purchasing interest, and customers get easy notification without having to personally re-check the site.
Offering free shipping or fast-shipping options is a great way to further encourage customers to purchase, and enhance their UX. Many eCommerce platforms can be directly integrated with shipping providers to indicate real-time shipping costs and delivery times. If you sell globally or outside your state, make sure that shipments are supported and that the shipping details are up-to-date.
4. Checkout Processing and Payments
The checkout of your eCommerce site is a delicate and vital stop in completing the sales transaction. When a customer reaches the checkout, it indicates that there was a strong purchase intent. However, even at the checkout, many customers abandon their carts without purchasing. Research has found that 70% of shopping carts are abandoned before completing the purchase.
Abandoned carts are a major concern for eCommerce sites, and are often a direct result of poor UX. The users have come across something discouraging, resulting in them abandoning their shopping. Popular culprits for abandoned carts are high hidden costs like shipping, mandatory account creation, lengthy and cumbersome checkout processes, and limited payment options. Since they already reached the checkout point, the UX of product selection, browsing and navigation is most likely fine.
Offering a better UX can help mitigate the problem of abandoned carts, although it might not completely solve the issue. An ideal checkout process should be fast with as minimal steps as possible, allowing returning customers to pull up saved checkout data and proceed with instant checkouts. Have an option to checkout as a guest, so that users do not have to necessarily share personal details if they don’t want to. Support a variety of payment modes so that there is a suitable option for everyone. Ensure that all the pricing detail are clearly mentioned, including shipping, taxes and totals, so there is no surprise for users at the checkout.
5. Mobile Support
Mobile eCommerce or M-Commerce is gaining rapid popularity, and by 2021 M-Commerce sales are expected to account for more than half of the total world-wide online sales. Supporting mobile sales offers multiple benefits. With the same infrastructure, you can expand your customer base, offer a better UX, and facilitate greater convenience for returning customers. Users can shop while on the go, or whenever they have any free time, without having to spend time on a laptop or desktop computer.
Supporting M-Commerce involves a lot more than customers simply entering your site URL on a mobile device. Without mobile optimisation, standard eCommerce sites can be difficult to navigate and operate. Popular eCommerce platforms have dedicated features for mobile sales. The appearance and layout of the eCommerce site need to be responsive and mobile optimised and users able to easily click and navigate without having to zoom in.
Apart from appearance and navigation, all the important online shopping functionalities should be available on mobile devices. Customers should be able to do everything from browsing and selecting a product, to checking out and completing payments. Omni-channel support is also helpful, so that customers can switch between devices and interfaces while still having a constant shopping cart and account history. Enhanced accessibility with mobile devices is a useful way to provide a better UX.
Tips to Improve UX
If you already have a reasonably successful eCommerce site, it can be tempting to think that your user experience is fine. However, providing customers with a positive user experience is an on-going journey and should be regularly tested and revised, especially when new features and functionalities enter the market. On a frequent basis, view your eCommerce site from the point of view of a customer, and identify areas where you can improve further. Also check your competition, so that you can find out any new features they have incorporated.
Here are a few general tips to improve your UX:
- Visual Appeal: View your eCommerce site as an outsider, and see whether it is visually appealing. Does it have eye-catching elements? Are there good quality images? Is there an overload of information? Make required adjustments to improve the look and feel of your eCommerce site, so that it is attractive and unique.
- Easy Navigation: Check that your eCommerce site is easy to navigate, especially if you have added new products and/or categories. It is helpful to have a site structure where no individual page is farther than 3 clicks from the homepage.
- Improve Site Speed: On a regular basis check the speed of your eCommerce site, including on different days of the week and different times of the day. This will help you verify that your site speed is constant and the site is fast loading, even during heavy traffic.
- Real-time updates: For an eCommerce site, being up-to-date is essential. Check on your most popular products, new items, and even random items to verify their details and accuracy. Compare the details shown on the product page with the backend.
- Revise Content: An eCommerce website typically needs a lot of content, including for the home pages, product pages, category pages and knowledge base. Go through the content, especially the content for new and important products. Check that the details are up-to-date, the writing is crisp, and an adequate call to action is given.
- Quick Transactions: The speed of transactions has a big impact on your overall sales and abandoned carts. Make sure that transactions on your eCommerce site are fast and effortless by periodically placing orders and verifying their ease. Test both retuning customer and guest transactions for speed and efficiency.
- Avoid Hidden Charges: Any hidden charges can have a sizable negative impact on the user experience. Check that all the pricing details are visible, including shipping and taxes. View the prices given on the product page, the shopping cart and at the time of payment to verify any discrepancies.
- Accurate Recommendations: For any eCommerce site, product recommendations are an effective and simple way to increase the average order value. See all of the product recommendations for your best selling and new products to examine their relevancy and success in sales.
- Mobile Device Performance: Periodically go through the mobile device interface to check the performance of your site. Try viewing products, adding to the cart, viewing the cart from a desktop/laptop, and purchasing from a mobile device to make sure that the entire transaction goes smoothly.
- Customer Support Response: Try out the customer support to see the speed of response and quality of answers. Fast and informational responses are desirable to retain customer interest. If the response rate is slow due to overcrowding, identify the commonly asked questions and add them to your FAQs.
A positive user experience is absolutely vital for any eCommerce site as it has the biggest impact on converting leads into sales. Staying on top of your UX helps increase conversion rate, expand customer base, improve customer retention and support branding. When planning for a new eCommerce site, or revising the existing UX, always view the site from the point of view of the user.
If you already have an eCommerce site, regularly evaluating and revising the UX is recommended. High numbers of leads with low conversions, and frequent shopping cart abandonments are key indicators that your user experience needs to be improved. As eCommerce technology advances, there are upcoming and unique ways that you can offer your users a better experience, encouraging customer engagement and loyalty.
The user experience you offer to your customers is dependent upon the eCommerce platform you are using. Capable developers can help you get the best from the eCommerce platform, customise as desired, and identify and improve any errors or performance issues. Our team of certified developers at 18th Digitech can help you design an effective user experience and improve existing UX to bring more success, profits, and growth to your eCommerce business.