In the e-commerce industry, building a seamless user experience on your website is crucial for ensuring customer retention. In my experience, the UX principles you use can have a major impact on whether or not you get this right. In this article, I share three key aspects of UX design that have helped my team improve our customers’ user journey, boost sales and drive conversions for my company.
I’ve been in the UX industry for 11 years, and am currently working at Vectra Business Technologies, where we help find e-commerce solutions for leading retail brands.
From my experience, I’ve come to understand that UX forms the backbone of any successful e-commerce site: When you can provide users with a smooth and enjoyable buying experience, you will drive sales, and most importantly, secure returning customers.
This might sound obvious, but getting this right can actually be quite complex. There are a lot of factors that come into play, which can make it easy to neglect underlying principles, especially when things look shiny on a surface level.
For example, imagine you own a bakery in the middle of town, and you bake fresh cinnamon buns every day – yum! You also sell these buns at a price much cheaper than your competitors, and package them up in a beautiful box complete with a big bow. Your staff are super friendly and the payment process is easy. Why wouldn’t your bakery be people’s go-to spot when you provide such excellent service? Well, you don’t have a front door and to get into your bakery, people have to squeeze in through a window at the back in a dark alley filled with stray cats. No one wants to do that so people stay away.
If you don’t provide an accessible, enjoyable experience when people visit your online shop, you risk having the same situation whereby people might visit once, but then never come back.
To avoid this, I’ve found that these are three of the most important UX elements to get right to ensure that customers return to your site:
- Landing pages that are easy to navigate with obvious ‘calls to action’
- Trust-building checkpoints – like secure payment gateways and easily accessible customer service contact details
- Good site speed
Here’s why these things are important and how we build them into our UX design.
User-friendly landing pages: People don’t stick around when it’s hard to do something
In e-commerce, a landing page should allow your customer to immediately understand what you have on offer and the process they must follow to get what they want. Essentially, this is the part where you let the customer in through the front door and not the window in the alley at the back.
To convince the user to complete their journey on your site, you need to get them excited about your products, make the product they want easy to find and provide them with a frictionless checkout experience.
If they struggle to do any of the above, they will likely drop off and not return.
We’ve learned that the first thing you need to have on a successful landing page are strong calls to action that are clearly visible. For example, these could be beautifully designed visual banners that highlight a product, grab the customer’s eye and clearly direct them to the next action point with a button or link. As another example, you could include a prominent “Add to Cart” button on the product page so that the customer can see that purchasing the product is easy.
I’ve also seen that it’s useful to make your value added services clear to see on your landing page as these tend to have a big impact on convincing customers to click through onto the product’s page. These include things like free delivery, next day delivery and discounts, for example.
Finally, I’ve seen that featuring new products is a great way to “expand” the customer’s journey by alerting them to products that they didn’t log onto your site to find. This adds to the “excitement” element and will encourage them to come back in future to see what else has been added to your site.
Trust-building checkpoints: Spending money online always comes with a risk, so make sure customers feel safe using your site
Once people have decided to buy something, they will need to provide you with their personal information for payment and delivery purposes. This is inherently risky for them, which means they are placing a lot of trust in your service to keep their information safe. If this information gets leaked or used for purposes that they didn’t consent to, you can almost guarantee they will never use the service again.
That’s why we’ve found it’s very important to ensure that you have the right security systems in place, and that you make these systems visible to users throughout their experience on your site. This way, they can be confident that everything they share with you is safe.
Here are a few checkpoints I’ve found are useful to build into the user journey to reassure users:
Easily accessible contact details
If the user has a question or a problem, make it as easy as possible for them to contact you.
**Providing multiple contact details, including a phone number, email address and physical address is a good idea too because it reassures users that you are “real” and not just a website floating around on the internet. **
Another good way to help users contact you easily is to have a live chat on your website, where users can ask questions and get real-time answers.
Multiple payment options
In today’s world, there are multiple ways to pay for things, and people gravitate towards the ones they feel safest using. In South Africa, these could be credit cards, or mobile payment options like SnapScan and eBucks.
Clearly displaying the payment options when users land on your check out page makes it clear that they have the option to use what suits them best, which will help make them feel comfortable before they are asked to enter their details.
On top of this, making it obvious that there is a secure 3rd party involved in the payment process confirms to users that the transaction will result in them receiving the item they have paid for.
Free delivery for orders over a certain amount
You’d be surprised at how much free shipping influences people’s behaviour when shopping online: When people open an online store’s website, we’ve found that they do so with the intention to find and buy a certain item. Generally, they plan to spend money on this particular thing and nothing else.
This means that, when they are met with a shipping fee – even if it’s a fraction of the price of the item they have put in their cart – they can be put off and abandon the order.
While it’s not feasible for all online stores to provide free shipping, I’ve seen that it makes a big difference to how many people complete their orders and return to your site in the future.
No one likes waiting, so make sure your site is speedy
Finally, we’ve learned that site speed plays an enormous role in how customers feel about your service.
However, a lot of online services don’t seem to give it the attention it deserves. If your page takes more than two seconds to load, we’ve seen that you will have a massive drop off.
In addition to losing customers who don’t want to stare at a blank white screen for more than five seconds, we’ve learned that slow load times can also affect your Google rankings. Here are some links to resources that I’ve found useful to learn more about this:
Every online store differs from the next one, and there is no set list of rules to guarantee increased conversion rates.
However, in my experience, the best way to repeatedly bring people back to your site is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. To create a great experience for them, you need to be in touch with what they think and feel throughout their journey on your site.
Researching and experimenting as much as possible is also a great way to keep building great experiences – what trends are other UX experts noticing in customers’ online behaviour? What are your competitors doing that you’re not? What particular service does your company offer that you could highlight?
Find the answers to these questions, and then leverage your customer base to answer them! At the end of the day, you’re building your site for them, so they should be the ones driving your UX implementations.
Kobus Swartz is Head of UX & Design at Vectra Business Technologies. He specialises in Magento Development and sweet converting UX Journeys. When he’s not busy breaking his Magento code base and throwing pixels around in Sketch, he plays his Fender Strat and builds custom guitars.