User experience (UX) is undervalued. eCommerce brands pour thousands of euros in ads, research, and development, yet UX is overlooked. This is a big problem, bigger than most people believe it is. It is one that affects every part of your business, your visitors, customers, and your profits.
Designing and building eCommerce brands is something we do on a daily basis at Story of AMS. Over the years we have learned a thing or two about the importance of a great user experience. With this article we aim to transfer our knowledge to you, so you can delight your customers and win the next decade of eCommerce.
Read on to learn everything about:
What is the user experience and why should brands care?
How to stay ahead of user expectations?
5 eCommerce UX best practices
How to spot UX mistakes on your site
User experience (UX) is the overall experience a customer has when visiting your webshop, from beginning to end. The core idea of user experience design is to get inside the head of your customer and figure out what will provide them a simple, intuitive, and enjoyable shopping experience. When you think of UX however, you are probably thinking about visuals. This is correct but there goes a lot more into creating a pleasant user experience than visuals. The user experience also focuses on, for example, site speed, navigation, mobile users, how copy and products are portrayed, the on-site customer journey and the list goes on.
To achieve all this, user experience design focuses on 4 key aspects:
1. Utility: Lays emphasis on the ease of use when choosing and buying products from your website.
2. Usability: focuses on making the customer journey clear and easy. The goal? An on-site journey without unnecessary clicks, no time lost on loading overloaded pages or inconvenient menus.
3. Accessibility: considers designs that can be used by different categories of users, for example, people with disabilities or a low level of tech literacy.
4. Desirability: focuses on the look and feel of the website which will make the experience enjoyable and make users want to come back. Did you know that 38% of online shoppers will leave a website if they find the design to be unattractive?
In short, every aspect of your website influences the user experience, hence it’s much more than only its aesthetics. This makes it clear why eCommerce brands or any brand for that matter should care about their user experience. If the experience is bad, a visitor will never turn into a customer because they simply leave, or worse, leave with a negative feeling about your brand.
In eCommerce, there are a lot of factors that determine success. The quality of the product offered and the quality of the content presenting the offer to customers. There are also more practical factors in play like payment methods, shipping speed, and return options. However, the user experience is also vital to a company's success and can’t be overlooked. If the experience isn’t great, customers have a lot of different brands to choose from. There are over 3 million Shopify merchants. Back in the day, there were only a few brick-and-mortar stores that sold the product you were looking for. Whether the experience in that store was good or bad didn’t matter as much since this was your only option. Those days are over. If your UX is frustrating or just plain bad, shoppers won’t hesitate to go elsewhere. And don’t underestimate how easily shoppers switch brands nowadays. 57% of shoppers already abandon carts because of comparison shopping, regardless of the user experience.
Improving UX has many benefits but at the core of those benefits is to turn current traffic into paying customers. And while UI focuses on what looks nice on a page and the brand, UX focuses on better understanding the customer’s intent and how to help them achieve their goals. The entire purpose of UX is to make sure that the product and user experience you’ve created are producing the results your customers need. To do this, you must design your online store with customers in mind. These are the 5 UX best practices we keep in mind when building an eCommerce website.
1. Prioritize functionality over everything else
Of course, design is important. But It’s not about being fancy, design has to be functional. If you are into design you have probably heard about parallax scrolling, automatic image sliders, and many other hot and happening design elements. While these typically look nice, the problem is that they don’t always function well and don’t serve the goal of a website or webpage. Parallax effects are often implemented unnecessarily or poorly. Automatic image sliders can be a distraction on certain pages and slow down page speed.
As mentioned above, great visuals are important, a website and brand need to look great, but above all, it needs to function. Every element on your website needs to support a visitor in reaching his or her goal. Whether that is searching for a product, learning about it, or making a purchase. After all, people visit your website with a goal. They didn’t just stumble upon your website out of boredom, although there might be a few instances this does happen:) Nonetheless, you should focus your design on helping your customers achieve their goals.
2. Copy and content should lead design
The big debate: are you going to design based on content or create content based on design? Over the years we have learned that in order to create a good user experience, content creation should lead design. Why? Well, the answer is simple. Design should support and empower your content and not the other way around. People don’t buy products because the website looks nice but because they got convinced by the value proposition and content. Hence, content needs to lead design.
Then there are also people who believe that you should start with design because you can start earlier with it. Their reasoning, you don’t need certain info about the brand, like the value proposition, in order to start designing. This is not true, because just as with content, good design needs to be informed about the business. USPs of the product, target audience, tone, and voice of the brand and positioning should all be clear before getting started with design or content. This ties back into what was mentioned earlier. Design should support and empower your content.
3. Focus on an intuitive navigation
Intuitive is a word that gets thrown around a lot but what is it exactly? Well, when visitors can do what they want to do on your site without much effort or interruption, your site is intuitive. When a website is not intuitive, your user experience isn’t doing its job. One of the biggest deal-breakers for eCommerce brands is navigation. eCommerce is built around people finding the products they need themselves, intuitive navigation is therefore vital. If visitors aren’t able to discover the products they need you generally have a large problem. They either leave and buy from another webshop or buy from your online store but will less likely return for a repeat purchase.
4. UX for mobile should be treated separately
Of all the shopping channels available to customers, mobile commerce is taking the lead. By 2024 it’s predicted that 187.5 million people will shop via their smartphones. Despite its dominance and thus importance, shopping on your mobile is sometimes still a struggle. Many webshops aren’t optimized or even working properly on mobile devices. Did you know that 57% of customers won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website?
Just because you have a good desktop UX doesn’t mean you have a good mobile UX. There are obvious reasons for this such as the difference in screen dimensions but also more subtle ones. People actually want something very different from your store on mobile than they do on desktop. For example, 61% of all mobile users go to their desktop/laptop to complete their mobile orders. Having a safe shopping cart feature in place is thus essential. Speed is also even more important than ever on mobile devices. Mobile users that are browsing your webshop are particularly distracted and impatient. They are getting bombarded with messages and notifications. Keeping this in mind when creating the user experience already puts you ahead of the competition.
5. Show, don’t tell (User Generated Content)
In eCommerce, people rely heavily on other people's reviews. Out of all the advantages eCommerce offers, its main disadvantage is that people aren’t able to get in contact with the product before buying it. Hence, customers love seeing endorsements from others who have bought and loved your products. By using customer photos in your product recommendations and product detail pages you are creating a personal, approachable, and visually engaging customer experience that tells an authentic story about your brand and products.
When we are talking about ‘show, don’t tell it’s all about showcasing genuine customer outcomes. Highlight your best testimonials and customer positive reviews so that customers are able to believe your claim. Trust is what matters today and nothing builds trust like real-time evidence from real customers.
Your competitors are just a Google search away, and switching brands is no big deal for today's customers. It’s therefore vital that you not only have a great user experience in place but also stay ahead of user expectations. We have listed a few factors that can help you stay ahead.
Omnichannel: if you are reading this and have a brick-and-mortar location or even multiple. Integrate your stores with your eCommerce website. This way you can offer an omnichannel experience which is great for business. For example, order online pick up in a store. Harvard recently found that omnichannel shoppers spent 4% more in-store and 10% more online. Try offering services where a user can easily return products purchased online to a retail store. Or discover new products in-store and buy online.
Page speed: Page speed is of the utmost importance, not only because consumers want what they are looking for as fast as possible but also because of SEO. In June 2021, Google announced a big change to its algorithm. Page speed was going to become more important than ever. Now Google looks at the largest contentful paint, cumulative layout shit, and first input delay. In simpler terms, this is what Google’s algorithm uses to assess page loading speeds. If your website isn’t fast, you can put as much effort as you want into SEO but it will not work like it used to do. Then back to your customers, according to several researchers, 9.6% of visitors will bounce off your page if the load speed is more than two seconds. Make sure your web pages load quickly and monitor this constantly.
Stay up to date: Amazon.com is undoubtedly the godfather of eCommerce. Although the site in our humble opinion looks pretty bad, they are however famous for their A/B testing. From the shopping cart to the buy now buttons and customer reviews. They constantly try to better the user experience and portray the most crucial information as best as possible. eCommerce sites in the end are not just meant to be built, they are built to be improved. Always keep your content fresh, information up to date, and your stock in check.
Ask for feedback: In order to stay ahead of customer expectations, you need to talk to them. On a regular basis eCommerce brands of any size need to ask for feedback. You can stay in close contact by offering a live chat, sending out emails on a regular basis, and touching base with customers on social or at events in a post-pandemic world. Even better, ask your most loyal customers what they love and might miss or want from your brand through email. In the end, your customers have all the answers, so why not leverage your direct-to-consumer relationship.
Every eCommerce business is different and every eCommerce site has different UX problems. The best way to spot any UX mistakes on your website is by doing research. More specifically, user research. While this can sound complicated there are numerous tools that can help you spot UX problems.
Google Analytics can help you understand crucial information about your user experience. With google analytics, you can define drop-off points. Where are visitors leaving the website, or falling out of the funnel? Are they making it beyond the product page? Look at scroll depth and click intent. Use Google Tag Manager to keep an eye on scroll depth and click intent. You can see how far down people scroll down on certain pages and restructure your messaging layout accordingly. Then there are session replays with which you can see how visitors are navigating your websites. Where do they click? What do they struggle with? A great tool for this is Hotjar.
You can also step away from software solutions and get into the real world. Ask people to scroll through your site based on your specific instruction. “Find a dark blue pair of jeans for under $90 dollars and add it to your cart”. You can then watch what they are doing and get a lot of valuable information out of it. Something else you can do is run the ‘5 Second Test’. With this test, you show your site for a short period of time to different people to see if your messaging and value proposition are clear. There are of course many other methods to conduct user research. Use the method you think will give you the best results.
No matter the industry or size of your brand, if you have an eCommerce site, you need to take a close look at the user experience. Customers need to be empowered and informed in order to make a purchase. If the user experience isn’t great, customers have no problem switching to competitors. Many eCommerce brands, to this day, undervalue and therefore under-invest in the user experience. Which is strange because of the large impact it has on your success. See this as a chance to stand out, invest in your user experience, and let it be your next competitive advantage.
UX is everything that old school graphic design and UI aren’t. User experience design (UX) is data- and customer-driven, focused on helping customers accomplish their goals. User interface design (UI) is focused on looking nice.
UX is critical to eCommerce because it ensures your customers can easily navigate your website and have easy access to the information they need to buy your products.
Organised & Easy to Navigate Website Structure.
Get Customer Feedback.
Offer Save to Wishlist Option.
Offer save to cart options across devices.
If you have a brick and mortar store, create an Omnichannel Experience.
Leverage user generated content for social Proof.
Optimise your page speed, both your customers and Google (SEO) find this very important.
Use attractive and clear calls to action.
Use high-quality content that let's customers visualise your products.
Include well-designed and written headlines.