Monday, December 9, 2013

Features of a Good E-commerce Experience, Part Two

This post is the second of two discussing components that enhance the user experience (UX) of an eCommerce site. Just like in the previous post, I’d like to remind you that following this guide and using other eCommerce heuristics will only get you so far. The best approach to designing a winning eCommerce site is to design it to honor your customers’ wants and needs. That’s the secret sauce for designing a good experience that fosters repeat visits. How to derive that information is another blog post, but here’s a hint: it’s not rocket science and consists of just a few steps. Those steps are as follows:

  1. Ask your customers about what they want and need.
  2. Include them early and often in the design process.
  3. Test.
  4. Make changes based on your findings.
  5. Repeat as needed.


Okay. Let’s resume our conversation about features of successful eCommerce sites. We worked through the first three already, so we will pick back up with Easy to Order and move on to Friendly Post-Sales.

In the first blog post, I discussed Simple Registration, Clear Navigation, and Robust Search. In this post, I’ll discuss Easy to Order and Friendly Post-Sales.

Again, in an attempt at brevity, I didn’t include images for all components, but I did include some for the more abstract topics.

Easy Order

  1. Robust product display page (PDP)

    The PDP is a proxy for the in-store experience so it needs to be rich with detailed information and product views. Some must-have features are: zoom for more detail, product compare with side-by-side details (typical details are: size, materials, fabric weight, color, and dimensions- but this obviously depends on what you are selling), and on-the-fly inventory. It cannot be overstressed that ratings are very important to customers making decisions (see Social/Reviews below). Your PDP is your agent; make sure it is equipped to sell.
  2. Frame of reference

    Interactive or comparative content such as video or images from multiple vantage points provide a frame of reference that is not native to online shopping. Customers use the tools and get a better sense of the item, which makes them more inclined to purchase online.
  3. Social/Reviews

    According to Bazaar Voice, customers who read reviews and participate in Q&A are 105% more likely to purchase and their purchases will be 11% higher than customers who don’t interact with other site users. What is more, reviews serve as unique, updated content that begets an SEO boost, so more people will find your site. Gravy!
  4. Anticipated entry

    This one is simple- instead of forcing customers to indicate the quantity desired, which is typically one (1), auto-populate the field to prevent unnecessary errors and simplify the flow.
  5. Animated shopping cart

    Don’t ferry your customer out of the shopping flow once they’ve added something to the cart- use an animated shopping cart to give feedback while maintaining focus on the current page. It’s smart to include any upselling features, such as a service plan or extended warranty, in the shopping cart. This is also a good place to remind shoppers of your shipping policy. Nordstrom does a nice job with this feature.

  6. Continuous checkout

    As more eCommerce customers use multiple screens (e.g. laptop, tablet, mobile phone) it’s important that they can jump from one device to another and pick up where they left off. The cart should remain the same regardless of which format they are using. Please, let me add something to my cart when I am on my couch and purchase it when I am at a red light later (in the passenger seat, of course).
  7. Progress indicator

    A checkout progress indicator makes the process seem simple because it helps customers grasp where they are in the process and what steps need to happen to complete the checkout.

    The progress bar should also act as navigation, so customers can move back and forth in the edit a credit card or shipping address.
  8. Payment type

    Not all customers have credit cards or want to enter them online. Make sure you accommodate various payment types like PayPal and Google wallet.
  9. Shipping

    Your shipping policy should be simple and clearly outlined (e.g. to which countries do you ship and what are the shipping options and fees) with no restrictions that could act as a barrier to a sale. Most eCommerce sites offer next day or two day shipping, and many offer free shipping both ways.

Friendly Post-Sales

Great- your customer made a purchase, but that’s not the end of the story. You want your customers to come back, right? Zappos has over $1B in annual sales and 75% of sales are from repeat customers. There’s a suite of services that you should provide to make customers feel secure in doing business with you again.

  1. Tracking

    One of the drawbacks to purchasing online is the lack of immediacy of having the product in-hand. You can mitigate that pain by having a tracking system in place.
  2. Flexible return policy

    Return policies should be flexible, and your return process needs to be simple enough to be completed in a few steps. To preempt buyer’s remorse, the return policy should be prominent and clearly stated throughout your site.

    If your return policy is a bit more complicated, that’s okay- there are ways to soften that perception. An example: progress bars illustrate the number of steps in the process and let your customer know the current step in the process.
  3. Assistance

    Sometimes having the tracking number and online return process isn’t enough and sometimes your customers are going to want to work with a human (as they say). Provide multiple channels so that your customers can get to the right human quickly. You may not need this many options, but Costco is a good example for how to provide assistance.
  4. Feedback

    Your feedback channel is essential for understanding the voice of the customer and for gathering what improvements should be made to the site to improve customer experience. It also helps you understand what NOT to change on your site based on positive reviews.

So, that’s it! 19 different components of an eCommerce site done well. Using these guidelines- and involving your customers early and often- should get you on your way to a solid eCommerce site that your customers will find a joy to use. This brings you revenue as well as a chance to continue to learn about customer behaviors and preferences. A true twofer.