Friday, 31 May 2013

eCommerce Web Portal: Easy & Effective ways to improve User Experience

One of the easiest ways to improve the sales on an ecommerce website is to consistently improve the user experience of the online store. While many online stores try to compete on price, it is always more profitable to compete in user experience and win customer loyalty with an effective website.
The following results from a survey show the major reasons why customers do not complete their purchase from an ecommerce portal.

The following tips will help you develop a better user experience for your customers:

1. Website Performance
Performance of a website is crucial to retain a customer’s interest and his business. E-Commerce websites regularly fall prey to heavy websites which take long to load due to elements like JavaScript, images and other content. While it is recommended to keep website load time as low as possible, 1-2.5 second load times are considered acceptable for most visitors.

2. Consistent Branding
A consistent usage of branding elements conveys professionalism to a prospective customer. This is similar to running an offline store; you do not want your customer to feel that they are in a different shop every time they move from one floor to another. This means that your brand identity elements like logos, colors, etc. are consistent within the website and across all communication channels like email, social media and advertisements online and offline.

3. Simplified Checkout
While many strategists convince clients to simplify their checkout process to as few steps as possible, it is a delicate balance. Asking for too much information during checkout can annoy a customer, but asking for too little information can also make the customer feel that they have lost control of their shopping.
A big no-no in the checkout process is hidden charges. Customers expect to see what they are paying for in total, so, all costs including shipping & handling, taxes, etc should be conveyed before the final checkout.

4. Community Building
Product reviews build trust for an ecommerce website and increase interaction amongst customers. Reading reviews, good or bad about a particular product on an ecommerce store lets a customer take informed decisions on their purchase. E-Commerce giants like Amazon incentivize their customers to share their feedback with others with gamification of the process.

5. Search and Filter Options
The search and filter options are perhaps one of the most used functionalities of an ecommerce website, but are usually overlooked. Functionalities like auto-fill, product “quick view”, and checkbox based real time filters help customers find what they are looking for much faster than through conventional navigation menus.

6. Related Products
Related products on a product page engages customer to further browse your catalog and find what they are interested in. Having a related products module has been proven to reduce bounce rates on an ecommerce website.

7. Shipping Price and Return Policy
Upfront clarity on shipping prices and return policies increase the confidence of a customer. It empowers the visitor and assures them of the process that will be followed if they are not satisfied with their purchase. Clarity on shipping rates will reduce surprises in the check out process.

8. Security
More than 55% of customers believe that the lack of security or the perceived lack of it will influence their shopping behavior. A privacy policy link hidden in the footer of your website might not be the best way to convince these shoppers. Prominently feature your secure shopping credentials and hacker proof badges to convince customers that their payment information and personal data will not be compromised.

9. Social Media
It is not possible to discuss user experience without touching on the topic of social media. Social Media is the new internet; and to be profitable in this new media, companies should become more social. An overwhelming 83% of online shoppers believe that companies should not only have a social media presence, but should engage on these social platforms. Some immediate activities companies can do on social include
  • Give customers the option to share products on social media platforms
  • Provide a social shopping experience by connecting with social networks like Facebook providing insights into the products in a users’ immediate social circle.
  • Engage with followers in your social media channels through contests, rewards and coupon codes.
10. Support and Contact Info
Customers do not pick up the phone to contact their favourite ecommerce store! It is important to prominently display contact options on your website. Real time chats, support tickets and email addresses along with social media are the most popular ways online stores enhance their user experience.

Improving the user experience cannot be done using checklists. Some of the general points mentioned above work in a majority of situations, but there are solutions that are unique to your website which can be only discovered by a UX consultant and the path to the perfect user experience requires constant tweaking.
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