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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Monday, 13 May 2013

Excellent Article for Entrepreneurs - It is Spot on!

5 Things Founders Don't Talk About

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week I had a dozen business founders over for beer and pizza to catch up and talk shop. It’s one of my favorite things to do, because I think when you get a group of fellow founders in a room together, there’s instant fraternity among them. People let their guards down. When surrounded by peers, Founders talk about things that no one else can appreciate or understand.

After enough vodka gimlets, the conversation gets very, very honest.

Some of the founders present had already grown and sold companies, while others had just gotten started. Despite the wide spectrum of business stages, the sentiments shared were universal — no matter what industries their businesses were in, or how much they had accomplished.

Being a Founder Is Lonely

You don’t hear this a lot publicly, but man, being a founder is a lonely affair. By definition, you don’t have a lot of peers. When people at your company go to lunch, they have a common theme — they can complain about management. But you are management. You can’t go to lunch and complain to anyone.

If you’re lucky, you have a spouse that truly understands what you do and can be someone you confide in. Few people are that lucky. This leaves most founders with no one to talk to at work and on one to confide in at home. Considering the incredible degree of personal emotion invested into a startup, it’s very difficult to be isolated when dealing with those emotions. Not an awesome feeling.

Being a Founder Is Riddled With Doubt

There are generally two types of founders — those who have no idea if things are going to work out, and those that are lying about it. None of us has a crystal ball. We have no idea whether or not what we’re doing is going to work. That’s part of being a startup founder.  But to the outside world, you need to project 100 percent confidence in your approach.

Building on a foundation riddled with doubt creates an anxiety funhouse of emotions.  There are only hints of positive progress, like signing up a new customer or launching a product. Beyond that, it’s just a constant stream of problems and challenges that rarely come with a prescription for fixing them. It’s incredibly draining and wears heavily on you.

Being a Founder Bankrupts You

On top of the emotional roller coaster comes an absolute torrent of debt and financial stress. Founders are the last to get paid, and by the time the company ever makes it to a point where it can start paying the founder, it’s typically at a cost of that can almost never be repaid.

You hear about founders cashing out for millions, an end that clearly justifies the means to get there. But what about the period in between? What does it mean to invest everything into a company and have no idea if it will ever come back? What does it mean to not be able to plan on ever having income, but knowing that you have serious looming expenses? It’s brutal.

These aren’t problems people like to share, but they exist. And they suck. Very few people will ever have a big payday, and even when they do, its comes long after you’ve already lost everything you had. People with steady paychecks would think that’s an insane path, and they would be right.

Failure Haunts You

The overarching theme to everyone’s story was that of pending failure. I think we tend to downplay the failure of a startup because “it happens all the time.” But so do car accidents — they just happen to be visibly damaging, and harder to minimize.

The problem with failure isn’t the failing itself, it’s the shroud of anxiety that precedes it.  It’s a constant reminder that you may have made a mistake, lost money, wasted time, and ruined your reputation. It haunts you endlessly, and it rarely stops when you have a breakthrough moment.

It Can Feel Inescapable

When things are going well, it’s great to be the founder. But when the ship is sinking, the captain has to go down with it. And that fact isn’t lost on any founder.

You don’t hear about too many startups where the founder leaves to get another job while the rest of the company sticks around to see if they will ever make it. Well, maybe in a venture-backed startup with lots of cash left over, but there aren’t  many of those out there.

More likely, if everything goes south, the founder will be the one left holding down the fort while everyone else flees. Employees can get other jobs, probably with better pay. But the founder’s name is on the office lease with three years left to go and zero revenue. Knowing you have set ties that cannot easily be broken weighs on you constantly.

These Conversations Need to Happen

As a group of founders, it’s always easier to talk about popular topics like customer acquisition or business development deals. It’s harder to talk about personal feelings, especially when they relate to failing.

But those personal feelings in many ways are the cornerstone of running a startup. We don’t struggle with technical problems, we struggle with emotional ones. And sometimes it just helps to know that we’re not the only people dealing with the anxiety of failure and doubt.

If that means taking more opportunities to combine good founders with a few delicious drinks, so be it.  These conversations need to happen.

Courtesy of YEC

Wil Schroter is a serial entrepreneur and fundraising veteran. At age 19 he started his first company, Blue Diesel, which merged with what is today inVentiv, a company that now generates over $1.8 billion per year in billings and has over 13,000 employees globally. Wil is currently the CEO and Co-Founder of Fundable, a crowdfunding platform for small businesses that allows them to raise capital online.