Shifting from storefronts to browser windows, more customers are shopping online instead of in-store. Many prefer online shopping for the affordability, convenience, and accessibility. Customers now make over half of their purchases online. In 2016, total e-commerce sales reached $394.9 billion, or 11.7% of total retail sales, up 15.6% over 2015.
With the continual rise of online shopping, e-commerce retailers need to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience. Test and evaluate your website for any obstacles or pain points that prevent customers from making a purchase. By understanding and mapping out customers’ needs and frustrations at each stage of their purchasing path, your business can reduce lost sales and maximize revenue.
Awareness: Poor Site Navigation
Your e-commerce website is the first place customers visit to get information about your products and brand. An important element of your website is site navigation. The site navigation should help customers find products easily. Unclear navigation can cause customers to feel confused, frustrated, and unsatisfied. When they can’t find what they’re looking for on your website, they’ll often turn to a competitor to fulfill their needs. Users will leave a website in less than a minute when they don’t know what to expect or do. Improving your site navigation creates a better online shopping experience, improves on-site engagement, and ultimately, increases sales.
Adding product categories is a helpful way to organize your website. They let customers know what to expect when visiting your website. Use clear labels that make sense for your products. Customers should be able to scan the navigation labels and immediately know where to find what they need. Be sure to follow common navigation conventions to prevent any user confusion. The navigation bar should either be at the top of the page or on the left sidebar.
Search functionality is another useful feature to have on your website. A search bar helps customers find what they need without having to browse. Include autocomplete in the search bar to speed up the search process. It also guarantees that customers’ searches will return a product result. Product image thumbnails can be incorporated into the search bar to provide more accurate results. Like the navigation bar, the search bar should be near the top of the page and visible to customers. By including a search bar on your website, customers spend less time looking for products and are closer to purchasing.
Consideration: Insufficient Product Information
A picture is worth a thousand words and that couldn’t be more true for the online shopping journey. When customers shop online, they can’t see and test out products like they can in-store. Instead, they rely on the content on your website to make an informed decision. Your job is to fill that information gap as much as possible so customers don’t need to guess about what they’re buying. Without enough product information, customers won’t feel confident or compelled enough to make a purchase.
High-resolution images and detailed product descriptions are key selling points for any e-commerce brand. Customers want to know as much as they can about the products they’re buying. Feature multiple images at different angles so customers get a full view of your products. Adding options to zoom in and enlarge photos removes any uncertainty about how products actually look like. Just as important as the images, product descriptions provide technical information about your products. They not only cover all the characteristics (color, size, materials, etc.), but also include details about manufacturing, functionality, and warranty.
Incorporating online reviews for your products also helps customers make an informed purchase. Reading reviews has become a standard part of online shopping, with more than 88% of customers using reviews to guide their purchase decision. User-generated reviews and ratings offer unbiased information about the quality and experience your products provide. You might be wondering, “Well, what about negative reviews?” Show them too. Products without negative reviews appear filtered which diminishes the credibility of positive reviews. Instead, use these reviews to resolve any customer issues, making your brand more personable and trustworthy.
Conversion: Complicated Checkout Process
So, you’ve gotten the customer to add items to their shopping cart. That must mean they’re ready to checkout, right? Not quite. There seems to be a gap in the user experience from online cart to checkout, causing customers to abandon their cart. Research shows that 74% of potential customers abandon their shopping cart during the checkout process. From login to payment, customers have to go through multiple steps before confirming their order. Creating a seamless checkout process ensures that more customers will complete their purchase and increase sales for your business.
If your checkout requires customers to make an account, that may be one of the reasons why customers are abandoning their cart. Consider including a “continue as a guest” option. Customers dislike creating a new account because it forces them to go through additional steps when all they want to do is buy their product.
The “continue as a guest” option allows customers to make their purchase without requiring extra effort from them. An effective approach is ask them if they would like to sign up for an account after they’ve completed their purchase. At this point, the customer has already entered their information during the order, so they’ll feel more inclined to create an account to save time for future purchases.
A common frustration that customers have throughout the checkout process is manually entering their information. Customers don’t want to spend more time than needed to place their order. As a result, e-commerce retailers need to reduce any unnecessary steps so customers can finish their order faster and more efficiently.
Give customers the option to save their payment and shipping information. This not only reduces the number of fields your customer has to fill out, but also lowers potential chances for entering wrong information. Making your checkout as simple as possible will help decrease customer drop-offs and lead to more completed transactions.
Advocacy: Limited Opportunities for Feedback
Now that the customer has placed their order, most e-commerce retailers would think their job is complete. “I’ve made a sale. What else do I need to do?” That’s where you’re missing out on an important opportunity to build customer trust and loyalty. You’ve already done all the groundwork to secure that initial sale, so the next step is to ensure those customers return to your website for future purchases. Be sure to empower customers with the tools and resources they need to be advocates for your brand. By giving them a voice to express their feedback, you’ll build a stronger relationship with customers.
Reliable and accessible customer service is a must-have for your business’ website. There’s much more uncertainty with online purchases than shopping in-store. That’s why e-commerce retailers need to offer customer service so they can anticipate and resolve customers’ concerns. Make it easy for customers to get their questions answered with a clear contact page on your website. Include different options to reach out, such as phone, email, and online form. Customers value great service, so provide them with responsive solutions to any issues they may have. 55% of customers would recommend a business for exceptional service, above product or price.
Creating a social media presence can also boost customer loyalty and engagement. Social media lets e-commerce brands showcase their personality and connect with customers through their products. Add an option for customers to submit images and videos of how they’re using your products. Then, feature the top picks as user-generated content (UGC) on your website. This builds an online community for your products, spreading brand awareness to other channels beyond your website.
As an e-commerce business, your website is the most valuable tool to sell products and generate revenue. From product browsing to checkout, make sure to address any setbacks that customers experience along their purchasing path. By incorporating a user-centered approach to your website, you can improve customer engagement, conversion, and retention, increasing revenue for your business.