If you sell products or services online, you know that a well-designed site is crucial for success. You have probably put a lot of thought into the look and feel of your site, using attractive, readable colors and fonts, and selecting featured product images that are engaging and compelling.
You have also probably thought carefully about the wording on your site, to make sure your customers clearly understand the value and benefits of what you offer. You’re displaying this content using a well-architected site layout that follows the voice and aesthetic of your brand. You’ve put a lot of work into your website design, but is there more you can do to improve the shopping experience for your customer?
Good website design is about so much more than colors, fonts, or images. A well-designed experience reduces friction, streamlines the user experience, and guides the user through the process to their desired outcome. In other words, good design makes things easier. It doesn’t matter how attractive something is if the experience is frustrating or difficult to use.
This is especially true when designing a complex interface like an ecommerce site. A poorly designed ecommerce site is often difficult to navigate, challenging to add products, unclear how to find what is in your cart, and has a confusing or complicated checkout process. Any one of these points of friction can result in a lost sale from an otherwise interested purchaser. However, there are ways of avoiding these issues by thinking about design decisions throughout the shopping process.
To create an optimized commerce experience that can help you maximize sales, remember to make it easy to…
Shop on any device
Customers want to be able to purchase your product or service no matter where they are or which device they are using. Make sure your content is optimized for all screen sizes (not to mention network bandwidth). Your customers expect access to all the functionality of your site at all times, regardless of whether they are on a phone, tablet, or computer. Ensure you’re not hiding or limiting what they can do based on their device.
Save items for later
Even if a customer isn’t ready to make a purchase yet, it’s still possible to make their experience more streamlined. If you let them save items for later, they will be more likely to complete a purchase in the future. Consider adding functionality like a shopping list or favorites list to your site. While you’re putting this together, think about how else you can add value. For example, is it likely your customers will want to compare items to see which is best for them? Or share their list with someone else?
Add items to the cart
Hooray, your customer has found something they want! Create a frictionless experience for adding an item to their cart by making it as painless and simple as possible. Make sure your calls to action (such as the add to cart button) are clearly worded and simple to find, and that all options (such as sizes, colors, tiers, or other price points) are spelled out in a visible location. Your customer might make their decision at different points in the process, such as the single product view or a product archive view, so ensure that the add to cart action is present everywhere to enable this behavior in the fewest amount of clicks.
If you have created a saved product list, it’s important to be able to convert those items to a sale as well! No matter where they take action, you should clearly communicate an item has been added to the cart, whether through a popup, tooltip, menu, or other visual cue that indicates success.
See what’s in the cart
Once an item has been added to the cart, your customer may have additional shopping to do, or they may already have other products in their cart from a previous interaction. It’s crucial to make it easy to view which products are in their cart, and how many of each they have. In addition, your cart should be accessible from any page on your site. Many sites will add a cart icon to their primary or secondary menu that displays the total cost and/or total quantity of items in the cart. Often times, clicking on this icon will reveal a “mini-cart,” or smaller popover/dropdown interface that contains a high level summary of all products, with the ability to visit the main cart page to view more details or check out.
Change the quantity of items in the cart
Sometimes, your customer will want to alter the quantity of items they have added to the cart. They may have accidentally added a duplicate item that they want to remove, or they may want to increase the number on a certain item to meet a sale or discount criteria. It should be a smooth process to increase, decrease, or completely remove items from the cart. If you have a “mini-cart” on your site, consider incorporating this functionality there, so your customers can edit their cart without leaving the current page.
See how much the purchase will cost
It may seem obvious that customers on an ecommerce website are interested in knowing how much they will be paying for their items, but often times the true cost will be more than just the listed price. In addition to clearly communicating any incentives, such as discounts, sales, or bundles, your customers want you to be transparent with all added costs as well. Do you need to collect sales tax? Are there processing or handling fees? Is there a shipping cost? Is the purchase one-time, or recurring? Clearly communicating all of these items on the cart page (as well as a comprehensive total alongside your cart menu icon or within your “mini-cart”) will affirm trust and enable the checkout process to proceed smoothly.
Get the items when they’re needed
Knowing when and how they’ll receive their order is a major factor in whether a customer decides to go through with an online purchase. This is especially crucial if you are shipping physical goods. In an age where the dominating online retailers provide fast, cheap shipping, it will probably be difficult to compete simply on price. In that case, it’s important to be very clear with your shipping options. Your customers want to know where you ship, how quickly an item will be sent out, and when they can expect delivery. Can you offer free shipping for a certain dollar amount? Do you offer the ability to pay for expedited shipping if necessary? Does your shipping come with tracking? Provide your customers with options that fit their needs.
Your customer is ready to make a purchase. This is the easy part, right? Not so fast. After you’ve worked so hard on creating a streamlined, trustworthy add-to-cart process, don’t lose your customers by forgetting to optimize your checkout as well. First, make sure they can checkout no matter where they are on the site. You never know at what point they will be ready to buy! Next, be clear about your payment process. In addition to specifying which credit cards you support, are you able to support any other payment types (like PayPal, Apple Pay, or Google Pay)? What kind of currency do you accept? Will there be any fees for converting between currencies?
Also, if possible, try to keep your checkout process to a single page, or within your site, to reduce the amount of friction needed to complete the purchase. If you must go to a second page or send your customers offsite, be very clear about the steps involved and make sure your integration is clear and smooth. Most importantly, if at all possible, make sure your customer has the option to checkout as a guest, without requiring them to have an account on your site. You can explain the benefits of getting an account (ability to track orders, collect rewards points, easier support process, etc), but creating an account should never stand between you and closing a sale.
Know what happens next
Establish trust by making your entire process transparent for your customers. Whether it’s where to add coupons or discount codes, how many pages in the payment process, or how to view their order status, when they know what to expect, they will feel confident in doing business with you.
Get in touch
Sometimes, even the most streamlined and optimized customer experience will still benefit from the ability to talk with a real person. Help direct your customer to the proper channels for getting their questions answered. Providing access to a comprehensive FAQ for some of the most common requests (such as shipping guidelines, return policies, or customer inquiries) along with links to your preferred email or customer support platform goes a long way toward making your customers feel at ease with making a purchase.
This was the 9th installment of our Black Friday series. Eager for more tips on optimizing your ecommerce performance? Stay tuned for more posts just like this one featuring industry experts and some of our technical partners. Learn how to improve your website design, conversions, online marketing, and more.