There are a few elements of site design which are widely understood to adversely affect online business. White Labelled, an outsourced digital agency that provides white labelled services for companies to re-brand as their own, gives advice on design mistakes and how to avoid them.
When it comes to designing your e-commerce site, consider your own personal online retail experiences. What’s out there? What kind of features do I appreciate when shopping online? Which features cause me to abandon the shopping cart or leave the site? A good place to start is with White Labelled‘s no holds barred guide to site design worst practices.
1. Limited Description and Small or No Images.
If consumers come to your site and can’t answer questions like ‘Is this the product I’m looking for?’, ‘Does it fit my needs?’, or ‘What does it come with?’ then you need to reevaluate your product presentation.
Along with large, detailed and clear images, you should provide:
- A plain English product description.
- Practical information.
- Technical data.
Remember that a website works outside of office hours, so replicate the sales information your sales reps would usually supply. Your website is your salesperson.
2. Hard to Find Support and Contact Information
When support and contact information isn’t easily accessible, online consumers will start questioning the sincerity of your business (see Customer Contact and Support Tools – Best Practices for Online Retailers). You don’t want customers to start doubting the fact you are a real company or to give them any reason not to trust you.
You need to provide:
- A visible phone number.
- A defined support process (form and/or phone and/or email).
- Thorough FAQs.
- Store policies including information on returns, refunds, customer service and delivery.
- Shipping rates.
If you have the manpower, look to implementing realtime customer service solutions including live chat and social media channels.
3. Long and Difficult Checkout Process (Poor Cart Design)
How many times have you abandoned a shopping cart because the purchasing process has become difficult and lengthy? Many things contribute to a potential sale suddenly being put in the “too hard basket” including multiple clicks, login or registry requirements in order to buy, and the filling out of information deemed unnecessary.
You must work towards:
- A single page checkout.
- Consolidating data entry form.
- Using best practice checkout design principles.
Other ways in which to manage shopping cart abandonment can be found here: Top Tips for Reducing Shopping Cart Abandonment and Driving Conversions.
4. Requiring an Account to Order
Ask yourself this – when are you forced to fill out a form in bricks and mortar stores in order to buy product? Most of the time, online consumers just want to buy – and not be your friend.
- Provide the checkout process.
- Offer account creation options after the purchase.
- Re-use information from checkout to create an account.
- Don’t duplicate the request.
5. Unreliable Site Search or No Site Search
If your site search isn’t up to scratch, people will leave altogether and opt to use Google or other search engines to find what they require, which could ultimately lead them to a different store.
(For more information on site search refinements click here.)
For good business:
- Implement a site search engine.
- Provide prominent and global placement of search box.
- Offer search result filtering.
- Defined product versus content in the search results.
- Implement faceted/guided information.
6. Poor Customer Service Process
To get a good idea of where to start with customer service practices, please read Customer Contact and Support Tools – Best Practice for Online Retailers. Also look to:
- Define company wide customer service strategy.
- Promote strategy internally and externally.
- Deliver on the promise.
- Promote service options at key touch points.
- Make it easy, reiterate common questions in FAQs, repeat information.
7. No Cross-sell, Up-sell or Related Products
How many times have you walked into a fast food outlet and walked out with more than you were originally intending to buy? Say those extra fries or that large Coke? If a product isn’t there for the suggestive sell, don’t assume the consumer will think of it naturally as an add on or enhancement to what they are already buying on your site. To be a successful online retailer, you need to implement the following:
- Link related products.
- Learn about behaviours on your site and respond to it.
- Ultimate goal should be to increase your cart size.
- Make product placement relevant – product detail, cart checkout etc.
8. Limited Payment Options
Ever heard the expression “I couldn’t even pay him to take my money!”? It’s important to make sure your payment processes cover all options and are as simplified as possible.
- Provide as many payment options that are practical.
- Use popular payment oprions such as Visa, MasterCard, AMEX and PayPal.
- If possible provide payment via EFT or cheque/money order.
- Strive towards a one click check out.
9. Not Recognising Repeat Visitors – Your Customers
We all know the frustration of being served by the same shop assistant in a shop we frequent regularly – and not being recognised. Or worse, when it happens at your favourite restaurant! We want some acknowledgment, something to feel like we are a little bit more special than the next person in line. Just because an online store seems faceless, don’t think a lack of recognition doesn’t hurt conversions and sales. They key is to personalise the customer experience – if you have doubts about the powers of personalisation, read The Relevance of Personalising the Customer Experience.
You can start personalising your site by:
- Acknowledging a return visitor. Show what they previously viewed.
- Keeping previous session info. Use it for cross and up-sells.
- Personalising the customer experience. Relevance is key!
- Pre-populate forms and known data.
- All things considered, still allow customers to change their options.
10. Lack of Resource
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who’s here to turn the lights on at the start of the day and to turn them off at night?
- Where is my staff? Who’s here to help me?
Online retailers – and bricks and mortar stores for that matter – will fall down if the following occurs:
- Strategy isn’t fully supported company wide.
- Reduced staff. It creates poor customer service and response times.
- Content isn’t updated or limited product ranges on offer.
- Limited or no marketing budget.
- No fine tuning or evolving from learnings.
Avoiding these common mistakes is fairly simple, and will put you ahead of your competitors, without having to think of and implement expensive gimmicks. Make your point of difference an easy-to-use and operational site that has all the basics well covered. Consumers want this before anything else, and it will keep them coming back to you.