Amazon has introduced a level of uncertainty into the Australian retail space since whispers began regarding its arrival on Australian shores. However, Australian retailers should not panic, according to user experience expert, Simon Horrocks.
Amazon has introduced a level of uncertainty into the Australian retail space since whispers began regarding its arrival on Australian shores. However, Australian retailers should not panic. Rather, by embracing the tactics that follow retailers can enable themselves to provide even greater customer experiences, reducing the risk of lost profit and potentially opening up new revenue streams.
It goes without saying that commerce has become both digital and global: online sales are expected to exceed US$1 trillion by 2020 in the Asia Pacific region, according to Forrester research. E-commerce offers increased selection, value and convenience to consumers, who more often than not walk out of brick and mortar store dissatisfied with those three factors.
Online shopping also offers merchants access to customer data and opportunities to use that data to create better user experiences (UX); this being one of Amazon’s keys to its success. Businesses that are not keeping pace with best practices in UX will lose customers and more importantly, lose market share.
Leveraging the opportunity Amazon offers to improve your digital experience and being able to differentiate from the competitors is key to surviving and thriving on the online wave. Below are a few UX best practices and top features that are at the heart of a compelling e-commerce experience.
Invest in an Intuitive IA (Information Architecture)
Online retailers tend to organise products based solely on how they think about them. Most e-commerce shops will display way too many products in one page, which researchers suggest is a wrong choice. When there are too many options, customers get into a state of “choice overload”, or “analysis paralysis” leading some customers to buy nothing at all. Therefore, it is important to consider the way customers think about and group products.
Retailers can get a better understanding using research methodologies such as card sorting, an exercise in a lab setting that helps develop site taxonomy by collecting patterns in the way customers sort products. Participants are typically given representative sets of items, and asked to group and name them intuitively into their own categories. As a result, patterns emerge that help guide the creation of intuitive navigation categories and product groupings.
Think of a Content Governance Strategy
A search bar is non-optional for modern e-commerce platforms, which requires a strong approach to content governance — a system to provide content creators structure and guidelines in order to connect the right people with the right content. This is fundamental because it ensures the e-commerce platform is fully accessible using search terms and filtering. Strong content governance also equates to quality metadata on a per-product basis, since metadata consists in the context and descriptions of the data. For instance, good data will help search products by the type, the meanings, location, the use and etc.
Key questions when developing content governance strategy are:
- What search terms should be associated with what product(s)?
- What filtering options should be made available to customers during the browsing process?
- In the absence of specific user input such as product name or brand, how should content in search results and elsewhere be ranked, sorted, and organised by default?
Don’t Lead Customers to Dead-Ends
Entering a search term that leads to a “0 results” page is disheartening to shoppers and can make them quickly abandon an app or website. Instead, provide products similar to what the customer searched for in the place of a dead end. Also consider implementing an autocomplete feature within site search. This way, shoppers are exposed to new combinations of search terms, which may return more results than they think of on their own, and expose them to a greater range of products.
Display Images and User-Generated Content
When making a purchase, online customers are looking at the minute details when it comes to comparing products because they can’t make a physical comparison. In place of a brick and mortar experience where consumers can actually touch and feel a product, posting quality images can highlight the details that are more likely to lead to a purchase. Consider adding images that highlight small details like stitching, seams, colour, and functionality. Many shoppers also find 360-degree views, videos of products in action and/or images that convey scale incredibly helpful to their shopping experience.
Make it Easy to Find Help
When users have questions and issues, they want answers and solutions fast. If getting the help they need takes too long or requires them to leave sight, they probably aren’t coming back. Providing a live chat feature as well as clearly visible contact information on all platforms can go a long way in turning shoppers into buyers. Most shoppers are accustomed to finding help and support information in two areas: in the top right part of the navigation, adjacent to login functionality, and in the site footer.
Always Provide a Guest Checkout Option
The checkout process should be seamless, so it should be the customer’s’ choice whether they want to sign up for a membership or simply check out as a guest. Guest checkouts empower customers to quickly place an order if they value the product more than membership, which can be offered during the purchasing process. However, a customer should never feel pressured to sign up or feel they’ll receive a lower-quality experience if they don’t sign up.
Map the Checkout
Customers want to know where they are throughout the checkout process. If the checkout process is too long or customers can’t visualise how far they are from completion, they may abandon. Provide graphic feedback of their journey from shipping/billing information, confirmation and order completion, while indicating where they are in the process.
Security is a critical point for online shoppers. With information breaches becoming increasingly common, customers look for indications that they’re secure when shopping online. This is even more critical for small or newer retailers. Customers often look for locks, checkmarks, and the likes to determine if their transaction will be secure.
Providing a frictionless shopping experience should be a priority for any retailer. Using tools that provide application intelligence enables businesses to measure the customer journey in real time so they can rapidly and consistently optimise the customer experience. This is one of the keys to Amazon’s success — they obsessively track, measure and improve every stage of the customer journey. And it’s not just about fixing what’s broken. Many of the tips included in this article were invented or redefined by Amazon.
So the challenge isn’t simply about adopting some of these practices. The true challenge is about understanding your customers better than anyone else and then leverage this knowledge to optimise the UX, providing customers a memorable and positive experience that will keep them coming back.