With so much technology flooding the market today, it’s hard for online retailers to keep track of the latest trends. In a bid to seemingly have their fingers on the pulse of recent developments, many will focus their attention on the latest and greatest applications. Yet this is often to the detriment of one very important e-commerce factor that shouldn’t be neglected – user experience (UX).
UX – the good, bad and ugly
All consumers have no doubt used websites with poor user experience (UX). There is a special type of frustration reserved for those moments when a clunky website won’t accept a specific payment method or when it’s obvious that a site has not been optimised for mobile use and users can’t even read the text on the screen.
Online shopping does not have the benefit of offering the same personal and human touch that consumers enjoy in-store, so it is doubly important to make sure the online journey is seamless, welcoming and engaging.
How the user is able to move around a retailer’s website, from browsing stage through to the checkout, is the equivalent of what the high-street shopper experiences when they enter a store, interact with assistants and ultimately leave with their items.
As such, UX should be factored into every e-commerce decision that is made. It must be central to the initial design as well as the ongoing development of the online brand.
The best way to think about UX from a retailer’s perspective is to consider it as the bridge between a brand and the customer. When good UX is incorporated into a retailer’s platform it will often go unnoticed – it’s bad user experience that really stands out to the consumer. If a user is left to navigate a poorly designed website with illegible text, buttons that don’t work and pages that don’t load, retailers have already lost the UX battle.
The speed of a click
An example of a website with a strong UX element is Amazon. The company has been perfecting the ease of use model through its ‘One Click’ function. As anyone who has used this feature before knows, it very much does what is says on the tin. By clicking one button, it is possible for a shopper to have their purchased items arrive at their door the very next day.
Amazon is continuing to pioneer this specific aspect of user experience through its research into drones as a delivery method. This would theoretically remove more barriers so that consumers can get their hands on goods even quicker. Through this type of service, Amazon has been able to make its brand synonymous with speed and convenience. Same day delivery will make this association even stronger.
>See also: What makes a good user interface?
As consumers becoming increasingly time-poor and brand promiscuous, speed is huge priority for both online shoppers and retailers. However, there are a great many more elements which need to be considered when delivering a strong user experience.
Everything from the way a webpage looks, the images and typography used, to how pages adapt to different browsers and mobile devices, to how each button clicks and ‘feels’. All these small elements together make up the bigger UX picture.
The UX assault course
Providing a good user experience is no mean feat. It requires regular periods of introspection, which involve retailers taking a step back and objectively looking at the state of their online platform.
The majority of retailers review their UX annually, if at all – this is quite frankly not regularly enough. It’s vital that digital brands deliver a UX that is malleable and adaptable to the ever changing demands of customers. If there are any elements of the website that are not performing in the way they should be, they must be recognised and dealt with as quickly as possible.
Detailed quarterly reviews would make for a good starting point for retailers. Constant, incremental changes are more cost-effective, easier to implement and easier to monitor.
>See also: 5 m-commerce trends for 2017
Many retailers won’t necessarily have the man power to have a member of the team designated for reviewing UX. This is why using a third party digital commerce provider to assist in the reviewing and implementation of an effective UX audit can be a vital tool.
Today, too many UX decisions are based on gut feeling. Within any e-commerce company, individuals – whether they’re a part of sales, customer service, marketing or senior management – will inevitably have opinions on what the website should look like. Unfortunately, these people are often too close to the brand, and approach things with a blinkered view.
This is why it’s important to enlist the help of experts – either independent consultants or external digital commerce agencies. These experts have a broader knowledge of UX, they will be fully abreast of the latest industry developments and importantly, will be able to offer a far more objective audit than any internal department could.
It is important that retailers look to industry best practice and competitors for inspiration and a foundation for their own UX. It’s what the retailer then does with this information that counts, using it as a guide to build a new UX that is tailored specifically to its own brand guidelines and demographic.
Despite this, any UX decisions should always be backed up by data – whether this is information in the public domain or a retailer’s own customer data – to create the best possible UX for their target market.
Retailers need to get as close to the consumer as possible by actively listening to them. Retailers should implement tools for collecting feedback through their website or social channels so that they can gauge how consumers feel about interacting with them as a brand. By opening up a dialogue, retailers will gain visibility of what is making their customers tick, and what is putting them off.
Asking pertinent questions of consumers will allow retailers to gather a huge amount of actionable data that will allow them to better serve current customers and hopefully attract new ones.
Building for the future
So what is it all for? Providing a positive UX for customers will allow retailers to prosper today and to continue doing so in the future. A good UX is about giving shoppers the best possible experience so they continue to buy from a brand.
Ultimately, building a good UX is about future proofing a business; taking the time to continually improve a website for long term gain. Remember; the best UX feels human, is fluid, and is constant.
Sourced by Terry Hunter, UK MD of Astound Commerce
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