E-commerce is very competitive because competition is no more than a click away, and often that next click is a behemoth like Amazon. It does not matter if your prices are low or even if your products are superior to the rest. If a customer is not enthusiastic about his or her experience, or if a customer does not like your website (which mind you is only part of the cost per acquisition and lifetime customer value equations), he or she will simply look for another e-commerce site to make purchases. Therefore, retailers/wholesalers must always be on the look out for ways to make their sites more engaging, efficient and unique; we call this improving user experience (UX). According to the Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new customer can cost from five to twenty-five percent more than to keep the ones you have. Therefore, site elements such as loyalty programs and rewards points must be considered from day one, and those elements are now considered elementary.
Below you will find five key areas we look at when trying to make a site's UX elite and unique.
1) Give Returning Customers the Rewards They Deserve
Bain and Co., the well-known US Consulting Firm, stated that a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%. We believe that one loyal, repeat customer is more valuable than two "non-members," because our data tells us the cost to bring a customer back versus the cost to attain a new one is roughly on-third less if a customer’s experience was pleasant the previous time.
Loyalty programs designed to encourage return visits excel, and today they are not just for credit card, hotel and airline chains. Even B2B companies are jumping on the loyalty program bandwagon for results that matter. For example, US Ortho rewards its Orthodontists (customers) reward points any time new products are ordered for end patients. In the "my account" area, users can clearly see their points, the value of each point, and where they can redeem points at checkout. Retailers/merchants can also set limits or minimums on how many rewards points a user must have before being able to use the points.
Rewarding Customers on www.usortho.com
2) Avoid Page Refresh When Possible
By now everyone has heard and understands that page loading time is important to any website user’s experience. Web developers often struggle with the correct balance between adding a cool feature or function and what that effect has on the web page load time. According to Kissmetrics, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. E-commerce developers are always looking to make pages load faster, speed up the checkout process and reduce the amount of times needed for a page to refresh.
Recently on www.hooplapromo.com, a high end promotional products vendor in Los Angeles, our challenge in designing their site was that there are at least 4-5 choices that need to be made in order to finalize a product. In addition, users need to be able to upload and send logos with their orders and ATAK needed to save a processing step of collecting artwork so that pages don't have to reload every time an option is chosen. In order to make the process as user friendly as possible, we designed the site to eliminate the need for pages to refresh during the product customization process. If we had not done so, it would have taken at least two minutes to add only one product to the cart. By installing code/scripts to speed up this process, every step refreshes immediately to tremendously reduce user time. You can see a product here.
3) Have you Heard of Card Design? We are Sure You Have Seen It.
Everyone is focusing on mobile friendliness and in 2015 we are still in the middle of witnessing a re-architecture of the web toward personalized experiences built on an aggregation of content where components are manipulable in infinite ways. Instead of many pages of content linked together, we are moving toward individual pieces of content aggregated together to create a new single experience across all devices.
Cards (think rectangles) are quickly becoming a preferred design pattern for mobile devices. Because of the shape of the screens on mobile devices, they can give bursts of information in a compact view that easily draws the eye to focus on what is important (and this dates back to coupons and even baseball cards). Cards can be manipulated in so many ways, and we can add cool things like “rollover/tap to view more” or “click to fold for a summary or expansion of more details." Cards can be stacked and minimized to save space and sorted, grouped and spread out on wider devices.
One great example of an e-commerce site using cards is Soho Fixed (http://sohofixed.com/bikes/). Put your mouse over a bike and watch what happens.
4) Micro UX
Don’t you just love when you visit a website and see something that is typically perceived to be such a constant just slightly changed/enhanced to give the impression of attention to detail? Do you remember when the shopping cart button was just a text link and not a cute cart icon at the top right corner? Maybe I am dating myself, but I remember this. Looking back on it, it was not pretty. Micro User Experience (Micro UX) is all about showing appreciation of users by using simple, innovative changes to make tasks easier in addition to being more engaging to the point you hit a pleasurable nerve. Try adding an item to your cart like on www.threadless.com and you will see a nice pop up to make you laugh as you get closer and closer to giving your money away. On www.BoyajianTrendGallery.com, one can see that we added a sensitive heart instead of a boring “Add To Wishlist” button.
Micro UX on www.threadless.com
Micro UX on www.BoyajianTrendGallery.com
5) Divisible Content
Retailers/wholesalers are always watching the bottom line. As part of every online campaign, one can almost certainly expect the phrase “content” to come up. Smart brands are finding more and more ways to come up with divisible content where they can re-purpose existing content in several formats. A single quote from an eBook may be extracted and designed for Pinterest or Instagram, or a white paper chapter may turn around and become an infographic. Brands need to be flexible in their storytelling so pieces have extended shelf lives. Check out this great infographic from Column Five, which explains how divisible content strategies give your brand more for less:
Divisible Content Infographic from www.columnfivemedia.com
In conclusion, our message to you is that you must continue to deliver you products your customers demand at competitive prices, and you must deliver on what you promise. Reward your best customers, impress your new ones, and make the content creation process as versatile as possible to attract those customers to you from as many places as possible. We know consumers have more shopping options than ever. They are hyper-empowered, and they know it. This means customers are very vocal. They are tracking every aspect of the experience, and you can bet they are going to tell you and the rest of the world how your business is doing. The stakes are high when it comes to impressing customers. Tighten up your shop.