is-your-store-obstacle-course

Is your e-store an obstacle course?

16.04.2018 / / E-Commerce

Admission of problems is the first step to solving them. What happens when you are not aware of the problems in question or even worse, dismiss them as negligible when in fact they are not?

Over the last couple of years X-Coding IT Studio deployed over 60 advanced IT solutions for the leaders of the most significant industries on polish and EU markets.

Recently we have come up with an idea to give owners and managers of online stores feedback on how to improve their online businesses to make them a better shopping experience for customers.

You shouldn’t rely only on the customers’ feedback because just like Steve Jobs said – It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want. Here’s more about our initiative.

All of us are customers in our daily lives one way or another. We buy products, services or even ideas. It just happens that at X-Coding we are experts in developing and implementing e-Commerce solutions (mostly Magento based), so we can create online stores that we would like to buy from ourselves.

While we cannot build e-Commerce for every company out there, we can give support by sharing knowledge that will make their stores a better shopping experience for customers.

Today I would like to share our initial observations we had during our Five Suggestions initiative and explore the issues we discovered.

Unintuitive UX/Design

Design is not how it looks like, design is how it works – Steve Jobs

If you follow or know who Gary Vaynerchuk is, you may have had the opportunity to watch his video how friction is the enemy, The Darth Vader of e-Commerce, and something that should be killed with fire. Well, that or simply something you should reduce or in a perfect case scenario completely remove if you have any sort of business where customers are involved, especially online stores.

We found out that most of the online stores that decided to take part in our initiative had UX/Design problems that scare away potential clients. Often the root of the issue was that the layout and functioning of the store went against all modern standards and made navigating the store irritating and unintuitive for users.

Imagine that suddenly your web browser has back and forward buttons switched, so that forward goes back, and back goes forward. It would feel awkward, annoying and would take some time getting used to, right?

If you just now had a thought along the lines of “big deal, they will get used to it in a jiffy; not a problem”, then consider this: what happens when it’s not just 2 buttons but the entire page and many stores instead of a single web browser? This is friction. These are the unnecessary elements that your potential customers have to go through to make it to the purchase process. It’s like an obstacle course every time you want to buy something.

Customer in e-Commerce

Having a recognizable brand and differentiators that make you stand out from the competition is great, but being different just for the sake of it makes your store an outcast. Even websites and stores designed to have a retro look such as this, follow modern UX principles.

Your goal should be to make sure that when customers enter your store they feel instantly at home, and can focus on what they came there for.

Simplicity is the essence of universality” – Mahatma Gandhi. Beautiful how 70 years after Gandhi’s death this holds true and can be applied to e-Commerce. Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be.

Slow and unoptimized websites

This is a natural next step from the aforementioned. At one point in time Amazon said that every 100ms delay cost them 1% in sales. That’s 10% decrease with a delay of 1 second. Seems overblown? I will risk the statement that it may be even higher now.

The key to understanding how important is the speed with which your store operates is to multiply it hundreds or thousands of times. When you visit your own website, to see if it looks great and if icons are well-placed, you most likely don’t spend too much time on it, and only browse a couple of pages. Your visitors, on the other hand, will often visit dozens of pages looking for products and/or information. That one-second delay will quickly accumulate and cause visitors to leave.

However, things never are so simple. You can have the best product in the world no one heard about. If they can’t find you, they can’t buy from you. This is especially important when you consider your position in online search rankings (like Google). Since 2010 Google is penalizing unoptmized desktop websites, and since 2016 it includes mobile websites as well. If your store doesn’t have Responsive Web Design you should consider this not only for higher ranking in search engine but also because according to GEA (Global E-Commerce Association) report form 2017, in 2016 globally on average 57% purchases took place via smartphone or tablet.

If you are considering developing a new e-Commerce platform then PWA (Progressive Web Application) should interest you quite a bit as it’s pretty much set to supersede RWD. Since these standards came from Google itself, we can gamble a guess that sooner rather than later stores that won’t follow them, will also find themselves penalized. I will cover PWA in greater detail at another time.

Sale? What Sale?

Having a sale going on in your e-store can be a great thing depending on how well executed it is. You can clear stock to make space for a new offer, promote your brand and products, lower the barrier of entry for first-time customers and convert them into long-term ones.

It can also backfire on you. However, first things first. We observed that most of the stores we had the opportunity to give feedback about, and which had a sale going on, didn’t leverage it the way they could or outright hurt themselves.

If you have a sale going on, make sure that visitors can easily access these products and that the option stands out from the rest e.g. black font and red background in the navigation bar instead of white font and black background.

Another point to consider is to make sure, if applicable, that there is a specified date at which the sale will end. Let your customers know that it won’t last forever, but at the same time allow them to plan their expenses. If they want to buy your product and become aware that a sale will end within one week they may take steps in order to make the purchase. That’s instilling the sense of urgency.

Conversely, don’t have a sale going on on all of your products 24/7 all-year-round. Customers are now conditioned to buying during a sale and will often refuse to buy outside of it. It also puts into question the quality of your products and/or services, and that may be something you wish to avoid like the plague depending on what it is that you sell. Yours wouldn’t be the first nor last business to take nosedive in revenue because of this (unless your business is built around this model).

Make sure customers know how much money they save by making a purchase. Each product on a sale should display 1) percentage price reduction, 2) old price, 3) new price. Doing just percentage or flat price change is not enough. Price reduction should also be meaningful and warrant sale in the first place. I had the opportunity to visit stores with 0,1%-1% price reductions during a sale with products costing less than $50 pre-sale. Because it stands out, people who see it may question the quality of service they may experience well before they make a purchase.

Summary

The problems I mentioned above are just a small part of issues we had the opportunity to find, but I feel they are too often ignored, especially by small or medium businesses. Even though each of these could probably have a book of their own, I hope I managed to visualize their importance, and that this will help many store owners create a prospering business.

If you managed to stay with me up to this point I have a little e-book from X-Coding’s CEO, Marek Kich, that should help with your business: 100 & One questions about your e-Commerce “100 & One questions about your e-Commerce

If you would like to connect with me on LinkedIn, talk about e-Commerce, or have us work with you on your e-Commerce platform, reach out to me 🙂