The e-commerce website is a critically important part of the customer experience; for many customers, it will be the only way of interacting with the company. If the e-commerce website delivers a poor user experience (UX), visitors will click off the site or abandon the shopping cart without giving the company’s customer care team a chance to intervene.
Therefore, it is imperative for an e-commerce website to meet all UX standards. (UX standards apply to website design and can be considered a subset of CX.) These are key areas to execute properly to ensure that all customers have a positive experience on the site, whether or not they make a purchase.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
Mobile Internet usage now exceeds desktop usage, with the gap widening. By 2020, mobile e-commerce will likely represent 50 percent of the total in the U.S. alone. Globally, mobile e-commerce is projected to reach nearly $670 billion by 2018.
E-commerce firms must deliver a solid experience to mobile and desktop visitors, forcing the decision of whether to create a separate mobile website/app, or convert the current desktop-only site to a responsive design that adjusts automatically for optimal display on any size screen.
E-commerce sites with a multitude of products usually find it necessary to develop a separate mobile site/app. This path is usually chosen when the responsive design, which involves balancing desktop and mobile phone user needs, weakens UX all the way around. E-commerce sites with a smaller product offering and/or relatively simple and limited text and graphics have an easier time making responsive design work.
While a separate site/app may optimize UX, it does present a challenge for the overall CX effort. Separate websites for ordering can confuse customers that use desktops and mobile devices to place orders or research products. Companies must work very hard to make sure that all order history and other customer data is seamlessly available to customers on both sites, and that inquiry forms generated from either site are responded to in an equally seamless manner.
The bottom line on mobile-desktop design: The web development team must look beyond UX standards and consider the broader CX implications of design changes.
Site-Wide Issues That Affect CX
Clicks to Order
Online shoppers are an impatient lot; every website click is an obstacle between them and a completed order. To enhance UX, e-commerce web design teams continually test methods of reducing clicks, thereby making the shopping experience faster and easier. An inefficient ordering process frustrates visitors, not only leading to cart abandonment, but also reducing referrals and increasing the likelihood of negative online reviews that undermine the brand in terms of its responsiveness to customers.
Part of the effort to reduce clicks is to streamline the site’s navigation. The fundamental question for all UX and CX team members: How quickly can visitors find what they need, regardless of which page they enter the website? On this score, CX team members can provide the web design team with valuable input, because they understand the language of the customer. When navigation labels use terms that customers use, the navigation becomes intuitive; when navigation labels are based on guesswork or general standards, they may be incomprehensible to the company’s target market.
Page Loading Speed
Slow page loading frustrates site visitors and destroys conversions. Research shows that pages taking more than 2.5 seconds to load spell disaster, and that even milliseconds of improvement can have enormous impact on sales. Many issues affect page loading speed, but chief among them for e-commerce is images. To be sure, great photos are selling machines, but they must be handled properly to keep site speed high. CX team members should be fearful of a slow-loading website; visitors may conclude that poor web page delivery means the company’s service and overall responsiveness will be equally slow.
In addition to these site-wide issues, on-page UX/CX issues must be addressed and reviewed continually. These issues are too numerous to detail here, but they include everything from the color of submit buttons to the sizing of order form fields. Issues of particular concern to the overall CX effort include:
- Prominent display of the customer service phone number
- Click-to-call functionality on the customer service phone number in mobile display
- Presence and clear labeling of the company’s social media community buttons
- Presence, visibility and ease of use of FAQ pages
- Availability and ease of use of online chat supported by omnichannel platform
These are issues that enhance the e-commerce website visitor’s ability to easily communicate with the company’s other digital and human resources — and issues that need plenty of input from the CX team.
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, an Internet marketing firm headquartered in the Chicago area.