Enhancing the online shopping experience requires planning
May 24, 2016 | Shares:

6 Things You Must Do to Optimize Your Online Shopping Experience
8 min.

Renovation isn’t just for brick-and-mortar stores.

Even eCommerce stores need to make changes to improve their store from time to time.

Renovating your online store improves your customer experience, which makes purchasing easier and in turn, increases your sales.

When it comes to optimizing your eCommerce store’s shopping experience, there’s no single fix – rather, it’s the result of many tiny changes that add up over time.

When it comes to optimizing the online shopping customer experience, there’s no single fix – rather, it’s the result of many tiny changes that add up over time. 

According to the customer experience pyramid, there are multiple levels of how a customer interacts with a company…

Online customer experience pyramid

As you can see, many aspects add up to create the total customer experience.

This guide will not focus on the customer journey or customer service, but on everything you can do on your site to make their immediate impression of your brand as positive as possible.

From refining your site search to accurately representing your products, you can make a better eCommerce site with simple optimization fixes that will make a huge difference:

1. Increase your site’s load speed

Your visitors’ experience of your site starts before it even loads on the screen – and the longer it takes to load, the less likely people are to stick around.

Faster websites create a higher-end shopping experience; they can rank higher in search results… and, most importantly, they tell your visitors that you take their limited time seriously.

Fast website load speed tells your visitors you take their limited time seriously.

A fast, responsive site is a crucial part of creating a positive customer experience.

You have a few options for improving load speed. You could benefit from high-performance web hosting, ideally tailored to your site and the varied amounts of traffic you expect year round.

You should also consider managed hosting, which leaves the technical side of powering your website to your hosting provider’s own team.

It’s also well worth considering a content delivery network, which can speed up your site significantly for visitors both in your own country and overseas.

Main Takeaways:

  • Quick site speed can boost SEO
  • Fast site speed makes for a better customer experience
  • You can improve your site speed with managed hosting or a content delivery network

2. Design for your audience – and multiple screens

Your idea of a great online store may not necessarily match your customer’s expectations, and this can be a serious obstacle in optimizing your site for increased sales.

Taking the time to understand your customers’ expectations online, and how they see your brand, is one of the crucial elements of optimizing your store’s shopping experience.

Aim to refine your site’s look and feel with a particular focus on style, simplicity, larger imagery and more concise text.

A well-designed online store isn’t afraid to hold back content below the fold, to use blank space or large images, and to let the customer scroll to learn more – just so long as what’s lower down is gratifying and worth scrolling for, and further builds on the shopping experience.

In essence: avoid information overload.

Apple’s website is a prime example of understated design, which demonstrates a clear understanding of the people who buy Apple products – nor is it afraid to make its visitors scroll:

Great design improves the buying experience

It’s also important to pay attention to how this experience comes across on difference screens. Your design should be mobile responsive and look awesome on every device.

Responsive design is integral for eCommerce sites

Main Takeaways:

  • Improve your site design by focusing on simplicity
  • Large images and text help
  • Don’t be afraid to include things below the fold 

3. Refine your site’s navigation

The simpler your site the better, and the fewer navigation and interactions required of your visitors the better.

If your site uses loading bars or motion effects as part of its entry or navigation, you could also think about removing these for the sake of slightly faster access to your site’s information, products and services.

A quicker experience of your site is often preferable to a more interactive one, which can take up vital time (especially for mobile users).

A quicker experience is often preferable to a more interactive one.

Review your site navigation and aim to display your full market offering as clearly as possible – striking a balance between showing your full range of products/services, and making them easy to find.

Larger drop-down navigation boxes, like those used on T.H. Baker’s website, are an effective way to present both a stripped-back first impression of your homepage, and comprehensive product listings if you stock a large number of products or brands:

A refined drop-down menu enhances online shopping experience

Main Takeaways:

  • When it comes to navigation, find a balance between showing all your products and making them easy to find
  • Larger drop-down navigation boxes can be effective in showing many products
  • Loading bars and motion effects can slow your site and should be removed if possible

4. Focus on informative, visual content

Your advertising, social media activity and branded communications serve to pitch your prospective customers on your products and services, so you don’t need continue the promotional content once visitors arrive at your website.

Instead, your site should provide valuable, accurate information concisely, which will dispel your customer’s doubts and objections and encourage them towards making a purchase.

Once visitors are on your site, you don’t need promotional content anymore. Instead, you need to be informative.

Focus on visual eCommerce content, with less written content. Including super high-quality images, 360° rotating images, or video explainers are a powerful way to really show what you have to offer.

Your on-site visuals should also emphasize the lifestyle connected to your brand.

A great way to get lots of visual content is by asking your customers to contribute pictures showing how they use your product.

User-generated photos are one of the most powerful ways to instill trust in potential buyers.

Also bear in mind that many products, brands, services and locations can sell themselves purely on the strength of their visual appeal.

So, it’s well worth sacrificing more prime real estate on your website to feature large images of products and aspirational lifestyles:

Improve the ecommerce experience with visuals

Main Takeaways:

  • Your on-site content should be informative, not promotional
  • Focus on improving your online visual merchandising – more visuals, less text
  • 360 degree images and videos can help better illustrate your product
  • User-generated content, like photos, can be highly effective in showing your customers what to expect

5. Remove checkout obstacles & simplify the buying process

Online stores can hold themselves back by presenting unwelcome obstacles to visitors before they can complete (or sometimes even begin) their transaction.

For example, disruptive pop-ups to sign up for newsletters, additional cross-sell marketing creeping in or even a wall that requires visitors to register before they continue can all stop the customer journey in its tracks and drive people away from your site.

Instead, opt for unobtrusive alternatives like a newsletter signup on your blog instead of in a pop-up, or subtle cross-selling advertisements.

Your goal is to get people to the buying finish line, which is why in addition to doing away with obstacles, you also need to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy. 

Some ways to simplify the buying process:

  • Add a predictive product search function
  • Streamline your checkout to a single page and strip back forms, reducing work on your customers’ part
  • Add a more sophisticated address field which only requires a street name or postcode to complete itself automatically
  • Present multiple trusted payment gateways at the point of payment
  • Introduce a buying guide to help shoppers find their desired product faster

6. Build customer trust to encourage purchases

What your customers say about you in reviews, via a trusted reviews hub, can be much more powerful than anything you could say about yourself.

The great strength of featuring customer reviews and testimonials on your site is their ability to dispel your customers’ doubt and uncertainty, which can stop them from buying your products or services.

It’s also beneficial to use a select few high-quality trust markers on your site, such as…

  • Badges from trusted reviews sites
  • Google’s Certified Shop badge
  • A trusted SSL certificate to keep your customers’ data safe
  • Any seals, memberships or brand logos which demonstrate that you’re a certified retailer of your products and services

Conclusion

In summary, one of the greatest obstacles to achieving a great online shopping experience is, essentially, an outdated website.

Businesses can underestimate just how quickly customer expectations are shifting with advances online – and if customers’ first impressions of an online store is of a slow, complex, older-looking website which doesn’t display well on their phone, then they’re highly likely to quickly click away and buy from the competition instead.

Keeping an online store up to date doesn’t necessarily need to happen in periodic, time-consuming overhauls.

It’s often better to treat the business of updating an online store like an ongoing insurance policy against falling behind the competition; a policy designed for continued growth in your site’s traffic and to increase the eCommerce conversion rate.

Online trends are changing constantly, so you may consider investing in  several hours of expert site development time each month.

Looking to optimize your shopping experience? Check out our friends at Nublue for expert web design, development and hosting for eCommerce.

This little-and-often approach can keep your online store constantly up to date, ensuring that it’s always fresh, appealing, delivering on your customers’ changing expectations… and increasing your sales to grow your business.

Andrew Hall
Andrew Hall,
Andrew Hall is the copywriter at Nublue, the digital agency and hosting provider behind the websites of T.H. Baker, Soak & Sleep, Nutricia UK, Mardon and The Jewel Hut.
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