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Top 10 Blunders in eCommerce Design
So you’ve built a decent-looking e-commerce website, increased your marketing spend, and are getting good traffic to your site. However, you run into a problem that most new online retailers face initially – your conversion rate is extremely low. You wonder why the majority of visitors to the site do not buy, and you ask your head of marketing to find the answers. While having and executing a good marketing plan is essential to bringing visitors to your site, many times, the answer lies in how your website is designed. Here are the top 10 mistakes in eCommerce design that can cause conversion rates to go south –
Mistake #9: Where is the price?
Nothing annoys a visitor more than reading all the great product descriptions and sales copy, only to read it all and still have to ask the most important question… What is it worth? You will literally have to hunt to find out how much the product costs beyond reasonable. A few days ago, I spent more than five minutes on the website looking for a nice pair of shoes, but I couldn’t find the price anywhere. It took me a while to figure out that I had to select a specific color and size combination first before the price would appear on the page. While from a web designer’s perspective this might be considered a nice “feature”, it only takes a genius to figure out that they have to click 3 different buttons before the price magically appears on the site. Most visitors don’t have the patience for that, and the reaction to such a design would be the same as mine… forget it!
Mistake #8: Here are some product recommendations…oops! They are in stock.
Many websites invest in developing offline statistical modeling algorithms to offer product recommendations on the site. You’ve probably seen these kinds of recommendations on websites like Amazon – “Customers who bought this item also viewed…Some online retailers have embraced this technique and built extremely dynamic recommendation engines – however, many times I’ve clicked on product recommendations only to find out that those products are out of stock. These sites should definitely get credit for building such sophisticated recommendation engines – but having visitors go through the extra effort of clicking on recommendations, only to find out they’re out of stock, is a worse user experience than having no product recommendations in the first place.
Mistake #7: Zero search results
It’s hard enough to get visitors to a website, so why throw them away just by showing them a zero page of search results when they’re trying to find something? If a visitor is looking for something, the website should really work to find products or categories, even if it’s not an exact match. Even if you don’t sell a specific product, and if you can’t find a product that is even remotely related to the keyword the customer is searching for, you should display the best-selling products on the website. Imagine you walk into a physical store and the sales agent sends you out of the store saying that we don’t sell the product you’re looking for. Instead, it will be a much better experience if the sales agent engages in talking to you about all the promotions as well as the hot products the store is selling.
Mistake #6: Designing for 20%
As online business becomes more complex, there is a greater tendency for business managers to make the customer experience reflect that complexity. A great user experience is what makes all this complexity transparent from visitors and offers something simple and compelling. Walmart.com recently redesigned their website and even though they have one of the most complex businesses, the user experience on the site is very simple. The mistake most online retailers make is that they ignore the 80-20 rule and create a website for every exception. Now, I’m not suggesting that a website shouldn’t cater to all conditions, however, the initial search, browsing and checkout flow should serve the 80% of visitors who need to purchase a simple 1 or 2 items. A rule of thumb I use is if 80% of visitors take more than 4 clicks from a category/search page to checkout, then there is an opportunity to improve the user experience.
Mistake #5: Weak security
A few weeks ago, I ended up signing up for a car rental website because I was eligible for their Premier program. The site had all kinds of notices and disclaimers about how they valued user security. Feeling good, I filled out the registration form, however all my trust in this website was lost when I saw the final thank you page. It said, “Thank you for registering, please note your user ID and password for your records.” That was it – my password was staring back at me in clear text, on an unsecured thank you page! I didn’t know what was worse, displaying my password in plain text so that others standing next to me could also note it down or displaying my password on a non-secure page! Anyway, I decided to change my car rental company. In today’s world, users are more educated than ever and they pay attention to details related to website security. If they don’t see that little “block” at the bottom of the browser, or if they get a warning that they’re providing information on an unsafe page, that’s enough of a warning sign for them to refuse the transaction.
Mistake #4: Too many mandatory fields
I hate it when websites force you to enter information about yourself that has nothing to do with placing an order. Now I’m a strong advocate of understanding customers and gathering as much relevant information about them as possible – however, there is always a right way and a right place to ask for such information. Throwing a full-page registration form into the middle of the checkout process with irrelevant mandatory fields is like adding speed bumps to a 60 mph highway – it will slow visitors down to complete the checkout process, if not completely frustrate them and cause them to abandon the checkout process altogether. . A common example of a mandatory field I’ve seen is a fax number, I don’t know about you, but the average person doesn’t have a fax machine on their desk, so having a mandatory field for that doesn’t make sense. I saw another one, a date of birth… Come on now, how much personal information do I have to give out here to place an order? I just want to order a toaster and not give you any more personal information than I would on a first date!
Mistake #3: Clearing all fields in case of error
I’m sure most of us have experienced this at least once – you spend 5 minutes filling out an online form, but you can’t fill out one field on the form correctly. You hit submit and voila – you lose all the data you just entered and there’s a blank form with an error message that one field is staring at you. I’m having a hard time understanding why these apps can’t “remember” what we just typed and save visitors the hassle of typing again?? Servers have memory for a reason – let’s use that memory to reduce the amount of processing we ask our clients to do on the website. The more we make visitors work on the website, the faster they will leave and never come back.
Mistake #2: Forcing customers to create an account before they can add items to their cart
In the hope of getting as many customers as possible to sign up, some sites ask you to sign in or register as soon as you add something to your cart. To see what’s in your cart, along with the total price, you must login or register. In my previous job, we did a lot of cart abandonment analysis – and one thing we consistently found was that customers like to see transparency into their order amount and shipping charges once they add something to their cart. The more speed bumps you throw at them, the more likely they are to abandon the cart. Forcing visitors to log in before they decide to start the checkout process is a surefire way to increase cart abandonment and decrease conversions. If these customers walk into a physical store, they can simply hand over cash and leave. Let’s give those users as close to that experience as possible on the website as well.
Mistake #1: Only Internet Explorer is supported
Today, web browsers other than IE (read – Firefox) are gaining significant popularity and account for more than 10% of the site (in some cases more than 20% of visitors). However, there are plenty of websites that are built and tested just for IE. Even basic features like search or add to cart don’t work on Firefox on some of these sites. These sites actually turn away about 10 to 20% of their visitors every day. This is probably some of the lowest hanging fruit, and online retailers should ensure browser testing efforts are made as part of each new release.
We live in a time where consumers have more and more choices for online shopping and they are looking for a fast, reliable and easy shopping experience. A good experience is not only a good to have Moreover, it has become the cost of entry for online retailers – the successful retailers will be those who recognize this and focus their entire experience on what matters most – our customers.
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