In order to run an effective e-commerce website, there is a fine balance that must be stuck between search engine optimization and user experience. Ideally with both of these factors working together your website should be able to not only rank well, but encourage conversions. It is important to give customers visiting your website a positive browsing experience that encourages them to return and continue to purchase your products. The follow is a list of the top five ways to optimize and design your site for improved user experience on your e-commerce website:
Optimize Your Homepage
A homepage is optimal real estate for your brand as it is often the most viewed webpage of a site. When it comes to e-commerce websites it is important to use this space to actively promote sales, and new products, while guiding customers through the buying experience. Here are some tips for homepage optimization:
- Guide visitors – use sliders, moving banners and calls to action to help assist users down the sales funnel. Ensure your menu is properly structured and that menu categories are clear about what content they provide.
- Avoid clutter – your homepage should delight and inspire with key visuals of your product. Crowding the user with too much text will confuse and overwhelm them, possibly leading to a page exit.
- Keep it fresh – update the homepage with your latest sales and promotions, changing what products are highlighted on your homepage will help renew the shopping experience for returning users.
Using heatmaps you can track not only where users are clicking but also key mouse patterns such as scrolling habits. Experiment with different design features and learn which ones customers are interacting with most by completing Google Analytics reports.
Ease of Checkout
A recurring problem e-commerce websites have is abandoned carts in the checkout process. Ideally your e-commerce site should be so well optimized that checking out is the easiest part of a customer’s shopping experience. Here are some quick checkout optimization tips:
- Transparency is key – ensure customers know up to date prices, and whether or not a product is in stock before they try to checkout. Offering options to estimate taxes and shipping are a great way to be transparent about the final price and avoid any surprises.
- Enable Guest Checkout – some users want to shop quickly and this will significantly speed up the buying process. It also allows users to bypass a long form instead of simply abandoning their cart.
- Simplify Your Form – if you want customers to make a purchase, but you also want to generate a lead, ensure your forms are as linear and natural as possible. Ask only for the essential information, (you can find out more about them later with surveys) and break the process down into distinct steps. See below for an example:
Step 1: Register/Guest Checkout Step 2: Shipping Information Step 3: Billing – Include option for “Same as Shipping” Step 4: Payment Method Step 5: Pay
- Display Trust - this is especially important if you are a smaller e-commerce website as you need customers to know their information and their investment is safe. Include security certificates beside payment areas and ask customers to opt-in to any newsletters or follow up emails.
Promote Product Reviews
Search engines are always looking to reward websites for having unique and useful content. The problem many e-commerce websites face is that they are filled with a large amount of product pages, making it difficult to populate unique and relevant content. Product reviews are an effective way to produce continually updating content for specific product pages. Peer created product reviews also help as a social proof because users get insight into the customer experience. Bazaar Voice is a network that connects brands to people through product reviews. These reviews can be built directly into your e-commerce website and can even help you stand out from the competition on Google through rich snippets. Here are some ways to promote product reviews:
- Send a Follow Up Email – auto response emails that contact shoppers after a specific amount of time to follow up on a purchase are a great way to promote product reviews.
- Integrate Social Media – many social media users are actively talking about products online. Publishing these social media reviews to your website can be a good way to promote positive customer experiences.
- Include Review Incentives – ask customers to provide feedback online for a chance to win. Enter all customer review names over a period of time into a draw for a gift card, product or other prize.
Use Responsive Website Design
Last year was a pivotal year for mobile e-commerce with mobile shopping rates soaring and mobile browsing surpassing desktop users for the first time. With Google now highlighting websites who are mobile-friendly, it is now more important than ever to be properly optimized for mobile users. Responsive website design allows your e-commerce website to recognize a user’s screen size and orientation, and adapt accordingly, ensuring users have the smoothest browsing experience possible.
Ensure Quick Web Page-Load Speed
There is nothing more frustrating, or more likely to make an online shopper leave your website, than slow loading pages. Users are shopping online because it’s quick and accessible, anything less than that will have a negative impact on conversion rates. Walmart discovered the potential for a positive correlation between page-load speed and conversion rates (see figure 1.0) when they experienced a 2% increase in conversions for every second they shaved off their page-load time. Quick ways to improve page-load time include:
- Optimize webpage images (size, format etc.)
- Enabling browser caching
- Reduce the amount of redirects
- Use data compression
Additional E-Commerce User Experience Tips:
- Find our your page-load time on Google
- Implement on online survey tool – this is especially helpful to ask about a new website or find out areas that need improvement
- Add a personal touch with direct chat lines to your employees