The User Friendly Shopping Experience
Responses by Thomas Young, CEO Intuitive Websites to a Vistage.com interview.
When we speak of a user-friendly shopping experience, what does this entail?
Keep it simple and ask the prospect or customer. Don’t make assumptions–most people are too close to their company to accurately see things through the eyes of their customers or prospects. How much do customers have to think about the process and accomplishing the details of their shopping and purchasing actions? Was it intuitive or clumsy? Users do not want to think too much, they simply want to get their needs met around buying and/or shopping. The easier the better!
Oftentimes, companies have a hard time making their complex offer simple. The results are a confusing process and barriers put in the way of a sale. For example, a confusing, difficult to use Website will not produce sales effectively. Yet this happens because many Websites are built without the proper research and planning, which includes understanding the needs of the Website visitor. Your customers and prospects can describe what makes sense to them, why they buy and how to simplify your offer and shopping experience.
Another way of defining a shopping experience is to watch the shopper as they go about their activities either in a store or on a Website. These observations will define obstacles to the sale and motivators toward a sale.
How can a company determine whether they have holes in their shopping experience that potential buyers are falling through?
Watching customers and prospects and talking to them about their shopping experience is the best way to remove holes in the process. Also, research your competitors and their best practices. Look at your Website statistics, which are very revealing. An especially important page is the most common exit page on your Website. Finally, mystery shopping is another way to find holes. Impartial research professionals should go through the steps your customer follows and report on holes in the process and motivators that can be built upon to close the sale. A common hole on the Web is prospects waiting too long for email responses. This hurts sales and the company’s brand.
Provide an example of a poor shopping experience and how it could be improved.
On the Web, people respond well to navigation systems and action buttons. Also, the majority of Website users scan and do not read blocks of text. Websites that use a lot of written content do not have static navigation systems or have hard to find clickable buttons do poorly converting visitors. Users also look for key content under photos or on the left side of the page. This will help the online shopping experience.
Putting important buttons below the fold also hurts online conversions. The area below the fold is the part of your Website that is below the user’s screen. What do users see above and below the fold on your Website?
Just because the IT or development team gets the Website and how it operates, does not mean your target market will understand how to use the site.
How can a company bring different areas (and often different teams internally) of shopping together to make a coherent experience again and again, no matter what your entry point? (From print advertising, to window displays, to online, to catalogs, to purchasing, to merchandising, store layout and ambiance, and packaging?)
The key here is consistency. All customers and prospects should be able to understand and recognize the company’s offering from any point of contact. It not only makes it easier to understand for the prospect, but it shows that you are a trustworthy company that is organized.
Another helpful idea is to write a tag line of 8-12 words that identifies your business offering accurately and leaves no doubt in the mind of your target market about what you are offering and how you can meet their needs. This tag line should be on all your materials. Here is an example:
Vistage.com: Enhancing the lives of CEOs, the world’s largest CEO membership organization. Better leaders, decisions and results.
I’ve heard that some stores maintain a haphazard look because that’s what their customer’s expect from a discount retailer (although this clearly doesn’t apply online). How would you respond to this thought?
I can’t think of any instance when this would be appropriate online or offline unless you are trying to lose money.
Are there simple, basic rules to follow when creating a user friendly shopping experience?
On the Web, there are certain standards that are familiar to Web users. These standards can be seen on the large, e-commerce Websites that receive millions of visitors. Follow these standards online and you have improved the online shopping experience.
Here are just a few of these standards:
• Logo in upper left hand corner
• Consistent design throughout the site
• Static navigation system
• Easy to find search box that produces relevant results
• Contact information on every page
• Phone number in the top masthead
• Extensive use of photos and video if possible
• Scannable text
• Avoid flash and too many design elements
How do these rules apply to service providers and B to B?
They apply to both. Business to business customers may require more research and the Internet is an excellent resource tool. Have scannable content on the front-end pages and volumes of content on interior pages. Business to business prospects are looking for less complexity in their work lives just as they do in their personal lives. The shopping experience with your company should make things easier, not more difficult. We recently ran an email campaign that mentioned “no-hassle” and “make your life easier” promotions and conversions soared.
Give your customers and prospects a break and simplify your shopping experience so they can think less and buy more.