If you were to name the deepest systemic issue that covers the entire ecommerce landscape, what would your answer be?
For many companies it’s their infuriatingly low conversion rate. And the toolkit to solve this anomaly is heavy; there are many solution tools but that doesn’t mean it’s simply to solve. Because ultimately, it’s a question of interpreting human behavior and human preferences, which are by nature contradictory and difficult to pinpoint.
From a consumer perspective, online shopping presents multiple but basic obstacles, one of which is being unable to fulfil a purchase. And there is a bundle of evidence that shows the struggles of online shoppers, including a recent survey that found they struggle to carry out basic tasks online both on desktop and mobile. And if their short fuse explodes they down tools and abandon the website, or simply switch to the website of a competitor.
And what makes it most problematic is that this is true of online shoppers across all regions, across all genders, and across all ages. Even the kids – who have been born and raised online – are finding it annoying to complete the basics.
And with the year we’ve been experiencing, the last thing you want to do as an online seller is force your potential customers to cross the road and into the arms of your competitors. According to one market research company, sales of ecommerce will increase 18% by the end of the year, representing $710 billion.
As a share of total retail sales, these projections give ecommerce a 14.5% share.
Demand for online goods is clearly high, and has been high ever since shops’ shutters dropped back in March. But optimizing a company’s sales figures is likely being impeded by a set of practices that are not helping shoppers smoothly navigate the digital aisles.
“Findings showed that despite the effort companies have made to improve the customer experience, 40 percent of retail consumers still struggle to complete basic tasks when transacting online,” said Tara Sporrer, the VP of marketing of goMoxie, a digital guidance platform.
So how can you combat the shopper struggle and alleviate the lowly conversion rates? Get proactive about providing smooth and simple digital experiences for consumers.
Review digital experience designs
Don’t think that it’s only a matter of time before online shoppers learn how to navigate your site. They won’t. Don’t wait. Clever companies know that they need to meet the expectations of customers and guide them through easy shopping experiences that shoppers themselves want.
One way in which you can do this is by analyzing a website heatmap, which shows you how and where users interact with your website, where they click and where they scroll to. Some platforms are much better at allowing you to analyze and manage data, including Salesforce Commerce Cloud, a leading ecommerce platform that comes equipped with A/B testing capabilities and a bunch of other analytical tools, such as setting up website heatmaps.
Learning from how online visitors interact with your website gives you insight into how you can change and tweak your online experience to cater for the preferences of your visitors.
Think about newbies to the net
One of the more predictable consequences of the pandemic and lockdowns has been the necessary movement of many shoppers from always-shop-in-store to mostly-shop-online; those older customers who had always refused to use computers and phones for purchasing products, only now to be pressured into browsing through digital aisles.
Consider that for many of your visitors, they would have never visited your site before – or in fact any of your competitors’ sites. How are your online experiences in terms of ease and obviousness. Are your product categories simple to find? Is it clear where your basket is? How to put in credit and bidet card details?
These newbies to the net are “faced with the challenge of navigating the digital world,” according to Sridhar Jayaraman, vice president of engineering at Quentelli. “Which in many cases has been optimized for the millennial persona. Product search, size charts, color options, recommendation engines, loyalty usage, and even basic navigation can seem complex to those who do not always shop online.”
How can you cater to this demographic?
Look approachable to those who are new to the idea of shopping online. Consider building a simplified version of your site for those who you know are new to the experience; a kind of lite version that is available both on desktop and mobile.
Alternatively, provide web overlays that are sensitive to shopping behavior. For example, if you know that one user is spending too much time browsing around and clicking without making it to checkout, provide a super easy access point for an agent to call them, and provide a human helper for shoppers who are used to human shop assistants.
According to Sporrer, “Based on our findings, we recommend retailers guide customers throughout their entire purchasing journey – as soon as they arrive on the site, all the way to when they check out, as well as when they return back for service and support.” She added that by doing this, companies will be placed in a much stronger position to recuperate some of the $18 billion each year that are lost to shopping cart abandonment.
When you’re thinking about guiding users throughout the entire journey, consider which touchpoints and methods of communication that they prefer. According to goMoxie, the best methods are live chats on the website as well as email; on the other hand, the least preferred methods are text messaging and bots.
Young and confused
These findings are interesting because it highlights the fact that all online shoppers struggle with navigating through ecommerce sites. Yet young shoppers – those that have literally been raised on the internet and have cloud-stored images of them from birth on social media (thanks Mom!) – had the highest percentage of issues when it came to making a purchase. Almost half of them (46%) struggled to buy online!
What’s in a question?
To help online visitors clear through the digital clutter, providing them with less can be more effective. One good example of this is that before your site shows a visitor your many awesome products, provide them with a simple question (or chain of simple questions) to give them the most accurate product search results. Questions such as “What are you looking for here?” followed by a bunch of possible answers for them to click.
Or when a product is clicked, you can ask them whether this product is for them or is a gift for someone else, so that you can provide further services, such as special gift wrapping, personalized cards, etc.
These solutions are all possible for all sites. Yet the ecommerce platform that you host your site on goes a long way in defining how well you’re able to do it, whether you’re able to put a patch over some neglected holes using standard tools (like on WooCommerce) or transform your entire digital experiences using the best tools currently available (like on Salesforce Commerce Cloud).