The User-Focused eCommerce Strategy

April 30, 2015In Interface5 Minutes

Online sales worldwide have reached an all time high in the trillions and it’s clear that the majority of consumers do much of their shopping, if not all, online. This trend is only on the upswing, and with that, technological developments must keep up to meet the demand.

For any business, whether brick-and-mortar or solely web-based, eCommerce is the name of the proverbial game. In a traditional face-to-face commerce setting, the saying goes, ‘the customer is always right’ (albeit, at times, begrudgingly), and large retailers and single store owners adopted a high-level customer service atmosphere. Similarly, in a web-based purchasing context, user experience has taken precedence and customers reign supreme. In an eCommerce environment, the stakes are that much higher.

Consumers are keenly aware of pricing, they are highly informed about any given product, and there is still the hangup for some that they can’t see the actual item in person. To surmount all of these hurdles, a site owner must deliver an eCommerce experience for their consumer that will encourage a user to engage and convert.

The reality is that everyone today is trying to reinvent the wheel. Not surprisingly, few truly catch lightning in a bottle and make the ideal product, causing many copycats to follow suit. This creates an overwhelming availability of choice across all products and industries. The difference is creating an experience that is personal, as it’s rarely just price convincing a consumer to ultimately purchase. There may be ten types of the same product available – but the one site that knows what the user wants, and makes that relationship clear, will seal the deal. Data gathering on the ideal customer and understanding what they truly value can uncover whether a user places more importance on a flashy interface, the availability of a live chat feature, consumer reviews or a coupon code. Focusing on being price competitive, replacing a ‘price leader’ status with the value-added integration of personalization.

It’s tempting to go on auto-pilot once sales begin coming in, but keeping an eye on the future is key. Checking analytics and paying attention to bounce rates, clickthroughs and user pathways can point out valuable red flags. Viewing these valuable metrics as opportunities to optimize for a better user experience rather than failed design or marketing will paint a more realistic picture of the site’s performance, allowing a greater chance for future engagement.

More than half (and rising) of eCommerce traffic today is done on mobile devices. The demand is clear, and the consumers have spoken. Drop rates are rampant for sites that are not mobile-friendly, equating to money left on the table for a business that has chosen not to optimize. The average consumer is highly technologically versed, and this means that more than a smaller screen will be required. Purchasing from multiple screens, the user demands a seamless experience that can only be delivered through Responsive Design. Delivering an optimal shopping experience with high-quality imagery, zoom capabilities, scrolling and readability, the responsive design brings a plethora of added value to the site owner through increased traffic and heightened conversion.

Choosing an eCommerce platform is a hot topic these days, and it’s critical to understand that they are not all created equal. Whether opting to self-host or farm out the work, working with an integrated team of designers and developers to build the site is highly recommended. Self-hosted platforms such as Magento, and WooCommerce offer the freedom to design and manage content freely, but it’s advised to work with a team upfront and ongoing to prevent cart issues, product uploading/data entry and possible crashes. In essence, the elements that surround an eCommerce strategy are much the same as a physical store.

Focusing on customers’ feelings when they ‘enter the store’ will promote the qualities needed to sustain the business. Starting smart with a platform and team that aligns with the business vision (and budget) will set the tone for the project ahead, increasing the chance of longevity and a steady financial stream.