User Experience and e-Commerce

User Experience in eCommerce goes beyond usability. Other factors such as brand, confidence, trust, merchandising and ease of use are called into play.

Slowly but surely the importance of ‘user experience’ to any e-commerce initiative is being understood. It is becoming apparent that simply ensuring that the goods are in the shop and the customers can find the door is not enough in the ultra-competitive online environment. ‘User experience’ is the difference between one-time visitors and satisfied repeat customers. It is also the area in which e-businesses can learn most from their offline equivalents.

‘User experience’ certainly includes elements of usability, but it goes beyond this to encompass the entire customer interaction process. But focusing on the online experience, there are certain key recommendations for organisations seeking to improve user experience.

Build Confidence

If you are expecting a customer to buy online, confidence in your organisation is absolutely essential. Although a tight security policy is necessary, it is hardly sufficient – customers might read security statements and guarantees but they are unlikely to be satisfied solely on these criteria. Trust is established when the customer is happy that your business is reputable. In the online environment, that means taking the time and effort to produce sites and services that look and feel ‘right’ and react in the way the user expects. Think of the alternative – would you use an online banking service that behaved erratically?

Provide Information and Context

Customers expect something more than a wide range of products that are easy to find. Any offline retailer is acutely aware of the need to provide a customer friendly environment – and online retailers are beginning to draw the same conclusions. Provide reasons to linger such as free information, additional services, and a satisfying online environment. Most of all, give customers as much information about the products they may buy as possible. If you are selling music, for example, let users listen first.

Put Products In Front of the Customer

Some customers enter a shop with a firm idea of what they are looking for. Others however, do not; they are interested in browsing and are open to suggestion. Again, offline practise in this area can teach online businesses a lot. Bookshops, for example, are built on a simple cataloguing system that enable the customer to find what they want. But they also use displays, bestseller lists and ‘New Title’ areas to appeal to casual browsers who may not want to scour the entire store. Similarly, in the online world, you can optimise the user experience by introducing your visitors to selected titles. As subtly as possible of course.

Make purchasing as easy as possible

If people are coming to your site to buy, make sure you don’t distract them from that primary intention. Providing that little bit extra is always helpful, but if it begins to interfere with the simple task of placing and paying for an order, you are likely to annoy your customers – especially those who use your site often. Give them the option of investigating other areas of your site, but remain focused on common tasks. User experience does not mean putting the “wow factor” of the site above.