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Design, process and technology all make big ecommerce sense

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The world of commerce is often presented as a complex place, filled with tainted tactics and mass confusion.
And that’s just the brick and mortar variety.

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Last month we spoke about ecommerce and its evolution to m-commerce — the point clearly being that companies wanting to get in on the massive action and rapid, warp speed progression of online and mobile commerce platforms had better get cracking, and decisively so.

Getting your product, service or solution online and within reach of millions of customers is one giant leap in the right direction, yes – albeit still only one small step in terms of digital aisle shopper satisfaction.

User experience is everything

“People are always going to go shopping. A lot of our effort is just: ‘How do we make the retail experience a great one?” says Sir Philip Green, CEO of the Arcadia Group, a large retail operation based in the UK. “Good, bad or indifferent, if you are not investing in new technology, you are going to be left behind.”

These sentiments of “investment in technology” and “making the retail experience a great one” are more relevant in a digital age than ever before.

Sentiments shared by the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) who recently released the third edition of its much-anticipated research paper on trends in e-Commerce User Experience.

Images, information and reputation

In its report, NN/g highlights three design trends all ecommerce operators should take notice of.

1: The big picture

“People shop with their eyes”, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, “Seeing is believing” – pick your turn of phrase but the truth remains the same; in the absence of a physical store where people can touch, feel and inspect a product up close the only visual sales aid companies have at their disposal are product photos.

Bigger is better

Users should be able to expand a photo and, preferably, look at a product from multiple angles.

“Pictures of products in use or in context go a long way to answering customer questions,” say the NN/g and that, surely, just makes sense?

Businesses that do not have the budget to have photos taken professionally should consider the following:

  1. Get someone in the company to take a short course in photography at one of the many colleges around the country. There are several options but the Photography Institute, Vega School and others should suffice.
  2. Employ a photography student to take your shots. You pay a lower rate, they make money, and everyone wins.

Be mindful though that it’s not just the individual product pages that could do with larger, sharper, more varied imagery but, also, the category pages users browse before clicking on a specific product.

The more potential customers can see, the faster they can browse through to those products that appeal to them most and he faster they will click “add to cart”.

2: Peer reviews = sales

We live in a socially connected world and shoppers will believe what their friends, family and complete strangers have to say about a product a hundred times faster than the smartest line of advertising copy.

User reviews, especially, are of key importance in the decision-making process.

Access to those reviews should be within simple reach of shoppers. Additional product information on top of those reviews are a must but special care need to be given to content layout as font size, style and the highlighting of key points all contribute to making such content useful and, more importantly, readable for users across desktop and mobile platforms.

User reviews are certainly not a requirement on all types of products but (especially for higher value goods or enquiries about the general level of service received by company X, Y and Z) they do go some way to establish credibilty in the eyes of the customer.

3: Coupons, specials, deals

Speaking of reputation, if a company wants to see its image (and sales) go through the floor faster than they can say “buy two for the price of one” then the process of claiming such an offer should be as difficult as possible.

“If a discount is advertised on a website that discount should be automatically applied to users who qualify,” says the NN/g. “Users also want to see those discounts applied as early in the shopping process as possible.”

From there it is up to the retailer to make it easy for the shopper to qualify for another offer, say, a further 10% off on product X if you buy in the next 30 minutes.

  • Upselling customers through a variety of enticing (easily claimable) offers does wonders to increase average spend and turn the customer into a brand advocate.
  • Companies could even go as far as to reward loyal shoppers for new customers they bring into the business by tracking their referral activity via a unique tracking code.

Initiating such a trackable and collaborative (affiliate-type) relationship could really set sales alight – as long as all those clients can claim what they were offered, without hassle.

This requires a clear user path, simple interface, and intuitive design philosophy.

“Make it great”

People will always shop, that’s a given – through clear design, logical processes and clever implementation of the right kinds of technologies you could influence where they choose to shop – and that’s first prize for any company looking to make a success of its e-commerce activities.

Image: Daniel Foster via Flickr.

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