ECOMMERCE AND USABILITY:
What did you spend in man (or woman) hours and advertising dollars last month to
drive traffic to your ecommerce storefront? And what will you spend this
holiday season? If you're like most Internet retailers, it might just seem like
the total expenditure of a small nation. Is it more than you need? What are the
other options to improve long-term customer value? Let's look at some practical
tactics for improving the usability of your ecommerce site to increase long-term
customer interaction with your products and your brand.
- Identify Users By Email Address; Not Username
It might seem
like a good idea on the surface to enable people to customize their user
experience with personalized usernames, but most consumers change their personal
profiles frequently. How do you ensure your "forgot username" function doesn't
get overloaded? Try using an e-mail address to identify users rather than a username.
E-mail addresses (while changed frequently) are easier to remember, often
require no special characters and are most always unique, so users avoid the problem of
someone else already taking their preferred username.
- Shorten the
(Perceived) Distance To Checkout Completion
Can't see the forest
because of the trees? Probably so. Often times, ecommerce merchants think they
"get" the optimal user checkout experience, but breaking the process up into
shorter segments allows users to focus on one step at a time. There's less to think about at each step and less information to enter
(or screw up). Consider splitting the ordering process into just five sections
(supposing they are logged in); delivery address confirmation, delivery option selection, entering payment details,
order review/submission and confirmation.
- Address (and Publicize) Common User Issues
All the time you've spent building out a comprehensive FAQ section should not
go to waste. It's important that throughout the ordering process, common user questions and queries are addressed.
Users might want to know how long delivery is expected to take, or if they have to enter extra information such as their date of birth, they might want to know why. Go through the ordering process and ask yourself at each stage: What queries might a user have? Answers to these queries should either be provided on-screen, or through a hyperlink.
Take this a step further by cutting off issues at the pass. If you give your
users a "dashboard" to see account activity, this is the perfect place to
highlight these issues.
- Establish Trust With Users
Many consumers are still not 100% comfortable buying online
- no surprise, right? They might be concerned about giving out their credit card number, or about not receiving the items they've paid for. It's therefore important that you
acknowledge and allay these concerns to put users' minds at ease. Try and think
about the concerns users might have at each step of the ordering process, and
try to address them. For example, who is this person or company I am buying
from? Including information on your company and the people behind the company is
essential to your success. Links to this information should always be included
in the navigational architecture of your users' experience, but consider calling
out this information within a sidebar during the actual checkout process. If
you're worried about abandonment or leakage in general - open up the link in a
new browser window.
- Success From Confirmation Emails:
Once a user has placed their order, a confirmation e-mail should be sent
immediately - no waiting until you can process the order. Confirmation e-mails should be brief
and tell users important information such as the order number or tracking code.
Including contact information for a real customer service associate from the company
might be a little too much for the business process of smaller enterprises, but
if you can manage, there is no substitute for conveying yours is a quality
product from a quality company.
How do you improve consumer usability on your ecommerce platform?