For those of us making a living on the Web, it would seem very few ways remain to truly optimize an online experience in a way that pleasantly surprises current and potential customers enough to move them toward purchase.
This is because we understand how websites - regardless of industry - should work. The optimal word, however, is "should" as even though we know the expectations visitors have and the technology we could use to meet them, there are plenty of valid reasons for lack of execution (like shifting resources and priorities). It's difficult though for enterprises to keep up with the speed at which technology is launched and marketed to improve website experiences (read more about balancing website operations, here).
The following ideas of how to optimize the Web experience vary in technical difficulty and monetary investment, but many have the potential to dramatically increase conversions- making them worthy of an add to your likely lengthy project list.
Web pages are full of smiling models and professional product shots, but what consumers are really after these days is transparency and real-life photos can help them make a purchase decision, feel good about doing business with a company or learn more about what an enterprise is all about. Adding in real-life (IRL) moments can be done in a variety of ways. Let's look at some examples.
Rather than using stock photos, business can take photos of their staff, friends, family or anyone else who will add to a positive brand image (as long as the photos aren't used to mislead in anyway like a photo with the caption "Check out our staff hard at work" should only include actual staff members). If a professional photographer is in the building for employee headshots, ask him or her to take some photos of work spaces, staff at work and other images that can be used for landing pages, marketing collateral, etc. If hiring a professional photographer isn't feasible, perhaps a staff member has a photography hobby or knows someone looking to build their portfolio.
Peer reviews are powerful, as they help total strangers make decisions based on someone else's experience. Reviews, however, are an expected part of buying goods online today. To optimize the Web experience, brands should partner with a ratings-and-reviews service that allows for user-uploaded photos within reviews. It will require an extra layer of human or machine moderation to ensure the photos are appropriate, but the investment is worth it when customers can see what a purse looks like in real life (see image from Fossil), what clothes look like on someone similar or dissimilar to them, how a dishwasher fits or looks in a kitchen, how a couch looks when real people are sitting on it, etc.
There's a reason Amazon is testing a "Just Walk Out" store where shoppers use their Amazon Go app as admittance into the store, choose any items they want and, as the name suggests, just walk out. The retail space uses sensors to identify picked-up products and the app to charge shoppers shortly after they leave. The concept is the fruition of a trend we've seen for awhile in that shoppers (both B2B and B2C) want to do as much research themselves before talking to anyone and, if possible, not talk to anyone at all. Consider this scenario:
A person discovers they are missing mounting hardware for a home improvement project, so they go to Lowes or Home Depot's website. They search for the item, see that there is inventory at a local store, are provided the exact aisle number and location of the product, visit the store and checkout using a self-service kiosk. Other than perhaps a friendly store associate asking if they need help while in-store, they don't speak with anyone throughout this purchase journey.
It's experiences like these that are cementing self-service expectations, but not all enterprises offer such frictionless journeys. So, considering all self-service scenarios is still considered an optimized experience rather than the norm. Let's look at some examples.
Going on a safari is a big investment for travelers in both time and money. U.S. travelers, for instance, will likely need to make sure they have time off work/school, that their passports are current, that they have the right vaccines and the list goes on. Deciding to book this vacation is probably not a last-minute decision; rather, they've done their due diligence to ensure it's a trip worth taking and they're selecting the right travel partner.
Travel company Yellow Zebra Safaris seems to understand how its website visitors research, because it provides an interactive feature that allows people to select trip details to get personalized results such as desired travel month and type of vacation (e.g., honeymoon, families, solo, etc.).
Artificial intelligence (AI) and its counterpart machine learning are the talk of the digital town these days as they have the potential to dramatically change how we research (like Google Home providing restaurant suggestions based on the tone of our voice and whether it detects other people in the room or not), how we work and how we live (e.g., an Uber-like service delivering a driverless car to take us to work each day).
Considering these are all scenarios that could happen today, brands need to ensure they're leveraging machine learning and AI in ways that make sense to them. Nordstrom, for instance, uses a Fit Predictor to better assist shoppers in finding the right size - learning from them, their peers and other brands to suggest the right size.
Size prediction is machine learning at work. Moxie (live chat), marries machine learning (to provide contextual information) and artificial intelligence to proactively serve content to customers whose behaviors may indicate they are experiencing friction in their experience with a brand.
For instance, if a coupon code fails a customer during check out, the person likely doesn't want to talk to someone about it, they just want a code that works. Using Moxie, retailers can set a rule that automatically fires off a new code to customers using invalid promo codes (because they've expired or do not apply toward that purchase), so they don't leave the site looking for a new promotion likely to never return.
Consumers have powerful computers in their pockets and purses and Web experiences that complement the many capabilities smartphones provide are those that can dramatically improve key performance indicators.
Entering information onto a mobile website isn't always the best experience, which is one of the reasons brands allow for guest checkout on mobile, enable social login, and cut out any number of steps it takes to sign up, buy or receive gated information. One way to annoy mobile visitors less, is by offering a numeric text field for iOS and other operating systems.
One of the fastest paths to purchase on mobile devices is with the use of mobile wallets (including PayPal). With PayPal, for instance, a person can checkout using the payments platform with previously enabled TouchID, which takes into account the phone's capabilities. You just can't do that on desktop (yet).
People expect more from their Web experiences today, but it's difficult for brands to keep up. While choosing your development battles is a smart approach, don't wait too long to optimize for better experiences, or consumers will move on to competitors and move up with even greater expectations that will be even more difficult to meet the longer a company waits.