Millions of dollars (and yen, and Euros) are paid online every day, and signals show that the rate of online purchases will only grow in the coming years. Clearly, you want your ecommerce site to be included in this growth. But customers will continue to expect better experiences as ecommerce establishes itself more and more as a viable industry. Help your site to get to the head of the pack with these usability tips.
A clean design is a great way to gain people’s trust. Once they start reading your site, display every sign that you are an authentic business, including a street address, phone number, and clear return and complaints policies. Display the logos of organizations your business is a part of, like the Better Business Bureau, or payment systems that people are familiar with, like PayPal. Have an SSL certificate to ensure that customer information is as securely transmitted as possible, and use an authentication service like VeriSign. Do we link to how to get it?
Your site needs to be quick. Some users might find exactly what they want and check out instantly, but online shopping can turn into window shopping quite easily, and you will lose their attention if your site can’t keep up with the speed that someone is clicking through its inventory. Make sure that thumbnails and other images are no larger than necessary, but large enough to encourage a closer look.
Use an inventory management system, so that every item online is marked accurately as being in stock or out-of-stock. Don’t frustrate users who order something and wait for it to arrive, only to discover that it was not available at the time of purchase. Updating the site by hand isn’t fast enough anymore, so set up a system that can grow with your business.
Find it all
Let your customers search and group your products by category or feature. Make sure search is an option, too, and have the most robust search capabilities possible. If users search for something and can’t find it, they could easily give up and look somewhere else instead of digging a little deeper.
Up close and personal
Customers don’t get to try on your products before they buy them, so make your website the next best thing. Include high quality photos from multiple angles, a detailed and accurate report of the condition of the item, and even incorporate customer reviews. Measurements, compatibility information, and other technical details should be presented clearly.
Give more information
Knowing that people are looking at one item in your ecommerce store might help you suggest other upsells. Include a related products section, or make personalized recommendations. You could even link to your corporate blog, if you post reviews or comparisons of different products.
Let people know about additional costs, like shipping or tax, before they are checking out. If the costs can’t be calculated exactly before the transaction is complete, show an approximate cost, or let people use a “shipping calculator” to see how much it would cost to send the item to a specific place.
Enable users to create an account, but don’t force them to. Setting up a secure account encourages people to come back and make purchases more easily later – but setting up an account can also be an annoying deterrent for first-time customers. Split the difference by making account creation simple, but letting users check out without an account if they would like. This is also a great place to offer access to future deals through a newsletter.
Can users pay with PayPal? What about all the different credit card brands? Can you display the price in a different currency? Be as accommodating as possible – after people decide they want to spend their money, don’t give them an excuse not to.
Keep it simple
Checkout needs to be simple and predictable. Test to find the right balance between long pages and a large number of them. Make sure all required fields are marked, and any special instructions are clear and concise. Even little things add up, like letting customers navigate between fields by using ‘Tab.’
Of course, this usability tip needs no explaining – the more that you can watch actual customers in action and ask them what could be improved, the more you can tailor your site to the needs of the people using it.