E-commerce businesses can't simply rely on aggressive pricing and an endless stream of catalogs; it's a strategy doomed to fail. Instead, the best answer is a best-in-class shopping experience. To design your online store for a superior consumer experience properly, the best bet is to understand your customers. These six steps will provide the insights to anticipate customer needs and build a web presence that promotes conversions and loyalty.
1. Design With Your Brand in Mind: Successful retailers offer more than pricing, selection, and service. They promise to help a specific group of customers solve a specific type of problem. Creating an experience that helps your target audience cut through the online shopping information overload requires understanding your brand's promise. If your brand is a tastemaker emphasizing the "right thing" over the biggest selection, present a curated experience like those from sites such as Fab.com and Fancy.com. If your brand pairs trusted advice with comprehensive selection, guided shopping, which lets the customer prioritize their needs, will bring success, as it has for Kenmore with its dishwasher line's "help me choose" feature. If the entire organization gets behind one communication style, design needs become obvious.
2. Know Your Customer Before It's Too Late: To serve a variety of customers, some brands have adopted an approach where they ask visitors in plain language on the main landing page why they are visiting and what they want to accomplish. But, if you have to ask that question after the customer has chosen to visit your site, it may already be too late. You should have the data and the demographic information about a visitor available as soon as they come to your homepage in order to make a sound inference about why they have darkened your digital doorstep and what they want from the encounter. If they came from an email link, search or another channel, that should speak volumes about what they want-and if they visited via bookmark or direct entry that is equally valuable and telling. Lead with your brand's primary appeal, even if you serve a diverse audience.
3. Design for "Errand Runners" or "Experience Engagement": Customer personas are valuable tools, but consumer experience design can become muddied by trying to serve each persona equally. When designing, think about customers in two large buckets: "errand-runners" and "experience-engagement." Design to the needs your brand serves best. If it's errand-runners, help them to get in and out quickly, to perform transactions as effortlessly as possible, and quite likely to repeat the same tasks and purchases over and over again. For an errand-running audience, be the best shopping list you can be and don't distract them with information they can't use. Alternatively, if your visitors are interested in a brand experience and a deep engagement, then deliver that content. Let them delve deep into your catalog, ask questions, evaluate recommendations, and share their own insights. Don't force them down the transactional path that errand-runners seek.
4. Make Sure You Understand Your Mobile Customer: We know one thing for certain: mobile visitors are likely splitting their attention between your brand and something else. A Google study found that 86 percent of mobile users are multitasking. You need to be able to determine whether your mobile visitors are looking to engage in a long, leisurely search through your content, or if they just want to order another box of diapers before the commercial break ends through your own research. Remember, without a clean, responsive design, your mobile viewers won't do much transacting or engaging at all.
5. Don't Focus on the Web Visit: The rise of the always-connected consumer means that the Web visit is now just one component of your overall consumer experience presentation. Curated recommendations, geolocation-sensitive offers, and in-store shopping aids are all part of the brand message now, and your brand voice should be consistent throughout.
6. Let Your Superior Customer Service Shine: You may have exemplary, loyalty-building customer service, but if customers don't know how to reach you in a jam it's useless. Be honest: Are your most effective customer care channels prominently called out to your customers, or are you consistently funneling them to low-cost, less-effective outlets? Resolving a problem is just as important to consumers as the checkout button is to you, and your design should reflect that.
Following these six principles and truly understanding your customer's wants and needs will enable you to create a superior shopping experience that attracts and keeps customers coming back time and time again.