The online and offline customer experience varies greatly. In a physical store, customers use physical cues to assess the professionalism and competency of an establishment. As you walk into a local electronics store, it's easy to evaluate professionalism by how the employees are dressed, how you're greeted, and the organization and cleanliness of the store. The transaction process is familiar and you walk out of the store with your purchase instantly. You instinctively know that if you have an issue with the purchase, you can return to this location to seek remedy.
For an ecommerce merchant, these cues are absent. The design, language, processes, and content determine how a potential buyer perceives and ultimately interacts with a business. For many consumers, trusting an online merchant with payment information, to deliver the product on time, and to provide service after the sale are potential impediments to the buying process. The transaction process behind the transaction is veiled and often unclear to the average user, plus online shopping layers in added concerns about privacy and security further heightening the perceived risk.
A positive customer experience leads to more sales and good word of mouth. A negative experience not only diminishes the potential for future sales, but can also lead to negative word of mouth that hinders new customer acquisition. Even though technology has made building an ecommerce empire easier than ever, ignoring the emotional and logical cues that buyers need to feel secure and confident making an online transaction can impede the growth of the best business models. This document offers context around the importance of ecommerce customer experience and guidance on how to evaluate and improve the experience for your customers.
Wanting to avoid the weekly trip to the grocery store, Michael Aldrich pioneered electronic commerce in 1979 by successfully connecting his television to a processing center via a phone line. By the 1990s, the technology to support online shopping matured and is expected to grow to $327 billion by 2016.1 The new, tech-savvy consumer presents a unique set of challenges to ecommerce merchants:
The primary indicator of site performance is page load time. For each second your page takes to load, customer satisfaction drops 7%.4 The majority of users expect your site to load in less than three seconds.5 However, recent research puts average load time for the top 2000 websites at ten seconds.6 Nearly a third of dissatisfied customers cite slow loading pages as the reason for dissatisfaction.7
Some factors that contribute to slow loading pages:
If your page loads just a blink of the eye, about 250 milliseconds, slower than your competitor, you could lose the sale.8
Mobile ecommerce sales have nearly doubled over the last two years seeing 81% growth in 2012 and expected to rise another 55% in 2013.9 An ecommerce operator without a defined mobile strategy risks losing a competitive advantage. Mobile strategy should include optimizing your site and transaction processes for multiple devices and evaluating your backend systems to ensure mobile accessibility and speed.
HOW MOBILE-READY IS YOUR SITE?
84% of US adults experience difficulty completing mobile transactions.10
A multi-platform accessible, high-performing site can still fail if the site design is difficult to navigate or has elements that don’t work. Ecommerce shops left an estimated $44 billion on the table because of shopping cart errors, broken links, and other transaction problems.11 Improvements in usability, like upgrading navigation and information flow, can deliver up to 83% return on investment.12
COMMON WEBSITE USABILITY ISSUES
Inconsistent design: When a page looks different than other pages on a site, users could spend more time figuring out if they arrived on the right page instead of digesting product offerings.
Large online and offline retailer, Nordstrom’s, recently invested millions into usability and site upgrades yielding a 37% growth in ecommerce channel sales.13
As you design or redesign your site experience use these high-level action steps to guide you through the process:
Where are we today?
Where do we want to be?
How do we get there?
Are we there yet?
We've spent much time and energy infusing principles of customer experience into our main website as well as into the design of our control panel and support structure. At Rackspace, we designed our customer experience around these four principles:
For a deeper look into how we approach experience design, read Experience Design at Rackspace from Rackspace VP of Experience Design, Harry Max.
We’ve presented some high-level elements to get you thinking about the customer experience on your retail website. Determining which steps to take next is highly dependent on the type of user experience strategy you’ve set forth and the current state of your site's architecture. Often the biggest barrier to improving the quality of the customer experience is lack of infrastructure capacity and IT expertise to speed up page loads or deliver content over distance. Need help meeting the infrastructure requirements of creating your ideal user experience? Contact our Ecommerce Hosting team to evaluate your IT needs and find out how Rackspace can help you extend your IT capabilities to achieve your ideal customer experience.
3 Harris Interactive Customer Experience Impact (CEO) Survey, September 2011
4 http://www.strangeloopnetworks.com/resources/infographics/web-performance-and-user-expectations/ poster-visualizing-web-performance/
6 http://www.strangeloopnetworks.com/resources/infographics/2012-annual-state-of-the-union/ average-load-time-was-10-seconds/
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