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The importance of UX in e-commerce

7 February 2017

Let’s talk about shopping cart abandonment. That’s when visitors leave your site without making a purchase. It’s a big bugbear for e-commerce businesses, potentially translating to thousands in lost revenue each year.

Almost 70% of online shoppers will abandon their carts without buying anything. This is an average figure, according to Baymard Institute’s calculations from 34 studies on e-commerce cart abandonment, but a rather alarming one.

Of course, there’s not much you can do about visitors who leave for reasons outside of your control, eg. those who aren’t interested in your goods, those who aren’t ready to buy yet, or those solely there to learn about your brand and product. But what about everyone else — why are they leaving?

The short answer: bad UX.

Bad UX makes users abandon your site

Of the visitors who would have bought from you, about a third will leave because of a long or complicated checkout process. Baymard’s own research reveals the ideal checkout flow can be as short as 8 form fields, yet the average US checkout asks users to deal with 15 fields.

People put up with a lot if they want something badly enough. But when your competitors can offer a comparable product or service with simpler way to buy, it’s not hard to guess who the average buyer would pick.

Other UX issues flagged in Baymard’s studies include

  • requiring an account,
  • unclear pricing,
  • site errors and crashes,
  • lack of trust when handing over credit card info, and
  • insufficient payment methods.

All this suggests that many e-commerce websites could improve their conversion rate dramatically with just a few simple fixes.

Good UX increases revenue through conversion and retention

Despite the evidence pointing to good UX as a conversion booster, many teams still approach user experience as an afterthought. After all, when you run down the laundry list of a full UX workover — user research, user testing, persona development, wireframing, usability testing, etc. — it looks like expensive work with results that are difficult to measure (aka. difficult to prove to stakeholders).

But, based on their studies, the Baymard Institute estimates businesses across the US and EU could collectively recover around $260B in e-commerce sales just through checkout optimisations.

What’s more, this figure only looks at the initial transaction with a customer. When you consider that the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% (versus 5-20% for a new prospect), the ROI of good UX starts to look a lot more enticing.

Better UX on a lean budget

You don’t need to wait for a full site redesign before improving the experience you offer your customers. You can leverage good UX in your digital strategy with these small, low budget improvements:

Simplify your checkout process
Reduce the number of fields your users need to fill out. And where possible, automate some of the process for them. For example, integrate a standard address validator to save time for your users and ensure you get clean, valid information for your customer database.

Don’t punish people for choosing to do business with you — make it as easy as possible for them to convert. Ask only for the minimum amount of information you need to complete the transaction, and drop the old marketing habit of collecting extra data ‘just in case’. If your giant form scares users away, you won’t get their details anyway.

Convert users without forcing them to commit
This one’s not for everyone. Obviously, your hands are tied if you offer an ongoing service like water, power and Netflix. Otherwise, ask yourself: do you really need people to sign up? Removing the requirement to create an account gives you the opportunity to fast-track shoppers to your conversion checkpoint — an easy win for you, and a quick win for users who just want to buy.

Show information at the appropriate time
Show too little and you risk buyers leaving because they can’t find the information they want. Showing order costs, shipping costs, discount amounts, and other details will make users feel safe about taking that next step.

But show too much and you risk overwhelming or confusing shoppers, especially if what you tell them doesn’t apply until much later. Every phase in a shopping experience entails different decision-making processes and levels of commitment. The information you divulge at each point can help or hinder your user’s progress towards conversion.

Keep your site fast, accurate and free of errors
This one explains itself. Users don’t want to wait for information; even a few seconds’ delay is enough to create an unpleasant experience. People have limited patience and free time, and don’t want to waste it on incorrect or irrelevant details. Nor do they want to start over because something went wrong.

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