Retail e-commerce sales jumped more than 32% higher in 2020 compared to the previous year. While many analysts attribute the leap to changes in our behavior fueled by the global coronavirus pandemic, it’s not likely that consumers are going to give up the conveniences they learned to enjoy during lockdown.
For many small-to-medium-sized businesses, online ordering and customer service are now essential. It’s no longer enough to carve out separate journeys for “digital-savvy” customers from your traditional sales and service channels. And if you’re wondering why your website’s not delivering the same conversion that it once did, we recommend checking five crucial elements of your online experience.
Slow Loading Time
There’s nothing more aggravating than waiting for something to load. Worse still, Google might rank you lower in the search results because of slow loading times. You could potentially solve most of your customer gripes just by committing to making your pages load faster.
According to multiple benchmarking studies conducted over the past few years, a one-second delay in website loading time can lead to 11% fewer page views, 7% fewer transactions, and a 16% reduction in customer satisfaction. Nearly half of online shoppers expect a website to load in under 2 seconds. Even more frightening, 40% of people will leave a page if it requires 3 seconds or longer to load.
When our team conducts user experience audits for clients, we “pop the hood” on e-commerce platforms and content management systems to reveal just where traffic’s slowing down on the way to a customer. In most cases, we find:
- Complex layouts that create many requests to servers, slowing down the time it takes to render a page.
- Websites that don’t use distributed content delivery networks (CDNs) that can store crucial files closer to the end user.
- Competing or conflicting content elements (like endless pop-ups or service announcements) that get in the way of the task the customer’s trying to complete.
The more items on a page, the longer it takes to load. Decrease the number of requests you need, and your site will perform better. We help our clients work through the tough decisions about what to keep and what to cut on each page, so pages load faster—and end user satisfaction improves.
Mediocre or Outdated Design
Too many company leaders still assume that building a website is a “set it and forget it” experience. If the website’s “done,” you don’t have to worry about updates, right?
Your online presence requires at least as much ongoing care and maintenance as your brick-and-mortar location. If a huge stain appears on the carpet in the front of your restaurant, you’re going to clean it (or cover it) before customers complain about you on Yelp. If a pipe springs a leak in your office, you’d get a plumber in to patch it up before your employees start tearing you apart on Glassdoor.
Appearances matter on your website, too. A layout you loved ten years ago may not be rendering correctly on today’s modern web browsers, preventing your customers from reaching the checkout. (This happened to us as shoppers on a big-brand website recently, where a marketing department must have been so excited about an interactive “spin the wheel” promotion. Just one problem—the wheel element wouldn’t get out of the way, and we couldn’t buy the items we went to the website for in the first place!)
In design-centric industries like fashion retail or high-end restaurants, the look and feel of your website needs to match or exceed your customers’ expectations. If your website looks like an early adopter of Web 1.0—and that’s not the aesthetic you’re going for—customers will assume you’re not on-trend and they’ll move on. According to Adobe, 38% of visitors will abandon a page if the design is unappealing.
We help our clients solve all these issues by helping to optimize their e-commerce and publishing tools. Your designs and layouts should be easy to iterate as tastes change, and the backend of your site should be nearly effortless to update as technology evolves. With the right systems in place, our clients can test design elements like colors and typefaces to discover what works best over time, and to adapt to customer tastes without requiring constant overhauls.
Terrible or Perplexing User Interface
Another problem with sites is a lack of consistent visual cues, which adds to the chaos and confusion. If a shopper must click more than two times to check out, your conversion rate will likely fall.
Minimize the number of needless clicks on your site and avoid using features that detract from your prospective customer’s experience. Customers should find navigating your website simple, and they should be able to discover anything they’re looking for in a matter of seconds.
According to Ko Marketing, over 47% of website users first look at the company’s products or services page before moving on to other sections. The usability of your website makes an enormous difference in ensuring that your visitors have a positive experience. According to a HubSpot survey, over 76% of those polled believe that the most significant component in website design is that it makes it easy for them to find what they want.
Poor Quality Content
Customers notice the quality of your photos and videos. Even though we live in a time when anyone can pick up a (new-ish) camera phone and shoot high quality visuals, many websites still feature small, outdated images.
Even if you don’t have the budget to hire a professional photographer for every shot on your website, you’ve got to ensure that your photos are well-lit and highlight the people or products in detail. Many of our user experience audits result in recommendations to reshoot key images so they work better within otherwise good layouts.
Commitment to your customers also means that your content must be accessible to users who rely on assistive technology. Each photo on your website should include robust alternative text or captions that describe what a non-sighted user would experience. Include captions on your videos and provide transcripts for your podcast episodes. It’s not about supplying accessible content so you don’t get sued, it’s about ensuring that all your customers understand your desire to serve them.
Finally, check your website’s spelling, grammar, and punctuation. We love that modern content management systems make it easy for anyone to publish on the web. However, customers notice typos, and those little mistakes create tiny objections to the trust you’re trying to build.
Put your users first when you draft stories and pepper your website with microcopy that moves the relationship forward. When you’re delivering engaging content in a tone and style that meets your customers’ demands, moving them through their journey starts to feel effortless.
Customer Service Channels That Are Difficult to Navigate
If they can’t find a speedy online solution to a problem, a significant percentage of buyers will discard their transactions. Websites that are difficult to navigate convey the idea that your business is unwilling to address their needs.
Give your customers clear, easy paths to solve the problems they’re facing. Instead of dumping all your service information into a set of frequently asked questions, clarify all your copy throughout your website—customers who get the information they need as they wander through your site will trust you more than if they think you’re dumping a lot of fine print on them.
If you offer returns, expedited shipping, or other white glove service, don’t be shy—promote those features throughout the site and make it easy for your customers to ask for what they need. If you’re deliberately hiding your service details or your contact information, customers will catch on to that “dark pattern” and move along to your competitors.
Remember that you don’t have to compete feature-for-feature with your larger competitors. (You don’t need to install a chatbot on your site just because other sites have those—phone or e-mail contacts will work fine.) You just have to deliver on what you’re promising.
How User Experience Audits Reveal Your Website’s Biggest Problems
Every one of our user experience audits uncovers issues related to at least one of those five key categories. Just like taking your car into the shop for an oil change and routine inspection, getting a fresh set of eyes on your website can assure you about what’s already working well and what could work better.
Our typical user experience express audit takes fewer than six weeks to complete, requires just a few hours of your time, and costs less than $10,000 (the typical service fee for an extensive audit conducted by master certified UX consultants). In most cases, we can find dozens of quick fixes that can be carried out by a client’s existing team, with no need for web developers.
When you’re ready to optimize your site so you can grow more and better relationships with your customers, sign up for one of our complimentary discovery sessions. We’ll spin through your site and suggest a few things you can do right now to improve your performance.