We are starting a new weekly series of articles on the eCommerce websites best practice. The posts we publish in the eCommerce Websites Best Practice series provide reviews of the different online stores from the best practice perspective. This article describes the evaluation framework used in our analysis of various eCommerce websites.
eCommerce Websites Best Practice Five Quality Factors
Our best practice evaluation framework takes into consideration the following five factors affecting the shopper’s decision to buy:
- Functional features of the website
- Cognitive factor – perceived conscious efforts to complete a purchase
- Emotional appeal of the site
- Product selection
- Price competitiveness
The first three factors reflect the quality of the eCommerce site itself and the last two are related to the products offered in the online store.
It is absolutely necessary when reviewing an online store to examine the fundamental factors that affect a purchase. Similar to when visiting a physical retail location it also has many factors that would influence a purchase.
Let’s take an example of how it applies to the physical store: the store is in a perfect location, great merchandise but poor customer service that would definitely affect the shoppers’ decision to buy from it.
Knowing your audience is the key to creating an effective site by combining the right elements in order to have the best appeal to your shoppers.
- 73% of mobile internet users say that they’ve encountered a website that was too slow to load. (1)
- 51% of mobile internet users say that they’ve encountered a website that crashed, froze, or received an error. (1)
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. (1)
- 55% shoppers say reviews are important to them to make a buying decision. (2)
The site functionality provides the necessary foundation for two other site dimensions: cognitive and emotional. A strong set of e-commerce features is necessary for providing positive cognitive and emotional shopping experience.
Below we review key functional elements of a typical e-commerce site:
E-commerce Platform Fit
Which platform used is one of the most critical decisions a shop owner can make, it affects the overall capabilities of the store. Think of a store in the mall trying to sell Christmas Trees, it just will not work.
Two of the essential things that a mobile site should have are:
- Speed of page loading is crucial on mobile screens as users do not have the time or the patience to wait to load your site on their phones
- The usability of the site on the mobile screen – the site must be designed with mobile being the prime screen with all elements optimized to work with small, touch screens.
Visitors to online stores have a need for speed – and it starts with time-saving search. Consumers expect online stores to allow them to search for a product and quickly find the product they want. The site search capabilities must match size and complexity of the product catalog. The sites with large product catalogs need more sophisticated and intelligent search engine than a site with only a few hundred products. Customers expect easy to search and filter products by categories, price ranges, brands and other product attributes on any eCommerce site.
Ability to track inventory of the product and display that information to shopper accurately. There is nothing worst than buying a product based on availability and getting the email “sorry out of stock”. That is just bad customer experience.
The “zoom” feature on product images helps consumers get a better view of the product.
Product comparisons can improve a shopping experience — and increase sales. Consumers typically shop for similarly featured products. A product comparison feature on product pages can help them view features side-by-side, instead of flipping through many pages. Many shopping carts are starting to incorporate this feature into their platforms.
Live chat is very useful on an eCommerce site. This feature should be site-wide, but especially on every product page. Live help can help close the sale. Customer questions can be answered immediately. There are many live help platforms in the marketplace to choose.
Product demos are increasingly popular. They inform the consumer and can help decrease return rates. Employees of Office Depot recently displayed that company’s product demonstration feature at an Internet Retailer conference, stating it sharply increased sales. Also, TigerDirect.com uses product demos to show, explain and educate consumers about that particular product.
It is clear and easy to read. The information displayed is sufficient to make a decision about buying the product.
Cross-sell popular and related products
The products displayed here should be somehow related to the product you are viewing. Many sites show some random products that are not associated with the product being considered.
Check Out process
Although most visitors to online stores prefer to pay by credit card, choosing an e-commerce shopping cart that also allows you to accept alternative payments will please customers who wish to have such options online. Offering options such as PayPal®, Google® Checkout, checks, and/or money orders allows more people to feel comfortable checking out on your site.
The checkout process at many online stores can be as frustrating – if not more so — than standing in a long checkout line at a brick-and-mortar store. When visitors are ready to buy, your e-commerce shopping cart must make it as simple as possible. Some e-commerce shopping carts offer registered users an express checkout option, which pulls up their stored payment and billing info when they log in.
Choose an e-commerce shopping cart with built-in SSL data encryption for website security. When online stores display SSL Certificate seals on their home pages, customers feel confident that their personal information will be protected and are more likely to complete a purchase.
E-Commerce shopping carts are key to the success of online stores. When choosing an e-commerce shopping cart for your online business, keep customer satisfaction in mind and you’ll be rewarded with customer loyalty.
An e-commerce shopping cart can help you keep the shoppers informed every step of the way – even after they placed their orders. Automated order confirmation emails and shipping notification emails build customer’s confidence in their purchase and your brand. If a website visitor registers, they should be able to track their order by logging into an account created upon registration.
Past Order Display
Ability to view past orders details.
Ability to remember your favorite products
Ability to manage your preferences in receiving communications from the store about promotions and products
Customers at online stores often buy gifts for special occasions, which is why many e-commerce shopping carts feature a registry option that makes the process easier. Also, so-called “wish lists” allow customers to save products at online stores and return at a later date to purchase those items. In general, when your e-commerce shopping cart allows your customers to manage their items the way they want, the result is higher satisfaction. It also allows other people to buy the products as gifts want without having to guess.
Women vs. Men (3)
- Women are more active than men on e-commerce websites.
- Women click 30% more on websites than men.
- Women view 12% more pages.
- Women hesitate 10% less before clicking on a page element.
- Women purchase 7% faster than men.
Younger vs. Older (3)
- Younger (18-34 years old) and older (45-64 years old) consumers generally behave similarly on e-commerce sites, though there are some differences:
- Older consumers view 4% fewer pages
- Older consumers’ hesitation time is 30% longer.
Users have to accomplish a variety of tasks on an e-commerce site; such as finding a product, adding the product to a wish list or a registry, updating a shopping cart, completing checkout, managing account information, checking orders status. E-commerce sites with superior user experience would require the least amount of efforts from shoppers to learn how to complete different tasks.
We examine below the main elements:
Site Structure and Information Architecture
We analyze how easy for a typical buyer to discover the site structure and complete purchase. Does the product catalog structure make it easy for users to find the products?
Are categories/sub-categories clearly named to make it apparent to the site target audience what’s in them?
On-site search experience is a principal component of overall shopper experience of almost any e-commerce website. Seamless search solution would require the least amount of conscious efforts from user to find a product that matches their needs.
You may read more about best practices in onsite e-commerce search in our past article: On-site Search in eCommerce – Review of the 8 Leading Retailers Selling in Canada (https://www.eradium.com/on-site-search-in-ecommerce-review-of-the-8-leading-retailers-selling-online-in-canada/)
A typical eCommerce site contains some navigation elements including navigation bars, menus, clickable images, sliders, icons and text links. A good navigation system helps users to find their way to complete specific tasks with a minimum number of clicks. Multiple factors contribute to the overall navigation experience: information architecture, well executed visual design and the system of interactive menus.
The navigation system has to work seamlessly on mobile devices as well as on desktops and tablets.
We also have to consider that e-commerce website is as accessible as it possibly can be. We check how the site design does follow the web content accessibility guidelines.
As necessary as it is to having quality images on your product pages, it is also highly recommended to display the product in as many angles and details as possible. People want to see what they are getting exactly. Having alternate views will likely decrease your return rate as you’re showing customers exactly what they are getting. If you are selling expensive goods, alternative views are a must. Remember that online shoppers are concerned about product authenticity — alternative views can help.
Is it easy to spot the entire core element such as information on shipping, returns and any other essential information that the shopper would be looking for. For example, the display of a size chart for a clothes store is a mandatory requirement but for a beauty store, bright display of product ingredients is vital. Principal navigation and content elements should be made larger and stand out from the rest of the page.
- eCommerce should not only satisfy the needs of customers who have a rational style of buying, but it should also appeal to the needs of customers who have an emotional style of buying. (6)
- The eCommerce system design that changes negative emotions to positive would indicate the highest probability that customer would make a favorable purchase decision. (6)
- 64% of global Nielsen’s survey responders who belong to the Shopaholics segment consider shopping online is fun. (7)
The eCommerce website design and content have a strong influence on the customer perception of the business and their purchase decision. In the same time, a site that is ranking highly in emotional dimension must have robust functional foundation and ease of use. We cannot expect positive shopper emotions when they are visiting a poorly functional site or difficult to use navigation. The site design elements and quality of product catalog content make the overall emotional appeal of an eCommerce site.
Show Products on Human Models
For sunglasses, t-shirts or anything that fits on a human, it can help consumers to see it on someone. Showing products on models is very effective. It lets the online shopper have a much better understanding of the product.
Quality of Image
The visual presentation of merchandises and displays has the significant influence on a shopper’s perception of a physical store. It is just as important for online web stores. Image quality is king when it comes to eCommerce. Invest in quality images of your products. Don’t use the same images as other retailers.
Social buttons are an excellent marketing tool for your product pages. These buttons allow users to post and share your product with their network of friends and family through Facebook, Twitter, and countless social networks. I recommend using individual social buttons — such as the Facebook Like or Share button, the Tweet button, or Google +1 button — instead of an aggregate one. Individual social buttons are easier for shoppers to use, rather than to click on an aggregate button and then choosing a specific site.
Email a Friend’ Button
It helps spread the word in a quick and efficient way for shoppers to recommend and get feedback on the products.
Customers care what others have to say. If your product pages have consumer reviews, you’re helping buyers make a final decision. Not all products have positive reviews. In fact, many have both positive and negative reviews, which, makes the shopping experience that much more authentic and real for the shopper.
Make it easy to call you
Another way to help increase your credibility with shoppers is to display your phone number prominently on every page, preferably right in the site header. This information lets people know you’re not a fly-by-night operation, and that they can buy from you with confidence. It also gives them the sense that if they have any issues with your products or your store, help is just a phone call away.
- 83% of online beauty and personal care shoppers consider finding specific products as the most important attribute of online shopping. (8)
- 42% of responders of the Pitney Bowes survey of 10,000 global consumers consider the selection of products as the number one factor in purchasing products online. (9)
Product selection is probably the most critical thing your store can offer. (10) People might even close their eyes on the broken site if the product you’re offering is truly unique. In today’s reality, it is almost impossible to sell a product that is truly unique so the combination of functionality and selection will help you win the race.
Variety of Products
It is critical to have a variety of products that you specialize in, whether it is a specific category or type of product.
Assuming you display products in stock, a simple statement such as ‘in stock and ready to ship’ is a confidence builder for the later stage buyer.
Having this statement sitting within the buying area provides the perception the statement is specifically for this product or any variation of the product.
If the product comes in a variety of colors it is expected to have them available on your site or the shopper will go somewhere else. It is beneficial to know what colors your audience likes and have them available in large quantities.
Display all the sizing options available for a product type. It is desirable to capture all the main sizing options and give the shopper the availability to request other sizes if possible. This will help you retain the position of category winner in your target market.
- At 28%, unexpected shipping cost is the biggest reason for cart abandonment among online shoppers. (2)
- 54% of shoppers will purchase products left in shopping carts, if those products are offered at a lower price. (4)
- 63% of consumers feel a coupon is the most valuable form of mobile marketing. (6)
Lastly, the price is also a very significant factor in the buying decision. If the selection and functionality all worked great, the price would be the final determining factor in the purchase journey.
Let’s imagine a shopper’s journey.
A customer was looking for a particular product on an easy to navigate the site, finds it quickly and then discovers that the product price is very high. It is most likely that the sale will be lost. The prices charged for the merchandise have to be on par with average market price or offer some other value if more expensive.
Shipping cost and free shipping offering for the qualified orders are significant considerations in the product price perception.
Read more about free shipping in our article The Importance of Free Shipping and the Harsh Canadian Reality (https://www.eradium.com/the-importance-of-free-shipping-and-the-harsh-canadian-reality/)
We will compare a few sample products that are sold on the site vs. Amazon and a few others to determine if the product is priced competitively.
- How Loading Time Affects Your Bottom Line, https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/
- 5 eCcommerce Stats that Will Make You Change Your Entire,
- How Gender, Age, and Left-Handedness Affect E-Commerce Behavior [Infographic]
- [Report] VWO eCommerce Survey 2014,
- A Control Structure for Intelligent Emotion-Oriented eCommerce Systems, http://www.iaeng.org/publication/WCE2010/WCE2010_pp102-107.pdf
- Retail Data: 100 Stats About Retail, eCommerce & Digital …, https://www.nchannel.com/blog/retail-data-ecommerce-statistics/
- E-commerce: Evolution or Revolution in the Fast-Moving Consumers Goods World, http://ir.nielsen.com/files/doc_financials/Nielsen-Global-E-commerce-Report-August-2014.pdf
- Beauty and the E-Commerce Beast – AT Kearney,
- E-commerce survey provides roadmap to help U.S. retailers reach consumers around the globe, White Paper,
- Canadian shoppers turn to the web for products they can’t find nearby, https://www.internetretailer.com/2015/08/31/canadian-web-shoppers-turn-web-product-selection