few tips about how to design an ecommerce store that can be taken from traditional grocery shopping.
At Netstarter I spend a lot of time working with our ecommerce clients on their digital strategy. When it comes to making them money there are two main things to strive for. Firstly, we aim to maximise the volume of quality traffic coming to the site using channels such as SEO, SEM, display advertising (banners) and social media. Secondly, we look at how to maximise the conversion rate, that is, the percentage of vistors who actually buy something. We call this process Conversion Optimisation and it's part of the SEO service our team offers. A website that provides the ultimate online shopping experience, will in the end benefit from the highest conversion rate. The less users have to think about how to use a website, the more time they have to focus on the task at hand – shopping.
I spend almost half of my time living in the ‘real world’ these days, and I have started to take notice how the same questions have been poised by retail stores “How do we get more customers to buy from us
Even now, Ecommerce is still in it's infancy in Australia. Many retailers still don't see it as a critical element of their business's success. In the US and UK however, it's a very different story. Considering that Amazon, (probably the pioneer of pure Internet retail) only started about 16 years ago, I think there’sstill a lot that can be learned from traditional stores, If you take a stroll down to your local Coles Supermarket, there are a few very simple lessons that if applied to your ecommerce store, could really start making a difference to your conversion rate. Coles focuses on selling huge volume FMCG type products. They have undoubtedly spent many years working on perfecting the user experience for their customers, and designing systems and their stores to make the mundane task of buying groceries as painless and efficient as possible. We, as digital usability designers try to achieve the same goals online for our clients.
Lesson #1 - Place things where people expect to find them
What’s the very first thing you do when you enter the store? Besides glancing at the guy or girl at the checkout, you’ll probably pick up a shopping basket or pull out a shopping trolley. Think about that for a second. The shopping baskets and trolleys are always neatly positioned right at the entrance. You never have to walk around looking for it, do you?
What’s the lesson to take from this? Shopping cart navigation on your website should always be positioned in the top right corner of the page. People are familiar with that position and won’t have to look around for their shopping cart once they’ve put an item in it. The same goes for other common widgets. The sitemap should be in the footer and the breadcrumbs aligned to the left above the page content. The left column should be used for either your product category listing navigation, or, your filtered search results if you’re using an advanced ecommerce engine such as Magento.
Lesson #2 - Use words that people understand
Before you walk down an aisle you know if it already has the products you need. Why? Because all shopping aisles are clearly marked with the various categories of products that live there. All items are also logically grouped together. You won’t find the chips and chocolates in the same aisle as the cleaning products. The same approach should be taken to your ecommerce store. You need to make sure that all categories and sub categories are logically grouped in a hierarchical fashion.
Don’t get cute with your navigation labelling system either. Only use words that people are familiar with. Naming your category pages with internally branded words means that your customers have to ‘to walk down the aisle’ before they know what’s on the shelves. If you don’t have a very advanced search tool then you need to make sure that people can easily browse their way down from the top level category, to the sub category that contains the item of interest.
Physical shopping aisles are all of equal length and contain a similar number of products. Ideally you should strive for a similar structure for your categories, sub categories and products if possible. Don’t, have a hierarchy that is too narrow (e.g. 3 top level categories with 10 sub categories each) or too wide (10 top level categories and 2-4 sub categories each). Users don’t like to browse through too many top level categories, as it becomes convoluted. .On that same token, having too few is superfluous as the subcategories won’t be closely related enough. Look for a nice balance of 6-8 for your top level, and a similar number of sub levels in each.
Lesson #3 - Don't block the exit when a customer has their wallet out
When you’re finished loading up your trolley and head to the checkout you don’t see signs telling you to go back to the meat section as they have fillet on sale do you? You also don’t see them bunching everyone up at one stall. Why? Because people are impatient creatures and don’t like to wait around. The longer it takes to get out of there, the higher the propensity to say ‘bugger this’ and leave. We’ve all done this at some point when we’ve been waiting for a shop assistant to help us with something on a busy day. You can walk into any JB Hifi and be faced with this problem on almost any Saturday of the year.
When it comes to ecommerce it’s a lot easier to ditch a virtual shopping cart and leave than it is to forget a trolley full of groceries you’ve spent the last 30 minutes accumulating. Therefore, it’s even more important to make sure that the checkout process is simple and quick. Removing things such as navigation, mailing list signups or anything else that will take the users away from the checkout page is essential.
When it comes to paying for your groceries there are always those last minute items like chewing gum, magazines and chocolates that are part of the upsell process. You can also take the opportunity during the checkout process to increase the order value by adding tick boxes or simple drop-downs for some common up-sell options such as “giftwrapping” or “priority shipping”.
So there you have it. A few ecommerce lessons that I picked up in the real world of grocery shopping.