You could be mislead to believe that eCommerce is only about making money. Well, at least that’s not all. Retailers want to create new shopping channels to increase sales and maximize the likelihood that shoppers will return. Web users, on the other hand, are searching for sites where the shopping process is easy and secure. A common online buyer will buy an expensive product if they trust the site.
Web designers must aim to create better user experiences and help close the gap between the Retailers and the Web users. It’s our duty to help users find their products and increase their trust on the site while helping Retailers increase their sales.
The two most important eCommerce trends for 2012 are mobile eCommerce and social shopping. Some retailers might consider investing a lot of effort following these trends while neglecting their online sites. We’re halfway through the year; if you haven’t already planned to follow these trends, aim your efforts in improving your current site.
According to “Statistics Canada 2010 eCommerce report” we had 10 million orders online in 2010. Don’t you want your site to be a part of that?
What to do?
Keep a close eye on your statistics. I bet the Los Angeles King’s Hockey Coaches spent a lot of time analyzing data and charts to improve their game. In eCommerce time must be invested making traffic analysis and user usage statistics to leverage sales and site visits.
No matter what tool you use to create your web store make sure that it comes with statistics such as: Bestsellers, Most viewed Products, Most bought, Orders Amount, among others. You could also integrate your site to Google Analytics to help you gather more traffic data.
To a new online retailer this data will be of most importance when starting reviewing site usage and buying history. But what if you already have a store? What if you’re already reviewing your site stats? How will you understand what your user likes or dislikes on your site?
The easiest way would be to ask users what they like! A questionnaire could be added to the website home page or as a modal window. However, what do we ask them? Will these questions be enough? Will they even give you the appropriate answers?
Even if you create a contest or give products to your users, it’s more likely that the data you’ll get will not be enough.
So, what to do then?
There are tools that will help you understand your user site likes/dislikes without even asking them. I recommend the usage of Heat Map analysis. They not only look cool, but they also give a lot of information.
Heat Map definition: A heat map is a graphical representation of data where the individual values contained in a matrix are represented as colors. Web heat maps have been used for displaying areas of a Web page most frequently scanned by visitors. Wikipedia.org
Make sure to:
Know what you’re testing: Home page / Slider / Product positioning / Navigation Menu.
Bring the team together: Stake Holders / retailers / designers / developers.
Recruit the right participants: tools will let you filter based on demographics, location, gender, etc.
Prepare test environment.
Analyze data and observations.
Create findings and recommendations.
Here are some examples of the findings we collected with Heat Map analysis with our Clients:
Home page search box usage importance: It doesn’t come as a surprise that our memory doesn’t work like it used to. Since the invention of Google we have been thought that with a single click we can get fast and accurate answers. Take advantage of that and make sure that all your products are searchable. Don’t forget to make that Search Box visible on your header.
Improve the Navigation Menu: Do you really think people are reading all the categories on your menu? Users read using a Z pattern reading (left to right and top to bottom). Most web users will hit your SALE category. So don’t make it too easy for them to find but not too hard as either. Get your SALE as far right as you can. Consider re-categorizing your navigation menu if you find that some items are not being clicked.
Free Shipping Promotions: don’t underestimate the power of giving away free shipping to your customer. They will definitely like that. Give detailed info. Add a Banner if you must. Get that promotion viewed by your users.
Move important boxes to the upper left corner: Chances are that you could be losing some traffic is your most important information/products/promotion are not in the proper places.
Arrows usage on sliders: Although we always place two arrows on the slider, the forward/right arrow is used more than the previous/left arrow. Users will most likely see all the information you put in the slider. Set the most important slides first that will improve your chances of someone clicking on it. It’s a great place to do have promotions and sale items.
Alternate images on products: Web buyers like to see the product from all points of view before buying. Publish high quality photos and you’ll improve your conversion opportunities.
Heat Map Tools
No matter what budget you have, there’s always a tool you can use to get a Heat Map analysis of your site. Most of these companies provide a trial mode. Use it and then choose carefully.
Visual Website Optimizer
See where your visitors are clicking on a webpage integrated with all tests you create. No separate code needed.
Get a visual “heat map” of what visitors actually clicked on each page of your website, to help with optimization. Price: $9 – $99 per month.
Generate a heat map of each page of your website to see exactly where your users are clicking – a good tool for site optimization and layout.
ClickTale’s Comprehensive Heatmap Suite lets you optimize your websites conversion rates and usability by visualizing your visitors’ every mouse move, click, and scroll.
A free open-source heat map generator of all the clicks on your website, to help determine what users are actually doing on each page. Price: Free
There are tons of analyses you can make out of the information collected from Heat Map Tools that would help give the web user a more suitable experience. Give the tool enough time to collect data before making any changes. Make the proper interpretation of the data and act accordingly.
After you have done your testing it’s time to make changes. Prior to that you might to consider doing some A/B testing to your site. I’ll write more about it on the following articles.
Hector Rodriguez is a Web Designer & Developer at Demac Media who has a passion for sports, specially Triathlons. You can find out more about him on Twitter!