It’s no trade secret that more people are doing their shopping online. According to Statista, online sales of physical goods is projected to surpass $603.4 billion in 2021, which is a 40-percent increase from 2016.
What does this trend mean for eCommerce businesses? It means simply having an online store that sells inventory is not enough to remain relevant in a competitive eCommerce environment. Companies cannot ignore the importance of creating exceptional user experiences.
“Driving commerce in the modern mobile, social era means we have to create experiences, not landing pages,” says Dennis Yu, chief technology officer at BlitzMetrics. “That means a sequence of touches over time, not a single snapshot of a home page or a shopping cart.”
Creating best-in-class user experiences means empowering customers to move through your shop easily. As Darren DeMatas at SelfStartr notes, this includes
- Having a search bar so they can find specific products easily
- Streamlining and uncluttering your homepage so customers can make snap decisions to continue browsing
- Reducing the number of input fields in the checkout process
- Having prominent confirmations on the checkout page so customers can shop with confidence
- Offering a variety of payment options
Companies have to create experiences that aim to fulfill user needs and encourage customers to stay loyal to that product or company, the team at marketing agency Rocket55 says. Without that loyalty, businesses risk becoming obsolete.
In essence, the user experience has become a driving force in eCommerce.
Why User Experience is So Important
Casey Weisbach, president of online marketing agency 1 Source Media Group, explains that what we describe as a user experience encompasses all aspects of a shopper’s interaction with a shop. This includes the shopper’s behavior, actions, perceptions and satisfaction.
The importance of creating a positive experience, one that makes a customer feel good about a company, cannot be understated. Carrie Cousins, chief writer as Design Shack, offers some insights into why user experience is so important:
- It helps users navigate and understand complex sites.
- It provides a good first impression for a company.
- It creates momentum that keeps the business moving forward.
What defines a great user experience is different for everyone because it hinges on customer expectations. When designing the user experience and creating content for digital channels, businesses have to listen closely to what their customers want and need, and then provide them with an experience that engages them. Best practice, then, would be to translate those expectations into a prototype of your digital storefront or app in a tool like Fluid UI to test its usability.
As Weisbach notes, though strategic digital marketing campaigns and SEO components are essential for online success, if users aren’t engaging with the content through a seamless user experience, eCommerce success will be limited.
But getting the user experience right isn’t easy. Because it is so different for everyone, there is no way to pinpoint a “perfect” UX example. However, there are some companies that are creating amazing user experiences that businesses can use as inspiration. We’ve listed five of those companies below.
(Note: We are not including the obvious eCommerce giants in this list because most companies don’t have comparable resources available to put them on a level playing field with those companies.)
Before its 2017 redesign, Sierra Designs’ website was struggling with poor navigation on the desktop version of their website and a separate mobile site that created a poor user experience.
The company recognized these issues and were inspired by competitors’ sites that had clean aesthetics, lifestyle-driven photography and responsive designs. With their redesign, the company set out to improve the user experience by fixing the navigation issues, creating a site that was mobile responsive and immersing visitors in their outdoor-adventure world.
The new website quickly became noted for its great user experience. Users immediately responded to the distinct call to action buttons, eye-catching photography and adventurous feeling of the website.
Note, too, how much care Sierra Designs takes to give customers confidence in the checkout process. At the top of every single page on the site is a clear policy: Shipping is free above $49, and anything you buy before noon ships that day. Also, the shopping cart icon in the top right glows yellow as soon as customers put a product in there, and there’s a counter to the right of that icon so you always know exactly how full your shopping cart is.
And just as Amy Schade at UX consultancy Nielsen Norman Group recommends, clicking on any product image in the shopping cart takes you directly to that product page. This lets customers double-check product information easily before moving on to the checkout process.
What’s more, the new website allows Sierra Designs to sell a lifestyle, not just products. The use of minimalist photography that focuses on everyday people participating in outdoor adventures is what drives the experience of this website, says the Vantage team. Users can feel the experience in the photos and want to be the people in those pictures, which drives them to make purchases.
Di Bruno Bros.
Another company putting photos front and center in the user experience is fine food purveyor Di Bruno Bros.
The company uses photography to engage with its users and immerse them in the company’s products to provide them with in-store experiences online.
The first things a visitor sees on the Di Bruno website are very large pictures of food scrolling across the screen. The experience is immediately immersive. Images are the primary informational point throughout the site, with short product descriptions on product category pages that give customers a preview of what the food tastes like and why it’s unique.
Beyond the content, the structure of the website complements the feel of the brand. The team at A Better Lemonade Stand note that the chalkboard-like background of the image banner adds charm while the navigation and subdued colors ensure the product photos do the talking.
The company also uses distinct, strategically placed calls-to-action to encourage immediate interaction. Just go to any product page on the Di Bruno site and click that big “ADD TO CART” button. Immediately, you get a popup that confirms your choice, then presents you with two options: Keep shopping or go to the cart. Below the CTAs are an updated listing of the number of items in the cart, and the total.
A large part of the Di Bruno user experience is discovery, says the team at web development company Weebpal. The content allows users to not only find what they want, but also learn about new products they may like, which is a key part of an in-store shopping experience.
Leather carry goods manufacturer Bellroy has created a user experience that is as unique as their products.
What they do a bit differently is use video product demonstrations to show users how their products work. All of the product pages highlight features with photography and product use-case descriptions. The company uses videos throughout the site to demonstrate how their products address carry-goods pain points. The site also has a “Slim Your Wallet” tutorial that adds an interactive experience for users.
The site is reflective of the minimalist ethos espoused through the products. The layout is simple and lets the prioritizes imagery. While this concept isn’t unique in UX design, the creative and unique presentation of the products and video presentations set Bellroy’s website apart from the rest, says the team at Mockplus, a user experience prototype product company.
MVMT Watches has created a seamless user experience between their website and social media channels, which is big reason they were labeled as the “world’s fastest growing watch company” by Forbes in 2017. They quickly understood that they had the most influence in social media channels.
The company turned their social media popularity into revenue by investing in social commerce, allowing customers to buy directly from their social media apps rather than sending them to the website to convert. This is a logical strategy because, as noted in the comScore global mobile report for 2018, more than 80 percent of mobile time is spent in apps.
This approach to the user experience simplifies the path to purchase.
MVMT has taken the user experience to the next level with their Shop Our Instagram page. This page showcases all of the items they have posted to their Instagram account, providing a seamless transition between the channels. No matter how users find their products, they can purchase via those channels.
Glitty, which sells real-wood cases and covers for Mac products, has a website design that focuses on the minimalism and simplicity reflected in their products. Glitty knows its audience (young and modern), and its website speaks to that audience just the right visual aesthetic, notes the team with A Better Lemonade Stand.
Product presentation is the core focus here because the product’s selling point is its visual appeal. The company uses screenshots of Instagram shares that prove consumers love their products, which is another example of Glitty understanding their core audience and reaching them in a way they trust — via social proof.
To further build upon that trust, Glitty’s checkout is clear and easily navigable. The CTA on the shopping cart page explicitly says “SECURE CHECKOUT” to let users know their data will be encrypted, and shipping availability and the return policy are clearly listed below the button. This is an excellent example of how to give customers confidence in the buying process
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of the User Experience
Creating great user experiences is no longer a luxury reserved for the eCommerce giants. It is a necessity for survival for any business competing in the eCommerce space. With so much competition and so many options, consumers won’t waste time with companies that don’t give them what they want.
While the experience looks different for each company, as illustrated with the above examples, the end result is the same for everyone — customer satisfaction and revenue.