Brands have so much more access to their customers today than they’ve ever had before. This is the promise of direct-to-consumer business models. By cutting out an intermediate retailer, brands get to shape their customers’ shopping experiences for themselves.
This creates new opportunities to build brand-customer relationships and new opportunities to grow revenue. In this three-part series, we will explore how direct-to-consumer brands can take advantage of these revenue opportunities.
Doing so is easier said than done. For one thing, brands must first create premium user experiences — something digital retailers have been honing for more than 20 years. For any growing direct-to-consumer business, the user experience is one of the most significant factors for conversion and therefore revenue growth.
Research analyst Rachael Ray calls user experience the backbone of eCommerce. “The conversion rate is directly proportional to the UX design of the website,” Ray says. “Improving your user experience will convert visitors into leads, buyers and brand advocates.”
This post will show you how to set up your DTC site so it is reliable, ready for mobile and has a checkout that is optimized for maximum conversions.
Keep Them Around: Site Performance
In a report for Smart Insights, digital strategist Dave Chaffey highlights why site performance is so importance to DTC brands. At a basic level, slow site performance repels visitors, he says. The research he cites provides a matrix of how much bounce rate increases with an increased page load time:
- From a 1-second load time to a 3-second load time, the probability of bounce increases 32 percent.
- From 1 to 5 seconds, the probability of bounce increases 90 percent.
- From 1 to 10 seconds, the probability of bounce increases 123 percent.
Chaffey recommends DTC brands start by benchmarking their own page load times with Google’s speed test.
If you find your load time is on the slow side, it could be due to any number of issues. Ankit Prakash at Sprout24 highlights some of the most common culprits, including pages that are too large, a slow database response and server-side code.
To improve site performance and web page load time, you have a couple of options:
- Take the time to use Google’s webmaster resources to highlight the source of the issue. Then, manually optimize your images, introduce CSS sprites, develop a content delivery network, etc.
- Otherwise, you can partner with a dedicated eCommerce hosting solution that will address all of these performance issues for you.
If all of this sounds impersonal, rest assured that improving site performance will certainly improve your customer’s experience. “While the collecting and analyzing of data might seem very impersonal,” the Smashing Magazine team writes, “the improvements we can make based on the information makes a real difference to the experience of the people we build our sites to serve.”
Keep Up With Device Trends: Mobile Responsiveness and User Experience
Directly related to site optimization and performance is mobile responsiveness. The Digital Marketing Institute points out that even two years ago, nearly half of all web traffic was to mobile devices. As of 2018, Google has begun indexing sites through a mobile-first perspective.
This is all to say that having a mobile-ready shop is absolutely crucial. Avery Phillips at Hackernoon goes so far as to say that the lack of responsive design puts your business at risk of being left in the dust.
User experience designer Jack Strachan explains what responsive design actually means. Essentially, sites should adapt themselves to any screen size and device. It’s this responsiveness that many consumers have come to expect when they are browsing or search.
Sonia Gregory, creative director at design firm FreshSparks, highlights three critical elements of a mobile-friendly design: readable text, adequate space for tapping buttons and no need for horizontal scrolling.
What is the best way to go about making your shop mobile-friendly? Again, you have a couple of options in this arena: Do your best to make your site mobile-friendly, or partner with an experienced eCommerce solution.
Meet Them Where They Are: Localization
If you have customers all over the world, it may be time to consider localization. Localization is exactly what it sounds like: adapting your site to the markets you serve.
Localization efforts can range from simply offering language and currency options to creating a unique version of your shop for each market. Karolina Kulach at CMSWire points out that language is not the only barrier; without localization, customers may have to go through a price or size conversion on their own. This adds friction to the buyer’s journey.
As a starting point, Webinterpret’s Fitch Richardson recommends identifying the parts of your buyer’s journey that are impacted by a global audience — and would therefore most benefit from localization efforts. “Mapping localization components to the buying funnel will help you identify which components are likely to have the greatest impact on your conversion rate,” Richardson writes. Currencies, language, checkout and payment options, and shipping options are all fair game.
[inline_cta icon=”link” target=”_blank” link=”http://www.scalefast.com/blog/localized-buying-experience”]For a more detailed view on localization efforts, check out our article on how a global eCommerce business can create a localized buying experience.[/inline_cta]
Making it All About Them: Personalization
Examples of large brands and companies using personalization abound, from Amazon’s recommendation engine to the virtual reality features some brands are experimenting with. Alana Rudder at Experience Perspective cites the example of Home Depot, which allows shoppers to preview the look and feel of hardware in their home with in-app augmented reality.
Even if you’re not ready for augmented reality just yet, that shouldn’t stop you from introducing simpler forms of personalization.
Katie Sweet at Evergage describes one such method: the “homepage hero experience.” This method involves presenting different home pages to different visitors, depending on the marketing segment they represent.
This is something Scalefast supports. So, just imagine you need to segment your site’s visitors by demographics. Someone in the middle-age-adults segment would be shown a different page than, say, a visitor in the college segment. Further, you could offer special deals tailored to each audience segment.
This is just one idea among dozens of effective personalization efforts.
No matter which approach you go with, digital strategist Greg Kihlstrom recommends maintaining realistic expectations, testing your efforts and optimizing along the way. “While you may want every touchpoint in your customer experience to have some method of personalization, the only way to truly understand the effectiveness of what you are doing is to make sure there is a good test for each,” Kihlstrom says.
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Make It Easy for Them to Pay: Checkout
A final, crucial aspect of the user experience is the checkout. Having a clean, simple, short checkout process will only encourage more sales (and fewer abandoned shopping carts).
Streamlined checkout might sound like a small tweak, but don’t overlook their importance. There’s a reason Amazon makes a big deal of its One Click ordering feature. A good checkout makes it easier for customer to buy more things more quickly, thereby upping order values and overall revenue.
Writing for Latin American payments company EBANX, Amanda Pofal defines what a good checkout process should look like:
- It should be contained to one page. Asking users to click through multiple pages introduces too many roadblocks.
- Its interface should be intuitive. Remove unnecessary input fields, and make sure there is no ambiguity in the actions a user must take.
- It should load quickly. Here’s where the conversation loops back to site performance. Users have very little patience for slow-loading product pages, but they have absolutely no patience for a slow-loading page that’s asking for sensitive data.
Once your shop’s user experience has been optimized to compete with the internet’s biggest retailers, it’s time to scale your marketing efforts to drive new customers and, ultimately, earn the trust of your customers. We’ll cover these in Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.