Think about the last time you tried to purchase something online. Did it go well for you? Or did you end up finding it hard to use the navigation menu, then you found that certain links wouldn’t work and by the time you review your cart, you’re frustrated. So frustrated in fact, that you abandon your cart, put your phone on the bedside table and switch off the light?
If this experience sounds familiar, then you may not be surprised to know that 66% of customers state that ‘a frustrating experience hurts their opinion of a brand overall’, even if they love the brand originally. That's a massive price to pay if you get things wrong. And thus, the user experience has become the penultimate priority of 2021, because the masses are engaging with online shopping in ways we simply haven't seen before. Whether its high-end design features with that luxurious feel, quick and secure payment systems or that special touch, that leaves your customers coming back for more - getting it right is everything. In this post, we’ll discuss the most common pitfalls that eCommerce stores make, and how to navigate them so you don’t hurt your brand.
We've also included a snapshot of some of the most common reasons for cart abandonment during the checkout process to highlight some of the most common pitfalls that you need to ensure you're not running into.
If your store has any of these issues, then you're just giving your competition more customers.
1. Platform choice
Pitfall number one is centred around the actual way your eCommerce store is built, because you decided to build it yourself with no experience in website development, or you hired a digital agency that didn’t know what you wanted.
Your digital needs will ultimately impact the platform that you choose, but choosing the right platform is paramount to the success of your business, but before you go rooting around in the back end of an eCommerce store, it's important to consider the various platforms that exist and their purposes. The three key types of platforms available are:
- Open source
- SaaS (software-as-a-service)
- Headless commerce
We’ll briefly discuss each one with you, however we do recommend you do your own reading too.
Open source platforms allow all aspects of code to be modified, and are hosted by cloud or on-premise. This solution is one favoured by businesses with an I.T or development team, but can be quite heavy on the technical side and expensive to sustain. Therefore, a massive movement has been made towards the other two platforms for small businesses.
SaaS eCommerce is hosted by the company that owns the platform and takes more of a simple approach, removing the complexities of running an online business. Rather than developing an open-source solution, you technically “rent” this platform instead - a much cheaper option for you in the long run. The beauty of this is that the nitty-gritty of managing your own software is taken care of by the SaaS provider, and because it's so much easier to do, you’ll be quick to market.
And lastly, headless commerce is the act of separating the front-end from the back. In simpler terms, it means you can still utilise all of the features of an already-built eCommerce store (like inventory, sales, content management) whilst creating the customer-facing website in any technology. This is harder to execute but gives you more control over the website.
Some platforms are only basic in their function and features, meaning you will not have a whole heap of control over the native customisation of the platform. You may have more of a say if you pay to upgrade. So, which one is best for your business? It comes down to which solution can best solve the day-to-day issues that your business is likely to face. Think about the following:
- Your budget. You can pay well into the tens of thousands to build and host your site. Making the right decision here can save you costs on future development, should you decide you need additional functionality in the future. Before you make any final decisions, consider your budget for your website. This includes the design, development, security, and setting the store up (adding your products, shipping options, etc).
- Your buyers. Almost anything can be sold via social media nowadays. You’d be doing yourself a disservice to not use the social media craze to your advantage. Find a platform that has marketing features, so that you can integrate across various socials for wider reach.
- The number of products you have to sell. If you have a colossal inventory, picking an eCommerce platform that has a low SKU limit would not work, likewise picking an eCommerce platform that simply cannot handle a large amount of SKUs will also not work.
- Projected growth. Find a platform that will firstly allow you to grow, but also grow with you. Consider your options for high-traffic, so that surges in traffic in the future don’t cause your entire site to crash.
So by this point, you’re probably wanting to know at least a few of the big eCommerce platforms available to you. Some you may have heard of, others maybe not. We’ve listed a couple, but you can read more about the specifics here.
- Shopify - very popular for new online stores and has quite a large community. It’s a SaaS solution (hosted by the company, not you) and the start plan has an SKU limit of 100 items.
- Magento - an open-source solution used by bigger brands, quite technical, usually needs a development team or someone with Magento experience.
- WooCommerce - this is a plugin to WordPress, meaning you can add a store to your WordPress website in just a few buttons.
- OpenCart - an open-source solution like Magento, usually requires someone technical to manage due to the complexity of the platform.
- BigCommerce - an open-source platform for growing eCommerce stores, includes built-in SEO tools and compares nicely to Magento.
Still not sure which platform would be best suited to you? As a general rule of thumb, if you are a startup business it would be best to use a cloud-hosted solution as it removes the need for you to worry about the infrastructure powering your store.
There are no free platforms available worth considering, however, they do vary heavily in monetary value ranging from just $7 to more than $50,000 every month. And, be sure to watch those hidden monthly fees.
From the moment a visitor hits your landing page, your store is being judged. If they feel unsafe, or that their personal or financial information may become compromised - then they’ll leave your site immediately. High bounce rates certainly do not equal great customer satisfaction or retention, but they also impact your organic growth as search engines do not send users to websites where the average user leaves immediately as this promotes a bad experience.
It’s worth spending some time making sure you’re offering a secure experience. You can do this in a variety of ways:
- Display secure logos on your footer and checkout pages.
- Invest in an SSL certificate that gives you that little padlock next to the URL in the browser.
- Prove that you are real by displaying an address or a phone number.
- Display your returns policy so users feel confident in purchasing from your store.
3. Social proof
People, especially customers, will always have something to say. Being the digital era, word of mouth isn’t the ‘in’ thing anymore. Never underestimate the power of social proof, because statistics indicate that nine out of ten customers will read an online review before purchasing. Just like when there is a shocking Youtube scandal, the comments section will blow up - and you bet millions are reading it all minute to minute. It’s no different with an online store; sales are driven by testimonials.
It's important that you capture the pure moments of a customer's truly enjoyable experience, and then use this as the foundation of your reputation. Make sure they are legitimate though. A fake testimonial is a red flag and will make people question your brand's genuineness. Work on ensuring there are plenty of decent testimonials dispersed across your platform. And if you haven’t already, sign up for Google and Trustpilot reviews.
A simple and easy way to implement social proof is to use a product like Trustpulse. Trustpulse lets you add recent customer activity to your website in just 5 minutes. Tangible social results like this increase sales by 15%.
Social proof is an easy way to:
- Build customer trust.
- Validate and simplify customer’s buying decisions.
- Add credibility for your business, and improve brand presence.
4. Lack of structure
Imagine walking into Bunning’s to get some paint, only to find that not a single one of their thirty aisles are labelled. You’d be there all day (which is probably why the sausage sizzle stand exists). Point is, if you have more than one product, customers need to have a way of navigating your site to find what they’re after, and if you don’t, once again, they’ll bounce. Consider the following points when setting up the structure of your site:
- Consolidate all product categories in a logical way
- Name your products and organise them in a way that drives SEO
- Design a sitemap and wireframe to check that the structure you have implemented actually makes sense
And while you’re at it, if you’re organising categories you might as well strive for perfection. If you want to create a beautiful experience, it's important to get the bare bones of the site right just as much as all the design elements. Cordena has an excellent blog post covering the anatomy of a 'perfect' eCommerce store.
5. Complicated checkout process
Setting up your checkout process is more crucial than most people would think. A trend that began in 2018 is now catching like wildfire, where users are being left on the current page they’re browsing rather than being sent to the cart page, each time they add an item to their cart. Research suggests that if your eCommerce store averages more than 1.6 items per transaction, then you should avoid sending them to the cart every single time - or you will increase your bounce rate. The two most common styles of shopping carts on successful eCommerce sites are the drop-down bag and the lightbox-style pop-in layer.
If you are not displaying the final price of the cart before heading to the payment section, you may be causing more harm than good as your customers may feel less control over their spending and be blindsided when they reach the checkout, even if they are the ones trigger happy with the trackpad.
Another way to ensure you are killing it is to ensure an order summary is present on all pages as you progress to payment and streamline with auto-fill shipping and billing fields. Unfortunately due to the global health crisis, estimated shipping is down-trending majorly on many eCommerce platforms - however, if you can afford to keep it, then it will be a positive retaining factor, as customers love to know this sort of information.
Unsurprisingly, no ability to checkout as a guest is a major eCommerce killer. As highlighted already, overcomplicating the checkout process is going to seriously irritate your customers. In fact, one in four will simply abandon their cart if you try and force them to register with you. A recent study concluded that their focal business was losing $300 million in sales every year because their customers did not want to create an account. To avoid this, you should offer a guest checkout option and offer the user a simple registration process after they complete their purchase. An example of this would be displaying their email address on the checkout screen, and having a button “Create an account?” and have this button show a form that lets them create a password and register.
Some final tips and tricks for your checkout process, include:
- Do not pepper your checkout with questions, because before customers reach the payment section, they may have mentally checked out.
- Consolidate your checkout process into three or simple steps; shipping, payment, confirmation.
- Keep it basic, by asking for the customers first name and leave out unnecessary fields (like their middle name).
Adapt the foot-in-door technique - ie: leave the credit card/payment details until the very end. Ensure that it looks secure, displaying all those security trust symbols clearly in plain sight. Offer multiple payment options including Afterpay and ZipPay if applicable to your current circumstances. You can even have real-life touches that mimics an actual credit card
This graph illustrates how UX performance diminishes as the number of form fields increase.
6. Unoptimised SEO & CRO
Whether or not you rely on social media as your main form of advertising, you still need organic traffic to peruse your site in order to attract customers. Content shouldn’t be an afterthought because it quite literally drives CRO (conversion rate optimisation) and SEO (search engine optimisation), which in turn drives conversion rates (the point in which your customer decides they NEED to buy something from you). From the landing page to product descriptions, you need to ensure that your content is targeted and optimised for search engine traffic.
Avoid the following common SEO mistakes when writing the content for your store:
- Building links just for the sake of it
- Using inaccurate keywords
- Neglecting the usability of the site
- Using the same meta and title tags on all pages
- Don’t over optimise the store by adding SEO tools to others
- No evidence of product reviews, or censoring the reviews to suite a more positive overall balance
- Not effectively using page redirects
7. Not mobile friendly
As we have discussed in a previous blog post, if a website is not mobile-friendly then approximately 50% of all customers will stop visiting, even if they generally like the brand. It is paramount that you optimise your site for mobile-first, and ensure that the user experience is flawless top to bottom.
You need a site that will tell a story and sell your brand, which is why an “about page” is one of the most powerful ways you can establish a professional relationship with your customers. If you tell your story and be authentic, people will be drawn to you. If you hide the about us section or contact information, your credibility will disintegrate even if your product is life-changing.
Time and time again we are shown that a great customer experience not only increases the amount your customers buy but also helps to solidify a great foundation for brand authority.
It's worth investing in the small details to create a beautiful experience for your customers.
So, our eCommerce friends, it's time to get optimised!
If you’d like our help in reviewing your store and creating a plan for growth, then get in touch today.