Today’s consumers are faced with more shopping options than ever. With over 26.5 million online stores currently available worldwide, it’s no wonder that many shoppers are left feeling overwhelmed or confused.
A simple user experience is vital for customer acquisition and retention. Besides purchase motivation and intertemporal choice (deciding between options that occur at different points in time, like whether to buy now or later on), simplicity is one of the most important considerations in shaping the customer experience.
For shoppers, simplicity extends to all aspects of the purchase process—from how your website looks and performs, to how it leaves them feeling before, during, and after a purchase.
Think about a time when you wanted to buy something from an e-commerce site but didn’t. Perhaps it was because shipping costs ended up being too high or you couldn’t find what you were looking for. Chances are, this left you feeling irritated. If you’re wondering whether others react similarly, you might be surprised: the answer is both yes and no. It all depends on what caused the difficulty in the shopper's journey. For each individual, that differs greatly due to their own circumstances. High shipping costs may annoy you but aren’t an issue for others. There is one thing everyone has in common though: No one wants to deal with unnecessary roadblocks when shopping online.
So how can you master the art of simplicity to enhance the shopper experience? In this article, we’ll provide five important reasons why simplicity matters, along with helpful solutions to delight your customers through their shopping journey.
The Emotional Effect of Simplicity
Simplifying various aspects of life, such as communication, lifestyle, and decision-making, can have a positive reaction on a person’s emotional state. Don Norman, a professor, researcher, and author of Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, introduced a model for cognitive and emotional processing based on the following three levels:
- Visceral processing like intuition and snap judgments about whether something is good or bad, or safe or dangerous;
- Behavioral processing, which manages most daily activities and acts as a middle-ground between visceral and reflective processing; and
- Reflective processing, which involves a lot of consideration and musing on past experience, and creates value through repeated association.
How does this relate to the customer experience?
Depending on a shopper’s personality and information processing styles, simplicity can be experienced on all three levels.
As we mentioned earlier, some shoppers experience annoyance when surprised by things like high shipping fees, while others may not be phased because cost isn’t their primary concern. Your customers will experience emotional effects in different ways. The underlying principle, however, is that simplifying and streamlining the customer journey and interactions with your products and brand will lead to more positive emotional responses from customers, including:
- Easier decision-making
- Reduced frustration
- Greater efficiency and convenience
- Increased satisfaction
- Enhanced trust
- Decreased anxiety
- Improved brand perception and loyalty"
Why E-Commerce Simplicity Matters
Simplicity is a fundamental component of e-commerce design and operations that can lead to a better user experience, increased conversion rates, and overall customer satisfaction. Here are five key motivators that digital consumers consider when shopping online, as well as the solutions for you to achieve simplicity in your customer’s experience:
For many shoppers, time is an extremely important factor in their decision-making. If they feel like something is taking too long to achieve, they’re likely to move on to a competitor. Whether it’s your e-commerce website or external logistics that’s causing delays, it’s imperative to simplify the shopping journey by reducing the amount of time your customers spend searching or waiting. Here are our top suggestions:
Optimize your site speed.
Slow-loading websites frustrate users and can lead to high bounce rates. The likelihood of a bounce increases by 32% when a page load time increases from one to three seconds. Ensure your e-commerce website loads quickly by optimizing images, using efficient coding practices, and investing in content delivery networks (CDNs) to boost performance.
Provide easy search functionality.
With nearly 90% of consumers saying a good search function is essential when visiting a retail website, it’s a no-brainer to include (or improve) this feature on your website.
A successful site search should be responsive enough to display accurate results on abbreviations, misspellings, or related product searches. This can be achieved by implementing features like auto-complete, natural language processing (NLP), and spell-check. You’ll also want to include a filter that enables users to search results by criteria like price, size, color, and brand.
Streamline the checkout process.
Lengthy forms, multiple steps, and mandatory account creation can deter customers. Instead, minimize the required fields to save customers time and reduce cart abandonment. You can even offer a guest checkout option to make the process even faster. And don’t forget features like saved payment methods and shipping addresses, which can simplify things even more.
Offer fast shipping options.
According to a recent report from Retail Dive, three out of every four customers are willing to pay for faster shipping. To appease this majority, it’s important to offer multiple delivery options to cater to different customer needs. And don’t forget to provide estimated delivery times and real-time tracking information to further simplify the customer experience and reduce the need for customer inquiries later on.
Provide easily accessible FAQs.
A comprehensive, searchable FAQ section is a great way to save customers time for common questions and concerns. Shoppers can find answers on their own, reducing the need to contact customer support. This is especially beneficial for those who dislike dealing with support teams or chatbots or prefer solving an issue on their own. If you’re doubting the value of FAQs, check this out: 91% of customers will use an online knowledge base if it’s available and tailored to their needs.
Cash, coin, moolah, dough…whatever you call it, money plays a big role in how customers interact with your e-commerce platform. The effects of pricing and price perceptions are more well-researched than any other topic. For some shoppers, where money is a real constraint, the price tag can’t justify the purchase. For others, price and value perception is more complex.
Some consumers use heuristics—mental shortcuts or rules of thumb to make decisions more efficiently—to balance their need for a low price and less time and effort spent researching. By simplifying the financial aspects of the shopping journey, you can help streamline the decision-making process, while also increasing your conversions. Here are some ways how:
Be transparent with pricing.
Transparent pricing helps simplify the e-commerce experience by providing a clear and honest overview of your customer’s purchases, including product prices, taxes, and any other additional fees. This allows shoppers to compare prices easily and confidently make purchasing decisions without any hidden surprises further down the funnel.
Offer straightforward deals.
Promotions and discounts are a blessing to cost-conscious shoppers because they reduce price-related stress by providing tangible benefits. They also drive urgency and excitement, leading to more incentive to buy. Just make sure to include clear instructions on how to redeem an offer, or even better, automatically apply the discount during checkout.
Consider free shipping.
Though this isn’t always feasible, free shipping is a game-changer in simplifying the buying journey for budget-conscious shoppers. It’s also the number one driver for online shoppers. (Source: Walker Sands) At minimum, offer free or discounted shipping thresholds so your customers know how much they have to spend to qualify, and provide a shipping cost calculator so they can estimate expenses easily. Finally, continue the transparency we mentioned above by clearly communicating shipping costs as early in the shopper journey as possible to prevent any last-minute financial blows.
Provide currency conversion tools.
If your online store operates in multiple countries, having a currency selection option or conversion tool will allow your customers to see and pay for products in their preferred currency. Not only will this eliminate confusion about exchange rates, but it will broaden the accessibility of your e-store to a larger global audience. It’s true—92% of global consumers say they prefer shopping (and buying) from businesses that display prices in their local currency.
Communicate your return policy.
Customers who factor in costs when shopping are often bothered when they’re faced with unexpected fees during the return process. To prevent this, convey your return and refund policies prominently on your e-commerce site, including any associated costs. To go even further, you can follow this up with a hassle-free return process to build trust and simplify the post-purchase experience.
3. Mental Exertion
Mental effort is a crucial consideration when creating simplicity in the e-commerce customer experience. A study from Google found that simple websites outperform those that are more complicated. About Face 3, a benchmark for interaction design, says creating simple interfaces requires the following three design commandments:
- Economy of form, which means only using the elements needed for the task;
- Internal coherence, which uses scenarios and corresponding personas to help you create a holistic user experience; and
- Cognitive and emotional stimulation, which uses your website’s design to reinforce the emotions of your customers.
The goal is to find the right balance between removing what’s unnecessary and keeping enough elements to inform your shoppers. This will help minimize mental exertion and contribute to a more easily navigable user experience. Some key ways to achieve this are:
Always design with the end user in mind.
A clutter-free website is one of the easiest ways to simplify the customer experience. This means that every visitor on your site should be able to browse categories and access products quickly and effortlessly.
First things first, design your e-commerce site with a clean information hierarchy. Place the most important information, like product details and pricing, above the fold so it’s easy for shoppers to see what they need without needing to scroll. You’ll also want to include a clear and intuitive layout, menus, and filters, plus prominent call-to-action buttons that are immediately visible.
And please don’t forget to optimize your website for the growing number of mobile shoppers.
Display relevant product information.
If a shopper can’t find the product details they’re looking for, they probably won’t continue their shopping journey—and they’ll feel mentally drained too. Avoid this by providing essential product descriptions, such as sizes, dimensions, features, and specifications. This information can be paired with high-quality images and videos from different angles for optimal results.
Use plain language.
Jargon or complex terminology doesn’t belong on an e-commerce site. Instead, keep the wording simple and easy to understand. Use friendly, personable language throughout your website and other platforms, including product descriptions, policies, and social media content. This will reduce confusion and enhance the overall shopping experience.
4. Customer Expectations
The 2023 Customer Service Trends Report shows that shopper expectations are higher than ever. Today’s consumers want it all – convenience, personalized interactions, and connected experiences, just to name a few. The question is, are customer demands hitting heights too high for retailers to meet?Not with the right tools and approach.
Since the first retail transaction, customers have wanted (and expected) friendly, reliable service. But with the swift evolution of technology, consumer needs are also rapidly changing. At the end of the day, these requirements are pivotal to shaping the simplicity of the e-commerce experience. Here’s how you can factor customer expectations into the equation:
Tailor each shopper’s journey.
2023 has been the year of personalization, with 89% of businesses investing in this strategy already. (Source: ProfitBlitz) It’s not shocking then to have this on our list for simplifying the customer experience.
There are a lot of ways to make each user feel like a unique shopping adventure was made just for them, such as customized content and email campaigns. But we’d like to focus on personalized product recommendations. These AI-powered gems use data-driven algorithms to help customers discover relevant items quickly. By showing products tailored to a shopper’s interests and browsing and purchase history, you’ll be able to simplify the decision-making process and reduce your customers cognitive load.
Stack up your payment options.
The days of only accepting credit cards for online payments are far behind us. Today’s shoppers like to pay using whichever method provides the greatest ease-of-use. To cater to different customer preferences, go beyond credit cards by offering digital wallets like PayPal and Apple Pay, as well as Buy Now, Pay Later, which allows shoppers to pay in installments instead of one lump sum.
Don’t forget to invest in robust payment security measures to protect customers' financial information. And always display security icons and trust badges to reassure shoppers that their personal and payment information is protected.
Create an omnichannel experience.
According to a study by Omnisend, marketers using three or more channels in any one campaign achieved a 287% higher purchase rate than those using a single-channel campaign. While this is a bonus for e-commerce businesses, offering multiple channels also simplifies the shopping experience by providing customers with diverse options to interact and make purchases. Whether through websites, mobile apps, social media, or physical stores, these channels cater to various customer preferences, enhancing accessibility and convenience.
Utilize user-generated content.
These days, a customer review is one of the greatest assets your website can have. If you’re wondering how this ties into simplifying the e-commerce experience, ask yourself how many times you’ve checked a product page for a review or rating.
Nearly 80% of consumers say user-generated content (UGC) highly impacts their purchasing decisions. Why? This type of social proof helps corroborate a product's quality. Even more, many customers are more likely to believe the word of other customers. A well-rated product automatically builds up user trust about that product and encourages them to make a purchase.
There are a few different ways to approach consistency in e-commerce. First, there’s consistency in the customer journey, which includes frequent touchpoints. Then there’s emotional consistency, which is determined by the feeling evoked by those touchpoints. Lastly, there’s communication consistency, which is all about the message(s) you’re sending your customers about your brand.
Put this all together, and one thing is clear: Consistency is key in simplifying the e-commerce customer experience. Here’s how you can achieve this:
Keep your branding uniform.
Any time a shopper sees your company, whether through your e-commerce store or on one of the many platforms you market on, they associate that touchpoint with your brand. Keeping elements like your logo, fonts, colors, messaging, and tone of voice consistent throughout the customer journey will enhance brand recognition and foster a sense of reliability. This will ultimately streamline the online shopping journey, as customers will know what to expect whenever they interact with you..
Enhance your customer support.
Reliable customer support is essential to preventing unhappy customers. A study from ZenDesk found that 81% of consumers say a positive customer service experience increases the chances of them making another purchase. If a shopper receives great support one time and terrible service the next, they probably won’t return.
Make sure your customers receive exceptional support every time by offering a range of responsive customer support options, such as live chat or chatbots, to assist customers in real time. Chatbots can answer common queries and guide customers through the shopping process, while live chat can connect shoppers to support staff for more specific inquiries. And don’t forget about those FAQs we mentioned earlier!
Maintain email frequency.
Consistent email communication serves as a bridge between your e-commerce store and your customers. By regularly updating shoppers on order statuses, shipping details, promotional offers, and even personalized product recommendations, you’ll set expectations for future interactions while also building trust.
Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes will enable your business to better understand how a shopper's point-of-view and digital touchpoint's shape their experience. Once you have this information, you’ll be able to create a more simplified shopper journey for your customers. From there you can design your customer experience for greater accessibility, improve your conversion rates, and narrow your acquisition efforts.
Remember, there are always areas for improvement. By focusing on these building blocks, you can make the e-commerce customer experience more enjoyable, efficient, and effective, which will lead to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Personalized experiences, simplified.
Granify’s cutting-edge technology and data-driven approach have revolutionized the customer experience by simplifying the path to customer delight. Through our innovative personalized product recommendations, we’re able to help the world’s largest retailers create a seamless shopping journey that is tailored to each individual's preferences and needs.
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