E-commerce has perhaps the most tangible relationship between UX and business impact, as a seamless experience translates into increased conversion rates and a healthier bottom line. The world leaders in online retailers such as Amazon, Nike, Neiman Marcus, and HSN all provide users with an experience that makes it easier than ever to purchase from their websites.
What drives these great user experiences? Great user research.
As you conduct user research to craft an e-commerce experience, it can be overwhelming. Do you start with interviews? Market assessments? Personas? What information do you already have, and what is important to yet be gathered?
At Granify, we have developed a framework for planning your focus areas in the user research process. This framework will allow you to:
- Easily audit areas of strength and opportunity in your current knowledge base
- Identify the highest-value time investments for your team
- Optimize your process in preparing solutions for retail e-commerce
The USE Research Planning Method
We call this framework USE: User > Store > Ecosystem. As the goal is to focus your research efforts, it is visualized as a target. The User is kept at the core of the framework, as their needs should drive the design decisions. From there, the Store and Ecosystem make up the middle and outer rings. Each ring can, if you choose, be further divided into quantitative and qualitative halves.
Let’s get started with the Ecosystem and work our way in.
Outer Ring: The Ecosystem
This layer of the target is the broadest in scope and generally offers the easiest immediate access to research materials. The ecosystem refers to the high-level aspects of the retail environment you are designing for: the vertical, the economy, the buyer attitudes, and the trends for the world your store and customers inhabit.
Middle Ring: The Store
What makes your store unique? How is your checkout process performing? Where are your shoppers coming from? Store-level research involves digging into the product, the pricing model, your brand, marketing efforts, and any other initiatives that could impact your users’ experience across channels.
When researching your own store, it is crucial to leverage experts in your organization who touch a range of aspects of the business (finance, merchandising, marketing, IT, and more). If you’re already involved in these areas, all the better! If not, go in with a clear ask of what you need to know, to optimize the time of the team members who will be collaborating with you.
The Center of It All: the Shopper
Who are you asking to hand over their own hard-earned dollars in exchange for your products and services? We place the shopper at the center of this target because the shopper should be at the core of all of your UX decisions.
This level of research can be the most intense and requires some practice to gain comfort with. But direct user research is where you will gain the information that allows you to create the best possible experience for every shopper.
Identify your most important user personas or archetypes, but always remember that a shopper is a person, not a persona. Try to interview a range of current, past, or prospective shoppers and learn more about their goals, desires, and obstacles in shopping online. If you are working in an agile framework and building in tandem with ongoing research, have real people test your prototypes to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Putting It All Together
Plot the pieces of information you already have on the appropriate level of the target. To break it down one level further, we split the target into quantitative and qualitative halves, so we can visualize even more closely where we need to bolster our efforts.
Sometimes you might have several pieces of research pertaining to one level of the target while lacking in others. Perhaps all of your data is quantitative and none qualitative. Ultimately, plotting on this framework allows you to make assessments on the risks and rewards of pursuing more information in each category. If you have the time, budget, and wherewithal, you could spend years becoming the most knowledgeable UX designer the world has ever known!
Unfortunately, the world of online retail moves so fast that it’s impossible to fill every gap every time. What you can do with this framework is move fast, knowing that you spent your valuable research time on the most important opportunities for your shoppers.
To supplement your efforts to save as many shoppers as possible, real-time analytics and on-site smart messaging can be incredibly helpful to identify shopper experience concerns on-site and address them directly before they leave. If you have any user research tips or questions about where to get started on your site, drop us a line and request a consultation today, or hit me up in the comments!
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