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3 Key Aspects of Engaging Consumers on Your eCommerce Website

15+ Min Read

The online shopping experience is incredibly dynamic. In many ways, shopping on the internet is now just as customer-facing as real-world shopping. Online retailers want to ensure a seamless shopping experience for their eCommerce website visitors. 

Making this happen is not a Herculean task. Successful organizations have already shown us how to make real-world shoppers happy; however, doing the same in digital space needs rigorous optimization efforts for conversions since your online customer is invariably distracted while on the web. 

To beat your competition, understanding customer behavior and optimizing your web page accordingly for conversions act as stepping stones to your optimization journey.

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This article will outline steps to optimize a website for increasing conversions, primarily focussing on user experience.

What affects the consumer’s online experience

The number of factors that affect the user experience of a consumer can be pared down to three:

  • What the site contains
  • How the site functions
  • Psychological factors

Content is (rather obviously) what the website contains. It is perhaps the most important of the three factors, yet it is the one that’s most often ignored. A webpage with poor content is very likely to be overlooked, no matter what other factors may come into play. Content helps shape the aesthetics as well as the marketing communication of the business website.

The aesthetics of a site deal with how the site looks. The ‘marketing mix’ aspect of the site deals with the ‘four Ps’ of how a website attracts traffic: Products, Promotion, Price, and Place.

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Functionality comes in next, once the content helps grab a visitor’s attention to engage with the site. A site may have the best content going, but if it takes too long to load, is confusing to use, or gives consumers the run-around, content barely matters.

The psychological factors govern how trust is built up between the consumer and the retailer. Handing over cash (or at least your credit card or PayPal details) is always a leap of faith, so trust is crucial. Consumers need to be reassured that they will get what they paid for, and not a sub-standard item that bears no relationship to the hi-res product image on the checkout page.

The best way of creating trust is to have a website having good content, and that works as it is expected to. Consumers have warmed up to the online experience and become internet-savvy; they will quickly spot a website that’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

The logical way to understand what resonates with your target audience is by analyzing the behavior of visitors on your website. Once you have observations in place, you can validate them through A/B testing.

Consumer engagement doesn’t happen in silos

Studies about the entire end-to-end process of the consumer experience are notoriously hard to find. It is not surprising since many factors can create an ideal shopping experience.

Customer engagement optimization is not an  isolated process. Each aspect of your optimization process should improve the overall website performance. If you take this approach when constructing a site, you are likely to create a site that ensures a satisfactory, end-to-end experience for your potential customers.

This article will outline the ways in which a website can be used as a way of increasing conversions, primarily by using it as a way of enhancing a consumer’s online retail experience.

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How to create a high-converting website

To create a well-rounded website, you need to work on all three factors—content, functionality, and psychology. Also, ensure they are fully integrated. If you work as hard as you can on this ‘holy trinity’ of website design, you’re guaranteed to end up with a site that will engage your customers as much as, or even better than its real-world counterpart. As far as your customers are concerned, an optimized website will appear as if it was personalized for them.

Your business’ specific goals define how you create the combination of these factors that works best for you and the audience you intend to target. For example, if your products or services are typically expensive or of a sensitive nature, then your consumers will want to know that you run a secure business. Likewise, if you sell confidential products, your customers need assurance that you will not sell their information to third-party vendors. In both cases, security is much more of an issue to the people using your site than the color of your CTA buttons or whether your users can select a personal skin.

Elements of content

Content serves to address two aspects of an online business—aesthetics and the marketing mix.

Aesthetics

A well-functioning eCommerce website exists to increase your conversions and make money, where visually appealing elements seldom have a role to play. It must be state-of-the-art. It must work effectively in ALL browsers. It must look as good on a mobile device as it does on a laptop.The site needs to capture a visitor’s attention and keep them hooked. The content must be interesting and compelling and not just a boring sales blurb. The longer a customer engages with your site (here’s more on lowering bounce rate), the more likely they are to make a purchase.

  • Understanding the medium

Below elements define how aesthetically pleasing your site is:

  • Design
  • Presentation
  • Quality
  • Atmosphere

Managing to combine all four elements successfully is certainly not easy, but it can be done. Hundreds of thousands of sites have successfully done it.

The choices you make fundamentally shape how your customers engage with your brand online, and they become critical when it comes to first-time visitors. In addition, the atmosphere created has a crucial bearing on the way that your clients will make decisions.

Remember, shoppers online spend about 10-20 seconds on a webpage[1], much less than how shoppers behave in the real world. Online attention-spans are fleeting, so they need to be secured.

  • Getting the design right increases your credibility

Your site helps you create credibility for your brand. If your site design is years out of date and the content has not been updated for months, then your brand will be perceived as being out of touch.

Optimizing your website design can help you build confidence not only in your website layout and functionality but also in overall website performance. In addition, A/B testing your design for conversions can validate your website audit insights.

Marketing Mix

Marketing is the way you promote your site—not necessary by tangible elements such as email campaigns, but by combining factors that interact to promote your site and your brand:

  • Communication

The quality of information available on your site is crucial. Define your products and services clearly. Your terms and conditions should be readable and not bloated with legal jargon. The more ‘human’ you are, the better.

  • Fulfillment

Customers expect their orders to be delivered with minimum delay. If they are likely to experience a fulfillment delay, they should be informed of such. Customers who experience poor service are much more likely to file a poor review. Delays and mishaps are inevitable, but people are much more understanding if they are kept informed of anything that has gone wrong than if they are kept in the dark.

Your site should offer multiple payment and shipping options, and you should make sure you deliver on your delivery promises

  • Let customers experience the product

Your customers cannot examine your products as they would if they were physically present in your store. Therefore, you should never forget this and present your products in a visually appealing (and truthful) way.

  • Price

It’s a little debate about how a brand’s pricing policy affects a consumer’s purchasing behavior. Naturally, consumers will compare the price of your products to those offered by similar retailers, but they do not simply go for the cheapest, which is why brand reputation is so crucial. A/B test your pricing to find a competitive range that brings you revenue.

  • Promotion

Promotion equals bonus services, discounts, free offers, and extra incentives. It encourages visits to engage with your site and your brand and helps to create repeat orders.

Functionality of the website

There are two main aspects to functionality—usability and interactivity. Your site’s success depends on these two factors. For example, if your site downloads slower than dial-up and navigation is impossible without an experienced guide, then consumers will abandon your site faster than people fleeing a burning building.

A customer uses the internet for the convenience it offers, not to waste time—at least the eCommerce side of it. Poor site performance will adversely affect conversions and—if you have a bricks-and-mortar store—real-world sales as well.

Usability

Your site is usable if a customer can find exactly what they are looking for within a few clicks. If site navigation is like steering a ship through a fog bank, then your website’s usability is low.

The main aspects of usability are as follows:

  • How easy the site is to access
  • How swiftly your pages load
  • How easy the site is to navigate and search
  • How easy the ordering and checkout process is

Usability is not simply a case of using the latest programming fads but understanding precisely what your consumers want and making the necessary adaptations to accommodate them.

Usability testing is critical in embracing this platform and generating sales. Usability can be split into five sub-categories:

1. Access: Finding your site in the first place

Unless your company is a household name, your site will have to rely upon Google for your potential customers to find it. Therefore, the strategy you adopt to allow your site to be easily found via search engines and – most importantly of all—be found ahead of your competitors must be well-thought-out and use updated techniques. Google, in particular, seems fond of moving the goalposts every few months or so to keep web admins and site owners on their toes.

This is where SEO (search engine optimization) strategy and its importance comes into the picture. If you sell pet products and your site doesn’t (at least locally) appeal to visitors on the first page of a Google search when someone taps in ‘pet products’, then it’s hardly worth having a web presence at all.

This is where SEO (search engine optimization) strategy and its importance comes into the picture. If you sell pet products and your site doesn’t (at least locally) appeal in the first page of a Google search when someone taps in ‘pet products’, then it’s hardly worth having a web presence at all.

There used to be several sneaky tactics that could enhance a site’s ranking, but eventually, Google became intelligent and outlawed them all. These were known as ‘black hat’ techniques and will do much more harm than good if used today. The alternatives are (of course) ‘white hat’ techniques such as having compelling, well-written, authoritative content that provides value for your customers.

2. Speed: How fast is your site?

The average time that a user is prepared to wait for a response from the website they are using is 3 seconds, and even that is pushing it. The ‘buffering’ circle is a sight no one wants to see, and if people see too much of it, they will go to some other place where they are unlikely to see it at all. If your site habitually leaves your customers twiddling their thumbs, then your customers are going to leave your site habitually.

You can combat slow loading times[2] by getting your site’s architecture and design right. You don’t need cute animations, self-playing videos, and fancy sideshows to grab a customer’s attention—at least not all three at once. If you keep things slight yet elegant, your site will organically appear in a browser within milliseconds.

3. Search and navigation: Finding the way around

Some people like to spend hours browsing around a site, but most people don’t. Most people want to find what they are looking for at your website within two or three clicks. If they can’t do this at your site, then they will soon be heading somewhere else.

If you host a large number of products or services, then make sure your site has a dedicated search function. Don’t rely upon ‘generic’ search APIs, like those created by Google – it just looks amateurish. Your search facilities should be integrated as part of your site and not look like something that’s been tagged on as an after-thought.

If possible, your site’s design should be created with navigation in mind, with an easy-to-use navigation bar in a prominent position.

4. All round convenience

This is possibly the most crucial factor when dealing with buying online. As stated above, people use internet retailers to save time, not waste it. Convenience means they can quickly find exactly what they seek and with as little fuss as possible and then complete their purchasing journey at the checkout just as efficiently.

A successful site is designed around the likely route a customer will take in order to complete their purchase. This can be gauged by considering the demographic of the target audience and what the company’s site is trying to achieve.

Convenience is a critical factor for vendors when they are working out their online strategy. Consumers expect to be treated speedily and efficiently. If your site cannot respond to users in the manner in which they now demand, you will lose sales, conversions, and revenue.

5. Ordering and checkout process: The shopping cart experience

Suppose there is one aspect of your site that you need to pay close attention to. In that case, it’s the entire ordering process, from the moment a user places an item in their virtual shopping cart to the moment they receive notification that their order has been placed and is being taken care of. Anything that interrupts or puts your customer off from your sales funnel needs to be attended to.

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There’s little that’s more off-putting when it comes to an online retail store than finding a static site. However, online shopping is not the same as browsing through a catalog and then making a phone call to give product numbers and quantities to an automated ordering service. Instead, the online shopping experience should be an interactive one, and the technology exists for this to happen.

Being interactive

The two key elements to interactivity are personalization and networking:

Live chat

One of the most important aspects of online retailing is, of course, customer service. It’s easy for a customer who is having a poor experience with a site to look elsewhere. If they can’t find answers to their questions, they will look elsewhere as well. Having a live chat is an excellent way of enabling your customers to get help.

It’s an expectation of customers to experience hassle-free time online. Interactivity goes a long way in providing just that. Customers like to feel reassured that if they encounter a problem with a purchased project or service, they will get help. It’s vital that you have an efficient help-desk provision. Customers who experience lousy service may even go as far as letting the rest of the world know on online forums.

Things Unsatisfied Customers Say

Social media networking

Another important way of getting your users to engage with you is via forums and chat rooms. If you have a recognized online presence on social media networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, customers are likely to feel reassured. 

Consumers can rely on speedy responses to their inquiries, wherein social networks act as a channel for user recommendations, product news, brand loyalty.

Psychological elements

When you are designing a new site, online trust is a critical issue. Media channels thrive on news stories such as “One million credit card details stolen in security breach“. Many of us are aware of people who have had their identities stolen.

Clients need to be reassured that when they tap their credit card numbers into your payment page, such details will not immediately be pounced upon by criminal elements. Users should feel secure when divulging sensitive information of any kind, and it can be challenging to engender trust online as it is largely a faceless medium. Creating a robust eCommerce framework that ensures customer security through effective communication is key.

Reputation management

Image and reputation cannot be underestimated in importance when it comes to creating a trusted impression. What goes on in the real world to enhance a brand’s image and reputation needs to be mirrored online. A strong, well-known, and successful brand is perceived as one that can be trusted.

Endorsements and testimonials form the backbone of online trust. Thanks to Google, when a user types the name of a company into the search box, some of the results returned will include customer reviewing, including the ubiquitous five-star rating.

The customer has never been so empowered. They no longer just have to rely upon word of mouth when debating where to do their online shopping. Hence, a poor reputation results in poor sales.

Taking care of a few things can help establish trust in the users:

  • Secure transactions

While most people feel secure in using their credit and debit cards online, you should not take it for granted. On a transaction page, it’s vital that encryption is used and that your clients are told that encryption is used. Logos from the secure encryption software companies used are vital. 

Your ordering system should be easy to use, your payment and refund policies clearly defined, any communication channels easy to reach, and everything should be secure. You need to breed confidence and give plenty of options where appropriate, including offering alternative payment methods such as PayPal, Neteller, and Ukash, for example.

  • Data privacy

Never abuse your customers’ data. You should only ever use any information the customer gives you solely for its purposes, and no other, and the customer should be reassured of that—no selling email addresses or sending mail-shots to shipping addresses.

  • Reduce uncertainty

Users are likely to have lots of questions. While you must have an effective help-desk system, you can save yourself time, money, and effort by having a helpful FAQ page. Just think of the questions you might ask and write down the answers. If you observe that specific questions are asked regularly, add them to the FAQ page.

  • Returns policies and guarantees

The fact that users cannot physically return an item directly to your shop undermines trust in your customers. If an item does become faulty, they need to know how they can return the item and get their money back if they so choose.w they can get their money back if they so choose.

Piecing everything together

It may seem that successfully gathering everything together that you need for your eCommerce site is akin to walking barefoot across a mile-long beach filled with razor-sharp pebbles. You need to attract customers; you need to keep them coming back to you as well. It would help if you made your customers feel secure in their dealings with you and that you’re attentive to what they require.

If you get things right, you can turn any first-time customer into a repeat purchaser, utilizing the power of experimentation. The more repeat purchasers you have, the more business conversions you are going to make.

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David Rosenfeld
David Rosenfeld David Rosenfeld is a director at Infinite Conversions, a conversion rate optimization agency and VWO Premium Partner.
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