Converting visits to sales is the Holy Grail for retail websites but how can businesses maximize their ability to do so? From our experience of gathering insight into user behavior across hundreds of fashion websites globally, we have been able to identify patterns which clearly state what are the most common user experience barriers to conversion. In this 2-part article, I will share with you these findings and, more importantly, ways in which to overcome them. So, let’s get going!
Top 5 Barriers To Conversion
Conversion Rate Optimization can be defined as the method of creating an experience for a website or landing page visitor with the goal of increasing the percentage of visitors that convert into customers. From our usability testing and user experience research of fashion retail websites at WhatUsersDo, I would say that the main user experience barriers to conversion are:
- Poor product information and imagery: that does not provide the level of detail, views of a fashion item from multiple angles and descriptions that users require to make an online purchase of a physical good.
- Returns policy written by a legal department and not a web copywriter: A Returns Policy is a marketing document that should demonstrate the ease with which items can be returned and engender confidence in users that should the physical good not be suitable, then they need not worry. See this best practice example from Boden of how to write a Returns policy
- Guest checkout: Users are increasingly expecting a guest checkout that’s not only fast, but includes an option to register once their key task (of purchasing) is complete. Fenwick is a good example of how not to do it – no guest checkout is provided – users are forced to create an account.
- Poor localization: With many UK fashion firms looking to growing overseas markets – where their brand recognition is lower – localization should not be viewed as a “translation only” exercise. People in different countries have differing mental models of how an e-commerce proposition should be delivered and fashion brands need to recognize this. Beyond making size charts international (a common mistake), fashion brands need to tailor their messaging to local audiences. For instance, German consumers tend to read even your Terms & Conditions and will not tolerate shoddy translation. Many Chinese mobile phone consumers expect to pay on delivery (and reserve the right to return items once they have unboxed them with the delivery person present). And, in America, “pants” are the British trousers, “thongs” refer to women’s underwear but can be flip-flops in Australia – meaning it’s not just product pages (merchandising) that need to be localized, but IA (menus) and search (sometimes referred to as “searchandising”)
- Conversion and Devices: Fashion works well on tablets like the iPad, according to stats from Affiliate Window’s M-commerce white paper, the average conversion rate for iPad was 3.81%, compared to 1.9% for desktop (i.e. non-mobile). The fashion sector accounts for more than double the percentage of total sales compare with other sectors, a trend that is not there for other mobile devices.
Percentage of total sales via iPad
- Retail (electrical): 1.92%
- Retail (fashion): 3.81%
- Telecoms: 1.21%
- Travel: 1.01%
Percentage of total sales via mobile
- Retail(electrical): 1.64%
- Retail(fashion): 1.38%
- Telecoms: 2.22%
- Travel: 0.54%
How Can Retailers Overcome These UX Barriers?
This top 5 list demonstrates that retailers need to look beyond pure usability and functionality to truly understand customer behavior and take into account the entire User Experience. We do not make rational, un-emotive and objective buying decisions. It is people who use websites, not machines or algorithms. In the fashion industry, users’ motivation is accentuated by a strong emotional attachment to both brands, individual fashion products and styles. Therefore, as with any website, barriers to conversion are both emotional and functional.
So, getting the answers to overcoming conversion barriers is simple: understand the “why” of consumer behavior. Retailers are already equipped with the quantitative tools (e.g. Google Analytics) to understand the “what” of their users’ experience. Unlike the “what“, the “why” can only be obtained through observing real users. This is where User Experience testing comes in.
There are several issues that can impact conversion rates. Historically speaking, retail websites were initially created by designers as a platform to show their offerings in the best and most aesthetically pleasing way as a means of generating sales. This approach completely ignored the process or journey a customer has to take in order to make a purchase.
As the number of online retailers has grown exponentially, so has the sophistication of shoppers. Retailers must now compete for the attention of audiences that have an ever-decreasing attention span and even less patience. The checkout process in a sales transaction is at the very end of the shopping journey and even if a retailer has managed to hold the attention of the customer up to this point, it does not mean they will spend their money with you. According to Comscore’s Online Shopping Customer Experience Study which was commissioned by UPS, 67% of all shopping carts are abandoned before purchase.
There are several stages in the development of an eCommerce site including planning, prototype, pre-live and live. Every stage presents opportunities to improve the conversion rates. So, you might be wondering what are the top methods to improve conversion in retail websites?
Top 5 methods To Improve Conversion in Retail Websites
- Provide better content (e.g. text, picture, video) on your website
- Constantly test it
- Improve usability to reduce the barriers towards your conversion goal
- Provide good site navigation to help users locate the content they are looking for
- Show credibility signs like third-party trust logos and good site design
End of Part 1
This is the end of part 1 in this 2-part article. In Part 2, we will be having an in-depth look at each of the above 5 methods in order to understand them better. In this way, we can use them to overcome the UX barriers to conversion on retail websites.