In Part 1 of this 2-Part article, we listed the top 5 barriers to conversion and proposed a series of techniques on how online retailers can overcome them. These techniques are content, usability, testing, navigation and credibility. This article picks up from there by discussing these techniques to overcome user experience barriers in more detail.
The Effect of Usability Testing On Sales Conversion
Usability Testing will help you immediately pinpoint your trouble areas, rather than playing guessing games. And based on the data gathered in testing, you can optimize your checkout process to reflect the most popular combination of variables. For example, if testing reveals that customers like to see videos of their potential purchases, you may decide to add a video option to the 360-degree product view.
What Do You Need To Test For Usability?
Simply put, …everything. From a retailer’s live website, to their competitors’ sites to prototypes and digital marketing assets (e.g. emails). And, we can also add “…at every stage” (from visual mockup and beyond) of the development lifecycle.
Real people using your digital outlet on the Internet, mobile, with a tablet, apps and even in-store touchscreen displays. A recent survey conducted by eConsultancy of more than 700 client-side and agency digital marketers conducted in 2011 showed how little testing was being done on mobile and tablets. On the client side, 71% did no testing on Tablets and mobiles whilst 68% of agencies tested neither channel.
When Do You Need To Conduct Usability Testing?
Simply put, …often! The “design, test and learn” approach does not just happen once. In agile development environments it happens at every ‘iteration’ or even as often as weekly. Retailers should want to continuously build up design knowledge and confidence that they are delivering the right product for the right people at the right time. Testing can be done by recording video and audio of users as they interact with a site/prototype/mockup at all parts of the build process starting at the stage planning right through to when the online store is live and then as often as possible.
This approach blends innovative, creative design thinking methods with the delivery methods of agile, lean and continuous. It is the most efficient and effective way to design, develop and deliver compelling experiences.
The Online Fashion Sector And User Experience
So at this point I guess you are wondering “But does the online fashion sector really put the customer at the heart of its web design or is it all too often a case of style over substance?”
We are seeing a trend in the right direction with successful fashion retailers becoming increasingly user-centred, but, as in most sectors, the old habits are hard to break. The shift to user centricity is helped by process and exposure to real users’ experience but it is ultimately a cultural shift if the desire is at the heart of the organization.
The fashion sector thrives on image, aspiration and style. It would be a travesty not to highlight the designers’ artistry. However, what users do on retail sites is mainly driven by clarity, simplicity of use, trust, shipping factors and lastly design. A middle ground must be found that incorporates strong design elements with simplicity of use.
Trust factors can be solved by “about pages”, money back guarantees, secure credit card transaction information, showing your phone number, and more. Aesthetic requirements such as
picking the right colors and placement for your calls to action (e.g the buy button) can be established through A/B Testing.
Given This Scenario – What Should We Do?
But these are “just” technical hurdles. The key to success in an environment characterized by mobile devices is not just technical compliance but, more importantly, understanding the new user behaviour that these devices are enabling. Such as:
- Key user tasks – how do these differ to the fixed web?
- Attention spans – is the commonly held belief that mobile users are always more rushed actually true (think about iPad users sitting on their sofas researching their next holiday destination)
- The multi-channel experience as users complete tasks on both fixed web and mobile.
Getting insight into user behaviour is the key to understanding how to truly design a rewarding “experience” for your mobile users. Since launching our mobile device testing service in January 2012, we have run hundreds of usability tests across multiple sectors and gained some fascinating insights. Here are some of our favourites:
- It seems a great idea that you can control the size of text and pictures in your mobile app. But our research has shown users want to pinch and zoom and expect to be able to on an app just as they can on the web.
- You have got a mobile optimized version of your site, but no link to the full site. Sometimes users really want the features and content of the full site – especially where they have already visited it on their fixed web device. Tip: if you have two versions, always include a link to the full version (and one back to the mobile version of course).
- “We need to adapt the content for our responsive web design” – you don’t! You need to ensure it’s presented in a way that makes sense to users and allows for scanning and “delving” into the detail.
- “Mobile users browse and will not search because they don’t like typing” – not true! We have observed that users expect to be able to search mobile sites and apps just as they expect to on the fixed web. The usability challenge comes in how much prominence to give the search box and the display of results
The most successful retailers are successful because they truly understand their customers. Their digital services are designed to meet customers’ needs and fix frustrations, not to fulfill internal HIPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion).
We work with some excellent retail brands such as ASOS; Next, Smythson and Lispy and they are all market leaders when it comes to conversion because they are putting user experience at the center of their conversion strategies.