With the constant comparisons of the virtual world to the real world in terms of generating interest around products and a consistent customer experience, there is a challenge that every entrepreneur needs to rise to. This is especially prudent in the e-commerce world.
Online shopping has overtaken the brick and mortar stores of yesteryear. And the reasons why are glaringly obvious; customers are able to browse items in their own free time, at their own pace, and they don’t have to endure lengthy queues, but the best e-commerce websites are all about the real world experience placed online.
This is a goal that every entrepreneur needs to aim for. The website isn’t just the primary marketing tool and way to display your brand, it’s the platform your customers use for every part of the shopping experience, one that they will compare to other e-commerce platforms and decide whether to use yours or a competitor’s. So how can we make the real world experience (that is fleeting nowadays), and transfer it to an online setting?
A diverse experience
As with any brick and mortar store, when you are browsing the shelves, and walking up and down the aisles, you want to do it at your own pace. Naturally, the online experience means that you are able to do it at your own leisure but to add that extra dimension, you need to provide a platform that is accessible in every manner.
More mobile devices are being used to browse and pay for items than ever before. Customers need more options, and a mobile-first strategy guarantees a consistent approach to reaching out to customers on as diverse a palate as possible. And as technology is increasing, especially the VR aspects, linking this in with a good mobile-first strategy means that your budget needs to stretch to this.
Granted, it’s not being rolled out as an essential component right now, but keeping your eye on the future of interactive experiences means that you will see sooner, rather than later, the virtual aspects of shopping become a common part of the experience. Recreating that physical shopping experience will be easier than ever.
The checkout process
While the fundamental approach to a customer shopping experience is the layout, the checkout process needs to follow the same rules you’ve applied to the rest of your layout. Simplicity is always going to be the key, in every aspect of your business. The checkout button needs to provide functionality, has to be easy to use, and it needs to inspire some form of trust between the consumer and yourself.
That major regret when you’ve clicked on “pay for item”, and there are things you need to amend can throw up a myriad of problems. The right software is easy to access nowadays, meaning that you can get yourself set up quickly, but also ensure your customers have a safe and trustworthy experience.
Checkout software like SamCart is one of many to try, you can see a SamCart review at the aforementioned link, but with every checkout software, the fundamentals are always about functionality and a clear display. As a customer, what do you want from your checkout experience? It boils down to money, namely the unexpected costs.
Postage and packaging, shipping, or other costs like VAT need to be included in the upfront cost or they need to be displayed clearer. It’s the customer’s responsibility to check this, but if you can provide the simplest of descriptions too, this will make the checkout process easier for every customer.
When you go into a physical store, you see the price tag, and that’s how much it is! But for many providers, it is not this simple. Complexity in our shopping experience will only serve to stress us out. We don’t want to buy items under duress, which is why a lot of the old-fashioned high-pressure sales environments are being shunned in favor of the online experience.
The product photography
You might have found numerous websites that aren’t particularly flattering towards the product because the picture is very amateur. What do we do when we walk into a store? We look at the item. And so, while the virtual reality experience being implemented encourages a 3D perspective of these items off the shelf, right now, photography is what we have to rely on.
It is not just about providing a picture of the product; it’s about a gallery of images for one item, no matter how small it is. The quality of an image may very well be the defining factor that inspires your customer to buy this product.
And, considering that people purchase items on their mobile phone, they want to be able to see it as crystal clear as possible. This is difficult in many ways, because of the natural limitations of the screen, but putting the product in its right context- in other words, showing it being used- will communicate to your customer the experience of using the item.
The product descriptions
Simplicity is the key to this, but while you need to provide the relevant information as briefly as possible, you still have to show every single detail. In a physical store, you can ask as many different questions about a product to a member of staff as you can. This is where you descriptions have to answer every question, but also communicate a sense of personality in your copy. This means working hard at your brand presentation.
While we’ve focused on the technical aspects for the most part so far, when it comes to product descriptions, you have to naturally evoke the experience in as realistic a context as possible. Marketing is all about the story of the business or the product.
Sparking your customers’ imagination is all about giving the facts about the product, but in a manner that is going to leap out of the screen at the consumer. The basic information, like the weight or the dimensions, can be put in bullet point form afterward because a lot of customers choose to purchase a product on the basic information.
But for others, this may not be enough. Ultimately, customers need to know the facts, and one way to bypass this is using video. It’s as close to reality as you can get, but we’ve all seen infomercials and how incredibly cheesy they can be, so be careful when using this approach.
A human helping hand
We can neglect the physical aspects of purchasing products, and while most of us choose to go online for ease, there are going to be times when you need a human to “speak” to. The most common option on various websites now is to have a pop-up box asking you if you need any help right away.
However, this is incredibly frustrating, and you can look at it as the equivalent of the eager salesperson jumping in your path asking if they can help when you know exactly what you want, and you just want to get in and out of the store. We all want that option to ask for help, but only if we need it.
And as part of your design, a help button should be clear, but shouldn’t take up a major chunk of the screen. Banking websites are a very good example of this because people need help on occasion, there is a support button you can click, usually at the corner of a screen.
Likewise, contact details like a telephone number will always prove beneficial. What we all require from our shopping experience online is the option to speak to a human being if we want to. The same applies if the website is going through some sort of technical issue, in which case, you can preempt this by placing a notification at the top of the screen or send out a blanket email.
Just because you’re operating through a website doesn’t mean you should shirk the customer service aspect of things. And this is something many beginner businesses can neglect. Because when we are setting up an ecommerce business, the necessity to operate online comes from a place of cost. But we need to remember that by providing as human a visage as possible this is what will provide that need for your customer to purchase a product from yourself.
And in addition to these, the variety of products, the loading time of the website and the follow-up customer service aspects in your ecommerce website are as pertinent. Creating a great ecommerce website isn’t just about the technical aspects exclusively, it’s about rounding the corners and making them as interactive and human as possible.
While limits in technology mean that we have to make do with what we’ve got, there are still products and suppliers out there that are extremely successful in providing this warm, human approach to interacting with the customer.
Every business is making a choice these days whether to keep their physical location and go online or just go online completely. But while the physical aspect of shopping is making a partial comeback, if you can work at marrying the physical with the virtual, you will be onto a winner.
Original article by Thomas Oppong
This post was curated with edits by Gordon Fletcher, Principal Consultant(Engineering & Mobile Technology) at Compumagick Associates can be reached at https://www.compumgickassociates.com/contact, @compumagick