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How UX and Design for E-commerce can Balance Sales Optimization and Customer Experience

Feb 11, 2022

One of the hardest things for any online retailer to accomplish is increasing sales while still providing a great e-commerce user experience.

This is partly because you’re not operating your online store in a vacuum. That is, you’re not the only digital business out there, and there are always competing influences in the market space. Customer expectations are being reshaped all the time because of the actions of other retailers, other industries and, yes, your competitors. When customers have an experience with a brand that they like, they wonder why they can’t have the same with every brand. 

The problem is that not everything that the customer wants is good for your bottom line or your sales. So there’s a conflict that arises between providing the customer with the experience they want and optimizing your ROI.

The secret to balancing these two elements in e-commerce is the user experience (UX).

UX and design is overlooked in too many digital commerce projects, yet its impact goes far beyond just how your website looks. In fact, it may have a bigger influence on whether a customer converts than anything else.

Customer expectations are being reshaped all the time because of the actions of other retailers, other industries and, yes, your competitors.

E-Commerce UX and Design Starts with Understanding the Customer

Customer experience (CX) and user experience are deeply integrated. Whereas user experience deals with people interacting with your site, customer experience encompasses how a customer interacts with, and feels about, your brand as a whole. It goes to follow that the quality of the user experience will affect the customer experience. 

In other words, you can’t create a good user experience without considering the customer, and you can’t create a good customer experience without taking a complete view of your e-commerce brand.

For retailers with both physical and digital storefronts, this includes considering how the physical store and website can best complement each other through omnichannel services. This understanding of different user journeys needs to be factored into UX and design decisions in order to create the best possible holistic solution.

One reason that the UX and Design of our clients’ e-commerce projects is better than most is that we don’t simply guess what shoppers want. 

Our expert UX team is part of every conversation right from the very start so that they can understand the unique needs and challenges that your business is facing. We workshop your current e-commerce offering (if you have one) to identify what works, what can be improved and what needs adding. This includes analyzing your existing data to understand where your customers go on the site and what they do.

This deep understanding of what your shoppers actually want from your e-commerce site is one of our greatest strengths. The more we understand about your business, and your customers, the better the user experience can be. This includes mapping out the different customer journeys – for example a customer coming from Google search compared to a customer coming directly to the home page.

By understanding those behavioral flows, we can improve the rate of conversion by creating a UX that helps customers to make a purchase. We also ensure that every e-commerce site meets accessibility requirements so that the user experience is consistent for all customers.

The more we understand about your business, and your customers, the better the user experience can be.

What is Usability Testing and Research in UX and Design for E-Commerce?

One way that we’re able to properly balance customer experience and sales is through usability testing and research. This is an incredibly important element of any e-commerce UX design. While website data will show you what people are doing on your site, usability testing will tell you why they do those things.

It’s this ‘why’ that is key to understanding which features customers are actually making use of, and which cause them to convert (or not).

Getting to the bottom of these behaviors means we can identify what is really driving your customers and what they’re trying to achieve. This valuable insight then informs every part of the UX and design for your e-commerce. Understanding what the customer actually wants allows you to then deliver it. 

Usability testing also helps to demonstrate how user behavior can be illogical and hard to plan for. For example, a banner ad for a sale may be annoying because it interrupts the user’s journey on the site, but if the end result benefits them by saving them money, some are still likely to click on it (and therefore drive conversions). 

Being aware of this fact allows for you to account for it in your e-commerce UX design.

customer experience first mindset

Why is UX and Design for E-commerce Vital to Meeting Customer Expectations?

Online shoppers have high expectations and low patience.

They know what they want and they’re not afraid to go elsewhere to get it. This means that the slightest inconvenience could send them to a competitor. Long site load times? Gone. Difficulty navigating? Gone. Convoluted checkout process? You get the picture. 

What’s worse, these expectations are constantly becoming more sophisticated in line with new developments and experiences. For example, many customers now expect to be able to check store stock levels online before a store visit or to order online and collect in-store.

The technical elements of introducing this type of experience are one thing. But you also have to consider what the UX will be. How will this look and work on the website? What exactly are customers looking for from this service? What must it do to meet their expectations?

For example, to some customers a Click & Collect offering means products should be available immediately for collection, whereas others might expect to be able to collect in two hours or 24 hours.

All of these aspects will feed into the UX in order to maximize conversions by ensuring that the site meets customer expectations as much as possible. 

Another important consideration in UX and design for e-commerce is the online expression of your brand. This is particularly important for retailers who have previously only sold offline. 

UX and design play a key role in not only making sure that your website is recognisably part of your brand, but to also make the experience of using it feel like your brand. If you’re a fashion brand with a young customer base, then the user experience should reflect that. In turn, a long-established luxury brand may focus on different elements of user experience to convey that look-and-feel.

What’s more, these customer expectations are not fixed. They are constantly changing over time, which means your UX and design also needs to change.

It’s for this reason that we take a modular approach to e-commerce platform design. Not only is it faster to bring a modular solution to market, but you can also modify and update your e-commerce solution over time without having to reinvent the whole site. 

What’s more, a modular approach means it’s easy to test out new design elements such as colors and page layouts in A/B tests to see how customers respond before you make a change.

Conclusion: To Balance UX and Design for E-commerce Requires Data and Skills

User experience is the bridge between what you hope to achieve with your e-commerce site and what your customers expect in terms of experience.

By looking at data and customer behavior you can identify the pain points where customers drop off and improve the flow to help them convert. But you can also get a sense of which areas of potential friction, such as pop-ups, are driving conversions and can be kept.

UX and design for e-commerce is not about an end goal of a frictionless buying experience. In fact, a little bit of friction can be very valuable. The important thing is to be able to determine where the line is between a customer converting and a customer clicking away. 

If you’re struggling to get the balance right between your sales goals and your e-commerce customer experience, get in touch to see how we can optimize your UX.