User experience: why it is increasingly crucial for the success of an e-commerce 

Do you know the first rule for e-commerce? Here it is: “if users can’t find a product, they cannot even buy it”. Full stop. And breaking this simple rule is easy, even without knowing it. You only need an item poorly displayed in the digital showcase, described with insufficient information or hard to reach due to a slow website, to blow up even the most refined branding, marketing and communication strategies. 

Welcome to the world of user experience applied to e-stores and e-commerce in general: everything you need to know is contained in that quote, trust us on this. It was Don Norman who said it and he knows a lot about UX, having practically invented it thirty years ago, combining engineering skills with the study of cognitive sciences. Since then, we have talked about user experience as a key factor for the success of a company or a brand, even more so if it is an e-commerce, a field where just one tenth of a second more to load a page can cost you dearly in terms of not only image, but also turnover and conversions.  

A few numbers can help you understand what is at stake. According to Nielsen’s research data, e-commerce alone will already be worth around 400 billion dollars in consumer goods next year, in a market that already touches over 2 billion people worldwide. Average online spending already stands at 500 dollars a year per capita, and it is set to increase at a staggering rate. According to a Nasdaq’s research study, online sales will cover 95% of total purchases within 20 years. 

And do you know what is holding back an even faster growth of online commerce? The major contributor is the bad user experience offered by e-commerce sites and apps.

What is user experience?

Be careful. Often, UX is confused with other concepts, making you lose sight of the true objective of that set of techniques, which is creating an easy and enjoyable relationship between user and brand. To clarify, here is how Don Norman himself defines it: the user experience “includes all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its services and its products” (and if you visit the site of the group he founded together with Jacob Nielsen, you will find pointers on how to create a good UX both in theory and in practice). A definition by ISO 9241-210 explains this even further as the set of “user’s perceptions and reactions deriving from the use, or expectation of use, of a product, system or service”, including “beliefs, preferences, physical and psychological responses, behaviors and results. “ 

The user experience, in other words, is all-encompassing, providing meaning and value to the overall interaction between the user and a company or a brand, at every stage of the relationship: from searching an item to buy, to paying for it and leaving a review on the experience. From the beginning to the end of the path, the consumer is at the center of the experience, whose design must be tailored to the user’s real needs and requirements, as per the rules of Human-centered design. And in any context, the user must first be considered as a person with needs and expectations requiring a response. Considering the consumer only a potential buyer would be a mistake and would transform the user experience into an “abuser experience”, in which, as too often happens, the company is at the center. This is a fundamental step, where it is always safe to repeat: 

For the consumer, the product is only one of the components of a broader experience in they are the protagonists. 

From these definitions it becomes clear that:  

  • The user experience cannot be reduced to the simple user interface (UI) and usability, that are UX tools but do not fully describe it. The appeal of the user interface, thanks to good graphics and well-distributed buttons, is certainly fundamental in designing the experience, but it is not enough on its own if it is not followed by usability, which qualifies the system’s ease and efficiency or whether it is simple to learn, efficient and quick to use. To summarize, useful and satisfying. 
  • The customer experience (CX), concerning the overall experience along all the steps of the customer journey, should not be confused with the UX. We can say that the CX is made up of many user experiences depending on whether the consumer is in contact with the site or other corporate digital platforms, with their product, with their services. 
  • The UX is a set of techniques aimed at improving user-brand relationship, which involves multiple disciplines and skills and does not only concern ​​marketing, communication and web designers: it is the result of teamwork, where multiple corporate functions and activities are involved for the purpose of a solid and coherent branding. 

    An accurate UX design would make the difference 

    Taking into account that more than half of offline purchases begin with an online search, with peaks of over 80% of consumers in the United States, underestimating even one of these aspects can be fatal for all types of businesses in any sector. Obviously, it is even more so for e-commerce sites that have a few tenths of a second to capture customers and keep their attention and cannot fail the first impression. Just think that a millisecond of delay in loading a page increases the bounce rate by 70%. And not just that. The UX also has a decisive impact on search engine positioning and on of any SEO and organic media strategy. Google, placing the emphasis above all on the mobile version of sites, considers the experience of an online user to be decisive, which it defines as “the set of perceptions, reactions and emotions that a person feels when interfacing with a website, regardless of the device used”. It is no coincidence that the new Core Web Vitals introduced with the Google Page Experience upgrade reward speed and responsiveness of page loading and their stability.  

    It therefore becomes essential for e-stores to ensure an optimal user experience on the website, desktop version and above all for mobile devices (where purchases have increasingly moved), on apps, with e-mail marketing, with newsletters and, of course, on social media, including the more professional and B2B platforms like LinkedIn. The path must be considered in full and in the long term and does not end with the purchase. Converting once is not enough and it would be a shame to throw away not only the opportunity to build customer loyalty, but also waste their possible advocacy impact on other potential customers.  

    In this case, once again, leaving it up to the numbers would help to understand. The most up-to-date analyses confirm that website’s conversion rate, and e-commerce in particular, is about 2% on average, which becomes 4 in the case of crafts (Growocode data), which probably benefits from the specificity and exclusivity of the products, but which reaches 13% if it comes to Amazon, where user experience is the protagonist.  

    These rates can even double if you invest correctly in the site’s UX design. According to the studies by Norman and Nielsen, an improvement of about 100% of all the fundamental metrics, including conversion rates and traffic, can be achieved if you work on the usability of a digital platform. Sometimes small projects for the optimization of apparently minor problems bring unexpected results: you can increase the turnover per session of the 1.5%, only by optimizing FAQs and live chats.  

    Not working on a website’s UX is detrimental for an e-commerce. The right approach in designing an effective user experience must concern both technical aspects and content production and must have these objectives:  

    • Usability. Starting from each page’s loading speed, and not just the home page’s, both in the desktop and mobile versions, with clear and visible calls to action and clear and self-explanatory categories. 
    • Contents. In addition to being relevant and timely (the pages must be updated), they must be complete, readable, stable, easily traceable, and accessible. Having interesting blogs helps a lot and it is essential for SEO purposes. Using good visual elements, such as photos, graphics, and videos can help. In short, you need pleasant content and especially useful. 
    • FAQ, Reviews, Forms, Contact. They are essential for a real interaction and usability of the site, making it easy to navigate and understand the products. Simple forms not only favor payments, but also the collection of user data. 
    • Consistency. All platforms, including promotional emails and newsletters, must be in sync with one another and offer the same UX.

    All in all, the key point is offering a good user experience as the condition not only to sell a single item, making it accessible, but to open the way to other sales, thanks to customer loyalty and word of mouth. In other words, all this is essential for an e-commerce’s success. Because, as Philip Kotler would say adding to Norman’s rule about e-commerce, “the best advertising is done by satisfied customers“. 

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