The challenges online stores have to face are many: low conversion rates, abandoned carts, crushing competition, and growing expectations of modern shoppers. One of the biggest problems online shops have is turning visitors into customers. That’s why identifying obstacles that keep your customers from finding the right products and optimizing the purchase path is so important. In eCommerce, it’s all about the user experience and simplicity.

For online business owners the amount of effort required to generate traffic and convert visitors can be overwhelming at times. With this guide, you can easily see where you have been sabotaging your efforts and you’ll receive actionable steps to get your conversions where it needs to be.

Below, you will find 12 tips to help users navigate to the products they want to buy along with examples of websites noteworthy for their approach to delivering an optimized user experience.

1. The 3-second Rule

Three seconds is the average time a visitor will give your page to learn what it’s about and what he or she is expected to do. Failing to capture your potential visitor’s attention within the first 3 seconds after landing on your homepage can lead to a significant drop in your conversion rate potential.

What impression does your website create within the first few seconds?

Ask yourself:

  • What’s my first impression? Take some time and write down a few adjectives – positive and negative. Go to your homepage and top pages and make sure these adjectives describe them as well.
  • What can I learn from my competitors? Find a competitor’s website that has the type of design you envy and make a list of their first impression adjectives. Pick your favorites and begin asking yourself which design elements gave you those impressions. Incorporate those elements into your own site’s redesign.
  • Will a visitor easily find what they are looking for by staring at my site’s navigation? If they have to stare at it for more than 3 seconds, your navigation is too big – simplify your online shopping experience.

LemonStand customer Monkey Latch’s website is a great example of structuring design elements and content in a way that visitors can understand the purpose and value within the first three seconds.

Monkey Latch

2.  Easy And Familiar Design Elements

By making sure that your site feels familiar, visitors don’t have to spend mental effort scrutinizing and can instead focus on the product they want or need.

Jacob Nielsen stated in his Alert box column that there are several common design elements that users expect and know how to use:

  • Left-hand menu
  • Tabs across the top
  • Navbar across the top
  • Placement of search features, which include upper right, upper left, middle, and elsewhere on the page

LemonStand customer Grocera.ca uses a top navigation bar with drop down menus to make it easy to access all product categories from any page.

Grocera navigation

Eliminate confusing design elements and try staying in the realm of design conventions. In this way, customers will be empowered to find the products they’re looking for quickly, increasing their ability to get things done as well as their overall satisfaction with the experience.

3. Meaningful Navigation Labels

People like to know what to expect, so make sure your site navigation is super transparent. Begin with meaningful labels. Navigation labels don’t need to be clever, flashy, or sexy. They need to help the user predict exactly what content and functionality they will be accessing when they are selected.

Your global navigation should begin with single word choices that describe a broad range of products. Provide distinctive and descriptive labels that are meaningful to your target audience. Users generally don’t mind navigating beyond the homepage when they’re confident they are on the path toward the product they desire.

As an example, look at the navigation for REI. The product labels first describe activities and then go deeper into the varied uses for individual products.

REI - navigational tabs

4. Upgraded Search Functionality

At the heart of a good online search experience is the search engine’s ability to return relevant results for queries.

The simplest query type is the exact search, whereby users search by specific product name and category. Make sure your website supports searches for products names or model numbers that appear on the respective product page.

Another essential element to any eCommerce website is a search suggest feature that gives useful suggestions to the user in a drop down menu like KitchenAid does.

KitchenAid search

Search history suggestions might be useful if you want to support returning visitors on your site. If you have users that log in, you can connect the history to the user profile and present the data across devices.

5. User-friendly Filters

Filtering and sorting are vital ways for users to find the right product. When done right, filters enable users to narrow down a website’s selection of thousands of products to only a few. For example, extraordinary and fun filters like the one below: filtering socks by personality.

TwoSocks

However, filters might lead to duplicate content or URLs that add no additional value, because the same content and URL already exist somewhere else. To avoid this make sure your filters aren’t being indexed.

6.  Let the user feel in control

Any feature that lets visitors familiarize themselves with the system or that guides them through the shopping process lets visitors feel in control. Specifically:

  • Support the browsing behavior of both novice and expert users
  • Inform customers about the procedures required to transact, e.g. overview of steps
  • Confirmations of actions
  • Provide clear feedback after user interactions
  • Display constructive error messages
  • Allow for customization, e.g. content, language and measurement units

Generally, ease of use is perceived as a sign that your company understands, cares for and respects the customer.

7. Reduce Choice Overload

Studies have shown that too much choice can decrease the customer’s processing efficiency. Choice accuracy decreases when the number of alternatives increases from 5 to 10 or more, and when the number of features per alternative increase from 5 to 15 or more. (Gao, J., Zhang, C., Wang, K. & Ba, S. Solving the information overload problem).

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The result is what Barry Schwartz calls “The Paradox of Choice”, a condition where more options create less satisfaction because of the increased effort associated with making a decision. That’s what happens when you spend more time ordering your dinner than you do enjoying it.

Graze.com, a company specializing in creating healthy snack boxes, is known for a simplistic and user-friendly website design and nice product imagery.

To combat choice overload, Graze decided to offer only three options, with a brief explanation under each one. Choose one and continue to complete the order.

Graze

Dr. Iyengar’s research has shown that customers must be led through a system of simple steps in order to make a complex decision. She outlined the following four steps:

  • Cut. Reduce the number of options to a reasonable number.
  • Concretize. Give the consumer enough information about each item to really know what they’re getting. Include an image with your description.
  • Categorize. Group similar items together, like Dollar Shave Club, did below. Our minds are much better at interpreting differences between products if the items are categorized.

Dollar Shave Club

  • Condition for complexity. Start with broader options and work your way down to the specifications with more options. This trains the customer to move easily through the decision-making process.

8. Advanced Product Recommendations

According to Monetate, relevant recommendations can increase revenue by up to 300%, improve conversions by 150% and help boost the average order value by 50%.

To increase sales, you need to deliver the same kind of personalized product recommendations that companies like Amazon provide.

  • Use customers’ social history of likes and dislikes to deliver relevant recommendations to users.
  • Add to your persuasiveness by including social proof in the form of testimonials or by adding the name of the customer who as “liked” or bought the same product.
  • Increase online recommendation accuracy by paying more attention to your recommendation algorithms when the product recommendation service is deployed.
  • By analysing shopping behaviour alongside the relationships between products and product categories you can provide customers with even more suggestions.

Amazon recommendations

  • Allow visitors to stay in the shopping cart environment while reviewing recommended products.
  • Make recommendations via popups, which keeps shoppers’ primary order in full view.

Another very effective way to recommend product bundles is a section “Shop the look”. ASOS uses it to upsell and enable customers to purchase products to complete an outfit.

ASOS Shop the look

9. Product Selection Wizard

Avoid customers getting frustrated and leaving your site by ensuring your purchase process is intuitive. A “product selection wizard” accomplishes this by suggesting suitable products based on individual customer needs.

Camera Selector - Canon

Canon and Luna Sandals help customers find their perfect product by determining their preferences using dialogue-based product wizards.

LUNA Sandals Picker

For more product wizard examples visit 100+ Guided Selling examples.

10. Buying Guides

Most people don’t have time to do the research needed when buying what you sell. If you spend just a little time educating visitors about what you sell, and what they need to know to make a decision, you will create knowledgeable and more confident shoppers.

Buying guides, as seen at Argos.co.uk, enable shoppers to gather information in the early stages of the purchase decision process.

Guide to buying a coffee machines at Argos

11. Make It Visual

To ease navigation and make the shopping experience simpler for your customers, add some quick-link images to your product page. Images draw a lot of attention, and when users get stuck trying to find a product, they tend to scan the page for anything that looks like a path to the item they want.

Our brains favour visual information over textual information. That’s why it’s a great idea to help your visitors find the products they’re looking for with some easy-to-interpret visuals.

Here’s how visuals can make your navigation menu more usable and effective:

  • Use icons – Icons help to make your navigation bar more usable, but also more personal and fun to use. Choose clear and meaningful icons and make their style match the rest of your design.
  • Use colour – Use colours to highlight active menu items or build a colour scheme for different content categories. Colours are also very important to smoothly integrate your navigation menu in the rest of design.
  • Use images – Detailed images can offer a lot more information that might otherwise be difficult to fit into one or two words.

See an example at carnival.com.

Carnival

12. Make Product Information Scannable

Finding the right product should be as easy and stress-free as possible for your customer. What consumers really want from eCommerce is simply, simplicity.

Your product descriptions should not have a long list of features, but should provide enough information that customers are interested. Keep it short and simple, but still descriptive enough to help your customers when they are deciding on a product.

Below is an example of a short and sweet description from LemonStand customer Charlotte Hosten.

Example Product Page - Charlotte Hosten

For more examples on simple and effective descriptions, read 12 Websites with fantastic product descriptions.

Packaging your product descriptions with a clear, scannable design makes them easier to read and more appealing.

Here are some areas to focus on when designing your product information page:

  • Use meaningful headlines
  • Highlight keywords and descriptive phrases
  • Use strategic formatting. Bold important concepts, but don’t highlight everything
  • Turn descriptions into a bulleted or numbered list
  • Include plenty of white space
  • Increase your font size to promote readability

Here’s an example from innocentdrinks.co.uk.

skip to the beet - innocent

Conclusion

One of the most promising ways to simplify your online shopping experience and increase revenue is by showing your customers you understand, care for and respect them and help them navigate to the products they want to buy.

Empower your visitors to find the products they’re looking for by creating a positive first impression with a familiar feel, user-friendly menu’s and filters that deliver relevant results and a simple navigation that enables them to browse your site with ease and enjoyment.

If you have tips I did not mention above, please share them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.

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