When you think about creating differentiation for your brand, some of the first things that come to mind are likely unique features, special materials, and product quality, and while these are surely important, many brands are guilty of overlooking a key differentiator, one that can determine whether or not a customer makes it to the point of discovering the factors you thought of first.
What is this point of differentiation? User experience.
How Is User Experience (UX) Defined?
The definition of UX has been linked to the product design team at Apple, stated as “all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its product. User experience encompasses every touch point from discovery to post purchase service, and is a key contributor to your brand’s overall perception.
User experience is closely related to another important aspect of brand equity and reputation - customer experience, which is how the customer actually perceives their interactions with a brand. The user experience can quickly take your customer experience from an A+ to a D.
Imagine selling a high end purse. You use the best materials, have a top notch designer, and unique designs only you can produce. All of these contribute to your brand’s enquiry and perceived quality. Now imagine you are selling online, where consumers cannot touch and feel the materials, and may have lesser knowledge of your brand’s reputation for quality and design. If their digital exposure to your brand does not match the quality of your product, how likely are they to perceive your brand as a luxury choice?
How To Deliver a Better User Experience
The need to deliver a better online experience is acknowledged by many marketers, but the questions of how to execute can be overwhelming. To optimize your user experience for today’s shopper, there are three key areas that brands should be looking to enhance.
Intuitive Web Design
Despite the massive shift to digitally focused business over the last several years, there are still many commerce sites whose design is not user friendly. Whether it is a confusing navigation pane, unclear language, or the need to click 10 times to land on the page you are looking for, a poorly designed experience can turn off a customer before they ever make it to an actionable page.
When designing your site, consider the path or paths to purchase that your ideal customer will take. Think about the questions they will ask and the information they will need, and make it easy to find and digest. If you are adding immersive elements, ensure that those features are initiative or include instructions, guides, or prompts. Undecided on if your customer will intuitively understand how to engage with the feature? Better to add a prompt or guide that will help the buyer find what they need to make a purchase.
Along the same lines, when adding features to your site, be sure to include only elements that contribute to meaningful value to your buyer’s experience and your brand’s objectives. Too many add ons weigh down your site, which will detract from the experience that you have so carefully constructed.
Product Clarity and Detail
Now that your site is easy to use, let’s make sure that your products are easy to discover, evaluate, and appreciate. Make your product catalogs easy to navigate, and make sure to include complete product descriptions and high resolution images and video. Want to up the experience even further? Create an immersive brand experience with product visualization or 3D configuration and allow buyers to engage with the product from every angle in high definition. Showcase unique features, product add ons, or the buyer’s ability to customize your products to their exact needs and wants with 3D models that deliver that in store feeling online. According to Growcode, 72% of consumers are eager to buy from digitally innovative brands, and studies have shown that 67% of shoppers believe product imagery is more important than descriptions when making a purchase decision. Product visualization software puts the power of 3D behind your user experience, and allows for a more engaging product experience when shopping online. To complete the experience, and add the wow factor, leverage augmented reality to show your buyers the exact product that they have chosen or designed from the comfort of their current shopping location. Each of these elements drives value for the buyer and improves the perception of the user experience.
Seamless Checkout Process
The customer has done the work to discover your brand, evaluate your product, and make a decision for purchase, don’t lose ground on the last mile with a complicated checkout experience. Give your customer the tools they need to quickly confirm what they are purchasing and move through the steps of purchase. For products that are configurable, make sure that what is shown in the cart reflects the buyer’s choices instead of a non descript stock image. If the exact configuration cannot be shown, be sure to make it clear and easy to discern what options were chosen.
Optimizing your experience for additional product discovery and increased cart value can also make the buying experience more enjoyable. Instead of featuring add ons and product enhancements as a screen or pop up during the checkout process, consider including these as part of the initial shopping recommendations. Including these earlier in the shopper’s journey allows buyers to more easily see how the suggested products complement what they are already buying, and removes friction from the actual purchase process.
The commerce landscape has shifted to one highly focused on digital and the interactions between consumers and brands. While physical retail is still a dominant player, the drive towards more omnichannel and digital strategies mean an increased focus on improving all touchpoints that impact a customer’s path to purchase. User experience is a key component in determining what that path to purchase will look like, and whether it ends in a conversion or an abandoned cart.