Now more than ever, user experience (UX) is critical for eCommerce brands.
Whether you’re a marketer, designer, developer, copywriter, or salesperson, UX has become part of all of our responsibilities.
It’s critical that everyone on your eCommerce team empathizes with the end-user, or customer, because ultimately, all of our roles exist to serve that customer.
In today’s environment, we’re constantly exposed to content. We’re also constantly bombarded with brand messaging, and we’re surrounded by sophisticated digital platforms. Unsurprisingly, we’ve all become accustomed to everyday exchanges adapting to our needs.
Think about how you might approach planning a vacation. Gone are the days where you’d start by finding a travel agent.
Instead, you might ask your friends on Facebook for their destination suggestions. Perhaps you’d scroll Instagram for inspiring photos. Maybe you’d Google search for deals on airfare, or sign up on a travel website’s mailing list for their “deals of the week.”
The point is, the sales funnel is no longer quite as predictable as it once was. People now jump in at various points, thanks to omnichannel approaches to eCommerce.
In fact, a 2017 study by Harvard Business Review found that 73% of online shoppers use multiple channels along their journey.
This reality shifts how we must approach the user experience design process.
First and foremost, UX processes have to combat distractions.
At work, we get distracted all the time by things: emails, phone calls, last-minute meetings, that person who always wants to chat. All of this input can distract you and cause you to drop off from engagement.
Similarly, as we consider user flow, we must think through what influences people moving through engagement with a brand.
User-centered design is still critical, but so are the ancillary elements that influence behaviors (i.e. being in Target, trying to decide between two items, and jumping online to check out reviews for each). Moments like these are increasing opportunities for users to engage with your brand - provided that your UX design process accounts for omnichannel experiences.
Additionally, connected environments are on the rise. Consider smart airports, where if you log on to the airport WiFi from your laptop, or use an airport app, shops and restaurants within your specific area of the airport will advertise their products and services.
This is just one example of how we’re building technologies into everyday environments. You’ve likely experienced it from a store-based perspective. Everyone from Target to BestBuy allows you to purchase online and pick up in-store, deepening the connectivity further.
Just as significantly, many customers now have smart devices in their homes. This is yet another way that someone might discover or purchase a product. Consequently, it’s yet another channel that needs to be incorporated into your user experience.
In short: eCommerce used to be experienced by sitting at your computer. Now it's everywhere.
So while development teams are used to looking at things like navigation during the design phase, we can no longer just address pain points. UX designers must understand the customer who is working through multiple integrated technologies.
Just as our environments are now connected, so must be our teams. UX cannot be created and managed in silos.
In order to deliver omnichannel experiences, teams must collaborate.
Consider this example. You’re shopping for a new car. You’ve been out looking for SUVs, pulling up information on your phone, and when you go to the Honda website, they’re able to swap out their standard homepage for one featuring SUVs, because they know that’s what you’ve been doing. It might seem invasive, but it helps facilitate a purchase.
Eliminating steps for customers (and therefore eliminating distractions), and delivering personalized content requires a symphony of collaboration between UX, content strategy, technology, visual design, and other teams.
Keeping Up with Technology
Fortunately, there are all kinds of key technologies that can help deliver the best user experience possible.
In fact, technology has developed faster than brands can incorporate new capabilities into user experiences.
Years ago, brands may have had ideas for creating the ideal user experience. But there were no tools to support those ideas. The technology simply wasn’t there.
But today, there are all kinds of capabilities - augmented reality, for example - which we’re only just beginning to explore.
Expect to see brands embracing not just omnichannel, but increasingly unique user experiences to help their brand stand out from the noise.
UX from a Brand Perspective
So how do you develop best-in-class user experience as a brand? There is constant opportunity, but also constant distraction.
The first step is to let go of internal belief systems, and shift the lens outward. You must connect with your constituents. Some brands do this by conducting user research, creating user personas, and soliciting user feedback.
This research phase is critical, as it gives your business a sound foundation off of which to build. It also gives you qualitative, empathetic insights that help shift your internal perspective.
Certainly, customers will put up with a terrible user experience if their need is compelling enough. Craigslist is a great example. The design is awful, and really hasn’t evolved since its first iteration, but it provides a unique and compelling service.
Even so, poor user experience practically begs someone to disrupt you. It’s unwise to assume that people will continue to work through the pain of your design.
Most people will eat a decent (but not stellar) meal at a place that has fabulous service, versus going someplace with rude waitstaff for a five-star entrée. Service must always be front-and-center.
In addition to expecting technologically advanced and omnichannel experiences, users also now have rapidly evolving expectations.
This requires UX teams to rely on the results of their solid research. Using that research, they should prototype and immediately start circulating the design with users. Stay in touch with those users and take advantage of them as go-to testers throughout the design process, adjusting as you test and learn.
The last major impact on UX comes from brands increasingly going global.
UX teams need to account for cultural differences in design. They also need to acknowledge simple nuances, such as how accessibility standards differ by region. Europe has different parameters than America, for example.
Going global digitally also means that you’ll have to manage engagement 24/7. The lights don’t shut off at 5pm for digital brands, particularly global ones. A customer in London might need something at a different time than when your New York headquarters are open.
Paying close attention and responding to these kinds of user demands is critical for a brand’s success.
There’s a lot to unpack regarding the state of UX, and it’s evolving even as we speak.
Take advantage of the team at Object Edge’s expertise and ensure your business is delivering user experiences for a new era.