What can a UX specialist do for e-commerce?

Graphic shows applications in the e-commerce industry

The pandemic reality, which has lasted more than two years, has caused many businesses to move to the virtual space. There is nothing wrong with this, because the world of e-commerce, is the future for outreach channels, even if most business is stationary.

What, on the other hand, is a significant problem, visible at almost every turn, is the unified appearance and operation of many stores, which were launched quickly, on ready-made engines and templates. 

Nowadays, with the help of a small group of experts, you can launch an online store in just a few days. You can also do it yourself with the help of tutorials and off-the-shelf solutions available on the market. However, this will be neither effective nor efficient. Baymard Institute research shows that almost 70% of visits to an e-store do not result in the completion of a transaction. Setting up an e-store is unfortunately not setting up a blog and requires much more time.

There are many companies that help retail businesses create their place on the web. Still, it will not be a solution tailored to the target audience of a particular store. This is where UX/UI designers, with whom the development team should work, come to the rescue.

Business assumptions and goals

UX (User Experience) specialists, are the people who holistically build products and their strategies. That's why including them in the work already at the concept stage is crucial to validate business assumptions. They, like the people running the business, care about realizing KPIs, ROI and the highest possible conversion.

A workshop to initiate cooperation, is a great opportunity to juxtapose expectations with experience in building products. During the meeting, we can define the key audiences, the most important product categories, the places that should be exposed, the potential space for advertising banners, the user paths, and the layout and what packshot images should look like. 

A workshop to initiate cooperation, is a great opportunity to juxtapose expectations with experience in building products. During the meeting, we can define the key audiences, the most important product categories, the places that should be exposed, the potential space for advertising banners, the user paths, and the layout and what packshot images should look like. 

At a glance

According to research, we have only a few seconds to make a user who visits our website curious and keep his attention for a longer period of time. In addition, these fractions of seconds are supposed to help him determine what market segment the store is targeting. What is his target group and what price levels he can expect. For example, the site of a luxury jewelry store looks very different from that of a site with Chinese mass-produced ornaments. By contrast, an upscale electronics retailer like Apple expresses the quality of its brand through elegant fonts, a sophisticated color palette and sleek product photos.

User Paths

In the context of online stores, we most often think that the user has one scenario to follow, one use case - to leave their money with us by making a purchase. Meanwhile, there are several user paths, and each of them should be designed to make the best impression on the user, thereby increasing the likelihood of repeat purchases from our store. These paths are:

  • Exploring the store's home page and categories,
  • Product search process and search results,
  • product page,
  • operations inside the shopping cart,
  • checkout path (the final element of the purchasing process - data and payment method),
  • Confirmation and summary of the purchasing process.

User experience designers are armed with the knowledge and tools to design views that will maintain the highest conversion rate. Using additional techniques based on, among other things, the results of user research, they know how to arrange elements on the screen so that nothing distracts the user during the purchase process. As a result, the customer will effectively finalize the purchase and the process will be satisfying for the user. Specialists can use additional design techniques that, when implemented, can gently/unobtrusively encourage the customer to add another product to the shopping cart, which will be recommended to him by the store's algorithm.

The information architecture and visual hierarchy of interface elements is also key. Based on scientific knowledge and experience, UX designers have the ability to arrange them in such a way that moving through them by eye is natural and the layout of content does not create the impression of chaos. Applying optimal sizes to individual blocks, defining primary and complementary color palettes, and selecting the right types of buttons for main and side actions are activities in which the designer's participation is essential.

Words matter

The thing that owners of e-commerce stores under construction often forget is the sequence of activities that need to be performed in order to make sense of creating a store. We are usually reminded of such important aspects as content or SEO after the design phase, when we have designed and prepared containers for content of a certain volume. If the SEO agency we work with has comments about these spaces, (for example, that they are too small, or there are too many of them on certain subpages), we may end up "crashing" the project. After all, more often than not, a business cares more about positioning in search results than it does about a few average-looking pixels. 

How can we solve this? The UX team also includes UX writing specialists, who, together with copywriting specialists, are able to create a content base - firstly tailored for SEO, and secondly simple and understandable to the user, so that he finds the information he is looking for as quickly as possible. In addition, this is the group of specialists responsible for so-called microcopy - another often underestimated aspect of e-commerce design, i.e. short messages guiding the user through processes in the interface (buttons, errors, action confirmations). Well-designed microcopy has a huge impact on conversion rate optimization.

Product card

The product card is practically the most important element of any online store. Key to making the customer realistically want to buy the product, even if he was not convinced about it at first. The elements of a product card that should be researched and designed by a specialist are, first of all:

  • The way the photos are presented and their style,
  • Displaying buttons that encourage people to buy,
  • Appropriate product information architecture,
  • product-tour,
  • upsell space,
  • actual social-proof.

Untrue "recommendations" by users with generic avatars taken from stock sites is something that is often thrown into the product card by force. And no one pays attention to it - people prefer to use external services that provide reviews. Such an action can end up with the user leaving our store, and that's the last thing we as owners want. Meanwhile, making reviews more real (if only by varying the number of stars in the ratings) and trying to get real reviews can make the social-proofing element extremely helpful for our store.

UX specialists, not infrequently working with marketing experts, pay attention to product illustrations. In the same way, when we consider what use cases will occur during the development of a store, system, or application, it is similarly useful to show the context of its use on the product card. We often forget about this and present only dry packshots. Meanwhile, UX Researchers are competent to interview potential audiences and give guidance on what is likely to be the most effective form of product presentation for this target audience and this product segment - a minimalist packshot, or an emotionally charged contextual photo.

Virtual consultant

‍U of your competitors often come across a chatbot and start wondering if such a solution would work for your e-business? It depends primarily on your market segment and target audience. Some customers simply can't stand to be attacked by lots of pop-ups and it negatively affects their perception of the e-store. UX researchers are a group of people who are also capable of conducting research and quantitative analysis in this area to verify any doubts. If the idea actually turns out to be right, we will help design the chatbot engine and all the scenarios that could potentially occur when interacting with the user. Fast and effective communication, is the basis of customer trust, especially if it also takes place at unusual times of the day. Using such a solution, you take the burden off the customer service department of answering frequently repeated questions, redirecting their resources to solving more complex customer problems.

Mobile first

Online sales continue to grow. Mobile devices account for the majority of e-commerce traffic, but PC sites have lower cart abandonment rates and higher average purchase values. One hundred percent mobile e-commerce is the future, but if designers want to maximize profits in the present, they must, along with the business, enhance PC sites with UX best practices.

At the dawn of the third decade of the 21st century, a mobile first approach should be pretty much self-evident, but this is often not the case. Gemius research from the second half of 2019 indicates that more than 60% of traffic registered on websites in Poland is focused on the mobile channel. Surprisingly, many businesses launching their online operations focus exclusively on desktop solutions, while the above display statistics indicate a significant migration of users to mobile devices.

In addition, mobile devices generate the most traffic and retail revenue globally. Unfortunately, they fall short on two key metrics: mobile sites have a higher shopping cart abandonment rate and a lower average purchase value than stores used by users on desktops. And this is a space that we, as designers, need to take care of.

Challenges of the retail sector

The future of the retail industry is linked to further digitization and multichannel shopping. Increasing customer demands are driving the industry to be more mobile and innovation-oriented. The biggest challenge facing those in charge of online sales is to ensure a consistent and convenient buying process, regardless of the device the customer is using or where the customer is shopping. A well thought out and planned store or app can significantly impact the amount of revenue generated.

A link to the article on the Commercial News portal can be found below:

What can a UX specialist do for e-commerce?

Profile photo of Marta Siedlecka

Marta Siedlecka

Manager of UX/UI Design and Webflow Development area with eight years of experience in the industry. She is a psychologist and psychotherapist by training. Her greatest joy comes from people management, mentoring young design talent and planning strategies for building and developing products. She has been with Britenet for over 3 years.