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GUEST COMMENT Four ways to make or break your shopper’s online experience

What kind of shopping experience holds the key to customers' heart?

Imagine that you work in Formula1, for a little brand called Mercedes. You decide to invest time and money into a wind tunnel to improve aerodynamics for those marginal gains.

Sadly, when it comes to race day, your team has decided to put wet tyres on the car… even though the forecast has 0% chance of rain. If your team races at all today, it will be a miracle, but you’re certainly not contesting for the winning spot. Ferrari is mocking you.

As an industry, ecommerce is sometimes guilty of something similar, trying to compete with the big boys by investing in the latest shiny, sexy technology. I’m talking chatbots, AI and virtual reality – all exciting developments. Meanwhile, however, a lack of basic essentials could be staring you right in the face.

But if you’re into the art of self-sabotage, listen up. Below I’ve shared four of the easiest ways to guarantee your customers leave your website and never come back.

1. Sloppy categorisation

Badly thought through, as well as poor or missing categorisation, leads to only one thing – frustrated customers. And it’s more common than you might think; here’s an example:
You have a men’s ski jacket for sale on your site. Most people know it makes sense to list this in a specific ‘men’s ski jacket’ category – tick. But what if a shopper doesn’t know they want a ski jacket until they see it? Or perhaps they don’t actually see the specific category you’ve created?

If you’ve not also categorised the item under ‘men’s jackets’ then anybody browsing your site in the general jacket section will be unable to find the ski jacket. And if there are no other helpful attributes attached to the item to highlight this is, in fact, a ski jacket, and ‘ski jacket’ isn’t in the product description, then the garment is never going to be found or sold.

All of that time you’ve invested in great product imagery, lifestyle shots or videos will be wasted as the customer doesn’t even find what they want so gives up trying.

2. Leave out key product information

Does the description provide enough information to attract the shopper and appear inappropriate searches? Are you including vital facts such as dimensions, washing instructions, and product specifications? Here are a few examples of how missing out this information could cause you to become unstuck.

• Product Dimensions – I’ve found a sofa that I’d like delivered in time for a big party I’m having. Will it fit between the bannister and the door to get into the living room? If I can’t see the packing dimensions for height, length and width I’m going to shop elsewhere for a similar sofa that I can guarantee will fit.

• Washing & Care Instructions – True to say I’m always in a rush and not prepared to spend ages ironing a shirt in the morning, which means I only buy shirts that are easy iron. Without this key piece of information, I will not buy from you.

• Product Specification and features – Can I easily tell if your product is; fully waterproof; lightweight; breathable? Do you specify whether there are zipped pockets? If the item is reversible? The list goes on. There really is no replacement for providing as much information as possible and ensuring that the shopper can search against these features.

Remember, although you might be able to compete on price and shipping, conversion won’t happen without telling the consumer exactly what it is they’re buying, and returns will be much higher.

3. Failure to group related products

As you may have figured out already, I’m a creature of habit. More often than not, I’ll only buy t-shirts that fit well in multiple colours. I want to go online, find the shirt I’ve just bought and see what other colours it comes in. If it’s not easy for me to see that the t-shirt also comes in black, grey, blue etc. you’ve lost an easy repeat purchase. This is why grouping is so important. It increases conversion and reduces basket abandonment.

Grouping items makes browsing products much cleaner and intuitive for the customer encouraging repeat purchasing, but you know what else does? Providing related product suggestions. A key element to increasing basket spend is up-selling when customers have found a product they like. You’ve done the hard work. You’ve enticed me to shop and here I am on your site – this is your best chance to increase basket spend with peripheral, upsell items. Make suggestions that I would like to keep me on the site longer, and up the sale value as your reward.

4. Don’t forget about after sales

You’ve managed to make a sale, but treating this like the end is a mistake. Ask whether you might need instructions for this product, for instance, and whether the customer is able to pull down a copy of the guide after the sale is made. Paying attention to after sales improves the buyer’s journey, reduces the number of calls made to customer care, and improves customer loyalty.

Lego and Ikea are proof that this strategy works – old Lego kits can be found online, as can instruction manuals for Ikea furniture. Making these resources available avoids the customer abandoning the product altogether and instead encourages them to return to you in the future. Not everyone will need to provide customers with an online manual, but questioning what after sale benefits you can offer can really pay off in the long run.

Now PIM-p up your site

We know that UK retailers are losing online customers, and sales, due to poor product information, so it makes sense to tackle this as a priority. When asked in a recent survey, almost half (47%) of consumers said that a lack of product information or inaccurate product information were the issues most likely to prevent them from buying.

So before investing in the latest trends, make sure your site is tackling the real challenge – providing up-to-date and comprehensive product data, and finding a Product Information Management (PIM) solution that delivers much more than just a marginal gain.

Author: Scott Hanson, Product Information Specialist at Pimberly

Image credit: Fotolia 

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