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GUEST COMMENT Why usability and findability is key to ecommerce success in the children’s department

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Bringing a new bundle of joy into the world is a momentous occasion for a family. Whether it’s an experienced mother adding a fourth child to the brood or parents-to-be gearing up for their first, one thing’s for sure, they will be open to ideas and advice to ensure they get nothing but the best for their new arrival. When transferring that knowledge into the online world, there’s a huge opportunity to link content with commerce and that’s where usability and findability come into play.

Regular visitors to online baby and parenting shops, childrenswear or toy stores aren’t just limited to the parents themselves and will very often include friends and relatives (the doting grandmother, the hip auntie, the excited godmother… you get the picture). So how can you ensure that you cover all bases and provide an experience that’s tailored for each of them?

For the experienced mother, it’s likely she may already have something in mind – tried and trusted products – but for the latter group (mums-and dads-to-be, friends, relatives) it’s fair to expect that they will be looking for ideas and inspiration to help aid their purchase decision.

Differences aside, they all share one thing in common: finding the right products or information as soon as possible. And for retailers, sustained sales growth is only possible if your shop delivers the right details to the right visitor at the right time, making on-site search and user guidance invaluable.

The UK childrenswear market is one of the strongest performing sub-sectors of clothing in terms of growth, according to Datamonitor, and furthermore, growth in the infantswear category is tipped be strongest. Here’s a check-list of five key functionalities to ensure that your online shop is in tip-top shape to help turn those browsers into buyers:

Error-tolerant search

According to Google, 56% of new and expectant parents search for baby products on their mobile device. But the smaller the display, the easier it is to make mistakes when typing. People also tend to misspell lesser-known brands – keying in ‘Chicco’ rather than ‘Chico’, for example, can create a further source of errors. Make sure you have an error-tolerant search function in place that interprets request intuitively, delivering relevant results even when customers make mistakes.

Guided selling

Aspiring parents are often not sure which products meet their needs best. Because there are so many different variables to consider – what size baby grow should I get? Which car seat is suitable for which age? Which pushchair will last the longest? With guided selling, your online shop is able to ask visitors the same questions that a sales assistant would. For example, if a visitor were to type in ‘pushchair’ – give them additional options such as twin or single buggy; three or four wheels; for use in the city or countryside, to narrow down the search and allow them to select the most suitable items.

Pushed products

The first item noticed by online shoppers is bought more often than others. So, take this opportunity to promote house brands, certified products or high margin items. With the right technology, you can set your own ranking-rules to coincide with a particular promotion.

Flexible navigation

For friends, relatives, or new mums looking for inspiration, ensure the navigation on your site is simple and intuitive; this is essential in encouraging a purchase. Theme worlds are a great way of highlighting a particular range or category, for example ‘first year essentials’ or ‘little princess’. This is a great way of improving conversion rate and cross selling too.

Intelligent filtering

Once a customer has found the item they are looking for, useful filter options are a must – whether that’s brand, size or colour. ‘Yes-no’ filters allow products to be selected in terms of important health or ethical factors, including allergy-friendliness, quality and safety standards – something that a new mother will likely be wary of.

If there’s one thing that will put a new mother at ease, it’s by listening and learning from those who have experienced it themselves. Key to success here is offering blog posts or a buying guide feature – all of which can be included in the suggest dropdown.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to start taking these baby steps to ensure your ecommerce site doesn’t get left behind.

Kevin Sparks is commercial director at FACT-Finder

There’s more about how baby and toy shops speed up their sales growth here.

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