In my last post, I looked at the features and functions of e-commerce platforms that help to drive a positive customer experience at the point at which a prospect has decided they want to purchase a particular product. In part two, I am going to take a look at features that facilitate the actual moment of purchase and the post purchase experience.
Moment of purchase
By removing barriers to conversion, an e-commerce platform can have a big impact on making the purchase process as easy as possible.
Although not necessarily dictated by the e-commerce platform, the design and layout of the site should be customisable to an extent, ideally without the need for development resource.
- Category product layout – Product listings in grid or list format should be an option available to the customer and remembered for that user
- Flexible module based design – The ability to move certain pieces of content from one area of the page to another, whilst adding and removing landing pages will greatly increase your chance of being able to improve conversion rates through a/b testing, for example
- Flexible templates – Ability to assign designs on category and product level (unique design per product/category)
- Hero & header images – Carousels and image headers should be specifiable for the homepage, categories and across other areas of the site. JohnLewis.com make excellent use of hero & header images across their categories, highlighting latest ranges and deals, for example:
A customer needs to feel as informed as possible about a product before committing to purchase. The layout and information provided at a product level can have a big impact on this.
- Multiple images per product – Customers expect to see a large number of high quality product images
- Product image zoom-in capability – Images should be high resolution, be ‘zoom-able’ (did I just make that word up?!) by click and through movement of the mouse across the image
- Product image 360 degree view – Functionality to allow for products to be viewed from all angles
- Product coverage – Where products appear in publications, the ability to highlight this to the customer through thumbnail images/logos
- Product stock level tracking and notification – Ensure stock availability is visible and ideally in real-time to to avoid fulfilment frustration. As highlighted in my last post, Made.com make great use of product imagery, offering a number of images from different angles and showing the items in use and on their own:
A smooth buying process from basket to checkout to completion will help minimise the customer ‘dropping off’ at any of these stages:
- Customisable checkout – A flexible checkout is important as this allows for testing, removing and reposition of form fields and so on
- Checkout without account/guest checkout – Probably the biggest mistake made by retailers (and the biggest bugbear for customers) is insisting an account is created in order to make the purchase. Don’t force this on customers up-front, offer it as an option after the sale with an incentive for doing so i.e. money off a next purchase
- SSL security support – Both front-end and back-end, secure checkout is vital for customers trust to complete the sale
- Saved shopping baskets – Ideally with configurable expiry time. Remembering a user’s product choices will avoid frustration if they accidentally close their browser or press the back button
A key factor to conversion is an excellent shipping and delivery process. To achieve this, the e-commerce platform should be highly configurable to allow a multitude of flexible options (assuming the retailer has the processes and systems in place to offer these options of course):
- Trackable delivery – Customers expect to be kept up-to-date in terms of where their purchase is in transit or be able to find information on the status of their order on the site
- Configurable delivery cost – Free delivery or flat rate delivery per order or item from our experience are the best aids to high conversion rates. Clear information for differing weights, destinations etc, are also essential so all costs are clear up-front
- Print invoices and packaging lists from the order screen – Key to offering a smooth and efficient delivery service is to make the background processes simple and automated
A comprehensive range of payment features will allow customers to transact easily and conveniently.
- Payment gateway integration – Offering a broad range of payment gateways will ensure any obstacles to completion are minimised
- Discounts codes – The ability to add voucher/discount code at basket/checkout
- Credit card details – Securely remember users credit card details (should they wish to) saves time and effort next time they make a purchase
Active selling & dynamic merchandising
This refers to the art of cross-selling a similar or complimentary product to the one a customer has chosen to purchase. This is could be an alternative (before they have added to basket), an item that would complement their purchase or an additional item required for the chosen product to function properly.
- Recently viewed/compared products – The option to include a list of recently viewed products
- Active selling – The ability to push items through daily deals and new item promotions
- Configurable cross-sells, bundled items, up-sells and related items – All should be customisable, and be able to be added to different areas/templates of the site
- Wish lists – The ability to add desired products into a list associated with users account
IKEA make nice use of tabs to include an array of cross selling opportunity, matching and complementary products, similar items and more products from the same range:
Delivering on your promises after the purchase is essential to building trust and brand loyalty. An e-commerce platform can aid this in the following ways:
- Customer accounts – Allow customers the option to create an account that remember key details such as address and payment methods
- Customer service – Allows customers to make enquiries via their account and linked to the products they have purchased previously
- Online chat – Integration into the platform for customer service queries, as well as asking product specific questions
- Email marketing – Email marketing fully integrated with the customer database can feed into the retailer’s eCRM program
Whether off the shelf or bespoke, there is a lot to consider in terms of functionality when selecting an e-commerce platform. The above attempts to cover some of the key e-commerce features to ensure your site achieves its true potential and most importantly you deliver the kind of pre- and post-purchase experience needed to win in complex and competitive sectors, such as homewares and fashion.
Can you think of anything additional you might look for in an e-commerce platform?