In the e-commerce industry, the terms usability and user experience have increasingly become the focus of attention in recent years. For successful e-commerce projects, functionality and an appealing, contemporary look & feel have long been a matter of course. Modern UX design therefore goes one step further and puts the customer at the centre in order to offer them an optimal user experience.
Not only in the consumer market, but also in the business customer sector, online retailers are increasingly struggling to attract the attention of new customers and to retain existing customers in the long term (B2C & B2B are merging into H2H). Between online trading platforms such as Amazon or eBay and large pure players such as Zalando, it is particularly difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises to position themselves on the market with their own online offer. In order to be noticed by the competition at all, it has long been insufficient to simply operate a web shop. Potential customers need to be convinced: Functionality, customer centricity and a sustainable brand and user experience are the keys to success.
The first impression counts: Functionality & Aesthetics
The possibilities of using the internet have changed in recent years, as has the user behaviour. Mobile use in particular has increased sharply and today already accounts for more than 50% of all traffic in e-commerce. Mobile first is therefore standard in online retail. In general, however, customers expect technically flawless functionality from an online offer at any time and on any device. This is where first impressions count: Long loading times, broken links, etc. lead to frustration and can quickly cause users to leave a website or web application again. In addition to technical functionality, usability and aesthetics are also important hygiene factors for an online shop. One important aspect is orientation.
A clear menu structure and intuitive, simple user guidance and operability are therefore just as indispensable as an appealing visual appearance that reflects one’s own brand image on the one hand, but also meets the expectations of customers. Small things can be decisive for the success of an online business – here it can be a matter of the better placement of a button or a wording that is more in line with the target group. Shop operators should also keep an eye on new technologies: Modern headless systems and PWAs, for example, can offer new possibilities for interacting with customers and accommodating their user behaviour.
In the video underneath, I explain the functionality of a Progressive Web App based on this blog you are visitng at the moment.
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Expectations and behaviour of online users:
“Google’s John Mueller provided new information about the new Mobile First Index. The big news is that desktop only sites will be completely dropped from the index, gone. Additionally, there are bugs related to m-dot sites and affirmed that the date for switching over to a mobile index is firm and not likely to change.”
Customer Centricity: Everything revolves around the customer
The term Customer Centricity describes the fundamental principle of putting the customer in the centre and a methodology to design an e-commerce project in such a way that the needs and expectations of the customer are taken into account as much as possible. User-centred design therefore plays a prominent role in the development of modern digital products – such as online shops, PWAs or web portals
In product development, this approach starts from the user (or customer) and includes him or her in the development. Methods such as design thinking, the development of personas and the early testing of prototypes with real users should ensure that the product meets the actual requirements of the target group as well as possible. Feedback and experience from tests can be directly incorporated into product development in this process in order to further refine and optimise the product.
A self-experienced example of a great (offline) customer experience
I would like to write about a simple example of a great offline customer experience in a brick and mortar store:
One day I had to fly to Munich to visit a customer to perform workhop about SAP Fiori apps. When the workshop was done, I wanted to drink a Coffee and I went to the Viktualienmarkt. On my way to the market, I passed one of my favorite department stores, called Dallmayr, to pick a little present for my partner. When one of us is on a business trip and working in an other city, we always bring a little present back home. Littlethings mean a lot, as they say 😉
My partner loves pralines and therefore I went to the counter where tempting creations were presented. The lady greeted me with a smile and she asked how she coud be of service. I told her, that I wanted to buy some pralines for my boyfriend and she assisted me in a friendly and professional way, by describing each single chocolate creation.
It took about 10 to 15 minutes and when it came to packing the pramines which were picked, she asked me if she shoud wrap it as a present. I confirmed and she said “It is for a gentleman, right?” I asked “How can you tell?” and she said “When you approached me, you said that you want to by a present for your boyfriend”.
The lady actively listened to what I was saying and she kept it in mind throughout the process. I also told her, that I was flying back to Berlin. The weather was witchy and damp in Munich and she offered me, to add an additional wrapping, to protect the chocolate from external influences.
This experience is some years ago, but I still can recall it. The lady was not only friendly, but she acted 100% customer centered by thinking actively how she could support me as a customer.
It was a great and fun experience and I left the store with a big smile on my face. Why? I felt taken serious, esteemed, repected and regarded as an indidual and not as one of thousands.
Emotional online shopping as a positive experience
A successful web project needs a functional and appealing user interface. Both are hygiene factors that are indispensable for a good user experience. Furthermore, through customer centricity and user-centred design, user needs can be identified and features implemented in order to design a digital offering that is optimally tailored to the target group. But what really makes good UX design is the X in UX: Experience. In order to give the visitor of a website or an online shop a positive experience, the UX design must go beyond the functional and aesthetic level to make an emotional offer.
The challenge here is to positively charge product and brand identity and thus create an identification offer for the user. Through emotional proximity and identification with the product (or the brand), a sustainable, positive connection to the customer is created. The development of a communication strategy that combines design elements such as colour schemes and formal language with content-related programmatic elements from the field of content marketing and storytelling should again be closely oriented towards the customer.
User-centred design methods can provide information here on how best to address the respective target group and which visual codes and cultural or social metaphors are suitable for effectively conveying certain cognitive concepts and values.
Through a consistent UX design, which creates an additional, emotional added value for the target group on the basis of high technical functionality and great user-friendliness, a positive shopping experience can be created, through which long-term customer loyalty is established.