Here's a bit of a paradox for you. Ecommerce is changing and isn't changing at the same time. Brands like Google, eBay and Alibaba have been around for over a decade now and are still leaders in the digital world. So from this side of the story ecommerce hasn't changed, so to speak. Instead, there are just more brands offering what the leaders already have.
On the other hand, the methods used to attract users and increase conversions have changed greatly, when compared to 10 years ago.
Primarily, what has changed is customer preferences. Customers are no longer willing to take the long route towards a single destination when other brands offer quicker options, regardless of brand loyalty. And this is all down to a congested market.
Nowadays there are hundreds of suppliers all targeting your users and it can be difficult to stay current as fluctuating innovation drives customer behaviours.
What customers view as the norm in the digital world now would have been too confusing 10 years ago, and perhaps too simplistic in 10 years time. But, where does the balance between innovation and confusion lay?
How flexible are you?
Bending over backwards and bombarding your users with new functionalities isn't always the way forward. Instead, this approach to the customer journey can lead to confusion as users get lost in a maze of options. And let's not forget all of the additional defects consistent updates do to your site.
From what we know so far, users like convenience, they like a seamless experience and they like to form relationships with the brands they interact with. This can be done through online to instore functions such a store locator or a deliver to store option. And through emails or social media posts which target and inform users about specific products.
But, again balance is important. Making sure you don't annoy your users should be paramount. Don't go about sending 5 emails a day or preaching about a certain product they checked out once for the next 3 weeks. Users want to form a relationship with your brand which feels relaxed and friendly. They don't, however, want to feel annoyed or insecure about a certain product, after you fail to send updates concerning chosen delivery times.
We know these methods work because they have been tried and tested repeatedly. In fact, if you want to delve a little further, check out the growth and revenue of a site with these clear, up to date functionalities against one without. The one with should be hitting growth targets of 10% or more, whereas the one without will be barely skimming the surface.
So far, we have talked about methods which work because they have been tested over a long period of time. But what about methods in the future? What can you expect in the next year or so?
We know that users want sites to be intuitive, human and convenient, and this trend is most likely going to continue in the future. How do we know this will happen? Because it's already in motion through the form of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Using an example from IoT, one of the brake pads on your car needs replacing but your MOT isn't due for another 6 months or so. Originally you might not be aware of the issue and probably won't address it until the MOT comes. But doing this means you risk warping the brake discs and increasing your car's current braking distance. In general, a situation you want to avoid as it can be costly.
With the use of the Internet of Things, your car will automatically identify when a brake pad needs replacing, will send a message to your phone and book in an appointment with a mechanic to get the issue fixed. There is little to no effort required by the driver to fix this problem and the whole process feels intuitive and seamless.
The human side of this comes through the relationship built up by companies. Just like Beauty Bays new site, users want to learn and talk with people who have similar interests or who can offer insight. BB took on this UX approach and their site now divides their products section and their content section, so users can easily get to where they want to be. Combine this with an active social media account and your brand now has a personality.
Don't run before you can walk
It's safe to say that sites which are human, intuitive and convenient will continue to grow over the next few years and armed with these tools you might be thinking you are ready to take on the next digital movement. However, circling back to what I mentioned before about confusing your users, you need to ensure the functionalities or methods you are introducing actually match what your customers want.
How can you do this? Simply ask them.
Well, do a bit more than that. Conduct a UX test with the focus on site improvements and actionable insights. Unfortunately, you can't just get anyone who fits within your target audience and ask them what they think about your site. Instead, you need a community of trained UX testers who can only be sought out through external web testing agencies.
Roundabout now you might be rolling your eyes at the proposition of having yet another external company testing your site. But hear me out. Expert UX testers are invaluable. They are the ones driving your company forwards and under a professional testing company, their opinions and insights will all be quantified and authenticated.
The digital world will continue to move forward and it's up to you or your company's managers to act now before getting left behind.