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As the number of people shopping online increases, it’s important that you have a top-notch eCommerce platform that is performant, visually appealing, and delivers the functionality users expect. However, when you sit down to determine how your resources should be used, should you devote your time and money to IT or marketing? Can you balance the needs of both? This article covers actions that have large impacts on your site and how you might allocate your resources between competing demands.

Building an Effective and Exciting Online Experience - Rigor

Implementing landing pages that grab users’ attention and bring them into your brand’s lifestyle

Landing pages, or more specifically, images, can make or break your conversion rates. People like to touch things to get a feel for the product before making a purchase, but this isn’t possible when shopping online. To compensate for this disadvantage against brick-and-mortar stores (and other online sellers), you’ll want to include high quality, dynamic images that give shoppers a clear idea of what your products are like and prompt your users to make the purchase.

Obviously, this type of content is expensive, both in terms:

  • the marketing brainpower needed to curate the content required for a product to look attractive
  • the infrastructure needed to serve up such heavy pages quickly and efficiently

However, what your users see (or doesn’t see) directly impacts whether they stay on your site and whether they make the purchase. Because visual features are so important, the landing pages where all of this is displayed is one area where you’ll want to dedicate as many of your resources as possible to both form and function.

Ensuring page load speeds/site performance are fast to capture customers’ short attention span

Building an Effective and Exciting Online Experience - Rigor

Source: SOASTA

Shoppers tend to be impatient. Many expect your site to load near instantaneously. In fact, if your site takes even four seconds to load, you’ll have lost 25% of your viewers. High bounce rates are obviously a negative impact on your bottom line, so it’s imperative that you optimize your site’s performance to the best of your ability. However, this can be an expensive proposition, so focus your resources on three areas:

  • Homepage: This is an area that’s often updated and includes lots of images. If these images are unoptimized (which they often are), your page load time will suffer due to the longer periods of time required to retrieve and render each and every image. In addition, how frequent the images are updated precludes any type of longer-term caching. Spend some of your resources on determine and using the appropriate image type and ensure that you’re using the appropriate compression techniques for the image type you choose.
  • Search Result Pages: Search result pages display a large number of rich images, so it’s important to optimize the images (this includes determining and serving the correct sized images). Each unoptimized image is a hit on your page load time. The number of results the page needs to display may magnify this slowness many times over. Additionally, the typical action of a user on a search result page is to immediately scroll down to view the results. Typical tricks for working with above-the-fold content won’t necessarily apply in these instances, due to the nature by which a user looks through the whole page in a short amount of time. Regardless, you can (and should!) optimize your JavaScript and CSS, both of which can be render-blocking.
  • Product Pages: Product pages are particularly important, since visitors arriving to your site via targeted ads may land here. To keep your bounce rate low among visitors arriving via ads, make sure that these pages load as quickly as possible, especially for mobile viewers. While these pages typically aren’t as resource-heavy as homepages, the same principles you use to optimize your homepage apply here as well.

As you can see, performance is paramount, but don’t let that hold your marketing teams back. Just be aware of ways that you can include awesome visuals while minimizing hits to your performance, such as using MP4s instead of GIFs or CSS Sprites instead of JPEGs. Additionally, you can use tools such as Rigor Optimization to identify exactly which aspects of your site aren’t performing optimally.

Providing a rich user experience with accurate search abilities to browse offerings and products

Rather than bogging your shoppers down with content that they are not interested in, you’ll want to provide your users with the search functionality they need to find what they want quickly and easily. Users that cannot find what they are looking for become dissatisfied with your business and quickly jump ship. In this scenario, the user is likely to not complete the transaction with you. Worse, the user may take his or her business to your competitor. Things that you can do to improve your user’s search experience include:

  • Ensuring that your search area is easily visible: Have your designers help implement a search area (it doesn’t matter if you are implementing this via a search bar or a navigation bar) that stands out, is easy to find, and easy to use.
  • Providing appropriate filters for search results: Your users will expect their product searches to be filterable, so be sure to go above and beyond in terms of providing categories your users can choose–this is a great area where your marketing and tech teams can work together. For example, if you are a clothing site, users will expect filters on size and color, but they will also appreciate filters for things like clearance or seasonal items.
  • Implementing smart searches: If possible, ensure that your searches have intelligent autocomplete enabled and are capable of handling long tail semantic searches (such as “men’s wool socks size large”). Users who use either of these convert at a higher rate than those who don’t.

Testing user experience before jumping on the latest technologies

Building an Effective and Exciting Online Experience - Rigor

Source: VWO

If you’re just starting your website optimization process, you might be tempted to completely overhaul your site. However, there are probably things that are working in your favor, so to conserve resources for other things (such as marketing!), you should consider doing a series of A/B testing to see what works and what doesn’t.

Additionally, doing A/B testing will give you information on whether you should adopt new technologies or not. Generally speaking, adopting new technologies requires an increase in overhead (for example, implementing new JavaScript libraries increases the number of calls required by a user’s browser to get the files needed to render your site), so if there’s something that already helps you convert users at a high rate, there’s no need to change that aspect of your site.

Takeaways

Many people are opting for online shopping over visiting brick-and-mortar stores. So, it’s important for you to have a top-notch eCommerce platform to take advantage of this customer pool increase. However, it can be difficult to determine where you should allocate your resources when it comes to building this platform, especially when balancing the needs of your marketing and IT teams.

The exact formula will vary from company to company, but generally speaking, you should strive to ensure the best possible visual experience, top-notch performance in terms of speed, and ease of use. Additionally, you probably have an online presence already. Consider using A/B testing to ensure that you don’t spend time and money on areas that are already working in your business’ favor.

To determine what steps you should take to improve your online experience and how you can optimize your platform’s performance, contact Rigor today.

To learn more about building exciting online user experiences, register for eTail West 2017 in Palm Springs, California! The three-day conference will provide more insight on Form vs. Function and will also explore other best practices for those in eCommerce. At eTail West 2017, you’ll see a ton of big names in the industry. Rigor will be at the conference in the South Foyer at table no.2. See you there!

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